November 30, 2009

Reading "American Wife"

Recently finished this fabulous book by author Curtis Sittenfeld. Now I'm eager to read her others.

"American Wife" is a novel that runs from 1954 through 2007, about a lovely woman named Alice Lindgren. She is from a quintessential middle-American family, an only child raised by a banker and housewife in Wisconsin. The boy she believes would have been the great love of her life is killed in a bizarre accident during their high school years and she dreams of him throughout her life.

Alice is a solid woman, strong in her convictions, happy in her work as a librarian. Her best friend, Dena, grew up in the house across the street from her and they remain friends into their 30s. Then she meets Charlie Blackwell at a barbeque and her life takes a new direction.

The Blackwells are a wealthy, country club family that made their fortune selling meat products. Charlie's father, Harold, the patriarch of the family, had also served as Wisconsin's governor and the family is vocal in their Republican political beliefs. Although Alice is a Democrat, she and Charlie marry and they eventually end up in the White House.

This book is a good, long read at 555 pages, the type of saga that covers a gamut of issues from race to gay relationships to the very public visibility of political families. Here is an excerpt from the book, a thought by Alice that I thought summed it up quite well:

I have felt strongly since Charlie entered public office that my foremost duty is to take care of him, to be the one person he sees on a daily basis who's not paid to agree or disagree with him, who really is just a friend. Is it startling, then, that I wasn't altogether displeased by an event that would draw attention to my disagreement with his stance on a particular issue without my being the one who'd revealed our conflicting views?
curtis sittenfeld
I love that this young author won the Seventeen magazine fiction writing contest in 1992, at age sixteen. Her work has been published in publications such as The Atlantic Monthly, Salon and Glamour, and featured on public radio's This American Life.

Visit her website at

Happy Birthday, Slug Bug!

vwbeetleHappy Happy Birthday

to my Sweet

Slug Bug Sister!

Hope it's Wonderful!!!

November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Hope everyone has a warm, wonderful, safe, fun-filled Thanksgiving.

Tom says "Bye-bye, so long, farewell ..."

November 24, 2009

Bird Burials

The in-laws have been in town for about a week now. My father-in-law (FIL) always brings me a bouquet of flowers. They're gorgeous lilies that smell so wonderful.

Was sitting in the breakfast nook visiting with my mother-in-law (MIL) and we could hear the birds outside the window. She said they've talked about getting another pet bird -- probably a canary to fill the house with singing. And this reminded her of when hubby and his two older siblings were little and would hold bird burials when one of their pets would die.

They were raised in parochial school and taught by nuns so this heavily influenced their play. The bird funeral would be a processional with Oldest Brother walking first, acting as the priest; then hubby (the Baby) as the pall bearer, carrying the bird in a shoe box; and, last but not least, Middle Sister walking along behind crying -- the mourner. The unfortunate bird would be buried near the fence under the rose bushes.

Speaking of birds, in just two days we'll be tucking into a big one for Thanksgiving dinner, which I am really looking forward to. I have always loved Thanksgiving and the ritual of  cooking the feast. There will be 9 or 10 of us this year and I have a 20-pounder to ensure several days of turkey sandwiches beyond the holiday. Yum!

November 21, 2009

Reading "When Crickets Cry"

So it seems the book club I've joined is not too serious. Out of 6 of us, only 2 actually read the entire book for this month, 1 had just about finished it and the other 3 didn't even start it. But we drank 3 excellent bottles of wine (my favorite was Vampire Pinot Noir) and still managed to have a very nice discussion about it using questions from a reading group guide.

November's selection, "When Crickets Cry" by Charles Martin, was sent to me for my birthday a few years ago by my middle sister. I absolutely loved it when I read it then and so suggested it as a good read. Couldn't wait to read it again and it was just as good as I remembered it.

This story is about Reese, a man who is hiding from tragic events that occurred a few years earlier. He has remade himself with a carefully crafted but comfortable life and has a few close relationships, mainly his endearing brother-in-law, Charlie. The day he meets 7-year-old Annie, selling lemonade to raise money to help cover her medical bills and pay for a heart transplant, the new existence he's created begins to slide out of his control.

charles martin
This book is just plain beautiful. Charles Martin always seems to include water in his books and this one is no exception. Set on the Tallulah River and Lake Burton in Georgia, Reese and Charlie refurbish boats and row together in the early morning hours. Martin's words are so descriptive, you can smell and taste and envision the places and people he writes about. This story is full of medical jargon and some pretty exciting scenes revolving around transplants.

