Friday, March 30, 2012

Foodie Fridays: Easy Brownie Muffins


I found this recipe for brownie muffins on Food.com and decided to try it because it required so few ingredients and really was amazingly quick and easy.  I was quite pleasantly surprised when these muffins also turned out to be quite tasty.  While not exactly like a brownie, there is enough chocolatey goodness to satisfy any chocoholic craving, and the muffins are also quite moist.  I used an organic cake mix, but any type will do.  I also used milk chocolate chips because that was what I had, but semisweet would also work.  Give this one a try if you are in the mood for something sweet but don't want to prepare anything that requires a lot of effort -- Easy Brownie Muffins will do the trick!

Easy Brownie Muffins

1 box (about 18 oz.) chocolate cake mix
1 can (15 oz.) puréed pumpkin (not pie filling)
6 oz. chocolate chips

Combine the cake mix and pumpkin purée and stir thoroughly until all of the dry mix is moistened and the batter is smooth (it will be thick).  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Spoon the batter evenly into 18 muffin cups.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes until only slightly moist in the center when a toothpick is inserted.  Cool before serving.  Makes 18.
   

Thursday, March 29, 2012

This 'n That Thursdays: Southwestern Style Living Room

This week I am focusing on a living room design in both traditional and modern Southwestern style.  First up is the traditional look:

Clockwise from top left: Horse pillow from Rustic Lodge Furnishings; "Horse Play Two" by Laurie Justus Pace; Moose pillow from Rustic Lodge Furnishings; San Carlos end table from Mi Casita; Southwestern throw and pillow from Wild Wings; Rustic pine coffee table with molding from Mi Casita; Red leather club chair (no longer available); Southwestern table lamp from Great Southwestern Style; Center: Lisben sofa from American Leather; Center background: Painted Desert Cayenne Red rug from Rugs Direct.
           
Is this the design I prefer, or do I want something a bit more modern, as in the style board shown below:

Clockwise from top left: Tribeca coffee table from EZmod furniture; Delmar sofa from Bari Leather Furniture; Wilderness log table lamps from La Fuente Imports; Lotus end table from Asian Art Imports; Celebrate the Horse pillow from Smithsonian Store; Pleated sunburst pillow (no longer available); Zambesi Stripe pillow from Company C; Red leather tub chair from DesignerSofas4u; "Rhapsody in Horse" by Louise Mellon; Center background: Sahara 3 Diamonds Moss rug from Roten's Furniture.
           
The two looks couldn't be more different, and yet I like them both so much that I just can't choose between them!
 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wish List Wednesdays: Bear Rug Coasters



Did you know that the American Black Bear (Ursus americanus) is the official state animal of New Mexico?  Which means that these silicone bear rug coasters would be quite appropriate in a Santa Fe home (okay, so they aren't black, but black bears can actually range in color from white to blond, cinnamon, light or dark brown, and jet black!).  A set of four will only set you back $16, so why not protect your furniture with these "beary" cute coasters?  (Sorry, I just had to do it!)
   

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

On the Homefront: Wisteria Season Is Here!

Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis)

Chinese wisteria is in full flower right now here in Georgia.  It lines part of our little dead end road.  Even though this vine is considered an invasive species, the flowers are so beautiful and the fragrance is so lovely it is easy to overlook the less attractive qualities.  Spring has arrived unusually early this year, and everything seems to be flowering at once.  In addition to the wisteria, other species in flower right now include azaleas, dogwoods, redbuds (Cercis canadensis), forsythias, bridal wreath spiraeas (Spiraea prunifolia), peach blossoms, wild cherry blossoms, spice bush, Carolina jessamine, irises, bugleweeds, Spanish bluebells, late-blooming daffodils, and even the lowly Dutch white clover in the lawn.

The yellow Florida Azalea (Rhododendron austrinum) at the top
is a native species; all others are ornamental cultivars.

Forsythia bush

Wild Cherry blossoms (Prunus sp.)

Spice Bush (Calycanthus occidentalis)

Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens)

Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans)

Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica)

These daffodils with clusters of small flowers are quite fragrant.

Dutch White Clover (Trifolium repens)

Butterflies are everywhere, the birds are singing and building nests, frogs are chorusing after dusk, and I even saw some fireflies out on the warmer evenings.  A newly hatched luna moth was in my barn a few nights ago, its wings still unfurling:


Spring is a beautiful time of year in Georgia, and I intend to enjoy it while I can before the summer heat arrives!


