Monday, January 27, 2014


I was late to work today. I have an excuse, two of them actually.

These are sundogs and are created when ice crystals are in the air. I'd seen several photos this winter during the weather segment on the local news but had not seen any myself. I'm more familiar with the ones that show up in the evening. 

That yellow blob at the top is my gloved finger holding the cell phone camera. I couldn't find my regular camera in my purse so I decided I'd just use my cell phone. I'm less sure where my hand is when I use that camera. Of course, when I got to work, my regular camera was in the bottom of my purse.

It might be Monday and it might be a -5 with a -20 wind chill, but these were just beautiful. An impressive way to start the work week.

Beverage:  water



Going out to shovel over this month, I've encountered some interesting tracks.

I don't know whose these are, probably a cardinal. I thought it was very interesting that they landed and headed right for the bird bath. I need to figure out some kind of free flowing water for the birds. They really have become dependent upon the bird bath.

These tracks belong to a rabbit, I believe, or possibly a squirrel. It's interesting to me that they hopped up on the bottom step of the front steps to continue on their way.

I'm thinking these belong to a cat. If you've ever watched a cat walk, the rear legs go in the same spot as the front legs. I used to know what kind of tracks these are, meaning all animals can be grouped into certain categories based on their tracks.

These were along the side of the house and then headed under the deck. It makes me sad that someone thinks letting their cat out in the winter is a good idea. Frostbite occurs on the bottom of a cat's or dog's feet as surely as it occurs on ours. I didn't see any cat under the deck so I'm hopeful it went inside to be warm. Since seeing these tracks a couple weeks ago, I have not seen them since.

Rabbits and squirrels are the most active even during these bitter cold days. Raccoons and opossums should be in hibernation but I'm wondering who chewed through my garbage can lid.

This doesn't seem like something a squirrel would do; raccoon yes, squirrel, no. And wouldn't heavy duty plastic taste really, really bad?

During the first heavy snow of January, I found tracks leading from the remnants of deck bench out into the snow.

This is right across from the garbage can. I don't know who was hiding under this leaning bit of wood, but, with the snow, I'm sure it was warm enough for them.

Since the warm-up of the 19th, I haven't seen any tracks coming from that area. I see tracks coming from under the deck. It's interesting to see these and to know that the area around my home is alive with wildlife even if I don't see the animal itself.

Beverage:  Ashbury tea


Crafty Gnomes

Back in early December, I received a box from Amber in Australia that contained the following.

Over the weekend, I decided to open this up to see just what was involved in creating a gnome. Here is the top layer of the box.

The kit contains felt and black embroidery floss. What's really exciting is the book.

There are eight different gnomes I can make. The Vampire looks hysterical. Or perhaps, Avast, me hearties! I be a pirate.

I could go with the regular garden variety gnome. He comes with a fish. 

The best part of the book is that all the patterns are included.

So after I've made the gnome of my choice, I just need to get some felt and I can make all the other gnomes. Do you know what this means?

If I could get my act together and get crafting, I could make gnome ornaments for Christmas. If I were really crafty, I could take the basic gnome pattern and make gnomes of other professions. Cooking gnome anyone? I'm not that crafty but a gal can dream.

I have opted not to join the Valentine exchange. I have a major project I need to do and making Valentine's just won't fit into my life right now. Part of me is sad, but a big part is reasonable. I have a tendency to over-extend myself at times. I am being realistic when I don't think I'll be able to finish Valentines.

I set the build a gnome aside for the moment. Other things occupy my attention, but I will be back. I just can't decide which gnome to make first.

Beverage:  Ashbury tea


Friday, January 24, 2014

Potato Crisps? Seriously?

My friend Doo works at Neiman Marcus, often referred to as "Needless Markup". For Christmas, he sent a box with three containers of chocolate covered items. "Let me know what you think of these," he said.

The box arrived on a very snowy day so that's why you see water on the cover. (A side note: the stretchy cord is a wonderful item to use for playing with the girls. You can see my post about that at House Panthers.)

