Monday, September 29, 2014

Magic Mike II

In case you're a Channing Tatum fan I thought I'd let you know that he's filming the sequel to Magic Mike here in Savannah during the month of October.  Filming started today and on the news they said they're still looking for extras.
Didn't see the first Magic Mike and I doubt I'll see this one either, but it's always fun to see what movies are being filmed locally.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Birthday Girl

Today, as I like to say, is the 30th anniversary of a favorite birthday of mine.  In other words I'm not admitting how old I am.  Just let it be said that when I sneeze dust comes out.
I Skyped with our daughter this morning and opened the presents she'd had sent to me.  She got me a Kindle book I'd been wanting A Distant Mirror by Barbara Tuchman
and a wonderful Erica Crossbody purse that is deep enough for my Kindle.

The Agatha Christie Story
Mac always surprises me.  He got me 2 vintage Saturday Evening Post magazines.  One has an Agatha Christie story and the other has a P.G. Wodehouse one.  The Agatha issue is from 1944 and the P.G. Wodehouse issue is from 1933.  Both magazines are in amazing condition and the ads are a hoot.  You can buy a Chrysler car for a bit over $900 and a Hudson for $634.   He also gave me an adorable pig for my garden, my last one has broken to bits, but he's too cute and will live upstairs I think.
Has the P.G. Wodehouse Story
 Miss Kitty, knowing the way to my heart gave me chocolate.
Now, if only I had a refrigerator, life would be perfect..

Thursday, September 25, 2014

And Then It All Went Pear-Shaped

Yesterday we were up bright and early to head to the far side of Savannah for my quarterly meeting with my Retina Specialist.  I had to take the dreaded peripheral vision test, which I hate, but all is well and he says my eyes are doing great.  So in under an hour we were out and headed to the commissary to do our monthly shopping.  The commissary is much cheaper than the local stores, particularly for meat, so we stocked up and before noon we were headed home feeling pretty smug about getting everything done so quickly.
At home Mac carried everything in and I started loading the refrigerator and the pantry.  While shoving things in the refrigerator I noticed the light was out and told Mac, he checked the circuit breaker and said that it had been tripped, so he flicked it back on and looked in the refrigerator and said it was making a funny sound.  As it started running we noticed a bad smell and realized that something was wrong and that's why the circuit breaker had tripped.
The refrigerator is more than 14 years old and I'd been muttering about it being time to replace it, so instead of trying to fix an old one, and considering the smell coming from it it probably would have been a major repair, we decided to bite the bullet and get a new one.  So we ordered one from  the local big box store who was offering the best price (by far), but it can't be delivered until next Wednesday.  So we rushed out, bought some big ice chests, a load of ice and packed everything in.
Today my cousin-in-law suggested storing some of it in my washing machine because water wouldn't be a problem.  That's what we've done, we put things like juice, milk, mayonnaise, things that  need to be cooled, but not frozen, in there.  So far the frozen things are still frozen and we've added more ice.
Here's hoping the weather stays cool.
As for my new refrigerator, it's just what I've been wanting,  a French Door one with the freezer down below.  Hope it gets here early Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Paella

I said I'd give my recipe for paella today, but first a little background.  I was first introduced to paella by my mother-in-law who was Spanish, her family was f rom Macatera a small village near Salamanca, Spain.  She made a very soupy version because that's how my father-in-law liked it.
Then when we started traveling to Spain I became more familiar with the Valenciana version which is drier and I found that I liked it better.
No one is quite sure where the word paella comes from.  One theory is that it is derived from the Latin word patella which means pan and paella is the Valencian word for pan.
Other say it comes form the Arabic word baqiyah which means leftovers and that paella is a poor man's dish made from leftovers.
It's  a bit of a stretch to get from baqiyah to paella, but it was the Arabs that brought rice to Spain so it's possible.
Typically you'll see several different versions of paella in Spain:  Paella Valenciana which is made with rice, chicken, pork and rabbit, no seafood.
Paella Marisco which is made with seafood, prawns, mussels, calamari (squid).
Paella Mixta which is a combination of  the first two.
Arroz Negro which is rice cooked with squid ink----this is Mac's favorite version.

I tend to make Paella Mixta and it is usually a leftover version with me throwing in whatever's laying in the refrigerator.

