Friday, October 29, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Hello everyone - How about a really scary dog for Halloween?

Princess Leia, the 10 foot tall poodle from Poteau is back, this time chowing down on a poor jack o'lantern.  A giant poodle is scary on a normal day - one with glowing eyes attacking a pumpkin will make a grown man scream like a baby....

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Oprah Book Club Selection #7 - Songs In Ordinary Time by Mary McGarry Morris

Songs In Ordinary Time by Mary McGarry Morris. 1995, Allen Lane. 740 pages.

This one took awhile to grow on me, but when it did, it definitely took hold. Songs In Ordinary Time is the story of the citizens of Atkinson, Vermont in 1960. With the world on the precipice of huge changes, the good citizens of Atkinson were feeling the uneasiness. The book has a huge list of characters, which created a challenge for me while listening to the book on my Ipod. As with other long, detailed books, there were times that I wanted and needed to “page back” and see who was related to whom. The author admits that she had to resort to cards taped all over her walls to keep up with the large number of characters while writing the book. But listening to the book did force me to pay very close attention to every detail until I was able to sort out the people and their relationships to each other, and that’s a good thing.

A major theme in the book is morality. The morality of the times as well as the morality of the individual characters. Marie Fermoyle, the center of the story, is a struggling single mother of three children. Alice, the oldest child, is graduating from high school and holds out hope that money will materialize for her to attend college. The middle child, Norm, is about sixteen and headstrong, but with a strong sense of responsibility to his mother and siblings. The youngest, Benjy, has emotional problems and spends most days in front of the television set.

The Fermoyle family is beset almost daily with humiliations and struggles. They must deal with Sam Fermoyle, the town drunk and ex-husband of Marie (and father of her children). Sam lives with his dour sister and invalid mother and his drunken antics are legendary in the small town. The two oldest children get jobs to help Marie with expenses as she desperately holds onto her pathetic, low-paying bookkeeping job. She manages to buy a ramshackle house, but the house is falling down around them and she has no more money to put into it and no husband to fix it up.

Omar Duvall, an intenerate salesman, enters the town after committing a horrendous crime known only to him. The citizens, all struggling with various trials, accept him as a hard-working, smart man. His silver tongue ingratiates him to the people and especially to Marie Fermoyle. Going against her nature, Marie lets Duvall into her home and into her heart. When Duvall comes across with a pyramid scheme involving selling soap, he sees the good folks of Atkinson as the perfect fools to launch his scheme. To the willing citizens, he is the Messiah that they are seeking.

Mary McGarry Morris has drawn these characters beautifully. The length of the book is understandable when you see the detail she has put into the descriptions of these people. This book’s greatness is in its characters, their constant struggles and their gut-wrenching need to believe in a savior. These are truly ordinary people in ordinary time. The book refers to Ordinary Time in religious vernacular as the time of the year when there are no holy holidays – just ordinary time. These folks are living through the ordinary time immediately before the country and the world undergoes great and momentous change. Their struggles and needs mirror our own. This is a book that I highly, highly recommend.

Out of five stars, I give Songs In Ordinary Time….
* * * * *

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Don't you just love fall??  Nothing like cooler weather to make you start thinking about good, comfort food made in your cast-iron cookware!  Here's another recipe that doesn't require cast iron, but just tastes better when cooked in a black pan!  I'm not sure our ancestors made these, but I do know that my ancestors loved sweet potatoes.  They normally just baked them and loaded them with churned butter from the cow.

Sweet Potatoes Fries:

You will need:

Medium (4-6 qt) cast iron Dutch oven
Deep fry thermometer
4 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, cut lengthwise into eights, then cut crosswise to make 16 wedges per sweet potato
Enough vegetable oil for frying, this will be about 8 cups
Salt and pepper to taste (or use Mrs. Dash)

Preheat the oven to 400 degreesF.  Put the wedges ina single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until tender when pierced with a fork, but firm (not hard) in the middle.

Reduce the oven temp to 200 degreesF.

Put the oil into the Dutch oven, to a depth of about 3 inches.  Heat the oil over medium-high heat to 350 degreesF on the deep-fry thermometer.

