Belle Cantrell and Sissy LeBlanc

It was the book cover.  I kept seeing it in the bookstore, and finally had to buy The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlancand start reading.  I was pleased that from the start, her story was as captivating as the cover.

Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc cover

Then I read The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell.  Just as captivating.

Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell cover

Then I passed the books on to my mom, who also enjoyed them.  Then she passed them on.  This was about 12 years ago, and I’ve just requested them from our library so I can read them again.

Sissy LeBlanc would have been about 5 years older than my mom.  The author’s summary sets the stage:

“It’s a steamy June afternoon in Louisiana, circa 1956, and Sissy LeBlanc is sitting on her front porch….  She’s been living in stifling old Gentry since the day she was born and trapped in a sham of a marriage to PeeWee LeBlanc since she was only seventeen. In short, she’s fed up, restless, and ready for an adventure. Sissy just never imagined temptation would come into her life that breathless summer day as she sat smoking on her porch swing. For although she may have been fixated on the taut muscles of the lineman shimmying down the telephone pole across the street, she hadn’t allowed herself to imagine that he’d be none other than her high school sweetheart, Parker Davidson, who left town fourteen years before without so much as a wave good-bye. But suddenly, here he is, leaning in for a kiss that will stir up more excitement than Sissy could ever have imagined…”  (From Goodreads)

In June 1956, when Sissy’s story opened, Elvis Presley’s first studio album would have been released just three months earlier.


Then there was Sissy’s grandmother, Belle Cantrell, who would have been about the age of my mom’s grandmother (my great-grandma).

“Welcome to the world of beautiful, irrepressible Belle Cantrell, years before she becomes grandmother to Sissy LeBlanc….. It is 1920, prohibition is in full swing, women are clamoring for the vote — and in the little town of Gentry, Louisiana, narrow-minded intolerance is on the rise. Sent to jail for swimming in an indecent bathing costume with a group of suffragists, Belle Cantrell knows her behavior broke the rules. But sometimes — most of the time — she has to twist the rules a little, because they all say the same thing: “Don’t.”

A sexy, sassy story of murder, adultery, romance, bigotry, and regular church attendance, with laugh-out-loud humor and a cast of zany, endearing characters you won’t forget, The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell is a big comic love story . . . and much more.”  (From Goodreads.)

What I most specifically remember about both books was that the social issues of the day weren’t glossed over.  They were a real, and sometimes sobering part of the story.  I’ve forgotten most of both stories, which is why I want the experience of reading them again.


The author, Loraine Despres, has only published these two fiction novels.  I wish she would write some more fiction novels in the vein of Sissy and Belle.  But hey, she’s famous and quite accomplished, even if you haven’t heard of her.  According to her bio, she penned the ‘Who Shot J.R.?‘ episode of DALLAS!  I think Sissy and Belle would make good TV movie characters as well.

Polar vortex trousers

It was a Big Brothers Big Sisters group sleepover at the zoo.  The conversation between me and a younger mentor went like this:

Her:  Haven’t seen that pant style in awhile.
Me:  Yes, they were a favorite in a prior decade.  They’ve been too comfy to get rid of.
Her:  Um, I’m pretty sure it was more than one decade ago.
Me:  I did say “a” prior decade; not “the” prior decade.

To give you the right visual, they were black stirrup pants.  Super comfortable for a sleepover, but admittedly…

Stirrup pant intact aw RSR

…they haven’t been in style for decade(s).  Actually, it was the prior millennium.  And, they aren’t warm.  So, when I needed a pattern for some insulated warm pants, I broke down and cut the stirrup pants apart to make the pattern.  Turns out it was a good choice for a pattern, because:

  • It was only two pattern pieces, which made an easy-to-sew pattern.
  • The fit was loose (unlike leggings or skinny pants), which accommodated the bulk of the insulated layers.

Pants pieces aw RSR

The fit came out right on the first try, except for the lower legs, which had too much taper for the thickness of the fabric layers.  To fix the lower leg issue, I opened each side seam below the knee and inserted a long triangle.  This worked fine.

Insert2 aw RSR

For the fly closure, I used a strip of velcro, which was not strong enough by itself, but worked fine when I added a waistband and fastener.

(View before adding the waistband.)

Pants before waistband aw RSR

Tips and notes:

  • Reducing unnecessary bulk.  For the fly and waistband facing side, I removed the pile from between the layers.  Those spots don’t need double insulation, or bulk.
  • Walking foot recommended. The lazy, impatient me didn’t use the walking foot on the sewing machine, because it is slow, and I wanted to sew this first pair up quickly.  I got by, and the pants came together quickly and easily.  But with these layers and pile, a walking foot would be the better way to go.
  • The fabric was a surprise purchase from Joann.  While shopping for something else, I spotted this at 60% off, which made it $8/yd.  It appears to be an in-store only item, so I can’t provide a link to it.  But if you have a Joann store nearby, go check the bargain fabric section with the color-coded discount dots.

The fabric:

Insulated fabric a w RSR

Why insulated pants?  For comfort and productivity.  I’m cold all winter.  Besides how miserable that is, I feel like it takes much time out of my planned day to warm up, whether by situating myself near a space heater, or having a heated throw at my desk.  It slows my productivity and energy level, just getting and staying warm.  I want to try designing and making some simple, practical garments that I can wear any day, every day, all day, at home, and just feel warm.  The ultimate plan is to make garments I can wear wherever I go during the day–from the office to grocery shopping.

This is the first of the attempts.  Not bad for $8 in materials.  To be honest though, they look like simple insulated pants that don’t cost much to buy ready-to-wear.  Must try harder to make them look more stylish for every day wear.

Insulated pants mirror model a w RSR

The polar vortex of last week was my inspiration to make these warm pants a priority.  But as luck goes, on the day I finished the pants there was a drastic warmup.  It was a 60s-70sF weekend with sun.  Crocuses bloomed!

Crocuses 2019 RSR

Alas, the winter temperatures have made a rude return, with 30+mph wind gusts, a windchill temp of -11F, and an icy coating on everything.  The pants are doing their job of keeping me comfortable.

Is it too early for a countdown to Spring?

This was the kind of Sunday afternoon that makes me start counting the weeks until Spring.  A friend posted an invite this morning for an afternoon bike ride, and two of us joined her.  We met at the park and took off on the bike path.

After a couple of miles, we neared the grocery store, where I planned to drop the group and turn the outing into an errand.  I picked up a few things from the store and then headed back home on the bike path….in the sunshine, with sunglasses on, mittens off, and coat unzipped.

The crocuses haven’t even popped out in my yard yet, but I’m starting to get excited about Spring.

We interrupt this blog for a football game…

Go Kansas City Chiefs!  I’ve enjoyed the week of memes building up to this game.  “Pat > Pats”, etc.  While I watch tonight’s AFC playoff game, I’ll be wearing my vintage Chief’s jersey, kc chiefs jersey rsr

To keep my nervous hands busy, I’ll be knitting this fun scarf.  The pattern is a free download from the Lionbrand website.  I’ve made this pattern once before.  It makes a handy, warm scarf that stays in place.

Click on the picture to go to the Lionbrand pattern download page.

Here’s the SIP (‘scarf in progress’), in Lionbrand Hometown USA yarn.  The color is ‘Tampa Spice’.  I wanted it to be something red.

scarf in progress

The weather forecast for the game is absurdly cold.  It will be single digit windchill at game time, in the outdoor stadium.  In the stadium, that will feel like sub-zero temps.  Hopefully everybody there will have a way to stay somewhat warm.

I’ll have a cozy fire going in my room with the TV, and will make Honey-Sriracha Chicken legs in the Instant Pot and Air Fryer (stay tuned for future recipe post).

Go Chiefs!  (I know, I said that once already.)  Enjoy the game, fellow football fans.

A new ‘Rebecca’ movie is coming.

In 1940 the Alfred Hitchcock version of Rebecca, starring Lawrence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, won the Oscar for Best Picture.  The full movie is available on YouTube.

In 1962, an hour-long TV version was produced, starring James Mason and Joan Hackett.  It did a surprisingly good job of capturing the story, I thought.

In 1979, Rebecca was made into a three-part miniseries, that aired on PBS.  There isn’t a trailer on YouTube, but this is better–the first 9 minutes of the miniseries.  This was my introduction to Rebecca.  I was instantly captivated.  After watching the miniseries, I looked up the book and read it.  Then I read more books by Daphne Du Maurier.

In 1997, Rebecca was again made into a PBS miniseries, with Charles Dance as Maxim and Diana Rigg as Mrs. Danvers.  It’s on YouTube.

Now Netflix has commissioned a remake of the movie, to star Lily James and Armand Hammer.  Multiple publications have reported the news.  No word yet on a release date, or who will portray Mrs. Danvers.  I’ll be watching.

My unabashed praise for the book:

If ‘Rebecca’ the movie looks intriguing, I highly recommend checking out the book, and Dame Daphne Du Maurier’s other books.   Here are a few I’ve enjoyed:

  • The King’s General
  • Jamaica Inn
  • My Cousin Rachel
  • Frenchman’s Creek

All of the books I’ve listed except The King’s General (I think) have been made into movies; like Rebecca, more than once.

If none of the above-mentioned works look familiar to you, surely this one will.  Dame Du Maurier wrote The Birds.

The Birds scared me to death as a kid.  Thank goodness I didn’t know the connection to Rebecca, because if I did, I never would have watched or read Rebecca.

Now back to Rebecca

To my delight, Rebecca the novel came in at #25 in the ‘Great American Read’ Top 100 reader’s poll for 2018.  My personal copy, the 1939 Doubleday edition:

RebeccaRebecca2bRebecca1b

Menabilly Estate in Cornwall, UK, where Dame Du Maurier lived and raised her family, and where many of her stories (including Rebecca) are based, now offers lodging for visitors.  This is near the top of my travel bucket list.

IMDB movie links —

Daphne Du Maurier book list on Goodreads

 

Fried Ice Cream — made in the Air Fryer

     The Instant Pot has a companion in my kitchen–the Air Fryer.  Together they have transformed how I prepare foods, without my noticing it was happening.  Last year, I bought the Bella 2.5 liter air fryer, and it has indeed been a game changer.
     From wings, to simple buttered toast, to fish fillets, hamburgers, bacon, grilled cheese sandwiches; you name it, I now rely on the air fryer.
air fryer
One weekend when it was bad weather outside, I attempted fried ice cream in the air fryer, and kept experimenting until I had a process that worked.  Here’s what worked:


FRIED ICE CREAM
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE AIR FRYER
• Scoop ice cream into balls and freeze until hard.
• Coat in flour.
• Freeze until hard again.
• Coat in egg and then roll in slightly crushed cornflake cereal.
• If necessary, use your hands to squeeze the flakes into the ice cream and round out the shape.
• Freeze until hard again.
• Coat in egg and roll in crushed cereal again. If softened, freeze until hard.
• For frying, place on a small pan or piece of foil.
• Fry in air fryer for up to 2 minutes at 400F.
• Remove gently (because it will be soft on the inside) and eat immediately.
Tips and notes:
  • As you can tell from the steps, the key is to keep the ice cream frozen hard.  It’s not a quick process.
  • A 1 3/4 quart carton of ice cream made 16-17 small scoops.
  • My ice cream scoop is fairly small.  If you have a larger scoop, you might get an even better result than I did.  If so, please let us know in the comments.


Here are the steps in pictures:  
Make individual scoops of ice cream.  Freeze until hard.
Make individual scoops of ice cream
Coat ice cream in flour.  Freeze until hard.
Coat ice cream in flour
Dip in beaten egg, then cover with partly-crushed cereal flakes.  Freeze until hard.
(I’m using Aldi’s version of ‘Honey Bunches of Oats’. It makes a tasty shell.)
Dip in beaten egg then cover with partly-crushed cereal flakes
Press the flake-covered ice cream into a round ball and freeze until hard. 
(As you can see, the work surface gets a little messy.)
Press the flake-covered ice cream into a round ball and freeze until hard
[Do a second coating of egg + cornflakes.  Freeze hard again, if soft.]
For frying in the air fryer, put the ice cream on a little baking pan or piece of foil.
For frying in the air fryer put the ice cream on a little baking pan or piece of foil
Fry at 400F for up to 2 minutes; and maybe another 30 seconds, but that’s the max for these little scoops.  Any longer is likely to make your ice cream start to melt.
fried ice cream in fryer
Remove from the fryer with tongs and/or spatula, and eat immediately.  
fried ice cream done


Extras can be stored in the freezer to fry later.

Extras can be stored in the freezer to fry later
Get creative and try different things:
  • Drizzle sauce on the fried ice cream, such as caramel or chocolate sauce.
  • Top with goodies such as fruit, jam or sprinkles.
  • Try different flavored ice creams and cereals.

 

Nico 1988

This is another film I watched over the holiday.  It was hard to watch, yet I didn’t want to switch it off.  It’s not about the music and scenes of the Velvet Underground or glamorized tales of Andy Warhol and his inner circle.  The film, released in 2018, dramatizes the sobering, heartbreaking life of this 1960s icon, as she lived her final years in the late 1980s, while beginning in earnest to lay the groundwork for a brighter future.

There is no inspiration here, but something else makes it worth watching.  It is a story of a real life, well dramatized with cooperation from her son, and based on witness accounts from her inner circle.

Imdb page: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7186092/

Watch here:

DIY Oatmeal mix

This being the first of the year, when people renew their vows to eat healthy, I’m sharing my easy, cost-effective oatmeal mix.  I don’t buy the single-serving oatmeal packages or flavored oatmeal.  I make my own, for pennies a serving.  Lots of people try slow cooker or Instant Pot oatmeal, or overnight refrigerator oatmeal.  To me these methods require way too much unnecessary time and effort.  (Caveat–I cook for one; not a family.  A family may change the efficiencies.)

I buy the 42 oz. carton of quick oats; currently $2.39 at Aldi.  That works out to 45 servings at 5.3 cents each.

oatmeal

Shopping list for the mix:  (Dillons/Kroger prices listed)

  • Oat bran — $2.69 for 18 oz
  • Wheat bran — $1.99 for 8 oz
  • Chia seeds — $3.99 for 12 oz
  • Flax seed — $4.49 for 16 oz
  • Sugar
  • Ground Cinnamon

mix ingredients a w labels rsr

The packages of seeds and bran store neatly in a basket in the back of my frig.

mix ingredients frig a w rsr

Measure into a pint-sized jar:

  • 1/2 cup Oat Bran
  • 1/2 cup Wheat Bran
  • 1/4 cup Flax Seed (ground)
  • 1/4 cup Chia Seeds
  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 4 tsps. ground cinnamon (optional)

The ingredients will look like this in the jar:

oatmeal mix a w rsr

Shake the jar until the ingredients are mixed.oatmeal mixed a w rsr

I keep an old broken teaspoon in the mix jar, and an orphaned 1/3 measuring cup in the oatmeal canister.


To make a bowl of oatmeal

For breakfast stumble into the kitchen sleepy-eyed, and measure into a bowl:

  • 1/3 cup of oatmeal
  • 2 tsps of the mix
  • 3/4 cup of milk (whole, 2% or skim–your choice)

I use a large soup bowl so it doesn’t boil over in the microwave.

  • Microwave on high for 90 seconds.
  • Stir and let cool for a few minutes; then eat.

mix in bowl a w rsr

I eat this oatmeal every. single. morning.  It’s a small breakfast, so around mid morning, I usually need a ‘second breakfast’ of toast or an egg; or I eat a very early lunch.

Additional notes and tips on the oatmeal mix:

  • Buying all of the ingredients at once may seem pricey; especially if you aren’t sure you’ll like it.  So my suggestion is to buy one item each trip to the store, and start using that item in your oatmeal.  Start with oat bran, then wheat bran, then chia seeds, then flax seed.
  • Flax seed can be purchased as whole seeds, and then ground in a coffee mill for the mix.
  • Cinnamon definitely changes the taste.  I suggest trying it in one bowl before making a whole batch of mix with cinnamon. I’m used to the taste, and I like that it ‘might’ have anti-inflammatory benefits.
  • I’m not sure the sugar is necessary.  I don’t need my oatmeal to be sweet.  I plan to make my next batch of mix without the sugar and see if I like it.
  • For an extra jolt of flavor and nutrients, try tossing a few craisins, raisins or other dried fruit pieces into the bowl before putting it in the microwave.

When I say I eat this every morning, I mean every morning.  If I’m going on a trip, I pack my own individual oatmeal packets; one for each morning I’ll be away.  Usually I pack some powdered milk too, so I can make breakfast with hot water, in case that’s all I’ll have access to.

mix for overnight a w rsr

Here are the potential health benefits of the ingredients as described in WebMD and Livestrong:

Oatmeal — LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol management

Milk — Essential for bone density; helps with blood pressure, metabolic syndrome and weight management.

Oat Bran —

“Oat bran might work by blocking the absorption from the gut of substances that contribute to heart disease, high cholesterol, and diabetes.  When applied to the skin, oats appear to reduce swelling.”

Wheat Bran — 

“Wheat bran is a source of fiber. Some people take wheat bran by mouth for preventing diseases of the large intestine (including cancer), stomach cancer, breast cancer, gallbladder disease, hemorrhoids, and a condition where the stomach pushes up through the diaphragm muscle (hiatal hernia). It is also used for treating constipation, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.”

Flax Seed — 

“There’s some evidence it [flax seed] may help reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. That’s quite a tall order for a tiny seed that’s been around for centuries.

Chia Seeds —

“Enjoy chia seeds for their flavor and to boost the fiber, protein, calcium, antioxidants, and omega-3s in your diet.”

Cinnamon —

“Lab studies have found that cinnamon may reduce inflammation, have antioxidant effects, and fight bacteria.”

Six Updates on Things I Wrote About in 2018

Just for fun, here is what has happened with some of the things I wrote about over the last year.

1.

Our historic ballpark is gone.

The entrance to our 84-year old ballpark looked like this in September, when they announced it would be torn down.

WP_20180903_003 a

They first tore the grandstand down.  Here is the site in November, when only the box office and entry gate remained.  Now those are gone too, and it’s a big flat dirt field.

stadiumtorndown2 RSR

stadiumtorndown b RSR

In 2020, we are supposed to have a new ballpark in its place.

2.

I finished reading “Sticky Fingers”.

Sticky fingers cover

After my blog post about the book, it took a couple of renewals from the public library, but eventually I finished the book.  It is a well written book about a repulsive character.  It was a repulsive read to the end.  It made me want all of those hours back that I’d spent over the years reading Rolling Stone magazine.

The soiling of Page 393.

As I was pushing on to finish the book, a bad thing happened.  I took the book with me to the movie theater to read while waiting for the movie to start.  I bought a little bag of popcorn.  Too late, I realized the bag was leaking butter.  I soiled the library book on possibly the most important page, and maybe the only important page of the entire book.

Page 393 a w RSR

When I returned it to the library, I confessed and showed them the page.  I’m waiting to find out if they are going to bill me for the book.  They certainly are within their rights to ask me to pay for it.  Because I was up front with them, and the stain was confined to a couple of pages (it bled through to the next page), they will not ask me to pay for a replacement book.  Lesson learned!  Have I mentioned how much I ❤ our library?  Well, this is just the latest reason.

3.

The electric blanket needs another repair already.

Thanks to the foster pup, aka “Jaws”.

Chewed plug aw RSR

4.

The pepper plant is still growing.  

The Poblano pepper plant that I’d planted and tended outdoors all summer, is now in a pot on the enclosed porch in the south sun.  It gets cold on the porch but has stayed above freezing.  When the sun is shining, the room can get above 70°.  Three peppers are growing on the plant, albeit very slowly.  I may be waiting all winter for a harvest of three peppers.

Outdoors vs Indoors:

 

Indoors

5.

Another Coco dress is in the works.

Here are numbers 1 and 2.

 

Sneak preview of #3:

Yellow Coco aw RSR

6.

I’ve made a shell from the 1937 pattern making instructions

 

and it fits.

IMG_20190101_160201865a w RSR

 


Aaand another holiday season is in the books.  One of my favorite holiday songs goes from reflective to angry to a call for hopefulness.  It sums up the end of the holiday season the way I feel it–looking back on the joyous gatherings of family and friends, and looking forward to the new year.

“And so I skate, across the Thames, hand in hand, with all my friends.  And all the things that we planned…

“Goddamn this government, will they ever tell me where the money went?  Protesters march out on the street, as young men sleep amongst the feet.”

“The end of Christmas day, when there is nothing left to say, the years go by so fast, let’s hope the next beats the last.”