Wednesday, January 26, 2011

And The One Thing On My Mind This Morning . . .

Waffles large Okay, let's all sing together (to the tune of White Christmas):

I'm Dreaming of some NICE waffles,
Just like the kind Mom used to make . .

(Wanna bet I don't get any for breakfast this morning?)

What did you have for breakfast this morning?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Is Anybody Out There?


I've been blogging steadily (at least five days a week) for months now and am a bit discouraged that I have so few readers--despite the fact I'm on Facebook and tweet my post. Oh, one person comments every now and then (Hi, Gert!), and I know there's more of you reading ... although, not a lot.  My question ...does anybody enjoy the blog?

I'm not the only one wondering if I'm whistling in the wind. A while back, on one of my favorite blogs, Wil Wheaton said: "The Internet is quiet as hell lately. I feel like I'm talking into an empty tube, so thanks for reading and commenting; it makes me feel a little less like a crazy old man with no pants standing on the corner ranting about the weather."

He's still got more than a loyal few commenting.

I think it's a lot harder to come up with blog entries in the winter than other seasons of the year.  In the winter, I don't go out and check the progress on my beans, potatoes and tomatoes. I don't leap out of my chair to weed. I don't do a LOT in the winter. Sometimes I don't leave the house for days at a time, which doesn't give me much to write about.

Okay, there is always weather, but snowstorms are only interesting when you're watching them happen to somebody else via the Weather Channel. We've experienced them a LOT lately. We've had inches of snow, tons of icicles, and gloomy skies for days on end.  It's cold and REALLY BORING.

So what is it about winter and blogging that makes it so tough?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Oh, lovely Tea Time Magazine

TTcoverja08 I recently came across an old issue of Tea Time magazine.  It's published by the same people who revived Victoria Magazine (for Tea Time is also published by Hoffman Media, based in Birmingham, Alabama).

The first thing I noticed was that the editorial content outweighed the ads.  It was wonderful that each story led to another without a lot of advertising.  That's a huge plus in my book.

The cover was lovely.  How can you go wrong with a delightful dessert sitting on the saucer of delicate bone china—with the cup acting as a beautiful pedestal?  The inside cover had me fooled for a moment—the Make Mine Pink ad is heavily featured in Romantic Homes Magazine, but no, Tea Time is from the same publisher as Victoria Magazine.

BannerMarApr “The Art of Tea” article was a delight.  I don’t have children of my own, but I do hope that mothers (and more likely grandmothers) will do as the article suggests and introduce new generations to the joys of having tea.  “A Fine Legacy” article, featuring teacups, was a photographic joy to behold.  I have an extensive teacup collection, but this generational retrospective had my tongue hanging out.  I’m a sucker for poppies, so the 1970s Poppy cup and saucer left me longing to add this specimen to my collection.
As with Victoria Magazine, the pictures featured throughout are a pure delight.  And I can’t wait to try out the recipe for the savory walnut biscuits or the raspberry chocolate turnovers.   You can’t expect diet foods in a magazine called Tea Time.

I suppose my only real criticism would be that the magazine—originating in Alabama—has far too much emphasis on a southern U.S. interpretation of taking tea.  Hey, I’m a first generation American of English extraction.  Tea Time did not originate in the southern United States.  It would behoove the editors to remember that tea originated in England.  I hope that in future issues they’ll give greater play to the true home of tea and crumpets and feature taking tea in other parts of the U.S., Canada, and Australia.

Thanks to a Google search, I found the magazine is still going strong. Therefore, I’m going to treat myself to a subscription of Tea Time.  I’m already looking forward to my first issue.

How about you?  What magazines do you subscribe to?

Friday, January 21, 2011

And me without a sewing machine . . .

According to my Susan Branch Calendar, today is VISIT YOUR LOCAL FABRIC STORE day.

Wouldn't you know, I don't sew.

Not that my mother didn't try to teach me.  In fact, when I was in Girl Scouts, she volunteered to teach the whole troup to sew.  Sadly, it didn't take -- at least for me.

My Mom is a quilter, she knits, she is extremely creative.  I didn't inherit that gene.  I used to do counted cross stitch, but then I got carpal tunnel syndrome.  I could do simple knitting, too--like scarves and slippers. (I was really good at slippers.)  But I can't do that any more, either.

