Friday, June 29, 2012

Tribute to Baked Oats

I'm not sure where baked oats originated.  I've been told that it is an Amish dish, but I was first introducted to it years ago when a co-worker brought some to a morning staff meeting as our "refreshments".  (You can read that as, "a distraction to make a boring meeting more tolerable and improve attendance.")   Not only did this seem like a tasty, healthy dish, but I was intrigued by the fact that a dish with an almost cake-like texture was created without ANY flour. For a finer textured end product you would use a finer cut of oatmeal such as instant or quick oats. The original recipe used a fair amount of oil and sugar, so I played with it a bit and came up with a more healthy combination of ingredients that still tasted good.  Sometimes I make it plain and add fruit on top, but more often I bake fruit right into the dish.  This also changes the texture somewhat depending on the water content of the added fruit.  My favorite is a combination of blueberries and strawberries.  I've also used apples (unpeeled), pears, peaches or a combination depending on what I have on hand.  And I've used fresh, frozen and occasionally canned fruit, although the canned fruit works best when added on top of plain baked oats. One recipe makes four servings and when I was working I appreciated the availability of a quick healthy breakfast on the three mornings after the original baking.

My mother used to say that she cooked "because it came with the job."  And I'm sort of in the same category, but nonetheless, I thought I would share my version of my very favorite breakfast.

Mix together:
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp oil

2 cups of oatmeal. (I've used instant, quick and old fashion.  They all work, although each creates a different texture in the end.) 
1/2 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
3/4 cup milk.

Mix well.  Add the fruit of your choice if desired.  Spread in a greased baking pan.  I use a glass 9 inch pie pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes in a regular oven (or 325 degrees for 30 minutes in a convection oven.)

Sometimes I put the fruit on the bottom and spread the oat mixture on top sort of like a cobbler.  This works best with apples and pears.  The berries get a bit runny when placed on the bottom like that.  By my figuring, the calorie count comes in at 300/serving without the fruit.  I would estimate that the fruit would add another 30-50 depending on the fruit of your choice and the amount you add. 


Sunday, June 24, 2012

State of the Blog Address

I just went back and read some of my very first postings.  Wow....was that an eye opener!.  I started this blog to provided some accountability for my weight loss.  But it wasn't until I reread the first post that I realized that I never reached my original weight loss goal!  I know that sounds strange.  But I've been so pleased with the weight that I did lose that I lost track of the fact that I didn't lose all that I had intended.  And this year I've essentially added no additional weight loss.  So, the good news is that I've maintained my weight for about nine months, but the bad news is that I still have more to go.  I like how clothes fit now and I'm certainly more healthy, but my BMI is still a bit high and my short stature could afford to be a bit lighter.  So, perhaps I need to review my present diet and activity and figure out how to accomplish a bit more weight loss.  Up until now I've aimed at lifestyle changes that I could maintain and I think that's been successful.  I just need to come up with a few additional changes I guess.

And although dieting was the motivation to start this blog, it has grown to more than that.  I've found it a fun way to keep track of my sewing projects, travel, and even random thoughts and ideas.  It's sort of an electronic diary.  As a teenager, back in the pre-computer days, I had a diary now and again.  After a while we called it "journaling" but it's all basically the same thing: a written "snapshot" of a part of your life.  I'll keep on blogging until it no longer is fun.  The written snapshots really enhance an aging memory!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Book #3: One for the Money...and Bonus Movie Review.

First off, let me say that I'm a bit disappointed in myself for taking so long to reach by goal of six books this year.  I really thought I would just plow through and surpass that goal long before the end of the year.  Now I'm glad that my aim is such a modest number.

I just finished One for the Money by Janet Evanovich.  This is the first in a series of books numbered sequentially (Two for the Show, Three to Get Deadly, etc.).  Some people love this author and wait expectantly for each new book in this series whose lead character is named Stephanie Plum.  I was hoping to join their ranks and add Evanovich to my list of favorite authors, but I don't think that will come to pass.  The book is set in Trenton, NJ which provided some added entertainment for me since I grew up in the Garden State.  But the plot itself was predicable and the writing style was average.  It was very readable and was a great beach book since you could follow the plot with little work and you could lay it down for several days, pick it back up with no trouble at all.

