Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Slow Cooker Zucchini Stew, Book Review & more...

Wow, did yesterday's zucchini madness turn out yummy!  Recipe as follows:


1 large zucchini, cut into 1" cubes (approx 3 cups)
1 bag frozen mixed vegetables (I used peas, carrots, green beans)
3/4 cup yellow onion, diced
1 cup tomato sauce
1 can dark red kidney beans, drained
1 can black beans, drained
1 can cream of chicken soup (or cream of something else for vegetarian version)
fresh herbs OR 1 T. Italian blend seasoning
salt & pepper to taste
optional: butter, Parmesan cheese

Add all ingredients to slow cooker.  Cook over low for 6-8 hours.
Serve with butter & cheese as desired.

I don't even like zucchini and I LOVED this stew!  Would have been perfect with some small pasta added too, although I didn't have any on hand.  Wait, I did have elbows; oh well.  Maybe I will cook up elbows and fry some ground beef and mix it with the stew for leftovers.  Yum!  This also would have been better with fresh tomatoes, but again, I didn't have any on hand.  I think I will pick some up today to mix in with tonight's dinner.

My parents will be here for dinner tonight, so it will be nice to have a "real" homemade meal.

I only see my parents two or 3 times a year, so they deserve to be spoiled when they are here visiting.

I finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo last night.  Stayed up past midnight reading.  I really enjoyed this book and I now understand what all of the 'buzz' was about.  I am looking forward to watching the movie & have moved it to the top of my Netflix queue, although I may watching it streaming.  I love the fact that I can watch loads of movies online via Netflix. 

I've also devised a plan where I watch the movie then give it to Sparky who can watch it while his is in Virginia & return it via post.  Then we can discuss either via Skype or when we are actually in the same room on the weekends.

So, onto the book review.  I am a fan of the mystery genre and this book satisfied my desire for a slightly intricate plot with a rich variety of characters.  While the subject matter was occasionally uncomfortable (violence perpetuated against women) the staging was never glamorized or sensationalized.  While it was certainly the underlying theme of the book, the writing didn't become distracted with the subject.  I craved to learn more of Lisbeth, the title character, and was initially annoyed with the complex back story; I wanted to get into the meat of the matter a bit more quickly than the author.  But the patience was worth it and ultimately I was satisfied when we got to the interaction between the two main characters.

The family tree at the beginning of the book was helpful, but I would have been much happier if there had been a map included.  I was constantly getting confused between the island and the mainland.  And I also feel that the author could have spent much less time explaining whose house was next to what and it would have been much easier for me to conceptualize throughout the story.

I have not decided if I will read The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest or not.  I will probably wait until I finish A Patriot's History of the United States: From Columbus's Great Discovery to the War on Terror.  But most likely I will finish the series.  And then be annoyed that it is over, as I usually am when a good series comes to it's conclusion.

Of course, is it better to have a series end on a high note or slowly fizzle out?  I have been disappointed with Janet Evonovich, Piers Anthony, Charlaine Harris and many others who have pushed their series well, well past the time when the characters should be put to pasture.

What is your opinion?

Finally, today's waiting for the bus photos.  Another beautiful, sunny morning in SouthCentral PA!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Summer Harvest

I am so lucky to have so many generous people in my life.  However, did you ever notice the MOST generous ones seem to be the ones who grow zucchini?  What is it about these plants?  Has there ever been a summer where people don't have too much zucchini?

 I was gifted with a bounty of green and yellow zucchini this weekend from my dear friend Jural.  Now I don't want to hurt Jural's feelings, but I'm not that big of a zucchini fan.  But she asked if I wanted Cantelopes -- Nope.  Squash -- Nope.  How could I also say no to zucchini?  Of course, the easy thing to do would be to make zucchini bread.  But I don't have an oven.  I know, it's tragic.  Especially for someone who loves to cook as much as I do.  I will be getting a new oven soon, but until then I live with a microwave, slow cooker and stovetop burners.

So I did some research on slow cooker recipes.  And then I did what any self-respecting gourmand does and just said, "I think I'll wing it!"

