Saturday, January 31, 2009

What's Cooking at the B's

I have a bunch of Blog ideas but just can't seem to get around to blogging these days. So, since I know it's been a few days since I HAVE blogged, I'll at least post something.
As I type this, Mr. B is in the kitchen working away on some yummy things for dinner. As is typical of these days, I plan the menu and usually do all of the cooking except for on the weekends (or if I am away at a meeting). This afternoon, we've been having fun working together in the kitchen preparing our meal for later on tonight while sipping on Victory Hop Devil Ale.
So, what's on the menu for tonight?
Grilled Filet Mignon with Roasted Garlic and Chipotle Pepper Chimichurri
Crusty Lentil Cakes with Garlic and Herbs in Tomato Chipotle Sauce
A bottle of some really good wine (TBD)
You can imagine how wonderful our kitchen smells now with the aromas of roasted garlic, tomatoes, onions and a spicy smoky chipotle finish!
I'm doing a lot of the Sous Chef work tonight but that's fine by me; every time we do this, I learn something new.
Mrs. B

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Happy Birthday, Father!!!!!

Not that YOU need reminding as you are truly a poster child for this, but:
"Have a good time ALL of the time!"
Thought you'd get a kick out of this link on Spinal Tap!
Love you.
Mrs. B/Daughter Amy C

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

But for the Grace of God Go I

The origin of this statement was one John Bradford, an English Protestant martyr, who uttered these words in the 16th century while watching fellow Protestants being led to the scaffold. The actual phrase was "There but for the grace of God goes John Bradford".
This statement has come to be used when one is counting one's blessings as compared to others less fortunate/the fate of others.
Note above I wrote "...and English Protestant martyr..."; unfortunately for Mr. Bradford, his good luck did not hold out and he was ultimately burned at the stake as a heretic.
Anyway, this sentiment popped into my head this morning as I returned from dropping The Kid off at school.
The route we always take, 15/501 to either the Erwin Road or Cornwallis exit, was as usual, heavily trafficked this morning. Mr. B had commented a few days ago that he'd noticed people were going considerably slower there due to increased cop visibility. In other words, the traffic cops had been targeting this stretch to pull people over. A good thing, as, despite the fact it is a 55 mph zone, folks routinely go almost 80 mph. Today, however, it seemed to me that people were once again driving with no consideration given to the speed limit.
It takes roughly 20 minutes to get from the exit, to The Kid's school, and back onto 15/501 heading home. When I got back onto 15/501, I immediately noticed a lot of flashing lights on the other side of the road (e.g., where we'd been 20 minutes earlier) and that eerie emptiness of traffic (because everyone was backed up behind the flashing lights). As I approached, it was hard not to notice the throng of tangled up cars turned every which way, all of the ambulances, fire trucks, police cars, etc. For about 1/4 of a mile behind the flashing lights, there were even more cars that were apparently caught up in the frey. And, the backed up traffic stretched for at least a mile behind THAT.
Probably some idiot yakking away on their cell phone (or, worse, text messaging) caused this, or maybe more than one; combined with other people going way too fast. A deadly mixture, indeed.
So, yeah; but for the grace of God, we could have been caught up in that nightmare; either hurt (or worse) at the very worst to simply being stuck in a traffic blockade that, from the looks of it, could well have lasted more than an hour while they cleared the road.
What IS it that kept us from being involved while others (likely most of the people involved were doing nothing but driving to their destination while listening to NPR or something) were caught up in it? If we'd left the house just a few minutes later, we might have been caught up in it; no, we WOULD have been (it was pretty obvious to me that the accident occurred not long after we passed through, given that the ambulances, fire trucks, etc. were already there by the time I was headed back home).
God, guardian angels, fate, luck; whatever you chose to believe, kept me and The Kid alive today. I'm thankful, yes indeed. However, this is also one of those things that you cannot dwell upon overly much; for, as with the unfortunate Mr. Bradford, at what point will the grace be gone?
Mrs. B

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Mrs. B's Book Reviews 2008 Part Three

