Thursday, August 30, 2007

New Babies in the Aquarium

For those readers who have been around for a while know that I keep a couple of fish tanks.

In the large (116 gallon) aquarium, I have some Bronze Corydoras that are very regular about spawning. The first time they spawned, I was able to save the eggs in the hope that they would hatch. Sadly, that first batch of eggs wasn't fertile. Subsequent batches of eggs were eaten by the other fish in the aquarium before I could save them.
photo of the first batch of fish eggs

Last week the fish spawned again. I was home and alert to the spawning and was able to save about a dozen eggs. I was able to move the eggs to the recently vacated fish tank in the kitchen. I watched as the eggs got darker. The night before they hatched, I could see the little guys wiggling around in their egg cases. The next day, the eggs had hatched but wouldn't you know it, it was also the day that the filter pump selected to die. I thought that that was it for the little guys. I squirted some food for freshly hatched fish in there anyway and went off to buy a new pump.

Today, there were more eggs laid on the glass in the big aquarium and I was able to collect about 30 eggs. They were being placed in the kitchen aquarium when I saw them, the babies from the previous batch. I have seen about three teeny tiny little fish wiggling around.

I can't get a photo of the newly hatched fry for two reasons; 1. They're too wiggly and won't stay still. 2. I am still not good at getting the macro function to work on our camera.

I am thrilled that I have been home to save more fish eggs and to discover that saving these eggs actually works! I get baby fish!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Grandma's Cookbooks

Not long ago, I was given my late grandmother's cookbooks by my mother.

I just love them. They are proper working kitchen cookbooks with good solid recipes in them.

The first one is the Grace Lutheran Church, Fargo, North Dakota circa 1939.

The cover is off this one but I love it just the same.
This book's recipes are the shortest of all the books, coming from North Dakota kitchens in the Fargo/Moorhead area. The recipes are merely lists of ingredients. The assumption is that only other industrious housewives will be using this book and they'll know how to cook.

The next cook book is The Cook's Book of favorite recipes. It is another locally produced cook book from Fargo. All the recipes in this book, as in all the others have credited the housewife who submitted the recipe. This book was obviously well used. There are lots of grease spots on the pages. In addition, there are notes written in the margins and recipes added in on the end paper in my grandmother's tidy handwriting.

The last of the old books is the Cook Book - Edition III created by The First Lutheran Ladies Aid, Fargo, North Dakota. I think this last one is my all time favourite. It is my favourite for a few reasons;
1. It has the most recipes written on the pages and margins.
2. It had the greatest number of old articles and recipes clipped from newspapers and magazines tucked in between the pages.
3. It has a section on Norwegian Delicacies.
Going through the pages of these books is like peeping into the kitchens of 1930's through to the 1950's. The women stayed at home and did all the cooking. As there were no prepared foods available, only ingredients, they made everything. Ketchup, pie crusts, dinner rolls, pickles and cookies. No buying a box of cookies, you made them. As everything was made all the time, these recipes are very short on instructions and are mostly just lists of ingredients. The cook books assume you have the experience and common sense just to make these things.
I laughed at one recipe for Parker House Rolls. it gave the list of ingredients with the instructions to dissolve the cake of Fleishman's yeast (I don't think yeast is still available in cake form, it's all activated dried yeast now) in warm water, then it lists the other ingredients with the instruction Make rolls. Let raise 3 hours. No oven temperature was listed either, not even "moderate oven".
Going through the recipe books, I discovered a recipe that I remembered from my childhood. Orange Delights, a delicate and light orange cookie topped with orange flavoured icing. I made a batch of these cookies up a few weeks ago, just before we went hill walking. The Orange Delights were just as comforting as I had remembered them to be.
One of the articles that is tucked into one of the cookbooks is gleaned from Better Homes and Gardens magazine, April 1932. The article is about how to remove marks from wooden floors and repair scratches on furniture. If anybody was to follow these instructions, I would recommend doing it in the summer with all the doors and windows open as it requires the use of high-test gasoline, naphtha or benzine to remove the old varnish.
I would like to thank the women of the First Lutheran Ladies Aid for producing this book, more specifically, the Cook Book Committee from somewhere back in the 1930's.
Mrs Stella Krageland, Chairman
Mrs O O Jacobson
Mrs M G Bean
Mrs C B Paulson
Mrs L M Braaten
Mrs E K Onstad
Mrs Sanborn Olson
Mrs Norris Larson
Good Scandinavian names.
There must have been moments of awkwardness for Catholic families, including my own, the Dwyer family out there in a sea of Norwegian Lutherans on the North Dakota plains but one can find a real sense of friendship in these old community produced cookbooks.
Thanks again, Mom for giving me these wonderful cook books and thank you for the recipe contributions you have added.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Who Has More Fun Than Us? - Part II