After I was a few chapters into this book I realized that a movie had been made of the story and it had risen to the top of our Netflix cue.  One of my motivations to finish the book was that I didn't want to see the movie until I had read the entire story in print.  The movie was essentially the same.  The few changes made to the plot didn't drastically alter the story.  And like the book, it was pretty predictable.  The scenery was believably New Jersey.  Katherine Heigl played Stephanie Plum.  While I've enjoyed her in other movies, she didn't fit my characterization of Stephanie.  Sandra Bullock would have been more believable in the part, but she might be too old to play this character.  I wouldn't go out of my way to see this one.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Garden

This time of year requires a lot of time in the yard to keep the weeds under control and the flowers growing.  I'm a very inconsistant gardener.  My best skill is pulling weeds.  I used to keep a garden journal thinking that it would help me figure out what flowers do best where and how successful my different growing techniques turned out to be..or, more importantly, just WHERE I planted those bulbs!  Usually my garden depends on how much effort I want to give it in any particular month or year.

Every once in a while, though I do something right.  This year I got an amazing result out of these yellow Calla Lillies near my side door.  I thought they were picture worthy.  They don't last long, but they sure are elegant and pretty while they're around!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Beach Report: Part Two

We did manage to have some fun adventures last week in between bad weather and fussy kids.  The grand children spent a day at our house before we all traveled to the beach and we had the chance to show them one of the many limestone caves in the area  I opted to show them Luray Caverns.  Luray is not my personal favorite of our many caverns in this part of Virginia, but it has the biggest "wow" factor.  Since I was concerned about entertaining children who are used to the immediate gratification of the electronic world, I went for "wow".  They seemed to like it.

Sunday and Monday at the beach were both good beach days with lots of sun and manageable surf.  We stay in a town called Duck because it is slightly away from the busy built up areas of the Outer Banks and mostly because the have the most dog friendly beach around.  Dogs are allowed on the beach at all times unleashed if you are able to control them with verbal commands.  Most dog owners are very good about maintaining control of their pets and about cleaning up afterwards.  Our beloved Golden loves the beach.  His favorite activity is fetching in the surf and rolling in the sand.
Seamus will be 11 next month and every time we leave to come home I can't help but wonder if he will be around to enjoy the beach next time.  But he is healthy and active and shows no signs of slowing down except for some occasional stiffness after an overly busy day.

On the sound side of our little town of Duck is a nice board walk that goes through a little park and along some nice shops.  I had the chance to walk the length of this with son #3, grandson #2 and Seamus.  That had been on my "hope to do" list for this beach visit.

Wednesday was a difficult day for son #3.  Stepson #2 rented a fishing charter as a Father's Day present for the husband.  So early Wednesday morning all the males (except the dog) headed to the marina for a 6am departure to fish inshore.  It was a mixed adventure for son #3.  He brought in the season record Spanish Mackerel at 3.5 pounds, but he paid the price in sea sickness - twice.  That afternoon he and I had made plans to go parasailing.  This also was something I had wanted to do for a long, long time.  By this time of day the waters were getting pretty choppy.  We were the last of three groups to go up and all the combined motion of the sea and the air was too much.  Son #3 lost his lunch 600 feet above the water.  Fortunately I was upwind.  It's been many years since I've been spit up on by an offspring!

The grandchildren headed home on Saturday morning since they had a 15 hour trip to get to their home.  That afternoon the husband and I headed north to the Currituck Lighthouse and I made the climb to the top.  The view was beautiful, but it was VERY (what else) windy up there!

I love the history of  lighthouses.  This one had some interesting facts.  It was left unpainted to distinguish it from other lighthouses on this coast which really gives it a distinctive look.  The house for the keepers was a duplex identical on both sides including separate walkways to the lighthouse.  This was in case the two families did not get along in this remote location.  They wouldn't have to share anything, not even the path to care for the light.  We actually traveled to the lighthouse twice.  The first time was on Friday, but when we got there the wait to get inside was over an hour one could go to the beach so they were all looking for alternate things to do.  We went back on Saturday morning since half of the beach houses turn over their occupants on Saturday, half on Sunday.  There was no line at all!