         

Terrifying Tuesdays: The Andromeda Strain (1971)


Another science fiction movie set in New Mexico (although mostly filmed in California) is "The Andromeda Strain" (1971), based on the 1969 novel of the same name by Michael Crichton.  When a space satellite returns to earth and lands in the small town of Piedmont, New Mexico, all of the residents die mysteriously except for an alcoholic man in his sixties and a fretful infant.  The government gathers four scientists together at a top secret facility called Wildfire, created for just such an emergency, to investigate the cause of these deaths and to try to find a way to prevent its spread.  Leading the team is Dr. Jeremy Stone (Arthur Hill), one of the scientists who advocated the building of this facility.  He is joined by Dr. Charles Dutton (David Wayne), Dr. Ruth Leavitt (Kate Reid), and Dr. Mark Hall (James Olson).  All four race against time to identify the killer organism and discover how to destroy it.

The movie is a faithful adaptation of the book.  The scientific procedure of the investigation is followed closely, revealing both the strengths and weaknesses of the process, with subplots and character development kept to a minimum.  This does not mean that the movie has no action, however, and the scene near the end when Wildfire is threatened with destruction and Dr. Hall must save the day is enough to keep anyone on the edge of their seat.  While some feel that the plot is too impersonal and the pace too slow, I find the way this movie was filmed quite refreshing precisely because of its lack of distracting subplots.  This film may not be for everyone, but for science fiction fans it is a classic that was ahead of its time and well worth watching.

Interesting Facts:  The character of Dr. Ruth Leavitt was actually a man named Dr. Peter Leavitt in the novel.  The director, Robert Wise, reluctantly agreed to allow the screenwriter to make this change, but after the movie was made was glad he did, as he considered this character to be the most interesting one in the movie.  Also, the author of the novel, Michael Crichton, makes a cameo appearance in the film.

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

From This Island Rod
   

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Current Events: This Is News?

Photos from Cranberry Moon and KPBS (John Moore / Getty Images)

I rarely feel the need to comment about political issues.  I believe we all have the right to our own opinions and there really are no right or wrong positions, only differing ones.  Recently, however, the stories in the news have taken such an absurd turn that I just couldn't resist putting my own nonsensical spin on things.  First up is the GOP candidates.  I am starting to think that they would all be better off if we went back to the days when the candidates just smiled, shook hands, and said as little as possible except to ask for your vote.  Romney's comments about Planned Parenthood and cheesy grits, Santorum seeming to go out of his way to offend women and Hispanics, Gingrich's moon colony idea -- these guys just can't seem to stop shooting off their mouths/shooting themselves in the foot/inserting said feet into aforementioned mouths.

After the Etch A Sketch incident plus Santorum's "Keep Obama" statement, I have taken to calling the front runners the Three Stooges (plus Ron Paul as Shemp the backup Stooge, should a replacement be needed).  They really are their own worst enemies.  Could it really be just a coincidence that the Three Stooges movie is due out next month?  I think not!  We will all get the chance to decide which group of knuckleheads can come up with the most ridiculous antics, although in this case I'm afraid art may just be a pale imitation of real life!

And then there is the current outrage over the shooting of an unarmed boy by a vigilante in Florida.  There is nothing funny about this incident -- the situation is tragic, and it is clear that something must be done to prevent such events from happening again.  What is a joke is the way Florida's "stand your ground" law is being interpreted to mean armed zealots have the legal right to pursue and kill unarmed and innocent private citizens based on poorly informed snap judgments.  And it's still not funny.

I have never really understood the need to carry a gun around everywhere.  I have enough stuff that must come with me wherever I go -- I just cannot see adding a gun to that collection.  Not only would I probably be unable to reach for it in a timely manner, I know that I have terrible aim and would most likely miss any object I attempted to shoot.  That is why I have decided that if I must carry a weapon with me, it will have to be a hand grenade.  All I would need to do is throw it in the general direction of my target, and problem solved!  Of course, once my grenade went off there might not be any ground left to stand on, but that's a minor detail, right?  Why should I be discriminated against just because I can't aim a gun?  I demand my right to equal protection -- I demand my right to carry a hand grenade!

Give Us Ladies A Grenade (or GULAG for short)!

Photo from Trend de la Crème

Absurd?  Of course!  But that seems to be the name of the game in the news lately, so why buck the trend?  Thank goodness I've gotten this out of my system -- now I can return to topics I truly enjoy!
     

Friday, March 23, 2012

Foodie Fridays: Potato, Cabbage, and Ham Fry-up

From 10thirty

I made this dish for St. Patrick's Day last Saturday.  It is based on colcannon, a traditional Irish dish of mashed potatoes, cabbage or kale, and leeks or scallions, but there is no potato mashing involved.  Instead, as the name implies, everything is fried up together in a skillet -- quick, easy, and oh so tasty!  While my version is about as Irish as I am (which is to say, not at all!), all of the right ingredients are there and my intentions were good -- after all, they do say that on St. Patrick's Day everybody's Irish!

