Grace's Mosaic Moments


Thursday, July 9, 2020

Diving, Recipes & Face Shields



About to dive 27' down in the Gulf of Mexico

She did it! Found a big shark's tooth on the first try.
And a remarkable amount of other stuff. Guess the diving lessons were worth it.


On the way to Suwanee
Off on mini vacation plus work trip - fixing up the Suwanee house for sale
 (To think, Kylo was a little pup just 7 months ago.)



COMFORT FOOD

 I suspect many of us have taken refuge in "comfort foods," old favorites we might have turned our backs on in the rush toward the Mediterranean, Keto, and other "healthy choices" of the moment. In my case, I developed a yen for Tapioca. No, not that stuff they sell in the dairy department but made-from-scratch Tapioca Pudding, which can be a real treat. 

But what did I discover? Oh no! Kraft was no longer making the Minute Tapioca I had known all my life. After considerable thought - and being shocked by the prices placed on the last boxes on Amazon - I decided that perhaps it was the classic recipe for Fluffy Tapioca that caused the Kraft Tapioca demise. For their Fluffy Tapioca recipe contains egg white meringue (uncooked), and Kraft likely had a whole host of lawyers advising against putting out a product that used raw egg white. Thus putting paid to one of the great taste treats of the world. Sigh. 

So I saved my last empty box and typed up both the "Tapioca Pudding" and the "Fluffy Tapioca Cream" recipes, and saved them to my Recipes file. I also recorded for posterity Kraft's classic Fruit Pie recipes, for how can you possibly make a good fruit pie with tapioca??? 

And then I was faced with What Next? I turned up my nose at the alleged tapioca granules now offered by Publix. (I mean, they were in a plastic bag!) After searching Amazon, I ordered a 5-pack (at least the tapioca was in proper cardboard). Giving the new supplier the benefit of the doubt, I followed the instructions to the letter. The tapioca had the texture of rubber, and tasted only slightly better.

So it was back to the Kraft recipes I had so carefully saved. I had always used the Fluffy Tapioca recipe, but this time - for a better comparison to the "rubber" recipe - I made the simpler recipe - plain old "Tapioca Pudding." And guess what, the new tapioca was suddenly palatable. More than palatable, it was maybe 75-80% as good as Fluffy Tapioca. Thank goodness! I was not to be deprived of my tapioca fix. (And in Kraft's "Tapioca Pudding" recipe, both egg yolk and egg white are cooked.)

Frankly, fear of Salmonella aside, when I have time to get out the electric beater and turn egg white into meringue, the Fluffy Tapioca is by far the tastiest recipe. It can compete with ice cream any day. I make sure I buy high quality eggs and have never had a problem.




Below are all three recipes from the now defunct Kraft Minute Tapioca Pudding box:  Regular, Fluffy, and Fruit Pie.

Tapioca Pudding

1 egg
2-3/4 cups milk*
1/3 cup sugar
3 TBsp Minute tapioca
1 tsp vanilla

Whisk egg & milk in medium saucepan until blended. Stir in sugar & tapioca. Let stand 5 minutes.

Bring to full boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred), on medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla.

Cool 20 min. Stir. Serve warm or cold. Keep refrigerated. Makes 6 ½-cup servings.

*It's okay to use Lactaid.




Fluffy Tapioca Pudding

1 egg, separated
6 TBsp sugar, divided**
3 TBsp Minute tapioca
2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla

Mix tapioca, milk, egg yolk & 3 TBspn sugar in medium sauce. Let stand 5 minutes.

Beat egg white on high speed in small bowl until foamy. Gradually add 3 TBsp sugar ** continue beating until soft peaks form. Set aside.

Bring tapioca mix to full boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add egg white mix; stir until blended. Stir in vanilla.

Cool 20 min. Stir. Serve warm or cold. Keep refrigerated. Makes 6 servings.

**I reduce the sugar to 2 tablespoons in the tapioca mix, two in the egg white.

Grace note:   Taste can be varied by using ½ tsp. almond (or other) flavoring. By swirling jam or chocolate sauce into the still-warm tapioca. Or simply be creative.



 FRUIT PIE

Tapioca is an essential ingredient in any fruit pie, as it helps absorb the berry juices and keeps the pie from being a soggy mess.  Below are the suggestions from the Kraft Tapioca box, but they are adaptable to any variety of fruit.

6 cups sliced apples, 2 TBspns tapioca, 3/4 cup sugar. Flavor with ½ tspn ground cinnamon &/or ground nutmeg

4 cups blueberries, ¼ cup tapioca, 1 cup sugar. Flavor with 1 TBspn lemon juice, 1/8 tspn cinnamon

Grace note:  You can also use frozen berries. Just be sure they are well thawed & drained.



