Wednesday, November 13, 2019

World Kindness Day

World Kindness Day November 13th need not be just one day but should be practiced every day. Here's some ideas to keep the kindness going...
31 Acts of Kindness : Your November Challenge

1. Donate to a local food pantry
2. Volunteer for a worthy cause
3. Start a gratitude journal
4. Shop handmade on Black Friday
5. Make someone their favorite meal
6. Donate a coat
7. Compliment a cashier
8. Give yourself a yes day
9. Pay for someone’s meal
10. Thank a veteran
11. Show your gratitude to a loved one
12. Jot down 30 great things about yourself
13. Give something to a homeless person
14. Let someone else have the parking spot
15. Donate to Toys for Tots
16. Invite someone new over for a meal
17. Make someone a handmade gift
18. Email an old friend
19. Donate to a local rescue or animal shelter
20. Thank you local police or firemen
21. Thank your delivery drivers
22. Leave unused coupons at the store
23. Let someone checkout before you
24. Bake something for a friend or loved one
25. Return someone’s cart for them
26. Compliment a loved one
27. Send flowers to someone
28. Hold the door for someone
29. Celebrate world kindness day (Nov 13)
30. Leave kind notes in library books
31. Make Snicker Turtles and give someone an unexpected gift

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Washington DC Area

Part Two: Alexandria VA
Who Knew
Torpedo Factory Art Center Alexandria VA
Founded in 1974 in an old munitions plant, the Torpedo Factory Art Center is home to the nation’s largest collection of working-artists’ open studios under one roof.
An Alexandria landmark for more than 40 years, it’s the highlight of the Potomac Riverfront, attracting approximately 500,000 visitors annually.
Here you can find artwork in a wide variety of media–including painting, ceramics, photography, jewelry, stained glass, fiber, printmaking, and sculpture–in

We were impressed with the ingenuity of this artist who created a bicycle out of an old torpedo.
YES, the Torpedo Factory Art Center once was an actual torpedo factory!
It all began the day after Armistice Day, November 12, 1918, marking the official end of World War I. Ironically, on that day, the U.S. Navy began construction on the original building, the U.S. Naval Torpedo Station. Once fully operational, it was responsible for the manufacture and maintenance of Mark III torpedoes for the next five years. (The silver torpedo by the Riverfront Entrance is a Mark III, but it was not manufactured in Alexandria.)

Work stopped in 1923 and the facility served as a munitions storage area until 1937 when production on the Mark XIV began leading up to WWII. Over time, the complex grew to 16 buildings and 5,000 employees. Workers were not segregated, which was uncoming in Virginia at this time.

The Mark XIV green torpedo, currently displayed in the main hall, was produced here in 1945. It was painted bright green so that the Navy could find it in the water when it was tested at Piney Point, MD.

After the War ended in 1945, the complex briefly manufactured parts for rocket engines before shuttering permanently in 1946. By 1950, it was converted to the Federal Records Center in Alexandria. It stored congressional documents, dinosaur bones, German war films and Nuremberg War Crimes trial records.

Lincoln's Cottage
We were privileged to have spent some time with Lincoln and his favorite horse Bob.
President Lincoln and Soldiers’ Home National Monument, sometimes shortened to President Lincoln's Cottage, is a national monument on the grounds of the Soldiers' Home, known today as the Armed Forces Retirement Home. It is located near the Petworth and Park View neighborhoods of Washington, D.C 
It's here at this cottage Lincoln and his family escaped the summer heat and humidity of the city. Lincoln composed The Proclamation of Emancipation there. 
PART THREE: An Unexpected Trip  to Arizona 

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Washington DC.

PART ONE: Washington DC. area
Three days in the Washington DC area certainly is not enough time to adequately cover all the main attractions. But we did our best with the help of our nieces and Charley's sister who live here. And great tour guides I might add. 
Our last glimpse of Mount Vernon, a stately mansion overlooking the Potomac River, was 50 years ago. At that time the mansion was white not cream colored. Also there was not a humongous gift shop or museum in sight. We were told the reason for color change is to make it more authentic. When the exterior of the Mansion was painted and sanded in 1797 the lead white paint under sandstone produced a cream-colored, textured effect akin to sandstone blocks. This painting and sanding campaign appears to have been executed by Washington before his death in 1799.

