Friday, December 31, 2010

Banana Bread

Very cold today (just checked--it's 7.6 F here at midafternoon!), so seemed like a good day to stay in, clean house, and do a little baking.  This banana bread recipe is from Southern Living magazine (January 2005).  With all the cream cheese and butter, it has a great texture and wonderful sweetness.  It's delicious without anything on it, though butter or cream cheese spread are good ('cause really--can you have ever have too much butter or cream cheese?).  We bought some Lemon Curd at Trader Joe's yesterday and will try that, too.




















3/4 c. butter, softened
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 c. sugar
2 large eggs
3 c. flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 c. mashed bananas (about 4 medium--I puree them in the food processor)
1 c. chopped pecans
1/2 t. vanilla extract

Beat butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.  Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended.

Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; gradually add to butter mixture, beating at low speed until just blended.

Stir in bananas, pecans, and vanilla.  Spoon batter into 2 greased and floured 8 x 4 inch loaf pans.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean and sides pull away from pan, shielding with aluminum foil last 15 minutes to prevent browning, if necessary.  Cool bread in pans on wire racks 10 minutes.  Remove from pans, and cool 30 minutes on wire racks before slicing.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

False Spring

I've been a little negligent of the blog lately--enjoying the break from school and not actually doing much of anything (does eating a ridiculous amount of chocolate and playing with the dog count?).

Our weather is changing today--up to the mid-50s before dropping 30 degrees during the afternoon--so had a fun outing to our big city with Ben and J.  A break in the clouds and the warm temperatures made it feel pretty springlike as we drove home --at least it could fool us for a little while.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Cheese Straws

J & J entertained good friends at their house last night, so I spent part of the day helping fix goodies for the party.  This is J & J's first married Christmas, J's first here since moving back from NYC last spring.  Being able to spend the day baking with her was such a treat.

J's carefully chosen recipes included these Cheese Straws from the blog Smitten Kitchen.  Try them!  Delicious!

Can you tell that J is very precise . . .


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pip and the cow bell

I read in one of my dog books to hang a bell near the door.  You then train your puppy to ring the bell when she needs to go out.  The Monks of New Skete suggest conditioning a puppy to noises--"make initial exposures gentle . . . let your pup get accustomed to the noise and movement in [her] own time."

I'll bet the authors didn't picture this scenario (edited for this post, but actually went on for close to two minutes) . . .

video

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter solstice

The moon had a pretty spectacular ride across the sky last night.  These pictures were from early evening during my walk with Pip--beautiful night!  Then I couldn't sleep because I kept getting up (and trying not to wake up dog or husband) to look at the lunar eclipse. ( Ben says that makes me a total lunatic.)  This morning the moon was just yellow as could be as it was setting on my way to school.  Hope you had a look at it, too!

Happy Winter Solstice!



Monday, December 20, 2010

Lunar eclipse

In case you happen to be outside tonight between 2:32 (CDT) and 4:53 (CDT) (say, for example, your little dog needs to go out), check out the lunar eclipse.  It's the first total lunar eclipse visible from North America since 1638!  And it will also the winter solstice (longest night, shortest day, Earth's tilt farthest away from the sun).   And there is also a meteor shower going on that is usually not visible, but may be because of the eclipse.

So, I'm kind of hoping Pip will wake me up tonight.

New boots

I've been wanting a pair of tall black boots for a couple of years now.  I love how they look with skinny jeans.  But, alas, I finally decided there are no boots out there that will fit my skinny legs and I don't actually own a pair of skinny jeans.

Meanwhile, I was visiting our local farm supply store--and I say "visiting" because for some reason I enjoy looking at farm supplies, but don't actually need any--and discovered the perfect boots for me!  They feel great and are perfect on slippery sidewalks during my walks with Pip.  As the label says, "lightweight, flexible, breathable all-day comfort whether you're in the stirrup or on the ground".  Ha!  Does this mean I'm ready for a horse?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

Backyard Birds

Ben sets up bird feeders in the backyard every winter and we get to watch our little bird buddies eat dinner.  Sparrows, nuthatches, bluejays, finches, and cardinals--we enjoy them all.  Squirrels, not so much.

This little guy looks pretty cold . . .

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Busy, busy

It's been a quiet week here in blogland, but not so much in real life.  With all the end of semester paperwork and activities, along with Pip training, there just hasn't been time.  Any extra moments were devoted to sleep!

So, here is a little photo from winter past (inspired by last night's icy blast that turned the streets and sidewalks into one big skating rink) . . .

What do you suppose happened to her mittens?

Monday, December 13, 2010

My Current Reading List

I typically have a stack of books by my end of the couch and it's not unusual for me to be reading more than one book at a time (well, not at the exact same time . . .).  Right now, I'm into a few.   Top on the stack  is one by Cesar Millan (aka, The Dog Whisperer) about puppies titled How to Raise a Perfect Dog and one by the Monks of New Skete, New York who have become dog experts by breeding German shepherds for over 20 years.