IMPORTANT ADDENDUM - FACE SHIELDS

Although I've made somewhere around 250 masks over the last few months, I find it difficult to wear one. (I do, of course, but I suffer.) Therefore, I was delighted to see an ad on Facebook for an inexpensive Face Shield. Even for a package of 5, the cost is reasonable (because the product attaches to a ball cap). So I'm recommending InstaShield, a product out of Missouri. For more information, click here.

~ * ~
 Coming Soon: THE VICAR'S DAUGHTER
a Regency Gothic

 
For Blair's website, click here.
 
For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Amazon, click here.

For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Smashwords (20% free read), click here.

For a link to Blair's Facebook Author Page, click here.
 

 
Thanks for stopping by,
Grace (aka Blair Bancroft)

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Giving Thanks


To view mask pics or place an order



On Thursday morning (6/25/20), I woke to the following headline in the Orlando Sentinel:

 Hospitilizations hit new high

Not at all what I wanted to see, but not a surprise. It was something I'd feared since the too-early re-opening of our state and a sudden drop in mask orders signaled that all too many people equated re-opening with "back to normal." Sigh. Florida moved rapidly ahead to Phase 2 of its re-opening. Then Phase 3, which included re-opening bars. And . . . well, I won't sully your eyes with the appropriate expression for what happened next. The Orlando area is far better off than the Miami area, but we are home to one of the largest universities in the country ( in MY county, alas), and partying exploded, followed by the virus. My county, which had been relatively quiet, Covid-wise, tripled its cases in 10 days. A disease only for the aged? Guess not. 

Note:  on Friday the governor finally conceded we had a problem and ordered all bars closed. Too little, too late.

Meanwhile, for something more uplifting—though with a sharp bite—my son passed along a remarkable new video by The Chicks (formerly The Dixie Chicks). It is extremely well done, with photos dating back to the Suffragette movement at the turn of the 20th century. I heartily recommend you take the time to watch "March, March." For video, click here.
Scroll down to window with video triangle.

And from my daring daughter and grandgirls, Riley and Cassidy - on their "digging" adventures in the Carolinas . . .


 
Digging in South Carolina

 
Dug out of that vast pile of reddish dirt




















More crystals dug by hand




















 

Crysocolla - purchased in gem shop
~ * ~


As for myself, I attempt to do my bit—staying home, making masks, posting cautions to Facebook, never forgetting to ask God to save us from ourselves—but for this week's blog I decided it was time to list my thanks for the things that have gone right. And surprisingly, as I thought about it, I realized it's a remarkably long list.

I admit, however, that isolation is easier for writers—we're natural-born hermits—but nonetheless, I hope you'll all take a moment to think about what's good in your life instead of what's bad.


I give thanks for . . .

My family. My son and daughter both called me on March 16, urging me to isolate, and with only a few exceptions, I have. (After six weeks, my daughter also provided the first break - a birthday party with only close family that gave me a chance to see my grandgirls again.)

My writing. Thank God this challenge is not a hurricane. I have my computer, my legal pads, my pens and pencils. My wits stay sharp.

Squeak. What would I do without my constant companion, feisty as she is? She cuddles, she purrs, she follows me around. She bites, she scratches, brings in lizards, snakes, moles . . . But she's my buddy, my best friend.

My choir family.  We don't know when we'll be able to sing together again, but we keep in touch every Wednesday night (our rehearsal time) via Zoom. It's been a big help. What a miracle to be able to see and hear each other as if we were in the same room.

My church.  Struggling along with YouTube services and then dealt a low blow when lightning took out all the lights in the altar area AND silenced the organ. Took three weeks to restore the lights - organ now functioning on only half its pipes (a circuit board has to be rebuilt). Nonetheless, the services continued, even when there was only candlelight and a piano. I've forgotten whose motto this is, but "We persevere" definitely applies to Longwood's Church of the Resurrection.

The "little" things.  Like one of my first mask customers, who left me a huge container of disinfectant wipes (something that was impossible to find at that time, and still is). Where she got them, I'll never know, but I am immensely grateful. As I am for the many little kindnesses shown me, by friends, neighbors, and perfect strangers (on the few times I've been out and about).

Facebook. I have never appreciated FB more than now when I am cut off from all my "live" friends. No matter the many criticisms made about FB, it has been wonderful to be able to stay in touch with friends in the U.S. and on far-distant shores (all of us suffering similar problems in this trying time).

Publix Delivery. I am constantly amazed by being able to order online and have my groceries delivered to my door in less than two hours. Yes, I can't always get exactly what I wanted, but heck, I remember rationing during WWII. So, no complaints.

