Home | Posts RSS | Comments RSS | Login

another book report...

Sunday, August 30, 2015
... when I found: "The Dive from Clausen's Pier" by Ann Packer. Randomly taken out of the stacks at the branch library, another of those things I got immersed in and then accidently discovered myself reading three books at the same time. The story is about  a young couple, in their early twenties,who have been together since high school, and the relationship is wearing thin for Carrie, but Mike is still crazy in love. He has a tragic, traumatic accident when he dives into shallow water, while they are picnicking with a group of friends over the summer. She had been debating about ending their couple-ness before the accident, but after he becomes completely disabled and totally dependent, she is ambivalent at best, and hauls around has monumental guilt.

Takes off on a wild hair, and ends up in NYC, looks up a friend from back home to find a place to live, then gets involved with a guy in the city...no spoiler here. It's a really good read, with a well fleshed out group of characters - makes you think you really know these people and you are involved in their lives. You can't help but want to give Carrie advice, to offer help, make some suggestions for how she might somehow 'have her cake and eat it too?' But she is only there between the covers of the book and you really can't communicate your interest and concern.

You might wonder how/why I do so much reading? Make so many trips to the library? I do not watch TV. And read myself to sleep every night. Words, words, words. Books, books, books.

I love to go to movies, but when I work till eight o'clock at night I can't go. I'm too damn tired. And when I have to get up at five a.m. to be at work at six o'clock, I can't stay up late enough to go.  

I don't see many/get to movies often. And cannot watch them at home. Maybe Santa will bring me that thing that lets me use my computer for a movie screen?

slooowwwly reading...

...a book I started over a month ago, and just finished today. Making it sound like it was not much good, or very interesting. But it really was, and I will recommend it. Though you have to like to read non-fiction, and definitely does not have a 'happily ever after' ending. Remember the book you read the 'report' on here, some weeks ago, about the Arctic explorers and all the misery they went through? This one is not quite that bad, but it will give you the shivers when you trek with them over the Rockies in the dead of winter. Under-fed, insufficiently clothed, compelled to drag a s**t load of trade goods over the Continental Divide, through hostile territory, lost as a haint in the graveyard in a snowstorm.

"Astoria" by Peter Stark is the story of the founding of the city, on the banks of the Columbia River in Oregon. Originally built as a fur trading post, and funded by John Jacob Astor. He was a German immigrant and eventually a very successful business man, with accumulated wealth that would make him a billionaire in today's currency. He had the idea that he could send men with experience in trapping and fur trading to buy pelts that he would then ship to China for a huge markup. Wanted to establish a series of trading posts in the north west, that was previously only known from the trek of Lewis and Clark.

Like that book about early exploration into the unknown Artic regions, this one has plenty of well-documented poor choices. Stark read lots of journals, talked with lots of locals and well-versed historians in the area, including college professors and native people from the First Nation who have a fascinating oral history, handed down through the generations.  Astor ultimately pretty much lost his shirt in this venture, but continued to deal in furs with trappers in eastern Canada and the northern US. He also had a great deal of real estate that played a big part in his accumulation of a fortune that he bought cheap in New York City and resold as it grew and developed.

At the end of the book Stark tells what happened to many of the key members of the founding party, both overland trekkers and those who sailed around south America to get to the mouth of the Columbia. Like you see at the end of a movie that is 'based on true story', you find some went on to be successful business men, and others broken and permanently damaged from their experience.  

Really interesting: is that I was actually IN Astoria. I'd checked the book out, totally randomly, in late July, never knowing that I would GO to Astoria in early August. When we were traveling in Washington state, we drove south, and went across the Columbia River, on the bridge that takes traffic from Washington to Oregon. And right there, on the southern bank of the River, sits Astoria. Vastly different of course, from the primitive log houses and fortifications that were carved out of the wilderness in the early 1800's, but Astoria none the less. Where we rode the trolley down the tracks along the river front, and ate at a neat little pub, sampling brews and watching boats plying along the water. Good fun with my fave. peeps.

just 'la-de-dah-ing' around the house...

Saturday, August 29, 2015
...with the attitude that I had all the time in the world to get myself dressed and out the door, off to work. I knew I would be cooking fish again today: thankfully that's the end of this recipe that caused me to come home smelling like yesterdays' left-over bait, similar to the arresting aroma of fish market when I was a kid.

Continually checking  my watch, to be sure to leave the house in ample time. For getting to work at 11:00. When suddenly I remembered that the cooking demo. starts at ten o'clock!!! An hour earlier on Saturday and Sunday, instead of the usual eleven on week days.

I'd been just roaming around, writing some notes, wandering from one end to the other. Puttering about in my sleepwear, remarkably unconcerned about getting dressed and brushed and into action. When I suddenly looked at the time and said: holy cow! I have to be there in thirty five minutes, instead of an hour and thirty five. So dashing to and fro, thinking: 'did I leave my shoes in the car?' and 'where's my name tag?' Brushing teeth and slapping my face on to tear out the door and get there with a margin of safety.

It all worked out, and I don't regret the la-de-dah-ing, as I had been meaning to write notes, get some corresponding done, stamped, sealed and in the mail. But already dreading the morrow, when the clock in time is 6:00 a.m. Guess in need to get started on my resting up....

volunteer driver...