View of the Potomac River

Washington's tomb is on the property. 
A tour of the historical Georgetown area was informative and quite picturesque. The architecture reminded us of Savannah with houses all lined up with decorative touches of ornamental black wrought iron. The area is also laid out in a grid pattern like Savannah.  
This tiny, tiny entrance is to a basement apartment. Have no idea how furniture would be even be hauled in and make a very tight turn though a doorway. 
 Real estate is pricey here. Note the small blue house dwarfed by houses on each side. The house is only 9-1/2 feet wide and cost 1 million dollars.
 You might be interested in knowing this Georgetown house posted below was once owned by the Kennedys before he became president. 
This house below Jackie Kennedy lived in for one year after her husband was killed. 
The listed house price in early 60's was 10 million but sold for a bargain price of 6 million.   
Georgetown University (Healy Hall)
After walking for two hours we were happy the tour concluded at the famous Georgetown  bakery.
Making a choice indeed was difficult. But we managed with these yummy picks.  
Lucky we had a cupcake break as a three hour tour of all the exhibits at the Spy Museum while interesting was exhausting and overwhelming with a huge Sunday crowd.  
The International Spy Museum is a private non-profit museum dedicated to the tradecraft, history and contemporary role of espionage, featuring the largest collection of international espionage artifacts currently on public display covering 140,000 square feet.
We found it interesting to see so many food trucks lined up in front of the capitol. 
We were quite taken with the creativity of this outdoor food venue S'mores on a stick at the wharf. 

We ended the day at a restaurant overlooking the mall with numerous historical monuments in view. Indeed it has been a surreal experience for us being here.  

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Beef Tamale Casserole

We are in the grips of an arctic blast. Waking up to 7 degrees this early in November seems way too early and just not right.  A warm up in the kitchen was needed so I set out to create a 
with a Beef Tamale Casserole.
A comfort food casserole that's a a real winner in my book.  Besides being kid friendly, layers of spiced beef, enchilada and tomato sauce, cheesy goodness topped with sweet cornbread is an irresistible dish. I skipped making cornbread from scratch and went for easy using a box mix. I substituted buttermilk for the milk. If you are a family of cheese lovers reserve some of the cheese and sprinkle over the cornbread before baking. Suggested cornbreads in my order of preference Famous Daves Cornbread, Krusteaz Honey Cornbread, 2 boxes of Jiffy Cornbread.
You can vary the "hotness" of this recipe by increasing the spices or using hot enchilada sauce over mild.

  • 1 box cornbread mix
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 cup each diced onions and mini sweet red and yellow peppers
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. each chili powder, cumin, taco seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 can (10 oz.) enchilada sauce mild
  • 1 can (10 oz.) Rotel diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 1 cup frozen corn (no need to thaw) 
  • 1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican Cheese (pre-packaged) 
  • Brown ground beef with onions, peppers, garlic and spices.
  • Drain and return mixture back to pan. Make sure beef is crumbled and add in enchilada sauce, diced tomatoes, corn, beans and cheese.
  • Pour into greased casserole dish.
  • Make cornbread according to manufacturer's directions. Place large spoonfuls of cornbread over beef mixture covering as much of baking pan as possible. It will spread during baking time.
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes. Additional cheese can be sprinkled over the cornbread the last 5 minutes of baking time. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Cinnamon Butternut Squash with Pecans and Cranberries

Looking for a healthy side dish for your holiday meals? Ever Ready has got you covered with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Cinnamon Butternut Squash with Pecans and Cranberries. This dish is packed with vegetables, rich in fiber, gluten free and oh so good for you. It makes for a lovely presentation. Halved red grapes makes a nice addition. Pair the veggie dish with roast chicken, turkey, pork or duck.
Much of the preparation for this dish can be done ahead of the actual roasting. 
  • Brussels sprouts can be halved with outer leaves removed. Place in a zip loc bag and refrigerate until needed. 
  • As a time saver buy prepared butternut squash cubes. 
  • Toast pecans @ 350 for 5 minutes. Spread out on a plate until needed.  
  • To save time, roast both Brussels sprouts and butternut squash on 2 separate baking sheets at the same time, on the same rack in the oven.
  • If adding halved red grapes mix in with veggies right before serving. 
Recipe from julia's album and serves 4-6
Roasted Brussels Sprouts:

  • 3 cups Brussels sprouts ends trimmed, outer leaves removed (about 1 lb.)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt to taste
  • Lemon squeeze
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Roasted Butternut Squash:
  • 1- 1/2 lb butternut squash peeled, seeded, and cubed into 1-inch cubes (yields about 4 cups of uncooked cubed butternut squash)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Red onion slices
Other Ingredients:
  • 1-1/2 cups pecan halves
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • Optional 1 cup halved red grapes  
How to Roast Brussels Sprouts:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone pad. 
  • Trim ends of Brussels sprouts and outer leaves.
  • Slice all Brussels sprouts in half.
  • In a medium bowl, combine halved Brussels sprouts, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt (to taste), and toss to combine. Squeeze lemon juice over the sprouts. 
  • Place on baking sheet cut side down, and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20-25 minutes. During the last 5-10 minutes of roasting, turn them over for even browning, the cut sides should be nicely and partially charred but not blackened.
  • Grate Parmesan cheese over the top. 
How to Roast Butternut Squash:
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone pad.  
  • In a medium bowl, combine cubed butternut squash (peeled and seeded), 2 tablespoons of olive oil, maple syrup, and cinnamon, red onion slices. Toss to mix.
  • Place butternut squash in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning once half-way through baking, until softened.
  • In a large bowl, combine roasted Brussels sprouts, roasted butternut squash, pecans, and cranberries, and mix to combine.
Optional-For more sweetness, add 2 extra tablespoons of maple syrup, if desired – do not add all maple syrup at once, start with 1 tablespoon, then add more, if desired, and toss with the salad ingredients to combine.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Last Call