I think this is part three. I know I have been SLOW on this one!
Because I knew I was heading to the Laura Ingalls Wilder House/Museum in MO in April of last year, I started re-reading the "Little House" books towards the tail end of 2007. By the time 2008 rolled around, I had 5 to finish up, which I did in fairly quick succession. Having done so really made the trip all that more interesting and enjoyable; in particular, the museum, which housed many items/artifacts referred to in the Little House books.
By the Shores of Silver Lake ****
Laura's now 13. She and her family have left Minnesota and have settled in the Dakota Territory. Sister Mary is blind at this point and Laura had to say good-bye to her dear dog Jack who passes away. Although it is never mentioned in the books, a son is born to Charles (Pa) and Caroline (Ma) around this time, Charles Frederick, but, he does not live long. Little sister Grace is introduced in this book. The family has settled near the town of DeSmet (where they will eventually move in a later book) on the shores of big Silver Lake. Pa is working as a store keeper for the railroad, and, as much as he hates to do so, promises Ma that this is as far West as they will go; they'll finally settle down for good. As always, there are many lessons and morals in this book for kids and big kids alike. Oh, and at the end of the book, Laura catches her first glimpse of the boy who will become her husband!
The Long Winter***
I'm not sure why, but, this is my least favorite book of the series. Maybe because it is so well written that even the reader feels the drudgery of living through almost two years of blizzard conditions; having little heat or food; having to twist endless clump of hay to burn, almost starving more than once, etc. One positive of being stuck indoors is Pa tells a lot of stories (always engaging). Laura's future husband Almanzo and the dashing Cap Garland save the town from starving by going off on a foolish but brave mission to secure grain from a neighboring town. Ok, ok, maybe it's not SO bad after all! One other interesting note about this book; it's the first one in the series where everything is not told completely from Laura's perspective (excluding Farmer Boy, of course, since this was about Almanzo).
Little Town on the Prairie****
As the title suggests, this book, more so than any other, depicts town life in DeSmet South Dakota. After surviving the LONG winter (which was actually two winters), the Ingalls decide to move into town for the winters (wise of them) although they do still spend the summers on their claim outside of town. Because the focus of this book is town life, there is a lot more in here about Laura's friends, school life, church activities and socializing and less about planting, churning butter, and freezing to death. Laura's grown up enough now to wear her hair up (she's likely 15 or 16) and go to chaperoned parties. Mary's off to the college for the blind in Iowa and makes occasional appearances. The evil Nellie Olson has returned to torture Laura (although, in reality, Laura combined two rotten girls from her past into the one character of Nellie Olson). Finally, Laura realizes that she will be the one that has to become a teacher (this had originally been the plan for Mary) and help provide support to her family.
These Happy Golden Years*****
By far my favorite of the series! Laura embarks in her profession of teacher (at the ripe old age of 16). She experiences life away from home (and is fairly miserable but keeps a stiff upper lip) and learns how to deal with unruly students. She relishes in her weekends home and begins to appreciate Almanzo Wilder (who drives her home every weekend, even in terrible weather conditions). Throughout the book (and after Laura has moved back home for closer teaching positions), their romance blooms. Since this is a children's book, there is obviously nothing torrid about it, but, it's no less thrilling when he finally gets around to proposing. Laura's other friends are also getting engaged/married; Mary is doing well at college, Laura's little sisters are fascinated by the grown up Laura, and Pa and Ma remain the calm, serene and loving influences that they've always been. At the end of the book, Laura moves with husband Almanzo our to their own claim. The last few pages describing her entering her new house (he'd kept it a surprise) and exploring are my favorites.
The First Four Years***
Frankly, this books is fairly depressing because not a lot of good came out of the first four years Laura and Almanzo (referred to as "Manly" now) were married (save their daughter, Rose). Just about every bit of bad luck one living out on a prairie could experience, they did, including ruined crops, their house burning down, their baby son dying and Almanzo getting diphtheria. It was likely due to these awful times that the Wilder's ultimately moved to Mansfield, MO. Also, this book was not written by Laura per se. After she died, her diary of these four years was discovered. From that diary, this book was compiled. The writing is definitely not as rich or descriptive as Laura's (or Rose's, if you are to believe that it was actually Rose who wrote the Little House Books). I saw a review on this book that said, "For Laura diehards only!" I think I have to agree with that summation. Yet, I couldn't bring myself to give it a two star rating.
Mrs. B

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cat Scratch Fever...

...this is for you, Father :-)
To declaw or not to declaw...this can be a controversial subject. I know folks in both camps; on the one hand, it is cruel, it hurts, it mutilates the cat, etc. On the other side of the ring, it's hard to argue with people that don't feel they should have to have ruined or damaged furniture, carpets, rugs, wood floors, door jambs, clothes, etc. simply because they wish to house a pet cat. It gets even more complicated these days because MOST people don't allow their cats outside (or in very limited dosages) so the argument of "they need to be able to defend themselves" is not a sound one.
In the past, I was squarely in the "declaw" camp. Heck, even when I talked to Uncle Chuck (our vet) about the potential of declawing Pete and Lily, he told me, "All of my cats have always been declawed. I've seen too many cats abandoned or turned into a shelter because they were ripping their owners possessions (and persons) to shreds. Better for the cat to have a good, safe, loving home than to have its (front) claws".
BTW, I would never consider declawing rear paws. They've got to be able to scratch their ears!
I know the other camp might argue, "How can ripping out your cat's claws be construed as "loving?"
To this I would say; both Nigel and Clyde were declawed (at early ages). Everyone knows how loved and cared for they were. I'd probably beat a person up who insinuated I was not a good mom to them because I had them declawed.
The primary reason, though, that I had N&C declawed was the former husband insisted on it. Being that the majority of the furniture (at that point) was his and that neither one of us would be around throughout the day to monitor them, I agreed.
So, herein lies my dilemma with Pete and Lily (other than, technically speaking, I agreed NOT to have them declawed when I adopted them, or, at the very least, I'd contact the rescue shelter and tell them I was thinking about it (so that they could offer advice, tips, suggestions, and, probably, attempt to take them away if I insisted...I think NOT!)) I AM around 85% of the time during the day. I am able to keep an eye on them and correct them when they do something they should not be doing (and this isn't just scratching at something, either, it includes other things like jumping up onto the kitchen table and/or counters). It seems if I am here, why get them declawed if, hopefully, I can train them not to scratch? Or, not scratch too much (let's face it; it's instinctual behavior and I don't think a cat could ever be taught to never scratch anything but their posts, pieces of carpet, etc.) So, the goal is, get them to scratch where they are supposed to and keep the other naughty scratching to a bare minimum.
So far, they are doing okay. Not completely fantastic but, in general, fine.
Of course, who knows what will happen as they get older and bigger? I'm keeping my fingers crossed here!
Father was interested in what we've been doing to keep them from scratching where they are not supposed to and any other tips I've heard of.
The obvious one is, have plenty of things around that they CAN scratch; scratching posts, pieces of carpet (although some say this is a bad idea because it teaches them it is okay to scratch ANY carpet), cardboard, rope, etc. Pile on the cat nip (to lure them to it). I have to admit, though, that, other than the cardboard scratcher thing that you place on the floor, our cats are not overly interested in any of these other things. Yet.
To keep cats from scratching where you don't want them to, namely, furniture, we were advised by Pete and Lily's foster mom to buy huge rolls of masking tape and tape the furniture up where they will likely scratch. Cats hate the feel of tape, so, after awhile, they won't scratch there. Over time (maybe six months) you can remove the tape (they won't know the tape is gone, supposedly). Well, we've done this; all three of our couches, our nice dining room chairs and a few other things are attractively adorned with various types of tape (we ran out of the masking tape and used blue electrical tape on one couch). I think this is working fairly well, and, they don't appear to be scratching at the furniture that is not taped up, either.
I think one of the best deterrents is, when you catch them in the act, you spray them with a spray bottle full of water. Boy, our cats DO NOT like this one bit. Another trick is to have an empty soda can full of pennies or something else that makes a lot of racket and shake it at them. Pete and Lily's foster mom advised against yelling at them because they will associate YOU with something bad. I tried this for a few weeks but, frankly, I've found they don't like it when I yell at them and will stop whatever they are doing and either sit there looking at me or walk away.
I have not done this with Pete and Lily (yet), but I used to throw soft objects at Nigel and Clyde when they were up to no good (throw pillows, slippers, their toys).
Lily in particular appears to be a carpet scratcher. Whenever I see her doing this, if I can, I go over to her, pick her up, and put her next to an acceptable scratching device, take her paws, and make the approved scratching motions. She's probably a prime candidate for a piece of carpet she can scratch (it's worth a try).
Oh, how could I forget? Keep the claws trimmed short! This is a no fun job in our house (clipping claws); Pete hates having the front ones done and Lily her back ones, but, it's mandatory, otherwise, they are incredibly sharp and can do more damage should they get to scratching.
One last ditch effort device I found in the pet store are, in essence, these rubbery sheaths that you fit over each claw and glue it on (sort of like Lee Press On Nails). If the cat has these on their claws, they may still scratch, but they cannot damage anything. The problem is, you are not teaching them not to scratch and you have to continually monitor them to see if they need replaced. Also, I can't image trying to glue these things onto my cats claws, I doubt they'd tolerate it! But, if it was coming down to the wire, I'd certainly give the press on nails a try before I decided to have them declawed.
I have to say, though, as I've been writing this, I've been thinking that, overall, it just takes monitoring and correcting. Cats are not dumb; over time, they WILL get the idea that they are not supposed to do something (that doesn't mean they won't do it to piss you off, though).
And, in the end, I agree with our vet, Chuck. Far better to remove the source of the problem (the claws) than the cat if the cat won't stop scratching.
Anyone else out there have any worthwhile tips?
Mrs. B

