April 6, 2019:


The income taxes are finished and were taken to the Post Office yesterday to send out via certified mail, which now costs nearly $16 for two 8 1/2 11 envelopes with return receipt. Yikes! But worth it because I have proof positive once I get the little green cards back that the returns were delivered and received. And just in case, there are tracking numbers that I can also tap the U.S. Post Office for to verify that delivery was made. In these times, it's better to be safe than sorry

I have been working in little bits and pieces outdoors whenever a window in our crappy weather has presented itself. Today, however, was the first day where I was able to spend an extended period of time outside. First, I cleaned up areas on the sidewalk and driveway along the edges where pine cones and branches tiny branches blown off during the seemingly wind storms we endured over fall and winter 2018-2019. After resting for a bit, and removing the winter hat, gloves and jacket, I moved to the back yard because I'm sick of feeling sick to my stomach every time I look at it through the patio doors in the dining room and window above the kitchen sink. This winter left it a true disaster zone. I worked steadily raking small areas and filled two trash can size black trash bags full of debris blown down from my arborvitaes and neighboring trees over the winter, in addition to about half a ton of nut shells. The nut shells are my fault because I feed all the neighborhood squirrels. They are so entertaining, and very smart! I also made a small dent in starting clean-up of the flower beds, where the "mild" (ahem) weather and thawed earth has encourages perennials to start popping through, whether I'm ready for them or not!

All in all, a somewhat decent start to making a larger dent in clean-up operations. I worked outdoors about 4 hours off and on. I didn't want to overdo it, and truth be told, I'm pooped! It's humbling to not be able to work as long or as hard as I used to. I can get it done, but I have to take lots of rest breaks so it takes quite a bit longer now. Good thing I'm retired


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Easy Shepherd's Pie

Hola darlings!

Here's a recipe I created all by myself.  I'm no expert cook, for sure, but after cooking for a long time and having eaten many other versions of Shepherd's Pie, I came up with my own take on this classic dish.

It's easy to put together and I like that when I arrive home dragging my butt after a long hard day at the office!  I remembered to take some photos of my progress through the dish.

Okay, here's the recipe - 4 ingredients plus your favorite seasonsings!

1 pound ground beef
1 16 ounce package frozen mixed vegetables
1 can tomato soup
2 - 3 cups mashed potatoes (I use instant but left-overs work great)

PREPARE frozen vegetables according to directions, drain, and set aside.
Brown ground beef and season to taste with salt, pepper and garlic powder.
Optional:  Add 1/4 cup finely chopped onion and cook with the ground beef.
Drain browned ground beef and add tomato soup to meat, mixing well.
Add drained cooked vegetables to beef/tomato soup mixture, mixing well.
Turn out mixture into 9" pie plate.
Optional:  Sprinkle with 1/4 cup shredded cheddar or your favorite cheese. OR lightly sprinkle with grated Parmesan/Romano cheese.

Grated parmesan/romano cheese lightly sprinkled over the top.

Add mashed potatoes.  If using instant, prepare according to package directions.  Or used left-overs that have warmed up outside the fridge to room temperature while your other prep is going on.  Imagination rules when adding your potatoes.  Drop them on in a pattern, cut some into the pie body itself, spread over the surface in waves, mountains, spikes, get all fancy and pipe them on, etc.  The entire pie does NOT have to be covered with potato topping.  If you're decadent (like moi), sprinkle a wee little bit more shredded or grated cheese over the potatoes.  If you use more than 2 cups of potatoes, you may have to adjust your cooking time by another 15 minutes -- you'll want to see a little browning on your potatoes and bubbling around the edges of the pie.

Instant mashed potatoes were first "plopped" on top if the pie, then cut
into the pie surface with a fork; and the remaining potatoes were thinly
spread around the top with a fork and poked into mini-peaks to
catch some browning action :) It's not necessary to cover the full pie.

BAKE in preheated 400 F oven for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on degree of browness desired on potatoes.  And check - it - OUT!

Bubbly tomato and meaty-rich sauce bubbling up around the sides,
some browned peaks.  Cool for about 20 minutes before cutting into
if you want this pie to hold its form; otherwise, scoop out with a large spoon!

Goodbye, purty pie: I ate a quarter of you last night and another quarter tonight.
Store leftovers tightly covered in fridge for up to 4 days. (Usually not much leftovers for this dish...)

January 6, 2014: 45 below zero windchills around here today.  I thought you might enjoy this quick and easy recipe, that I'm sharing at The Dedicated House Make It Pretty Monday! 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Stacked Elephant Lamp

I had my eye on this Kirkland's lamp for quite awhile:

I have a "thing' for elephants :)  I started collecting glass and ceramic pink elephants years ago, after inheriting a small pink ceramic elephant from my Grandma Newton and holding it precious from the time I was 12 years old.  I have two other larger not-pink elephants purchased over the years at TJMaxx, and a hand-made 24" x 36" wall hanging from India of a lovely elephant bedecked with sequins and gold and silver thread.  I love all of my elephants!