Still I will admit that I do love to go to the fabric store and just look at all the pretty fabrics--the different textures and wish I could make something beautiful.  Especially since I'm a sucker for pretty pillows.  Must be because some of that urge to sew rubbed off--ya think?

What about you, do you sew?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

From trash to compost . . .

Last year mother gave me some money for Christmas. Not a fortune, but it was $$$ to treat myself to things I'd really like.  So I bought some DVDs and had a bit more leftover. At first I couldn't decide what to do with it and then it came to me.  I'll use it to buy a composter!

Composter The problem is, most composters are big deal things.  We're just two people and four cats, and the cats don't eat a lot (any) veggies, so we don't create much to make compost with.  Still, I want to go greener (and according to a recent article in USA Today most people my age are getting the urge to do the same).  So last week I decided the time was right and I whipped off an order to Amazon, which was selling the thing for cheaper than anyone else.  And best of all, I had to spend only 5 cents more and I'd get free shipping!  (And let me tell you, this sucker is HEAVY.  Of course, I bought a $7 book, but I wanted to buy it anyway.)

New York State has decided that Amazon is making too much money off its citizens because Amazon now collects sales tax from New York residents.  (They've told every major business the same thing.)  Mind you, Amazon has no physical presence in New York, which has been the precedent for tax collection.  So I have a feeling my Amazon orders will fall off as of now.  I can order a book from Barnes & Noble and pick it up at my local store, and though I have to pay state tax (and the gas to get there), I can get at least 10% off the cost of the book (because I have a B&N saver card).  I'll miss ordering on impulse from Amazon and I resent that New York is yet again sucking me for more tax income.

There's a reason there's a mass exodus of people and businesses from this state.  We pay too much and receive too little in return.  Too bad I can't dump my compost on my local elected representative.

But I digress.

Getting back on topic ... do you compost?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Does A Picture Say 1000 Words?

Minolta101 Once upon a time, I used to take a LOT of pictures.  I had my little beauty of a Minolta (both a 101 and 201) and my lenses and I would shoot "Americana" (and mostly in black and white).  My job as a copy editor had a big plus:  a dark room.  The "guys"  (my pals Erv and Mr. Bill) would develop my film for me, and then after hours I'd go in and crop and print to my heart's delight.

Then everything went digital.

Mr. Ivy gave me a digital camera for my birthday one year, but I never liked it.  For some reason, I couldn't seem to take a decent shot with it.  Me, who messed with f-stops couldn't take a picture of people without chopping their heads off like an amateur.

Then on my (cough, cough) anniversary with a well-known photographic company, I received another digital camera.  This one was much friendler (and actually more sophisticated) and I was once again taking good pictures.  (Whew!)  But still I missed the bulk of a single lens reflex camera.  So two years ago, I bought a Rebel EOS camera. Suddenly I was back to taking professional type photographs.  The fact that I could manipulate the contrast and brightness via Photoshop meant I could turn marginal shots to pretty darn good ones.

Mom's clematis2008 Right now there's not a lot I want to take pictures of.  Snow, snow, and more snow is pretty boring.  I'm pining for spring when the flowers come back in bloom and I can show them off here on the blog and email them to friends to compare notes on their gardens.

Once the weather turns I plan on taking the camera with me on my jaunts.  I can't wait to see what develops.

How about you.  Are you into photography?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bullied by Cats

There's a lot of talk these days about bullying.  Even though I'm a grown-up, I'm bullied on a constant basis.

Bonnie on my chair1 You're looking at the face of a bully.  I'll be sitting at my computer, working away, and then in comes Bonnie and she wants one thing:  my chair.  Why?  I think because it has a cushion.  To Bonnie, any cushion belongs to cats.  (We do have kitty cushions scattered around the house--so I guess it's not surprising that she thinks this way.)

First she walks in the room, marks the legs of my desk and then she pulls that killer move:  she looks at meWith kitty eyes.  If that doesn't work, she meows.  That meow says, "Get out of my chair.  NOW!"

I'm just a helpless human being.  I get out of the chair.

My name is Ivy, and I'm bullied by domestic cats.