We sure do like shooting things around here.
The Man of the Place came home with two huge cartons of records. The records and 45 singles were given to him by a friend of his. The records were going to go to a charity shop, but this friend thought H would like to go through them first. If you know the size of my husband's record collection, you would understand why my heart sank a bit when I saw the boxes.

He dutifully went through the albums and singles, gleaning out the things he thought were worth keeping. The rest were to go to a charity shop.
Then, a better idea came to mind. . . . .
I'd like to make it perfectly clear that we only ever shoot inanimate objects.
There are too many Leo Sayer and Billy Joel singles in the world anyway.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I'd Like to Thank The Academy . . .

If I see a new award and I see that I haven't received it, I am every so slightly put out. I know that is childish, but hey, I can be childish sometimes. Just ask anybody. There are some awards that have been floating around amongst the blogs that I read.

You see that over to the side of the blog there is the coveted Golden Spork award given annually by Tink over at her blog Pickled Beef. This award is not one of those awards that when one receives it, you then go on to nominate more people for the award. This one is finite. For that reason, I pasted it to the side of my blog. Well, now that award is not going to sit all by itself like a lone trophy in a over sized trophy case. Over the past few months, a few of my fellow bloggers have forwarded even more glory my way.

Over the past few months more awards have been given to me. Each and every time I am given one of these awards, I feel flattered. I have been quite slow in passing some of these awards on. I'd like to fix the situation now.

Before I go on, I'd like to say that I hope that those I nominate haven't already got one of these.
On April 27th, 2007 Susan at Slice of Life has awarded me the Rockin' Girl Blogger Award. Susan has a great blog with a host of regular readers/friends who are also very good bloggers. She's got two beautiful daughters and she shares the funny bits of what goes on in her Seattle home through the blog. I was so flattered to be singled out amongst the crowd for this award. Not only was I was chosen but the award itself makes me happy because I like to think that I can still Rock!
In turn I pass this award on to:
Xtreme English - She's taking a break at the moment but go and read her blog anyway. Find out all about her cochlear implant and how she was able to start hearing again this year.
Doctor Pistachio - A dear Iowa Gal who now lives in Seattle. She's just about the sweetest person with a Phd that you'd ever want to meet.
A few short days later on April 30th, 2007 Betty over at Old Dog New Trick passed on the Thinking Blogger Award. I hope that my delay in thanking you doesn't diminish the message of gratitude. Betty is a true Southern Belle. Though I've never spoken to this Arkansas resident, I just know that listening to her will be like drinking sweet tea on a hot day. Her blog is a blog that I check every single day. In addition to stories of her life, Betty will write the occasional book review. I'd like to pass this award on to two of my oldest friends:
Tom - Nicest banjo player I know and father of Dr Pistachio.
Joe - Iowa's Premier Tax Blogger. If you even THINK about adding a penny to the taxes in Des Moines, you'll have to deal with my mate Joe.
Last but certainly not least Tink has given me an additional chunk of love with the Nice Matters Award. I really like reading Ms Erbelle's work. She is very very funny and just vulnerable enough for me to forgive her for being so young, beautiful and creative.
This one is passed along to:
Chameleon - Who writes beautifully and takes very excellent photos (aside from the photo of me).
Blogging in Paris - I had the pleasure of meeting dear Claude in December. We started talking the moment we met and there wasn't a gap in the conversation until we had to say goodbye. When I get to Paris again, I will be planning my stay around another visit with her!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Beauty of The Fells