                                                                Paella

Chicken Thighs    Use as many as you think your family will eat, I flour mine, but you don't need to
                              I brown them in a large frying pan using a teaspoon of olive oil with lots of onion      
                              and garlic.  Cook about 15 minutes adding nonfat chicken stock as they're
                              cooking, pour in a bit at a time to keep things simmering, but don't drown things.  I
                              also add a bout a 1/2 cup white wine, this isn't necessary, but I like it.

Rice                       After about 15 minutes I add the rice, I put in a bit over 1/2 a cup, but put in enough
                               to feed your family.  Then I add approximately 2 cups of water and the saffron.  I
                               know saffron is expensive, but it just isn't paella without it.  Hard to describe how
                               much I use, I grab a very generous pinch  and smashing it between my fingers I add
                               it to the rice, if the rice  doesn't turn yellow enough I add more.  Cover, lower the
                               heat and cook until the rice is done.

Shrimp                   When the rice is nearly done add the shrimp, I use canned shrimp, little ones and
                               they taste delicious, you could use fresh or frozen ones too.

Green Peas             After the shrimp I put in the green peas, I put in about a 1/2 cup

You can add more water or chicken stock as needed depending on how soupy you want it to be.
I always let my sit for a while after it's done and let the rice soak up most of the liquid.

About anything can be added to a paella, sometimes I put in Chorizo, Spanish sausage and for Mac, who likes seafood better than me, I'll throw in some fish or scallops.
You could use any part of the chicken, but thighs stay the juiciest.

It is so tasty, we love it.  Sorry there's no picture, but we ate it before I thought of taking a picture.

                           


Monday, September 22, 2014

The Coastal Georgia 600

One of my poor flower beds, I've managed to clear one corner
and found a Vince still flowering
So pretty today and the humidity is still being reasonable, so  I managed to get out in the garden again and pull around 600 weeds, thus the title today.  I'm absolutely ashamed about how full of weeds my flower beds are, but in my defense,  the heat and humidity were lethal this summer. I can usually keep them, not out, but under control, though not this year.  If the weather will hold for awhile I may be able to beat them back a bit.
Yesterday's paella was delicious, almost licked my bowl.  I'll write about the recipe tomorrow.
Today in honor of the autumnal equinox, which arrives at 10:29 pm eastern standard time (my aren't they precise) I'm cooking a lamb stew in my slow cooker.  It smells so good.
Good bye summer and don't let the door hit you in the back!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Taste of Autumn . . . Finally

It's a picture perfect day here today, low HUMIDITY, with temperatures, wait, never mind the temperature, we have low HUMIDITY today.  Mac has been working feverishly outside, whacked back the overgrown weeds, and plants that have been acting like weeds, yes wisteria and lantana I'm talking about you.
I even got out there today and pulled weeds by the handsful out of my flowerbeds, hope the weather holds 'cause I have a lot more to pull.
Mac made a perch for the owl that April gave him as a present last year, he was in the garden, but now he has a perch next to the garage.
Our cat is laying in a pool of sunshine, she's normally hiding out in the darkest, coolest spot she can find so you know it must feel good.
Sort of a paella today, chicken, shrimp, rice and lots of saffron.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I'm Waiting

And not very patiently either.  I'm tired of summer, it's boring, I'm so over it.  I want autumn leaves that give a Godly crunch (or so McAllister says) when you walk through them.  The picture on the left is what I want, the picture on the right is what I get, a swimming pool that's being overrun with wild morning glories.  You may think that sounds good, but after 5 months of 85º-95º temperatures and humidity that frequently makes it feel like it's over a 100º I assure you, autumn sounds great and winter sounds even better.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

99 Days, 10 Hours, 30 minutes or it Was

That's how long till Christmas, so I spent part of the morning Christmas shopping.  Not in stores, but online where I do most of my shopping.  Things that will bring a smile to my family's faces are generally not found in mall stores.  So it's a "hunting" I will go.
I shop on Ebay and Etsy and some really esoterical little shops and I wish I had longer than 99 days to do it.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday Morning Roundup