Monday, January 17, 2011

And Sheep May Safely Graze

Celticchristmas_2Back when we were courting (don't you just love that phrase?), Mr. Ivy bought me a Christmas cassette (tells you how long ago THAT was) called Celtic Christmas, harp music by Kim Robertson.  I fell in love with one piece called "And Sheep May Safely Graze" by, of all people, Johann Sebastian Bach.  (Can you believe it, I'd never heard the piece before.)  I loved this piece of music so much, I hired a harpist to play it at my wedding.  (Sadly, she wasn't as good as Kim Robertson.)

I think that's when I got this thing for sheep.  I started buying them.  Oh, not the actual creatures.  Get real--I live in the suburbs.  My first sheep was a stuffed toy.  But I'm not really into stuffed animals (although I do seem to have more than my fair share).  I like that they're placid animals--at least as figurines.  They sit quietly in my cabinet and seem to have a calming effect on me when I'm ready to yank out my hair over some idiotic situation.  Although an acquaintance of mine who works at a "living museum" (think Sturbridge--but not as grand) says sheep can be really stoooopid--and even throw tantrums.  Who knew?

StfrancisAbout ten years ago I bought my first orphaned sheep at an estate sale.  Somehow they'd been separated from the other nativity figurines.  I wasn't exactly sure what to do with them until after a trip to Italy, where I got a St. Francis figurine.  Then my little display kind of evolved, including an orphaned lamb.

My Flock Things haven't exactly gotten out of hand, but I do try to pick up as many orphaned nativity sheep as I can find at garage sales and such, and I usually don't pay more than 50 cents for them.  My first ram came from a charity shop in England (a gift from my mother--he's the one with the black horns).  One Christmas my friend Janette even gave me a Cherished Teddy (in a kilt and holding a lamb!) to act as shepherd for my flock.

Sheep I don't think I added anything to my collection for more than a year before these guys showed up just days ago.

They needed a home ... and I'm happy to give it to them.

How about you?  What do you collect?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Hot Hors D'oeuvres

It's odd how something you've read decades ago can stick with you your whole life.

When I was a teenager, I read a book by memoir (and children's) author Betty MacDonald (author of The Egg And I ... this book was titled Onions In The Stew) where she recounted a moonlight yacht ride with friends.  This was a huge sailboat tooling around Puget Sound and the hostess came up with hot hors d'oeuvres for her guests on a regular basis.

Stuffed mushrooms Since that day, I've had a fascination with hot hors d'oeuvres.  Stuffed mushrooms, water chestnuts wrapped in bacon, mini quiches ... the list goes on and on.

The problem is ... I seldom get these delightful little appetizers, despite the fact I've collected five or more books on the subject.  (Let's face it, they're a bit time consuming to make.  But oh how heavenly to eat.)

Appetizers Last week we were supposed to go to Mr. Ivy's annual work conference, but had to cancel.  One of the highlights of the conference is their cocktail party.  Wow--they've often had really wonderful hot hors d'oeuvres.  Oddly enough, I remember the places rather than the individual food, except that the sites were enhanced BY the hot hors d'oeuvres.  For instance, the Boeing Museum in Seattle (where we got to tour an ex-Air Force One); an art gallery (where we saw a collection of Rodin sculptures) in Portland, ME; the science museum in Denver (where we also saw an IMAX movie); the wonderful Museum of Civilization in Ottawa, Canada, and the one that blew everything else away was just a reception in a hotel in Washington, where they had hot food stations.  Wow!

Hotappetizer2 Lots of times we'll be sitting in our porch at our cottage and watch the boats go by.  If they're BIG boats, I like to speculate if they have a cuddy big enough for a small galley.  If they do ... what kind of hot hors d'oeuvres is the host/hostess preparing for their guests?  Do party barges have microwaves?  If not, should the owner pack an insulated hamper filled with succulent goodies?

I'm feeling the urge to hit the Sam's Club frozen section to see what they've got that I could pop into the toaster oven.  It's the only way I'm going to get any hot hors d'oeuvres any time soon.

How about you?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Crock Pot: A Busy Woman's Best Friend

I cannot take credit for the title of today's post.  It was something my friend, Leann, told me not so long ago.  She and another of my pals, Jeanne, are fighting over the title of "crockpot queen."  I don't care who wins, they both have given me great recipes.

