Thursday, September 25, 2008

I'm Working on a Quilt

Well, I'm actually, technically, working on two quilts. I started a flannel quilt for my husband, uh, ah, well . . . three years and counting . . . ago and it has now been quilted as of like two weeks ago thanks to three ladies from Church who love quilting, two of whom have been quilting for some years now, and a newer quilter friend and myself. I think it took two sessions for us to quilt it. I just need to get the binding done and I will finally be able to give it to my dear husband.

I picked up these wonderful flannel fabrics at JoAnn's. They were hosting a 1/2 price sale on all their flannel fabric, and I must admit I made out like a bandit. (I did. My wallet... That's another story.) But I love, love, love the huge variety of printed flannels they had at that HUGE JoAnn's in Tucson. I so wanted to buy tons more than I could afford. Oh, yeah. *goofy grin* I did buy more than I could reasonably afford. Ooops. Now I can't find a JoAnn's that big anywhere around here unless, maybe I go to the Houston, TX area. And that's quite a trip. Bush Babe of Granite Glen makes treks like that from time to time. Maybe I can too. At least when the wallet gets a little more something in it. *sigh* Or maybe I'll just make a few more quilts with what I have on hand . . .

This is mostly what my husband's quilt looks like. It will look slightly different once bound. (Sorry the picture quality isn't so great. I was in a hurry to post.)

The other quilt began as these three sisters and I sat around quilting two weeks ago when we realized that one of our young men, Jesse, who just turned 19 will be heading out on his two-year mission in a matter of weeks. We discussed getting together, pooling our quilting fabrics, etc. and getting this done BEFORE he leaves. He's going to Denver, Colorado. We've kind of had a tradition (long before I moved to this community) of presenting the returning missionaries with a quilt--as a token of our appreciation for their dedicated service. The tradition has had a change here or there: some quilts were presented prior to the missionaries leaving, as in the case of an older couple (the wife of this duo, was involved in my husband's quilt) because they were going to a cold climate--as Jesse is.

When it came down to it, we had so many other things taking our time--one sister had a brand new grandchild born, so she wasn't able to contribute at the moment, and one thing and another, so I looked through all my mountain of fabric to find I had more than enough, had enough batting, and enough flannel to back it with, so I struck out on my own to craft this quilt.

These are the pieces (quilt blocks) of Jesse's quilt. It will look different when finished.

With the time constraints involved, I won't be piecing this one by hand, though I did embroider Jesse's favorite scripture verse, John 14:15 on one square. Jesse's like that verse: "If ye love me, keep my commandments." He wants to do the Lord's work, and he doesn't use a lot of words. Using words will probably increase for him over the next two years. He's one of those "good kids" that you still hear about, doesn't get into trouble, has infinite patience and a very kind, loving heart. Oh, and he loves peach cobbler at birthday time, too. I made one of those for him, too, and had one of his (five) brothers, and his parents over for peach cobbler to celebrate--on a small scale--his birthday. I think I've known Jesse (and his family) for about 15 years now.

This is the embroidered block--not the best embroidery--again the time constraint. But it does accurately capture the Scripture verse, which is the point, I suppose.

Back to the quilt project. I finished the embroidery, and now I'll machine stitch the very large squares (all in the interest of time) together, stitch up the flannel back. Next week, these 3 ladies, and perhaps a few more from Church, will join me and we'll tie it. That process goes very quickly and will still make a nice quilt. We hope that when Jesse uses it, he'll remember people back home love him and support his decision to serve the Lord and His children.

Are there any quilters among you who lurk around my blog, by chance? What kind of quilting projects do you work on? Do you have special projects that you work on? Patterns/techniques you've found that you love? I'm such a novice in the quilting department, you'd be amazed. Or not. Share with us, please!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

More Critters

I guess this blog is mostly a taste of "nature" more often than not blog. I live in Louisiana. It's probably impossible to NOT notice all the natural flora and fauna around here. It's close to 7:00 pm here and I noticed "something" oddly shaped on one of the front windows. The shape didn't look like a pair of "love bugs" that have been harassing everyone around here for the past few weeks. I don't know how they manage to survive all the disastrous love-bug genocide that seems to be going on wherever a vehicle traverses this part of the country. They are EVERYWHERE! They covered my white blossomed butterfly plants, the humming bird feeders, the windows, windshields, vehicle grills, headlights, and on and on. They're a huge pest. But I digress. The critter on the window didn't look familiar in size and shape. Of course, I don't believe I had on my glasses either . . . and I was half way across the room.