Not a lot going on at the Little House in the Swamp, they keep promising us cold fronts ( parts of Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska and Colorado got snow from this cold front), but all we get is more humidity. The front's  been here since Friday and it finally rained a little bit today, now it's steaming, not much cold though.  I read other blogs and people are talking about the leaves changing color, the air having a nip to it, lighting a fire at night.  I'm so envious.  No leaves have changed color here, the air is soggy, not nipping and we're running the air conditioner, not the heater.
When the seasons change my allergies go wild: itchy eyes, sinus headache, aching joints, no energy.
All I did all weekend was watch sports, football, baseball, golf, crochet a little bit on a potholder that should have taken less than an hour to do and instead has taken more than a month and it's still not done, and read.
I flew through The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowlings) and liked it as much as Cuckoo Calling and maybe more.  Looking forward to the next one in the series.
Also read Death in the Garden by Elizabeth Ironside.  Helena inherits her Great Aunt's house and  fortune, but also finds out that her Aunt had been found innocent of her husband's murder more than 60 years ago.  She decides that she can't take the inheritance unless she can find out that the Aunt wasn't just found not guilt, but that she was innocent.  Really good book.
Also really liked The Expats by Chris Pavone  She's CIA, but has never told her husband, he thinks she works in a DC think tank. Now they're moving to Luxembourg for a his job.  He's an independent contractor who helps banks protect themselves from hackers or maybe he's a hacker who has stolen millions of euros.
Now I'm working my way through:  Every Secret Thing by Laura Lippman, 2 eleven year olds go to jail for 7 years for kidnapping and killing a baby.  Now they're out of jail and another baby is missing.  It's ok, the girls are just a bit too creepy for me.  As Kirkus review might say this is  a book you should probably borrow, not buy.
Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell, I've just started this, but it has an interesting premise.  The housekeeper kills the whole family because she can't read, not by poisoning them, she shoots them.
And finally The Namesake by Jumpha Lahiri and I like this one very much.  His parents moved to America from India so his father can attend grad school.  They remain very Indian, in thought and deed, while he and his sister who are born in America become very American, at first, but then they start turning back.  I love reading books about the immigrant experience and this one is excellent.
While looking for pictures of the books I found out that Every Secret Thing was made into a movie in 2014 starring Diane Lane, Elizabeth Banks and Dakota Fanning,  The Namesake was made into a movie in 2006 starring Kal Penn and Irrfan Khan and The Expats will be made into a movie that will open in 2015, not casting for it yet.   May put The Namesake on on my Netflix list.
 There are rumors that the Galbraith books are going to be made into movies too.

This started out as a Monday morning post, but has ended up a Monday evening one, life does have a way of interfering.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Does This Bother You Too?

Borrowed from the Leicester Mercury
Archeologists from a local university  digging at the site of the  "lost" Chapel of St.Morrell, an ancient site of pilgrimage in Hallaton, Leicester have uncovered the skeletons of 2 people, a man and a women, who were holding hands.  Nine other skeletons at the site have been carbon dated to the 14th century and it's believed that this couple would date from the same period.  The couple's skeletons  have been removed to the university laboratory for further study.  Why?
At least the condition of their digging license won't allow pictures of the skeletons, thank God for small favors.
I consider this sacrilegious.  Leave these people alone or at least have the decency to rebury them where you found them.
I love archeology and I realize we need to learn about the past, but for some reason this really bothered me.  Is someone going to be digging up our families in a couple hundred years and hauling them off to a laboratory to be studied?  I hope not.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Day to Remember

Forty-nine years ago a young boy and a very young girl pledged their vows and their lives to each other.  It's gone so quickly, years of moving around while Mac was in the Army, raising our daughter, finally finishing college (all of us), teaching, retiring to Georgia and here we are.  I don't feel old enough to have been married that long, it seems, not like yesterday perhaps, but just a couple of years ago.
I'm a lucky lady, I'm married to my best friend and love him more now than when I married him all those years ago.
I want at least 26 more years, 75 is a nice round number and I always promised him that when I was in my walker that I'd still be chasing him around.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Year of Books

My reading year runs from August 15 to August 15, has to do with when I bought my first book diary to keep track of the books I'd read.
 This year I read 144 books as opposed to 153 the year before.  Part of that maybe the length of some of the books I read,   I'm reading a Brandon Sanderson series and whenever I get a new book in a series I always reread the previous book in the series, so before reading Words of Radiance (1088 pages) I reread The Way of Kings (1009 pages) and this was true for the Diana Galbaldon series, I reread An Echo in the Bone (850 pages) before I read Written in My Own Heart's Blood (842 pages). The break down of genres is:

127 fiction
17   science fiction/fantasy
18   mysteries
17   non-fiction
12   rereads

I was surprised by how few science fiction/fantasy books I'd read that's generally one of my favorite genres.

I thought I'd break my favorites down by genre this year.