Potato, Cabbage, and Ham Fry-up

2 T. each butter and vegetable oil
1 bag (20 oz.) refrigerated shredded hash brown potatoes
1 bag (16 oz.) shredded coleslaw mix
1 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
3-4 T. sweet onion mustard (or other mild sweet mustard)
8 oz. package cubed ham

Heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat until the butter melts and starts to bubble.  Add the potatoes, lower the heat to medium, and fry until cooked but not brown (about 7-8 minutes), stirring often.  Add the coleslaw mix, salt, pepper, and more oil as needed.  Continue cooking until the cabbage is soft, about 5-6 minutes.  Reduce the heat to low.  Stir in the mustard, then the ham, and heat through.  Serves 4.
 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

This 'n That Thursdays: Southwestern Style Sitting Room

I love the idea of having a small room devoted to curling up with a good book.  Just a comfortable chair, good lighting, a small table for a few books and a beverage, and some shelving to hold even more books are all that I would need to create the cozy reading nook of my dreams.  For a Santa Fe home I would want something southwestern in style, but should I go with traditional or modern?  Here are examples of both:
            
Clockwise from top left: Rolled arm leather chair from McCready Interiors; southwestern floor lamp from Wayfair; round end table from Home Gallery Stores; Zapotec weaving from La Fuente Imports; tan Southwest Diamond round rug from Touch of Class; New Mexico bookcase from Great Southwest Furniture Design, Inc.; Sereno coyote bookends from Wolfum; Center: Santa Fe fringed throw from Sportsman's Decor.
            
Clockwise from top left: Rhys chair from Anthropologie; Belleville Arch turquoise floor lamp from Furnish.co.uk; sari throw from Anthropologie; Nanimarquina Sybilla Diana 2 contemporary round rug from AllModern; Ric Rac Pillow in espresso from Company C; Bong coffee table in turquoise from AmbienteDirect; contemporary Navajo weaving from Heard Museum; red Bambino shelf unit from Matelpro (out of stock).
            
I still can't make up my mind, but at least I have a better idea of the décor items I would select for whichever option I chose!
        

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wish List Wednesdays: Brown Donkey Egg Cups


I am rather fond of donkeys -- I studied them for my Ph.D dissertation, and am currently the proud owner of a miniature jenny.  I am also an avid collector of egg cups.  So how could I not love this pair of brown donkey egg cups?  And the fact that there is also a set of matching brown donkey salt and pepper shakers just makes them even more desirable:


So what if they have to be shipped all the way from the UK?  In my opinion they are worth it!  And it doesn't hurt that ever since I read Brighty of the Grand Canyon by Marguerite Henry as a child I associate donkeys with the desert southwest, so if we do move to New Mexico these little cuties would fit right in.  I'm sure my own little brown donkey would agree!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Holiday Hits: Spring is Here!

Happy first day of spring, everyone!  The days are warmer, birds are singing, flowers are blooming, and the landscape is greening up.  It seems that some creatures find the season so exciting they just have to burst into song:


Celebrate the season however you see fit!
        

Seasonal Style: Spring Green

The Vernal Equinox has arrived and spring has officially started, so it is once again time for an example of seasonal style:

From StyleBistro

From Home Interior Design

Green is a color perfectly balanced between warm and cool, which is just right for a time of year that can see high temperatures during the day but chilly ones at night.  The addition of white keeps things looking fresh and new, suggesting the first hints of new growth through a late season snow.  Even though our winter was fairly mild, I am ready for the greening up of spring!
   

Terrifying Tuesdays: Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959)

From BookNode

Several of my favorite scary movies were either filmed or set in New Mexico, including the science fiction classic "Them!" (1954), which was set in New Mexico and which I have discussed in a previous post.  "Journey to the Center of the Earth" (1959) is another favorite that was filmed in the state.  Some of the underground scenes were shot in Carlsbad Caverns National Park.  The movie is based on a Jules Verne novel of the same name, and was a great success when first released, garnering three Academy Award nominations.

James Mason stars as Professor Oliver Lindenbrook, a geologist at the University of Edinburgh, who comes into possession of an unusual piece of rock which yields a surprising secret.  As a result the professor ends up leading an expedition into the depths of an extinct Icelandic volcano to explore the center of the earth.  Joining him are: his student Alec McEwan (Pat Boone), much to the consternation of Alec's fiancée (Diane Baker); Carla Göteborg (Arlene Dahl), the widow of a Swedish professor who unsuccessfully attempted the same quest; and Hans Bjelke (Peter Ronson), a young local resident who insists on bringing his pet duck, Gertrude.  Along the way they encounter a number of perils, including treacherous terrain, prehistoric reptiles, and an unpleasant fellow adventurer named Count Saknussem (Thayer David), who is the descendant of an unfortunate previous explorer of the same volcano.  This latter character is, in my opinion, one of the most despicable villains ever created, as I am sure all animal lovers will agree!  Aside from this, the movie combines thrills, wit, and humor in a most enjoyable way, and it was one of the most popular pictures of 1959.  It is still a great film, although the special effects are a bit dated now, and is highly rated even today.