So I snatched up my glasses, slapped them across my eyes and walked closer to the front window. I was really surprised to find a tiny little tree frog. It was actually OUTSIDE. And I placed the end of my index finger against the window to gauge it's size. About the same size of my finger--nail tip to first joint--less than one inch. Poor fella (or gal--I don't know how to determine gender) is sooooooooooo skinny. Looks like a new one to me. Its little tiny "fingers" were so fine I didn't even see the little suction cup ends.

It was apparently hungry--gee! No surprise! Poor thing WAS very skinny! I watched as it tried to snag a mosquito. (Darn! I wish it had gotten that bug! We have way too many of their nasty kind right now. Guess they followed the two hurricanes we've had close by.) Nonetheless, this little amphibian was very energetic and moved all over the place. That didn't assist my photo taking desires, as you can imagine. But I did manage to capture a few fotos. Tell me what you think. Will it stick around and eat tons of mosquitoes, per my request? Or will it keep moving along and look for greener (huh?) pastures? Will it get fattened up in the near future? Will it find its way into my house, looking at the shefflera plant?

Did I mention that we have my daughter's house cat visiting for a yet-to-be-determined period of time? Daphne has shown some distinct interest in the happenings of the shefflera pot.

Since the sun is about gone, this little guy/gal looks to be black. Don't be fooled. It's a rather froggy green. Kermit, are you close by to verify?
There, see for yourselves. It is green.

Ah! Better lighting--clearer view of the GREEN!

Isn't this just cute? (Though skinny.)
P.S. This picture shows him pretty much life size. I measured with my finger. That's how tiny he really is. (At least on my monitor!)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ike's Come and Gone

Gustav came and threw things around the yard, knocked out our power for more than half a day, rained about 3" worth and moved on up the road. Then we watched Hanna do her thing. All the while Ike was trotting around doing unbelievable damage to islands in the Caribbean. It's hard to fathom the extent of the damage done. One island lost 80% of their housing! Can you imagine your community losing 80% of the housing?!!

Then Josephine was fast on the heels of all the others! But Ike...Ike began filling up the entire Gulf of Mexico. It's hard to imagine how much disaster one hurricane can create. Then add to that, how much damage has been done in the rather near past! Gustav, Rita and Katrina. It tends to make one rather cautious and a little antsy wondering just where landfall is going to occur and how it will impact you and your loved ones.

We've been exceptionally blessed, I must say up front. I know the devastation to Galveston, and Houston, Texas, Lake Charles, Louisiana, and other communities in their near neighborhoods is huge! And we do pray for those individuals. The men from our Church Ward (congregation) and many others of our Stake (several Wards included) are planning to travel to Baton Rouge--where many people still haven't recovered their power since Gustav--to render service in cleaning up the mess. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints usually organizes and sends many needed supplies to those involved in many disasters here and all over the world. I know many other church groups, other organizations, and individuals do the same. Thanks to everyone who pitches in! I'm so grateful that there are so many good people everywhere who care enough about their fellow humans to serve them in times of need.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I'm Making Chicken 'N' Dumplin's

Today I’m making Chicken ‘N’ Dumplin’s.

My maternal Grandma taught me one way to make chicken and dumplings—with biscuit like dumplings cooked ever so gently on top of pieces of chicken in the stew pot and my mother-in-law and her mother taught me another way of doing it. I like both methods, but I’ve made far more Chicken ‘n’ Dumplin’s the Southern way and everyone who’s tried them seems to like them, so I’m sharing this recipe with you.

