Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Surprise in the Garden

Feeling like a shopping fool of late, today I spent the day at home, working in the garden and baking bread. According to the recipe in an old Cook's Illustrated given to me by Nancy, this multigrain sandwich bread was not only easy, but flavorful as well. What I did not realize from reading my copy of, what I'm calling their "greatest hits" and what they call "revolutionary recipes", is that the subscription magazine is filled with not only recipes, but some pretty amusing commentary as well. Saturday afternoon, watching the football game, I trolled through a bunch of them, finding the bread.

Here's an example of that amusing commentary:

"Some multigrain bread is better suited to propping open a door than making a sandwich. We wanted a light but flavorful loaf--and we didn't want to spend all day making it. "

Convinced? If not, here's one more for you:

"Scavenging for different grains can be an invigorating challenge, but it also eats up precious time. We prefer the ease of one-stop shopping: One bag of hot cereal mix has seven grains."

Rather than pay the $10.39 on their website, I picked up a bag of Bob's Red Mill 7 grain cereal at Big Lots for $3.00, enough in the bag to last for years, or many loaves of bread, whichever comes first! Mentioning it to Matt yesterday afternoon during an extensive FaceTime chat, I read off the grains; neither of us had a clue what triticale is, but now I know, a hybrid of wheat and rye. Sounds like a great trivia question to me! The recipe instructs the cook to add boiling water to the cereal mix, letting it stand for an hour before adding the remainder of the ingredients. Taking a little taste during this stage, it reminded me of my fondness for Cream of Wheat when I was a girl. Perhaps this winter I'll give it a try. Anyway, here is the loaf in the pan ready for the second rising, or I guess what's popular now is the term "proofing."
Oops, not so fast Gail. The day began when the sky looked like this during my bike ride before sunrise. Up early--what can I say?
Don't you just love it when the moon is just a sliver?
One thing I told Matt was that my almost-daily bike ride has suffered a bit of late; ever since I've returned from our vacation, I've been entirely too sporadic, missing the weekends, and sometimes Friday as well. This last 1,000 miles has been hard to accumulate! I think I'm around 1,800 now. I should set up a schedule so I can finish off the year at 2,000, which I guess would be on my 60th birthday. :)

While the bread was doing it's thing, I tackled the weedy, overgrown, garden beds. While doing so, what to my wondering eyes did appear, but the paper whites are coming up like mad!
Only recently did I learn that Narcissus are in the Daffodil family, but I bet you knew that already....
Searching my blog history, I could not find any mention of when they actually broke ground last year; all I discovered is they were blooming in early January. Wonder if it will take that long?

You know me and my bargain shopping ways don't you? It's always a good thing to be friendly to the sales clerks because one never knows when that friendliness will be paid back in kind. Yesterday, looking at house windows at Lowes, I could not resist the garden center's bargain table. Marked $2.00, I carried five 12 packs of white petunias to the counter. Because of the above advice, I am on speaking terms with the cashier who decided that they really weren't worth two dollars, SO, she up and changed the price to one dollar each. They are definitely a motley crew, but I'm pretty confidant I can bring them back, and if I don't, well, it's only $5.00, and a little bit of my time. Then too, it's good to have any excuse to be outside--still wonderful. Speaking of weather, in case any of you were wondering if Matt and Tom were affected by the storm, they were not. Furthermore, I wrote to check on Jane in the Midlands, and they too were in good shape.

So the paper whites erupting was one surprise, but wait--there's more! Planting those white petunias in the jungle area, I came across these very weird, I don't know what to call it...
Honestly, after watering the plants, I was walking along, and thought to myself, "is that an egg in the dirt?"
The red made me worried it was blood, so I went to get my reading glasses for a closer inspection. Not an egg, but what is it? There were actually three, or maybe I should say four as the one pictured above is a double. Feeling it, I was reminded of a marshmallow. I can't wait to show it to Bruce, perhaps he'll have some idea. Or, maybe you do?

In the meantime, the bread cooked, although maybe I rushed the second rising because it sure isn't all that big, but after letting it cool the full three hours(!), I had a bite, and it is indeed tasty.
I try my best to follow his recipes to the letter as I know they have tested them enough to have learned a thing or two. The sourdough recipe took three months to develop! Not to mention the 240 pounds of ground beef used during the meatloaf tastings! Good grief!

Breathing a sigh of relief, this morning I found what I was looking for...my copy of the "greatest hits." Generally we are pretty neat folks around this house, but in this case I was too neat, putting it between some cookbooks, and overlooking it in the process. What to make next?