Both are excellent books, but I must admit to feeling somewhat overwhelmed by all the information they share regarding the training of our currently not-so-perfect puppy!  It's this pressure now to be "calm-assertive". . . to do corrections as the dog mother would do . .  to not being too "comforting" (causes a fearful dog) . . . to not allow Pip to succumb to "Small Dog Syndrome". . . to follow exactly the same schedule every day (including walking before eating, humans eating before dog, but no feeding three hours before bed--how do we do this?) . . . to feed the correct amount at the right time (we are currently weighing it and make her sit before we serve it up) . . . to be be aware of eye contact . . .  to provide appropriate exercise . . . to teach (train), but not to exhaust (fat chance) . . .  to walk at least twice a day in proper formation (yes, we are the top dogs) . . . to provide sufficient socializing during these critical weeks (do we even know five new people to introduce her to every week?)!  How do any dogs ever turn out to be well adjusted?  Can we really pull this off?  Am I reading too many books??

Okay--calm-assertive, calm-assertive . . . on the plus side, the past two nights Pip has gone into her crate without a peep and sleep through the night.  That's huge in my mind.  She's learned "Sit" and "Down" and "Crate" and is starting to walk really well on the leash.

So we are learning . . . both the four-legged and two-legged members of our pack.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Potting shed

Cue the soundtrack from Dr. Zhivago . . .

Views of the day

We woke up at 6:00 to strong winds and snow this morning (after six straight hours of uninterrupted sleep--thank you, Pip!).  While we have ventured out a few times, it's been a treat to catch up on household chores and sew on my quilt (first time since Pip's arrival).

Here's how things are looking at our house . . .


Can you find the yellow snow?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A trip downtown

Pip got to go along this afternoon when J and I ran some errands downtown.  She was very good and loved everybody who stopped to talk to her!

























She's 11 weeks now--still needs to go out three times during the night, but we're getting the routine down.  She seems to have a lot of terrier genes in her--she's too little to jump up on the couch, but has learned to wedge herself between the couch and the ottoman and shimmy up!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Winter hobby

Now that it's too cold to ride bikes, Ben has retreated to the basement for some model railroading.  He does an amazing job, creating most of the buildings from scratch.  This is his largest layout (our space is limited) and still a work in progress, but check it out.

By the way, Pip continues to be fearless.  This train is the only thing that frightens her somewhat.






Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Perspective

Our weather is much colder here this week--winter has definitely arrived.  Doing dishes on these chilly days, I often think of my Grandma.  You see, when I was growing up I hated washing and drying dishes (mostly because I felt I was assigned the duty based on gender).  I thought it very unfair and didn't hesitate to grumble about it, that is, until I helped Grandma in her cozy farm kitchen one day .  She told me that having her hands in the warm dishwater on cold days always felt good and she didn't mind it at all!   She was right!  She also helped me see that when I was doing kitchen duty at home, it was my chance to have mom and dad all to myself (brothers off in the other room).

These days Ben and I do dishes together, and it's our time to talk and have a laugh or two (and now we have a little dog hanging out with us, too).

We're planning on remodeling our kitchen next summer.  We won't be needing a dishwasher.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Oh, boy, oh, boy, oh, boy!

Pip was so excited to go visiting and meet Norman at J & J's house!  Doesn't Norman look positively thrilled about this little puppy?!!



Really????


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Poinsettias

Last Christmas, I accidentally broke off some stems from my poinsettia.  Not wanting to "waste" them, I put them in small vases around the house.  They not only added some color to those rooms, but the poinsettias actually rooted!  The red leaves eventually fell off, but we had little green plants that continued to grow all winter.  So, this year I am purposely cutting all the stems off my big poinsettia plant and doing the same thing!

And a little something I just learned--while you wouldn't want to encourage it, poinsettias are actually NOT poisonous to people, dogs, or cats if eaten.
























Friday, December 3, 2010

See Pip

See Pip.

See Pip sleep.

See Carolyn.

Nope, you can't see Carolyn.

Carolyn is sleepy like Pip.

Hear Pip bark.

Bark, bark, bark.

See Carolyn up with Pip all night.

Sleepy Pip.

Sleepy Carolyn.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Early morning

Babies and puppies affect both the number of toys scattered around the house and the amount of sleep one gets.  So while I now spend a lot of time outside in the dark (in my bathrobe) encouraging a small dog to take care of business, I also get in on sights like this one -- Venus and a crescent moon.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Tra-la-la-la-la!

From Christmas past -- (and yes, I have always loved pretty dishes!)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The engine of marriage

My husband and I are celebrating our 8th anniversary today (though we've known each other for much longer).  I have the good fortune to be married to someone who still makes me smile every day.