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Two Great Pix

Taken today, snow day! I sure love my photogenic kids (wish I were so!)
Mrs. B

The Inauguration

It's been snowing here in Durham since very early this morning. Now, at 1:40 pm, it looks like it has stopped.
I'd already planned on watching the inauguration; in particular, I wanted to listen to Obama's speech; not because everyone was predicting it was going to rival some of the best speeches of newly inaugurated Presidents, rather, because I truly was interested to hear what our new President had to say. I realized, too, that I have not seen too many of these ceremonies. This due to bad timing (being on the West coast and likely at work) and, in all honesty, a bit of apathy.
I didn't think I'd end up watching quite as much of it as I did, however; I guess you can blame that on the snow and the atmosphere it brought with it (play hooky from my normal routine).
Anyway, I started paying attention around 9:30 am to the festivities. Like others, I was amazed at the number of people lining the Mall. The Kid was there somewhere; she said by the MSNBC tent mid-way down the Mall from the Lincoln Monument. I was pleased to see the diversity in the crowds; yes, a lot of people of color but also, cheering along side with them, white people as well. After all, a person does not have to be African American to recognize the significance of this historic election and inauguration (whether you like it or not, it IS significant and historic).
As usual, the inane banter and chatter of the news casters got on my nerves. Their breathless whispers of, "In a mere forty-four minutes, we will have our 44th President" or, "I am so excited I cannot breath. I cannot breath!" Ok, well, so, I've never been one to get overly caught up in drama, but this stuff was a bit over the top!
I thought it was pretty funny when they were speculating on whether the moving van in front of the White House contained Bush stuff or Obama stuff. One news caster said, "D'ya think the van is full of boxes with "Obama" written on them?" Hello? I don't think, like the rest of us when we move, that they had to label their boxes with their name on it!
When the entourage of former Presidents and their wives made their way out to the platform, one commented, "Former President Bush looks OLD!" (I thought that was a bit harsh, but, hey, give him a break, he IS old!) Another said, "Do you realize in twenty-three minutes (they appeared to get a kick out of mentioning how many minutes it would be until Obama was officially President) that we'll have TWO Former President Bushes? How will we handle that? (a good question, I thought; will we refer to the first Former President Bush as "Former President Bush the First"? or, "Former President Bush Sr."? Wow, a lot of firsts this day!)
Another said, "This ceremony is regal without the regalness" (ok, that made no sense; it's not a word, I think they meant "regality"; it still made no sense!) To which someone else replied, "Yes, and it's historical because we have 5 out of (soon to be in twelve minutes) forty-four Presidents in attendance. That's like, uh, 11% or something". Actually, come to think of it, that IS pretty amazing. Could you imagine if all five (if you include Lady Jane Grey) Tudor Kings were present when James I of England was crowned?
I thought, with the exception of President Bush (now Former President Bush Jr.), everyone looked very happy. He just looked relieved and a bit, I don't know, nervous when he was approaching the platform. Thank God those that had been somewhat booing in the background (extremely bad form) shut up. But, it was painfully quiet. I actually felt sorry for him.
I have to admit I did not listen to Rick Warren. I just couldn't bear to. I put him on mute and checked email. But, I listened and watched everything else. I loved the song compiled (not composed) by John Williams. The dumb-dumb news casters had been speculating on whether Obama was really as calm as all of that; I thought it human and telling that he stumbled a bit through his oath of office (nerves, I'm sure, and who could blame him?)
I thoroughly enjoyed his speech. I thought it well written and delivered. And although, like I said earlier, I'm not one to run to turn things such as this into my own private drama, I did feel a bit of a stirring in my heart and a bit of excitement in my veins. Perhaps I am not quite so skeptical as I would have thought. Perhaps now is not the time for any of us to be so. Maybe it is because President Obama is closer to me in age than any President before; he is of MY generation. Or, maybe it's simply amazing to see such signs of support in such here to fore unsupportive times.
I hope it lasts. Maybe I'll step out a bit and say, I think it will.
Mrs. B

Monday, January 19, 2009

Happy 18th Birthday Nigel :-)

...I still miss you. I always will...