Although this book garnered pretty good reviews, I half-heartedly recommend, Lookaway, Lookaway. Maybe a little too ambitious in scope? I did, however, stay up very late one night reading, so that says something. Make of it what you will.

There are some real nuggets in this article from the Times, Working for free.... I remember so well people telling me to do this and that for "exposure", which generally did not one thing for me. Let's face it, more people come through the market yearly than will ever go to an art gallery. I also felt a little stab when, either the author, or one of the commenters, writes that these days, "everyone thinks they can write." Gulp...

Monday, October 28, 2013

Perfect Weather Equals Perfect Weekend

As you well know, after reading this blog for some time now, I am very, very affected by the weather. And not just because I work outside. Nope, if the weather is gloomy, and I'm home, my energy level sinks. With the kind of weather we've had for the last five or so days, there is not one plausible excuse I can think of for not getting in gear!

As such, I've actually done some housecleaning, along with painting my kitchen, washing all the decorative pieces while doing so. Every vase on top of my cabinets came down for a soak, as did everything else. Well, not everything. I need to dream up some way to clean fake greenery as the two big baskets filled with them could, most certainly, do with some attention. Typically when re-painting I try out a new color, however, after an exhaustive search with Carol, I've gone against the grain, and it looks much as it did before painting, only fresher.

Very recently, it struck me that in a matter of months, I will no longer be in my fifties. Another decade has come and gone, and to tell you the truth, I can hardly believe it. Seems like only yesterday I left my forties. Turning 50 was not my best birthday because my Mom died thirty days before the big day. After nursing her for six months, I was still feeling pretty low when the big day rolled around. The one bright spot was the purchase of my adorable yellow MINI Cooper with the black top. I dubbed it my "happy face" car, and boy was I happy to drive that little cutie. To this day, I cannot believe I'm driving the behemoth that I am; in my heart I'll always be a MINI driver. :)

One lovely thing about this time of the year is the incredible sunsets, including this one I took after leaving Angela's house the other evening.
This is a view across Lake Lancaster towards Orange Avenue and the new building under construction at ORMC, or whatever they call it these days. During my time working for the organization they must have changed the name three times, annoying me to no end.

Driving home from somewhere late last week, I pulled into a parking lot to get a photograph of a super chromy (made up word?) red VW. What I didn't expect to find was this new take on a door knob.
Pretty clever, right? I'd hoped to take some photos surreptitiously, however, just as I was walking towards the car, the driver came walking towards it as well. He was agreeable, allowing me to take a few shots, telling me it was a 1972 Beetle. Did I ever tell you I had a 1963 VW Beetle? Well, I did while in x-ray school, making it only 10 years old when I got it. Haha! If I remember corectly, my father paid $300 for the car, only to have to replace the engine at some point for the same amount.  One day, after putting baby Matt in his little car seat, when I put my foot through the floor board, I realized it was time to say goodbye. I know that almost sounds made up, but it's not!

Most every room is getting some sort of upgrade--hey, I'm having a big party soon, a girl's got to get ready! Redecorating is so much cheaper than moving, as Angela is quickly discovering. While we were in England, Jane gave me some ORANGE pillow covers, made in Wales, where the Price family comes from. Between she and Matt, they've traced my father's family back for centuries.
In a big clean up of my desk, I've misplaced the paperwork, so I cannot provide the details of the pillows, but in any case, they look sweet don't they?

Friday, when Bruce finally got home for the weekend, I drug him out shopping. Actually I'm so darn lucky because he is always up for shopping, in some cases, more than I am. Nearly every time he lands at the airport, he calls, asking if I need anything. Oh, I'm a lucky one.

Speaking of lucky, I was delighted to open the envelope from Sun Dance the other day. Angela was over, digging up some of my plants to use in her garden, when I got the mail. Not having my reading glasses on, I was not entirely sure if what I saw on the check was accurate. Asking her if this says what I think it says, she confirmed the amount--my biggest mailbox money to date. I'm not getting used to it, because next month's check may be minuscule, but I'm counting my blessings for the moment.

Here's a funny picture from Saturday's market at Winter Garden. Just when the weather turns nice, everyone and their brother has a festival, keeping folks away from our weekly event. Hardly any folks=hardly any sales. But don't feel bad for me, they will come when they are supposed to.
Pretty darn sunny, wouldn't you say? I'm not entirely clear what it was all about, but there were loads and loads of teams on a scavenger hunt walking,
and, running through the market.
The outfits were something to behold. Then too, there was a costume contest for the vendors with two months free rent as the first place prize. Here's the lucky winner talking to some scavenger participants:
No clue as to what that costume is, but with only a handful participating, someone had to win. I was a hold out.