Recently,  this Kirkland's lamp went on sale for $20 off the original price.  I decided to splurge a little bit and buy one for my front room desk. After shipping and sales tax were added, my cost was $51.67. 

The boxes were here last night when I got home from the office.  I unwrapped everything earlier this morning.  There was TON of bubble wrap and the boxes were huge, but the pieces arrived in perfect condition. 

In the photo above you can see the "spine" running vertically at the back of the lamp.  It holds the cord, socket for the light bulb and harp to which the shade is attached.  I expect it was less expensive to run this "spine" on the outside of the lamp rather than skewering through the center of the elephants which, come to think of it,  may have looked rather gruesome...

Because of this "spine," there is only one way to face the elephants with the "front" showing: the lamp has to be placed on one's right.

The lamp I've had on my desk for years (a Robert Abbey I picked up for $75 probably 20 years ago at Boston Store) has always sat at my left.

Oh oh.

Don't get me wrong. I love my new stacked elephant lamp!  It is well made and the finishes are very nice.  The elephants are extremely well done and the coloration is excellent. 

I did not think about the "spine" when I purchased the lamp and how the elephants would be facing.  My preference is for the elephants to be facing toward my work space.  Situating them on the left side of my desk with the "spine" toward the wall, the elephants were facing away from me. Not acceptable. 

So, I partially cleaned off my desk and put what was on the right side over to the left side, and placed the lamp on my right:

Hmmm...  Well, the desk area looks better in person, even with all the junk piled up on the left side of the desk.  That's my natural propensity since I am left handed (although I use the mouse with my right hand).  when I read and am digging through my books and papers, they are mostly on the left.  With the lamp on the right, well, I'm not sure that's going to work.

I will try putting the lamp on the left with the "spine" showing so that the elephants are faced toward my work area, but I suspect tht I'm not going to be happy with the "spine" facing toward the room rather than the wall.  I will probably end up doing some swapping around of lamps.  I think the elephants would work on either of the tables I have in this room and look splendidly.  But I'm not happy about this.  I wanted those elephants on my desk where I can see them when I'm working in this room.  Frustration! 

National Apple Day

Hola everyone!

I am behind my time posting.  Monday, October 21st, was National Apple Day in the USA.  I had off that day and picked up fixings for an easy-make apple pie (I posted the recipe here).  Here is a sort of mini-pictorial of my pie-making process.

Note: Use a store bought pie crust for the bottom layer of the pie, and it is not pre-baked.

This was the start of the bottom layer, using 2 apples.  I use Grandma Newton's method of starting placement of the apples around the outside of the pie plate, working inward, and filling in gaps here and there with the odd piece of apple (waste not, want not). 

This is what the pie looked like after the second layer of apples was placed (apples 3 and 4).

This was the pie after apple 5 was placed.  I probably should have stopped at 4, LOL, and just rearranged the slices a bit!  The pie turned out beautifully and was perfectly cooked, but because of the extra bulk I added I had to bake it for an extra 15 minutes.  It was torture waiting for that time to pass, I wanted to pull the pie out of the oven and start the cooling process so I could have a piece, it smelled soooo good!

This is after the cinnamon and sugar mixture is sprinkled liberally over the apples.

The next pictures are making the crumbly topping which consists of flour, sugar, 1/3rd cup butter and I add about half a teaspoon of cornstarch to stablize the apple mixture once it starts baking, so it doesn't get too "wet:"

Not the best photo, but this is about the right consistency.  As you can see, the butter, which is worked in very cold (I get a work-out by using a regular old fork to do it), is in rather large lumps.  That's how it should look.  I took the photo below on a different setting to see if I could get more contrast:

Here's the pie after the topping is sprinkled over it and "worked" into the cracks, oven-ready!  I know, it looks like it is overflowing and there is too much topping.  The topping sinks in as it bakes and the butter melts.  Sometimes the pie does overflow and drip a little, so I line the bottom of my oven with aluminum foil to catch any drips/spill-overs: 

And here is what this scrumptious pie looked like when I took it out of the oven after baking time plus 15 minutes:

As you can see, the mound of apples in the center has shrunk down in the baking process to a "cuttable" level.  There is practically an entire "crust" across the top of the pie, not just crumbs sprinkled here and there. It looks great without using a possibly "heavy" store bought crust for topping or making and rolling out my own.  It tastes really good, too.

