Sunday, June 29, 2008

Favrielle Doll

Aren't these just about the cutest little
dolls you've ever seen?
Add a pair of wings
and you'd have fairies.
When I finished the dolls I told Dick I'd have to make one
for myself.
He gave me the *where are you going to put them look*
and I backed off.
(Surely there would be room between a teddy bear
and a few dragons for one little doll?)
These dolls live in California with two very special,
dear to my heart little girls.
Carolyn Christmas (don't you love her name?) is the designer
of the dolls. She has her own web site - Gourmet Crochet
where you can find all of her delightful patterns.
I ordered mine from Annie's Attic.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Lady Bug Afghan

The Lady Bug Afghan is one I made for the Linus Project.
I raided the button stash for her eyes.
The pattern is from the book Easy Living Crochet
edited by Carol Alexander.
I found the book at Half-Price Books.
This is an easy pattern to make in different colors and
add a different critter to the middle.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Being crafty or handy has been off again, on again with me. I think the first time I held a crochet hook I must have been around 8 or 9 years old. My mother would send me during the summer to the home of the mother of one her co-workers. Her name was Vicky. She was from eastern Europe, had a heavy accent, and spoiled me. I loved being with her. She made crepes with strawberries and the best stuffed cabbage I've ever had. Her home was filled with the doilies she crocheted. Vicky did her best to teach me. I remember the small metal hook and the tiny thread and think all I mastered was making a very long chain. The seed had been planted.

Later when I was in college I picked up the hook again and my biggest project was a pineapple design afghan. I still have the pattern. I taught myself to knit and made a baby sweater.

I don't know why I quit crocheting and knitting. Life just interrupts sometimes. Some 30+ years later I rediscovered the joys of the hook and needles along with embroidery and counted cross stitch. Maybe it's all the beautiful colored yarns that call to me. (I love nail polish and paper -- all the wonderful colors!) Perhaps the delight in finishing a project and then starting something new. Maybe it's just relaxing - a way to meditate.

The blanket pictured was made for a special little girl in California. The yarn is Cotton Tots by Bernat and from the Bernat pattern book - Sweet Sets. When I was going through our pictures looking for the crafty things I've made I noted that I didn't take pictures of everything. Shucks.

I'll have another show and tell post tomorrow.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Spicy Garlic Shrimp with Asparagus

There is a little story to tell before I get to the Spicy Garlic Shrimp recipe. In mid May, Dick and I took a Leisure Living course called Chinatown Walking Tour and Dim Sum Lunch. The tour guide has been leading this tour for years. I've seen it mentioned in the newspaper food section many times and thought this was the year we would go. The Houston Chinatown area has grown by leaps and bounds and this was a good way to venture away from home and see what was out there! Ocean Palace was out there along with the Hong Kong City Mall. The grounds around the Palace are lovely. Our tour guide ordered for the group. The menu was in English, Chinese and Vietnamese. Everyone in the group had a copy of the menu and we made notes as we ate. It was good, but the highlight of the tour was the Hong Kong City Market. I've never seen (except perhaps in San Francisco) such a wide selection of greens, vegetables and fruits along with lots of crispy duck. We didn't get carried away at the market, but did bring home some fish sauce and garlic chili pepper sauce.

Now for the Spicy Garlic Shrimp with Asparagus recipe. Credit has to go to the Taste of Thai web site. If you like Thai food check it out. They have lots of recipes. I put the fish sauce and garlic chili pepper sauce from the Hong Kong Market to good use in this recipe. It is quick, easy and very tasty. We enjoyed it with a nice cold beer!