The older we get, the less we want to go out at night. Saturday night we made an exception, and are we ever glad we did. Matt sent me a link to buy tickets very cheaply to Jessie Ware's concert at the House of Blues. Although I adore her singing, without that nudge I'm sure we would have spent the evening watching college football. Perhaps that is why the crowd was so small, or maybe all the Halloween parties, don't know, but that just meant we could get super close to the stage. Hurray!

Before she came on, Mikky Ekko played.
Although some people talked through the opening act, neither Bruce nor I did. He was really good, in spite of his weird made-up name. We'd never heard of him before, however using our handy phones, we discovered he got a big career boost from doing a duet with Rhianna.
Slightly, what us old folks call racy, but good. I wonder what Rhianna's mother thinks about her shaving half her head?

I talked to a few people--imagine that--including a family of Brits who were so surprised at how small the crowd was because she is creating quite the buzz in England, as well she should.
Yes, that is a long tuxedo coat she is wearing. Mostly all she does is sing, which is just the way I like it. She opened with this awesome song:
Adorable is what she was, joking with the crowd about her trip to Disney World earlier in the day. Although she is only 29 in some ways she seems older, like wearing semi-flats on stage.
Her smile lit up the room, as did her laugh. Oh yeah--that voice, just as super in person as recorded. The awesome thing is, that because she only has one album, the concert was short, getting over around 10. No complaints from us as we made our way to the parking lot and home. Bruce was completely unfamiliar with her music; following the concert, he was in love.

All in all, it was a perfect weekend with perfect weather. Who could ask for more?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Taking Advantage of a Discount

Continuing my tourist ways, I took a trip to Tampa Tuesday to visit Busch Gardens. Never before had I visited there, however, during my time at Darden last week, a fellow showed me some photos he took there of Bengal tigers. What was I waiting for?
Babies no less!!!

Seriously, this was a bit of a stretch for me; seems like the older I get, the less I want to make longish drives by myself. But, the truth of the matter is that I work a little better solo, so off I went, traveling a convoluted route to I-4 because, as I was leaving, Regina stopped me on our street, and after learning of my mission, she mentioned she'd heard on the radio about a fatal accident which had traffic at a standstill for miles.

Now I know how to get on from the Osceola Parkway--not recommended for routine use, but it worked in this case.

I'm pretty sure the accident was caused by the heavy fog, continuing for the better part of my journey.
Arriving just before 11, I rode the tram to the park, which come to think of it, aside from my trip with Bev and Bonnie in the spring, I'd not been to a real-live theme park in who knows how long. I was rusty.

Well, it was just GREAT! Sounds a little like Tony the Tiger I guess, but I mean it--nothing short of fantastic! The regular admission is something like $90, with $15 for parking, however, checking their website, I learned that I could get a weekday ticket for $50, with parking only (only!) $9 if I paid online. It was worth every penny, and after what I saw, I'd say it is most definitely worth the full admission, particularly if you like massive roller coasters, which I do not.

That's the thing, there are all these crazy high roller coasters, with screaming riders, along with all sorts of quiet animals. Because it was 90 degrees, and I knew I had the 85 mile drive home, I only spent about 4 hours there, leaving at 3 to beat the traffic, however, I could have spent much more time had I not had those factors to think about. Whew--some really great sights, at least to my eyes.
I hardly know where to start, but I will warn you that there are loads of photos coming!

Maybe with the gorillas because that's where I started. The amazing thing is there are big plate glass windows, with the animals just on the other side. This one was laying about, just looking at the folks.
Sporting a bit of a goatee he is. They actually live in a very large compound with a big waterfall, climbing rocks, and the like.
Do you see the one resting on the rocks? Educating people about gorillas is a big part of what they do, with veterinarians giving talks throughout the day.
Consulting my map, I next went on the train trip running through what they call the Serengeti Plain with animals roaming freely, including giraffes, zebras, and various antelopes. It was good, but if I'd had the time, I might just have paid the extra to ride in one of the open top trucks, getting really, really close.
Can you imagine?? Angela would just die, as she LOVES giraffes. So does Tom for that matter.
See that little boy by the wall? See how high that roller coaster is? Yikes, it twists and turns, goes through a tunnel, or so I think, and ends up zooming over water. Check out the splash:
Not only are the people standing nearby to watch loved ones, but also to cool off in the gigantic spray!

