Saturday, July 26, 2014

Forrest Gump and tomatoes. No, wait- shrimp

Anyway, like I was sayin', shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey's uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that's about it.
He forgot shrimp N grits.

That of course was from Forrest Gump, the famous scene where he and a buddy are scrubbing the floor with a toothbrush and Gump is waxing poetical about shrimp.

I feel like Forrest. It's tomato season, and I'm being overrun with 'em.

Tomato soup, tomato salad, tomato sandwiches, tomato sauce, tomato salsa...frozen tomatoes!

I made tomato soup this afternoon, and a roux for the first time. I doubled the tomato soup recipe so as to use more tomatoes, but forgot to double the roux. Oh well. Who needs thick soup. Thin soup is sophisticated. Yeah, that's it. It came out great otherwise! Very quick and easy to prepare and it doesn't take long.

I used minced garlic and onions and when they were transparent, added the chopped tomatoes. Bring to boil then let simmer 20 min. Put in blender to finely grind, and then add roux once you've added the tomato mixture back into the pot. Salt, pepper, and a bit of sugar to cut the acidity. I like to put croutons on top for garnish. Black bean and mango salad and a lemon muffin on the side completed the lunch.

In a while I am going to take a nap. When I wake up I have to pick one more time at my friend's garden. I'll bring home some more tomatoes and tomorrow at church I'll ask around who wants some. This winter when I grab some of the frozen tomatoes from the fridge to make some more soup, I'll be grateful I picked. I'm more grateful for the friends who trusted me with their property, and generously shared their bounty.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Brunch, Murray, and summer

For brunch I made broccoli-garden tomato frittata with hot sauce, sourdough toast, and home fries. Cuban coffee on the side. I'll have three more weeks of brunches like this before it's cereal gobbled while I frantically walk around and finish morning tasks, so as to leave the driveway at 7AM sharp.

I say brunch because in the summer my schedule shifts somewhat. I wake up later. I get up around 6 or 6:30 am rather than 5:30 in the school year. I read the bible and pray a while, then I get dressed. Around 8:30 I start making breakfast but as the summer progresses the breakfast gets later and later, around 10 or 10:30. So by then it's bunch.

I eat lunch around 2:30, something light, and then dinner around 7.

The kitties like me at home. They are so funny. During the day I sit at the kitchen table and write, research, and later on, watch Hulu. Luke and Bert, my original two, take turns during the day napping on the table behind the laptop. They like to be near. I like them near. The are polite and well-behaved, and never fuss about whose turn it is.

Murray, my new kitty, well, let's just say he is a piece of work. He is a good cat, but he's a kitty, so he is more rambunctious. Unlike Bert & Luke, who were rescued at 5 weeks, Murray was a stray for three months. He lived on our property, but was independent. He came and went, and had to be hyper-vigilant about predators. You could tell he liked people. He'd come running every day when I drove in after school. He allowed me to comb him (and pick off the fleas) and to cuddle him. Briefly. It broke my heart because when I cuddled him he'd start to relax, but any little noise and he would tense up and then run off. I used to think that was a terrible way to live, never being able to relax and accept some love.

I made it a goal to offer that to Murray when I took him inside.

It's been a while now, six months. He has started relaxing for longer periods when I hold him or comb him. He isn't as skittish. I never held or combed him longer than he wanted. I made sure to always stop before he fussed. Hopefully this would assure him that he wasn't trapped. Hopefully it would leave him wanting more.

He'd incrementally relax longer each time. That was good to see. A couple of weeks ago he began seeking it out. He never lets me pick him up from the floor. He always, and I mean always runs away when I call to him or approach him. I have to train him to come, like I did with the other cats. He is not there yet.

But when he does want company he runs to the table and sits on the right side, with his back to me no less. (The other two always sit on the left side, funny). I hold him and blessedly, he has started purring. A non-purring cat is a heartbreak, but a purring cat is a blessing.