Since I was taking half of this recipe to a friend who just had a baby, I made a BIG pot-full. This is great comfort food to make up and freeze a portion for later use, or to invite friends and family to join you for supper. The recipe can be cut in half if you prefer.

I started with a large (large) pot (it’s really a canning pot for about 7 quart jars, but I use it more often than not for cooking large stews, soups, gumbo, etc. rather than for canning). To that pot I added about 3 quarts of water, one large peeled onion and one unpeeled carrot (minus the top.) If I’d had a few stalks of celery they’d have joined the other two veggies as well. Flavor is why we cook them with the chicken. (We do remove them before adding the dumplin’s.)

Next I cut a whole chicken hen in two and added that to the pot along with 2 additional large chicken breast halves—with bones and skin. The reason you want to use a whole chicken—bones, skin and fat—is because of flavor. You can use skinless, boneless chicken pieces if you want, you’ll just miss out on the exceptionally good flavor they cannot provide. You could add some chicken base to ramp up the flavor, if you choose, after the chicken is cooked. (IF you use chicken base or bullion cubes, follow directions on the label.) You might have noticed that I didn’t mention the addition of salt yet. That’s because if you add salt and then need to add chicken base or bullion cubes—well, you just probably won’t want all that extra salt! And bullion cubes are far saltier than the chicken base.

These are some of the ingredients I used. (Sorry I didn't get smart enough to photograph everything.)

Bring the ingredients to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer 30 to 45 minutes or until well done. Chicken is done when a thigh or breast is fork-tender and/or the leg joints begin to come loose. When the chicken is done, remove it (and the carrot and onion) to a colander placed over a bowl so it can cool—and you can catch the juices as they drain out and eventually return them to the pot. At this point I strain the stock just made in order to remove any tiny bones, skin or other yucky items to improve the nature of the stock. Do this carefully. The stock is very hot at this point. I use a large strainer set over a large bowl and dip the broth out with a ladle, small pan or glass measuring cup and pour it through the strainer till everything that shouldn’t remain in the broth is removed. (Discard that yucky stuff.)

Return the chicken stock to the pot and simmer. I ended up with about 1 gallon of stock. To that stock I whisked in 4 cans (10 ¾ oz. each) of Campbell’s brand condensed cream of chicken soup. It does make a bit of difference to me, because different soup brands use different formulas (recipes) so yours might not taste exactly like mine if you use a different brand. But don’t let that stop you! It’ll be good anyway!

While the stock is beginning to simmer and the chicken is cooling, it’s time to make the dumplin’s. Start with 3 cups of plain flour and 1 ½ teaspoons of salt. Stir those together then add 1 cup of milk and ¼ cup of vegetable oil. Stir the ingredients into a soft ball. It should be kind of like biscuit dough. Knead it gently till it’s smooth. Flour a flat surface and pinch off a portion of the dough roughly the size of ½ cup. Work it in your hands till it resembles a smooth ball. Pat it flat on the floured surface, then roll it out with a floured rolling pin till the dough is very thin. Then using a sharp knife, cut the dough into about 1 ½ to 2 inch squares. Drop them into the bubbling broth/soup mixture. Stir gently with a wooden spoon. Repeat the process until all your dough has been added to the broth. Stir from time to time to keep the dumplin’s from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

You might need to add hot water (about 1 cup at a time) to keep the soup level constant. It will take about an hour to cook dumplin’s. While they cook at a simmer, remove the skin, bones and other undesirable material from the chicken. This stuff makes for good flavor, but you don't want to leave it in! Get rid of it! Thank you.

Break the chicken meat into small pieces and add it to the chicken broth and dumplin’s. Continue to stir from time to time to keep things from sticking.
Ladle it up and enjoy it with your friends or family! Or, all by yourself. (But in small portions.)Oh! It keeps well. If you choose to freeze it, the dumplin's may get a little mushy when you reheat them.

If you freeze or refrigerate leftover chicken and dumplin’s, you’ll probably need to add a little water because the dumplin’s will absorb a lot of water from the broth.