The crock pot contains one green zucchini (a really big one!), one large bag of frozen veggies, a chopped onion and tomato sauce.  I would have added tomatoes too, but I was out.  I also added a good bit of herbs & some salt.  I think I will make some rice or pasta to go with the veggies.  Not sure yet.  But it smells good so far!

 In addition to the zucchini Miss Jural also gifted us with a huge amount of pears.  I think I am going to maybe try to make pear butter tomorrow.  Not sure how it will go, but it can't be much different from apple butter, can it?  I know you can do that in the slow cooker.
 For now I am just enjoying eating the pears right out of the bowl.  And looking at them.  Aren't they gorgeous with the late summer afternoon sun streaming in on them?  It makes me happy!

 Speaking of things that make me happy, I hit a score at The Christmas Tree Shops last time I stopped in for a quick visit.  The summer (spring?) Waverly dishtowels were on sale $1 for a two pack. So I did some serious stocking up.

I was thinking of sewing them into some sort of small knitting project bag, but I really, really like them.  I did get four of each, but I might keep them all for my new kitchen at my new house.  I am leaning towards a red toile theme, but I am not sure yet.  Guess I have to wait until I actually find a new house before I plan how I am going to decorate the kitchen!  

All I know for certain is that it is NOT going to be apples -- 14 years of that theme is enough!

And finally, the boo's picture of the day.  This is NOT the same outfit he wore on the first day of school, although it is similar.  This one has a Buddhist statue sitting on top of a boom box.
Don't ask me -- medium picked it out for him!  

Also I've included a bit of a self portrait.  Can you see me in the doorway?  Can you see me clutching my coffee as if my very existence depends on it?  Yes, that is how I look in the morning!

Friday, August 27, 2010

The practically perfect morning

I am finally beginning to settle into the routine of the new school year with Sparky living in another state.

This morning the boo woke up at 6am and came over and climbed into bed with me.  We snuggled for a few minutes (not nearly long enough!) and then toddled downstairs.

I started the coffee, got the boo his breakfast and logged into skype.  Sparky & I chatted for about 30 minutes or so.  Then time to get the boo changed & dressed & ready for school.

Outside we go, to wait for the van driver to pull up to the house.  The boo gets chauffeured to school by a van.  Yes, he rides "the short bus".  

Another morning of mom trying to take photos for daddy in Virginia.  Today we have a bit of scrap paper with us & the boo is very happy playing with it, waving it about as proudly as if it were a flag.

The bus pulls up and the boo jumps up and down, thrilled to see Mr. Claire arriving.  It is so gratifying to see that he is excited to be going to school.  He can't use words to tell us, but we can certainly tell by his actions that he is loving school so far this year.

All safely strapped into his seat & off they go.  I smile & take a deep breath and enjoy the beautiful morning.  The humidity is nice and low, some of the leaves are beginning to get a tinge of red & the sun is sparkling.

I wander back into the house, refill my coffee and begin my day.
Indeed, a practically perfect morning.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What I found in my phone

So I own a Cliq phone, which I hate, save for the fact that is an android phone, which I love enough to make up for any other shortcomings the phone has.  I got the phone in December and I have just now FINALLY figured out how to upload photos using my usb cable.  I had tried in the past and failed, but for whatever reason, today it worked.  So I went thru and found some photos that I either wanted to share for a while now or some that I thought you just might enjoy seeing.  
This photo was taken today.  It is me & my kitten, Lunos.  Remember when I found this adorable kitten and it's littermates in the middle of the road?  And we named her "Luna"?  Well, last week Luna's testicles decided to descend, thus making a name change necessary.  Sparky calls him "Lunock" when he is evil -- what a good evil sounding name!  We also call him "Teeth and Claws" when he is being evil and "Fur and Purr" when he is being sweet.  Obviously this morning he was being his sweet snuggly self.

Speaking of Sweet & Snuggly, this is my middle son, Alex, commonly referred to as "medium" or "Calvin" or simply "A".  He is shown here with a girl he dated for about 10 minutes.  He seldom lets me take his photo, so this will have to do.  And yes, she IS wearing shorts, although it is hard to tell from the pic.