Crock_pot Mind you, I've tried quite a number of crock pot recipes over the years (and have at least three crock pot recipe books), but everything tended to come out pretty tasteless and not at all satisfying.  I knew that there were people who swore by cooking in the darn things, so I asked my chums to help me out.  Boy did they.

Leann told me to get some round steak (or roast--which can be cut into little steaks), toss in a can of stewed tomatoes (she recommends DelMonte original), 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoona dried mustard, 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce.  Add onions and/or green pepper (your call).  Serve over rice or noodles and it is divine.

Jeanne gave me the recipe for a pseudo-Mexican recipe she made up one day (she says she likes to just toss stuff in the crockpot).  No definable amounts here, just toss in some chicken breasts (I prefer thighs), an onion, a can of green chilies, a can of (or frozen) corn, a jar of salsa and, if you like it hot, some jalapenos.  Throw it all in the crock post and cook for 8+ hours.  Oooooh!  Is this ever GOOD.  (We've made it twice--and scarfed up all the leftovers.  Yum!)

Another Leann suggestion we like is a chuck roast (or pork chops), over three sliced onions, with a can of mushroom soup (cut with a little milk) dumped over the top.  Again, 8+ hours later, you have one fine meal.

I really don't like to cook, but with these easy, essentially one-pot, meals I could get very used to several crockpot treats a week.

Extra bonus:  very little clean up. Now that's my kind of dinner!

Do you have a favorite crock pot recipe to share?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I'm dreaming of a nice vacation . . .

I haven't been on a REAL vacation in almost three years.  That's when we last went to Maine.  (Ahhh...I love Maine.  I love just about everything about it.)  Oh, I've had a few days away from home--here and there--and in places within driving distance.   But a day here and there isn't a real vacation.  And I don't foresee any real vacation in the near future, either.

When I was a kid, I had a Viewmaster with a reel titled:  "Where In The World Do You Want To Go?"
Cape_cod My answer today:  Cape Cod.  Nantucket.  Martha's Vineyard--and preferably off-season.  (I hate crowds.)  Of course, right now wouldn't be my first choice.  Maybe May or September?

I have several beautiful coffee table books (Thanks, Mom!) on these places.  I take them out every so often and salivate over the pictures.  Hubby says it's too expensive to go to these tourist traps.  (Hence, another good reason for going off-season.)  But, I WANT TO GO!

I wouldn't mind combining New England the trip with a cruise.  It turns out there are very small cruise ships that make that run and accommodate a tiny crew and 30-60 passengers.  You get to see all the sights, and get your meals (clams, lobster and fresh fish) and lodging for one price.  The only problem being that the price is something like $5,000 per person.  Um, that's a little out of my price range.

Disney_Cruise_2009 A much cheaper cruise in the Caribbean has no appeal for me.  The ships are far too big, you have to fly to Florida (and I HATE flying), and who wants to catch Norovirus?  Mr. Ivy isn't the least bit interested in being ship-bound for even a day.  Says he'd be BORED.  So it's not likely I'll get to make this trip any time soon.
(To be fair...Mr. Ivy wants to go to Australia...and I'm just too chicken sh*t to fly...let alone fly to Australia.)

Still, I can dream about visiting these locales on the EasterCap_cod_pixn Seaboard.  And maybe I reread a couple of books by Anne Rivers Siddons.  If you can't go in person, you mayas well go via the magic of a book, right?

Where in the world are you going on vacation this year?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What's in a soap?

For years I've had this fascination with homemade soap.  I've read all about it, have several books on it, but I've never worked up the courage to make it myself.

GlycerinsoapApparently the easiest soap to make is with glycerin.  My first experience with glycerin soap was in Ottawa, Canada, at a Suites hotel.  (WOW--I loved it!  Could've moved right in.  This place was better than my two apartments and my first house.)  Every day they provided guests with lovely little cakes of apricot glycerin soap.  Whoa!  Nice!

Not long afterward, I bought that first book on soapmaking.  The problem is, one batch of homemade soap will wash an army and what if the soap was a dismal failure?  (A couple of years ago my friend Gwen's son made soap from pig fat.  Read her wonderfully funny account here.)