I have consumed all the snacks. It took me awhile. These containers are simply repurposed Pringles containers. Oh I knew NM wouldn't reuse Pringles cans but, for all intents and purposes, that's what these are. And the snacks inside them, well, left to right:

milk chocolate covered Pringles.

Oh excuse me. The can says, "Milk chocolate coated potato crisps". Outside the rarefied air of NM, we call them Pringles.

Next we have white fudge covered corn snacks.

That's what it says on the container. This container was a bear to open. It had a plastic tube insert that was devoid of any lip to grab to open.

I finally resorted to using a knife to cut through the tube right below the plug and opening it that way.

The other two containers had a plastic top which, when removed, revealed a pop top, just like a Pringles can. All I could think was, "These better be good", after it took me 15 minutes to get into the container.

Chocolate covered Bugles. Yup, that's what these are, chocolate covered Bugles.

The red tube was the same as the first one except it was dark chocolate.

What are my impressions? I haven't finished the dark chocolate Pringles. The chocolate is very rich so I nosh on a couple while cooking dinner or as a late night snack. That's probably a good thing, that I'm not eating them on after another. While they are good, I don't like them as much as the others.

The white fudge Bugles took me three days to consume mainly because the white fudge was very sweet and rich and not something I wanted to eat the whole container of in one sitting. Don't get me wrong. This is a good thing. Being forced to not eat everything in one sitting is good for my health.

I really liked the milk chocolate covered Pringles. I don't remember if I've had chocolate covered potato chips, which is what this is a direct take off of. I like milk chocolate probably the best and the Pringles were crispy and a bit salty. The flavor combination was good. With the dark chocolate Pringles, the chips are kind of stale, which might be because these would have been produced in mass quantities in October and I'm just now getting around to them in January. The salt is also missing from the dark chocolate Pringles and I do think that makes the flavor of the milk chocolate ones. For the Bugles, it's as if they bought seconds, the misshapen or otherwise unfix for bags of Bugles snacks and covered them with fudge. There's nothing wrong with that, but they were missing Bugles' saltiness.

I won't tell you what the price sticker said on the underside of the box. I know Doo didn't pay nearly what the sticker said. It was a very interesting diversion and I enjoyed the vicarious thrill of eating Nieman Marcus branded snacks.

Beverage:  hot cocoa


Thursday, January 23, 2014

I Haz A Sad

With the cold and the snow, I've been wearing my new boots to the office and then changing into shoes once I get there. That way, if I have to stop for something and there's lots of snow around, I don't get my feet wet.

As work was winding down last night, I removed my shoes and put on my boots. Once, home and the recycling dragged to the curb and the mail retrieved, the boots were removed and I went to put the shoes away on the shoe tree in my bedroom. That's when I saw it.

Oh man, this is the left shoe. It's coming apart at the stitching. Quickly checking the right shoe, I found this.

This was my first pair of Clarks shoes. This is the pair that sold me on how good, how comfortable these shoes are. I have had this pair for, oh gosh, maybe 8 years? I'm not sure how long. With RA sometimes affecting my ankles and then, by extension, my feet, my decision to invest in Clarks has paid off substantially. Yes, they are more expensive than something I could get at Payless, but for comfort, they are well worth the price.

You can see that the sole is still in exceptionally good condition and all that's wrong is that the stitching holding the black piping to the sole and the upper has come apart. There is a cobbler in downtown Glen Ellyn. I've taken a lot of stuff to him over the years. There's probably another 8 years, at least, of use left in these shoes. I think I need to drop them off.

Yes, when I discovered this, I had a momentary thought that I should just replace them. They need to be polished, badly. I've had them a long time. But, beyond the broken stitching, there is nothing wrong with them. As long as I can fix them, it's stupid to spend money on a new pair of shoes. If the sole or the upper was cracked, that's a different matter, but stitching. Pffft.

So, next week I have a couple days off for doctor's visits. I'll add dropping these off at the cobbler to my to do list. Oh look. Across the street is The Bookstore. I can pop in and say, "Hi".