In the afternoon we decided to head south. Our original destination was a Dairy Queen where I had enjoyed skee ball in past visits.  We were disappointed to find that they had removed the skee ball games.  But on the way we stopped at Jockey Ridge State Park.  This is the largest sand dune on the east coast.  I had never been their in all of my trips to the beach.  It was a fun discovery.  They have a boardwalk that leads out into the center of the dunes.  Many people hike the dunes, but I knew that wasn't an activity we could do so we just decided to follow the walkway.  At the end of the path you could go down onto the sand and there a tidal pool (or a small lake?  I don't really know what it's called).  Seamus had fun walking through the water, fetching a stick and (of course) rolling in the sand.
The only downside to this adventure was that it brought us heading north back to our beach house amidst the many people arriving for their beach week.  So, we had a chance to add the experience of traffic to our vacation.

We've always enjoyed the location of the house we rent.  It's right on the oceanfront.  But weather like this almost makes that a disadvantage.  The high winds brought a LOT of sea spray our way.  Even our vehicle parked under the house was covered in salt by the time we headed home.  The ocean side of the house was wet with the spray for days.

That's not rain on those's salt water!

So, that wraps up our trip.  I'm already looking forward to September and hoping for a week of good beach weather to sit under the umbrella, read, fetch with my dog and join the husband in some relaxing surf fishing.  Keeping my fingers crossed for no rain, no wind, no hurricanes and lots of sun!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Beach Report: Part One

Well, I survived my man-cation.  It was sort of a working vacation, but not because of the "man" part - because of the "grand children" part.  I might have made that harder all around because I suggested that we have a TV free week.  That led to some problems later in the week when the weather did not cooperate.  I watch my fair share of TV, but I've found that often the grandchildren just have the TV on even when no one is looking at it.  The constant noise and distraction sort of drive me crazy.  And since declaring some TV okay while other TV is not just leads to debate, a blanket "no TV" rule seemed easier all around.  At first the ten year old was totally on board declaring that he didn't watch much TV anyway (yeah, right).  But when the reality of no TV coupled with a closed beach due to high winds and rip tides became evident, he had second thoughts.
The red flags flew Thursday through Saturday.  The winds reached 30mph on some of the days making even sitting on the beach or screened in porch unpleasant.  High tide reached all the way to the bottom of the sand dunes.  In all my visits to the Outer Banks of North Carolina I have never seen waves like this.  We usually vacation in the fall and I've come to the conclusion that the weather is actually better in the fall than in June.  Since neither the husband nor I feel like we have had a proper beach vacation this year, we've reserved the same house for a week in September.  It's our turn for some good weather!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Beach Calls

Tomorrow we leave for a week at the beach.  It's a beach we go to often, although we have never been there at this time of year.  We usually opt for the fall when things are quieter.  But this year we are being joined by children and grandchildren and arranged to coincide with the school calendar.

I've nick named this a "fraternity fishing trip".  I'm the only female in a group of six - seven if you count my male dog!  I have a book, I have a hand sewing project, I have an iPod and earphones.  Wish me well!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Celebrating Life's Accomplishments

This time last year I was writing about graduations for son #2 and son #3.  Life events are meant to be celebrated, whether it is a yearly birthday or the less frequent graduation or wedding.  I think it's important to mark these occasions and in some small way make them memorable.  When the boys were young there was always a birthday cake, often memorable in itself due to my less than champion cake making talents (I always tried to make a cake in whatever shape they liked.  One year son #1 wanted a house.  I got it to stand up, but had to prop it against the wall to prevent a total collapse of the second floor.). 