Favorite fiction books:

1.  Ella Minnow Pea  by Mark Dunn   A short, very funny book about language.

2.  The Perks of Being a Wallflower   by  Stephan Chbosky  A YA book that read so true, I was very impressed by it and have recommended it all over the place.

3.  Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress   by Dai Sijie    A semi-autobiographical (but still fiction) book about 2 young men exiled to the Chinese countryside during the Cultural Revolution.

4.  House of Mirth   by Edith Wharton  Love her books and this one is particularly good

5.  Museum of Innocence  by Orhan Pamuk   Where does love end and obsession begin?  Set in Istanbul, this story will haunt me for a long time.

6.  Doc   by Mary Doria Russell    A fictionalized account of Doc Holliday's life.

7.  Birds Without Wings    by Louis de Berniers  Another book set in Turkey, it takes place before the start of WWI and the aftermath.  Wonderful book.

8.  Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry  by Rachel Joyce  Harold receives a card from a woman he worked with years ago who is no dying.  He decides to leave home and walk to see her.

9.  Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore  by Robin Sloan  Books, a puzzle and Google

Non-Fiction

1.  A Year of Magical Thinking  by Joan Didion   The year after her husband died, it should have been depressing, but it wasn't.

2.  Reading Lolita in Teheran  by Azer Nafasi   She was a professor in Teheran at the time of the revolution and it was grim.

3.  The Guns of August  by Barbara Tuchman     The first month of WWI

4.  One Summer America 1927    by Bill Bryson   Charles Lindberg, Babe Ruth, Calvin Coolidge, Jack Dempsey ----what a summer

Science Fiction/Fantasy

1.  Blackout-All Clear  by Connie Willis  Two time travel books about researchers traveling back to England during the Second World War and getting stuck there, 2 really good books.

2.  Life After Life  by Kate Atkinson  She keeps getting reborn until she gets it right.  Have liked all of Ms Atkinson's books, but for me this was the best one yet.


If I had to name the best book I'd read all year I would say The Guns of August.  I knew very little about WWI and the depth of research in this book blew me away.  It should be required reading by anyone who thinks they know how to fight a war.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

London Skyline

Before I stop writing about London I have to talk about the new architecture that's blighting its skyline.
To me London has always been one of the most beautiful cities in the world, now it's beginning to look like some futuristic nightmare.  Below I show some of the worst, not my pictures, I refused to waste my time on them, but rather taken from the web (Oliver Wainwright for The Guardian) where others agree with me about their hideousness.

The Shard, if you like it for only £40 you can go up to the observation deck

The Strata, one blogger said it reminded him Mordor of complete with 3 eyes of Sauron on top

The Cheese Grater, need I say more?

The Walkie Talkie
This is the view of St.Pauls from across the Thames (the side we stayed on), the view is ruined!

The Odalisk



I guess if you have to have a giant Ferris Wheel this isn't a bad one, but I won't even go on small ones and at £29.50 or $48.00 that wasn't going to happen anyway.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Vintage Finds

Whenever we go to England we always do a bit of antique/vintage shopping.  Because we go around the time of our anniversary I always buy something for Mac and he buys for me.  We always buy what the other one wants, but is too cheap to buy for themselves.  This year when I asked him what he'd like he said he'd always wanted a vintage microscope.  So while browsing at The Silent Woman,  a great antique shop in Chipping Norton, I found a lovely part brass one about 11 inches tall  and showed it to him to get his approval.  He asked how much it cost and I wouldn't tell him, it was a gift after all.
It has no manufacturer's name on it or any other way to identify it.  Our best guess is somewhere between 1910 and 1920.
As for me, I've always wanted a vintage globe and we found one at antique shop in Lechlade.  It's about 8 inches tall and the only identifying mark on it is a small British Made seal.  But I've dated it by looking at some of the countries on it.  Germany is one country (so prior to 1946), there is no Pakistan or Israel ( after 1947), Iran is Persia (till 1935), Thailand is Siam (till 1939), Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia are French Indo-China (till 1954), most of western Africa is named French West Africa (till 1960), Zimbabwe is still Rhodesia (till 1980) , eastern Africa is Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (till 1956), there's still a Belgian Congo and Beijing is Peiping.  And the last one is the important one because Peiping officially became Peking in 1928,  so my globe is probably prior to 1928 and I just love it.
We have the two of them sitting on an old school desk that use to belong to Mac's Mother.  When they tore down the elementary school she had attended she went and bought the desk.  Now it sits in our living room