Chicken and Dumplin’s Recipe

3 quarts water
1 large onion, pealed
1 large carrot, minus top
(2 or 3 stalks of celery, if you have them)
1 whole chicken, cut in half
2 large chicken breasts with skin and bones
4 (10 ¾ oz.) cans Campbell Cream of Chicken soup

3 cups of flour
1 ½ tsp. salt
1 cup milk
¼ cup vegetable oil

Simmer vegetables and chicken about 45 minutes, or until tender. Remove chicken and vegetables from stock. Strain stock. Let chicken cool.

Whisk canned Cream of Chicken soup into broth. Keep simmering on medium heat while making dumplin’ dough.


Combine flour and salt. Stir in milk and oil. Mix until dough is smooth, resembling biscuit dough. Knead dough on floured surface until it becomes a smooth ball. Pinch off about ½ cup of dough and make a small smooth ball. Flatten the ball on the floured surface and roll very thin with rolling pin. Slice into 1 ½ to 2 inch squares. Drop them into the simmering broth. Continue till all the dough is rolled out, cut and dropped into the broth. Stir occasionally to keep dumplin's from sticking on the bottom.

Cook at a simmer while deboning chicken. Add broken chicken pieces, continuing to simmer and stir until dumplin’s are cooked thoroughly.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Waspy Looking Wasp

Just heard from my insect expert daughter and it looks like the "waspy looking bug" appears to her to actually be a wasp. Just keeping you posted.

Encountering Interesting Bugs

Standing at my back door I noticed a really different looking bug satisfying its hunger at my basil restaurant. It looked at first like a damsel fly, I thought. Upon closer inspection, I realized it looked more like a waspy kind of critter. I thought: If I go get the camera, it won't be here when I get back. Oh, heck. I'll go get it anyway. And I did. Then I thought: If I open this door, it's going to fly away and I'll never get a picture of it. But if I try to take a picture of it through the glass (double pane and all) it will distort the image and that won't help at all. Well, I took a chance on the "through the window pane" and got this shot! I was amazed to learn much later that it worked! (I'm constantly learning about things.)

I went outside by another door (so I wouldn't disturb the little wasp-looking creature) and headed out back. Well, the insect was fine until I pulled the camera up to take a picture. Then it skittered away in flight across the backyard. Disappointed, I realized that I had plants to water. The 3 inches of moisture we received a week ago, via Gustav, now have to be replenished manually. I stuck the camera in my pocket and went about the chore at hand.

Then, low and behold! I saw an amazingly beautiful different variety of Tiger Swallowtail butterfly! And it was in pristine condition. Let me tell you . . . I whipped out that camera and began following the lovely creature across the yard striving for a "good shot" at it. It was more shy than the previous butterflies I posted a few days back. I managed only to find it pumping its wings as it freely drank from our lantana flowers. Man! That was frustrating. When I tried to move in--just a touch--attempting to get a good shot of it with wings fully it flew across the neighbors fence and out of view. I was VERY disappointed.
When I got back to the patio and basil plant, guess who had returned! The little black wasp-looking creature. Its radar was still working to a "T" and never allowed me to take a picture other than when I was behind the glass. It was even still around when my husband and daughter got back from work and I could point it out to them.

This little sweetheart had no problems with camera shyness. It's not as flashy, perhaps, but I appreciate how unaffected it was in posing for pictures. How nice to find somebody who's not afraid of the camera. Or photographer. So do these critters have a sixth sense about people being too close, or is it just the camera? I mean, when I simply stand close by and watch the little bugs, they don't seem to mind. But lift the camera to take a shot at them? Pfffzzzt! Gone! Do you suppose the camera puts off some strange kind of vibes or something? Maybe it makes a noise that only bugs can hear? I don't know! Except for this: When the camera comes up for photo shooting, the bugs high-tail it!

