Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wish List Wednesdays: Colorful Bird Feeders

From Living and Gardening in the Ozarks

On this bonus last day of February (happy Leap Day, everyone!) I will end National Bird Feeding Month with two different colorful bird feeders that I would love to hang up in my yard.  The first is the J. Schatz Egg Bird Feeder (additional colors here if you're in the U.K.!), a ceramic feeder shaped like an egg:

From Addicted2Decorating

At $125 they are pricey, but the array of colors is dazzling and the shape is visually pleasing, plus a ceramic feeder is easy to clean.  And they would pair well with the modern egg-shaped nogg chicken coop!

The other feeder that caught my eye was this Retro Wild Bird Feeder:


Shown here in raspberry with purple interior, other color choices are mustard with olive interior or white with black interior.  Made of sturdy plastic, they are under $50, so splurge and buy more than one!

The only problem I can see with these feeders is that their colors may compete for your attention with those of the birds themselves.  However, I am one of those who feels that the more color the better, so I am willing to take that chance!
     

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Terrifying Tuesdays: M. R. James' "The Tractate Middoth"

Portrait of M. R. James from theinkbrain

It must be obvious that I am a big fan of M. R. James!  This week I feature another of his short stories for Library Lovers Month, "The Tractate Middoth".  The opening scene actually takes place in a library.  An elderly patron requests the help of a young library assistant in finding an edition of the Talmud called the Tractate Middoth, but the assistant finds it strangely difficult to locate the volume.  When the man returns the following day with the same request, the library assistant tries again, only to encounter something that results in a blow to his health.  Later, a chance meeting with a woman and her attractive young daughter helps the assistant discover the horrifying mystery surrounding the Tractate Middoth, much to the disadvantage of the elderly patron.  This tale even implies a bit of a love story, quite rare for M. R. James, but the end is sufficiently scary to satisfy any horror enthusiast.  You can read it here, or listen to a dramatized adaptation.  There is even a rather well done television version by the Lights Out series called "The Lost Will of Dr. Rant" starring a very young Leslie Nielsen.  I recommend enjoying all three!

        

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mystery Mondays: W. Bolingbroke Johnson's The Widening Stain

From Mystery*File

When I was an undergraduate I had a student job in the Rare Books Room of Cornell University's Olin Library.  The staff was a delightful group of people, and I truly enjoyed working with them.  They had a touching custom of presenting every student employee with a copy of W. Bolingbroke Johnson's The Widening Stain upon graduation.  I still have my copy and have read it many times.  It not only brings back fond memories, it is also a very enjoyable read.  W. Bolingbroke Johnson is the pseudonym of Morris Bishop, a former provost at Cornell University as well as a respected scholar and popular humorist in his day, with a penchant for creating limericks.  Although he jokingly denied penning The Widening Stain, there is a copy of the novel in the Cornell library with a limerick inscribed by him reluctantly admitting authorship.

The story takes place on a university campus that bears a distinct resemblance to Cornell University.  Set in the 1940s, this novel provides a fascinating glimpse of university life during that time period.  The protagonist is a young library cataloger named Gilda Gorham.  When a beautiful female French professor dies in the stacks of her library, Gilda considers the death suspicious.  Then another body is found in the library, and this one is definitely murder.  Gilda investigates, putting herself in danger, but manages to trap the murderer in the end, and finds romance as well!  The tale is told with a bit of a humorous twist, and limericks are scattered throughout, which only adds to the enjoyment of this book.

Originally published in 1942, The Widening Stain was recently republished by the Rue Morgue Press (2007) under Morris Bishop's name.  Find yourself a copy to read -- you will be glad you did!

From Lake Country Books
   

Friday, February 24, 2012

Foodie Fridays: Macaroon Pie

From 3 Blondes and the Law

I love macaroons, but my favorites are the soft, chewy type rather than the crispy French version which is so popular right now.  This simple recipe is my favorite macaroon in pie form.  For me, it doesn't get much better than this.  Try it and you just might agree!

Macaroon Pie

2 eggs
1 C. milk
3/4 C. sugar
1/4 C. flour
2 T. butter, melted
1/2 T. vanilla
grated nutmeg to taste
4-7 oz. flaked coconut

Blend all but the last ingredient in a blender.  Pour into a greased pie pan and sprinkle the coconut over.  Pat the coconut into the mixture.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.  Cool and serve.  Serves 6.
   