A peak that is over 2,000 feet is called a mountain. Haystacks is only 1,700 feet but it is a mountain to me. Can you see the lamb? How did he get there? More importantly, how is he going to get down?

Here is a quotation from A W Wainwright's pages on Haystacks about these very rocks.

It is a test of iron discipline to pass without halting several large comfortable boulders athwart the path.
Mr Wainwright, they were very comfortable indeed! That one looked just like a chair. I had to sit on it for just a few minutes.
Mom, I wore the new jacket you gave me. It was perfect for the sort of day we get here.

For the fans of heather, here are two more photos.

I thought I would share the bit of video I shot of the marvelous view from early on in walk.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


For those of you who are familiar with the national treasure that was A.W. Wainwright, you will know all about his favourite walks, Haystacks. Well, we walked up there today.

The weather wasn't what it should be in August. We had low cloud and a good wind blowing. The forecast for The Lake District said that it was to clear from the west as the day went on, so we decided that it was "game on"! We wouldn't be put off by a bit of low cloud and drizzle.

Naturally, I took loads of photos so that I could share the walk with you.
Here is Haystacks as seen from the farm, just as we start our ascent. You can see the clouds are blanketing the top of the hill (this place is not quite tall enough to be called a mountain).

Henry and Pam looking up to Haystacks from the very beginning of the walk.
Yours truly plodding up the first part of the walk. You can see Lake Buttermere below. It was all very pretty. I have my head down because I am already out of puff and we've just started!

The heather is in bloom just now. It made our walk all the more delightful. It's a shame that it doesn't have a better perfume. Does heather have a perfume? I've never sniffed it.

We climbed up this place when George was all of 10 months old and in a baby backpack. As he is going to be 14 next month, you know how long its been since I did a major walk like this one. I decided that I was going to go at my own pace and not be intimidated by the fast walking fit people in our little group. By the way our group included me, The Man of the Place, George and our dear friends Kevin and Pam. Kevin and Pam live in Cierencester (down south) near where we used to live in Wiltshire. Kevin and Henry used to work together at a children's home and have always been very close friends.

Henry and Kevin


The first part of the walk is very uphill. I found myself having to stop quite often to let my heart rate come back down and allow my breathing to calm. The path up to the summit was pretty steep, but the footing was easy. Then got to a portion of the walk where we had to do a bit of scrambling over some daunting rocks.

See? The rocks are full of daunts!

It was very cloudy once we got past a certain height. The clouds rolled past us. Some were heavier than others. One cloud had a bit of sleet in it! That wasn't pleasant, but at least that cloud didn't stay for long. George, whose nickname for the day was Goat Boy was always above us, waiting for the old creaky adults to catch up. I don't think gravity works on him in the same way. When the clouds parted we were all awestruck with the glorious views.

During the ascent, it was George who had Polly's lead (leash) for the bulk of the time. Polly was wonderful and perfectly behaved the entire time. She hopped up and down those rocks like she has always lived on hills. Coming back down out of the clouds, the views were spectacular. It made all the red faced gasping of the ascent completely worth the effort. Look at that!

During hill walking and mountain climbing, more injuries occur during the descent. I completely understand why. The descent SUCKED! The path was covered in loose stone. Where the stone was not loose but fixed, it was greasy with the day's rain. I took a photo of the path going down so you could see just why I had to have a hot bath and take two paracetamol with codeine. I feel pretty stiff and leaden.