I want to know how to compensate and get the "good shots" anyway--without having to spend the heart-stopping $$$$$$$$ my husband assures me it will cost to get camera + equipment that will do all the wonderful things I'd like a camera to do. *Sigh*

I did enquire about that one black bug (the first mentioned in this saga) from my entomologist daughter. She's supposed to be getting back to me about it. On that. What it might be. I looked on the internet and found some interesting looking waspy things but they don't look like the bug I saw yesterday. The antennae aren't right. The body shape is close, but colors don't match . . .

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Answer, Perhaps, to a Mystery

Life is full of mysteries, for sure. Many an unanswered question daunt us from time to time. Why is the sky blue? Where does the sun go when it settles past the horizon. Why do babies stop crying if you stand up with them and begin again when you sit back down? Why do we crave chocolate--especially when we have none available? You know, major puzzlers. And please, don't give me all the scientific answers. I know they're out there. I've heard them, but you know what I'm talking about.

We've had a bit of a mystery around here for several months. And now, I may have the answer--which I'll share with y'all. A few days ago I was looking at one of my potted plants that sits close to a window and noticed a little "present" sitting on the top edge of the pot.

I said to myself, "Hmmmmm. This looks a little like a mouse pellet. But we don't have any mice in the house--as far as I know." Then I looked a little closer. There was another little "present" not far from the first. My feeble mind went to wandering--but not for too long. I had other things to deal with at that time. Still, somewhere in the semi-conscious layers of my mind the "pellet present" question churned, searching for a common thread with other information of parallel significance. A thought was beginning to form--but I put it off.

At some point later that day, I needed to disconnect the phone line to the computer--Hurricane Gustav had begun delivering a few presents of his own. Fortunately for us, none of them equalling devastation, thank Heaven! But just think of my surprise when I found--in the corner of the window just above the phone junction box (or whatever it's called)--a rather thin looking tree frog! Presents + froggie = froggie pellets!! One mystery solved . . . ???

Finding that little critter kinda answered a few questions... But only kinda. This is either the third or fourth tree frog we've found inside the house over the past few months, which of course, I've always kindly returned to the outdoors. The questions this particular critter's presence answered were things like: why after depositing one of its fellows outside a few months back, did I still hear croaking from time to time that was decidedly indoors and not just outside the window?

I'd looked around in all the potted plants for clues then, but found none. Just so you know, we do keep several plants indoors during the winter that usually reside outside on the front and back porches during the warmer months. I'm not excessively particular about examining these plants when we finally haul them in just prior to the first projected freeze, so things could hitch a ride inside in this manner.

Currently I have only 3 potted plants in the house. AND the one this little froggie was closest to is a schefflera, a schefflera I nearly killed with kindness and was about to give away a year or so ago because I didn't want to completely destroy it. When I told my husband what I was about to do, he objected rather vigorously--which surprised me--reminding me that it was his plant and I did not have his permission to give it away!!!!! Okay then.
So I found a different spot to keep it and I quit watering it. (I'd apparently suffered from amnesia about scheffleras not liking much water, or rather frequent watering.) Eventually I did remember: Water it once thoroughly, then leave it alone till it's dry again--that's what they really like. Takes about a month for this little plant to be ready for the next watering.
Earlier this year I was shopping with a friend at Hobby Lobby and they were having a sale on flower pots, and other pots. (One of these days I'll have to tell you about my friend, Mona. She is an absolute hoot! And we have way too much fun shopping together. Our pockebooks aren't safe when we tackle a shopping trip. I really should give her a call. Oh, we could get into so much trouble together...) We found a pot that we really liked and wanted. Fortunately for each of us, there were more than one, and more than one size of each. We discussed, pondered, discussed some more, and finally reached a decision. She'd purchase a small version, I a larger one of the same pot. I wasn't exactly sure which plant it would grace, but it didn't matter. I liked, and still do like, that pot. I brought it home and set it on the floor close to some of the plants that were still indoors. After a month or two, I decided that the schefflera would look good in that pot and that was that. I simply took the pot it was in and effortlessly put it into the new pot! No muss. No fuss. Whew! One problem solved. Now I no longer had to worry about the plant dripping unnecessarily on the top of whatever it sat upon when I did actually water it as the new pot was glazed and had no opening in the bottom! I felt such a sense of satisfaction and relief! Now schefflera and I are much happier.