Beverage:  Rooibos tea


I Got Mine

You are free to point and go, "Ewwww", but this has been a staple in my kitchen.

According to Wikipedia, it was invented in 1908 and one of its selling points is how it melts evenly. I love a good sharp cheddar, a nutty swiss or creamy mozzarella. My Subway turkey sandwiches have provolone on them. But if I'm making homemade macaroni and cheese or having tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich for supper on these cold winter nights, I want my cheese to melt uniformly, without lumps and stringiness. Wikipedia says the name is meant to connote "velvety smoothness". For awhile, there was a "lite" version that supposedly had 25% less fat. Meant to appeal to the burgeoning low fat market, I haven't seen it on the shelves in years. Come on. If you are buying Velveeta, low fat is not what you're interested in.

I have to giggle at the announced Velveeta shortage. It seems, with some sporting event dominating the headlines in the coming weeks, the preferred cheese for all those cheese dips and bacon cheeseburgers and cheesy hot dishes was going to be in short supply. I wondered if this mirrored the Johnny Carson toilet paper shortage of 1973. Hearing on the news that Kraft acknowledges a shortage kind of took the guffaw out of my thoughts.

So, I looked at my unopened box sitting on the refrigerator shelf. As it gets closer and closer to the Super Bowl, just how much would someone pay for an unopened box, assuming the shortage is not alleviated? Then, Monday night, I craved macaroni and cheese. So much for an unopened box of Velveeta.

Beverage:  Rooibos tea


Stuck in Time

I've had this clock for years, decades even. This was handmade by a guy who lived in my hometown. It was a Christmas present years ago to us from my parents.

I have it in the living room and, when the power goes out, I always know the time because it runs on a single AA battery. Two weeks ago, I came home from work and it was 2:25. Well, that wasn't right so I replaced the battery and fixed the time. Monday I came home and it was stopped at 1:55. I replaced the battery again, although I thought I'd put in a fresh battery, but you know how that goes, and fixed the time to what you see above. Nothing happened. The second hand didn't move. Now this battery I know is fresh because I got it at Christmas. So, I have to think something has broken within the clock mechanism itself.

There are some things you'll fix forever and this is one of them. I looked at the mechanism and I know I can get these at JoAnn or Michaels craft stores. I wonder how simple it would be to replace the mechanism. I need to go to JoAnn anyway if I'm going to make valentines for the valentine exchange. I can look at clock mechanisms at the same time. Has anyone ever replaced a mechanism? Is it easy to do? It seems kind of silly but I sort of feel lost without this clock keeping time in the living room.

Beverage:  Rooibos tea


Wednesday, January 22, 2014


I answer the phones at the office. It's part of my job description.

Now, never mind that my phone is pushing 20 years old. This post is about something else. When I answer the phone, I say the name of the business and then, "This is Deb." I've been doing that for 14 years now (as of 1-10).

In the past four years, we've been receiving, about two to three times a year, a phone call from some organization identifying themselves as the "Illinois Development Office". They have very heavy Asian accents and it's clear they are reading from a prepared script. The pitch, for the last four years, has been exactly the same.

"Yes, hello. This is [pause] Kevin from the [pause] Illinois Development Office. We want to know if your business have found a new space or if you are still looking."

The first couple of years, I was polite, but stern. "We are not looking." They would hang up immediately. Last year, I sighed and said, "Why are you calling us?" They hung up. Today, I got another call and I was not nice. I yelled at the woman, [pause] Janet (yeah right), "Take our name off your list, now!" Yelled. If you have ever heard me yell, you know I have a very loud voice when I yell and it gets louder when I am angry. This is nothing but a scam and I'm tired of dealing with this.

The woman told me to listen to her as she wasn't selling anything. That made me even angrier. I yelled, "By law, if I order you to take this number off your lists you are required to do so. Stop calling us!" When she continued to say, "I am not selling anything. Just listen to me," I slammed the receiver down. What happened next is surreal.