This passage from C.S. Lewis kind of sums it up:

"If the old fairy-tale ending 'The lived happily ever after' is taken to mean 'They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,' then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable it it were.  Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years?  What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, you friendships?  But, of course, ceasing to be 'in love' need not mean ceasing to love.  Love in this second sense -- love as distinct from 'being in love' -- is not merely a feeling.  It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God.  They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself.  They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be 'in love' with someone else. 'Being in love' first moved them to promise fidelity:  this quieter love enables them to keep the promise.  It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run:  Being in love was the explosion that started it."

Leaving home

Ah, love that British sense of humor . . .

Monday, November 29, 2010

Expecting wonders

Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed.  Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.
                                                                       -   Henry David Thoreau

The weather was beautiful Saturday so we headed for the backyard.  Between playing with Pip, Ben raked  and I emptied and put away flower pots.  While pulling up the now dead zinnias and marigolds (white, of course, for J & J's summer wedding), it occurred to me that I should save some seeds for next year.  The zinnia seeds had been a splurge (something like $5.25 for a dozen seeds), so I decided it was worth the effort to try to save some.  I cut off the largest flower heads, pulled out the dried petals, and gathered up the seeds.  Now we'll wait and see how they do next summer . . .



Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dried Orange Slices

Everybody has an opinion on how a Christmas tree should look (which is as it should be).

I love the tree we've used the last few years because it is so skinny and sparse.  I decorate it the same way.  It has a few very pretty glass ornaments, some large sparkly snowflakes,  finished off with dried orange slices.  When I was growing up, and again when my daughter was young, we made new ornaments every year.  I think that's why I like to do the oranges now--that and they smell so good!

Here's how I do them (though remember--it's not rocket science--exact time, temperature, and technique  are not crucial to their success!):

Cut the oranges into approximately 1/4 inch slices.  Remove seeds (they'll look a little prettier--though I forgot this time).  Spread out on a cookie sheet.  I used parchment paper to make clean up easier.  Bake for about 4 hours at 200 - 225 degree oven.  Mine were still a little sticky, but they'll finish drying on the tree.  Hang on the tree with ornament hangers or just plain wire, and they look like little stain glass windows!



































Saturday, November 27, 2010

Christmas Tree

I rarely do the Black Friday sales, but much prefer to spend the day at home putting up the Christmas tree.  We've had artifical trees for many years now, and while I love the smell and look of a real tree, it really is so much easier to have a "fake" one.  There are no needles to clean up, no watering, I can control which way the branches go, and with the lights left on it from last year, it was ready to be decorated.   Good thing with all the 4-legged help I had this year . . .
























Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Full, a little sleepy, and feeling very thankful for everyone who sat around our table this year (or took a nap on the couch).  Life is good.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pip - Day 3

I know, I know--We've become those crazy people obsessed with their puppy, but she's SO cute!!!  I'm not even minding the lack of sleep (too much)!  So for a little while yet, here she is again. . . cause really, what else could I write about now?!!

By the way, she is officially "Pip" now.  It just suits her.








Her favorite spot
during kitchen
clean-up.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

New Puppy!

Big excitement at our house today!  This little video says it all:

video

More to come . . . 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sunset on the Plains

When you live in flat wide open country, you learn to see natural beauty not in mountains or waters, but in the sky--amazing sunrises, sunsets, and ever-changing views between.

I had a great day with dear daughter yesterday--an outing to the big city of Omaha and this sky as we drove home.  

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Long tables

I love the look of long tables for large dinners and wedding receptions, especially those held outdoors.  Aren't these lovely?





Not fancy, but still . . . it would be hard to top the family dinners we used to have on long tables outside at my grandparents' farm.

Definitely, farm to table--with lots of love to boot.




Who wants watermelon?

Friday, November 12, 2010

So long, Jack

Sadly, we said good bye to our little dog this week.

He was quite a character and gave us 14 years of devoted companionship.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Monday, November 8, 2010

Favorite Time of Day

A teacher's favorite time of day . . .























Yeah, well,

what can I say?

There's still a lot of

Halloween

candy in their systems . . .

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Book Club



For several years now a group of really nice ladies I know has been meeting to share books.  We are all teachers and paraprofessionals--and moms--and as the years have gone by are gradually becoming retired teachers and paraprofessionals--and grandmothers.  We meet at the local country club so no one has to clean or cook.  We talk about our lives, and often, the book.   We're not judgmental (if you didn't read it) and always enjoy hearing differing opinions.  I've read so many more books than I ever would have without this group.  Thanks, ladies!

























Our most recent book:  House Rules by Jodi Picoult

Our next book:  Sapphira and the Slave Girl by Willa Cather

My personal favorite this year:  The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Schaffer

Any suggestions for future books?


Friday, November 5, 2010

Happy Trails!

Today would have been Roy Rogers' 99th birthday.

Here are some little fans from back in the day.  Their Aunt Janice took them to see Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and Trigger perform when they came to town!   

I hope they wore those fabulous sweaters!


This'll make you smile and wish that you, too, were a cowboy . . .

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Looking up

The sun was just setting and stores closing when I ran downtown this evening . . .