As in, zero motivation! I don't know what it is, but, I don't feel like doing ANYTHING right now! Could it be the weather? It's been cold and dreary here for several days now. When it's like this, I'd just assume it would snow. Well, turns out it might snow later on this afternoon. Mr. B said he'd heard 4-6 inches, which, for these parts, is a blizzard. This means I should get out to the store (along with everyone else). Seriously, it's that time of the week (menu planning/store run).
Because I don't feel like doing much (including coming up with an original Blog post), I'll just ramble today.
The Kid and her class (11th grade) along with a few teachers headed up to DC bright and early this morning so they can watch the inauguration tomorrow. I'm not sure why they went today and not tomorrow; maybe they figured the traffic would be lighter today. Anyway, historical moments aside and all, if it does snow tonight/tomorrow, they're all gonna be butt-ass cold.

The B's are getting serious about energy conservation/efficiency. We're in the process of replacing our light bulbs with the ones that use less energy/last a lot longer. Of course, this is an initial outlay of money since the bulbs are not cheap. Thankfully, Ace Hardware was having a sale on them this past weekend so we stocked up. Mr. B also installed programmable thermostats which should also help.
But, what to set them at? It's funny (not in a ha ha really funny way but ironic way) how I'm the one who is usually hot now and he's the one who is usually cold. It used to be the other way around. I'm still in the throes of hot flashes (the herbal remedy I'm taking has not yet kicked in; I can only pray to God that it does soon) so, for the most part, temperatures about 5 degrees lower than usual is what is now comfortable for me. Yeah, I still get chilly, but, it's easy enough to throw on a fleece jacket or sweatshirt (only to throw them off again when a hot flash hits). "They" say to always dress in layers, including at night. You'd think sleeping "au natural" would be the best thing, but, believe it or not, although I do experience multiple hot flashes during the night, when I'm not having one, I'm freezing. Be that as it may, Mr. B says he never knows where he'll find my night clothes the next morning (usually they are strewn all over the bedroom/bathroom; tee-shirt one place, socks another, etc.)
Not to digress too far away from the original ramble (setting the thermostat), I've realized that Mr. B (who runs, by nature, hot (so why is he cold all the time now?)) can immediately bring on a hot flash. Get your minds out of the gutter! What I mean is, if I'm cold at night and cuddle up next to him, within two minutes, I'm having a hot flash. You can imagine how miserable this is for both of us; and, throw in the situation of Mr. B on one side of me, Lucy on the other and the cats on my feet, well, I feel TRAPPED!
So, again, let's pray the Remifemin (or whatever the heck this stuff is) starts to work soon. The package said up to 60 days. Crap. It's only been 30!
Regarding the thermostat, we finally settled on: 65F from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm when it will go up to 68F until 10:00 pm when it will go down to 62F until 6:00 am, etc. etc. This probably seems REALLY cold to most people, but, we're also, of course, trying to conserve energy/save money like everyone else.
I think when I go to Florida in March, I'll need to find one of those combo fan/water spritzer things to hang around my neck! I don't even want to think about life this summer if these hot flashes are not yet under control.
Exercising helps, I've noticed. So, in a bit, I'll be heading up to that elliptical machine to sweat it out some.
Regarding our dinner menu for the week, I asked Mr. B if he wanted anything in particular and he replied, "meatloaf". You know, just about every time I ask him this question, he says he wants meatloaf! So, I guess I'll add meatloaf to the menu! Maybe also white chicken chili (that would probably be a good one for tonight, come to think of it), lasagna (I am starting to cook in bulk so that Mr. B has stuff to eat when I'm in FL for two weeks), and a new recipe I saw in Gourmet for rosemary scented beef.
Last night we tried an interesting recipe from Cooking Light; sweet potato and pecan "burgers" with caramelized onions and chili sauce. I have to admit, they were a hell of a lot of work and I don't think I'd make them again (for that reason) BUT, they were not half bad. Good thing; we have four of them left.
We started watching Season Two of "The Tudors" this weekend. Yey! I love that show (even if quite a bit of it is not historically accurate). Man, this period of history really is in vogue right now. I was at the bookstore the other day and ran across what I thought was a new series about the Tudors. Turns out the book was a regurgitation of a series written by a (now dead I think) author named Victoria Holt (who also wrote under Jean Plaidy and Philippa Carr). As cool as I think it is that folks are digging the Tudors, I can't quite figure it out, either. BTW, turns out the author's real name was Eleanor Burford!
I've been plodding through the book I'm reading for the book discussion group I joined, "The Zoo Keeper's Wife". Not that it is a bad book, it isn't, it is quite interesting and well written BUT, being that it is about a zoo in Warsaw, Poland that, during WWII helped to hide Jews, you can imagine that it is not always the easiest subject to read about. As I'm reading it, I sometimes want to close my eyes (like I did through about 1/2 of watching the movie "Schindler's List".)
Ok, here it is 10:10 am; time to get my butt in gear!
Mrs. B

Friday, January 16, 2009

Pete and Lily Are 6 Months Old Today!

