Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Wordlessly Watering on a Triple Digit Afternoon

Click on the photo for a full version of it. See if you can find the blue dinosaur.

I'm having fun at two blog hops today. Come join me at Wordless Wednesday and at Watery Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Heat and Ella

It's very hot in my part of the world, today, dear readers. Summer switched into autumn. Voila, hello heat wave. Temperatures climbed to 104 degrees yesterday, according to some weather reporters. The day before, 102 degrees. The weather widget on my computer shows 91 degrees. I looked a few minutes ago and it was 88  degrees. Dearest One in the Universe, please blow some breeze through. May I humbly ask that if you could possibly, please with natural raw sugarcane on top, roll some fog into Monterey Bay. Its fingers will definitely make it over the low mountain ridge and sneak through the mountain passes.

Ah, is that a bit of the breeze I feel?  Thank you, Dearest One in the Universe.  

For a nonsequitur, dear readers, let's listen to some Ella, as in Miss Ella Fitzgerald, the one who had a voice magnificent and smooth. I had the fortune of seeing her perform towards the end of her career. I was in awe of how a rich, vibrant voice came out of a sweet, little old lady. Listening and watching her made me realize that I wanted to age naturally, and, if at all possible, gracefully.

The first time I heard Ella sing was in Ride 'Em Cowboy, an Abbott and Costello movie. It was her first movie. She was singing my favorite nursery rhyme. I was a pudgy little kid in awe. This morning, while trying not to think about the heat, I came across a clip of Ella in that movie. Watching it felt just as good as that bit of breeze coming through the window. Enjoy.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

PhotoHunt: Natural


"Natural" is the theme of this week's PhotoHunt. My photos are from a drive the husband and I took on our anniversary. For the longest time, we've been wanting to explore a certain back road between out county and the next. It was well worth the bumpity-bump drive on the dusty road.

To view other bloggers' interpretation in this week's PhotoHunt, click here.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cozy Mystery Challenge: Book Number Seven

The Moai Murders by Lyn Hamilton is my last entry for the Cozy Mystery Challenge. Hurrah!

Lara McClintoch is an antiques dealer from Toronto, who Lyn Hamilton has made as the main character of her archaeological mystery series. The Moai Murders is the ninth tale in the series. It's the first one I've read.

The story is based on Easter Island or Rapa Nui.  The author sidesteps the mystery of the Easter Island statues, but does weave the history and culture of Rapa Nui, or Easter Island, into the plot. Lara and her best friend Moira go to the island after Moira, who just won her bout with cancer, decides to go somewhere that she always wanted to go. Lara goes because Moira has asked her.

Upon arrival at their hotel, the women walk into a lobby full of Rapa Nui enthusiasts who are attending a conference. They decide to sign up for the conference to learn more about the maoi. Almost immediately, they are witnesses to the ugly rivalry between the two Rapa Nui experts. 

Not one, not two, but three of the conference participants die. The local police declare the first death an accident. Lara does not agree and begins investigating. Her boyfriend is a former forensic expert, so she seeks his advice through e-mail. After the second man, who is one of the Rapa Nui experts, is found dead, the police realize that they must be more skeptical. The third participant hangs himself, but Lara is convinced his suicide is connected to the deaths of the others.

Because the conference participants are from English-speaking countries and the police are Chilean and supposedly can't speak English, the police ask Lara to act as their translator/interpreter. In case you didn't know, Easter Island is part of Chile. People from all over the world visit Easter Island for pleasure, business, and research, so it's interesting that the Spanish-speaking police are not proficient in English.

Lara also gets drawn further into the murder investigation when the other Rapa Nui expert, who is married to a local woman, becomes the primary suspect. Lara helps him escape from the police, which then makes her an okay person among the local people. This is an important detail because later on locals will give her important clues.

Halfway through the book, I lost interest in the story. It's a well-written story. Lots of conflict, red herrings, and such. I just didn't like any of the characters. To help me along, I read the last chapter. I was surprised to learn who the murderer was. That was enough for me to go back and continue reading the story to find out why the murderer had such ill will for his victims.

Okay. That's it for the Cozy Mystery Challenge. It did the trick. I'm back to reading for fun. I've already got my next book to read.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Special 23rd Date

Fourteen years ago, about the same time as I'm writing this, I'm getting food ready for the next day's festivity. Getting married to the husband, it was.

Fourteen years ago, about an hour or so from now, I will have finally laid down beside a very anxious husband-to-be. He would be so anxious, he would not be able to sleep. And, that would mean I would not get to sleep.

"We can still call it off," I will have said.

"No, we can't," he will have replied.

"Yes, we can."

"No, we can't. People are coming."

"We can call them up first thing in the morning."

"No, we can't."

"Yes, we can."

"You've already made the food."

"I can put it in the freezer."

"We don't have to get married," I will have said.