Thursday, February 23, 2012

This 'n That Thursdays: Beautiful Bookshelves

By Kim Yokota

My husband and I are dedicated bibliophiles.  We have literally hundreds of books, so finding storage for all of them can be a problem.  Fortunately there are numerous shelving options available, like the clever "READ" shelves pictured above.  Here are a few more that I would love to have in my home:

Bibliochaise by Nobody & Co. (there is also a coordinating Bibliopouf)

Round Sofa Bookcase by Behance

Cave Bookcase by Sakura Adachi

Ceiling bookshelves from Apartment Therapy

Unique built-in bookshelves from Decodir

United States Map Bookshelf from Yatzer

Bookcase Hut by Point (photo by Paul Baron)

Staircase bookshelves from ozzum

This is just a small sample of innovative ways to store books -- I never realized there were so many options out there.  We may be able to find a way to house all of our books after all!
 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wish List Wednesdays: Chocolate Bar Bed Toppings


Sometimes I wish I could be a child again just to experience some of the wonderful objects available for children right now!  Case in point -- these yummy bed linens from an Australian company called Bed Toppings.  The four-piece set includes the Sleepyhead Chocolate Bar doona cover and twin-size sheet set.  Any child can expect nothing but sweet dreams in a bed topped with these linens!
     

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Terrifying Tuesdays: M. R. James' "Canon Alberic's Scrapbook"

From The Moon Lens

Since February is Library Lovers Month I thought I would feature something literary for Terrifying Tuesday.  And what better feature than an M. R. James story about a demonic book?  "Canon Alberic's Scrapbook" recounts the tale of an English scholar called Dennistoun who travels to a small town in the Pyrenees to visit the local church.  While there Dennistoun is invited by the sacristan of the church to view an old manuscript in his possession.  One look at the volume convinces the Englishman that this is a rare treasure, but he has no idea just how frighteningly unique it really is!  You can read this terrifying tale here, or listen to an audio version.  Just be aware that this story may make you think twice the next time you decide to indulge in a good book!

From Epilogue to Prologue
     

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mystery Mondays: J. B. Stanley's Supper Club Mysteries


The Supper Club Mysteries by J. B. Stanley is an engaging series featuring Dr. James Henry, a former university professor who resigns his teaching position to come home to Quincy's Gap, Virginia, and care for his irascible father after the death of his mother and his own divorce.  He takes a job as librarian at the local library, but settles into a life that is really no life at all, focusing only on his job and a fondness for overeating.  Attempting to break out of this dreary routine, James joins a weight loss supper club.  The members of this little group decide to call themselves the "Flab Five", and meet once a week to share a meal and support the efforts of each member to lose weight.  James soon finds himself attracted to fellow group member Lucy Hanover, who has ambitions to advance herself at the local sheriff's department where she works.  Romance is put on hold, however, when the Flab Five become involved in helping Lucy solve a local murder.

This is a delightful series which includes recipes, and it is fun to get to know more about all members of the Flab Five as the series progresses.  James Henry's new life takes all sorts of interesting turns in each of the six novels.  The sixth in the series, Black Beans and Vice, is supposedly the last, but I hope the author reconsiders and continues to write about the exploits of the Flab Five in the future.
 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Foodie Fridays: Mini-Cheesecakes

From Make Ahead Meals For Busy Moms

While cheesecake is not one of my favorite desserts, I do prefer ones made with less cream cheese (any recipe that calls for more than two 8-ounce packages of cream cheese is too dense, in my opinion).  I like this recipe because the portion size is small and the amount of cream cheese is reasonable.  My favorite topping is canned cherry pie filling, which I am embarrassed to admit because the stuff is mostly goopy filling, but at least as a topping you can limit the amount of filling used (I find three cherries per mini-cheesecake to be the perfect amount).  You can also use chocolate vanilla wafers and stir mini-chocolate chips into the batter, then top with cherry pie filling for a black forest version, or leave off the cherries if you want just chocolate.  Use your imagination and make this easy recipe suit your own tastes!