Would I do it again? You bet! It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The changing light from the cloud moving across made the vistas all the more dramatic. I bet if I did walks like this more often, it would get a lot easier.


In fact, this walk up Haystacks was much easier (knee stiffness aside) than the first time I went up. I have no blisters on my feet this time AND I wasn't pissed off with my family for not waiting for me.

There is something very demoralising about being the slowest person on a walk. Just when you reach the pack, they who have had a jolly nice rest are ready to go just as you make it to them. This time, everybody was really good about walking with me, the slowest person. If they walked ahead, they stopped after a bit and were merciful about waiting for me even more time for me to catch my breath.

On the way home, we had lovely fish and chips with loads of salt and vinegar for dinner. We ate them on our laps in the car. It was DEE-lish!

You can down load the walk details here.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Summer at Grandma's

My friend Deb has a lot of our old family photos. The reason she has them is a long drawn out story that I won't bore anybody with. She's not, by her own admission, very technically minded, but she did sit down one afternoon and started scanning the photos into the computer. For my birthday last month, I received a card and a disk with a lot of photos on it. I thought I'd share two of my favourites. This is me and my two sisters. From left to right: Katie, Peggy, Sally. We are obviously just getting ready to go to Sunday Mass because we're all so freshly scrubbed and have clean clothes on. I loved that dress!
There was sometimes a time gap in our family between the time that a picture was taken and the date the film made it in to get developed. This means that June 1973 might not be the correct date. I'm sure my mother will pipe in with the correct information. If the date is correct then I will be almost 11 years old. Please notice that I am not wearing my glasses. There was a point in my life where I was notorious for losing my glasses.
This is one of my favourite photos of my brother Tom. The picture was taken during the same summer that the above photo was taken. Tom is proudly displaying the first fish he ever caught. It could be a trout but it is more likely that the obviously undersized fish is a perch or sunfish.
Both photos were taken at my grandparents home in Elcho, Wisconsin. I loved it there. The summers seemed endless and there was always something to do or trouble to get into. It would be so nice to go back there now to catch a few fireflies.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Fish TV

There was another big delivered at the house for work on Saturday.

I haven't found a spot to store this big box just yet and it is still on the floor in front of the aquarium.
Jack found that this box is the best spot for keeping an eye on the tropical fish.
I don't blame him. I like watching the fish too, but I'm sure it is for different reasons. I find it is a comfort to watch my fish. Jack and Julio just want to eat them. We find that the cats have become very good hunters. The hallway, at the end of which we have a cat flap installed, has become the hallway of death and gore. There are always feathers in the vacuum or headless shrew in the garbage from my having to clean up the latest murder.
I've put collars on the young cats that have very jingly bells. I was hoping that this would give the local small mammals and young birds a better chance. The cats seem to be particularly lucky at catching shrews and young blackbirds.
I am pleased that the pets are doing photogenic things as it seems to be a slow week for actual news.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Polly our dog is not allowed on furniture.

We know that when we're not at home, she sneaks up there. I find stray dog hairs and sometimes there is a tell-tale warm spot. Lately she's been getting bolder as she'll wait until we're almost in the room before she jumps down. Today, she didn't even bother to get off the furniture when our house guest, Kyle (one of George's friends from the village) was in the room. I think she realized that Kyle wasn't a family member and therefore wouldn't tell her to get off the sofa (no authority in this house).

Kyle came and asked me if the dog was allowed on the furniture. I said that she most certainly wasn't allowed. He then said that Polly was sleeping on the sofa with one of the cats. Aww!

I knew that if I went into the room, Polly would jump off the sofa before I got in there to take a picture, so I set up the camera and had Kyle take the photo of the two pets.

This is what he got:

She was totally busted! I must admit, they do look cute sleeping together.