Adding the cornstarch to the recipe (it was not in the original recipe that I received years ago), definitely aids in the pie holding together after it cools, even when using apples like Red Delicious (bake juicy).  I have made this pie with a mixture of Red Delicious and Granny Smith, and Granny  Smith and whatever other apples happen to be on sale.  This pie was made with Cortlands (on sale).  Depending upon the size of the apples, 4 may be more than enough to fill a 9" pie plate. 

Adding that 5th apple, the pie overall could have used a touch more cinnamon.  Otherwise, it was perfect! 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Cozy Falls Fashions

Hola everyone!

I haven't done a fashion post for a while but an email I received from Sam Moon this morning, an online retailer specializing in accessories, reminded me that bargains are to be had.  I don't get paid by Sam Moon to write about them and I don't monetize my blog.  I like Sam Moon because (1) it offers affordable accessories (2) they are up-to-the-minute on trend (3) they ship promptly (4) I've never had an issue with the quality/condition of the merchandise for the price and (5) I haven't had an issue with delivery. 

I think this ruffly "scape" is cute and would look equally great over a turtleneck, light sweater or blouse:

It is priced at $14 and comes in a medium blue, black, rust, olive, beige and maroon (featured).

The scape, above, is featured under "Scarves" at Sam Moon's website.  This "basic shawl vest" (image below) is also featured under "Scarves:"

It is $15 and comes in taupe (featured), a medium blue, camel, and black.  Below (in camel), worn as a "vest" rather than a shawl - another great look:

 I've been thinking for the longest time (years) about buying one or more of these fashionable neck scarves to wear with my winter jackets and coats.  This one might just convince me to pull the trigger -- I think the colors would go great with my light winter jacket (which I wore today, temps in the low 40's and strong winds, brrrrr):

This scarf is 6 ft. long, "teal and black plaid with frayed edges."  It's priced at $6, and comes in other colors. There are LOTS of scarves to choose from at Sam Moon, all priced less than the local department stores. 

Love this look, so cozy and snuggly looking: 

This is Sam Moon's "multi-function scarf" -- this is the ivory color; it's available in multiple colors.  It can also be worn as a long scarf/narrow shawl, long enough to wrap around one's shoulders to help shed those drafts.  It's priced at $7, 12" x 68" long.  I'm always freezing at the office, something dressy like this would compliment work clothes:

Geez -- I've only just made it to page 2 of "Scarves", LOL! 

I'm a freezy cat and where I work it's always blasted cold! At home, I keep it cooler in my home during the heating season (between 64-65 degrees F) because, especially while sleeping, I'm prone to those dreaded night sweats. The thing is, when at home during the day, I can run around in a thermal turtleneck underneath a sweatshirt with a cardigan sweater or shawl on top of it to keep me warm, and take off layers or put them back on at will.  At night I do the dosey-doe with off blankets/on blankets and sleep in a sleeveless tank top and knit jammie bottoms except when it's 20 below zero, when I switch to fleece. I cannot do that at the office! 

So, I've always got my eye out for modestly priced office-suitable wear that may help keep me warmer when, away from my space heater, I have to traverse the drafty ice-box cold hallways linking offices and common-area spaces or interact with clients in cold conference rooms.  Why do the men I work with never seem to feel cold???

At the end of page 2, I saw this look (featured in black, below) and I'm buying one right after I finish this post, love it!

It's a "cape with buttons."  One size fits all, and it comes in black (featured), ivory, and taupe.  This is perfect for moi because while I'm sitting pounding away at the computer I can button it up and retain body heat.  It is priced at $22.  Below is the same cape in ivory:

Last, but not least, I need to wear a hat that covers my ears when the temperature drops below 50 degrees F.  I get bad ear-aches otherwise.  I prefer berets because there is usually a little bit of stretch to them, I can pull them down over my ears and there is room to tuck my hair up underneath and it looks okay. 

This a cute option from Sam Moon:

It's an acrylic blend beret in charcoal and "beige" (looks like creamy-white to me but what do I know?), and sells for $9 in four color options.  It is 7.5" L -- not sure what that means, but it looks stretchy enough to fit on my head and around my face. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Look for Less: Traditional Home Visits Designer Joseph Abboud -- Part 5

Hola everyone!

I'm hoping to duplicate the feeling (if not the imagery) of the horse painting above the fireplace in Joseph Abboud's living room. 

The print edition of the magazine described:  A Roberto Dutesco photograph of horses creates a focal point at a console table supported by neoclassical columns.  But, it isn't the right painting!  Another horsely image holds center place in the dining room, a painting by Jeffrey Terreson. But it isn't the right painting, either. I could find no mention of the artwork above the fireplace either in the print magazine or at the Traditional Home website, so I don't know who created it or if it is a print or painting.