My boss was on the phone with the VP of the company. For the next 5 minutes, this company proceeded to call us and, when I answered the phone, hang up. When I didn't identify myself, you could hear the boiler room sounds of people making more robo calls in the background. I found out from a friend that the computer programs they use to make these robo calls can be programmed to call repeatedly for a specified amount of time. They were trying to harass us. The VP heard the phone ringing in the background and wanted to know what the heck was going on. My boss traced the call to an unknown Internet source, while I got as far as "Paid Toll Free Caller". He tried to call the number back and it would not go through. They left us alone after 5 minutes.

There are pages and pages and pages of complaints about this number. Most people say these are Filipino scammers. The little bit of reading that we did does not indicate how to stop them from calling. My boss said that if they call again, we will contact our phone company and ask for all numbers from that area code to be blocked.

It reminds me of the copier scam. "Hi, this is Letitia from Copy Centers of America. I need you to verify the number on the front of your copier for me." When I ask why, they hang up on me. They want to sell you a maintenance plan. I have no time for them either and, in spite of my upbringing, I have no qualms about being rude to those callers either. I know it's a job, but you're calling me with a scam. They better be paying you five times what I make because you're not getting anywhere with me when I didn't call you about a problem.

I'm passing this along. I don't know what, if anything, can be done, but this seems to be a pattern with this string of numbers. Several sites said the number last year was 882-013-0105 and the year before that it was 882-012-0105. I don't know what the scam is because I never let them get farther than their very bad question.

Beverage:  Darjeeling tea


The Bestest Place

I enjoy writing my weekly post over at House Panthers. It gives me the opportunity to take more cat photos. They know that sound of the camera and, sometimes, cooperate. I got a couple of great photos over this past month and the cold snaps we've endured.

They like to be next to me now. When I'm in the recliner, I usually have Pilchard in my lap and Mija asleep to my right. Sometimes, she climbs up onto the back of the recliner and stretches out by my head. She has a loud purr but it is so comforting.

I try to leave a chunk of time on Sunday afternoon for "lap time". I read or watch TV and Pilchard gets an uninterrupted block of time to be in my lap.

This seems to be hugely important to her. We do this at night when I come home from work, too. I sit down and watch the news. She commandeers my lap for an hour and then I make her move because I have to make supper and continue on with my evening. If, for some reason, that hour doesn't happen, she will 'yell' at me later in the evening and try to sit in my lap. Maybe it's a calming thing. Maybe it's just a ritual. Whatever it is, it's important and, seriously, what is more important than giving my cat an hour's nap time in my lap. Lowers my stress from the work day, too.

Look at that face. You tell me animals don't show emotion. She is really happy.

Beverage:  British Breakfast Tea


So Easy, My Brother Could Make It

Right after the new year, during the first heavy snow when I didn't go to work because there was 8 inches of white stuff to be moved about, I tried a new chocolate cake recipe. This was fished out of one of the ancient mailing envelopes that contain my recipes. I'm pretty sure it dates from the 1980's but it was quick and didn't take many ingredients.

Yup, that's the full extent of ingredients, other than oil and an egg. The morsels I'd had in the back of the cupboard. You can see the chocolate has "bloomed". This was a good way to use up half the bag.

The recipe said to mix the whole mess in the 9 x 13 pan in which it's baked but I couldn't find a compelling reason, other than not dirtying a bowl, for doing that. That is probably why it was suggested. You just dump everything in the pan, including one egg and half cup of vegetable oil, and mix with a fork.

The batter is quite thick. You stir until everything is 'moistened'. I found that not everything got incorporated at the bottom of the bowl and had to do a bit more stirring to make sure all the dry ingredients were mixed together. Then, it goes into a 350 oven for 45 minutes or until the top springs back when touched.

It's a lovely chocolatey color and made the house smell so nice. I cut the cake while warm and topped it with Oberweis' Banana Fudge Walnut ice cream. This is the best ice cream. Oh my.

I have decided I can't keep this in the house. It's so good, I'll eat half a quart as a meal and that's so not good, good tasting yes but good health, no.