It is so nice to have pets that get along. It makes life SO much easier. Our other cats HATED dogs and didn't approve of their existence. These cats don't mind at all. Polly, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier isn't supposed to like cats, but she actually likes these cats. When they first arrived, she could be found washing them and trying to carry them around.

I had to do it though. I went into the front room and ordered Polly OFF the furniture and sent her to her crate. Man! She can do a very good pathetic look when she wants to. The look she gave me made me feel like the biggest dog hater in the world.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Houseplant Rescue

When my friend Fran moved back to New Zealand, I got custody of her houseplants.

Now, I love my friend dearly, but she never took care of her houseplants. She'd spend a fortune on gorgeous plants and then ignore them. The plants would slowly loose condition until, when visiting her house, you'd just not see them. The plants that were in her house when she left were given to me instead of going the way of all the past houseplants.

When she left, Fran gave me a ficus benjamina or weeping fig, two umbrella plants and a tri-coloured begonia that was near death. The begonia had two leaves and those two didn't look very clever.
Look at the begonia now! You can see its original leaf in the centre near the bottom. All the other leaves are new.

These are the two umbrella plants. When I lived in Florida, back in the mid 80's, I actually had an umbrella TREE in the front of my apartment building, so I know what potential lives inside these smaller specimens.

You can see the new growth that has sprouted from the bases of these plants.
The chicken wire has had to be placed around the bases of my larger plants because the kittens decided that they'd just as soon use the handy soil as a toilet instead of having to go all the way outside. The chicken wire has been a success. The cats go outside now.
"Hmmpf! As if I would do a thing like that!"
The biggest success is this little tree. It has 50% new leaves on it. It's just exploding with vigor.

All of these plants needed to be re-potted, fed and watered. Really that's all I've done. They now get regular watering and are on a schedule of regular doses of plant food.

I'm grateful to Fran for giving me these plants. They are really adding life and beauty to this new section of our house.
In closing, I've got to say that if you have a pet dog. One really can't leave a plate with a big piece of pie on the floor and then leave the room.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Best Souvenir!

When we get home from a family holiday we occasionally have an appliance crisis on the first week back. It happens so often that is almost like a family tradition. The day after our first visit to France, when George was just a tot, the washing machine packed in. It had to be replaced when we were completely broke after our first trip abroad.

A few years ago, the dishwasher gave up the ghost during the first few days back from somewhere.

This year has been no exception. Our TV died. We've had a pretty good run with this television. The Man of the Place and I bought it together during my first trip to the UK at Easter in 1992. We were buying things for our first home together. We needed things like bunk beds for the boys, a television, chest of drawers and a dining room table and chairs. To cut corners, we bought some of these things second hand. The television was one of the second hand items we purchased.

This TV hasn't fizzled, or behaved badly in all that time but the day after we returned from Greece, it made a crackling noise and went black. It was terminal and not worth fixing. We did the decent thing and took it out into the garden to shoot it.
Sadly the only thing we have in the house is an air gun that wasn't forceful enough to crack the glass on the front of the TV. George and Henry got to pretty close range with the pellet gun and the pellets just ricocheted off into the tall grass. They ended up throwing bricks at the screen. Effective but not nearly as fun as shooting the TV Elvis style.

We moved the "spare" television from George's room into the front room and have wired all the DVD players and things up to it. We only really need one TV anyway.

Today, The Man of the Place installed his souvenir from Skiathos in the garden. He claims it is the best souvenir he has ever purchased.

Please note that the price says 32 Euros but we got it for 30! Good price!! I'm afraid we won't be able to use the hammock too often because of rain but we're planning ahead for global warming.

If one is relaxing in the hammock, you just can't be seen until you're right up on the hammock.

This is the view from the path on the side of the house. See? Henry is completely obscured.

One or both of those pine trees were marked for destruction. They're not very good looking and block a lot of sunshine. When Henry saw the hammock for sale in one of the shops in Skiathos Town, he knew that this item was going to be the thing that saves the trees! The trees, as ugly as they can be, are perfect hammock distance apart.
View from the window.