Interesting Facts: There are many differences between the Jules Verne novel and this movie.  The Göteborgs, Count Saknussem, and Gertrude do not exist in the novel.  Alec (Axel in the novel) is the Professor's nephew rather than his student, and they live in Germany rather than Scotland.  The city of Atlantis is only found in the movie, and the denizens of the earth's center differ between the novel and the film.  James Mason replaced an ailing Clifton Webb in the leading role.  Alan Napier of Alfred the butler fame had a small role as a Univerity of Edinburgh dean.  And most important of all, Gertrude the duck retired to a small Italian farm after appearing in this movie to raise a family!

Gore Guide (0=none to 5=extreme): 1 (only because of what happens to Gertrude!)

Gertrude the duck (from L'Alligatographe)
     

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mystery Mondays: Hannah Reed's Queen Bee Mystery Series


I have just discovered a delightful new cozy mystery series, and I have a feeling it is going to become a favorite.  The Queen Bee mystery series by Hannah Reed is set in the little town of Moraine, Wisconsin.  In the first novel, Story Fischer, a newly divorced young woman, is intent on making a success of her local business ventures, The Wild Clover market as well as the Queen Bee Honey beekeeping enterprise she is learning to run with her business partner and mentor, veteran beekeeper Manny Chapman.  Life seems to be looking up for Story, until she finds the dead body of her mentor.  While everyone believes he was stung to death by his own bees, Story is sure this is not the case, and sets out to prove her theory that wasps were the culprit.  Then she discovers a second body and her ex-husband is accused of the murder.  Story begins to suspect that the two deaths may be connected, and suddenly finds herself in the dangerous situation of trying to find a clever killer.  Story is a likeable if rather klutzy protagonist, and I look forward to reading the next two books in the series.  Lots of beekeeping information is included, as well as recipes, many of which feature honey as an ingredient.

As someone who would like to keep bees some time in the near future, this series couldn't have come along at a better time!  Be sure to check out the cute video introduction to the first Queen Bee novel:

        

Friday, March 16, 2012

Foodie Fridays: Red Potato and Tuna Toss

From Cloverleaf

We are having unusually warm weather right now -- it was almost 90 degrees yesterday!  When it is this warm, a quick and simple recipe for a dish which can be eaten at room temperature makes an ideal meal.  Red Potato and Tuna Toss is one such recipe.  If you want something more elaborate, turn it into a variation on Salade Niçoise.  Either way you can't go wrong, so keep your cool and serve this when the temperature soars!

Red Potato and Tuna Toss

3 oz. tuna in pouch
1 lb. small red potatoes, cooked and quartered
1/2 bell pepper (any color), diced
1/2 tsp. dried dill
1/4 C. olive oil

Combine all ingredients.  Serves 2.

Note: Turn this into a Salade Niçoise Toss by adding 12 pitted niçoise olives, 12 halved grape tomatoes, and 1/4 lb. cooked fresh green beans cut into one-inch pieces.  Serve topped with one quartered hard-boiled egg per serving.
     

Thursday, March 15, 2012

This 'n That Thursdays: Southwestern Style

When it comes to interior design, I have always liked Southwestern style.  Not the pink-and-turquoise, kokopelli- and coyote-themed version from the 1980s, but the original earthy, Spanish- and Native American-influenced look, similar to these:

From Crow's Nest

From DEA

From The ReNOUNed Nest

From Linda Adams Interior Design

I love those neutral tones with touches of warm color, the simple and rustic natural wood furniture, beautiful rugs, and comfortable leather seating.  Recently, however, I have been intrigued by a more modern interpretation of Southwestern style as exempilified by these images:

 
The Saguaro Hotel

From IM Design Studios

From Visions Design Group

From Nuhomedesigns

Our recent trip to Santa Fe has inspired me to create style boards based on my interpretations of both traditional and contemporary Southwestern style, and I will post these during the month of March.  I am going to have a lot of fun doing this, and it will help me decide which look I would prefer for our own New Mexico home should we decide to retire there.  Of course, I suppose I will have to get my husband's input on his preferences, and I think I know which look he will choose, but I can still pretend that I have a choice!