Friday, June 26, 2015


Last week I found a few new Nora Roberts reprints someone had donated to the community lending library. It was nice to see some titles I hadn’t read in years. I do love the MacGregor clan. Silhouette/Harlequin books must do a nice business in reprints. Up to a point, I had read everything Roberts had ever written. My daughter-in-law and I maintained an almost complete collection.

When I read a historical novel, the reading usually flows. No matter when the book was written, and whatever the period in question, things like clothes and living conditions and morals interest me very much. I never stop to compare them to what we have today because they are so far removed from today’s world.

In re-re-(re-?) reading the Nora romances first written in the 1980’s or ‘90’s, I was really struck by the changes. What we wear isn’t too different, but the hairstyles are a bit more natural. Bus, car and train travel haven’t changed, but there’s no way now that anyone can catch the the next plane to the coast – or to anywhere else in this era of background checks and extreme security. There’s also no way lovers can meet or part in tears at the gate.

In novels these days, no one uses a typewriter. In novels these days, no one searches for change for the pay phone. In novels these days, no one lights up a cigarette. In novels these days, no chapter just ends with a kiss and the romantic couple moving behind closed doors: the doors stay open and we get a detailed play by play.

I don’t read too much Nora now, especially since she’s gotten into the horror/romance genre. I do still read the J.D. Robb books. I really like the Eve Dallas and Roarke characters, and some of their friends are hilarious. The books are set in the future, and though some of the new things like soda in tubes and flying cars are fun,  those books too are starting to get a bit too paint-by-number.

Do you think that perhaps prolific writers like Nora Roberts just seethe with ideas for new books? With over two hundred books to her credit, I think it’s time for Nora to put away her writing tools and retire to Ireland before her work becomes too formulaic and her reputation begins to tarnish. I’ll continue to enjoy re-reading her earlier novels.

Friday, June 19, 2015


Well, here we are, well past the Ides of June, and I've not posted the verse for this month. It's been a scorcher of a June this year. Temperatures for the last weeks have been in the 90's - not conducive to thinking of soup, but here it is: 


In June I saw a charming group
Of roses all begin to droop
I pepped them up with chicken soup!
Sprinkle once, sprinkle twice
Sprinkle chicken soup with rice

                                           by Maurice Sendak 

I think we all could use a bit of pepping up these days.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015


The Astronomy Picture of the Day is my home page. It is always fascinating, I usually learn something, and the pictures are marvelous. Today they celebrate their 20th Birthday, so I thought I’d celebrate and show you a few of my favorite APOD pictures I’ve saved over the years. The telescope pictures of the galaxy are fascinating, but most of my 'keepers' are earthbound photos.

Of course, even “rocket scientists” can goof up. On May 8th this year they tried to show what the rotating stars would look like in the year 14000 when Vega will have replaced Polaris as our North Star. The rotating stars will look no different to us because north is north here on planet Earth.

2009 June 23 Moon, Mercury, Jupiter and Mars

Aurora in the Lofotens

Big Blue Earth

Devil's Tower and the Milky Way

Eclipse over Rapa Nui
The Horsehead Nebula in Orion

Iceland Volcano Erupts

New York Hot Spot

An Unusual View of London
Saturn's New Rings
Perth, Australia - January 2007

Pileus Iridescent Clouds

The Shuttle Comes to New York
Stonehenge, where else? 
Thunder Cell Over Montana
Venus and the Moon

Titan, Dione, Pandora, and Little Pan
Winter in Yosemite

The APOD link above will change from day to day, this is their anniversary 

Friday, June 12, 2015


One day last month I read the following entry at The Writer’s Almanac:

“And today is the birthday of travel writer and novelist Mary Morris (books by this author), born in Chicago (1947). She grew up on the north shore of Lake Michigan, in Highland Park, which was largely rural at that time. She spent her free time roaming the woods and horseback riding through the cornfields. On one outing, she rode her horse across Adlai Stevenson’s front yard. He came out and gave her a wave. She went to college at Tufts University and spent her junior year at a study-abroad program in Paris, which kindled her interest in travel. As the old song goes, “How Ya Gonna Keep ’Em Down on the Farm (After They’ve Seen Paree)?” Morris went to graduate school first at Harvard, and then at Columbia, and although she often writes about the Midwest, she never returned to Illinois for any length of time. She lives in Brooklyn now, and teaches writing at Sarah Lawrence College.”

