Cheese loving Aja, the night sky at Oscars, Snow in Tylertown
and of course....books

I had not intended for a week to go by before checking the blog it is Thursday again!  Quick update from this part of world, 24 degrees this morning near Havana, Florida.  Wind chill to make it feel 17 F.  My friend in Alaska texted me to say we were 9 degrees colder this morning than it was in Eagle River Alaska.  Yikes!

The night sky around 6:15 in Havana Florida.  We had stepped out of Oscar's Pizza to walk Aja a bit before the pizza was ready.  Takeaway and movie night organized before the rain arrived.  This photo doesn't do it justice, the clouds were silky midnight blue and there was orange just above the treeline.

night sky

I will, perhaps, sit for you if you give me cheese.  This one is loving the cold, cold weather.  She walks so fast and shows such joy in her eyes when it's bitter cold.  I'm sure it's tougher on a dog with a double coat in the hot summers we have.  But it's her time of year now. We get back from a walk after battling a biting wind and she still runs to the back door to get back out. Crazy.


Speaking of cold - it snowed again in Tylertown Mississippi!


What a beautiful sight, this pasture covered with snow.  It would be so nice to enjoy a coffee with Aunt Ellen and our cousins, looking out at this scene.  Much thanks to Lee Ellen for sending the photos.


On the bookish front, I started the next book in the Frieda Klein series, Tuesday's Gone.  Good start to it, I can tell I will read all in the series.  Also just read that a follow up book to Silent Sunday will be published so I'm stoked about that. It's called The Day of the Dead and will be out in July of 2018.  Maybe I will be all caught up by then and read the other books on my Kindle.

Doug just finished Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness and has Tana French and Andy Weir books on hold. Has anyone read Artemis by Weir?  I am looking forward to that too.


That's about it for now.  It's been too cold to ride but I have been making lots of soup and bread.  Heats the kitchen and it's good homemade food.  Hope all is well in your world.  I hope to be back before next Thursday :-)

It's Thursday - only 1 more get-up till the weekend!
{Random thoughts}

I have some great books lined up for January and February.  Soon I want to get back to the Nicci French novels, I've read the first and last one so far.  I just finished The Chalk Man and it was a page turner for sure.  As soon as this author comes out with another book, I'm on it.  The perfect balance of leaving a cliffhanger at the end of a chapter but not keeping you waiting too long to get back to it. I had participated for the first time with Sheila's First Book of the Year and actually stuck to it.


The second week of January brings us a mixture of weird weather.  High temperature today is 70 degrees but back to cooler temps by the weekend.  I wore a hat, scarf, gloves and heavy coat to walk around Havana about 4 days ago.  Now I'm in short sleeves.  You can't put clothes away for a season.....except in summer.  Then  you are certain the heavy winter clothes won't be needed.


James McMurtry is saving my sanity at work.  I listen to the album Saint Mary of the Woods and Complicated Games quite a bit while I'm working. I listen to lots of Mark Knopfler and Alison Krauss too. The cacophony of conversations that qualify as pure noise can dominate my end of the hall sometimes. I am thankful for a door I can close and create my own peaceful environment.

What's been cooking?  Well, some of our old standby meals such as this Spinach Tortellini with Chardonnay, eggplant and shepherd's pie.  Pizza is on the radar for this weekend.  We love to have pizza and a red blend during movie night.


For now that's it.  I just wanted to be sure I journaled this week.  The weekend plans include starting a new book, starting a new crochet project (pink hat was requested by the granddaughter) and making myself get the vacuum out and do some housework.  I sure hate housework but must be tackled. <big sigh> 

If the weather cooperates we may ride somewhere to eat lunch.  Definitely getting photos of that if it happens.  Doug pulled the trike up to house so he can get a charge on the battery, it's been working well so far.  The cold and lack of riding sure will kill a battery. Riding for lunch is always fun.  Hopefully I won't fall asleep afterwards. That happens most times.

Wish me luck on the Lucky Money draw with Friday's lottery.  It could change our stars to be sure!

The first week of January - It Snowed in North Florida!

On my last post I mentioned I was growing restless with the blogging. After 10 years I was torn about continuing and realized, I will just start journaling again instead of doing "event" type posts. Not to say I won't link up here and there with I Heart Cooking Club, Weekend Cooking Series and the like.  It's a good thing to be sociable and I have certainly met lots of nice folks.  Anyway, here is my first post of the year, journal style.

It snowed in Tallahassee! I think it must be more than 10 years since it snowed here.  Quite an event.  The interstate closed down because of ice and hazardous conditions.  The exit we get off for work was the last one headed eastbound that remained open so traffic was snarled.  Lost of semi trucks getting rerouted. By the time we got to work the snow had stopped so we weren't able to walk in it.

Our birdbath.  Love the Celtic design.
ice1 I like this birdbath too there is an illusion of fire or a light bolt edging upwards. Behold the chill factor here, this was the forecast 2 days ago.  ice2ice3

In this weather I am content to stay inside and read or crochet.  One of my coworkers is pregnant and I thought it would be cool to make a hat for the baby.  It came out well, if I may say so, and now I want to make a green one. In my overflowing stash of yarn I have a soft, lovely green skein of yarn. Maybe I can start on that this weekend.


