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As winter fast approaches, Moms Nature has been sending us nothing but gloom and more GLOOM! We haven’t had any sunsets for days and our afternoons have been looking like twilight. Add that to the fact that I have never been overly thrilled about Christmas (or any other form of Shopping) and compound it with the fact local groups and now even groups from out-of-state and even country have been going around town   and exercising their constitutional right to protest peacefully by marching through the local shopping centers and stores disrupting business and often forcing the stores and centers to completely shut down. I am a long time advocate of civil rights, but I do not condone civil disruption. So recently I have been limiting my shopping  to a weekly trip to restock the pantry and fridge. So I have forgone Christmas shopping and gift giving for this year.

Instead, I have decided to return to those glorious days of yesteryear (aka, my grandmother’s time) and drag out my personal recipe book to make items of hand baked goodness for people on my gift list. Since Target or Macy’s would not be able to exchange any of these gifts, I have mailed out this postcard so the intended recipients can customize their gifts.Card

Hopefully, I won’t live to regret my holiday decision. Also, don’t expect to see any posts from me the week prior to Christmas.  Also, I am not responsible for any excess calories you consume during the holidays.


Back when I adopted Mlle. Renee, one of the first toys I bought her was a chew bone with a ball in the middle and two bone ends that screwed off to allow you to add rawhide rings for extra chewing fun. Renee loved it, and whenever she wanted something to chew on she would bring it over to me and drop it in my lap for a rawhide ring replacement. This was our routine for about four years. As happens with most good things the manufacture of the rawhide rings was moved to China. Then one day I noticed the rawhide had a strong chemical smell when I opened a new package. Later I heard about dogs becoming ill from eating the product. And eventually, the pet stores stopped carrying the product. If something smells bad to me, I don’t give it to my faithful companion. So when she would bring her favorite chew toy to me for a refill, I had to tell her I had to go shopping to buy some. And when she wasn’t looking, I hide the toy away.

Not wanting to be a Grinch to my best friend, I worked on finding something to replace the rawhide rings. I found a recipe for a dog cookie made using oatmeal, peanut butter, pumpkin and vanilla extract, and my best friend discovered his grandmother’s old doughnut cutter that cut a ring the size of the old rawhide ring.  So yesterday I baked up a batch of edible ring replacements.DSC00839

Unfortunately,  they backed up at twice the thickness of the original rawhide rings,  so I could only add a cookie ring on one side of the toy.DSC00840

But when Renee saw it, this was her immediate reaction.DSC00841




And she really liked it!

I made enough rings to get me through the rest of the month, so I won’t have to make the next batch until after Christmas. Note: while the rings smelled very good cookie-wise, they did get very crunchy when they cooled. So I passed on doing a personal taste test.


WinterMornings Well, it has reached that time of year when your kitchen window will greet you with a very gloomy and chilly morning view. The kind of day when you long to eat something that will not only warm you up, but also cuddle your tummy. Here in the Wicket City we once had such at dish. It was the French Onion Soup served in the restaurants in the Famous & Barr Department Stores. It was a Saint Louis tradition that originated in the 50s or 60s when it was created by a Swiss chef the department store had hired to oversee the operation of their restaurants. The recipe was first printed in the food section of the Post-Dispatch and I clipped it out and added it to my recipe file.

For new-comers or visitors to the Wicket City — the Famous & Barr Department Stores are a thing of the past. They are all Macy’s stores now, and in-store restaurants have all vanished. Damn those food courts. But never fear, I’m going to share my copy of the original recipe. Be forewarned, it does take a little effort to make the soup — nut the fantastic taste makes it well worth it. Also, the recipe has never been cut down, so you’re going to end up with about four quarts of soup or 16 servings. The soup does freeze very well, and it’s always nice to be able to grab a bowl out of the freezer on a cold winter day.

FB FrenchOnionSoupNow the recipe … here’s what you’ll need.


First, about five hours of time and a six-quart or larger stock pot
5 pounds unpeeled onions (I go with yellow)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons paprika (Sweet Hungarian is my choice)
1 bay leaf
14 cups (almost four 32 oz cartons) beef broth (low sodium if desired)
1 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup flour
Brown Gravy Sauce or Kitchen Bouquet (for coloring)
2 teaspoons salt
Crusty French bread
Gruyère or just plain Swiss cheese

The most daunting part of the entire recipe is peeling and slicing five pounds of onions. But it does tearfully go fast, also my culinary efforts have grown to include a mandolin slicer.Mandolin

Peel onions, cut in half and slice into 1/8 inch thick slices.

Melt the stick of butter in the stockpot. Add the sliced onions and saute uncovered, over low heat for 1 1/2 hours. Let the aroma fill the kitchen — the smell is wondrous and will make you drool. Remember to stir every so often, because as the onions soften and begin to brown you wouldn’t want them burning to the bottom of the pot. There’s a reason for the long cooking time — you’re cooking the vital essence out of the onions, and bringing out all that is sweet and tasty within them.

Add the pepper, paprika and bay leaf and continue to cook over a low heat while stirring frequently for 10 minutes more.

Add 12 cups of the beef broth and the cup of white wine. Hold the other two cups of broth for the next step. You can also pause for a glass of wine for yourself. You deserve it for all the effort you’ve put in so far. Increase heat until the soup comes to a boil.

Now dissolve the 3/4 cup of flour in two cups of broth you held back. When fully dissolved, pour into boiling soup while stirring.

Reduce heat and simmer slowly for two hours more.

If your onions browned correctly, the soup should be a rich brown color. If it isn’t don’t worry — you can use a bit of Brown Gravy Sauce or Kitchen Bouquet to adjust the color of your soup. But go easy on the Kitchen Bouquet because too much can change the taste of your soup.

Now is the time to taste your soup for salt. Go sparingly on the salt, because we really don’t need as much salt as we think we do.

If you made the soup the day before, refrigerate over night.

When you’re ready to serve, reheat the soup. Pour individual servings into ovenproof bowls. Top each bowl with a toasted slice of the crusty French bread. Sprinkle grated Gruyère or Swiss cheese on the bread. Heat under the broiler until the cheese melts and bubbles, about 5 minutes.

Now enjoy your soup, or better yet invite your friends over and share … you’ve got enough soup for 16 of them!

And if you’re one of those people who can’t boil water or you’re in a hurry, Trader Joe’s offers a passable frozen French Onion soup you can throw in the microwave. Don’t expect the to-die-for flavor of the soup you cook from scratch.



Thanksgiving Turkey  I have always spent Thanksgiving surrounded by family. And this year was no different … I was again invited to share the bird with my younger brother and sister-in-law and their children and grandchildren.DSC00824

Naturally, Mlle. Renee didn’t like the idea of being left home alone with a few of her favorite play toys. Notice the fearful look on the stuffed fallen star who had just seen the unstuffed squirrel and bear. He wasn’t too keen about staying home with Renee and her unstuffed pals either.  But, after promising to bring a bit of turkey home for her I was allowed the get dressed. So as an unforecasted snow began to fall, I packed up my contribution to the family feast (fresh-baked dinner rolls and Carrot/Pineapple Orange Jello Salad) and headed off into the woods of the far western burbs.

I arrived to discover my great-niece and great-nephew working in the Kiddy Kitchen cooking up a storm of their own.

DSC00826Don’t know what they were cooking, but apparently they had to wear safety goggles to cook it. My sister-in-law was a bit luckier as her dinner was either in the oven or on the stove taking care of itself. Also, she didn’t have to wear goggles to do her cooking.  She was also able to take a break for a little family game session.DSC00825

And she was winning.DSC00831

My brother was playing on the floor with his grandkids. DSC00827Then Little Luke had discovered something better to play with on the floor.


It was the velcro strap on my lazy-man shoe, and he began to open and close it for just about 479 times.  Thankfully, the dinner finished cooking itself and we prepared to eat. We were seated at two different dining tables.DSC00829

This one was rather historic because it celebrated its 77th birthday this summer. It was the original dining table of my mother and father. My brother restored it several years ago. (They made furniture to last in the 30s.)  I was seated at the other dining table with the rest of the family. Which is why I didn’t take a picture of that table.

Naturally, dinner was fantastic and we all gobbled it up like turkeys!  And then we just sat around …DSC00832

… waiting for our dinner to settle down to allow for dessert!DSC00834

When I got home, Mlle. Renee gave me one of those It’s About Time looks that really means, “So, where’s my TURKEY!’GoofyTurkey

“That’s all, folks!”

This Thanksgiving dinner story starred one brother, one sister-in-law, four nephews, four nieces, two great nephews, two great nieces, Mlle. Renee, one very big turkey and me.



MONDAY … With A Few Of My Favorite Things!

I decided to start the week off with something a little different. I’m sharing photos of five of my favorite things, and I hope you enjoy them too! BlackKnight

STRIDING MAN – Rudolf Belling

A dark figure about a foot tall that I always pass in the narrow corridor when I move from the new addition of the art museum into the original museum building. I think of him as my dark knight.



I’m amazed with the eyes of the boy in this mosaic fragment. It was found in a 2300 year old Roman city between Turkey and Persia.


This is on a sidewalk in West Walnut Manor. When I was a kid all manhole covers were made of  heavy steel. Unfortunately people began stealing them to sell for scrap metal leaving an open hole people could fall into. Cement is cheap, and the fish is to remind people the sewer is for runoff water and not garbage.WarthogParade


This is one of the many animal sculptures in the parking lot of the Saint Louis Zoo. The biggest one is of an actual sized elephant seen below.

ZoofariThat’s my best friend Mr. Bill standing in front of it. Bill is also my oldest friend. He has been for over fifty years.SLAM GrandHall


It was originally known as the Sculpture Hall and it is in one of the most historic buildings in the city. And it has been standing at the top of Art Hill for 110 years. I love to wonder through this building. It’s one of my favorite things, too.


There’s a saying in West Walnut Manor … if you don’t like the weather today, just come back tomorrow! And that’s the way the weekend started on Saturday morning. The sun was out, and it was a picture of FALL all over the place.

GoldenrodThe GOLDENROD was in full bloom!


And the leaves were still falling …IntoTheWoods2

Or totally fallen!

As the morning dwindled, so did the sun. And by afternoon the sky filled with dooming, gloomy clouds. As the afternoon gave way to evening, little balls of sleet began to fall covering the ground with a blanket of white. By Sunday morning it had all melted.

By noon today Winter arrived, and it started snowing! WinterWoods

First covering the branches and never-say-die leaves that remained on them …WinterWoods2

And then moving on to cover the ground and the leaves I didn’t get raked up because it was too cold to go outside.

Right now in mid-afternoon we only have a little over an inch of snow on the ground. But it is expected to continue falling through the evening and night.

So, what’s left to do …SnoDazeStickyBuns

… Other than baking SNO-DAZE STICKY-BUNS! A wonderful combination of butter, brown sugar, chopped pecans, cinnamon and white chocolate chips — just the treats needed to go with a cup of hot cocoa.


Like many midwestern locations, West Walnut Manor has been going through a seemingly never-ending period of dreary, rain-saturated weeks. Ok, I might have exaggerated a bit … but it has been wet. But today … the SUN returned!  But when I walked outside into the clear (somewhat chilling) air, I discovered bacon growing out of the railing around the deck!It'sNotBacon

Now, I know that bacon does not grow on trees or deck rails that come from trees! But it sure looked like it!MaybeAFlatFungi

But, I decided it must be some kind of flat fungus among us, so I went to the Encyclopedia Britannica. (Question: How many of  you also learned how to spell encyclopedia by watching the Mickey Mouse Club?) There, I learned there are over 80,000 known species of organisms of the kingdom Fungi, which includes the yeasts, rusts, smuts, mildews, molds, mushrooms, and toadstools. Now, I’ll have to go back and discover what a smut is.

NewSproutsOn closer inspection I actually discovered two baby fungi just starting to poke their little heads out of the timber.

Amazing, if you just look around your everyday world, you’re sure to discover something you never knew!





What nocturnal photos do you like taking? Whether it’s a starry sky, a street lamp, or the shadows cast by your cat, share them with us. Your shot can be outdoors or indoors, blurry or crisp, overexposed or ominously dark. As every owl (and night owl) knows, nighttime is when the real action starts.

 For more information, go here!

Personally, I seldom go out with my camera at night. And when I do, it’s to take pictures of weather, snow covered trees or the moon.Moon

This was my shot of the last SUPER MOON OF THE SUMMER. Photographing the moon involves a lot of guess work, luck, and a lot of throwaway photos. Also any haze in the sky … even though you can’t see it … will give you a photo of the moon lacking detail.


JungleBeasts  Starting off the final zoo segment with a display of carved wooden jungle beasts. It’s a work my nephew brought back from Lagos, Nigeria. It shows several of the animals that retired for the day before the picnic even started at the zoo.  As we walked through the River’s Edge, all we saw were empty display areas. At the brand new exhibit for the Andean Bears all we saw was other zoo visitors with their noses pressed to a glass panel trying to see the two bears huddled at the back of their cave. (I can just see the mama bear asking the papa bear, “Do you think they want to sleep in our bed?”)

We lucked out an exhibit later when the black rhino began to strut around his stomping grounds shortly after we arrived and even pretend to charge the viewers. (For about two or three feet)


Unfortunately, he didn’t even scare the sacred ibis from ancient Egypt that shares part of his domain. (Hmmm, what is the plural of ibis? There were about six of them.)


The star attraction of the next exhibit area was an abandoned ant hill.UncleHill

It was a real nice ant hill, but the sign on the fence said that this was the home of the cheetah family. (Guess they were all lurking in the shadows and licking their lips as they decided which one of us would make the best dinner guest.)

Next up were the warthogs … but they were dining. On what appeared to be takeout wrapped up in old newspaper.WhataMessyPig

What a messy pig!EvenMessierPig

And his friend was even messier!

And next door, we couldn’t even get a chuckle out of the snoozing Hyena!  (Never ever heard of a somber hyena before.)SlumberingSomberHyena

However, the African Painted Dogs were actually much more active group of canines.AfricanPaintedDog

Guess they’re trying to prove they’re not extinct yet. They are an endangered species in Africa, and the Saint Louis Zoo is part of a world-wide effort to keep them from disappearing. That’s why this year’s picnic was A Painted (dog) Picnic.ZooPicnic2014

The big stars of THE RIVER’S EDGE were the HIPPOS …HipposAreBig

And LITTLE LUKE (standing next to the hippo on the bottom of the pool) decided that hippos are really BIG!!!  He liked the little fishies, too.


Hippos do love swimming in their pool though!FloatingHippo

And that brought us to the end of THE RIVER’S EDGE!  There was an Elephant Enrichment Program scheduled for 6:00, but that was the time for our own enrichment … the picnic dinner! Besides we had to get to CHILDREN’S ZOO first, so the adults could watch the little kids pet the baby goats, big snakes, and guinea pigs. There are so many things for the kids to play with here, it’s hard to get the away.  The adults got a special treat though, we were watching the new moma tree kangaroo and her little baby stuck his or her head out of the moma’s pouch.  (Yes, I again failed to get my camera up fast enough to photograph him or her.)


Nichole with the little goats!


Luke with the big snake that was taller than he was.

(And the kids wouldn’t touch the real live Python. Guess kids really aren’t that dumb!)

And that was our annual family trip to the zoo!

But we missed the lions, tigers and bears!!!



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