Mrs. B

Mrs. B's Book Reviews 2008 Part Two

Yeah, yeah, it's taken me awhile to get back to this, sorry. I've been distracted by stuff to do with The Kid, some work, and my Board activities. Oh, and it's just butt-ass cold. I have a difficult time concentrating when it is like this. I just want to curl up in bed and, well, read!
Following are a few reviews from the "3 Star" group:
Strip Tease by Carl Hiaasen (Listened To/Read)***
From Publisher's Weekly: Inventive blackmail schemes, grisly murders, power politics, greed, revenge and sex all figure in Hiaasen's...comic crime novel. At the Eager Beaver, a topless bar in Fort Lauderdale, former FBI clerk Erin Grant dances nightly to pay for legal fees in her custody fight for her young daughter. There David Dilbeck, a poorly disguised, somewhat kinky and imbecilic U.S. Congressman owned by the state's sugar interests, is recognized by a sharp-eyed regular who, infatuated with Erin, initiates a blackmail plan meant to influence her court case. The resulting mayhem, occurring in an election year, involves machinations up to the highest state level, most of which are orchestrated by Dilbeck's arrogant, sleazy lawyer, and leads to an escalating body count that ends in a frenzied revenge caper arranged by the resourceful Erin deep in some sugarcane fields. Dead-on dialogue (``My boots are full of Vaseline,'' says Dilbeck one night, his only other clothing a black cowboy hat) and clearly limned characters from society's fringes--notably the taciturn, inventive Eager Beaver bouncer; a Cuban cop who works the case off hours; Erin's psychopathic ex, and his sister who raises hybrid wolves outside her double-wide trailer--round out this somewhat coincidence-ridden but consistently entertaining, warm-blooded tale.
The above review is spot-on (which is why I decided to include it rather than write one of my own (which is especially hard to do a year after I listened to/read the book!))
I popped this into my car's CD player where it got me through a dreary January of driving around wherever I was driving around to. I really enjoyed listening to it and got a huge kick out of the weird characters and what they were up to. I thought the story line regarding the custody case was a bit tired, but, other than this, I found it highly original. It was so engaging that, when the CDs crapped out on me about 1/2 way through the book, I actually went to the library to borrow it in hard copy so I could finish it up. This is one of the few books that I've listened to (so far) that was just as fun to read-read as to listen to.
I think a movie version of this book was made many years ago with Demi Moore in the role of Erin and Burt Reynolds as the sleazy Congressman. I'd skip the movie and go with the book, instead.
Cesar's Way*** and Be The Pack Leader by Cesar Millan*** (Read)
I know there are some people that absolutely LOVE Cesar and his methods and others that find him overly harsh. One thing that everyone agrees with, though, is that, in likely 99% of cases where dogs are behaving badly, it's somehow the owner's fault. Mr. B (who also read the books) is one who is somewhat skeptical of Millan. I have to say, though, being a newbie dog owner, I found his books/methods logical, easy to understand, simple and reassuring. He's also consistent (if, by the time you finish reading even one of his books you don't take away "Exercise. Discipline. Affection"; then you were definitely NOT paying attention!) After I finished reading these books, I certainly felt a lot more confident about working with Lucy.
If you have ever watched his show "The Dog Whisperer", then the books won't be anything new to you as, the majority of the dogs he discusses in his books were featured on his show at one point or another. Of course, he does spend quite a bit more time on background and technique in the books than he can manage in a 15 minute episode.
Both books are written in the "as told to" style (although his command of spoken English is very good, I doubt he can write it as well as he speaks it) with the woman who does much of the writing for his show getting credit for the books (Melissa Jo Peliter). They are easy to read and are interesting reading (if you like dogs and/or are trying to train one). Oops! Cesar is not a dog trainer, he's a dog psychologist (or so he says).
The emphasis in both books is on the owner being the pack leader, being calm, being consistent, and providing the all important exercise (Cesar is very big on walks and lots of them), discipline (not to be confused with abuse) and affection (only when the dog is in a calm-submissive state).
I'd definitely recommend these books, especially to someone who is new to dogs. However, I would not take them entirely as gospel because the dude obviously has a special gift with dogs that the rest of us don't. I gave both books *** stars mostly because I liked the first one about *** and the 2nd one was somewhat of a repeat of the first one with a bit more information about different breeds and their specific needs thrown in. If you will only read one, read the first one.
Mrs. B

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mrs. B's Book Reviews 2008 Part One

This will be the third year that I've shared with my readers the books I read/listened to the prior year and my (humble) opinion of them. I've learned, though, that this particular series takes forever to write; and, I read/listened to 35 books last year! So, in consideration of getting this done in a more timely manner, I'm no longer going to review the books that I thought stank and almost stank (Ho Hum and Throw It Away). I'll just let you know which ones they were so you can either avoid them or read them and challenge me. The rest I'll assign a rating and provide a brief review.
As a reminder, here is my rating system:
Mrs. B’s Rating System
*****Absolutely Fantastic; one that I looked forward to reading and found every opportunity to do so. Was almost depressed when I finished it; I think most people I know would enjoy it.
****Really Good; but might have had some sort of disappointment to it (flat ending or cliché), or, the topic might not be universally appealing, that kept it from being Absolutely Fantastic.
***Interesting Enough; a good “vacation read” but not something I’d go out of my way to recommend; sometimes a “What was all the fuss about?” book will get this rating.
**Ho Hum; nothing great, nothing bad. Yawn.
*Throw it Away; made me want to scream and throw it across the room, it was that awful; one of those books that you get mad at yourself for wasting your time reading it when there are so many other books out there to read.
Here are the ** and * star books:
Blue Diary by Alice Hoffman. I usually like her books but this one did not grab me at all. In fact, I can't even remember what it was about; something about a murdered girl's diary, I think.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis. Lame horse!
Roses are Red and Violets are Blue by James Patterson. Two separate books. Two separate journeys into literary hell. What was I thinking?
So, this leaves thirty-one books to review. I will say the majority of them are *** so I'll be able to keep it short and sweet on those!
Mrs. B

Monday, January 12, 2009

What the...?