Published in 2006 with 336 pages, a website for a Reading Group Guide is also given that makes this especially good for book clubs. I would give this book 5 stars out of 5 and plan to re-read it many times over. Visit his website at

November 18, 2009

Lobster Tales and Other Fishy Stories

A few nights ago, Youngest Daughter came over for dinner and we ordered in sushi. Hubby was having spicy tuna roll that he had coated in a thick paste of wasabi and soy sauce. We have both fallen in love with wasabi -- the hotter the better -- when it wafts up your nose and makes your eyes burn and closes your throat for a minute. Good stuff!

So YD asks if she can taste his spicy tuna roll and, of course, he says "Yes" and offers her a piece. She picks it up with her chopsticks and I have to intervene at this point and tell her she may want to just take a small bite of it because the wasabi is hot. She looks at me for half a second and proceeds to cram the entire piece into her mouth. Let's count ... five, four, three, two, one ... and she spits the whole thing out onto her plate and runs to the sink to rinse her mouth. She is 31 years old -- when do you think she'll start listening to me?

This reminds us of our visit to Foster's, a nice seafood restaurant that used to be in Scottsdale. We took her to dinner there probably 5 or 6 years ago and she decides she wants lobster for the first time. I ordered lobster, too, because it's one of my favorites and we put on our little plastic bibs and get ready to feast. The server brings out a platter and sets it in front of YD and she kind of shrieks. "It's looking at me. I can't eat that." She didn't realize that it came out whole with eyeballs and everything. Since this was the most expensive thing on the menu, we had to dismantle it for her and hide the disgusting parts so she could eat her dinner.

A friend once told us about taking his family to a nice Italian restaurant and when his daughter was served her dish of pasta, she screamed so loud the entire place stopped breathing. He asked her what was wrong and she replied (still very loudly), "There's a bug in my food and it's still alive." "How do you know?" he asked her. And she said, with everyone listening, "Because it's testicles are still moving!" Clearly, she meant tentacles. Got a good laugh.

And finally, Hubby and I took a vacation to Cape Cod. What a wonderful time. I'd highly recommend it. We were having lobster in a very nice restaurant, apparently seated directly under a vent that ran from the kitchen area. All of a sudden, this aroma comes wafting through the vent that smells suspiciously like -- oregano -- or would that be marijuana. Hubby calls the server over and says, "Smell that? I don't think it's on the menu."

November 17, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Ancestors

When hubby saw this photo of my ancestors, he said to me, 
"No wonder you act the way you do!" 

Wordless Wednesday

Teaser Tuesdays - "American Wife"

I'm trying something new today that I've seen while visiting other blogs. Teaser Tuesdays is for readers who want to share a few sentences of what they're currently reading ...

teasertuesdays31 Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read

  • Open to a random page

  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My two “Teaser” sentences for today:

That morning, when he'd come to Itty-Bitty to find me for breakfast, I'd been awake and dressed, waiting for him, and as he'd entered through the screen door, he'd called, "Where's my favorite lush?" and I'd said, "Charlie, I'm so sorry for my behavior last night," and he'd said, "Only part you have to apologize for is getting me all horned up and then passing out, but I'll take a rain check." He'd leaned in to kiss me, and I'd felt the great relief of dating a man who does not hold a grudge, or at least not toward you (Simon had been the other way).

This excerpt is from page 239 of "American Wife," written by Curtis Sittenfeld (who is, by the way, a woman) - 555 total pages, published in 2008.

November 13, 2009

Horsie Blanket

Note: D, if you don't want to know what your baby shower gift is, don't read this!

So my sweet friend that is having a baby boy soon is doing a western theme for the baby's room. I decided I wanted to knit her a baby blanket and I've started three and ripped them out, not happy with what I was seeing. Then I found a horse head pattern (Giddy-Up Cloth designed by Amy-lynne Mitchell) through the dishcloth section of Knitting Pattern and started by making two horse squares, one brown, one beige. I am using worsted weight yarn with size 7 needles.

close up of horse head square

It seemed a little drab so I got a bright yellow skein of yarn and made a textured square with my favorite moss stitch. Then to tie them all together, I used all three colors and made a striped square that makes me think of a horse blanket that goes under a saddle. Here are the first four squares being blocked, although this is not the way they'll be sewn together.

horse blanket in progress

A total of 16 squares, four of each design/color, should be just right. I need to have this completed for her shower in December so I have a month to get it all knitted, seamed together and edged. I think it's going to be so cute!