My parents jumped on the liquid soap bandwagon a few years ago.  I can't say I'm fond of the stuff.  Too slimy and it doesn't want to "wash off" easily.  I will admit I do have it in my powder room, Jergins cherry-almond scent, but it's the only kind I use because I like the smell.

Yardly soap We like hard soap.  Yardley oatmeal-almond to be precise.  We used to use Yardley baby soap, but apparently it's been discontinued.  As it is, we can only find the oatmeal almond version in The Dollar Tree...if we're lucky.

Dove soap I have no clear memory of what soap we used when I was a kid, but I remember my Aunt always had Dove soap.  I've always loved its scent (with its one quarter cleansing cream--now called "moisturizer.")  If we can't get the Yardley soap, I'm considering moving on to easily accessible Dove.  Then again, I'm not the only one who uses the stuff.  Mr. Ivy may want something more "manly."

What triggered this rhapsody on soap?  Some handmade soap I bought at a garage sale.  It was supposed to be vanilla-oatmeal, but there was little evidence of oatmeal and none at all of vanilla.  I also wondered about it's cleaning ability.  Plus, Frank didn't like the half-circle shape.  (Didn't fit well in the hand.)

What's your favorite soap?

Monday, January 10, 2011

I'm Sick Of Winter!

I don't know about you, but I'm totally SICK OF WINTER--and it's only January 10th.  Officially, we've had winter for almost three weeks.  Those weeks of cold, snowy weather that happened before the Solstice were apparently faux winter.

The forecast has been bleak:  snow, snow, and more snow.  But there are benefits to winter, and believe me, I had to look high and low to find them.

Natural gas flame First off, I'm staying home more and saving lots of money on gasoline for the car.  Of course, the furnace seems to be on 24/7, so we're making up for it by using a tremendous amount of natural gas to keep this place almost warm, so we'll probably be in the red for that.

Porch freezer1 I have a new giant freezer.  It's called my porch.  We ran out of space to put the Christmas goodies about mid-December.  Not a problem.  We just put them on the porch.  The temp hasn't risen above 30 out there in at least three weeks, so the cookies are still frozen, as is the big bag of ice.  All the craft beers hubby received for Christmas are nice and frosty, and I froze a big vat of turkey soup, which I first cooled outside, and then put in individual containers to freeze, so I wouldn't have to take up a third of my fridge/freezer to store it.

No skiing Oh dear.  That's only two good things.  I'm not into winter sports, like skiing, sledding, tobogganing, skating, or snowmobiling, and even if I'm not cold, seeing all that snow outside makes me feel like I should be either hibernating, or eating or drinking something fattening to make sure I survive this long, cold, lonely winter.

There must be other good things about winter.  Can you think of any?

Friday, January 7, 2011

My Favorite Meal of the Day

I love lunch.  Not just going out to eat lunch, but lunch in general.  I think I spend more time each day planning my meals than actually enjoying them.

Sandwich_2Lunch is so full of possibilities.  Sandwiches and soup?  And which sandwiches; ham and cheese on rye with loads of lettuce?  Tuna with celery and onion with tons of lettuce on multi-grain bread?  Chicken salad with onion, celery and lots of lettuce on white?  BTL with lots of mayo and loads of lettuce on toast?  (Did I mention how much I like lettuce on a sandwich?)  And subs.  We have a great little sub shop down the road that gives you an small assorted sub with tons of meat, cheese, peppers, onions, and lettuce for $3.00.  Toss a (very small) bag of chips, and you've got yourself one mighty fine lunch--for two, even!

I love leftovers.  Give me leftover curried chicken any day.  (Leftover curried ANYTHING is on my top ten list.)  Leftover potato salad with any above-mentioned sandwich (and baby dill pickle) is also marvelous.
Out to lunch When I go out to lunch, I like to have something I wouldn't have at home.  Like...Indian food I can't (or am too lazy) to make myself.  (Goat anyone?)  I also love Greens and Beans, which I have made for myself, but it's labor intensive.  And fish fries.  Yeah--at the Globe Hotel in East Aurora.  (Who wants the smell of fried fish hanging around the kitchen for a couple of days....) I love a linen napking.  Salad forks.  I love being waited on, too.