"We already got the license," he will have replied.

"Do you want to marry me?"

"Yes, I do."

"What's the problem?"

"You'll write about this exact moment in a blog one day."

Okay, the husband didn't say that last thing. Of course, we didn't say what I wrote word for word, but as memory serves it's pretty close to what was.

Fourteen years ago, several hours from now, the husband-to-be and I will have lead our guests through some county offices, took a right at the photocopy machine, and stood before a court judge.

"I do," I will have said.

"I do," the husband will have said, too.

After which, we all will have headed back to our home and ate the lunch that I would not have had to freeze.

~The Beginning ~

P.S. Happy Anniversary, the Husband. I'm very glad you didn't get cold feet. How did 14 years go so quickly? I love you.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: What's That on the Hill?

What do you see standing on top of the hill? 

A choo-choo train?

A Viking ship?

The hookah-smoking caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland?

That's what I saw as I was pedaling along the road this afternoon.

I'm hopping around at Wordless Wednesday today. It's a great place to find a lot of new bloggers. Check it out.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Savory and Sweet Scones

On Saturday, I decided to experiment with baking savory and sweet scones in the same pan. Hmm, I could've baked a full pan of both and stuck half of the scones in the freezer. That just dawned on me. But then, I'd have to remember to rotate the pans in the oven so that they each became evenly undercooked, burnt, or just right. Besides, if I had tried going for full recipes that day, I would've found out I didn't have enough rice flour.

As you can tell, I'm a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants baker. (Do I need all those hyphens?)

Heads up, all you gentle readers who are precise measurers (measurists?) out there. Be prepared to shudder.

Savory Scones Ingredients
Handful of fresh chives, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1.5-inch chunk of cheddar cheese, grated

Sweet Scones Ingredients
Brown sugar (almost 1/2 a cup)
Chocolate chips (just more than a 1/3 cup)

I made the scones gluten-free because I didn't have whole-wheat flour on hand. Better on the tummy anyway. I shook the flours from their bags into the bowls. I'm not kidding. The husband should take a video of me baking. If you want the correct proportion of the flours for a gluten-free mix, check here.

Dry Ingredients
Rice flour
Tapioca flour
Potato flour
Barley flakes (That's what we decided they were.)
Baking powder

Wet Ingredients
1 egg
Juice from half a lemon
Olive oil

In Which Batch Did It Go?
Yogurt (I think it went into the savory mix, but I'm just not sure.)

Baking Time: About 20 minutes

Experiment Results
Batter: The sweet mix was a bit runny, while the savory mix was a bit dry. I forgot to make the scone cuts before baking. So, maybe I had baked a coffee cake instead.

Taste: The husband and the mama both said, "Yum."  I agree.

Conclusion: I will bake savory and sweet scones in the same pan, again. One day. Maybe with measured amounts.

P.S. I'm having fun at Skip to My Lou's Monday blog hop. Check out recipes and craft instructions with me, by clicking here.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Handy Macs at Work

I got my front door key stuck in the lock yesterday.

I unscrewed the lock from the door last night.

That oil you use for sewing machines? I put a bit of that into the lock last night. Nothing.

"Did you fix it?" asked the Mama.

"Did you get the key out?" asked the husband.



In case you're pondering why the husband wasn't involved in figuring out how to remove the key from the lock, it's because I was bogeying the lock and he was washing dishes. I had handed it to him before he started the dishes. I needed him to use brute strength to jiggle out the key. He had success last week when his key got stuck in that same lock. But no such luck this time.

How did I get the key stuck in the first place?

"You used the wrong key," the Mama declared.

"Did you use the wrong key?" asked the husband.

Think, remember, recall. Yeah, I did.

I left the lock, with the key stuck in it, on the stairway stoop. I was very confident the house ghosties would work their magic so that I could pull out the key with a snap this morning.

The ghosties obviously had better things to do.

That dry graphite you use for unsticking things? I sprayed a bit. . .no, a lot. . .of that into the lock this morning. Nothing.

I took the lock apart before breakfast. All the tiny springs and solid bits ka-boinged out of the holes. That was fun.

My key is still stuck in the lock.

Three hours ago, we bought a new deadbolt lock.

An hour ago, the husband and I installed a new deadbolt lock. Yes, I let the husband have some fun, too.

I'm keeping the old lock. One of these days I will get my key out.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Another Wordless Outdoor Wednesday

Setting: The Monterey Peninsula. It was a very windy afternoon. It's a wonder, we didnt' fly away. Suddenly we're in fog, then suddenly we're not.

Today, I'm blog hopping at Wordless Wednesday and Outdoor Wednesday. Come join me and check out photos of other bloggers. I know you want to.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cozy Mystery Challenge: Book Number Six

The Dark Tort is part of the Goldy Schulz cozy mystery series written by Diane Mott Davidson (The link takes you to Davidson's website).  It's adventure #13. Davidson has written 15 thus far.