As you know, horses are tres popular these days and have been for awhile now.  I started seeing them crop up in decorating blogs months to a year ago.  As a chessplayer, I understand the fascination with horses in, perhaps, a more tactile manner.  They have an ancient connection to the game.  As a romantic, I understand the amazing, nearly telepathic bond that can develop between such a magnificent animal and his or her human.  As an historian, I appreciate the long relationship that mankind has had with equines.  The earliest evidence of man domesticating horses in some form or other dates back nearly 8,000 years.  In fact, that word - equine - is from the Latin equinus, from equus, horse.  That rather begs the question, though, because of course there was language BEFORE LATIN (B.L.).  Latin is one of the branches of the Indo-European language family from which many languages have descended, including the so-called "romance" languages and ancient written Sanskrit in which the earliest Hindu legends and myths were recorded thousands of years later.  A linguistic reconstruction of the original word for horse in the earliest form of Indo-European, called "proto-Indo-European" (or PIE) says it is something like ekhwos.   Our English word, horse, comes from Old English hors, which comes from the Old High German hros.  I can definitely see the ancient linguistic link between ekhwos and horse

I find all of this absolutely fascinating but you're probably bored to tears. My goal is to find something  reasonably priced, and I do not mean a giclee print costing $300 or more!  They seem to be everywhere these days:

Home Decorators:  by Liz Jardine, Steed Wall Art, a very large 40" x 50", $379

Home Decorators: by Sofia Fox, Winter Stallion Wall Art, 40" x 40", $355

Home Decorators: by Sofia Fox, Tribute Wall Art, 40" x 40", $$355

There are lots more giclee at Home Decorators, but you get the point.  Those prints are beautiful, and large, but too expensive for my miniscule budget.  And, since it's Home Decorators, I did not think it likely I'd find comparable prints at other popular shopping sites for lower prices. 

Soooooo, I looked for posters.  I know they're not everyone's cup of tea, but for the price and spacial impact they can make they're hard to beat when one is on a budget. 

This poster caught my fancy.  From allposters.com, it's called Whoa Slow Down, an art print by John Saunders (42" x 32", $83.99):

The individual expressions on the horses' faces are priceless and the color tones are neutral, but there's lots of spirit and action in the print, nonetheless.  Unframed, it's got a 2" border around. 

Art prints are created on paper similar to that of a postcard or greeting card using a digital or offset lithography press.  allposters.com offers many options, including having this print on canvas (40" x 30" would be $219.99, other sizes available), or a 42" x 32" wood mount for $197.99 (with border); $184.99 with border trimmed, other sizes available.  About wood mount:   thick piece of beveled hardboard for a clean and sleek style. Made from high-quality materials for durability, the art is finished with a protective UV coating. You can buy them framed, too (pricey -- I think you can do it yourself for less).

This Black Beauty (who hasn't read that classic book as a girl?) at art.com spoke to me:

Lepa Zena print by Marta Gottfried.  The 40" x 30" art print is on sale right now for $64.99 (reduced by $5).  Art.com offers all kinds of different canvas and framing options.

The print above the fireplace (photo above) looks large.  Finding a poster that approaches the same size - not so easy.  For instance, check out this poster I found at Amazon:

The Dance Wild Horses Animal Poster Print 24 x 36 inches

Framing this beautiful poster with a nice border and large frame to fill in the space above a mantel would be costly, but I'm thinking still half less than one of the glicee prints from Home Decorators. 

Here is another 24 x 36 inches print, Horse Trio by Robert Dawson, 31.45: 

Scenes of Autumn in my Neighborhood

Hola everyone!

I'd been meaning to get out early one weekend morning and get some photographs before the leaves are all gone, but circumstances and weather didn't cooperate until yesterday.  On my weekend trek to the Pick 'n Save supermarket I grabbed my digital camera and set out.  Some of the photos are better than others, but I'm posting nearly all of them because, as they saying goes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. 

Yesterday morning's weather dawned crisp and clear.  There was a definite chill in the air but the sun was warm and the winds didn't pick up until after I got back home as the skies clouded over.  It was pretty chilly when I was cutting the grass out front, let me tell you, brrrr!

Right out the door, the view down the road to my right:

This young red maple is just beginning to be kissed with changing leaves, promising at least a week or more of beautiful color as I walk this way five days a week to and from the bus stop to go to work.  I turn left at the corner, above, and head due east until 81st Street.

Coming up toward the intersection 81st Street and West Coldspring Road, which runs east/west.  This is the view looking southwest.  When I get to this corner, I make another left and head east down Coldspring Road.  Isn't the sky beautiful!