What is going on with the counter on my Blog? I've noticed that it is not working on several other blogs, either.
Anyone know?
Mrs. B

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Edenton Final Food Blast

So...we had dinner Thursday at the B&B. 6:30. We were eagerly awaiting this meal since we knew it was gonna be great and because we had not had anything to eat since the breakfast they served that morning (does beer count?)
We arrived in the dining room right at 6:30. We were a bit surprised to see, in addition to our table, a table set for four. As far as we could tell, no one else was at the B&B!
Don came out with our first wine; a Chardonnay from Australia called "Mad Fish". This was a light Chardonnay; from stainless, not oak (frankly I prefer buttery oaked Chardonnay but this one was nice and refreshing).
And, it went well with the first two courses. The first was unbelievably good. A fresh flounder fillet (from the area bought that morning) marinated in turmeric, wrapped in rice paper and lightly sauteed. It was served in shallow bowl in a garlic-ginger broth alongside some wilted spinach.
As one of the ladies at the next table exclaimed, "This is enough for a main course!"
BTW, the two couples were actually local; they did not stay at the B&B but were familiar with the restaurant and liked to stop by for dinner from time to time. This night was a special occasion as they were celebrating the women's b-days. They were friendly and gregarious; probably in their 60s, and somewhat loud. But, hey, they were obviously having a grand time.
Next up was a Caesar salad with (obviously) homemade dressing and croutons. This also paired nicely with the Chardonnay.
The main entree was to die for. Several slices of medium rare garlic pork loin with lentils and winter vegetables; brussel sprouts (the first for me), sweet potatoes and butternut squash.
Don paired this with the Marietta Old Vine Red from Geyserville CA (that I wrote about before). EXCELLENT. So much food (somewhere along the road they brought out a very dense fresh slice of whole grain bread).
To top off the evening was a dark chocolate torte with raspberry sauce served with a Tootsie Roll sorbet (it did taste like Tootsie Rolls, too!) We finished up the red wine with this and were delightfully full and content.
Seriously, this food was very nicely presented, matched, paired wonderfully with the wines, and tasted like a dream.
We stumbled up to bed (rolled) and had a very quiet evening!
The next morning, although we were still full from dinner, brought more coffee and breads at 7:30 and a full breakfast at 9:00. We partook of homemade sausage and whole wheat pancakes topped with blueberry compote.
After this feast, we had nothing else to do but load up the car and drive home to our regular lives.
We would highly recommend this B&B; in fact, we hope to return another time, maybe in better weather, so we can enjoy the large wrap around porch while sipping a glass or two of wine!
Mrs. B

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Edenton Part Two

Last I wrote, we were just on our way to Sean's for dinner...
For a Wednesday night in January, this restaurant was quite busy. A few large parties of people were already seated plus another one was on the way (according to Sean, a genial bald man who greeted and sat us).
I wasn't terribly hungry so I ordered a glass of Rodney Strong chardonnay (something I used to drink a lot of but don't see around here that much) and a Caesar salad with grilled shrimp. Mr. B ordered a french dip and a beer (they were having a lot of trouble with their beers on draft; the only thing they had was Bud Light...yuck). Mr. B opted for Sam Adams Winter Lager.
The service was friendly and the food was quite good. I was surprised by how tasty the Caesar dressing was...although not AS good as Mr. B's, it was pretty close. And the shrimp, wow; three JUMBO ones nicely grilled. Mr. B's sandwich was served open-faced along with a side of red skin potato salad. He said it was pretty good.
After Sean's, we walked back (or, rather, were blown back) to the B&B, smoking a cigar along the way. We stayed out on the porch to finish them up (since it only took 5 minutes to get there) and attempted to stay out of the gusty wind. Don came out to put up chairs on the porch as they were in danger of blowing away.
Since we paid extra for the jacuzzi tub, we took advantage of it after our cigars (sure helped to warm us up, too; BRRR).
The next morning our coffee arrived on time at 7:30. We were in no huge hurry to get going so we sipped on the coffee and ate the yummy breakfast bread that was left with it. Breakfast was at 9:00 so we went down (looking sort of tussled and unshowered but oh well) and wow, was it something else! They started us off with a nice plate of fresh fruit, OJ and more coffee. The entree was a spinach and white cheddar omelet served with what Don called "Yankee Grits" but what would really be better named "Grit Sticks". Mr. B surmised that Chef Diane had done a grit casserole, cooled it slightly, cut the casserole into the sticks and then sauteed them a bit to brown them up. In any event, they, and the rest of the breakfast, was well worth the 9:00 call!
After getting cleaned up, we set out to explore the town of Edenton. We wandered down towards the Albmarle Sound where we nearly got blown away by the wind and it was quite chilly, as evidenced by the below picture of Mr. B.
Next, we went back over to the waterfront area (where Sean's was) and looked into the windows of the stores and took a picture of a Confederate monument (complete with the prison dudes mowing the lawn underneath it).
We went into the local coffee shop to get a warm drink to take off the chill. Warm; more like scalding hot!
We walked down to the Visitor's Center and looked at the exhibits and the gift shop. We thought about taking one of the walking tours and/or trolley tour but thought it might be too cold.