While he purrs, Murry will relax a bit. You can feel his muscles collapse. He throws a paw over my arm. I can almost hear him sigh. I love this. It feels so good offer safety and love to a little vulnerable thing. Murray is a good cat. He'll come along. He'll settle in at some point on the range. Luke will let me hold him all day. he never wiggles out. Bert loves to be held but only for about five minutes. But during those five minutes he loves it totally and completely. LOL, sometimes he drools he purrs so hard.

My new neighbor has sheep. I love to watch them graze in the pasture next door. They are big animals, and funny too. I knew sheep 'baa'd' but I had not know how guttural and sound-carrying their bleats were. I like that too. I really enjoy having animals around. Life in Georgia is always interesting.

Murray marauding. He's in constant motion, until he drops dead in a nap.
Wot? Wot? Mom's laying on the rug? Gotta check it out!

He sits down for a moment but it won't be long until he moves...

And there he goes. Now's a good time to clean myself up, till I make the next mess!

He sure is a pretty kitty!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Weird Al's Word Crimes spoof, an AP Tweet, and punctuation matters

Weird Al Yankovic is a novelty musician whose stellar career has spanned three decades. As one narrator of his work said, Weird Al is "fully committed to novelty music." Many of the artists he's spoofed have gone by the wayside but Weird Al is still singing away. He is a genius.

First, he has made a long, successful career in music. His songs not only are spoofs, but the lyrics capture the attitude of the spoofed song and also the musician who sings them. His videos are knife-edge sharp and dead on. Best of all, he's funny.

You might wonder, who IS Weird Al, has he done anything? Anything at all? The UK Telegraph sums up his career:
Over a 38-year career, he’s recorded more than 150 parody songs, released 14 studio albums, played over 1000 live shows (to audiences who "range from toddlers to geriatrics”) and shifted 13 million albums. He’s directed videos for other artists, including Hanson, Ben Folds and Black Crowes. He’s written and starred in his own cult film, had his own CBS sitcom, and appeared in all three Naked Gun films, 30 Rock and The Simpsons.  
The UK Telegraph again, reported yesterday that "Weird Al Yankovic is more popular than ever. Is it time to take him seriously?" I put it to you that his genius for lyrics, the deft touch of his satire (never mean, always funny, a tough thing to do) and his spot-on videos for thirty years would indicate,, YES.

My personal favorites of his spoof songs are Amish Paradise, a spoof of Coolio's Gangsta's Paradise, Addicted to Spuds, a spoof of Robert Palmer's Addicted to Love, and Eat It, a spoof of Michael Jackson's Beat It.

His more recent spoofs are funny too, especially the spoof of Pharrell Williams' Happy called "Tacky." And this one:

"Word Crimes", a spoof of Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines. (I don't recommend watching the original song in video.).

OK, this song had me literally sputtering and snorting milk. OK, not literally with the milk, but literally snorting and sputtering, and linguists will get it about the literally. Also in the song an homage to 'few or less', 'irony is not coincidence', and 'its v. it's'. Grammarians UNITE! Here is our anthem!

I've been an editor, a copy editor, a journalist, a researcher, a grant writer, and a creative writer. Words and punctuation matter. They are my life!

People would jokingly say to me, or not jokingly say, 'stop being he grammar police, it's not a crime!' Well maybe not a law-breaking crime, but sometimes inattention to punctuation is a heart-breaking crime. Like today.

The Associated Press tweeted the progress of the Malaysian plane crash victim bodies back to the Netherlands. At one point, the AP's tweet caused alarm. They wrote:

A comma! A comma! My kingdom for a comma! What the AP meant to write, of course, is "Breaking, Dutch Military plane carrying bodies from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash, lands in Eindhoven."

Enjoy Word Crimes. It is hilarious.

PS look for the deliberately inserted split infinitive ;)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Bountiful basket day

It's Bountiful Basket day! I was excited to see what we would get in our basket this time. I was hoping for some berries, since we haven't had berries in a while.

We got some! Strawberries AND blueberries. We also received a pineapple, nectarines and plums. For veggies we received green cauliflower, broccoli, onions, yellow squash, brussels sprouts, and tomatoes !!

It is the first rainy, cool day that we have had here in NE Georgia for a long time. Bonus! I can roast them all in the oven. This time I tried using a large ziploc. I put the cut up veggies in it along with a glug of oil and salt. I closed the ziploc and shook it with all my might. I think the oil coats the veggies better than when I put them in a bowl and toss. An even coating is the key to even baking and thus the key to even flavor. The oil seals it in and allows a gentle crisping.

I baked some potatoes and popped some oatmeal-banana bars in the oven too. I had a couple of  leftover bananas from the last basket, so I mashed them and threw in a cup of oatmeal, a pinch of sugar, salt, cinnamon, and butter, added raisins and sunflower seeds. A healthy baked snack.

Of course while it was baking I had a cup of caramel ice cream with caramel on top. Life is good.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Thank you!

You guys! As we say in New England. Thank you for your kind comments on my previous essay asking me to reconsider my hiatus from this blog. I very much appreciate it.

Even though I post daily on my other blog, never lacking for topics, sometimes posting more than daily, on this blog if I don't post often I feel pressure. It is of my own making, no one is pressuring me. I still mentally go through the litany; is this interesting, do I have anything to say today, I haven't posted in a week, what will I do?

I needed to take the pressure off myself. So, the hiatus. Even though it's only been a week, I feel better not having gone through the usual self-induced stresses I put myself through. I am going to work on that.

Having lived in New England for 43 years, having been a licensed driver with a car for 27 of those, but only having had a garage for 3 of those years, I'd vowed that if I ever had a garage again I'd use it.

And I've been faithful to my promise here in GA, since moving to an apartment that happily came with a garage. I always put my car in it. In New England, it is because of extreme cold and snow that you want one. Shoveling out, warming up, and scraping the windshield (all before work) are not activities I enjoy any longer, if I ever did in the first place. In Georgia, it's the heat that does terrible things to your car. The occasional hailstorm or branches falling down would crack your windshield, too. So why not avail myself of the extra precaution and grab an opportunity for longevity in an important asset I own?

One day, I didn't put my car in the garage. One day. And the next morning I came out and the sun had melted the leather on the driver seat. The lower part was black and cracked. My car is 21 years old, so I am definitely not complaining about the longevity of the interior. It has lasted and stayed good. It was only a matter of time until it crumbled. I've had the car for the last 7 years.

I got in and drove it but when I arrived back home I noticed my shorts were black. Ah, so the degraded leather transfers to what I am wearing. Not good. I need a car seat cover.

However being frugal, I did not want a fancy one. The car seat cover will in all likelihood last longer than the car will. I looked up online the items available at the Dollar Store, my go-to place nearby. I do not enjoy large box stores and I refuse to drive to one anyway. The nearest one is about a 40 minute drive. Makes no sense to drive 40 minutes, use at least $8 worth of gas, not to mention half a day, to buy one item.

The Dollar Store is half a mile and stocks all the things I usually need. What they don't have, I buy online and have it sent. Long live the internet.

The online catalog displayed several car seat covers, and there were several options that were $5 or less. Great! I hopped in (having placed a towel precariously in the spot where the ruined leather was) and drove the half a mile to the tiny corner of town where four or five stores are, lol. After a few minutes of looking and not spotting a car seat cover in the automotive section, I asked the clerk.

"Nope. Sorry, we don't carry car seat covers."


What is a frugal person to do? More to the point, what is a stubborn, frugal person to do? I came here to solve a problem and I am not going to leave until I have a solution to that problem. Something can be a car seat cover, it doesn't HAVE to have the name 'car seat cover' on the front label. And I didn't need a cover to go over the lower part of the car seat, only the upper part needed covering.

I looked and I looked. I looked at ironing board covers. I looked at shower curtain liners. I looked at rugs. If you ever watch Project Runway and you get to the "Unconventional Materials Challenge" you know what I mean. The designers are sent to the Christmas ornament store or the Dollar Store or the Hardware store and told not to buy material but buy any other materials that they will then use to make a dress out of. They wind up with tinsel they braid to make  shorts. Like that. It forces you to look at everyday items in a new way for additional uses you'd normally not think of.

I was feeling like a Project Runway designer with Tim Gunn about to call time, but at last I found something. It is vinyl, the same material the 'we have them in the catalog but we don't carry in real life' car seat covers in the catalog were, and it was the right dimension. It was tall. It was...

...a laundry bag.

It does the job. Now, no it's not fancy or pretty, However, I am the only one who ever gets in my car, ever. No one will ever see it unless they walk by my car and directly look in the tinted windows. The car is ok looking on the outside, but it IS 21 years old, so a laundry bag as a car seat cover is not a total mismatch. It's not like I'm covering brand new Corinthian leather in my Mercedes with a Dollar Store vinyl laundry bag. And the price was $1.50.

So that is frugal tip for the day. Something doesn't have to be the exact thing.

We learned when we lived on the sailboat, that everything at The Marine Store was marked up 20-30%, just for being in the marine store. But if you wanted a bolt, or a shackle, or a canvas repair kit, these exact things can be found at the hardware store for much less. Same with animal items, go to the Pet Store to find a water bowl and they will be fancy and expensive, or even if they are plain, they'll cost more just for being in the pet store.

Same with the car seat cover. What you are only looking for is a durable material of proper size to cover your seat and protect your clothing. I liked the laundry bag because it had a closed end. I just popped it over the headrest and worked it downward and the open end tucked nicely into the seat, and best of all, it completely covers the burned and blackened leather.

I used rope to tie back the 'wings' sticking out from the head rest which obscured my rear vision a bit. I didn't mind, but I didn't know how picky the police around here are about such things.

This approach isn't for everyone. If you have a nice house, and the pet bowl is in the kitchen and you have a lot of guests who will see it, then you might want to be consistent with the ambiance of your room by investing in a nice animal bowl. If your living room chair has a rip, you might want to get it upholstered and not put a laundry bag over it. If you will be subject to the taunts of the sister or the jabs of the mother-in-law, you might want to save yourself the heartache and go fancy.

But for me, I was happy with the low-cost, low-stress, time-saving result of the laundry bag.

Cost: $1.50, PLUS the soft savings of not having to expend gas, nor any time. The whole project took me about 20 minutes, not half a day.

Frugal tip #235, anything can become anything else. :)

Thursday, July 10, 2014


I started this blog in August of 2006. Almost exactly 8 years ago. I believe I've said everything I wanted to I don't have that interesting of a life anyway. I'm going to take a break from this blog. It may be a long break or it may be a permanent one. Thank you for reading, I appreciate it so much. God bless.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Online photo collages

I like the idea of making art and I do have a flicker of a creative impulse. But I am not good in actually making it. I am not being disingenuous. I re-read my old report card and the art teacher said in effect, 'her heart but she tries, the poor l'il thing.'

My creativity comes out in writing and in photography, but not in actually executing something in real life. When I look at a journal page and a pile of materials, I go blank. It's frustrating to have the impulse but not the skills. I yearn, but my yearning can't be fulfilled. It's a sad, tragedy I tell you.
Some of my really bad collage. I did the paste paper underneath
and that came out good. The rest, not so much.
It's called Women of the Bible
Making art is also expensive...buying glue and paper and all the other things...even scrounging them at yard sales is time consuming. I simply don't have extra money to spend on glitter when I can use it to help feed someone or buy gas for my car. Then there is the question of what to do with the finished product. Frame it? Stuff it on a box somewhere? Sell it? I only have so much space here in this studio-ish apartment.

So my art journals have languished. When I go in the bedroom and see my older finished ones on the bookshelf I avert my eyes. They mock me.
"Navigating Spiritual Waters"
I decided to try online art, or digital art. At the root of everything for me is the question, "Is it functional?" I know the concept of art for art's sake and the notion of functionality are at odds. But it's me. Function AND form must be perfectly balanced It is one reason I enjoy architecture so much. Also the HGTV Design shows.

The question for designers is how to fill a space so that it is beautiful AND functional. I love that. I remember a season of Design Star in the episode of the White Box challenge. All the contestants in the show are given a room-sized space of same dimensions, painted white, a budget, and the same amount of time. The direction is to create a room. I like seeing the results because they all had the same amount of money and the same space but the results vary so widely.