As I make the turn on to Coldspring Road to head east, I turned around and snapped this photo.  All those different colors -- golds/yellows, reds/oranges, lots of different shades of green, a touch of burgundy wine, and that sky.  The greys of the roadway and sidewalks.  Potholes, LOL!  I'm only sorry I missed the peak colors last weekend.  When I see these colors together, I wonder how anyone can have just white, or just grey, or just taupe, or just greige, or just - blah - throughout their entire house!  Mother Nature is showing us what we should be doing with Her colors!


This is another view west on Coldspring Road.  That is a very old farmhouse on the right.  It was in pretty sad shape until a few years ago, when it was purchased after the real estate bubble burst.  Slowly but surely, the new owner has been rehabilitating this venerable home.  It has many add-ons and attachments as one would expect a farmhouse to have grown over the years.  Today, no more farms in this area, but we are fortunate to still have scattered about these reminders of our past. 

This spot is one of the highest in Milwaukee County.  Going west, Coldspring Road slopes sharply downward for a few miles, and then gradually climbs again toward the county line running north/south that divides Milwaukee County from Waukesha County in the west.  You can't see it in this photo, but the treed ridgeline of 124th Street, which is the north/south county line, is visible from this corner.  Coldspring Road is one of the oldest roads in the area.

Heading east toward the Pick 'n Save off of 76th Street and Coldspring Road, a pretty view:

Framing the picture on the left is the trunk of a massive silver maple that has not yet begun to change colors.  Just beyond, also on the left, is an ancient crabapple tree that somehow survives year after year.  It's part of an old homestead on the left that was divided into a new part of my subdivision some years ago after, I assume, a death.  Until then, 81st Street did not exist. The land was treed and wild, with a lovely old brick home fronting Coldspring Road (to the left off the road behind that massive silver maple).  During the dry season, folks in the neighborhood would take a cut off Coldspring Road and head to Leroy Avenue, the next road north.  I did it myself, for years (I've lived in this subdivision 23 years).  During the wet season, there was a pair of ducks that nested in the pooled water that gathered in a low spot near Leroy Avenue, and people steered clear, not just because of the pond formed by snow melt and spring rains.  For some years after 81st Street was installed (about 10 years ago), those ducks (or their descendants) still showed up and nested in a culvert area where water still pooled, until that lot was also sold and a house put up.  I miss those ducks!  Fortunately, the lovely brick cottage was purchased (or inherited?) by a young couple who have since had a couple of children, and it's been lovingly cared for over the years. 

A little further east along Coldspring Road, looking across the road toward the south.  That ranch house for sale, it's got a GREAT backyard -- wooded, private, a gigantic deck running all the way across the back of the house and a three-season screened gazebo.  They're asking $199,900 for it.

A close-up of one of the trees.  I so wish I'd been able to capture the way the sunlight was bouncing off those leaves, and how some of them were translucent sparkling jewels.




Above, three of the red oaks left in the neighborhood. They are magnificent, towering over the other trees and distinctive in their golds and light mahogany colored leaves.  Lots of fat squirrels around, as you can imagine, LOL!  My subdivision is named Red Oaks, but nary a red oak survives within its confines today.  This property (belongs to the lovely lannon stone "Milwaukee tudor" on the right) is one of the few that still has native red oak trees. 

A few steps later I turn left across a short landscaped area into the Pick 'n Save parking lot.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

For My Mr. Don

I love you.  I miss you so much.

Hi everyone.  One year and one week ago, on October 12, 2012, the most important man in my life died in his sleep, probably from a blood clot that caused a massive embolism.  We don't know for certain, because an autopsy was not done but, really, knowing the physical cause for his death would not have changed the finality of it one whit. 

Here is what I wrote at my Goddesschess blog, on October 9, 2013. I should mention that October 12, 2013, the anniversary of Mr. Don's death, just happened to be National Chess Day in the United States.  He would have been mightily ticked off at me if I'd wimped out on our Goddesschess and not played at the XVIII Hales Corners Chess Challenge also held on that day.  Except for Mr. Don's pic below, I've left the others out.  You can see them at the Goddesschess blog post.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Hola darlings!

This Saturday is Hales Corners Chess Challenge XVIII in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Hales Corners Chess Challenges are put together and sponsored by my adopted chess club, Southwest Chess Club (formerly known as Southwest Chess Club of Hales Corners) and are held in April and October each year.

As you may know, Goddesschess has provided sponsorship to the Hales Corners Challenges since Challenge XVIII. Now, it's Challenge XVIII. How quickly the time has passed.

Our last time spent together (we were separated by a thousand miles and worlds apart...) was for a glorious week in Madrid in January 2012. Then, we both fell ill, diagnosed with the same heart ailment (atrial fibrilation, me with some extra complications) within a few days of each other. Don received first class treatment in Montreal and had been on the road to recovery by the beginning of August, 2012, but he passed away unexpectedly on October 12, 2012.