The cake freezes very well. I had a couple of pieces the day I made it and then froze the rest in individual sandwich bags. I grab a piece and toss it in my lunch bag. It's not crumbly. It's very dense so it holds up well to the thawing process which can cause a deterioration in texture and cohesion.

If you are interested in the actual recipe, let me know and I'll give you the exact ingredient amounts. This turned out to be a good recipe, fast to put together and good to freeze for lunches.

Beverage:  British Breakfast tea


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Rabbit Ears

The amaryllis from last year sent out leaves only this year.

Those were around New Year's Day. A week later, they were double in size.

This is what it looked like this past weekend. It's a bit of green in the snowy winter landscape.

If only these worked like "rabbit ears" of old and pulled in 15 different TV channels. I might actually get to watch PBS.

Beverage:  Asbury Afternoon Tea


Baby, It's Cold Outside

The second polar vortex of the month has arrived and with it comes snow overnight and crystal clear days which will leech all the warmth the city is able to trap during the day into the night air. We love comparing "how cold is it by you" and the weather people get their undies in one huge knot over "dangerous wind chills".

The first vortex came with a dumping of snow.

That was a bit tough to deal with. I cleared the deck and the front steps and cleared a path to the Jeep and to the mail box. The rest could sit. An aspirin later and I was fine, tired, but not achy. That's how it's been all winter, so far. I take an aspirin before I go to shovel and that seems to prevent the aches I might usually get from ever occurring. My rheumatologist reminds me that aspirin was the choice of doctors for a long time to treat arthritis. Therefore, as long as I go slowly and take the occasional aspirin, I'll be fine.

I just shrug at the cold weather warnings. See, this is what winter is up nort'. We have snow. We have cold. Sometimes that cold gets below zero in places. It's bracing and the star gazing at night in the winter just cannot be beat. Man, you can see the underside of God's throne. I'm convinced of it. I think that's part of the Milky Way right there and, if we're really lucky, the Northern Lights put in an appearance. I remember them dancing across the northern sky when I was a girl, undulating waves of green. Dad used to wake me up, if I'd gone to sleep, and come watch them from a northern window. Living in Chicago doesn't allow one to see them owing to light pollution and the fact that they aren't visible this far south.

But, there is a very real danger in the cold if you aren't prepared. Wind exposed skin will freeze within minutes at the temperatures we've had during these cold snaps. Blood vessels constrict and reduce blood flow to the extremities first; hands and feet; to protect the core where the vital organs are. Continued exposure causes the water in cells to freeze. Those cells die and take the skin with them, creating black patches where dead skin is. It's not pretty and looks like third degree burns. So, keeping wind exposure to a minimum is paramount. But what if you don't have an attached garage and have to go from the back door to the Jeep? Well, I write a friend and ask if she had some foresight that others didn't.

My friend, Terry, knit me a scarf and fingerless gloves for Christmas.

They are a light gray and complement my slate gray winter coat. I would not use the gloves in this cold because I want to keep my finger tips warm but the scarf. Let's see. So far, I have worn it a total of 7 days. It's about twice as long as the scarves I crocheted so I can double wrap it around my head and neck. My crocheted scarves were really for the neck, to be wrapped around and employed with a hat.

Terry has a knitting club she goes to and I wonder if these were made as part of the club. I love it. I very nearly made a scarf for myself but couldn't decide on the yarn and, by the time I'd finished my last scarf, I was kind of sick of making them and needed a break.

It's part of my ritual on these frosty mornings, grab the scarf and wrap it around my head and sides of my face over top my ear muffs, toss the ends over my shoulders and put on the coat. That scarf isn't going anywhere once I put my coat on. No frostbite is getting to me, even if I'm outside shoveling the walk. The only thing I have never, ever figured out in all my years of living where winters are cold, how do I keep from steaming up my glasses.