Fry the wedges in batches, but don't over-crowd.  Turn them often and fry until they are golden-brown and have a crisp outside, this will be about 2-4 minutes per batch.

Pull out the fries with a slotted spoon onto a paper-towel-lined plate and let drain.  Then transfer them to a foil-lined baking sheet and put them in the warm oven until all the batches are ready.

Serve immediately, seasoned with salt and pepper or Mrs. Dash.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Hello, and happy Friday to you!!

Today we have the return of our favorite Princess Leia, the 10 foot tall poodle from Poteau.  She's romping in our Oklahoma snowstorm of last winter.  And yes, I said poodle, not pony!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Few More Home Remedies

Over the past few weeks I have posted some alternative home remedies to try when you don't have the right item in your house for what you need.   Here are a few more....

16.  Wet Dog Odor - Nothing smells worse than a wet dog, and a wet dog in the house is really yuckky.  The next time the smelly wet dog comes in the house, quickly wipe him down with dryer sheets.  He will smell soooo good.

17.  Urinary Tract Infection - Alka-Seltzer comes to the rescue here.  This is the plain old Alka-Seltzer, NOT Alka-Seltzer Plus Cold Medicine, which contains aspirin and other things you don't need.  Simply dissolve two tablets in a glass of water and drink as soon as your symptoms begin.  The Alka-Seltzer starts working immediately to knock out the infection. 

18.  Rust Stain - Coca Cola gets the job done here.  Soak an abrasive sponge with Coke and scrub the stain.  The acid in the Coke dissolves the rust stain.

19.  Stuffy nose - Ever had a "Curiously Strong" Altoids peppermint?  Try a couple with a stuffy nose and your nose will be clear before you know it.

Hopefully some of these solutions will come in handy when you need them!

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Hello, what a great autumn Monday day it is!  Here's another recipe that works great in a cast-iron skillet. The cast iron puts a nice, crispy crust on the bread and it smells so good when cooking. Put a bottle of seasoned olive oil on your table to dip it in, and this bread will be gone in seconds!

Garlic Skillet Bread:

You will need:

1 T. sugar
1 c. warm water (105 degreesF) divided
1 pkg active dry yeast
2 1/4 c. flour, all-purpose
2 t. salt, divided
1/4 c. plus 2 T. olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, thinly-sliced

In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in 1/2 c. of the warm water - watch the temperature closely - you need it to be around 105 degrees for the yeast to work properly.  Sprinkle the yeast on top and let it sit for 5 minutes.

Then add the other 1/2 c. of water, flour, 1/2 t. of the salt and 1/4 c. of the olive oil.  Stir this with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a soft dough.

Put the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead it for about 10 minutes. 

Form the dough into a ball and put it in a large, oiled bowl.  Turn it to coat the ball with the oil, seal the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.

Coat the bottom and sides of a 10 inch cast iron skillet with 1 T. of olive oil.  Put the dough into the skillet and press it evenly into the pan.  Score the top lightly in a crisscross with a sharp knife, brush with the remaining 1 T. olive oil and sprinkle the garlic over the top.  Sprinkle with the remaining salt and let rise for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degreesF. 

Place the skillet in the oven on a center rack and bake until the crust is lightly-golden.  This will be about 20 to 25 minutes.  Remove it from heat immediately and place it on a wire rack.  Drizzle some olive oil on the top, slice into wedges and serve immediately.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

TGIF!!!!  Here's a good dog just for you!

Sofi the Talking Schnauzer has to keep her mouth in tip-top shape in order to perfect her speech.   Sofi recommends chewing a nice rawhide to keep the dentist away....

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Try These Home Remedies

Over the past couple of weeks I have posted ten alternative remedies to use when you don't have the "right" solution at home.  Here are five more....

11.  Dog Fleas - Dawn Dishwasher Detergent comes to the rescue here.  Just add a few drops to Fido's bath and wash him thoroughly.  Rinse well and say goodbye to the fleas.