Yield: 2-4 servings

  • 2 Tbsp garlic chili pepper sauce
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 Tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 3 tsp fish sauce, divided
  • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 lb thin asparagus*
  • 3 Tbsp oil
  • Fresh cracked pepper to taste
Optional: chopped cilantro

  1. In a medium size bowl add garlic chili pepper sauce, garlic, sugar, lime juice and 2 teaspoons of the fish sauce. Mix well. Add shrimp and mix until covered with sauce. Set aside to season.
  2. Diagonally trim asparagus into one inch pieces. *If thicker asparagus is used, boil in salted water 2-3 minutes. Drain, and immediately cool down in ice water. Drain well.
  3. Heat oil in a large skillet over a high heat. Add asparagus, remaining teaspoon of fish sauce, and fresh cracked pepper. Stir-fry 3-5 minutes, or until asparagus is tender-crisp.
  4. Add shrimp mixture to skillet. Stir-fry until shrimp turns opaque (pink) and sauce is well mixed with ingredients. Serve immediately. If desired, sprinkle with cilantro and serve with hot jasmine rice.
Those who know me know I never make a recipe the way it is written and probably don't make it the same way twice! I had some yellow bell pepper left over and some scallions that I added to this dish. Colorful!

As for dim sum, there is a wonderful little hole in the wall near us called Yum Yum Cha (great name) that has wonderful dim sum. With the price of gas, it's nice to stay close to home.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tomato and Red Onion Salad

Better Homes and Gardens Magazine has a delicious looking and easy recipe called TOMATO AND RED ONION SALAD. Here it is straight from the July 2008 issue:

  • Choose as you please a variety of heirloom and farmstead tomatoes - whole, sliced, and cut in wedges - for a colorful salad.
  • Prep: 25 min. Stand: 25 min.
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 8 cups tomatoes, cut (about 3 lb.)
  1. In a medium bowl combine 4 cups ice cold water and 2 teaspoons salt; stir to dissolve salt. Add onion slices; stir gently to separate rings. Let stand 20 minutes; drain.
  2. Meanwhile, for Sweet-Sour Dressing, in small bowl whisk together vinegar, sugar, and 3/4 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground black pepper. In extra-large bowl combine tomatoes and drained onions Add dressing; gently toss to coat. let stand 5 minutes. Serves 6 to 8.
Some of our balcony tomatoes are in the bowl and peeking her little nose (as usual) into whatever is happening around the house is our little imp Miss Riley. Riley has an almost twin brother, Rocky. The ruler of the house is Teddy (Theodorable). They each have their own story (for another time). All three cats have well trained staff!

Monday, June 16, 2008

It's Monday

We were up and at 'em early today. After watering the tomatoes and the herbs, I was off to the gym for my date with the treadmill. Walk, walk, walk. Good for the bad back.

Dick was off to his drawing class. Retirement for him has been fun. Last fall he took a continuing education drawing class at a local college. The class was called "You Too Can Draw" and he found out that yes, He Too Could Draw! He did a portrait of the grandson and it really does look like the little guy. This summer he decided to take a real beginning drawing class from the museum art school. So far so good. And, it keeps him inside in the AC.

One of the other things on Dick's retirement list is getting back to golf. It's been a very long time since he has played and his clubs could be considered antiques! He's taken a few classes through Leisure Learning and Golf Galaxy, been out to the driving range, and has played a couple of rounds of best ball. When we go to a bookstore, instead of the history or mystery section, he's of to the sports section to see what's new in golf.

Stay cool and have a good day!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sanctuary Garden

Once we decided that the garden will be a memorial to Musashi what was next? It was list time. What did we really want in the backyard that would make us happy? What were we looking for? SANCTUARY in very big letters.
  • We wanted a garden we could enjoy all year.
  • We wanted a garden that was critter friendly.
  • I wanted a place for herbs and maybe a few vegetables.
The list went on and on. About the same time I was reading a book titled THE SANCTUARY GARDEN by Christopher Forrest McDowell and Tricia Clark-McDowell. This little book helped me gather my thoughts and feelings.

I admit the whole garden process has been an experiment. Some plants haven't worked at all and were replaced. One plant I had to have was roses. One of Musashi's favorite places was the balcony where he would sit under the roses and watch the birds, squirrels and people. The first two plants were a red rose and an apricot rose on either side of Musashi.

The garden has grown. We planted in containers and moved them around until we found a spot they liked. We have two lime trees that are in the ground and a tangerine and satsuma orange that are in containers. Green beans, herbs (peppermint, cat nip, lavender, rosemary, sage). Red and gold Ixora. Plumbago. Purple trumpet vines. Penta of all colors. Amaryllis. Camellia. Gardenia.