Mini-Cheesecakes

12 vanilla wafers
2 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1/2 C. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs, beaten

Line a muffin tin with foil liners.  Place a vanilla wafer in each liner.  Beat together the next three ingredients.  Mix in eggs.  Pour over wafers, filling 3/4 full.  Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes.  Cool and remove from the tin.  Chill.  Top with fresh fruit, pie filling, preserves, nuts, etc. if desired.  Serves 12.
     

Thursday, February 16, 2012

This 'n That Thursdays: Feeling Antsy

From Shoreway77

Ants are fascinating creatures.  They are industrious and ubiquitous, but for the most part are ignored by humans.  Unless, of course, they annoy us in some way, such as a fire ant inflicting a painful bite or hordes of foraging ants invading our picnics or our homes.  One summer we had ants come in through our closed kitchen window and set up a colony in our brown sugar canister.  Since I rarely use brown sugar, it was months before I finally figured out where all of the ants in our house were coming from!  So I was very surprised at how many home décor items feature these tiny insects, especially on items for the dining table.  I have already mentioned the Fire Ants Wallpaper from Anthropologie in an earlier post, but recently I came across this Soldier Ants Wallpaper by Funky Little Darlings:

From Not on the High Street

For a fine dining experience, set your table with this ant-themed dishware from Bailey Doesn't Bark:




There is even an ant-covered pillow available:


If you are more than a little bit country, you may prefer this ant-covered gingham dishware:

From Madison Avenue Gifts

There are also ant-covered gingham napkins:

From juniperberries on Etsy

And to wrap them up here are some giant ant napkin rings:

From notNeutral

Ants as table decorations are a must:

From Factory Direct Craft

If you are dining al fresco, then ant tablecloth weights will keep your tablecloth from ending up gone with the wind:

From Bay Village Store

Should you be invited to a potluck dinner, be sure to keep your hot dish warm with this crocheted casserole cover:

From Crochet Memories

My goodness, I could go on and on about ant-themed products for the home!  However, I think I will end this post with the uniquely bizarre and wonderful Ant Armchair from the Zoomorphic Collection of Wild Design:

From Wild Design

If we can't beat the little buggers, at least we can sit on them!  Or better yet, how about their Anteater Chair:

From Wild Design

After all, we have to control this ant invasion somehow, so why not with an anteater?  Let's just hope these highly organized little invertebrates don't turn the tables on us and start making off with our furniture in retaliation:


Now that's scary!
    

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wish List Wednesdays: What's New, Cupcake? Cookbook

From Select2gether

Much as I hate to admit it, I am not creative.  I wish I was one of those talented individuals who can take something ordinary and turn it into something extraordinary, but that is just not me.  I need help in the creativity department, so when I saw this post from Hostess with the Mostess about creatively decorated cupcakes, I was more than a little intrigued.  These beautiful cupcakes are featured in a cookbook called What's New, Cupcake? by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, and I think I will have to get myself a copy.  The cute yellow ducks on the cover are fantastic, but the "Ants on a Picnic" and "Busy Bees" cupcakes just literally take the cake for me:



Who says you can't have your cupcake and eat it too, especially when you have help from a cookbook like this?
       

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Holiday Hits: Happy Valentine's Day!


Today is Valentine's Day!  Be sure to give all of your sweeties, both human and nonhuman, lots of love and hugs today.

"The more you love
 the more you'll find
 that life is good and friends are kind,
 and only what we give away
 enriches us from day to day."
~ Helen Steiner Rice

For more love quotes visit this site.  Happy Valentine's Day!
      

Terrifying Tuesdays: Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)


Not only is today a Terrifying Tuesday, it is also Valentine's Day!  An unfortunate combination, you say?  Why, surely you jest -- some of the most heartbreaking love stories are horror movies!  Take, for example, the title creature's fatal attraction to Fay Wray in "King Kong" (1933).  Or how about the star-crossed lovers in "The Mummy" (1932), doomed to be separated for all eternity.  And don't forget the tragic infatuation of an unhappy wife with her murderously philandering husband in "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman" (1958).  Then there is Lon Chaney Jr.'s Larry Talbot in "The Wolf Man"(1941), whose budding romance with Evelyn Ankers' character suffers an early demise thanks to a curse he did not even deserve.  (But please let's not discuss the sappy "Twilight Saga" here -- save that for someone else's blog!)

