Friday, May 29, 2020

And another week goes by...June is almost here!

Hello book friends!  I thought I would post this great chalk art picture because it kind of said 'June and summer!' to me.  I took this last fall at the Kerrville Chalk Festival, which I wrote about here.  I had such a good time at that festival and hope to get to attend again.  This year?  Who knows?  However, I'm certain that it will come around again when the time is right. 

I don't have much to tell other than to relate that another week has gone by.  You knew that, right?  Ha!  I did get my haircut last Saturday and it went very well.  Masks were worn by both of us.  She didn't even need to shampoo my hair as I had just done that.  She sprayed it with water, cut it short (very short at my request), did not blow it dry, we chatted a little, I paid and made an appointment for 4 weeks from now, and I went home.  It was lovely. 

Otherwise, I've been continuing my walking and yoga.  I've actually improved my 'time per mile' quite a bit.  Didn't really try to do that, but it's a nice benefit from walking every single day.  I'm usually pretty drenched in sweat by the time I get home, even on the cooler mornings.  I did notice that my rec center is open by appointment for use of the walking track and workout equipment.  It just became available this week.  I won't be going in quite yet, but I might consider it as summer advances.  What I can't conceive is walking/jogging with a mask on - I'll have to think about that.  Maybe early mornings outside would be OK even if they are muggy and warm.

Our mystery book group is going virtual for now or we'll be attempting to do that in upcoming days.  We're having a trial run this week to see how it goes and then will do a discussion of Where The Crawdads Sing the next week.  As the host, I'm a little nervous about it, but my husband will be around to help me if I need him.  Quite a few of the group have indicated that they will try to attend (we're doing invitation only).  I've attended the afternoon book group that I'm part of virtually and it went well.  It's not the same as sitting in a circle and sharing, but it's about the best we can do right now.  Who knows when libraries will be allowing meetings again? 

Hope everyone is doing well and has a good weekend.  Take care!   

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

One last post with what blooms in spring around our house...because summer is on the way

Hey book friends!  Hope all of you are well and enjoying a nice spring - it is spring most everywhere isn't it?  Here in Central Texas, we are winding down the 'spring' stuff.  Summer is right around the corner and heat and humidity are making my early morning walks not quite as comfortable as they were.  It was 97 yesterday afternoon and, though the temps will be trending down for a few days, those upper '90's will be more usual now.  Memorial Day weekend is typically a hot one in our area and often a very stormy holiday time as well.  We've had massive flooding in some years and tornadoes and other weather things that occur when a bit of cooler air bumps up against hot and humid air flowing up from the Gulf of Mexico.  Crash, boom - can you say thunderstorm?  We'll see how this year plays out.  Storms are possible.  In any case, I hope everyone will have a nice weekend.

What have I been doing differently?  Not much - ha!  I did go to the dentist this morning for a regular cleaning of my teeth.  The appointment was routine, but the steps that had to be followed at the dental office were multiple - but necessary.  Happily, all was well with my teeth and, though the hygienist used more 'old-fashioned' methods of cleaning, she was well protected and I felt very safe.  They were definitely taking hygiene seriously.  Maybe things will be a little more 'normal' when I go back in December.

I also have a hair appointment!  Wahoo!!  Now, I want to assure everyone that my hair stylist will also be taking things seriously and doing everything as carefully as she can.  She's also in a 'one-woman' shop.  Have you seen those places where hair stylists and other personal care workers can rent an individual salon?  That's what mine does.  I am her first appointment on Saturday and there are lots of rules, including wearing a mask and not blow-drying my hair.  It's so short that it only takes about 15-20 minutes to cut.  I won't be in there long and then she'll sanitize everything for her next client.  I'm going to tell her to whack it off very short, just in case the next time I can get in is longer than 4 weeks away.

Otherwise, life is about like normal or what has become normal.  I'll leave you with a few pictures of the spring 'colors' that are in my yard.  Many of them don't last all that long, so we have to enjoy them before they are gone.  And, no, I am not a gardener at all.  I have no idea what the names of the plants are, except the cactus.  Take care and maybe the next time I post, I might even talk a little about books!  What an idea!  Ha!


Thursday, May 14, 2020

A nice Mother's Day and a discussion of what societal behaviors might be different in the future...

Hello book friends!  In case you don't know, I do appreciate the updates and book reviews and pictures and memes and conversations that you all share each week.  I might not comment on everything, but I do enjoy hearing about life in other spots. 

I had a nice Mother's Day.  Got to talk with our daughter as she was on her way to work.  She used to do that all the time when she was in nursing school years ago and she's started calling to chat during that time period lately.  We've enjoyed it and I think she has too.  She and I discussed that we would have a nice lunch together one day.  I did open the door to find a big box that contained these flowers on my front porch a couple of days before Mother's Day.  So lovely and the colors were just so vivid and cheerful.  I think perhaps my son-in-law's mother probably found a similar gift as well.

My husband bought his mother an unusual gift and placed it on her front porch, while talking to her from way out in their yard - two big bags of nuts.  Ha!  She had told us that they were hard for her to find and a bit expensive, so he ordered her a bunch.  She won't need to get more for quite a while.  An unusual Mother's Day, but it was just fine. 


I've been trying to stay away from all the 'news' except for an early morning check-in.  Still, some strange stories and behaviors from people.  Today I saw an article that wondered whether 'buffets' at restaurants would be a thing of the past.  It started me thinking about things that have changed a bit and being curious about what might become the new 'normal' after this time (if there ever is an 'after this time').  Here's are some things I suspect will stick around:

1.  Many people, especially older people, have learned that certain aspects of technology are not as user-unfriendly as they thought.  They have taken the step to get apps and learn how to video chat and order much more from online sellers.

2.  Taking the leap into grocery delivery or curbside and learning the ins and outs of that.  I know that many have had substitutions and items that weren't available, etc., but our local big grocery, HEB, has been doing the delivery/curbside for almost 3 years.  I used the curbside when my husband had surgery a couple of years ago.  My account can be set to accept substitutions or reject them and other tweaks as well.  I imagine that many people will continue with grocery delivery/curbside, at least part of the time.

3.  Many restaurants are finding that they are able to manage take-out, even if they are an upscale steakhouse or seafood place or if they hadn't done it much in the past.  Many are adding a way to order online and also order for pickup/delivery at a later time in the day.  Paying online is becoming the norm.  I do wish that all of these would have a way to tip as well.  In these days, I'm a generous tipper. 

4.  The online and video chat thing is also transitioning to many other service providers and I bet that will stick around.  I also think many people are more likely to try e-books, videos online, audiobooks, etc.  And people have learned that you can order almost any product online.


As to what might not be as common in the future:

1.  Cruises - for me, I've never wanted to take a cruise and I don't see that changing.

2.  Buffet restaurants - those have been dwindling in recent years and I'll admit that I was never a big fan and won't want them in the future.  Remember the 'sneeze-guard' on salad bars.  Ick!

3.  Only working in an office or rather resistance by companies to have an option for people to work from home if their job involves sitting at a desk most of the time.  Same goes for schools, both K-12 and certainly at the college level.

4.  Shaking hands routinely or even giving hugs all the time.  Smiling and waving is the new hug! 

That might be all I can think of right now.  What do you imagine will be different or stay the same or never appear again?  I'm curious.  Hope you all have a good weekend!  We're supposed to get a bunch of rain - we need it, but....sigh.  Inside again.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Let's talk about early 20th century cooking and Donis Casey's Alafair Tucker mystery series...another 're-run'

Hello book friends!  Hope you are all well.  I'm doing another 're-run' of a post I wrote a long time ago.  Peach season will be coming in our area in a few weeks and so it got me thinking about peach ice cream.  Enjoy!


I've mentioned before how much I like Donis Casey's mystery series that is set in early 20th century Oklahoma.  It tells of Alafair Tucker, her husband, Shaw, and their 10 children and extended family.  Alafair is a busy, busy mother, but she also is an inquisitive soul and has a tendency to run across situations that include bodies - dead bodies.

This author has put a lot of wonderful historical detail in these books and includes descriptions of both the setting and culture of the time.  Oklahoma of the early 1900's was an interesting place - to me anyway.  My mother's family was from that part of the world and I spent quite a lot of time in my childhood on summer visits to my great-grandparents' home.  My grandmother and her sisters would gather and they and my great-grandfather would talk about 'old times'.  I was a little mouse in the corner, always with a book, quietly reading and listening.  So, I remember quite a lot about the things that they talked about and the stories they related.

As I read this mystery series, the setting is vivid and the descriptions of life, including what they ate and how they tended to chores is reminiscent of my grandmother's tales.  Donis Casey includes recipes at the end of each book, as well as 'how-to's' on some chores.  In the first book, The Old Buzzard Had It Coming, the recipes include Josie's Peach Cobbler, Buttermilk Biscuits, Alafair's Meatloaf, and Pecan Pie.  There is also a description of 'The Drippings Jar' and how to make coffee.  The author reminds the reader to 'Be Forewarned:  These are not health foods.'  Ha!  Well, the people at that time worked awfully hard physically in their daily lives, and so I don't think they needed a Fitbit or Apple Watch to measure their steps or efforts.  I'm going to share how Alafair made coffee (I've already told all of you how much I love coffee).  And I'll tell you up front, I'm not changing over to this method - ever!