 The photo above is one that was taken of Don at his home in Montreal a few months before we left for Spain in January, 2012. He called himself "Pallid'un," a spoof after the old television series that most of you are too young to remember, "Have Gun, Will Travel," and the "hero" of the series was "Will Palladin." LOL! He was a handsome/homely man, Just like Don. In the photo, Don is holding an Avon "White Queen" he'd picked up at a rummage sale. He brought that Queen to me here in Milwaukee in December, 2011. We celebrated a late Christmas and New Year's together before departing to Madrid the first week of January, 2012. That was our last person-to-person time together.

How does one recover from the unexpected loss of a loved one? I don't know that one can, really. I had registered to play in Hales Corners Chess Challenge XVI. GM Josh Friedel was playing in that event, and I so wanted to meet him, one of our few American-made GMs, but it was held on October 20, 2012 and I was, to put it simply, not up to the challenge. No pun intended.

My adopted chess club was so great! I received a personal note and autograph from GM Friedel on the back of a Challenge XVI flyer, and the chess femmes had group photos taken just for moi. I was so touched, moved to tears. Below is a photo of the FOUR chess femmes who played in the Open in Challenge XVI: [not included here]
They're so beautiful! And below is a photo of the NINE chess femmes who played in the Reserve section in Challenge XVII: [not included here]
Equally beautiful!

I did not play in Challenge XVII in April, 2013, but I promised that I would play in Challenge XVIII.


I started "training" -- my version of it anyway, LOL! That meant playing game after game after game at chess.com, with my chess buddies and a few against strangers (one of whom was an obvious cheat) from April through this evening and still going on, and losing game after game after game. My chess buddy Shira Sanford, formerly Shira Evans, who played with me in one of the Hales Corners Challenges (Holy Hathor, that was back in October, 2010) and who, at her peak, had a rating over 1700, told me I was improving. 
I sure the heck hope I look better now than I did in that photo above [omitted], and that was before I was diagnosed with my heart conditions, yikes!

So did another chess buddy, Ellen Wanek, who teaches chess in school programs and is a mover-and-shaker behind Chess in the Park in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. My recollection is that I met Ellen online after I emailed her about an online article I'd read about her participation in the Sheboygan program, and then she came to play in one of the Challenges, and has come to every single one since then! Ellen told me that I've improved too. Here we are, yucking it up with some of the other chess femmes at Challenge -- I forget -- it was October, 2011. Ellen and I are on the left side of the table: [photo omitted].

Love Shira and love Ellen. I think I have seen some miniscule improvement in my play, but I'm a million miles away from prime time.

I hemmed and hawed the past few months about actually playing in Challenge XVIII. YES, I started out with the intent to play when I was feeling particularly healthy in April, but as time went on and some health set-backs, I just didn't think it would happen. Challenge XVIII coincides with the first anniversary of Mr. Don's death, and as the time got closer and closer, I've been getting rather emotional. Not that those emotions have ever been far from the surface. Far from it!

I was afraid. Oh, not of playing crappy chess, cuz I generally do that with no outside interference. No, I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to deal with the stress. My physical stamina has been an issue for some years even before all this heart stuff started, and let me tell you, darlings, when you have a heart that will NOT behave despite procedures and strong meds, that saps the strength out of you and makes you feel cold all the damn time well, that's just the pits, and that's the truth. What if I collapsed or, even worse, broke down in tears in front of everyone?

I had actually informed Tom F. that I was not going to play, and began to make arrangements with him to pick up the Goddesschess gift bags that, for the last few Challenges, have been given to the top finishing female in each of the Open and Reserve sections. But I decided last Saturday after a sort of epiphany during a semi-nap on the sofa while that thunderstorm (I'm sure a lot of you heard it) rolled through our environs between about 2 and 3 p.m., that I needed to play and I must play and I would play. STOP THE THUNDER AND LIGHTNING ALREADY, I GET IT, I GET IT. Message from the Chess Goddess received, loud and clear. Geez.

So, I'm playing this Saturday. Guess what - it's supposed to be rainy that day. Oh oh - that means SHE is going to be hanging around making sure I give my best effort. How many of you can say you're going to be playing chess with the threat of a Goddess wrought typhoon hanging over your head if you don't give it your all?

Be there or be round. As a special one-off prize for this event only, I'm giving a $100 gift card to the top male finisher in the Open and a $50 gift card to the top male finisher in the Reserve, after tie-breaks and all that stuff that I will never understand if I live to be 100. 
The special gifts for the top male players at Challenge XVIII this year were in honor of Mr. Don, my greatest chess adversary and also for National Chess Day.  It was significant to me that the special day dedicated to chess in the United States and the anniversary of Don's death coincided.  Ordinarily Goddesschess doesn't provide prizes to male chess players, as they generally have taken top honors in past Hales Corners Chess Challenges.  This year was te same.  What I am proud of is that, I hope at least in part through our efforts, several strong female chessplayers now play in the Challenges and give the chess dudes a run for the general prize money (prizes not sponsored by Goddesschess).  Sometimes they've shared in it, too, in addition to receiving Goddesschess prizes that are only for the chess femmes.  