Back to our unexpected guest frog: Where, when and how had it (or the others) arrived? Where and how had it survived? For how long would it have gone undiscovered if not for Hurricane Gustav? Why, when I placed it outside in a puddle of water on the cover of the gas grill, (It wasn't on. Come on, now!) did it look dismayed and still? Anyway, my daughter suggested I not challenge it overmuch, so I placed it in my lemon balm plant just a few feet away. It seemed every so slightly happier as it hopped somewhere under cover of the rain washed leaves. (Gustav eventually left about 3 inches of gently delivered rain to this residence. Others in the state, I'm afraid, didn't fare as well or so gently effected.)

One possible answer as to how froggie friend remained "undercover/undiscovered" could have been due to the fact that the schefflera has a Spanish Moss covering over the dirt--which I assume was put there to help retain moisture. I suppose it could have a decorative purpose, but simply don't know. (Another of those mysteries in my life!) So, one question answered, I think . . . the croaking I heard earlier could easily be attributed to this one little frog caught in the window. Maybe. Perhaps. Hmmmmm.

However, I still wonder: are there more frogs lurking somewhere in the houseplants? Are they sitting on door handles just outside waiting for a chance to hop inside? Did some frogs somehow hatch from little jelly frog eggs, morph into tadpoles, and then into adultish frogs somehow when I was over watering this poor plant? Who can tell? I don't know! I don't have enough clues...or brain power...or ...

Have you any ideas to share on the subject--or similar experiences, perhaps?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


I don't know if I can get through this without tears. Though kitty Franny put up a great fight, this afternoon she deteriorated rapidly and passed from mortality about 3:45 PM. We will miss her.

Gustav Came. And Ike's next?

We're still here--a little soggier than this time yesterday--but not bad! We had power outage for less than 24 hours, thankfully! AND we had some very kind hearted friends who came by with a generator for us to "recharge" our refrigerators and to cool down with a fan. (Their power never went out.)

The power company came by around noon and "switched" us back on! We're so grateful! With 80 degrees plus and 100% humididity, we were really soggy!

Thanks for prayers in our behalf. We still all need to pray for those who were hit so badly: Houma and there abouts, Baton Rouge, and Alexandria, Louisiana. I'm sure there are several others who suffered at the hands (winds/rains) of Gustav.

Now what are we going to do about Ike?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Franny Came Home... But Gustav's on His Way...

Little Franny came home Friday! She's not out of the woods yet, I hate to say, but she's back here and "holding her own" we think. Sarah's got to contact the Vet today to report the situation.

Franny loves all the personal attention, bless her heart! She greets everyone with a purrrrrrr and runs (the 6 -7 inches from where she is) to meet anyone who comes in close proximity. She sleeps a lot--preferably on a lap, or shoulder. If she gets close to the stairs when she's feeling particularly energetic, she's scamper down the stairs to "investigate" things. Of course, in her exuberance the first night home, she kind of tumbled down the last step and did a bit of a somersault.

Because of her long--exceptionally long--bout with illness, she's still skin and bones. She likes to eat--which has probably been her salvation, yet she's not "thriving" yet. We keep hoping/praying to see her fill out and plump up. We want to see slightly "rolly-polly" kitten here in a few weeks!

But now, changing gears, we're on the verge experiencing Gustav, the huge hurricane that has just recently hit the Gulf Coast of Louisiana. The cloud bands were noticeable at 7 am today. Though the sky is currently rather bright, I think we have nearly complete cloud cover at the moment. It's about 11:30 am here.

I'm so grateful that most Gulf Coast communities have evacuated--beginning as early as Wednesday last week! Woohoo! No waiting around till it got too late! I'm praying for everyone to weather out this mess (storm) without loss of life. I pray as well for all those who've recently moved back in just to evacuate.

Now if we just miss falling trees and power lines. Oh. And flooding. We'll see how we do!