Beverage:  Asbury's Afternoon Tea


Monday, January 20, 2014

Friendship Food

"Food is our common ground; a universal experience."  James Beard

Food unites us. When we think about meeting someone, we do it over food. We talk about bonding experiences such as, "She made a roast like my mom did". A wedding includes the experience of food. If we christen children, we usually have a celebratory meal afterwards. Graduations include an open house with food. Holidays are ripe with food. And, when we move on to another existence, our survivors come together afterward for a comforting meal, to remember and reflect. "This was his favorite food".

As I look back over the holidays, it struck me that the fun times, the calm times, the times that centered my existence revolved around food. It started with a Saturday brunch with Pam. She found a Baker's Square reasonably close to us and that's where we went.

There used to be one near the high school and, our bonding time, our getting to know each other time, was spent after football games or band practice, sitting in the booths or at the back table, laughing and talking. When that Baker's Square closed, there just wasn't one close by. We've missed it, well, the pie, mainly. We maintain our friendship over Steak 'n Shake and IHOP, but finding a Baker's Square reasonably close brings back a different time. There are so many wonderful memories contained in that glass decanter of hot water. Other than putting their names on their mugs, the method in which they serve tea has not changed in oh so many long years. I always liked this kind of decanter. It really doesn't spill and the wait staff knows when I'm out of hot water.

For Christmas, one of my guild members sent me a Subway card. It was completely unexpected and I was floored. Well, Subway is kind of the perfect thing to get me, truth be told. It's the right size. It's the right color. It won't be out of style in 6 months. It doesn't cost an arm and a leg to ship.

There are 2 Subways near me, but I'm known by face at the one closest to the office. Thanks to the card Carole sent for my birthday and the one Don sent at Christmas, I now have the staff trained. When I walk in, the only questions they ask me is, "What kind of bread? Do you want it toasted?" I'm kind of predictable.

Subway is comfort food as well as being a bit better for me than gorging on hamburgers and fries. With these crappy days  of cold and then rain, sleet and snow mixed, I came home exhausted and the last thing I wanted to do was cook. That makes me eat handfuls of cereal at 10 p.m. because I am hungry. This isn't good nutrition. Having a Subway card to use to get a good sandwich was a godsend. For several days, I ate well. Mija and Pilchard like the turkey so I do have to share but with lettuce, spinach and green peppers, I'm getting some servings of vegetables. On that one night when driving was an exercise in patience, having this in the front seat for supper made the stress melt away. I had to go out the next day, but, for the moment, I was calm.

And Patt sent me another Starbucks card. Starbucks isn't a place I frequent because I'm not a coffee drinker. During the winter, however, there is nothing like hot cocoa or their hot apple cider drink to take the chill out of the air. As I've been out in the field, including one Saturday of work, having a Starbucks card made the day go by easier.

That's a blueberry scone. It's not triangular as the ones at Panera are, but they warmed it for me. I sat in Starbucks and sipped my cider, munched my scone and thought of the friends who made this and my other treats possible. Dietitians may bemoan the amount of friendship eating that one does because it can be filled with not so great choices, but I think the friends who care to go find a long lost restaurant or provide you with gift cards to favorite places are worth keeping. I'm ever so grateful for their thoughtfulness and when that gift card comes out of the wallet, I smile.

Friendship food is the best food.

Beverage:  Water


Oh For a Pipecleaner or Two or Three

Last year, I participated in an exchange of Valentines organized by the "owner" of one of the blogs I read, listed to the right. It was great fun and I came up with what I thought was a clever handmade Valentine.

She's at it again and I have until Saturday to decide if I want in or not. I got two unique Valentines (I was supposed to get three.). I just marvel at how clever and crafty some people are.

I was thinking about this exchange two weeks ago, while sitting in the Jeep reading as I was waiting for the right time to go to my next appointment. Frankly, the idea of crafting Valentines leaves me kind of weak. But it was a lot of fun.

The area where I was had a JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts and I wandered in there during a rather long break. I lack any kind of door decoration for Valentine's Day except for a very small sisal heart Carole made for me in grade school. While I adore the heart, I wanted something bigger. Fortunately, there was a sale. (When is there not a sale at JoAnn?) After wandering about the store, I settled on this.