The Man of the Place is having a well deserved snooze!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Meanwhile Back in the Garden

I am not really a gardener. I've never been employed as a gardener. I just have a big garden (in the US you'd call it a yard).

This year, I haven't done a darned thing except mow the lawn. Even then, I haven't mowed the lawn as much as I should.

I could lie about it and say that I'm conducting an experiment in how diverse the insect, bird and amphibian life becomes in a large untended garden, but the truth is that I can't seem to be bothered this year. I usually plant up pots and hanging baskets, grow lots of tomatoes and am careful about putting net across the strawberries. Not this year.

Despite neglect there are some pretty things to be found in the Whitelees garden this summer. Here they are:
The first apples that have stayed on the trees! Variety - Discovery
The apple trees are just a few years old and until this year, the tiny apples have all fallen off in June. My other apple tree has some sort of problem that I'm going to have to investigate. There are black spots on the leaves and the fruit is misshapen.

Shasta Daisy - I've got a HUGE clump of these right in the front of the house. They're so sunny and positive, even in the rain.Echinops or Globe Thistle - The bees love this spikey flower. I've got loads of this too.Water Lily - Don't know what variety but it blooms away every year no matter what the water levels are in the pond.Rose, variety Princess Elizabeth. This rose was here when we bought the place and makes the loveliest flowers for the house. I always spray the roses for black spot (even this year), but this particular rose doesn't really suffer as badly as other roses do.

Isn't nature great! The garden will continue to produce beautiful things even when I've been inattentive.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Fall of the St Anthony Bridge

Today I am giving thanks that nobody I love was injured during this latest tragedy. My prayers go out to those who aren't so fortunate and have been affected by this collapse. There is also a little prayer going out to the people who make, inspect and repair bridges.

One of the bridges crossing the Mississippi in Minneapolis fell during rush hour traffic yesterday. It was the I-35W bridge. It used to be called the St Anthony Bridge. This is because it is near the St Anthony Falls. A few people know this, but we lived in Minneapolis before moving south to Iowa. I spent my freshman year at DeLaSalle High School on Nicolette Island. It wasn't all that far from our home in NE Minneapolis and I walked. Because the school is on an island, I had to walk across bridges. I never once feared that they would fall beneath me. Sometimes if I hadn't done my homework, I must have wished that they would.

I've never been afraid of driving on top of bridges, it is actually driving UNDER them that gets my pulse rate up a bit. I hate being stuck in traffic and being under an overpass. I always try to maneuver it so that I am just out of the way if the span above gives away.The DeLaSalle High School buildings can be seen behind this Minneapolis landmark sign. I love this sign.

By some coincidence, I was on MSN to one of my dearest friends from childhood who still lives near the old neighbourhood. This morning when I powered up the computer, hers was the first e-mail I received and it was reassuring me that she and her family were nowhere near the bridge when it fell. This is how I learned of the collapse.

I've since had more e-mails from the Minnesota contingent informing me that they are safe. No uncles or cousins were on that bridge at that time of day and they're all fine. My pal Anne Chase who lives in Minneapolis is in Korea this week (!) and therefore nowhere near that bridge.

I know that higher taxes is crippling but we've got to pay them. We've got to pay fuel taxes and road taxes. This way, the folks who take care of road and bridge maintenance don't have to stretch their budgets too tightly. Would you rather delay bridge maintenance or have pot holes filled? I fear it comes down to that sometimes. I'd really rather not knowingly drive across a bridge that is bordering on having to be replaced. I have always trusted that the Department of Transportation or which ever branch of government fixes bridges is on top of this sort of stuff. That trust has just taken a big hit. I may in time relax a bit about driving on bridges, but I'll never forget. Now I feel that I might want to exercise my rights as a road and bridge user and have a close look at the inspection reports for bridges that are used by me and my family.