The title is a clever play on words: tort/torte.  The tale opens with Goldy stumbling over a dead body at the law office for which she has been catering the last several months.

At first, Goldy thought the lawyers were playing a joke on her. Pretty sick attorneys, if they were. But, it turns out the law firm is full of dysfunctional people, from the rich head partner to the very uptight office manager to the young paralegal-in-training who was murdered. After many outings of solving murder cases before the cops in her town, Goldy is known for her detective skills as well as for her cooking prowess. So, it's believable for the murdered young lady's mother to ask Goldy to solve the case. The mother thinks that the cops will overlook her daughter's case because they aren't rich enough in the community.

Yes, the theme of "haves" vs. the "have-nots"  runs throughout the story, which takes place near Boulder, Colorado. Another theme is the desire by some to be powerful and to show it through their belongings and positions in life (or their spouses). Are those themes the same? Still another theme is the way people manipulate each other, regardless of class. And, it's not necessarily the attorneys that are doing it all. How does Goldy, who is caught in the middle, deal with it all? One is to cook, and the author lets us, readers, see how cooking is therapy, and part of detective work, for Goldy.

One thing I'll say about Goldy. Her husband, who is a law enforcement officer, is very supportive. Not only does he allow her to look at evidence before the detectives on the case, he cooks gourmet meals for her. I wonder if there really is a guy like that out there?

The added plus to Dark Tort is that Davidson gives us recipes for 11 of the dishes that are made by Goldy, her catering assistant, and her husband in the story, including one for a dark torte. 

This is my sixth book for the Cozy Mystery Challenge.  Just one more book to accomplish my goal before the end of the month. Whoo-hoo!

"Then what?" asks the husband.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday 160: A Successful Turn

“Pretend that you are a car,”

Lisa said to us three novices.

“Show confidence.”

We four pedaled onto the busy street.

100 feet later, we signaled and turned left.

The Sunday 160 is hosted by the Monkey Man. To learn about it and to read other bloggers' Sunday 160, head over to this page.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Playing Techie for a Couple of Days

I'm feeling pretty smart and down right proud of myself right now. I managed to create a new web site for my professional self without a single bit of swearing. Yep, that's a very good accomplishment for me. I'm also happy with the way it looks with its baby-blue background, which I didn't think I would like at first.  Ya, pat, pat, pat. 

Some people think I'm a smarty-pants techie, but that's only because I know the things they don't know. I honestly don't know a lot of technical stuff.

Don't ask me to write or analyze HTML because I have no idea what that is about. But, if you tell me to go find a specific piece of code, delete it, and insert another piece of code, which you've given me, I can do that. Once I've done it, I shall promptly forget what I just looked for and how to repeat the step.

That, dear readers, is how I went about creating a web site out of a Blogger blog template. Every time I wanted to make a change to the template, such as remove the navigation bar or make a static home page, I wrote my question into the Google search engine. Voila, A techie blogger had already figured it out and wrote the steps to solve my problem. If I didn't understand what he said, then I clicked the link of the next entry. Thank you very much, all you triple-smart Blogger techie guys out there. You made the process so easy for me. 

If you're a blogger with a Blogger blog, you might check out these web sites for technical advice and know-how when you are in need.
See if you can tell if my web site is a Blogger template.  If you don't see a baby-blue background, please let me know. Or, if you don't get the welcome page, please let me know, too. I know where to go for help.  Oh, and here's the link.

P.S. I've hooked up at the Follow Friday 40 + Over blog hop. Check it out.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Happy Labor Day, One and All!

To one and all, thank you!

I raise up my glass of water to all the men, women, and children today and throughout our country's history who have toiled and boiled and troubled to build and maintain our public infrastructure; tend the fields and put food on our tables; create, produce, and sell the goods we use; make sure all business, administrative, and financial services are done; educate and inform us; and perform every other job under the sun. Without sweet willing labor, governments, small businesses, and multinational corporations could not prosper, and the rich could not become filthy rich! May we all have raises tomorrow. 

A gal can dream. I am grateful for a national holiday that honors the American worker. And that's what we all are, whether or not we are employed at the moment and whether or not we are U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or immigrant workers.  I hope you're all having a nice break from your regular routine.

Watching cartoons is a nice break. So, for you, here is a Merrie Melodies cartoon featuring Tweety and Sylvestor. It's called Tugboat Granny.  My favorite part is Granny and Tweety singing about the tugboat whistle. "...A toot, toot, toot doesn't mean a hoot. It's a chugga, chugga, chugga that makes it go."  I think the lyrics are  appropriate for Labor Day.  Thanks to the husband for the find.