Although I've seen a white Bengal tiger while visiting the Lowery Park Zoo, back in 2009, I'd yet to see the ORANGE variety. The exhibit is simply wonderful with multiple viewing stations. Get ready for photo overload!
I wasn't the only one! Sadly the glass was kind of scratched and messy, helped not one bit by all of us clamoring for a close up. One thing I learned from taking photos at The Shard, was not to wear stripes! Seeing the little girl's shirt reflected in the window shows you just what I'm talking about. I wore a plain white sleeveless top, which I think worked well.  From the open side of the enclosure you get a look at how it looks to the tiger as he looks in on us.
Three cubs, mind you!
They were so cute and playful, chasing after one another, and climbing the rocks.
Don't you just love that white spot on their ears?? I learned form one of the workers that they've only just begun to run around without direct parental supervision. Mama is just beautiful, isn't she?
You can even climb up a little ladder to view them at ground level. While I did so, one of the cubs was lying (laying?) on top of the glass!
Just wonderful!
Eventually one of the other cubs got up there as well. Sadly I took my leave of the tigers, in search of the LIONS!
Papa lion was having a nap when I went by, which was a little disappointing. What didn't disappoint were these cute ring-tailed lemurs having a lunch of fresh spinach.
I bet you want to see one in action don't you?
See, what I mean--one after another, the sights kept coming. Two female lions were hanging around the other open part of their habitat, but I did not see the lion cubs--drat!

Making my way around the other areas, I saw the elephants,
as well as a few zebras coming close for a drink of water. Interestingly enough, this is the variety whose stripes are actually very dark brown.
A view of the Serengeti Plain where they took off to roam.
You can see it turned out to be a lovely day, albeit very warm, unlike today which is gray, overcast, and chilly.

Thinking I couldn't see anything better, I did. A hippopotamus, or make that two, swimming underwater. This little girl liked it as well.
Honestly, it was incredible to see these huge creatures bobbing along, every now and again, coming up for water. They swam with the fish,
and turtles,
and ducks!
Yup, you get to see the underwater action of ducks. Honestly, I was mesmerized.

Making my way back the way I came, I took one last look in through the lion window, and what did I see? A lion, silly. Awake and alert.
What a face! It's almost hard to believe how strong and vicious lions are looking at one so close. I was lucky this time as there weren't too many people to vie with for space close to the window. Getting down on my haunches put me on his level to get the shot.

Could there be even more to excite me? Why yes, there could. The kangaroo area was closed for the day, so I missed that, but along the way I saw this cool/creepy lizard.
Not to mention a couple of gators and turtles hanging together,
but the cheetahs were elusive--maybe another time I'll get to see them. Three big cat varieties in one day? Too much to hope for.

I never stopped for lunch because I wanted to see everything I could;  by now I was getting a wee bit tired, but not so much that I missed the bird aviary. OH MY GOSH, did I see one of the most amazing birds in the world. Actually, because he was running around like a banshee in the bushes, I nearly missed him. Maybe some of you have seen the Lady Amherst's Pheasant, especially if you live in England. Here's what I found out about it using our friend, Google:

Named after Lady Sarah Amherst, who first introduced the bird into England in the
1800's, this birds natural habitat is in the bamboo forests of China and Burma.  This bird, for obvious 
reasons, is prized around the world by bird collectors. The male of the species is the more boldly colored one, like 
many other birds, and sports long colorful tail feathers, black and white neck feathers, a metallic green throat, 
and a red crest. 
They left out the shocking orange tail feathers! Honestly, is that one of the most colorful birds you've ever seen? Nearly every color of the rainbow is to be found on this astonishing bird, not to mention the intricate layering of feathers.
I can hardly get over that I saw it at all. The bird above on the right is none too shabby either, with a beautiful mix of blues, greens, and a hint of orange. Seriously, I could go on, and on, and I suppose that I have, but it isn't every day that one gets close to so many amazing animals, and birds. This little guy was not sure if he was happy or not, hanging with the Lorikeets, which are pretty beautiful themselves.
Here's a little history of the park, opened originally as a beer garden in 1959. How is it that I've never been there before, and it is so close? Don't ask me--probably because I'm a scardy cat when it comes to roller coasters?

Driving home, I kept smiling, thinking of what a great day it had been. No traffic problems marred that vision either. An early dinner, and it wasn't too long after that this tourist hit the sack. What a day!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Two Weeks in a Nutshell

It's hard for me to believe two weeks have passed since we returned from England. What's even more surprising is how long it took me to blog about the trip--longer than we were there! At any rate, in the interest of getting this blog current, I'm going to sum up two weeks in one post. Don't believe me? Here goes:

Carol returned from Melbourne, a week ago Monday, and was most anxious to see her siblings ,which means having a dinner party here. Then it occurred to me, why not make it a birthday party for Maureen who turned 65 last Friday? Cooking ensued, folks came, eating home made fried chicken, yellow rice, green beans cooked the old-fashioned way, and sliced Alabama tomatoes. I'll tell you this much, frying chicken for a crowd takes a very long time. The Texas sheet cake was not my best, but folks did not complain. To say Maureen was surprised is an understatement. Lynn, the realtor who sold Angela's house joined the party,
as did Bill and Fallon, along with David, who came solo as Michelle was working. Our brother Pat, vegan that he is, skipped dinner, coming later to socialize. Sadly we did not get a photo with Maureen as she was gone when Bruce took this:
Spending an entire afternoon frying chicken left no time to clean myself up, thus the grubby look! Lisa is on my left, Pat, and then Carol. We're only missing Maureen and Nancy, who, by the way, has moved to Arkansas, taking a management position at a brand new Marshalls there. On the table to my right is a photo taken of all of us after our Mom's funeral, nearly 10 years ago. My how the time flies!

During our absence, the caterpillars were busy, eating most every leaf of my oleandars;
there were hundreds of them, thus, finally on Saturday I cut the plants to the ground. My Spicy Jatrophas are in shambles as well, with scale as the culprit. In one spot of bright yard news, my Thryallis is going gang busters.
Carol left last Tuesday afternoon, and it was time to get busy around here, with ordering high on my list! Wednesday afternoon I set up at Darden for the yearly Craft & Art show, heavy on craft.
The building is beautiful, both inside,
and out.
There's actually no roaming around the building for a visitor without an escort. Someone told me Mr. Bruce was on some kind of board as a Brilliance Award winner, so when his assistant Dennise came down, she was kind enough to take me to the second floor to see it for myself. This is a digital display, sort of like what you might have at home in a grander scale,  so I waited for you know who's photo to come up:
This will be running for the next year! Still so proud...

The room looked like this, or at least from one angle:
Thursday was better than last year with Friday very slow. I spent nearly the entire afternoon talking to
my neighbor behind me, Desnee, a very interesting woman whose daughter works at Darden.
Most of the folks who do the show are the same year in and year out, however, if I'm not adjacent to someone I don't really get to know them. Am I ever happy I got to chat with her as she is one fascinating lady. Slow sales events can have their bonuses-- getting to know others who like to create. I see a trip to Brooksville in my future--she's that interesting!

Friday night Bruce finally came home from Houston around 7. Because our regular stylist could not find time to cut his hair Saturday, he went instead to a nearby Floyd's Barbershop, which looks nothing like the barber shops I used to frequent with our boys!
Bruce had a return ticket to Houston Sunday evening, so in the interest of seeing his wife for a few hours, he asked me if I would stay home Saturday instead of going to Winter Garden. It did not take much to convince me that four days in a row of selling would tax even chatty me! 

After mowing the lawn, I spent nearly all day sitting on the couch, going through some old "Cook's Illustrated" Nancy gave me. Oh yeah, and watching college football. About mid-day Dave called saying they were having an impromptu Halloween party and they'd like us to come. No costume for this girl, hey, it was short notice, but Dave and Michelle sure looked cute, even in this picture which is not my best:
The thing was, I'd been waiting all day for the FSU game to start, and I could not miss it. Fortunately they have a room with both a television, and comfortable couch.
It did not take long for the score to change, much to everyone's surprise with Florida State walloping Clemson--51-14!! We were hoping for a win, but this score was more than anyone expected. Because we know most of their friends, it was not as rude as it sounds, with many of them joining us to watch throughout the night. Imagine this--we stayed up past midnight!!!

Starting slow, the market on Sunday built steam as the day wore on. In a first for me, some folks from Melbourne, Australia bought several prints. I'm pretty sure that's the farthest anything has traveled to date. :)

No sooner had we unloaded the car, then Bruce ate a little something, and headed to the airport for his big inspection Monday at the Capital Grille in Houston. He did everything right for the job, however, once the big-wigs came in, they decided on some pretty major changes to the design, which, as you can imagine, is not what he wanted to hear. Don't let anyone tell you that construction project managing is an easy job.

Monday I found myself ordering once again and shopping for our house. As well the appliance repair guy returned for the third time to fix our refrigerator. The yard spray guy was kind enough to blast the jatrophas with his huge nozzle. I tried to spray them myself before we left, but obviously, from the look of things when we returned, it was not an adequate job! Then too, Cheryl and her husband David came knocking early Monday morning. Sadly they came to tell me David was laid off last week. :(

So, here we are Wednesday morning, October 23, and this blog is much tidier, or at least nearly up to date. If you've been paying attention you noticed I left yesterday out...tune in to find out where Mrs. Camera Crazy went--you won't be disappointed, or so I hope.

Long Beach, CA