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

An Old Lady Rant

Let me start this rant by saying I don't dislike children, my Mother assured me that I was one once, and we had one of our own.  But that being said I never ran over anyone with her baby stroller, I never dragged said stroller  into overcrowded museums, tube cars, Harrod's, theatres, etc.
The sidewalks of London were difficult enough to manuever through without being run over by baby cars being propelled by "parents" who were more interested in their cell phone conversations than their children.
We were overwhelmed by them and crying babies everywhere.  Mac swore that there was a quota for crying children and every floor and every corner had to have at least one.
There are places small children (under the age of 5 and babies) don't need to be.  There is little air conditioning in London, the museums and other tourist sights were hot,stuffy and very crowded.   I was uncomfortable, the children were miserable.  For the most part they had no idea why they were there (a mother holding her about 4 year old son up so he could see the WWI letter and explaining the war to him) , didn't want to be there and made this point very vocally.
When our daughter was very young we often travelled with  a babysitter because we knew that many of the things we were going to do and see were of little interest to her.  When we didn't have a baby sitter we ate in shifts each taking a turn in the room with her, spending some days doing activities that were meant for her.
When she got older, understood what she was seeing we took her more places, but I never ran over anyone with her stroller, never took it into crowded places and never kept her out late at night.
I'm just an old lady, but if I could I'd ban baby strollers from crowded areas and just like you have to be a certain height to ride some rides and a certain age to see some movies, I'd put restrictions on certain sites, particularly at very crowded times.
Unloading and setting up one of these things appears to take more planning than D Day did!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Mudlarking in London

Blackfriar's Bridge
A guest post by Mac.
The Thames being a tidal river can drop as much as 20 feet at low tide, exposing a lot of foreshore to ramble on. There's something about the mud of the Thames ( lack of oxygen) that keeps objects from decaying, this means you can search through  two thousand years of odd and ends just by walking the foreshore. In the 18th and 19th century Mudlarking was a recognized profession, much of it from shipping losses overboard.
3 Day's Finds

Railroad Plates
 Today it is more of a lark than anything else, one I could not resist. I was lucky in that we had three good days without rain. I did most of my mudlarking between Blackfriars Bridge and the railway bridge next to it. I fact  found pieces of dinner plates from the Great Northern Railroad. A word on mud, I found out quickly that what I was looking for was not near the mud, which usually was nearer the water, most of my finds were in sheltered areas away from the water, under the bridge and against the embankment wall. These places had little mud and shoals of objects, mostly pieces of flint and chalk. Amongst the flint and pebbles were shards of pottery, porcelain, clay pipes,  rusted metal objects, and even some coins.
Blue and White Pottery
 I found so many broken stems of clay pipes that I stopped picking them up by the second day. The clay pipes were sold with tobacco already in
Pipe Bowls and Stems
them, and I've read that they had long stems that could be broken as the pipe was passed around and when finished tossed in the Thames. The pottery and porcelain can be dated, as so the pipes, the metal objects probably beyond dating due to rust,  and as for the four coins I found, all in one spot, well they are easily datable because they are clearly marked, earliest to latest.... 2005, 2006 2007, and 2013!!!  And they were already showing signs of corrosion, so much for today's coinage!
Odds and Ends

Coinage

Monday, September 1, 2014

Churchill's War Rooms

One of the highlights of our trip was getting to visit Winston Churchill's War Rooms.  It was a rainy Monday morning as we made our way there, stopping to get a quick snap of Big Ben and get in line.  We were there right at opening time and had bought our tickets online so we got in quickly. They gave us a self-guided tour to listen to, but we preferred to just read, though hearing the voices of some of the people who worked with him and for him was quite interesting.  At the beginning there was a big room with lots of info on Churchill, his early life, his painting, his public speaking, his humor,  how others felt about working with him and displays all through the war years.  Scores of documents, letters and pictures to sift through.  It was very dark in there and I didn't take any pictures.  But I took loads of pictures of the reconstructed war room. The rooms were incredible, so life like.  It was fascinating, I'm glad we got there early because by the time we were through and we spent quite a few hours there, it was teaming with people and it would have been much harder to read all the information.
Big Ben, he had his faces cleaned while we were there

Churchill's bedroom

His dining room




Kitchen

Lady Churchill's bedroom

Map Room

Park Across the street from the war rooms


Radio Room

Tuesday in the Swamp

The house is once again filled with the smell of Gingerbread, I baked a load of little men, even wore my Gingerbread Apron, but I'm too ...