I played three pretty darn good games on October 12th, and managed a draw against a much higher rated player during a thunderstorm (Caissa, the Goddess of Chess, was reminding me she was hanging around).  The 4th game I crashed and burned badly, but I was very happy overall with my efforts.  Chess is HARD, darlings!  Best of all, I didn't collapse in an emotional breakdown, I didn't die, and that nasty bad headache I'd developed during the course of the tournament went away on its own after a couple of hours at home.  I proved my own mettle to myself.  I did what I thought I might not be able to do, and I think I did it with a little bit of style :) 

That's me on the left and chess buddy Ellen Wanek on the right.  Ellen gifted me with a "Dance of the Queens" tote bag.  She's so sweet!  See those brown clogs I'm wearing -- those walked me all over Madrid in January, 2012, the last trip Mr. Don and I took together.  I've lost weight, this pic shows me I really need to go shopping and get some jeans that fit properly, a new slimmer jacket too.  Woo woo! 

I hope you enjoyed that draw I managed against the 1300 rated player, Mr. Don. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Fabulous and Easy Apple Crumb Pie

Hola darlings!  I'm getting this ready to post at Throwback Thursday #5 at Glitter, Glue & Paint

I was so sure I'd posted this apple pie recipe I've had for years at this blog, but it turns out nope, I have not.  So today I am correcting that omission.

This post is actually from my other blog that used to be called Chess, Goddess and Everything and now is called, simply, Goddesschess.  It was created to compliment the Goddesschess website.  None of which you are interested in because it's about chess, female chessplayers, chess history, and our research into the ancient origins of chess and other boardgames, and about lots of other stuff too, some of it whacky and wild, some of it pretty far out.

Not to get sidetracked, Jan...  Okay, so the original post that this recipe is from is long and talks about other things besides the apple pie recipe, so I don't know if it's cheating, precisely, to just cut out the apple pie recipe and post it here, and link back to my original post?  Anyway, here's what I wrote about the apple pie on a Sunday, November 6, 2011.  Get this -- I spent most of that day cutting the grass in my front and back yards!!!! in November!  Wow. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Yard Work, Genealogy and Apple Pie

Now, about that apple pie! I baked one yesterday, my first, but not my last, of the season. T'is the season for baking apple pie and making chili. Yesterday I opted to bake rather than make chili. The new Pick 'n Save - I have to say it has a splendid selection of apples, many on sale right now, some types I've never heard of before and have no idea what they may taste like. I am tempted to go back to the store today and buy one of each unknown type just to taste them and see what they're like! This is peak Wisconsin apple season although I'm sure some of these apples are coming in from other states, too. Beautiful, gorgeous big apples! I've never seen such big Cortlands in my life! I bought five yesterday on sale for $0.98 a pound but with my card I got them for $0.89 a pound, weighed in at 2.68 pounds! Five apples weighed that much! I bought the Cortlands because I know they're a good baking apple; they don't get mushy and watery, the death of a good apple pie.

Here is my pie:

Beautiful, if I do say so myself :)

It has a crumble topping and a store-bought bottom crust that doesn't need to be pre-baked. The prep time takes the longest; putting the pie together itself is fast once the prep is all done.

Hmmm, it seems I haven't written about my apple pie recipe before. Amazing! This is the same recipe I handed out to the CCR (the ladies of the bus) last week and also posted for the family at Facebook last night:

9" pie crust, unbaked - put into pie plate
5 -7 apples
Core and peel, slice into eighths (mine are irregular; these were really big apples and eighths were just too large, so I cut some of them slimmer)
Layer prepared apples on top of crust. Some people start from the center and work outwards; I learned from Grandma Newton to start on the outside and work toward the center, filling in odd gaps with pieces of apple.
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Mis sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle over the layered apples.

Crumble Topping:
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup flour or baking mix
(I also add a dash - and I do mean just a dash - of salt, but the original recipe does not add salt)
1/3rd cup cold butter (5 tablespoons)
Mix sugar and flour or baking mix; cut in cold butter until mixture is crumbly. Don't use room temperature butter, and don't work the mixture too long cutting in the butter, it will turn into pie dough! I this know from experience... It helps the "cutting" to have a pastry mixer instead of a fork, and to cut the cold butter into little pieces and then add into the dry mix. The correct texture of this mixture will be dry, with coated lumps of butter dispersed throughout. Distribute the mixture over the apples, trying to get an even coating. This forms the "crust" on top of the pie.