Mr. B on the B&B steps (before we went back out again in the car)

We headed back to the B&B (via the not so nice part of town) where we ran into Don who asked us what we'd been up to. He jokingly chastised us for not, at least, watching the movie at the VC about Edenton's history. So, back we went (in the BMW this time) to watch the movie (Edenton pretty much had a glorious history...up until right after the Revolutionary War where it pretty much fell off the map). It IS an extremely pretty city, though; at least the "good" part (the "bad" part was fairly seedy).

Next, we drove around taking some more pictures. We were trying to find a teapot, which is a monument to the Edenton Tea Party (a group of women right before the Revolution had their own little "Boston" Tea Party as a protest against the British taxing tea and other imports). We couldn't find it before when we were out and had asked at the VC. We finally found it, stuck on a fence post near the Court House. Sort of an odd place for it, we thought!

We ultimately ended up back at Sean's for a beer (we were still STUFFED from our huge breakfast). Sean was there again and he said, "Well, I've seen you walking all over town, you must be considering moving here!" Uh, no, but, we did discuss amongst ourselves that a town like Edenton would be a great place to live if a) you did not have to work or your work could be done completely out of your house and/or b) you wanted to live somewhere in the boonies and/or c) you didn't want to be bothered.
Despite the rundown area we walked through, it also appears to be a fairly safe town. Don said the door to the B&B doesn't even lock (meaning the door to the rooms; each of the rooms have locks). Frankly, I thought this was a bit too trusting given while we were there, only one other room was occupied (the second night). All of the other rooms were open (I know because I wandered into each of them to check them out!) Someone could easily walk up from the street, open up the door, go up the stairs (8 rooms upstairs, two rooms downstairs near their quarters) and go into the open rooms and steal whatever; T.V.s, furnishings, towels, etc. So, I have to surmise that they've never had this happen and the town is, in general, very safe.
On our way back to the B&B for our daily nap (one of the best things about being on vacation, IMO, is taking long naps), we picked up the Edenton paper, The Chowan Herald, which was so small it appears it is only published once per week!
Next and final installment...our yummy four course dinner!
Mrs. B

Friday, January 9, 2009

Edenton Part One

We returned home from our brief (too brief) mini-vacation to Edenton, NC this afternoon. I'm delighted to report that the B&B we stayed at, The Captain's Quarters Inn, was every bit as wonderful as we'd hoped it would be. Frankly, though, if we'd have stayed much longer, we might have had to add "ton" to our last name (which folks around here seem to want to do, anyway...if you don't get it, don't worry, y'all...I'm not posting our real last name here!) The food was excellent. One of the owners, Diane, is a chef par excellence. She and her husband Don (the "wine guy" at the B&B) used to own a restaurant in Napa called Trilogy. We discovered this during our wine tasting Wednesday night. As it turns out, Mr. B  ate at their restaurant in 1996. Small world, no?
We arrived in Edenton around 3:00 on Wednesday. Earlier, Mr. B had dropped The Goose off at Uncle Chuck's (which made her happy, as usual; she loves that place and they love her). We left around 11:15 and drove to Rocky Mount where we had lunch at an Applebee's. Not gourmet cuisine by a long shot but I prefer their food over, say, Chili's or TGI Friday's. I'll digress here for a second and recount a minor drama that was going on in the booth behind me.

Our waiter wasn't exactly the brightest crayon in the box. But, he was friendly enough. Anyway, the lady sitting behind me ordered sliders (three small hamburgers). After she was served, she bit into one and discovered the meat was still pretty pink (BTW, Mr. B was happy that his burger was still pink; typically, they over-do the food anymore for fear of e Coli). Another waitress wandered by and the lady told her that she thought the burgers were not done enough. The waitress said, "Would you like me to take them back and have them cooked a bit longer?" to which the lady with the sliders said, "No, I think they will be ok".

About 15 minutes or so later, the waiter came by with the bill. The lady pitched a fit, saying she didn't think she should have to pay for undercooked meat. Listening to this, I was a bit perplexed why she was so mad since she had been asked if she wanted them cooked more. The manager then came over and said, "I took the sliders off the bill, you shouldn't have to pay for something that you were not satisfied with". Grumble, grumble; the two ladies got up and left.
I turned around and looked at their table to see the offensive sliders. Would you believe she'd eaten about 2/3 of them? Seriously! I turned back to Mr. B and we went off on a side-bar conversation about how loathsome people like that are. Loathsome and cheap.
Ok, back on track here!
We found the B&B in Edenton with no problem since Edenton is not a huge place. We checked in and agreed to do our wine tasting that evening at 5:30. BTW, we were the only people there that night.

We stayed in the "Captain of Her Heart" room. All of the rooms (8) have a nautical theme. This room has a huge jacuzzi tub (which is why we wanted it).

After unpacking (such as it was for only one full day there), we settled in for a nice cozy nap. The bed was truly comfortable and we conked out for almost two hours. Luckily we did not have far to go for our wine tasting; just downstairs in the parlor.
As I mentioned, Don seems to be the one of the pair that picks out the wines, does the tasting, serves the meals, checks people in and out; in general, anything that requires any degree of social interaction. He's a very gregarious fellow originally from MA (as is his wife (from MA; she was not overly gregarious but she cooked like a blue streak so who cares)).
We sampled four wines; two whites, two reds. Of the bunch, we really enjoyed one of the reds, a meritage from Geyserville; "2005 Marietta Old Vine Red". I have no idea how much it goes for, but, I am going to try and find it.
Don said that he'd leave coffee by our door in the morning at 7:30 and a full breakfast would be served in the dining room at 9:00.
With that, we ventured outside (where it was incredibly windy) to find a restaurant called Sean's. I'd read some reviews of it on Trip Advisor; both it and the other one we were considering, Waterman's Grill, got more than decent reviews. Turns out they are about the only shows in town, too. Alas, Waterman's Grill was closed for a few weeks (vacation) so that left Sean's. I say "alas" as our friend Michael had recommended it. Oh well! Don said we'd probably like Sean's well enough so off we went.
The waterfront area of Edenton was no more than a five minute walk from the B&B. Not too far from the B&B, we realized we'd forgotten to ask Don where, exactly, the restaurant was! We'd just passed a gas station so so walked back to it and approached an employee getting out of a truck. Mr. B said, "Excuse me, where is Sean's located?" the man appeared puzzled. I said, "The restaurant, Sean's?" he brightened and replied, "Oh, you mean She-ons!" and then told us where it was. Local culture!
Oops...I've run out of time for this entry now. Mr. B's on his way home from the office...gotta run. I'll finish it up later.
Mrs. B