Musashi's Garden is a garden of comfort. We share this small space with critters we like to watch. We have successfully provided a habitat and features to attract different birds, toads, frogs, butterflies. It is a special place that we enjoy year round.

Gardens talk to you. All you have to do is sit and listen. The special sound the leaves in the trees make when the wind blows. Birds singing and calling to each other or letting us know it is time to hurry up and put food in the feeder! (We don't feed them on the ground anymore.) Squirrels chattering. Wind chimes. Water in the fountains. The buzz of a bee or mosquito. At night the sounds of the toads and frogs.

Gardens have the power to heal, soothe and stimulate. Did you know the word "paradise" comes from a Persian term for garden? We have our own little paradise right here on earth.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Musashi's Garden

When we moved into our home nine years ago our postage stamp backyard was all grass. My husband and I learned quickly that weed wacking the grass was not the way to go! We both agreed that buying a lawn mover for what little grass we had was silly and grass wasn't what we wanted in the first place! We hired various companies for suggestions about what to do with the space. The bids we received were for amazing amounts of money or simply designs we didn't like. We decided to take the plunge and do what we felt like doing.

We hired someone to come and remove the sod and rototill where we wanted planting space (part of which is in the five foot utility easement). My husband (Dick) spent time with pencil and graph paper designing the brick walk and patio he was going to build. The work went slowly - mainly ideas only - until our beloved kitty Musashi passed over the Rainbow Bridge. Our garden became a loving memory to Musashi - Musashi's Garden.

Stress Test

At the first baseball dinner of the year Coach Graham said it was going to be a very interesting year. He wasn't kidding. This year has been a cardiac stress test for Rice baseball fans. We've had no idea what we were going to see when we got to the ballpark. If anyone had told us when the team was 8-7 we would be going to Omaha for the College World Series for the third time in three years, we wouldn't have believed them.

If you've guessed by now the Owls won their super regional against Texas A&M you'd be correct -- by the skin of their teeth.

Because Rice is a small university, baseball season ticket holders are like an extended family. You know the names of the fans sitting around you in your section and usually something about them and their family. You exchange email addresses and telephone numbers to keep in touch during the off season because you really do miss them when baseball season is over. You meet the players. You realize that Rice has successfully combined the student with the athlete. Listening to the team last night at the after game celebration was a joy. These are articulate young men who are a pleasure to be around no matter how much stress they've put us through.

Fans always have their favorite players. One player everyone has been rooting for is Jimmy Comerota. He started the year as our utility infielder. If someone needed a day off, Jimmy got to play. Our second baseman suffered a season ending injury and suddenly Jimmy became the starting second baseman. The fans watched Jimmy mature as a defensive and offensive player and (even Coach Graham agrees) one of the best second basemen in college baseball. To put the icing on the cake, Jimmy is also an excellent student. Go Jimmy Baseball!

No matter what may happen in Omaha in 2008, we are proud of our Owls. GO OWLS!

Friday, June 6, 2008


I just finished reading Nightshade by Susan Wittig Albert. Nightshade is the sixteenth book in a cozy mystery series featuring China Bayles. You read that right. Sixteen books in a series and I've read all of them.

China Bayles left practice as a criminal attorney in Houston and bought a century old building in the fictional city of Pecan Springs in the Texas Hill Country. In Pecan Springs China turned to her love of herbs and started her shop Thyme & Seasons. Her best friend, the vibrant and flamboyant Ruby Wilcox, runs the only New Age shop (Crystal Cave) in Pecan Springs and co-owns with China a tea shop called Thyme For Tea.

China's husband, McQuaid is an ex-cop who has tired of the politics involved in his position as an associate professor in the criminal justice department at the local college. He recently hung out his shingle as a private investigator.

Nightshade centers on the story of China's half brother Miles and their father Bob Bayles. Bob died sixteen years ago in an automobile accident. Miles believes that there was something funny about their father's death and hires McQuaid to help him investigate the case. China has mixed feelings. She had a difficult relationship with her father and it was just a few months before that she learned that Miles Danforth was her half brother, a product of a long term relationship between her father and his secretary Laura Danforth.