It's unusual, which I like. It's sturdy, which is very good. It's sort of visible from the sidewalk, which is also a plus. But, it lacks something. The heart is puffy. There's a good amount of space in the center, space I could fill with something. I'm not sure what. It will come to me and then I will modify this and it will be perfect for me.

Having this hanging on my door tugs at me that I could craft Valentines. I could participate in the exchange. As a pack rat, I have all sorts of things which could be used for Valentines. When you let your mind wander, it suddenly hits you. Those! Of course! I could make something light weight to mail out of those. I still have one Valentine from last year's piece of sparkly paper so I just need to assemble it. The search of the craft drawers yielded "those" but the one thing I think I need, pipe cleaners, is missing. I could have sworn I had a bag of them. Didn't I use them to make the legs on the styrofoam spiders from a couple years ago?

There they are to the right. Nope, they weren't pipe cleaners. They were called "chenille sticks". Sigh. Well, there is a coupon on the fridge for JoAnn. I guess I can head to the local store and see if they have chenille sticks in red or pink or white. I found the glue gun, which I'm going to need. I told myself that I shouldn't sign up unless I had the Valentine's made, but I'm thinking I could sign up as long as I have them started.

I'm still on the fence. Can you tell? I'll let you know at the end of the week what I decide.

Beverage:  Darjeeling Tea


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Winter Breakfast

If you've been around the blog for a bit, you know I'm a sucker for pancakes. On Thursday, since I was home due to the snow, I tried a new recipe. It comes together very quickly and doesn't have a lot of ingredients.

Simply called "Oatmeal Pancakes", that's the main ingredient. Other oatmeal pancake recipes I have use an equal amount of oatmeal and flour but this does not. It's 1 cup of quick cooking oats and a quarter cup of flour, mixed with a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon and an eighth teaspoon of salt.

You mix together in another bowl, one egg, 1/2 cup of vegetable oil and 1 cup of buttermilk. Pour that into the dry mixture and mix only until moistened. The batter was quite soupy I thought.

Spray a griddle with cooking spray and drop batter by 2 1/2 tablespoons onto the griddle. I think that's bunk, frankly. I took a quarter cup measuring cup and scooped that amount onto the griddle. Plus, I don't use cooking spray. I know I have mentioned this before. It's one of my pet peeves with Cooking Light, their huge over reliance on cooking spray. If you read the ingredient list of cooking spray, there are things in that, particular propellants, that we shouldn't be eating. Heat your griddle and slice a thin bit of butter, at best, a teaspoon's worth. Run that around your skillet and pour on the battle. Or use a non-stick griddle and forego the spray or the butter altogether. I'd rather have the few extra calories from real creamery butter than the probably derived from petroleum stuff I can't pronounce that's in cooking spray.

Let the pancakes cook until they stop producing little bubbles in the batter. This is a crucial step. Turning the pancakes any sooner and they won't be completely cooked through. Plus, with these pancakes, heavy on the oatmeal, the first batch tended to crumble because I didn't wait for the whole pancake to cook.

Here are the finished pancakes.

This recipe doesn't make a lot. I got 8. If you have more people to feed than 4 or they want more than 2 each, you'll need to make more than one batch. With warmed maple syrup, these were pretty good. I put them in bags of 2 each and froze them. They heated up nicely, for a minute, in the microwave.

I liked the large amount of oatmeal in these. It really was cooked oatmeal held together with a small mount of binding agent. The addition of cinnamon made the house smell very good when these cooked. If I want a lot of oatmeal pancakes, I have other recipes I'll use, but, if I want pancakes quickly, these went from start to eating in 15 minutes. The addition of warm applesauce or sausage would really make this a full meal.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea


Lemme In

The last couple of days, I've been hearing some weird noises on the window sills. I had a suspicion what it could be. That was confirmed this afternoon.