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Book Discussion Group

After at least two years of trying to talk me into joining her book discussion group, my SIL Shannon finally convinced me to do so. Last night was the first meeting; its intent to select the books that will be read throughout the year.
Let me step back and explain why I'd resisted. First off, there was, what I thought to be, a practical reason and that was that the group meets the first Monday evening of the month. Generally, The Kid is here on Monday nights. So, since we barely see her as it is, I thought I should be around for her visits. 2nd, and, in all honesty, the biggest influence; I thought I would not want to be "told" what to read. Yeah, yeah, I knew I'd have a say in it, but, I really enjoying reading and, well, want to read what I want to read. Finally, and maybe THIS really was the reason, I've tended in my advancing years to become a bit of a recluse. Going out and getting to know new folks just didn't trip my trigger (cocktail parties and folks you may meet on vacation not-with-standing).
Anyway, Shannon asked me again a few days ago. It was at the tip of my fingers to type "Gee, thanks, but, no thanks" for all the same
But then I thought about it some more. Frankly, I found myself stepping out a bit more in 2008 and getting involved with other activities outside the home and my general family and friend comfort zone. I joined the Board of Director's for the Durham Symphony Orchestra in July and I started a small consulting business in August. Sitting around once a month with a group of nice ladies discussing books now sounded pretty interesting and fun. Not to mention, fairly soon, I will once again become a CPA Widow as Mr. B gears up for and jumps full steam ahead into tax season. I also thought that it could be a growth experience (never stay still too long or you'll get run over) and culturally enriching to read books that otherwise I might not have read.
So, last night I drove over to get Shannon and we went on to the host's house.
We were a smallish group of 7 (although I believe one or two more ladies come on occasion). Each one of us came prepared with some suggestions for the list. We had WAY MORE than 10 slots available, which is a good thing! Who knows, I might read some of the ones not selected on my own (BTW, I read/listened to 35 books in 2008, so, I'll still have plenty of free slots for my own personal picks).
The group typically keeps the book size to less than 350 pages, not a new release (so it's readily available at the library or in paperback) and does not meet in July. This means that the book for August can be a bit longer since there are two months to read it. The group likes to pick at least one classic, one children's and one holiday/seasonal. The remainder should be a close split between fiction and non-fiction.
It took us over two hours to go around the room, toss out our recommendations, discuss them, go back and forth, add in a few new ones that popped into someone's mind, and then, finally, to get down to brass tacks and select the "winners".
After the meeting, Shannon and commented to one another that we thought we had a very diverse slate of books to read this year.
Here is what we'll be reading!
February: The Zoo Keeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman. Non-Fiction. True story about Polish zoo keepers who hide Jews in the animal cages after Germany invades Poland.
March: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frantweiler and View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg. Children's Fiction. We're reading two because they are not very long. The author won the Newbury Award for the first book in 1968. The 2nd was written 30 years later and is getting great reviews.
April: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. Non-Fiction. Kingsolver's memoir about her family moving from Arizona to rural Appalachia and eating nothing but organic/homegrown foods (frankly, this falls into the category of I seriously doubt I would have EVER read this one; we'll see how it goes!)
May: Digging to America by Anne Tyler. Fiction. This is one I recommended. I listened to it on CD in 2007 and was absolutely enthralled. It's the story of two families who each adopt a baby girl from Korea and how they strike up an improbable, lasting friendship.
June: A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson. Non-Fiction. Can you tell this group is into nature? This is a funny guide to walking the Appalachian Trail. This is another book I never would have picked up on my own.
August: The Count Of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Classic Fiction. The "ultimate" revenge novel. We decided us gals could read a boys, book, too! Seriously, I liked the movie, so, hopefully I'll be able to get into this one since it is 600 pages (hence why it is August's selection).
September, October, November (TBA):
Something for the Pain by Paul Austin. Non-Fiction. Allen, a local author, reveals how his high-stress career of helping others led to a struggle to save himself. This selection will correspond with the Durham Library's "Durham Reads" selection so the group might be able to go somewhere to hear the author speak on top of discussing his book.
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. Fiction. The journey of a rare illuminated prayer book through centuries of war, destruction, theft, loss, and love. Brooks is the Pulitzer-Prize winning author of "March" (an account of the father of "Little Women").
Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs. Fiction. We decided we would be looking for something "light"by this time! Shannon recommended this tale known as "The Steel Magnolias of Manhattan".
December: The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits by Les Standiford. Non-Fiction. This also will serve as our holiday selection as we'll probably read "A Christmas Carol" as well.
So, there you have it! I'm excited! Oh, and each month one member is the location host and another leads the discussion. The location can be at your home or a local coffee shop/wine bar, etc.
I am hosting April's meeting and leading May's!
I'd best get on the stick and get my 2008 book review blog series written...and then...get reading!
Mrs. B