Frank Weber has been a forensic psychologist for over 20 years. He is the Clinic Director of CORE professional Services. He has testified as an expert witness in numerous sexual assault and homicide cases. In addition Weber has visited every prison in the state of Minnesota performing psychological assessments. Weber's qualifications give him a unique understanding of forensic profiles of predators' thought processes, and the trauma of victims. He uses forensics in his books so people can learn a little about the science. Weber's background lends credibility to his writing as well as giving his characters authentic voices. Dark and graphic topics are covered in his book but appropriate for story content. 
Front and back cover photos taken in Pierz, MN with Elise Yates, model 

Weber writes mysteries all inspired by true crimes set in Minnesota towns. His first two books Murder Book and I-94 Murders and latest Last Call feature Jon Fredrick reprising his role of the neurotic obsessive protagonist. The book can be read as a stand alone without the reading of the prequels. Relevant information from previous books is skillfully woven into the third book. Last Call is based on a true story, the abduction of a young woman at a gas station in northern Minnesota. There are many aspects of Last Call similar to the Jayme Closs abduction in Wisconsin. Weber competently incorporates real life happenings and familiar Minnesota places in his writing.

Audrey Evans, 19, disappears in the dead of an arctic winter night after leaving her job at a convenience store in Brainerd, Minnesota. Investigator Jon Frederick is called into the investigation. He is not about to let Audrey end up being one of the 40,000 missing women in the US. Throughout the story Weber makes a concerted effort to humanize his characters rather than just focusing on the crime. He shows Audrey is a young woman who is trying to establish her identity and is capable of gritty resilience. Frederick is encased in a cloud of suspicion as a deceptive past lover puts his relationship with longtime love Serena in jeopardy. Frederick is wise yet vulnerable and loving. Serena is strong, compassionate, loving and protective. Clay, one of Frederick's friends, demonstrates a desire to rehabilitate himself. His loyalty to his friends is tested throughout the story.

Sinister acts of abduction and murder wreak havoc in a rural community forcing Fredrick to use his wits, knowledge of police work, cutting edge forensics and his own specially created algorithm to identify and catch a predator who is preying on the community. Weber employs his previous style from the first two books in Last Call. Each chapter seamlessly switches to a new perspective narrated by a different character with a clearly marked location. Readers are able to better understand each character's thoughts and motives as a series of events unfold. When Weber writes from the perpetrator’s perspective, the reader can better understand his motives, his reasoning and how he is able to justify hurtful behavior towards others. From the victim's perspective it becomes a chilling page turner as Audrey's heart wrenching words elicit impending doom. A myriad of characters challenge the reader to remain attentive throughout the story. A series of investigative clues develop into a cat and mouse guessing game hoping to stop the actions of the perpetrator and ultimately save the victim.

Last Call is aptly titled by Weber. According to the author he placed Jon Frederick in the last call scenario in the parking ramp, and in a bar scene at the end. Ken Daggett, the manager of the convenience store, was Audrey's last call.

Readers will find Last Call an intriguing, well crafted, chilling tale of murder. An abduction fueled with speculations, ulterior motives, plot twists and turns keeps the reader engaged right down to the last page.

Check out Frank Weber's website for more information on the author, his books and upcoming planned speaking engagements.

Lying Close is Book 4 planned in the Jon Frederick series. It will be available September 2020.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Dark Chocolate and Pumpkin Swirl Cake



Impress your family with a delicious marble cake. It's moist with a yummy pumpkin and chocolate pairing.  Recipe adapted from BHG.
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp. Saigon cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin not pumpkin pie filling
  • 3 ounces dark chocolate, melted
  • 2 TB. Dutch cocoa powder e.g. Droste
Step 1
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper and coat the parchment paper with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
Step 2
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon , baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
Step 3
In a medium bowl whisk together eggs and sugar. Add melted butter, buttermilk, and vanilla. Whisk until combined. Fold in pumpkin.
Step 4
Add the wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients and whisk just until no lumps remain.
Step 5
Divide batter in half. Add the melted chocolate (microwave chocolate 20 seconds, stir and repeat another 20 seconds. ) to the cocoa powder and then add to half of the batter; stir to combine.
Step 6
Add the two batters to the loaf pan, alternating between pumpkin and chocolate. Using a table knife, swirl through the batter. Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Remove and cool in pan for 20 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a wire rack.
Step 7 Optional Icing
In a small bowl stir together the powdered sugar, half of the orange peel, and enough of the orange juice to make frosting consistency.
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. finely shredded orange peel
2 – 3 TB. milk or orange juice

World Kindness Day

World Kindness Day November 13th need not be just one day but should be practiced every day. Here's some ideas to keep the kindness go...