12.  Headache - Drink two glasses of Gatorade or similar sports drink - I'll bet your pain goes away in an instant.

13.  Toenail Fungus - Soak your toes in Listerine every night until the fungus is completely gone.  It's that simple!

14.  Wasps - If you have a wasp, yellow jacket, bee or hornet in your house, reach for the 409 cleaning solution.  Spray it right on the bug and he'll meet his demise very quickly.

15.  Sore Throat - Mix up this solution and take a tablespoon about six times a day:  1/4 c. honey and 1/4 c. vinegar.  The honey soothes and the vinegar kills the bacteria.  They are a potent team!

I'll be back with more home remedies in a week or so.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

Hello, hope you are having a great Monday!  If you have a collection of cast iron cookware, you may have a corn stick pan.  Here is a recipe for corn sticks.

Corn Sticks:

You will need:

1/2 c. flour, all purpose
1/2 c. white cornmeal
1  t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 t. sugar
1 medium egg
1/2 c. milk
1T. vegetable oil or bacon drippings

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and generally coat your corn stick pan with vegetable oil.  Place the corn stick pan on a cookie sheet and put in the oven to heat up.

Mix the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  In a separate small bowl, mix the egg, milk and oil.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pout in the egg mixture.  Stir until mixed, but don't overstir.  The mixture will be a little lumpy and that's fine.

Spoon the batter into the hot corn stick pan, filling each stick level with the rim.

Bake until the corn sticks spring back when touched in the center, this will be about 15-20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let the pan cool for about 5 minutes.  Then loosen each stick with a fork and remove by inverting the pans.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

How's your Friday going?  I hope you're having a terrific day!  Here's a patriotic dog for you....

Sofi the Talking Schnauzer likes to show off her favorite colors - red, white and blue.  With her nice beard, she looks a lot like Uncle Sam, don't you think?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

More Home Remedies For What Ails You

Hello, and I'm back with some more alternatives to the usual solutions....Please see my post last week for the first five remedies.

6.  Kitty ear mites - Reach for the corn oil in your kitchen cupboard.  Put a few drops in the cat's ear, massage it in and then clean with a cotton ball.  Do this daily for about 3 days.  The oil smothers the ear mites.  It also soothes the skin inside the ear and promotes healing.

7.  Boil - Tomato paste makes a great compress.  Cover the boil with the paste.  The tomato acid brings the boil to a head.

8.  Glasses - Protect your glasses with clear nail polish.  If you put a drop of clear polish on the earpiece screw threads, then tighten them up, the screws will stay put and not loosen.

9.  Burn - White mint toothpaste is a terrific salve to apply on a minor burn.

10. Bruise - A cotton ball soaked in white vinegar and applied to the bruise for about an hour speeds healing and reduces the color in the bruise.

I'll be back before long with some more remedies....

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Monday Recipe Blog

What a great Monday!  How about a recipe that you can use with any pan, but tastes better when cooked in cast iron?  Although you normally think of Fridays when you think of fried fish, this is a perfect Monday for a pan-fried catfish recipe.  Gives you the rest of the week to go fishing and bring home the fish!

Pan-Fried Catfish:

You will need:
Medium cast-iron dutch oven
Deep fry thermometer
4 catfish fillets, 5 or 6 ounces each.
1/2 t. ground pepper
1 t. salt, if you want to add salt.
1 c. white cornmeal
1 T. plus 1 t. Old Bay Seasoning or similar fish seasoning mix
1/2 t. celery salt
1/4 t. cayenne pepper, ground
Enough vegetable oil to fry the fish, this will be about 8 or so cups

Season each fillet with pepper and salt, if you like.

Put all of the other dry ingredients into a large plastic resealable bag.  Put each fillet, one at a time, into the bag and shake until coated thoroughly with the cornmeal mixture.

In a medium Dutch oven (4-6 qt), pour in the oil and heat over medium heat until it registers 360F on a deep-fry thermometer.

Fry the fillets all in one batch until they are golden brown on both sides, this will be about 3 or 4 minutes.  Do not overcook.  Remove from heat and drain on paper towels, serving at once.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Friday Dog Blog

Hello - What a great autumn Friday this is!!

This poodle and bulldog pair are the bravest dogs I've seen - as long as there is a fence around!