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) . . .

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


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?!!


Saturday, December 4, 2010


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


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