Albert takes some chances with Nightshade. The usual cast of Pecan Springs characters - Ruby, Brian (McQuaid's teenage son), Smart Cookie (beautiful and tough Pecan Springs Police Chief), Blackie (county sheriff) - are hardly seen. The story centers on China, McQuaid and Miles. Albert's previous books in the series are written in China's voice. In Nightshade, Albert adds the third person perspective of McQuaid. While interesting to read what McQuaid is thinking and feeling, I thought it broke the flow of the book.

As usual, Albert includes snippets of herb and plant lore along with the ever popular recipes. I missed my yearly visit with the characters living in Pecan Springs, but Nightshade did answer many questions about China and her father. I recommend this series to cozy mystery lovers as well as those who are interested in herbs.

Albert has a web site that includes information about her books (3 different series), herbs, recipes and the blogs that Albert writes. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Good Morning!

Good Morning! When I wake up I try to do the same things every morning. It's my attempt to get the day off to a good start. Up on my feet and open the shutters to take my first look at the day. The world still exists outside my window. The grass is green. The sun is shining. The trees shading the earth. Thank you for another beautiful day. Do something good with this day!

Then it's out to the balcony to water the tomatoes. Tomatoes on the balcony? Yes! We have a postage stamp back yard which is lovely and I'll share that with you another day. Several years ago we tried tomatoes in the back yard -- in the ground and in containers. I believe we enjoyed one ripe, red juicy tomato. The rest were eaten by Mr. and Mrs. Squirrel and their offspring. Really! We watched them early one morning taking even the green tomatoes off the plant and eating away. I decided this year to try tomatoes in containers on the balcony and I'm happy to report that it seems to be working. We have a dozen tomatoes so far. Delicious! Nothing like a home grown, no pesticide (and all of that) tomato. I did notice yesterday morning that one of the ripening tomatoes had claw/tooth prints. It was still on the plant this morning. I'm leaving it just in case the Squirrel family wants to continue to munch. I keep telling myself "compassion for all living things". "You have enough. You can share with these critters." I don't eat THEIR acorns. Next year we will plant more veggies in more containers on our balcony garden.

I also try to read a brief poem or words of wisdom from a favorite source. Then I'm really ready to say "Charge! Full speed ahead!" Here is a favorite from a small book edited by Jack Kornfield called "Teachings of The Buddha".


We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with an impure mind
And trouble will follow you
As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with a pure mind
And happiness will follow you
As your shadow, unshakable.
How can a troubled mind
Understand the way?

Your worst enemy cannot harm you
As much as your own thoughts, unguarded.

But once mastered,
No one can help you as much,
Not even your father or your mother.

from the DHAMMAPADA, translated by Thomas Byrom

Wishing you a bright and beautiful day. Good morning!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Journals and Baseball

I've been thinking about starting a blog for months. It seems like a good way for family and friends to keep up with what is happening at Twisty Lane. It also seems like a good way to keep a diary or journal. Remember those little books that came with a lock and a key? Every little girl had one. I think I had a pink book and I don't remember writing anything in it! A diary online. What next?

It is college baseball season. In fact, it is the road to Omaha time and the College World Series. We are big college baseball fans and follow the Rice University Owls. Rice University is a beautiful place. It is a three mile walk around the entire campus ... beautiful live oak trees the whole walk. Rice is a small university with an undergraduate and graduate population of a little under 5,000. Rice baseball is coached by Wayne Graham. Under Coach Graham the Owls have won conference championships 13 years in a row (1996-2008), appeared in the NCAA regionals 14 times (counting this year), super regionals 8 times (also counting this year) and have appeared in the College World Series 6 times winning and becoming national champions in 2003. Home for the baseball Owls is Reckling Park, a beautiful, pitcher friendly facility that overlooks the Texas Medical Center. Last weekend the Owls won their regional and this weekend will host Texas A&M in the super regional. There are three former Owls on the hometown Houston Astros: left handed pitcher Tim Byrdak, outfielder Jose Cruz Jr., and first baseman Lance Berkman who was the National League player of the month for May. GO OWLS!