Interesting entry to be sure. This gal is about my age, just a bit younger, and seems to have had an interesting life, one that allowed her to roam and write about it. What made me do a mental double-take was the inclusion of that bit about Adlai Stevenson waving to her as she rode by. Why did the Almanac writer include that? And what did that have to do with the price of rice in China? Is that her real claim to fame? I wouldn’t think so.

So it got me to thinking: what brushes have I had with the famous folks? Not that any of them made much of a difference in my life – except that I can sometimes, as the Brits say, dine on the stories.

Well, there was the time at the 1957 dedication of the new Girl Scout headquarters in New York City that I was approached by Averill Harriman. He was interested in the patches I’d just bought, and it wound up that he and a group of us scouts got our picture on the first page of the second section of the New York Times.

Then there was the time in Barbados that I got to the hotel just a week after Bennett Cerf, Roz Russell, and Frank Sinatra (be still my heart) and their spouses. Why did everyone there have to tell me what I missed?!
I once did have a door at a New York City bank held for me by Howard Cosell, and Frank and I did sleep in a bed once slept in by Bill Gates and his wife in a Provençal chateau.

Are you impressed? Oh, please look impressed!   (Nah! I wouldn't be impressed either.) 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Unless something new and really tasty comes along, this will probably be my last recipe posting. I have been working on this for over a year. I’m not like America’s Test Kitchen where I could test the recipe changes one right after another. No, I had to space out my research so that Frank wouldn’t become sick and tired of pizza.

I did do a previous post on Margherita Pizza, but that dough was too sticky and too much of a hassle. I've been working on the recipe since then, and this recipe is so much easier. You can use the topping recipe there for a nice Margherita pizza.

Basically, the dough recipe almost equals one sixth of my two-loaf bread recipe. That would amount to two and a half slices in each of the two servings – just the amount of a nice big sandwich – not too much for a dinner for the old folks. It can be made thin and flat, or deep dish.

In years past I’ve made a traditional Tarte aux Moutarde, a French Tomato and Mustard Pie, using prepared pie dough or tortillas. I thought to make it with my new pizza dough, and it was just great.  Then I tried tomato, cheddar, and bacon – delish!

My spaghetti sauce recipe is great but a bit too ‘sweet’ for pizza. I’m tacking on the chunky pizza sauce recipe I developed at the same time I was messing around with the dough recipe.

The Basic Dough:

Start dough around 4 or 4:15 p.m. for dinner around 6.

1/3 cup warm water        ½ tsp. salt               
1 tsp. yeast                     1 Tbsp. oil               
1 tsp. sugar                     1 cup of flour

Mix the first five ingredients then add the flour. Mix until dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. Add a bit more flour if dough is too sticky. Turn out onto the counter, flour your hands, and knead it until it becomes silky. Form it into a ball. Let the dough rise for about 20 minutes.

It doesn't look too promising here, but just
dump it out on the counter and begin
kneading this with your hands.
Add a little flour if it gets sticky, and

soon you'll have a little ball of dough
that looks like this. Let it rise for 20 minutes.

For Deep Dish Pizza, spray 8x10 Pyrex dish  
Knead the dough a bit more, then roll it out to fit the bottom of the dish, spreading it a bit up the sides.  Let the dough rise in a warm oven until it is time to preheat.

 At 5:15 or so, remove the dish from the oven, and turn on the oven to 450°

Leave the pizza on top of the stove and wait to top it until the oven is up to temperature.

Then pour on the sauce (see recipe of Chunky Pizza Sauce or use 1 cup of other sauce), top with a cup or more of mozzarella, and pepperoni, etc.

Bake the pizza for 10 minutes, and then reduce the temperature to 350° and bake it 10 minutes more.

Out of the oven - crunchy cheese edges 
 Split two ways - delicious!

For Thin Crust Pizza spray 14” Lodge pizza iron or whatever you choose to use. Follow the recipe for the dough. 
Knead the dough a bit more, then roll it out to just fit the iron. Let the dough rise in a warm oven until it is time to preheat. At 5:15 or so, remove the dish from the oven, and turn on the oven to 450°

This is a 14" pizza iron from Lodge -
available at Amazon

For Regular Pizza, use about a cup and a half of sauce, a cup or more of mozzarella, and as much pepperoni or other toppings as you’d like. I didn't take pictures of this pizza, but you know what it should look like. Bake the pizza for 10 minutes, and then reduce the temperature to 350° and bake it 10 minutes more.

Now here's the finished Tarte aux Moutarde

For French Tomato and Mustard Tarte, first top the crust with a slathering of Dijon mustard, about 1/3 of a cup. Then lay on 8 ounces of sliced Swiss cheese. 