Jo-Ann Curbside Service. Jo-Ann Fabrics were pioneers in mask-making, offering free fabric, how-to videos when most people had not yet adjusted to the fact we were entering a whole new world. Jo-Ann's was also among the pioneers in Curbside Pickup. Just order & pay online, wait for an email that your order is ready, drive to the store, phone to say you're there, and someone comes out and hands you the bag with your order. Love it. How else would I have acquired all the supplies I needed for making masks? Or yarn, now that I'm back to making shawls again.

Staples. A writer also needs supplies. Paper, ink cartridges, etc. Staples has waved Minimum Order requirements for free delivery. Just order online and within a day or two, your order is dropped at your door.

Walgreen's.  A hearty thank-you to Walgreen's for making it possible to pick up various store items at the Prescription Drive-Thru window.

Restaurants. I haven't taken as much advantage of restaurant "Order online, Pickup curbside"  as I should have to help support them through this crisis, but the times I did - at Outback and Chili's - it was marvelously efficient. (And yummy.)

Fast-food Restaurants.  Through thick and thin, these have remained open, most finding more careful ways to take your money and give you your food. (Taco Bell the best at this.) I am truly grateful for them being there, giving me a break from preparing food for one, night after night.

People who wear masks.  I meet all the criteria for those "most susceptible" to Covid-19. But there are times I really have to go out. Thank you, thank you to all those caring enough to wear masks when in public, no matter how uncomfortable. And to those who practice social distancing. Why anyone—anyone, including those in government—would think they have the right to spread their germs to someone else is beyond my imagination. As my father used to say:  "Your freedom ends where the other fellow's nose begins."  If you're not wearing a mask when out and about, you are saying:  "I don't give a damn about anybody but myself."

Electricity.  Having been without power after a number of hurricanes (in both Connecticut & Florida), I am grateful to Duke Energy and to Spectrum for keeping my lights, my stove, my refrigerator, my TV, my computer running. In addition to being able to write, I am particularly grateful for my Roku access to Acorn (PBS).

I know I've failed to list many things I should, but the above is enough to remind me that even in these difficult times, life isn't all bad. Try listing your "thanks." Hopefully, it will bring a bit of light into the gloom.


~ * ~

 
For Blair's website, click here.
 
For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Amazon, click here.

For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Smashwords (20% free read), click here.


 
For a link to Blair's updated Facebook Author Page, click here.

 

 
Thanks for stopping by,
Grace (aka Blair Bancroft)


 

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Doonesbury - a Comment on our Times


To view mask pics or place an order






Cassidy & Mom beginning scuba certification so they can 
dive for really large sharks' teeth on an underwater shelf 
off the Venice (FL) coast.*

 
Underwater at Rainbow Springs, near Dunnellon



Graduated!


*Posted to remind us that not everything is doom & gloom.

Grace Note:  Until I saw these photos, I never thought they looked alike.

~ * ~


DOONESBURY VIEW of Covid 19
(national cartoon, as seen in the Orlando Sentinel, Sunday, June 14, 2020)

Way, way back in ages dark, when I lived in Connecticut and my husband was a fellow of Branford College at Yale, there was a student who was already making a name for himself for Bull Tales, a cartoon appearing in what we called "The Yaley Daily." I recall my husband's niece being thrilled when she was invited to parties at the cartoonist's apartment, which, as I recall, was in the atmospheric Wooster Square area of New Haven.

Gary Trudeau went ahead to become world-famous as the creator of the cartoon strip, Doonesbury, and though the weekly comics are now re-runs, Sunday's cartoons keep up-to-the minute with the current world. (Though, occasionally, to my considerable annoyance, the Sentinel censors Trudeau's anti-Trump statements by reducing the size of the cartoon until it is unreadable without a magnifying glass!) Last Sunday's message, however, escaped censorship, and is such a perfect reflection of the world as Trump sees it that I am going to attempt to pass it along below.

No, no scan and paste - I don't want to totally violate the copyright laws - but I think Gary wouldn't mind my passing along his words. 

The scene remains the same throughout all frames of the cartoon: the podium at a presidential press conference, the American flag to stage left.

Frame 1:  (Trump at the podium)  "Nobody has done anything like we've been able to! Nobody! Incredible, because Obama left behind a mess!"

Frame 2:  "And honestly, some of the governors have been ungrateful . . . Do-nothing Democrats, mostly . . . and their friends in the lying press . . ."

Frame 3:  ". . . who have been horrible, believe me! Okay, that's it! Not taking any questions today because they're always nasty!"

Frame 4:  (President shown leaving the podium.)

