Monday, November 30, 2009

Weekend Update

We had a fun Thanksgiving weekend! Well, I did. JB had a horrible cold and lost his voice. Olivia had a run-in with a cactus. Lucy and I made out all right, though. :)

We spent Thursday-Friday in Mayberry.

Mom got to do what she loves best: play with her grandbabies:

Ten people came to Thanksgiving. We had 5 pies. That's a half pie each. Friday morning there was 1.25 pies left. We did our duty!

We did a Christmas photoshoot with baby Lilian, who is not accustomed to the camera like Liv:

O tried on her first pair of high heels:

Then when nightfall came Mom plugged in her lightshow. Tommy asked if she had called Consumer's Electric to see if they had enough ampage to power her display. She did not, but no power outages were reported as a result of her Christmas spirit. She lit up the whole front of her wraparound porch. And then a LARGE evergreen tree for each of her kids: she has 7 (I didn't count the trees, but it seemed like that many). And then the massive pine tree. And she had run out of time to do her MSU tree with the green and white lights that were sitting on the kitchen counter.

It wasn't until after she lit them all up that she decided she should redo the lights on the massive pine. She reflected that perhaps standing 20 feet off the ground in the bucket loader with a long pool-cleaning stick in one hand and a string of lights in the other, calling down instructions to a deaf old man who was driving the machine and had been drinking his share of spirits, would result more in a Drunkard's Tree than in a Christmas Tree. I am sorry that I did not get photos of this. I do not have a good tripod (it's on my Christmas list, hint, hint!) so it would not have worked anyway.

After returning home, we put up THREE Christmas trees (one for us, one for Olivia, and then we helped G&G set up their decorations). And outside lights. And I enjoyed a great Advent service at church while JB lay in bed, miserable.

We are officially in the Christmas spirit, yo!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Real chefs don't make this just for Thanksgiving...

Happy Thanksgiving, all, and may you truly be thankful for all of your blessings.

God DOES bless America, our home sweet home!

Read with Me!

Back in 2003 the BBC conducted a poll on reader's favourite books. This list, the BBC Big Read Top 100, has been circulating the internets since it's inception in 2003. As the poll was conducted in Britain, it's no surprise that about 60 of the books are Brittish.

There are scads of "best book" lists out there, but this one had the most titles that I am honestly interested in. Maybe it's because I like British tales.

Apparently the BBC believes most people will have only read 6 of these 100 books. When I first received the list, I had read only 14 or 15. I shared the list with JB, who ticked off 35 titles himself. Goody two-shoes!

I am an avid reader but when I tried to read classics in high school, I was BORED. I preferred my detective novels, thank you. So I never gave them another try. I didn't really believe that many people actually liked these stories and that they just raved about them so that they'd look smart and trendy. You know, like people who rave about "classic" black and white movies that in reality have light plotlines and so-so acting (Gone With the Wind excluded!!).

In 7th grade I did read all 1036 pages of Gone With the Wind of my own choosing. I loved it. My English teacher, Mr. Coopes, then assigned me to read To Kill a Mockingbird, believing I'd enjoy another Southern tale. After page 3 I was dreadfully bored and refused to read it. I took an E on the assignment. Nobody tells ME what to read! After that I left everyone else to their classics while I read REAL books, like Nancy Drew.

Then when JB and I were living with Grandma and Grandpa Hunt (during the Calvin restoration) I saw To Kill a Mockingbird on one of their bookshelves. It had a cool cover and I was itching to read, so I cracked it open.

And couldn't put it down.

How had I ever thought that this book was BORING??? Probably because I was a child. I don't think that teenagers can really get most classics.

Ever since then I've been interested in classic books but as there are so many, I never knew where to start.

JB and I are working our way through this BBC list together. Only I'm the only one that has started. Then again, maybe he's just waiting for me to catch up to him.

My sister Annie has graciously lent me several of her classics from this list, dubbing it my "winter reading." Annie, I won't let you down!

Here's the full list, for any of you fellow readers who care to see where you stack up and perhaps even read along with me! (I've bolded the ones I've read. I've started several others, but they don't count until I read the last page!)

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown (JB has read this, but I shall not)
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zifon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Inferno - Dante
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom (Mitch is too self-important, so I'm not reading this one, either.)
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factoy - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Peacemaker

In celebration of JB's new job, I made him a sweet dinner when he got home from his first day. Well, I often make a sweet dinner, because I'm cool like that, but as we had just seen the movie Julie and Julia last Saturday, I was inspired to channel my inner Julia Child and make something super good.

So I donned my pearl necklace and raided my butter stores.

And made Chicken Archduke, with carrots and mashed potatoes on the side. For dessert, I made Chocolate Cream Pie (not Julia's recipe, though--didn't find it).

After a flurry of preparations (because my pie recipe did not include cooking times so I had no idea how long it would take, causing me to make dessert and dinner at the same time), we sat down to eat.


That was the best chicken I have ever eaten.

I licked every bit of sauce off of my plate. It was so tasty that I have dubbed it The Peacemaker.