How To Make Coffee
      Alafair made coffee by putting 1/4 cup of ground coffee in the bottom of a tin coffee pot, filling the pot with water, and boiling it furiously for ten or fifteen minutes.  She knew the coffee was ready when a spoon stood up in the cup.  Coffee was usually drunk with two or three spoonfuls of sugar.  Cream was a matter of taste.  After drinking a cup of Alafair's coffee, one could go out and happily plow the south forty.  Sometimes one didn't even need a horse!

Honestly, my paternal grandmother made coffee just like that.  It was what she called 'stout' coffee.  And she would give me a tiny bit, with a lot of milk.

In the third book, The Drop Edge Of Yonder, we are treated to recipes for Fried Okra, Piccalilli (a sort of relish made with green tomatoes, onions and spices that my grandmother called Chow Chow), and Chicken and Dumplings.  We also learn how to iron a shirt.  Best of all, a recipe for Peach Ice Cream.  Here it is:

Peach Ice Cream

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups heavy cream

Puree four or five peaches, which Alafair would have made by mashing the flesh of the fruit through a sieve with the back of a large wooden spoon.  Sweeten the peaches with another 1/2 cup sugar if desired.

Mix sugar, salt, milk, and egg yolks in a saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, just until bubbles begin to appear around the edge of the pan.  Cool to room temperature.  Stir in the cream, vanilla, and peach puree.

Pour the ice cream mixture into the freezer can.  Fill the can only two-thirds full, to allow for expansion as the ice cream freezes.  Fit the can into the bucket, insert the dasher and put the lid on the can, then attach the crank.

Fill the freezer tub one-third full of ice, then alternate the rock salt and remaining ice, filling the bucket to the top of the can.  Use about four parts ice to one part salt.  Turn the dasher slowly until the ice partially melts and makes a brine.  Then crank rapidly until it's hard to turn the dasher.  How long this will take depends on the weather.  If you're lucky, the ice cream will set in ten minutes or so.  Or it may take half an hour.  Or it may not want to set properly at all.  It's all very mysterious.

So, do you have any memories of hand cranked ice cream?  My parents, my father in particular, loved homemade peach ice cream and we had it often.  By my time though, the freezer was an electric one.

If you're looking for a fun mystery series, pick up one of these and take yourself back a hundred years.  A fun summer pursuit that would only be improved by a dish of homemade peach ice cream!

Monday, May 4, 2020

And another week goes by...a new month, National Nurses Week and a visitor I wasn't all that pleased with...

Hello book friends!  Hope you are doing well, being sensible, and as content as you can be with whatever your life looks like at this moment.  I think I've said before that I feel a little like we're in a time loop or in the movie Groundhog Day.  Another day, another week, and another month and we are here with not too many changes.  My husband and I are doing fine, staying well, keeping in contact with family and friends.

We have now known two individuals in our area that have passed away with complications of this nasty virus.  One was a lady we went to church with years ago and who I had seen periodically here and there.  The other was a guy who had golfed with my husband both here and in New Mexico.  I'm so sad for both their families.  So hard to lose someone in any case, but without the usual comfort of memorials and funerals as we're used to them.

My reading is improving.  I'm going from book to book and enjoying what I'm reading.  We've started watching the new season of Bosch and also are watching Picard as we've been Star Trek fans from way, way back.  I'm still walking a lot in our neighborhood and doing yoga online.

Yesterday, I found another 'friend/not friend' in the front yard and I'm including the picture below.  Yes, it's a coral snake and they are indeed poisonous.  Not very big and pretty easy to spot with those bright colors.  It escaped beneath the rocks, but we'll be watching for it and I reminded a couple of neighbors that I saw on my walk about it being 'snake season'.  Some of their dogs are quite curious I've noticed and want to put their snouts into any hole or whatever.  I will say that these snakes do get rid of some rodents, which I'm not at all upset about.  Ha!

One last thing I'll share before I close.  Starting Wednesday, this is National Nurses Week, an event that comes around every year.  This year, it seems even more important to honor all our healthcare workers, along with other essential workers.  If you know a nurse, thank them this week or send them a card or a special treat.  We asked our daughter last night if we could send a bunch of goodies to her Labor & Delivery unit at one of our local hospitals.  She said they would be delighted to get some fun things and asked especially for hand cream and mints.  The PPE is a bit (or more than a bit) uncomfortable, especially after hours and hours.  I had a good time selecting a few things to make them feel loved.  Who doesn't need a little chocolate, right?  Ha!

Take care everyone.  Hope you all have a good week!