Bake at 400 degrees F for 40 minutes OR until the pie is bubbling and the top is light brown to brown (not burnt!)

Using the Cortlands resulted in a sweet pie that holds together very well and there is no excess juice to make the crust soggy at the bottom of the pie.

I was an absolute Ms. Piggy last night. I hate a full quarter of the pie and enjoyed a rare evening cup of coffee with it. It was cool last night so I had a fire going as I enjoyed my coffee and pie. Heaven, simply Heaven! The only thing that would make it better is some French Vanilla Ice Cream. Hmmm....

I will only add in the present that I have made this pie with a mixture of Red Delicious and Granny Smith apples and it turned out very delicious, too, but didn't hold together quite as well when cutting it into slices as using only Cortlands, and the crust gets a little soggy by the 3rd day in the fridge.  But if you have lots of mouths at home to eat up this great pie, your crust will never get soggy because the pie won't be around long enough for this to happen, so try a mixture of Red Delicious and Granny Smith apples.  I like sweet so I use one more Red Delicious than Granny Smith, depending upon their relative sizes.  Experiment and create your own special blend of apples to make this delicious and easy pie. 

I also should mention that the raw pie is going to create quite a mound of apples in the pie plate and you'll eye it dubiously, thinking it's going to bubble over the rim, but it cooks down beautifully.  You may get a bit of spill-over, though, so you might want to put some tin foil down on the bottom of your oven, just in case.  Beats scrubbing out an oven! 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Tweaking Mantle/Mantel

Hola darlings!

I did a little tweaking the past few days.  I didn't take photos of my latest coffee table tweak (I bought a pretty lantern with battery-operated candle inside at TJMaxx, added another "Carnival" squash so there are three now, Do-Re-Mi, added a couple of green scented candles which I know are bad for my health to burn but they smell so darn good, and moved the squash to an old woven plate-basket I've had for years, they fit better).   I knew I was on-track with my design for the coffee table, and I knew I was slightly off-track with my design of the mantle/mantel.  Here are a few photos of the mantle/mantel final tweaks:

Here's the "before" pic - no here's no "before pic" because it isn't saved on this laptop, it's on my other laptop and I'm too tired to go through the whole routine of moving to a different room and getting that one going, etc. etc. and (see comments at the end), BLOGGER IS THROWING ONE OF ITS HISSY FITS THE PAST FEW DAYS.

You can see there's not that much of a change but visually, despite my not so good photos, it makes a world of difference.  The additions added (is there a different way to say that?) much needed height to fill in the wall space and "link" up the arrangement below to the metal version of a Native American "threshing basket" that holds center place above.  Guess what I used -- okay, you never will so I'll just tell you.  They're the dried up stems of my day lilies that put forth their last blooms in August.  I cleaned them up on my "hookey" day this past week.  Yes, I wait this long because they're so much easier to pull out without the necessity of bending over and clipping hundreds of them when the bottom part of the stem area closest to the ground is still green. LOL!  I'm a lazy gardener - and a wise one :)

I pulled out several day-lilly stems, poked them around in the vase I'd been using, it just didn't work.  So I swapped out vases to the one shown in the pic, above, made out of the same mosaic materials.  The extra inch or so depth and the slope of the sides somehow made everything work.  I slightly rearranged a few of the "autumn leaves" elsewhere on the mantle/mantel and that was that.  I'm so happy with how it looks, especially at night when the battery-operated tea lights and candles are alight! 

I tried a few close-ups.  I'm sure no photographer!

This one shows the extra "stems" and branches I added from the back yard, adding
necessary width and height. 

A close-up of one of my favorite pieces on this mantle/mantel -- my acorn pepper shaker, LOL!  My sis Debbie bought
a set for me a few years ago, consisting of a squirrel attired in winter garb (salt) and this acorn (pepper pr).  I love the pretty paisley pattern in the tablecloth I spread across the top of the mantle/mantel.  This is "Dad's plant," a take-home from
his funeral around Veteran's Day in 2002. Incredibly, it's alive and well after all these years and it hasn't yet been
transplanted.  Notice the sparkly rust-colored "leaf" inside the plant's leaves?  It fell off the shiny leaf garland I bought
at Family Dollar a few weekends ago and I tucked it into the plant.
That's it for tonight.  I am having SEVERE issues with Blogger, this totally sucks!  I cannot easily insert photos/images, I have not been able to change text in my "gadgets" (what a bullshit name for the equivalent of a text box, geez) for several days and I AM SICK OF THIS.  AAACCCHHHHH!

Maybe it is time for Wordpress.