Today, I'm linking up at Blue Monday, hosted by Smiling Sally. It's all about having the color blue on your blog. There's definitely that color in the cartoon. To see what other Blue Monday bloggers have posted, head over there, after watching the cartoon, of course. 

Friday, September 3, 2010

"A Case for Smiles"

See that mess of fabric on the right.

I'm almost finally going to turn them into some things. Operative word here is almost. A couple hours ago I ordered more fabric from Sew, Mama, Sew!  Almost 8 yards worth of different happy, calming designs with such names as Good Earth,  Daisy Dance,  Carnations on Gold, and Poppy Parade Brown.  So, once my shipment comes in, I shall drop everything and sew pillowcases.

Pillow cases?

Yes, pillow cases.

I'm going to get off my butt and sew at least seven pillowcases for "A Case for Smiles," a fabulous project sponsored by ConKerr Cancer.  Based in Philadelphia, the nonprofit group delivers donated handmade pillowcases to terminally ill children in hospitals across the United States. The founder is Cindy Kerr who started making pillowcases for her son and other children in the oncology unit in 2002 to help bring smiles to the kids as well as brighten their hospital rooms.

According to the ConKerr Cancer Web site, the organization has delivered over 240,000 pillowcases to hospitalized children, which were sewn by volunteers from North America and South Africa. It hopes to give every seriously ill child a cheery pillowcase by 2012.

The project is ongoing. For more details, head over to the ConKerr Cancer Web site. For the month of September, you can participate in this project in a couple of other ways.
  • September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month. Between September 13 and 19, ConKerr Cancer chapters will be holding events for sewing pillowcases. For more info, check out this link.
  • For its Project 9, Craft Hope has been collecting and distributing pillowcases for ConKerr Cancer. The group started the project in July. Its project deadline is soon approaching—September 15.  For more details about this project, head over to this page at Craft Hope.
I hope some of you will join me in the cause. Believe me when I say I'm not a sewing expert. But, I can sew straight seams good enough. Really that's all the skill you need. Your big heart will supply the rest to create lovely pillowcases. 

I'm stoked now. I'm ready to pedal away at the Mama's sewing machine.

P.S. To spread the word about "A Case from Smiles," I'm being shameless today. I'm linking up at these following Friday blog hops.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Cozy Mystery Challenge: Book Number Five

Like a Hole in the Head by Jen Banbury was the fifth book I read for the Cozy Mystery Challenge. Some reviewers likened the author's work to that of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. I think Banbury's style is her own, with comparison to no one in the mystery genre. She caught my attention immediately when I randomly picked her book at the library.

"I woke up with a hangover and roof tar on my feet and a vague recollection of pacing around up there half the night. . . ." 

That's her first line. Uh-huh.

Jill is the name of the main character. She lives in Los Angeles and works at a used bookstore. For the past few years, she has been running away from the memories of her mother's death. Every so often the author cleverly lets some of those memories enter Jill's mind, and we, the readers, learn that her mom was painfully dying from a terminal disease. Her mom may have asked Jill to help put an end to the misery. With that bit of background, it is understandable why Jill doesn't give straight or truthful answers to questions. It's a good thing when she has to deal with the despicable bad guys, who most people would never have pegged as the bad guys. Isn't that often the case.

What's the plot already? you ask.

One morning, a dwarf comes into the bookstore to sell a pristine copy of a signed Jack London book. Jill buys it for herself. At the end of the day, the guy, now looking all beat up, returns and asks for the book back, willing to give Jill more money. No dice.  Jill has already sold the book. Enter, the dwarf's partner, a huge brute of a bully, who threatens Jill by beating up his partner in front of her. Gulp.  Jill's adventure begins. We, readers, are taken on a treacherous and onerous ride through Los Angeles, to and from Las Vegas, and back to Los Angeles. Most of the ruthless characters turn out to be well-known (fictional, of course) actors. Who are these actors? Why is the book so important? Will Jill ever stop beating herself up emotionally and mentally? You'll need to read the story to find out for yourself.

After reading several pages of the novel, I didn't think it qualified as a cozy mystery. It is definitely edgier than most cozy mysteries, even Sara Paretsky's. But, I wasn't going to stop reading Like a Hole in the Head. I had to know what paces the author would put Jill through and how it would end. I've read so many mysteries, I can usually guess the endings. Banbury's was unguessable.

Is Like a Hole in the Head a cozy mystery? It is, according to Library Thing.  That's good enough for me. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"A Poem Lovely as a Tree"

San Juan Bautista is the next town over to where we live. And, in that darling mission town is where you will find these trees. What kind of trees are they? How old are they? That's what I want to find out.

These photos are my contributions to this week's Wordless Wednesday and Outdoor Wednesday. Click on over to each site for more contributions on its theme. That is, after you check out mine. :-)

Do you see the face in the tree?

Can a gnarled tree be gnarly?

Anyone else see a figure hugging the tree?