My choice for the day, though, has to be "The Creature from the Black Lagoon" (1954), with its variation on the classic doomed love story.  Creature meets girl, creature becomes enamored of girl, girl rejects creature, creature attempts to claim girl as his own, and ultimately tragedy strikes creature.  Break out the tissues, everyone, because this is a real tearjerker (although keep in mind that this is the opinion of someone who shed tears for King Kong at the end of that movie).

The action takes place in the depths of the Amazonian jungle.  The cast of characters includes noble scientist Dr. David Reed (Richard Carlson), arrogant scientist Dr. Mark Williams (Richard Denning), Kay Lawrence (Julie Adams) as everyone's love interest, two uncredited actors as the Creature (Ricou Browning and Ben Chapman as aquatic and terrestrial versions, respectively), and various others as potential monster fodder.  I'm sure I don't even have to tell you who wins the girl in the end!  You can watch the trailer here.

If you enjoy both a good love story and an old-fashioned horror movie, then snuggle up with your sweetie today and watch this movie as a Valentine's Day treat!

Interesting Fact:  There are so many interesting facts associated with this movie!  The physical appearance of the Creature was modeled after the Academy Award's Oscar.  Director Ingmar Bergman watched this movie every year on his birthday.  The movie was originally produced in 3-D.  Actor Richard Denning also starred in the giant bug movie "The Black Scorpion" (1957), and was married to horror movie queen Evelyn Ankers (see above).  Actor Richard Carlson starred in a number of science fiction and horror movies, including "It Came from Outer Space" (1953).  Need I go on?

Gore Guide (0=none to 5=extreme): 0

From Monster Awareness Month
   

Monday, February 13, 2012

Mystery Mondays: JoAnna Carl's The Chocolate Cupid Killings


Are you looking for a good mystery to read for Valentine's Day?  Then look no farther than JoAnna Carl's The Chocolate Cupid Killings featuring Lee McKinney and the TenHuis Chocolade, a specialty chocolates shop in Warner Pier, Michigan!  I've described Ms. Carl's Chocoholic mystery series in an earlier post (last Valentine's Day, as a matter of fact!).  In this installment, Lee and her Aunt Nettie, owner of TenHuis Chocolade, have been providing a safe haven for women on the run from abusive relationships.  When a private detective named Derrick Valentine arrives just before Valentine's Day looking for one of the women, the two deny any knowledge of her.  Unfortunately, the detective later turns up dead and Aunt Nettie becomes the prime suspect, so it is up to Lee to prove her innocence and find the real killer.  This is the ninth novel in the series, and a tenth, The Chocolate Pirate Plot, is already out.

JoAnna Carl's novels are some of my favorite cozy mysteries.  In addition to the mystery plot, these books contain interesting chocolate trivia, all of which are a pleasure to read.  And what better way to celebrate Valentine's Day than to immerse yourself in a well-written mystery story involving fine chocolates?
   

Sunday, February 12, 2012

On the Homefront: An Unusually Mild Winter

From Tutorial Bunch

I'll admit that we rarely get scenes like the one above here in our part of rural Georgia, but we usually get at least a little bit of wintry weather.  Not so this year -- it has been extremely mild.  There have been a few cold snaps, but they are always followed by bouts of unusually warm weather.  This past Sunday our temperatures were well into the seventies -- I was actually wearing a tank top and still feeling overly warm!  Apparently our plants are feeling warm as well.  The Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles sp.) has been blooming continuously all winter long (I think that is the first time this has ever happened since we have been here):


Our Chinese Fringe Flower (Loropetalum chinense) has also been flowering all winter, as have the pansies I put out in the fall, but this is not so unusual:

Chinese Fringe Flower

Pansies

The naturalized daffodils were out at the beginning of January, much earlier than normal:


We even had one lone camellia blossom in January:


My favorite daffodils (the yellow ones with orange centers) have started blooming this month:


The forsythia has been putting out a few flowers since January, but it is starting to flower in earnest now:


The Hellebores or Lenten Roses (Helleborus sp.) have also come up:


Even the Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) has put out a few blooms, but it really is too early for them:


I saw my first iris blossom a few days ago while on my early morning walk (ours are not up yet).  The Spring Peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) have started calling, and there was even an Anolis Lizard (Anolis carolinensis) out sunning itself on our deck railing recently on a particularly warm afternoon!  Although an arctic blast has just recently descended upon us, it is supposed to be gone in a few days, and our rapid approach to spring will continue.