Frame 5:  (Trump's voice, from offstage)  "What? Oh, c'mon . . . seriously?
Fine! Gimme that!"

Frame 6: (Trump back on podium, reading from a small piece of paper, grumpy expression on his face) "We grieve for everybody who died today. Okay? Happy?"

~ * ~

My alter ego, Blair, would be delighted if you took a peek at one or more of my Contemporary Suspense/Thrillers below. Available through most e-book vendors. (A 20% free read at Smashwords.com.)


A New England widow, a Florida "cowboy" & a serial killer
 
















 

 
A tale of wildfire, human trafficking & lost love


























 
A female FBI agent & a Russian mystery man chase a wayward nuclear bomb



















 
Cultures clash as a New England businesswoman & a tough Hispanic entrepreneur combat agricultural terrorism





~ * ~
 
For Blair's website, click here.
 
For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Amazon, click here.

For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Smashwords (20% free read), click here.

 
For a link to Blair's updated Facebook Author Page, click here.

 

 
Thanks for stopping by,
Grace (aka Blair Bancroft)
 

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Masks for Sale


BE RESPONSIBLE.
WEAR A MASK.

To keep our economy from tanking, too many states opened too soon. Covid cases are spiking, and experts agree a vital part of the problem is failure to wear masks. And yet most areas refrain from making them mandatory, as even before George Floyd's horrific death, police would be called upon to enforce the order, leading to confrontations no one wants piled on top of all our other problems. So take it upon yourself to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. 

Face facts, wear a mask.

Maybe you think you're too macho to wear a mask, you're in the wrong age group to catch Covid, you haven't got any symptoms, etc., etc. Well, I've got news for you. EVERY person who isn't wearing a mask is putting their fellow citizens at risk. FYI, half the latest cases here in Orlando are in the 20-40 age range. If you're out in public, wear a mask! (Exception: inside your car.)

So suck it up, don't be a killer.
WEAR A MASK!

~ * ~

 Updated List of Grace Masks

Three styles of masks are currently available: 1) rectangular with pleats; 2) Fu with curved center seam; 3) over-the-head style with ¼" elastic drawstring. Each style can be made in the fabric of your choice. (Or, if you prefer, you may choose a different fabric for each side.)  All masks have an adjustable nose wire and soft, stretchy ear loops. All masks are Machine Wash & Dry.

Grace note:  a number of the photos below are from March & April when it was impossible to get mask elastic or nose strips. They are used only as examples of fabric available.

Masks are $5 each, plus mailer & postage [$1.50 - 3.50 according to weight. U. S. A. only, please (Exceptions can be discussed at the email address below.)]


To order - or ask questions - contact Grace at:  blairgak@gmail.com. Please indicate style, fabric, and size (Medium or Large). Child size upon request.


Payment:
Local pick-up:  check, cash, or Zelle (to email above). 
By mail:  check, Zelle, or Paypal (which includes payment by Credit Card). 

Style 1 - rectangular w/pleats
Also, an example of the ear loops now used on each mask.

Style 2 - Fu w/center curved seam (no pleats)
Now made with white mask elastic and nose pincher.
Style 3 - Fu w/over-the-head elastic drawstring
This style - which goes over the head with the ends tied behind the neck - easily pulls down to hang around the neck when necessary, but is recommended more for men than women, as when I tried it, it messed up my hair!


Pleat mask bent to demonstrate bendable nose wire

 

Sample of How All New Masks Look
 
Masks w/nose wires & soft, stretchy ear loops
(Red & blue ribbon ties indicate size)
  

Fabrics Currently Available


Black













Astronomy (pattern varies)














Turquoise Bandana











Blue Mix (short supply)
Photo above shows nose wire pocket at Top Center. 


Tan w/Stars













Tan w/small stars











Red Polka Dot













Dinosaurs (short supply)












Stars (short supply)











Yellow Flowers












Yellow Squares












Coral and White












Coral and Black













Ladies Day

Reminder:  All masks are now made with 1/8" soft, stretchy ear loops and nose wires c. 3½" wide at Top Center.

Orders or Information:  Email blairgak@gmail.com 

~ * ~

You're invited to check out Blair's three first-person mysteries. All available through most online ebook vendors (20% free read available at Smashwords.) 

 
A recuperating FBI agents i drawn into a series of bizarre murders


A Gulf Coast costume designer turns detective


Exotic weddings, a female "fixer," & the Russian mob


~ * ~
For Blair's website, click here.
 
For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Amazon, click here.

For a link to Shadows Over Greystoke Grange on Smashwords (20% free read), click here.
 
For a link to Blair's updated Facebook Author Page, click here.


 
Thanks for stopping by,
Grace (aka Blair Bancroft)