November 12, 2009

Man Cave Parties


A feature story about men "meating" for a new kind of home party was in the Arizona Republic recently. Click here to read the article.

GK-BuffaloSteakFeast-1These are home parties for men, started by a couple of guys in their twenties from Minnesota and Wisconsin, Nicke Beste and Kevin Carlow. You can visit their website at Says Beste, "It's a good excuse to hang out with the guys, drink a few beers, eat some brats and, most importantly, learn some new techniques about grilling." It's a Tupperware party for men!

Man Cave T-Shirt with Man Laws on BackThey sell beer, meat, grilling products, marinades, poker playing items and apparel. Who wouldn't want this studly T-shirt with the Man Laws printed on the back? Here are a couple ...

  • Grilling, regardless of weather, is always the first choice for cooking.

  • A man is permitted to build his "Man Cave" in anyway he wishes. However NO "Man Cave" shall ever include: A fridge incapable of holding a case of beer, "Fat Free" potato chips, and any variation of the color pink.

And, ladies, they do sell a few Gifts for Her like an Intimate Night Kit comprised of rose "pedals" (someone over there needs a dictionary to go with their spell-checker) and massage oil. Obviously, a lot of deep thought went into this category!

I'm sure every guy out there has been waiting with beer-bated breath to be a Man Cave Advisor and Host a "Meating." Wouldn't it be fun to be a fly on the wall ...

November 11, 2009

What's Cookin' - Microwave Potato Salad

potato salad

Okay, so this is a weird time of year to be talking about potato salad but we had a little thank you barbeque for our tile crew and I made some to serve with burgers and brats, Hawaiian salad, pico de gallo and chips. And the reason this dish is unusual is that I microwave the potatoes instead of boiling them. Fast and easy!

Microwave Potato Salad

8 red potatoes
small bunch of green onions, chopped
1/4 cup mustard
3/4 cup mayonnaise
6 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
20 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
potato circle
crop circle a la potatoes

Scrub the potatoes and leave the skins on -- that's where all the good vitamins are. Arrange in a circle around the edge of a plate and microwave for 6 or 7 minutes. Flip each potato over and pierce with a fork 3 times to let the steam escape. Microwave for another 6 or 7 minutes or until fork tender. Let cool for about 15 minutes. Then rough chop them.

In a large bowl, mix the mustard, mayonnaise, onions and salt. Add the potatoes, eggs and tomatoes. Mix well and chill. This makes about 12 servings and really tastes great!
rough chop the cooked potatoes
rough chop the cooked potatoes

If you're having a mini potato salad craving during the winter months, you can just microwave a couple of potatoes and reduce the amount of all other ingredients to make a few servings.

mr potato head
mr. potato head is such a spud!

November 10, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - The Buppies

Baby Buppies - 5 months old - September 1992
Skyler and Reggie at 5 months old - I miss these two!
Sorry ... couldn't go completely wordless. We got these two Yorkies in 1992, a few months apart, although they were only 2 weeks apart in age. They were so much fun. They played hard and got into trouble frequently. Reggie lived to be 14-1/2 years old and Skyler made it to 15-1/2. This is one of my favorite photos of them -- they look like such ragamuffins! This was when the term Yuppies was popular so we nicknamed them the Buppies for baby puppies.

Wordless Wednesday

November 9, 2009

What's goin' on ...

We are now on the downhill slide of home improvement ... thank God. The tile is being laid in our home office and master bedroom this week. We cozied up in the guest room last night -- cozy being the operative word. It's amazing how small a full-size bed feels in comparison to a king. And the puppies would not be denied. They are used to sleeping up on the bed with us and proceeded to carry on until we picked them up. Is this where the term dog pile came from?