If you have someone in your life who you just can't seem to get along with, or who is unwilling to forgive you a wrong, make this meal for them. I guarantee that they'll fall in love with you and completely forget what they were mad at you about.

Conversely, if you have someone you'd like to see dead, but are concerned that the presence of arsenic or other poisonous substances found in their bloodstream would cast unwelcome suspicion on you, make this meal for them. Every day. For a week. It's that rich. (And if you're lucky, on about day 2 or 3 of your plan, your target will be so enamored with you that they will rewrite their will to give you EVERYTHING and will tell the whole world how AMAZING you are, thus giving authorities no reason to suspect you whatsoever in the untimely death.)

BTW, any chocolate cream pie recipe will do. I had never had chocolate cream pie before, and I loved it so much that I ate the last piece for breakfast the next morning. I didn't mean to. I meant to just have one bite. Until there were no bites left. I love it so much I'm making it for Thanksgiving.

Without further ado, may I present The Peacemaker (it's not as difficult to make as you may think):


4 T butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 T paprika
4 - 6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 cup chicken stock (broth)
1/4 cup dry vermouth or white wine
1 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Heat the butter in a skillet large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer. Sauté the onions until tender but not brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in the paprika. Lightly brown the chicken in the butter mixture, about 2 minutes per side. Place the skillet in a preheated 400° F. oven until the chicken is firm to the touch, about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the chicken and keep warm. Add the chicken broth and vermouth or wine to the skillet and reduce over high heat until the liquid is almost evaporated. Add the cream and reduce until the sauce has thickened slightly. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the chicken and garnish with chopped parsley. Serves 4 to 6.

From Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Volume 1), by Julia Child et al, Random House, 1989

Friday, November 13, 2009

Happy Birthday Tommy!

It's my brother's birthday today. Every few years it falls on Friday the 13th. Ooooh! Spooky!

I remember when we were living in the Lapeer house and our cat ran away from home. It was an outdoors cat, so I don't know why we were so surprised when he took off. I was sooo sad about it! For days I waited for that cat to come home.

Then Tommy's birthday came. On Friday the 13th. And we were all getting ready for his birthday party when the neighbor calls to say he found our cat. Or something like that. I was little. I just remember that after Mom got off the phone with someone, she said that our cat was found. So that Friday the 13th was actually a LUCKY day.

Hopefully this was another lucky one for you, brother!

In honor of his birthday, I did a Mohawk photo shoot with Olivia and Lucy for his birthday card. Unfortuately Lucy's 'hawk did not translate well onto film. Oh well!

As soon as I gave my name to the girl at the photo counter at Walgreens, where I was picking up my prints, she said, "I LOVE the mohawk photos! They are so cool!" Then she went on to tell me that she did the same thing with her son (who is same age as O) and how her fiance went bananas over them. He insisted that they be made into 8x10's and framed.

What can I say? Mohawks are awesome.

And mohawks on babies are priceless.

Here are some gems from the photo shoot. I hope you got your card already, brother, so that this doesn't spoil the surprise. But I couldn't wait any longer to post!!:

Getting started:

"Mother, are we doing ANOTHER photo shoot? Seriously. If you make me do another one of these I swear I'm going to feed Piglet to the dog."
"You shall put the camera down and stack blocks with me instead!"

The one baby and dog shot. Lucy was kind of nervous about sitting in a rocking chair. She had been even more nervous at the sound of hairspray being dispensed into her fur. She is so obedient!

Reflections in being a caged baby...

Oh, crap. Now that I've busted all my friends out of jail, who's gonna get ME out??

You know it's hard out here for a punk...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Best Parents Ever

I know that all of my blogs these days are about Olivia. And for those of you without children, it's probably a drag. I am sorry. You can judge me. I'd judge you if you did the same. :)

But, well, Olivia is entertaining to me. And I'm not in a writing season right now. I'm in a "crafting for Christmas" season, which means that witty stories are collecting dust in the recesses of my mind, while I am busy sewing and gluing. There's always something to keep me from writing, isn't there?

So last night was Bath Night for the Bird. JB is the appointed bather, so I can have a break from that silly girl. I brought O upstairs while JB checked his internets. I closed the shades in her room. I picked up her toys. I got out her pajamas. I got out her towel. Then I came into the office to tell JB that everything was ready.

However, JB wasn't ready. So he did not take up watching duties right away. And I had mentally checked out, so I assumed that JB would watch her and I forgot all about her.

Everything was quiet until we heard wimpering in the bathroom. Olivia does not cry. Even when she fell down the side entry stairs last week, she barely cried. Instead, she wimpers. I can't exactly spell out the sound, but it was ", please...uhhh...I'm stuck and I don't know what to do...uhhhh..."

JB sprung up from his chair and raced to the bathroom, and upon arrival, hollered for me to make haste. I was quick on my feet, with my camera in tow.

This is what we saw:

Yes, Olivia had gotten stuck half-in, half-out of the bathtub.

Yes, that is the toilet brush next to her foot, and the brush's holder in the tub.

Yes, those were her toys until she half-fell into the tub.

Yes, JB and I are the best parents ever.

I can't stop laughing...