Anyway.....back to graduations.  Graduations are a time to celebrate our children's accomplishments.  Sometimes the accomplishment is academic, sometimes it is an accomplishment of endurance.  College and high school take perseverance to complete.  Often there are obstacles to overcome.  Those can be academic obstacles; social obstacles; or even physical obstacles.  It's a busy time of life and keeping your eye on the finish line despite a myriad of distractions takes discipline.  And small missteps, mistakes or wrong decisions can steer us off the path to completion.  So it is no wonder that at a graduation ceremony, families want to cheer, shout and generally acknowledge these accomplishments.  Truth be told, we would probably like to stand on the chair and jump up and down.  I truly understand this emotion.  So, that is precisely why I really think that Cincinnati got it wrong.  Last week some graduates were denied their diplomas because their families cheered too loud and too long when the student's names were called.  Now they have to perform community service before they are awarded their diplomas.  You read that right....the families shouted too much and the graduates are essentially liable for this.

Come on Cincinnati!!  You can do better that this.  I understand that the cheering can get out of hand preventing others from hearing their student's names or go on too long dragging out the ceremony but you can do better than this!  Why not eliminate some of the boring speeches and just allot more time to the part that everyone is there for?  Trust me on one gets some life time truth from a graduation speech.  I've heard many and don't remember any!  Or why not handle it with good humor and raise some money at the same time?  If you cheer too long or too loud, you have to put $5 or $10 or whatever in a hat.  The money can be used for a scholarship the next year.  Go with it.  That's why we are at the graduation - to celebrate an accomplishment.  That's why we endure the heat, rain, crowds, boring speeches - to celebrate.  We are marking a life's accomplishment.  We are making memories. We WANT to shout.  Quite frankly, for college graduations, we have paid dearly to shout.  It's really not too much to ask.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Wizard of Oz Quilt

My Wizard of Oz quilt if finally done!  This fabric was bought almost a year ago on a trip to Columbus, Ohio.  My husband knows that the Wizard of Oz is one of my very favorite films so when we visited a store that had themed fabric for sale he wanted me to buy some.  This was very early in my quilting experience and I was not very good at figuring out how much fabric it took to make a quilt.  To make this harder, I really didn't have a pattern in mind, so the fabric sat for awhile while other projects for which my vision was clearer became realities.  Finally I decided to use a pattern called Charming Fractions as the basis for the quilt, with some modifications, or course.  I wanted to use the yellow brick between the story blocks to convey the "follow the yellow brick road" theme to the movie.
The colors are much brighter than I usually use, but the movie itself had that sort of bright, almost gaudy feel to it.  The quilt had several changes during the making.  At first there was going to be an additional border of a darker fabric outside the red.  But once I stood back to look at it, it seemed to detract rather than add to the look.  This made the overall size a little awkward for the backing.  A single pass of fabric was slightly too narrow for the quilt.  I ended up adding the darker fabric in the back and using it for both my label and some quotes from the movie in each corner.
Then there was the binding.......I cut it out wrong - twice!  The binding was originally going to be red like the border because had I known in the first place that I would have only one border, I would have made it wider.  But after ruining that fabric I decided to go with this stripe that I just bought on my recent trip to Lancaster.  It turned out better than expected, although I think I would have preferred the red instead, but that was not to be.

I'm pleased with the quilting itself.  This size quilt was much easier to handle in my little machine than some of my previous projects.  I used straight lines on the blocks and then a free motion meander pattern on the yellow brick, again to feel like you were wandering down the road.  The back fabric represents the Kansas part of the movie which was filmed in black and white with the characters in their "real life" roles while the front is all about Oz.

Then there's the intended recipient.  At first I was going to keep this quilt for myself.  But a few months ago I attended a reunion of my college roommates.  One of them I hadn't seen in 30 years.  I was reminded of how she also liked the Wizard of Oz and how she joined me in dressing up as different characters in the movie for Halloween.  So, the quilt is going to be sent to her as a little surprise package.  All that's left to do is write a note, print a picture of us as Munchkins, and box up the quilt.

So, now I have one more to finish quilting and then I can move onto some new projects!  And, in case you're concerned.....I have plenty of fabric left if I want to create another Wizard of Oz quilt.  But, I think I have several other projects in the cue before I tackle that.