And this is my oldest son, O.  We really do call him O most of the time, although his given name is Orin.  He is also commonly referred to as "large".  He does indeed have a red afro & it is indeed epic.  It's actually even bigger now than it was in this photo -- believe it or not!

This is me; showing off a necklace & earring set that was given to me.  Sadly, the boo broke the necklace shortly thereafter.  But it's a pretty good pic of me -- well save for my hand in the photo.  

This was a fun night -- my first (and only, so far) fishbowl!!!  Sparky & I went to Maewyn's Irish Pub in downtown York, PA.  We met fantastic people and had a great time.  Any bar that has a frozen rail to keep your beer cold & has all the the brand specific beer glasses is good in Sparky's book.  And let me tell you about the fishbowl!  What fun!  They take the bottoms of all of the bottles and dump them in this HUGE glass dispenser thing. I should have taken a photo of that, since it was much more impressive than the fishbowl.  Next time, I promise.  Anyway, they dump the bottoms of the bottles as they get emptied (save for the scotch, which would be nasty) and then mix it with fruit juices and such.  Who knew want amounts to "bathtub juice" could be so delicious!  Oh, and the best part, $5.  That's right FIVE DOLLARS.  For the ENTIRE fishbowl. Now even I have the potential to be a cheap date!

So, the WikiReader.  Have you seen this thing?  I am thinking about getting one for my father-in-law, the king of curiousity.  If you have a computer, it's silly, but since they don't (nor do they want one, trust me, we have tried), I think he would really enjoy this.  From the WikiReader website:

Why Take Wikipedia Offline?
Because how can knowledge equal freedom
if people need a modem to get it?

People don't go to Wikipedia because they want to be on the Internet; they go there because they want to find answers and discover new questions. Of course, the best answers are never ends in themselves. They raise our curiosity and lead us down new avenues. They don't stop conversations but, rather, sustain them.

Similarly, each WikiReader experience is the beginning of something new. With more than three million interconnected articles in a completely offline, handheld package, the WikiReader is discovery, investigation, entertainment, and inspiration all rolled into one.

In keeping with Wikipedia's stated goal of:

“Providing a free encyclopedia to everyone on the planet.”

it has a touch screen that accommodates international keyboards, and uses widely available AAA batteries. And since the WikiReader never requires an Internet connection, it can deliver all of this to anyone, anywhere, at any time.

Turning a WikiReader on is easy. Turning it off is a different story.

SO, what do you think?  Do you know someone in your life who would benefit from something like this?  

More random; this is my not mounted in-dash GPS.  I love my car, I really do.  But it is a 2007.  Which means it doesn't have any of the built in fancy-schmancy that today's new cars have.  But I have solved the problem but jamming my GPS where my fuel gauge is located.  And since I am very conscientious about my gas tank levels (don't laugh, I really am!), it's not a problem living there.  I am sure I am not doing the cord any favors jamming it in there like that, but for now, it works for me!

And finally, a photo of waiting for the bus, Day #2.  As you can see, my ability to get a good photo still is lacking, but at least he is having fun waiting.  I am going to try to take one of these photos every day and send them to daddy in the morning.  Plus I just like all of his new back to school outfits!

Pheww!  That's a lot of sharing for one post!  If you made it this far, yay!  Go get yourself a cookie -- you deserve it!!!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

First Day of School -- 2010

I actually tried to get a good "first day of school" photo this year.

Taking photos of the boo is tricky at best.

Doing so by yourself when he is much more interested in the outside world makes the task nearly impossible.

Dozens of shots similar to this one, where he is on the verge of a run; undoubtedly running to find another mommy, one who will not pester him with countless requests of, "Boo!  Look at mommy Boo-Boo! Smile!  Look!!!"

Finally, a halfway passable photo of my pensive little boo, ready to tackle another school year.  Go get 'em boo-boo-man! We love you!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Smashed Penny Envy

Everytime Sparky & I go to a museum or place of amusement we snag ourselves a couple of smashed pennies.
Generally they end up in the coordinating shotglass for the place we visited, but after the blog post I just finished reading I can totally see me making smashed penny jewelry.