This is the window over the kitchen sink. Both girls, who were in the living room with me at the time he jumped onto the sill, dashed to the doorway of the kitchen and living room and watched. I managed to get this shot off before he dashed onto the branches at the NW corner of the house.

In the spring, summer and fall, when there's nothing on the roof, I can hear them run across the roof. Two years ago, I had a raccoon try to rip up shingles and get inside the roof near the chimney. Zeke nailed those shingles down firmer than they were, even though he said they were still in good condition but he understood not taking chances. I have not seen any evidence across my roof or at the peaks on either side, that anything has worked its way inside to be in my attic, nor have I heard anything in the attic which would cause me to be suspicious. So why the sudden jumping onto the window sills?

I had a few peanuts left so I scattered them across the deck yesterday. This morning, as I prepared to shovel, I saw squirrel tracks in the snow.

We assume wild animals have the capability to endure outside in the bitter cold. There are locations, such as under my deck, where animals could go to be out of the wind and mostly out of the snow. Some of the acorn squash seeds were dry so I tossed them outside after getting home and shoveling off the deck, again. Those were gone in a flash.

I'm not going to think too much about the squirrels, even the ones who peer in the windows. If I did, I'd worry myself to death trying to provide for their winter needs. Just so long as they leave the Dr Pepper alone I had to stick outside because there wasn't room in the fridge.

Beverage:  Huckleberry Tea


Tipping Point

This might be my tipping point. It's another snowstorm whose trajectory the weather people got wrong. I had just widened the front walk from the one on Thursday. They were saying, as late as 4 p.m. last night, that my area would see no more than 4 inches of additional snow. What do you think?

It was lovely yesterday with temperatures hovering around 30. That's why I went out to widen things out. Shoveling, the hour's worth I put in, was a breeze. I figured I could get out this morning, as long as I went early, and 4 inches wasn't going to put a damper on travel.

The drive to the grocery was slow, but the lot was cleared.

Carts were being rounded up as quickly as inconsiderate people just left them instead of putting them in one of the cart corrals. There weren't many people in the store at 9:30, which was good for me since I had to go slower than usual owing to forgetting the list on the kitchen table. I remembered everything except the chicken bouillon cubes and the cat treats.

Then, I had to head to the pharmacy. There had been a phone call about a prescription refill but I wasn't sure, looking over my medications, exactly what was being refilled. Since I have everything on auto refill, it was probably something important.

The drive east was not fun. The roads were mostly plowed but not clear, as you can see. And under that snow was, in places, a thin sheet of ice. I kept my distance from the car in front of me. I'm in four wheel drive but that does not guarantee complete instant stopping if there is ice.

From the pharmacy, I headed to the office to get paperwork to work on at home tomorrow, should the boss call us off. As I neared the building, the car in front of me, same distance as in the photo, slammed on the brakes and went sideways into the snow heaped on the roadside. I was able to pump the brakes to slow but I started to skid. Letting up off the brakes and applying a bit of gas, I came out of the skid and was able to slow to a stop before hitting the car. I watched in my rearview mirror as a Chevy Suburban hit the brakes and went sideways. I braced for impact that, fortunately, never came. That driver stopped, let me go around the car in front of me and we both continued.

I wasn't planning on going anywhere else after swinging by the office but decided my slightly shaken nerves needed cocoa.

Patt sent me a Starbucks card for Christmas and Starbucks is a block from the office. It's easy in and easy out. Hot beverage in hand, I headed home.

Right now, I ache, all over. I fear this amount of shoveling, and I didn't even approach the driveway apron, has been too much, particularly this close together.

Eric has been by to blow out the sidewalk. I haven't seen Kelly to inquire if he would blow out the driveway apron, although it wasn't too bad when I headed to the grocery. I could live with it if it never gets cleared until later.

In spite of it being picture postcard pretty, I'm weary of it.

I don't want any more shoveling snow. A couple inches is okay, but this dumping is going to make me very tired. I have friends who would love to have some snow sent their way. If I could figure out how to get it to you and it would still be snow, I'd do it. Better yet, come on up here and get it yourself. I have two shovels.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea