Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Watercolors and more....

Hi everyone!

As you may know, I have always liked painting.  Years ago, and I do mean lots of years ago, I first tried my hand at watercolors.  I took some classes from a couple of artists in my hometown. Since that time, every once in awhile I will get all my supplies out, paint, and then I put it all away to do something different.  If only I would stick to it!  Painting with watercolors is much harder than it might look, at least that's been my experience. Anyway, it provides me some fun, and challenges, which keeps me returning to try again another day.

I'm sorry to say that with all my many moves, I have thrown out just about everything I've ever painted.  I did keep one small watercolor of the rocky foothills in Colorado that I matted and framed back in the '70's.  It's very simple, rather austere actually, but it does look a lot like that part of the countryside where I lived.  Once, a friend actually wanted to buy it!  Surprised the heck out of me.  I decided to keep it and it still hangs in my home today reminding me of Namaqua Hills.  

Here it is for you to see.....

Some (the next three) have the Aspens, pines, and flowers of Colorado.... it's possible to recognize the subject matter, even if, the colors are over mixed to the point of being muddy! Hey, I told you I'm still learning.


     Some are more simplified....just good, clear color.

                         I suppose you can see by now that I usually stick to flowers and nature....

           ~ ~ ~ now this tulip painting is just an oddball~ ~ ~still, it makes me feel cheerful!

      I kind of like this one with waterlilies, altho' I've got to admit that Monet's are far superior !

That's about the end of the road for me today....I've exposed my lack of real talent so I guess it's time to move on.   Maybe in a later post I will show you some of my more recent attempts at painting using apps on my iPad.  **hint:  I'm crazy for Rothko, Pollack, Frankenthaller, and others in the same vein.

Wishing you a splash of color in whatever you might choose to do,


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Busy with things I love!

Hi to all!

Just before I retired,  people would tell me that I'd better find many hobbies if I didn't want to be bored.  I said to them, "Thank you for your advice, but I'm fairly certain that will not happen to me."  And, it hasn't!   You see, I enjoy doing so many things, I don't have enough time to do all the ones that interest me. 

Through the years, I have taken up painting, stained glass, sewing, knitting, crocheting, baking and cooking, learning French, traveling, gardening, keeping up with technology, tennis, golf, racket ball, and reading.  I continue with most of these activities now.  It seems I'm always working on some project, if not two or three.  In fact, writing this blog is a new endeavor I have decided to tackle.  I'm not such a good writer, nor have I come close to perfecting any particular skills, but I just do the things that interest me. If I see something that intrigues me, I have to try it.  Also, I learned to do some things because I didn't have the money to hire a professional.  That trait came to me directly through the teachings of my Mom....if you can save some money, do it yourself!  What this meant to me was, I changed electrical wiring, made and poured cement, put down a wood floor, painted the inside and outside of my houses, wallpapered the walls, sewed curtains, tiled the counters and floors, made roofing improvements, and the list goes on.....    Believe me, there were times when I was in the middle of a project,  and so tired and sore,  that I wished I had hired someone.

Times are changing....I don't want to do the heavy lifting projects anymore.  I certainly appreciate the man who removes the snow from my drive and sidewalk. 

These wonderful retirement days are filled with "easier on the back" activities.  I just love our new technologies, too.  Downloading music, books, movies, photos, and more, is so super! I'm a true fan of Apple products...love my iPhone, MacBook, and iPad.  I don't watch much on the TV and I don't subscribe to cable because I receive most channels from an antenna or through the wireless,  but I am curious about the Apple TV which might be coming to us soon.  I'm hoping it will have some great new features, even more than the smart TVs on the market now.

A window display I liked in Paris

So, you see, at home, or on the road, I am not without things I love to do!  I know, if you challenge yourself to keep learning, you will enjoy each day.  My Grammie Anderson answered those who asked her how she stayed so young and vibrant with,  "I focus on what is happening now around me, and look to the future, too.  I don't dwell on the past."  An example of staying in the present that she did when she was in her 80's, was to crochet string bikinis to sell to the young girls in California, rather than crocheting lace for pillowcases or doilies as she did in her past.  She was going strong, with a lucid mind, until she reached 95.

Looking forward to what's on my horizon!

Enjoy your days,

A fun application I like to play around with....

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Apple pie and chocolate mousse!

Hi to all you viewers!

As most of you know, or have heard from others, I have always liked cooking and baking.  I still do cook and bake these days but mostly for myself.  I first learned a few cooking skills by just watching my mother, she was a great cook, later I learned more skills by watching Julia Child, she was also a great cook. (My ex-mother-in-law was a good cook too.)  I was always up for making a dish I was curious about, or trying to recreate a dish I had eaten in a restaurant.  My taste buds, plus my sense of smell,  have helped me through the years.

Years ago, before the easy access to the internet,  I faithfully leafed through the few good recipe books I had bought and stored on the shelf in my kitchen.  The old standards that I refer to were compiled by: Julia Child, Craig Claibourne, Dinah Shore, Julee Rosso, and Sheila Lukins.  Of course, I had some family recipes that I made each year also...I still make my mom's pecan cookies rolled in powdered sugar, her pancakes, and her cucumber salad.  Thanksgiving wouldn't be right if I didn't make my grandmother's red apples. I continue to make my ex-mother-in-law's turkey stuffing, too, although through the years I have modified it to my own liking.

These days I continue to use my old cookbooks, but look to the internet for other inspirations.  I began by using epicurious.com, then I moved on to many other good sites, as well as,  good food blogs. There is an advantage with these sites over cookbooks in that they are rated and give reviews by those having tried the particular recipe. Sometimes, when a recipe is too difficult to make it really taste like it should, example being, croissants, I order it online to have it shipped to me already prepared.  Everyone should know by now, order your croissants from Williams-Sonoma online, they are the BEST.

Over the years, I have made almond toffee.  When I was living at home in Niles, my mom worked at the Paris which was owned by her friends Harriet and Ted. They made the best toffee and I would choose that for my candy of choice.  When the Paris closed for business, I had to make it for myself if I wanted some just like theirs, thus began my search for a good recipe.  I finally found one in Dinah Shore's cookbook which I use now. I don't follow it exactly, but close enough.  I make it every year to give to family and friends, plus, I like to have it on hand just for me to eat!  This year when I was seeing the physical therapist, a very nice young lady, I introduced her to my toffee.  She says she is hooked on it, and says,  like all the others, I should make it to sell...perhaps, but I think I'll stick to just giving it away.  The recipe, and picture, will follow later when I make a new batch.

Yesterday, I made an apple pie. It was very small, just for me.  My mom could make pies that were so good that I just never thought I could make any that would compare to her's....so I didn't try very often. However, a Tarte Tatin recipe on Jacques Pepin' PBS show inspired me to make a pie by first cooking the sliced apples in a non-stick fry pan with sugar and butter until the juice begins to mix with the sugar/butter mixture and it all begins to turn to a caramel color.  I made my own 1 crust pastry in the food processor, rolled it out, and put it in a very small (4 inch) ovenproof dish. Next, I let the apples cool before I added them into the pie dough, then, I folded over the dough leaving a small opening.  I baked it in a pre-heated 450 degree oven for 10 minutes, then turned the heat down to 375 for 20-25 more minutes until the crust was a golden brown.  To make just one, I used 1/3 of the pie dough, (I froze the remaining dough),  and 1 Honey Crisp apple.  It tasted delicious!

Pie dough recipe - 1 crust

1 cup all purpose flour
6 Tblsp. cold real butter in small dice
2 Tblsp. cold crisco shortening
1/2 tsp. salt
2-3 Tblsp. cold water

Put all, except water, in the processor and blend until it is mealy and no large lumps.  Then, add the water a little at a time until it just starts to pull away from the sides...don't over mix! It should make a ball in your hands without being too sticky. Roll out on a floured board to the size needed.  

The web site  Chez Pim.com  is a good food blog.  She has a video for making the dough, too, although I don't remember if she uses a processor.  I always do because it's so fast and turns out well each time.

To make the apple mixture, I used 1 apple (peeled and sliced),  2 Tblsp. real butter, 3 Tablsp. sugar.  I heated the butter and sugar first in a small non-stick fry pan, when it was bubbling I added the sliced apple and cooked it all until the juices looked a light golden color.  This took maybe 5 minutes. Then I let it cool...I like to work fast so I put the pan in the freezer for a few minutes.  Put the pie dough in the ovenproof dish, add the apple mixture almost to the top, fold over the sides of the dough to leave a small opening for the steam to release.


Today, I made a 2 ingredient chocolate mousse....yes, I said, 2 ingredients....just water and chocolate.  I saw it online and I was very intrigued by its simplicity!  You just boil 6 ounces of water then add 8 ounces of good rich chocolate (because this was a trial run, I used Hershey's dark chocolate candy bars) until it has melted. Pour this mixture into a bowl that is set over another bowl filled with ice cubes and water for cooling the chocolate while you whip it by hand or with a electric beater.  I used a small hand held electric mixer. Place it in the refrigerator and it will get even thicker.  It worked!  Voila, mousse!  The ratio of chocolate to water must be right for it to get to a thickened consistency.  You never have to throw it away if it's too runny, just heat the mixture up again but add some more chocolate and start whipping again. 

I love dark chocolate so I have it in my pantry, however, I don't always have fresh heavy cream in my refrigerator. It tastes just as good using water, and has less fat calories. 

This recipe made enough for 2-3 portions....it's very rich so maybe you could stretch it out to 4 servings.

I think I'd better hit the gym every day from here on out until June!!!

Until next time....bon appetit,


Saturday, February 11, 2012

2011 Happenings (again!)

Well, here I go again. 

The year 2011 was full of travels for me now that I'm retired and can come and go as I wish.  I'll highlight these trips month by month.

January, part of February, and part of March, were spent for planning when and where I wanted to go, plus getting my taxes in order.  I used TurboTax online, for the first time, since my income from multiple sources was more difficult to figure.  It was a breeze to do, as I had expected, and I got my Fed and State refunds quickly banked.  Isn't it nice when things work well! 

Lots of folks take off for warmer climates in the winter months, but I kinda enjoy the snow and cold, especially now that I don't have to drive back and forth to work each day. This year, however, I planned a trip to Florida in February to visit my brother, Mike, and sister-in-law Katha.  They have been inviting me for a few years to pay them a visit, so I finally did.  I stayed about 9 days and had a wonderful time! We hung out in the sun by the tennis courts, pool, and beach.  We traveled north one day to watch the last of the Discovery space launches, very cool, indeed! Another day, we spent going south to partake in an art fair, Katha found a painting for one of the walls in her new, beautiful home. Of course, we ate out for most of our dinners at nearby restaurants which were all fab.  Good times do end, so after 9 days in 80 degree temps, I flew back to more snow and cold, to curl up in front of my fireplace to read a good book. 

Towards the end of March, I flew to Berkeley, California for a 10 day visit with both of my daughters, Elizabeth and Hilary.  I stayed with Elizabeth and her partner, Tracy, for the first half and then moved my stuff over to Hilary's and Young's house for the second half.  Of course, I got to see my cute grandsons, Kai and Milo for the whole time, too!  Elizabeth took time off from her job as a orthopedic surgeon to entertain me, which was very nice of her and I did love it. After Hilary dropped Kai off at school, she and Milo, would meet up with us for the rest of the day. We took lots of walks to the "dog park" with Stella, flew kites, shopped at IKEA, ate some good lunches, bought and planted flowers and greens in Elizabeth's new planter boxes, and had a wonderful dinner at Chez Panisse.  Kai and Milo woke me each morning and jumped on my bed....I loved that!!  We played in my bedroom for an hour before going down for breakfast, too!  One day, Tracy took leave from her job so we all went to Suzy's and Mike's house for a terrific lunch and lovely chat.  They have a beautiful house in Santa Rosa.  On our way back to Berkeley, we made a visit to Sonoma to walk around the square and see the ducks.  This was something I had done many times when my daughters were much younger and we were staying with their grandma.  I met up with a couple of friends from days long ago, also.  Linda from Jr. High  and Judy from college.  We lunched and talked for hours!  Once again, good times do end, so back to Michigan I went. Not to snow and cold, but to Spring and flowers.

The remainder of April, May, and most of June, I stayed home to start cleaning up the yard and to plant flowers in my large containers on the deck.  After Winter, there is always much to do!  As I grow older, all the yard work is getting to be more difficult for me.  I'm certain that those of you older than 65 can attest to that statement! I used to work all day long without stopping when I was younger, but now I find myself taking lots more breaks!  I still enjoy doing it so have not turned it over to a hired yard crew yet....that day is coming closer. 

The end of June and first half of July was spent at my family's cottage on Birch Lake south of Kalamazoo.  My Mom and Dad bought it when I was 8 yrs old, so it holds lots of great memories for me and for anyone who has visited us there. We learned to swim and water ski during those very first years. My sister, Kathy, was only 5 or 6 when she first took a small turn around the lake on skis! My Mom stuffed sponges in the footings so her tiny feet wouldn't slip out! It didn't take long before we were all on one ski. I think in later blog posts I'll go into some of the great childhood memories but for now, I must get on with 2011. 
My girls, their mates, and my grandsons come back each summer to the lake for about 2 weeks. We all have fun doing the usual lake activities. My daughters have been coming to the cottage since their births, and now my grandsons have too. Milo celebrates a new birthday while there and we all get to eat lots of chocolate cake, his favorite!  Kai has learned to fish and swim at Birch Lake, perhaps this next year water ski, too! Elizabeth and Tracy rented a pontoon boat for everyone to take rides around the lake together...that turned out to be a highlight for all!  Since July 4th falls during our stay (planned that way), we get to watch the fireworks shot over the lake at night. Mike and Katha live next door, which makes the family gathering even bigger...their children, Brian and Lori, and spouses and grand kids all mingle with my family. If we're lucky, Kathy and Denny, plus their kids and grand kids, come too!  "Put another leaf in the dining table and throw some more hamburgers on the grill!" I sure hope everyone will be able to make it in 2012...I've set the date.
Milo,  now 3yrs old

Birch Lake
Kai with one of his catches

As soon as I arrived home from the lake, July 15th, I had to get ready for a trip to Loveland/Ft. Collins, CO to celebrate a friend's birthday.  That was so much fun!!  We hadn't seen each other in over 30 years, but talked like no time had passed. Thanks Mardi, Cathie and David, Lisa, and Jason and Maggie!! It couldn't have been better!  I also planned get-togethers with a few dear friends who I knew well from having lived in Loveland for 8 years in the '70's.  My cousin, Jane, her husband Michael, and their son, Alex, live in Ft. Collins too.  I met up with them one afternoon and talked and sipped raspberry lemonade. Jane has the cutest house and gorgeous garden which she has done mostly by herself. I was sorry it couldn't have been a longer trip. 
Mardi the BD girl with her sister Cathie & Mem

Once again, home beckoned and the work that goes with it. I did as much as I could/wanted before flying off to NYC for a short vacation with my friend, Judy, the last week of August.  When I had seen her in California, she asked if I wanted to meet her there to see some Broadway plays...."of course", I said.  We saw War Horse, Memphis, Jersey Boys, and Sister Act,  all were terrific!  I had found us a great hotel uptown off of Park Ave. for a good price, and it was huge with a kitchenette. We'll be staying there again!  We ate well, shopped well, and just plain ol' had a good time.  Oh, and did I say, the weather was spectacular?

I had a couple of weeks back at home before flying to Paris, need I say France, in the month of September.  I went "solo" which was terrific, because I could do whatever I wanted to do whenever I felt like doing it.  That kind of freedom and independence I find very relaxing as well as enjoyable.  I arranged almost everything online before departing the states....it is so easy to do now! I located a nice, small hotel near the Louvre just across the river, Seine.  I took my breakfast there each morning, then set off on foot to any place I wanted to see that day.  I had been to Paris once a long time ago, but it was cold so I traveled mostly by the Metro.  This time, I planned to stay above ground, to take in all the beauty of the city.  My time there was superb!!  I met people to talk to, spoke French in shops when I needed ....they even understood me.... ate good food, drank good wine, saw wonderful exhibits at the many museums, rode buses on some occasions, met the French actor, Gerard Depardieu in a cafe where I stopped for a glass of wine and dinner, and visited a few great rues where the food vendors sell their produce such as rue Cler, and rue Montorgueil. I think I preferred the second one, marche Montorgueil, it is every Thursday and Sunday mornings near the church St. Eustache. Did I say that the weather was very good?  Just the right temps for walking (70's) no wind, sunny to partly sunny, and no precipitation. Did I get lucky, or what?  I will return! I think I want to go to Aix-en-Provence to live for a month or two....sounds good, n'est-ce pas?

baked goods...yum

October presented me with more yard work to get ready for the winter months.  We had a beautiful Fall, so I loved going out into the yard.  Then, when I was inside, I decided to knit some hats for my grandsons.  I think doing that, due to the position I was in, produced my back problems. Anyway, I won't ever know for sure, but I couldn't walk without a great deal of pain in the muscle which ran the entire length of my left leg. Ouch!  This began suddenly one morning in the first week of November.  My local doctor, as well as my daughter, the doctor,  prescribed physical therapy with the hopes all will return to normal. It did! 
Milo found the bandaids

Kai learning to play chess

The skiers........Kai 6yrs old,   Milo 3 yrs old

In December, I continued with the therapy, until it was time to fly to Park City, Utah to spend the Holidays with Hilary, Young, Kai, Milo, and Young's parents.  I had such a great time with all of them!  Hilary, and family, had just moved there in June, so she showed me around town and the places that Kai and Milo play and go to school. It is a wonderful city for all to live, but especially for children!  They have every sport imaginable right at their finger tips.  Kai and Milo are becoming great bikers, ice skaters, and snow skiers! I enjoyed making gingerbread houses with the boys, playing with their new dog, Clover, and building Legos.  Hilary is a good cook and treated us all to some fantastic meals....thanks Hil!  Park City has many good restaurants where we ate some lunches and dinners.  Before we knew it, it was time to head to the airport. 

2011 had come to an end, but it was surely a winner!

"Happy trails to you, until we meet again..."


Me meeting Gerard Depardieu in a Paris cafe

Thursday, February 9, 2012

I deleted my 2011 Happenings post by accident!!

Sorry folks if you came to see the new post I told you was here yesterday....I deleted it by accident! I'll now know not to hit that button again!

I will have to start it all over, so check back later. I really had put a lot into it, as some of you know from having read it before today, ah, well, c'est la vie.....