Here are a couple of shots of rooms with completed tile. The grout still needs to be sealed and then a good cleaning and everything can go back where it belongs.
dining room
family room
We took a field trip to Ikea Sunday. Hubby and I had never been to the store they opened in Tempe a few years ago. Youngest daughter had shopped there previously and went along. What a veritable wonderland of shopping. First of all, it's huge -- 2 stories of everything from complete room layouts of furniture and appliances to holiday decorations to linens and rugs and silk plants and dishes. There is a restaurant and a children's play area and a little cafe where you can buy amazing cinnamon rolls for $1.00. It's a good thing we don't live anywhere near this store because I would put my car on auto-pilot for the cinnamon rolls alone.

In addition to the cinnamon rolls, we bought a very nice hanging rack to go behind the door in the laundry room for my aprons. I love aprons and I use them constantly. The granddaughter also has a number of kid-size aprons. We bought very cute matching Christmas aprons a few years ago. Got home from Ikea and, while we were still high from our sugar buzz, hubby put the rack up.
apron rack
apron rack
I am throwing a baby shower for a friend in December. This is her first baby -- they're having a boy. They live in a mountain town a few hours outside of Phoenix and love the outdoor life, especially fishing. I decided to hand-make her invitations scrapbook-style and found the cutest little stick-on bears to embellish with. I scanned all the bears and printed the one that looks like a little pregnant mama on the front of the envelopes. I think they turned out really cute and I can't wait for the shower.
Baby Shower Invite
baby shower invitation

November 6, 2009

Pioneer Woman Cookbook Signing

I escaped the house-in-progress last night and went to the "Pioneer Woman Cooks" cookbook signing with my youngest daughter. We arrived at the Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe just as it was about to begin at 7:00 instead of hours early, which we now know to do next time. We stood in line to buy our books and were assigned a letter code -- Group N -- for the actual signing. We were quite a ways from the action and the author, Ree Drummond, behind stacks of bookshelves so we couldn't really see anything while she spoke. Audience members asked her questions and she gave charming, funny answers. A child asked her if she had elephants. She said, "You know, until this very moment, I didn't realize that's what was missing from my life. We have horses and cows, but no elephants."
Once she sat down to begin signing, they announced that people with the letter A and anybody with children should get in line. At least an hour went by before they got to Group B. My daughter, who is currently working two jobs so believe me it was amazing that she even had last night off, was fading fast.

Ree Drummond, signing her cook book

Ree's sister-in-law, Missy, and mother-in-law, Nan, were wandering through the crowd, chatting, signing their photos in the book, taking pictures with people. They were gracious and provided a nice distraction from the wait -- for a while.
We were fortunate to have found a couple of chairs to park ourselves in and spent some time going through the cookbook. I will say this is one of the prettiest cookbooks -- lots and lots of gorgeous pictures of more than just food. There are many pictures of ranch life and animals and kids, family and friends. I know it's hard work, but it sure looks lovely in the photos and Ree is an amazing photographer.
I have already chosen a handful of recipes that I'm going to be trying out soon like the scones and chicken fried steak and jalapeño poppers and meatballs. My in-laws are coming for a 2-week visit around Thanksgiving so I'll have a captive audience to cook for. And I'm throwing a baby shower for a friend in December, so I'll be trying out recipes to serve for that as well. Missy said that when they hold their annual 4th of July get together, they make over 300 jalapeño poppers. Lots of food gets consumed on that ranch.
We lasted until 10:15 when they had made it to Group G and figured it would be at least midnight before they got close to our Group N. We ended up leaving our books to be signed and will pick them up today. The big bummer is that we didn't actually get to meet Ree or have a picture taken with her. But I am truly excited about this gorgeous cookbook and wish her and her family the best of luck on the book tour and in the future. She mentioned that she would be writing another book on her love story with her marlboro man rancher hubby. Sounds scrumptious!
Visit her wonderful website at

November 4, 2009

A Sneak Peek

Hubby had a cold over the weekend and I managed to catch it just about the time the tile guys were driving up Monday morning. Have been wandering around here in a cold medicine haze with snot for brains. Nonetheless, great progress has been made on the laying of tile. Here are a few photos, starting with the kitchen looking toward the entryway and office.


Next is the dining room. I just love that spice cake paint color. And the warmth of the gold tile makes me very happy!


Can't wait until we're done. We will be dismantling the office soon, which means all the computer equipment is getting disconnected so we can move the furniture out of the room. But, in the infamous words of the Terminator -- I'll be back!

November 1, 2009

Under Construction

The tile guys will be here this week laying new tile.

Will be back when I can.