But in one of the seasons the designer put the couch upside down on the ceiling and I about had a mental break. Nooo, it's not an art installation! It's a room! Someone has to sit down in it, sometime! Well not really but you see the issue. If I wanted "Crazy Art Challenge" I'd watch that show. If it existed.
House of Broken Hearts
But I digress. I like experimenting with online collage and greeting card making. I have so many photographs I want to do something with them! Changing my Facebook homepage isn't enough. Nor is changing the banner once a year or so on my blogs. I figured there was everything else on the internet, why not a free online collage maker?

And there is. There are several. They vary in ease of use and result, but I found one I liked almost right away. PhotoVisi Collage Maker.

Making collages digitally saves me from having to scrounge materials and buy too many products, lets me use my photos, and still has an element of creativity to it, shifting from art design to graphic design. With online collage making I still need to make decisions that affect the end product just as I would as if I was making it from scratch. I have to match templates to mood, making sure the photos I use are harmonious with the template and with each other, spacing it out well, wisely choose finishing filters, and ensuring colors on the border enhances and doesn't detract. It is much more my speed. Selecting between presented options is better for me than simply creating it out of thin air while looking at a blank page.

So one of the books I got from Amazon was "The Creative Photographer."

The book summary says the author shows you what to do with photos in making them into greeting cards and other things. Perfect. I send a lot of cards. Notes of encouragement, thank yous, etc. I'm always running out. If I can combine my photography into a functional card or note, then all the better. I should stock up on ink. Then, let 'er rip!

This was my first try, and I wasn't trying, just quickly clicking here and there to see if PhotoVisi was any good at all. Featured are my travel photos from Wickford RI, Monterrenti Italy, Labrador Canada, and Big Ben in London.

Some of my flower photos

I printed the travel photo collage out on cardstock and sent it as a thank you the other day.

Here is a Christmas Card I did with some of my photos. The top photo is a close-up of a prism light I have in my window during the season, and the bottom one is a close up of the decorations on top of the prism. This wasn't made with PhotoVisi though. I forget which online collage maker did this one. I added the text.

So you can see how I will spend the rest of my summer. I've reduced my life to research and writing blogs online ministry, entertainment online, and now hobby online. Pretty soon I will be a hologram and you'll only be able to find me online.

Monday, July 07, 2014

It's summer: attack of the zucchinis!

How do you tame a dozen zucchinis and turn them into a manageable recipe? Here is the secret.

Below are ten zucchinis we received at Bountiful Basket. I have two more in the fridge.

In summer we often get overwhelmed with the large amount of produce suddenly appearing. Between our own gardens, Bountiful Baskets, and friends who also want to offload some produce from their gardens, we can open the fridge and feel like the yellow squash, cukes, tomatoes and zucchini are getting the better of us.

Like the birds... Tippi Hedren having a quiet smoke, listening to the children in the school sing...

...and a few zucchinis birds appear

And a few more...

AAAAAACKK! Run for your life! It's the attack of the zucchinis!

Well, this recipe settles the matter. I put the zucchinis in a large stock pot with some olive oil and salt, put the burner to medium, cover and let it go. Once in a while, stir because even in Calphalon or teflon they stick. Let it go a loooong time. The water is reduced out of the zucchini and what is left is a browned, nutty mound that tastes like heaven. All those zucchinis made two bowls of this: (it's a cereal bowl), or four side dishes as accompaniment-

I topped it with Parmesan shaker cheese. My husband's grandmother was from southern Italy and he got the recipe from her. Most recipes say to saute only a few minutes but if you let the zucchini go for 45 minutes, or longer, it reduces to a nutty, flavorful dish. It certainly helps banish the claustrophobic feeling that you're surrounded by zucchinis that will rise up and take over the kitchen...

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Life is good!

You ever get a feeling of just in-the-moment overwhelming pure contentment? Satisfaction with life and all that it is? Of just pure bliss?

Yesterday, last night's and today's great weather, the Bountiful Basket of produce, the anticipation of church tomorrow, of having books and time for good study, three magnificent animals, and an abode that fits me like a glove. All is well. Very blessed here

Wikimedia Commons, by Michael