Go see the amazing that Jen at EPBOT has created!  (as if the CakeWrecks girl crush wasn't enough, she has to be terrifyingly talented & crafty too!)

Here is a sneak peek:

But since I am working on using up everything I have on hand before tackling new messes  projects, I am going to content myself with doing some crafting on some hemp jewelry kits I picked up (I think at wal-mart) ages ago.  If all goes well, I will have photos to share soon!

See that leaf? It really is turning over!

I just realized yesterday was my 100th Blog Post!  In a way, that's very exciting.  But in another way that's very lame when you consider exactly how old this blog is -- so old I don't even know.... let me research...

October 3, 2005.

Wow; I'm almost to my FIVE YEAR BLOG-A-VERSARY!

We will have to do something fun to celebrate.  Anyone have any suggestions?  A link party? A giveaway? Cake? (there should always be cake, in my opinion.)

Hit up the comments with your suggestions and we will see if we can come up with some sort of shindig.

At any rate, today was the boo's last day at summer camp.  Hooray!!!  No more spending 2 hours a day in the car driving back & forth and back & forth to Hanover.  No more putting 500 miles per week on my baby-car.  No more being on the road at 8am.  Hooray for school!!!!!!!

Yes, I am a little excited.

The Girl with the Dragon TattooI also bought another book today.  That's TWO real live foldy page books now this summer.  My thought  process was this:  I've been wanting to read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for quite some time.  And then I heard a comparison on NPR between Bella from the Twilight series and Lisbeth from the Millennium series.  And from that point I've been determined to start on Larsson's trilogy.  And the paperback was only $5.97.  That's a bit cheaper than on the kindle, so hence, the foldy page book.  Plus I think my oldest son may enjoy reading this one when I am finished.

However now I just want to go climb into bed and snuggle in and start reading.  It's one of those climb in bed with a good book slightly dreary days.  And the boo's new evening nurse has just taken him outside to play.  Hmmmmm; okay, the temptation is too great; I'll let you know how far I get into the book on the next post.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Summer Wrap-Up

Another month without a post.  Bad, bad blogger.  Although as way of an excuse, it has been even crazier than usual around here:
1) Husband left his job and took a new one working for a cyber security firm outside of Washington, DC.
2) Husband now lives in DC Monday - Friday and is only home on the weekends
3) Beastie (who from here on out will be called "The Boo" to more accurately reflect what we call him here at home) started speech therapy at Johns Hopkins weekly --- this means we leave at 11:30am and get home at 4pm or so
4) I had ANOTHER abdominal surgery; hopefully this one will resolve the problems I have been having since the hysterectomy did not resolve them
5) My surgery recovery has been slower than I expected it to be
6) I am preparing to sell my house, however I have found it is much more fun to search for a new house than to prepare to sell the old one

At any rate, with all of that explained, I now hope to get back to more or less (but hopefully more) regular blogging.  The Boo goes back to school on Wednesday, so life should quiet down a bit and blogging should go back to being part of my daily routine.

Since I have been in 'recovery mode' I've been reading a ton of blogs again.  So freaking inspiring.  You guys have me awestruck.

That being said though, I am going to do my best to impart my little bit of sunshine and wit to the bloggy-world.

I thought we would start by partaking in Admirer Monday, since I admire so many of my fellow bloggers.

Question of the Week: If you could have one talent what would it be?

I've always said if I had one magical power it would be the ability to teleport.  I spend (read: waste) so much time in the car traveling from place to place, appointment to appointment.  While I don't mind if I can use this as knitting or crocheting time or even time to have nice chats with my husband, I loathe when I am the one driving.  I am really looking forward to moving to the city where hopefully I can utilize mass transit or at least have the world a bit more at my fingertips.

But alas, a magical power is not a talent.  If I could have one talent I think it would be to be an amazing singer.  I can sing -- but I'm not amazing at it; I wouldn't call it a "talent" more like an "I don't suck too bad".  If I could make my living at a microphone, belting out the blues, I would consider myself a very, very lucky woman.