Top this with a generous sprinkle of shredded fresh or frozen basil, as much or as little as you’d like, and maybe some chopped chives.  

Then add slices of a large, ripe tomato, salt and pepper it, and top off with a sprinkle of olive oil over the tomatoes. Bake as for the Thin Crust Pizza:
10 minutes at 450°, and then 10 minutes at 350°. 

For Bacon, Tomato and Cheese Tarte, first top the crust with 8 ounces of shredded sharp cheddar. Then sprinkle on crumbled cooked bacon from a half pound of regular or thick sliced bacon. Then add slices of a large, ripe tomato, salt and pepper, and top off with a sprinkle of olive oil over the tomatoes. Bake as for the regular Thin Crust Pizza: 10 minutes at 450°, and then 10 minutes at 350°. 

Think up other tarte combos of cheeses, mushrooms, asparagus – be creative. These tarte recipes don’t work too well with the deep dish recipe.

I like to add a little interest to our pizza, so I sauté chopped onions for this sauce. This recipe makes five batches of sauce for Deep Dish Pizza for two, or about three batches for Thin Crust Pizza) or about 5 cups.

2 medium onions, minced - sauté  for 15 minutes in 
1 Tbsp. butter - and ¼ cup olive oil

Add 1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
      2 Tbsp. tomato paste
      ½ tsp. sugar
      2 tsp. minced garlic
      ½ cup of water

Pinch each of thyme, rosemary, and sage (these my choices – choose some of your own, but not more than a teaspoon in total.)

When sauce is done and off the heat add ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, and salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, June 5, 2015


This morning I was checking the statistics on my blog, and I noticed that someone had looked at “Retreat to Your Sanctuary”. I didn’t even remember what that one was about, so I opened it and looked. It was this one. I wrote it two and half years ago – and still it is true. I've added a postscript at the bottom.


                                  Tuesday, October 30, 2012

She's gone for weeks and then she's back two days in a row - the Curmudgeon. But as I was throwing Sunday's newspaper into the recycling I saw a headline that stopped me with an idea for an essay.
I loved this headline in this Sunday’s Community section of the Charlotte Observer: Outdoor Fireplaces: a hideaway in your yard. Oooh! Things are getting bad: folks on the lam are searching for hideaways. And what about those “bedroom retreats”, and “adult sanctuaries”?  What I want to know is from what are some folks fleeing?  Why do they have to retreat? Why must they hide away? Are things getting so bad that instead of sending recalcitrant kids to their rooms the parents flee to their own? Are things getting so bad that folks must flee from the world in general?

Being just two weeks this side of seventy, I’m from an era where togetherness was the key word for families: togetherness at meals, togetherness for an evening’s entertainment and learning, togetherness in all times good or bad. It seems now that every family member is entitled to their own inviolable space. Entitled, I tell you!  Our son has three girls, and each has her own bedroom. The girls are all under six, so there aren’t yet any “go to your room” orders, or even their own desire to get away from the rest of the bunch - but they’re getting older every day. Of course, the parents have their own suite, and there’s a small guest suite on the first floor. Five bedrooms: gotta have ‘em! I’d better not complain too loudly: I may need that guest suite one day. But you know what I’m getting at here.

Excess, excess – it’s everywhere. (Witness yesterday’s blog about Booing.)

The size of the average American family home is increasing – doesn’t every home need a living room, a great room, a playroom, a media room, a billiards room, and maybe a gym?  Our son’s home has four of those six, yet along with those five bedrooms it’s one of the smaller houses in his golf club community. I ask you!  But why not, it’s what up-and-comers do these days. And I really shouldn’t comment, because they are doing so well. But it just chews at my conscious. Though I’m sure it is mainly doing what they think best for their family, it all seems to me to be the eternal keeping up with the Joneses, the maintaining face, if you will, and the showing themselves that they’re all right Jack. Seems to me it might be our fault for not instilling simpler values in them. It’s a vicious cycle, and many parents will probably be lamenting about this for eons.

Well, that’s off my chest for now – but I’ll probably still stew about it later on in life.

                   - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

June 5, 2015 - - I must bring you up to date on our son’s home. It now sports a new salt water pool with waterfalls and a hot tub, and a huge patio that connects to the new three-car garage with laundry room, lavatory, and an outdoor shower. Every home’s gotta have those, doncha know. I think I’ll put a reminder on my calendar to see how things progress in the next two and a half years. As I said at the end of the piece, I’m still stewing. One never knows.