Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Jane: Even more signs of spring

This swath of squill is a traffic-stopper. It practically glows--I'm not sure this photo does it justice. All of us were on a walk last night and exclaimed over it, while a couple walking toward us crossed the street to take pictures with a cell phone.

We also saw my favorite sign of spring: a small flock of buzzards! They apparently are not roosting at Brucemore this year, but at least they flew over while we were strolling through the grounds.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Jane: Book reviews

Some books I've enjoyed recently:

La's Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith
Disappointed-in-love young widow starts an orchestra in rural WWII-era England.

Talking about Detective Fiction by P.D. James
History and trends in detective fiction, focusing mostly on Britain's detective novels.

The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
Orphan boy gets adopted by con-man who claims to be his father. Adventure, danger, and redemption.

What are you reading?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Robbie and Eli:Kite

In case you're not on Facebook, here's a picture Robbie posted of the kite he and Eli flew today on the lawn at Brucemore. Eli got it for his birthday--great gift for a March birthday boy!

By the way, that snow is gone, and it's about 50 today. Back to spring.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Jane: Happy First Day of Spring?

Oh well--it is kind of pretty.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Jane: More signs of spring

The snowdrops are blooming at Brucemore! Aren't they beautiful?

They're not a very exciting flower, really. Just white with plain leaves. But they are brave and early--the earliest flower, along with witch hazel (also blooming at Brucemore).

They are also richly nostalgic for me. Whenever I see snowdrops, I think of my Grandma Hoffman, who had a small clump growing by her back door. I can almost hear the creak of the door opening, and smell the hemlock and the English ivy that grew there, too.

"Look, Jane, my snowdrops are blooming," she'd say, as if she was sharing a treasure just with me.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Jane: Eli's birthday cake

Eli loves dessert. So when his birthday was coming up, he decided he wanted to bake a cake. He'd made a cake once before, just before school started.

This time he requested a marble cake. And he wanted a layer cake, not a 9x13. Amazingly enough, I have never baked a layer cake (I either do 9x13 cakes, buy a cake, bake a pie, or buy an ice cream cake for birthdays!), so I had to buy pans.

Eli did a great job.

And the cake looked great!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Jane: Product Reviews

I'd gotten kind of tired of yogurt--most of it's too sweet--but I have missed eating it, and I know it's good for me (and something I can digest, even in a lactose intolerant moment). I've searched around, trying to find a yogurt that reminds me of the yogurts I used to eat when I was younger--ones that had that slightly tart flavor to them.

I've tried a few different types: Dannon's La Creme, Cultural Revolution Organic Yogurt, Stoneyfield farm. . . but none of those is as good as my newest discovery: Greek Yogurt.

It must be incredibly new and popular, as it seems everyone's now got their own version. I was in the grocery as the Yoplait distributor was putting out their new Greek Yogurt. He gave me a coupon.

Here are my reviews of the ones I've tried:

Yoplait Greek Yogurt: I tried Vanilla. Too sweet and kind of sticky. I didn't finish it.
Dannon Greek Yogurt: Tried Vanilla. Kind of gritty. Not a good flavor.
*Oikos Greek Yogurt by Stonyfield Farm: I've tried strawberry and blueberry. Nice tart flavor, smooth consistency. Plus the name is funny. Oink! So far my fave.
Fage Greek yogurt: I tried full-fat cherry. I like the separate container for the cherries--you can mix it a bit, or put them on top. Full fat seems a bit rich--like dessert.

The winner:

(I still want to try that Icelandic strained yogurt I saw at New Pi! Maybe that'll become my new fave, but I won't be able to get it that often.)

The World's Best Jeans
A friend had on a really cute pair of jeans. In the past, we'd talked about how we could never find jeans that fit--they always gap at the waist. These new jeans, made with spandex, did not. And she said they were comfortable. "It's like wearing leggings," she said. "They're marketed as 'slimming jeans'."

That shocked me. I would never try "slimming" anything as I would assume it would be uncomfortable, like control-top panty hose.

But at my friend's suggestion, I tried slimming jeans. I now own 2 pairs.

Levi's boot cut slimming jeans: The ones I have are in a dark wash, a nice dressy color for jeans. The advantage of these is that they are really soft inside. I got a size 6 regular and had to hem them up a tad. The fit is OK. The waistline is higher than I'd want, and they're a big tight through the rear end, but they stretch! They look nice.

*Target's slimming jeans: I bought these for $19.99! Not that the Levis were that expensive (I think I got them on sale for about $30), but wow. These have a better fit for me. The waistline is not so high, and they have a bit more room in the seat. I like the color I bought, a nice mid-blue.

The only disadvantage is that they aren't as soft inside as the Levis--they feel a bit elastic-y. Still, they stretch nicely, and I can wear them day after day and they don't bag or sag. They're comfortable to wear even if you'll be sitting most of the day, or traveling. Warning: the sizes run large. I had to get a size 2. I will watch to see if they have them again; they are definitely a great purchase.

The winner:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Jane: Signs of spring

Judi says she's seen snowdrops up somewhere in her town, and, elsewhere, crocuses are blooming in Steve's yard.

Here, signs of spring are still pretty muted.
Haven't seen the grass since early December--and here it is. Look--the sun is shining, too! But it'll be a while before the boys' big snowball melts.

Some bulbs are just poking up.
And the European ginger Judi gave me last year has survived the winter. Brave little plants!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Jane: Baby Quilt

In the Claspy tradition, I made a quilt for Kim and Bill's baby.

Don't tell Grandma C. hat I quilted it without a frame! She was horrified when I once told her I quilted without a frame. "Didn't I give you a hoop frame?" she asked.

I think it came out OK anyway!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Jane: D & D

So I came home and saw this pile of large shoes by the door.

And saw these boys sitting on our basement floor, having a great time. There was much hilarity and funny discussion.

They were playing Dungeons and Dragons.

"Nerdy," said Eli. This from a guy who spends HIS time watching review after review of video games and systems.

I've never played D&D but I remember it being popular. I like the idea of a low-tech, role-playing game--seems to have imaginative possibilities beyond just watching YouTube; certainly more than playing Mario games over and over.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010