Unless Mr. Ivy is feeling creative in the kitchen, we tend to eat a lot of the same stuff for supper.  That amounts to:  lamb shoulder steaks; chicken, oven baked barbeque pork (with my mother's wonderful home-made barbeque sauce).  I have a lot of cookbooks.  It's time to haul them out and try something new.

But supper can wait.  Today's lunch is curried beans and rice.  Ahhhh...that's nice.

What are you having?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Fibber Magee's Closet

Now I'm much to young to know from actual experience about Fibber McGee, but I've heard about him.  He was a character on an old radio show and every week he'd open the closet door and tons of stuff would fall out and make a BIG NOISE.
Well, I've inherited his closet. 

Kim and Aggie One of my favorite shows was on BBC America a while back: "How Clean Is Your Home."  Two neat-nick ladies, Kim and Aggie, go in and inspect the absolute FILTH in British homes, chide the homeowners (who are rarely embarrassed--their 15 (or in this case 30) minutes of fame, I suppose) and clean up the mess.  They usually do it in 24-48 hours.  (I'm on day three of my quest.)
I loved this show because no matter how cluttered my house is, I know I'm not living in that kind of squalor.   But alas, my house (and especially my home office) is cluttered.

The new year makes you want a clean start, so yesterday I decided it was time to clean the closet.  Talk about a trip back in time.  I have stacks of paper going back 10-20 years. By the time I sorted out the wheat from the chaff, I had 8 bags of shredded papers and a stack of stuff for the recycle bin that was at least 12 inches high.  (To quote Dave Barry:  "I am NOT making this up!")

I was able to reclaim quite a bit of closet real estate, which was immediately swallowed up by stuff that had been sitting under my china cabinet (where I keep my collection of 1950s figurines) for ... several years ... and STILL this room is cluttered.  I simply have too much STUFF, but a lot of it is stuff I just can't seem to part with.  Like books.  And books on tape.  And figurines.  (*Sigh*)

Today's quest is to reclaim my computer desk.  As I've got the file cabinet in order I might be able to clear it off...and hope to keep it clear for at least a few days....

Cross your fingers for me!

What's cluttering up your house?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Keys To The Kingdom

Key I lose things on a regular basis.  I especially lose vital things like my glasses, gloves, the white-handled knife we use to use to cut pizza and, even more important, my keys.

A few years back I bought a new car.  At the time, I had a really bad cold.  I picked up the car on a Monday, drove it home, took the keys out of it and went into the house and put them down.  Because I was so sick, I didn't drive the car again for another three days.  So, there it was 6 a.m. and I needed to go to work keys.

No matter, I'll just use my second set of keys.  And off to work I went.

I have not found my main set of keys yet.  I still maintain they're in the house somewhere, but Mr. Ivy says they're buried deep in the middle of the local landfill.

Big deal, it's just a set of keys, right?  WRONG!  Not only was the leather tag something my late Dad made for me, but on that ring was the spare key to Mr. Ivy's car.  So what, we'll just get a replacement, right?  The replacement for my new car key was $1.79.

Well, Mr. Ivy's got a SMART car.  That means there's a little chip on the key that will allow the car to start.  To replace this key costs about $60.  To program the key costs another $40.  (Boy am I glad I have a stupid car!)

It's been a real pain in the butt not having a key to that car.  If I have to use it, I have to take HIS keys, which means he shifts into total paranoia mode.  WHAT IF YOU LOSE MY KEYS???!!!

It's a possibility.  I've been known to stamp through the house, swearing a blue streak as I search for my keys or glasses only to find them IN MY HAND!!!

Now you might think this is the first sign of dementia, but I've been doing this for the past 25+ years, so I think we can rule that out.  What's the answer?  My Dad always said my head was full of Tommyrot.  (Stories, songs, the weather, the cost of pork won tons, etc.)

I think he was right.

I lost my keys again this past week (they were in my seldom-used coat's pocket) and decided enough was enough.  It was time to get a second set.  We went to Home Depot and had copies made to all the keys to the kingdom (except for Frank's car).  I'm good to go again.

Until I lose this set of keys.

What do you lose on a regular basis?