Blue seems to be the theme as I upload photos. I have recently finished the first book in the Frieda Klein series by Nicci French, Blue Monday.  Seems I did things backwards as I read book 7 (Silent Sunday) in the series last month.  Doing so gave me a few spoilers but not enough to ruin it for me,  I plan to read all these books. Speaking of books, I was surprised that my little corner of the bookish internet has gained me 203 followers at Novel Meals.  That was just an off-the-cuff outlet for book ramblings and I didn't expect that at all.  Cool :-)


What would my journal be like without a foodie paragraph or two?  Haha.  As we indulged ourselves  with some higher fat foods over the holidays it's back to healthier fare.  It's been very cold here (yes, in Florida) so I made a warming Korma complete with rice and naan.  Recipe may be found HERE.


Talking about warming food, here is a vat of vegetable soup I made while the Korma was bubbling.  When I cut the veggies for the Korma I sliced a bit extra and tossed them in a pot for soup.  We brought this to work today to help warm our bones.


I'm guessing I don't need a recipe for this as we all make vegetable soup with our favorite veggies, just saute them and add broth and spices.  This time I used zucchini, tomato, onion, garlic, red bell pepper, carrots, leftover green beans and rice.  Lots of salt, pepper and basil.

I will be joining Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sunday series - her linkup with a Lucky New Year Noodle Soup may be found HERE.  Join in, there is still plenty of time to share your soup, salad or sandwich creations.  Happy first week of 2018!

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Avocado Chickpea Salad makes a good sandwich
(especially on homemade bread)

New Years Eve.  Time for partying, time for reflection.
I have been blogging on this site since December of 2007. Ten years. I was just telling my husband that I am tired of the blogging and yet curiously addicted to it. Wonder why that is?

I've always kept a journal, long before the electronic age of blogs and internet was around.  The very creation of Squirrel Head Manor is an extension of that and for a long time I was quite active.

Meh.....I'm just grousing.  Next year I will probably plan my posts better or only update on say.....Thursdays.  When you enjoy writing you don't just stop.  I'm just pondering this out loud, or on this page as it happens. Haha

So, today I wanted to share a nice chickpea and avocado based salad that makes a dynamite sandwich.  It's that time of year when people start thinking about eating healthier,  If you like vegetarian based meals you will probably like this little recipe. We've been on the mostly vegetarian meal plan for well over a year (this time) and I can say, lunches can be problematic when  there aren't any leftovers.  I try and pack our lunches every work day as it's healthier as well as economically sound.

This sandwich spread, this salad, makes a filling lunch and it's made in under 2 minutes!


I found this recipe through a Weekend Cooking event hosted by Beth Fish Reads. The contributor is Patrick Looney and his original post (and great photos) may be found HERE.

In the morning, after only one cup of coffee, this combo was easily tossed into a bowl and smashed together. Absolutely simple and I love it.



1 large ripe avocado
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
¼ cup packed parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons red onion, diced
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon garlic powder
juice from one lime

Put everything in a bowl and mash together.
Serve on a sandwich on a bed of greens.

I will be joining Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sunday series - her linkup with a Red Pepper Tomato Soup may be found HERE.

I am sharing this with Beth Fish's Weekend Cooking Series and Meatless Monday

Happy New Year, folks!

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Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie to warm your bones

Christmas is over and I imagine the traditional fare and leftovers are all gone.  We didn't do a traditional meal this year and kept with the usual dinners - grilling fish, spaghetti and so on.  Next year we will probably get back into the groove.  We didn't get the tree out and decided after a while it wasn't worth climbing into the attic.  Then we saw a very cool, pre-lit tree for half price at Walmart.  So we bought it and on Christmas eve - we put up this tree.  It took up almost all of the Subaru with the seats let down.


It had been unseasonably warm here for quite a bit but now we are getting very cold temps.  A few frosty mornings, nothing like what folks in Minnesota or Wisconsin are getting.  Thankfully.

When the weather is cold, we enjoy a vegetarian version of Shepherd's Pie. Healthy and easy to toss together plus it's a comfort food.  Warming.

The prep isn't complicated but I sure messed up the kitchen with multiple dishes and pots.  My mixer is a dream to use but I like to get that metal bowl cleaned right away so nothing sticks.

So how easy is it?  I sauteed onions, garlic, corn, tomatoes, a can of beans (your choice of small white beans, kidney, red beans or black), a good dose of Worcestershire sauce and a small can of tomato sauce.  Get the mixture bubbling while the potatoes are boiling.

Turn the veg mixture into a small casserole dish and sprinkle with cheese.  This time I used sharp cheddar.


After ladling potatoes on top of the vegetable mixture you just pop in the oven at 375 F for 25 minutes.  I took advantage of that time to read my new book.  (Just discovered Nicci French and the Frieda Klein series.  Loving it so far.)

The mixture of white potatoes, cheddar and paprika makes a pretty sight once it melts together.  I suggest letting it sit 5 minutes before digging in so you don't burn your mouth.


Coming up I have a fast and healthy lunch to share.  It's also vegetarian fare and a great go-to if you are short of time for a lunch idea.

I am sharing this with Beth Fish's Weekend Cooking Series.

Black Bean Burgers are the new Eggplant
(when my husband is traveling - :-)

Tic-Toc....only five days until Christmas.  This year it seems different, at least it does for us.  We haven't thought about listening to the holiday music or watch the movies as we always did in years past.  Not that we celebrated much in past either but we did always make time for It's a Wonderful Life and put up a tree. Maybe next year.

So the title of this post seems randomly weird but it's all about food choices when Doug is out of town.  He didn't like eggplant for a long time but now, he enjoys a juicy eggplant Parmesan dinner.  That's a win for me!  I am big fan of the aubergine and since he didn't like it, I would only prepare it when he was out of town.  A mild version of girl's night in, I live on the wild side.

You know what else I like?  Black bean burgers.  That's not on the list for never-again-foods but it's not his favorite so.....this last trip I had two black bean burgers.  And, because beans are an important part of a 95% vegetarian diet - I made a soup with leftover rice, black beans, tomatoes and onions.


Aja likes it when we are all together so there was some sulking, some apprehensive looks when I sat down to dinner alone.  She still received ample treats and then joined me in the den to listen to some Mark Knopfler.  Girl's night in...........


She's a happy girl when the pack is together.


I'm working on a list for the books I want to read next year, book challenges I joined and bread making plans.  Recently I was delighted to discover several bread recipes I had forgotten about.  These are breads I made quite a long time ago and for some reason, forgot about the recipes.  Soon I will be tackling a couple of these forgotten gems each month.

Well....that's the plan anyway.
More later.......

Linking up with Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sunday series.
Check out the link up HERE , Deb made lemony chickpea noddle soup.  and join in if you can.  

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A Scalding Starbucks story

I learned something last week.  Starbucks has burn cream in their first aid kit. Now that makes sense when you think about it as they are dealing with very hot beverages most of the day.

Scalding water is pulled from a tap when you order a cup of tea.  I don't get the coffee because it tastes a bit burnt to me but I do like the English Breakfast tea.  Oh, the bagels are quite good as well.  We go there for a cheap breakfast and the screaming fast internet connections.  Nothing but a slow old Mi-Fi at home so when you need to do a backup on your phone or tablet, download an app or books....this is where you can get it done pronto.

Anyway....the burn cream.  They hand off the beverages with a secure lid as the tea steeps away inside the cup.  After I pried my lid off to add a sugar I decided it would be okay to throw caution to the wind and walk my full cup back a scant 9 feet to our table.

The liquid starts to slosh upwards toward the rim and gains enough momentum to arc back toward the opposite side of the cup. I watch in horror as I'm almost to the table. Almost but didn't quite make it as lava hot tea starts cascading across my left hand.  And on the floor.  But I saved the electronics on the table (and probably my husband) by hanging on to the cup.  It would have been so much worse had I dropped it at the table.

One of the baristas noticed and immediately brought me burn cream after I'd returned from soaking my hand in cold water in the ladies room.  That saved me from blistering, I'm sure of it, but it surely did hurt and remained tender a few days.  So, the lesson is secure the lid on a hot beverage before walking.  And remember to ask for a burn salve if this ever happens to you.  I hope it doesn't.

Shout out to Kevin and Saaed for your assistance!

Creamy Vegetable Soup
{A hot lunch for cool weather}

Creamy veg soup was inspired by necessity - the need for a hot lunch to carry to work.  The ingredients were  selected from a nearly bare vegetable tray in the fridge.  Creativity was required 😼

It’s simple.  You look in the fridge for orphan vegetables, quantities too meager to produce a good side dish at dinner. I had onions (I always have copious quantities of onions), three garlic cloves, mushrooms, two carrots, one yellow squash and a handful of green beans. 

(The bowls aren’t glorious but’s what I have at work so…..this is as photogenic as it gets)


Get those vegetables soft by slowly simmering in a tablespoon or so of olive oil and a knob of butter.  Salt and  pepper liberally then add a few shakes of dried oregano and basil.  I tipped a few tablespoons of A/P flour in the veg mix and gently combined.  Slowly add milk or Almond milk and watch it thicken up.  

I also added some vegetable broth because it got to be a little too thick.  
Oh, I saw a saved container of short grain rice in the fridge too so I added that as well.


For dinner we had a freshly made loaf of French bread so I cut off a few slices to take for lunch.  They don’t give us much in the way of heat in our offices so hot substantial soup is a blessing.
If you prefer to add a protein to the soup you could always toss in some chicken, beans or tofu.

 Lovely lunch, wish I had brought some cheese too.

Linking up with Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sunday series. 
Check out the link up HERE and join in if you can.  Also linking up with Beth Fish Reads for Weekend Cooking.

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Cheese loving Aja, the night sky at Oscars, Snow in Tylertown<br> and of course....books</br>

I had not intended for a week to go by before checking the blog it is Thursday again!  Quick update from this part of world, 24 ...