Friday, August 28, 2015
..for another patient needing transportation to the treatment center. She lived in the uptown area, and needed a ride to the Amos center for her appointment today. I was not too sure about finding her house, so actually arrived about thirty minutes too early. After the last time, when I took my rider to the wrong doctor's office for his appointment, I knew I needed to allow plenty of time. For me to get lost and found before I even arrived at the residence of the patient. Though I doubted the directions I had map-quested, it was not difficult, as it was near an elementary school I am familiar with.

Mrs. G. was very personable and a willing conversationalist. She had retired from teaching some years ago, and has been widowed for about five years. She and her husband had enjoyed travelling in their retirement years, after his career in the Army, another in civil service on post, then  as the first black man hired to be a city bus driver. She was looking forward to her 65th high school class reunion this weekend - thinking there were four or five still living out of a hundred graduates. I bet she has some really interesting stories she could tell about life in Columbus in the 1950s before the intergration era.

We got to the appointment with ample time. I told her I would take my library book, sit in the lobby while waiting. She nearly caught me taking a nap when she was finished, and was ready for her ride back home.

"You think,

Thursday, August 27, 2015
Well, I'll go along to get along - and the next thing you know, you're somewhere you never wanted to be without a ticket back."

"The Dive from Clausens' Pier" by Ann Packer


...happens, but not something I usually recall after I wake. But this morning, it was so vivid it has been on my mind all day, while I was trying to decide how to spell an artist's name. I remember from art history he was active during the Renaissance period, and was maybe from Brussels or Amsterdam area. His art is so unusual and unique, when you see one of his paintings and observe his style, you would recognize it at a glance anywhere.

So I looked it up and find his name is spelled Bruegel, and he was Flemish, though some resources refer to it as 'Netherlandish'. You will have to look him up and check out some of his paintings: often having dozens and dozens of individuals in a variety of activities, some pretty weird and possibly disgusting. The thing that is so bizarre is how my dream was almost like one of his paintings. As if I were standing on higher ground, or some sort of raised platform and looking down on a scene unfolding below eye level. From the view point of Pieter Bruegel as he painted his strange portrayals of inhabitants of his mind.

The dream was a scene of a huge mass of small children, busily going about a wide variety of activities. Doing all manner of fun things, just little things that keep kids entertained as they grow and learn about how the world works. Like discovering how water always flows downhill and how things fall over due to gravity. Without knowing about cause and effect, learning basic physics, with a bit of Murphy's Law thrown in. Dozens of little people playing together in pairs or little groups, at games just amusing themselves.

If you looked at the scrupulously detailed paintings of Bruegel, you may have seen the individuals doing some perverse, creepy things, that you really don't want to witness or even be aware of. But in the dream, I don't recall any 'parents' in the scene, or what might be considered to be 'adult supervision'. Only dozens of little people, all laughing, joyful, interacting, having a marvelous time, with no need for any intervention by referees or people who would adjudicate problems or disagreements: they were all supremely happy.

slicing like crazy...

...at work today, putting in the hours in the produce department instead of cooking. I had instructions for cutting up squash as soon as I got to work. Arriving at 6:00, and slicing, slicing, slicing. All the stores have this cast aluminum slicer you can adjust the blade on. You can slice your veggies to be one half inch thick or 1/4 inch. Naturally, the management requires some to be one and some the other, meaning you have to continually change the setting.

I cut up pounds and pounds and pounds of squash. Yellow and zucchini are both on sale, so you can get either color, or a combo. of both. Or, lucky you, you can also get the squash with sliced onions included so you just heat up the skillet and drop it in. Everything has to be put on a little black foam tray and shrink wrapped, then weighed and priced.

Then I cleaned the slicer and went to lunch. With several other employees who were invited to go to the United Way Fundraiser Campaign Kickoff. Along with about a thousand other UW supporters. Average food, about what you would expect for a buffet that was meant feed a crowd that size.

Then back to work for several hours to make salads. And clean up, hose everything down, scrubbing cutting boards and putting it all away. Meaning I left the store about 5:30, so expect for lunch, a long day of being on my feets.

the fish story...

Wednesday, August 26, 2015
...finished with me smelling so fishy I came home and put my clothes in the washer. I only touched it with my gloved hands, but I guess the cooking and aroma in the air so permeated everything I came out smelling like bait. According to the passers-by it was good. I can't comment.

The recipe said to use any mild-flavored fish, and the seafood dept. supplied cobia. It was not flat like you would think of a fillet, but like little round logs, so took a lot longer to cook that our instructions indicated. I didn't eat any, but am thinking it didn't taste at all like fish. Meaning unless you knew what you were eating, you would not have assumed 'fish'. There was a marinade that has so much stuff in it you poured over, it tasted like all the yummy things in the sauce, instead of something that swims.

The slaw used a bag of shredded cabbage, sautéed in the skillet with garlic and shallots, then you pour in some rice vinegar and toss well. Remove to a bowl and add cashews. Which would be good in a dish consisting of nothing more than tree-trimmings. So overall they were very complimentary - though there were quite a few who declined. Including me.

cookin' at work...

again today. It's a new recipe - look in todays' newspaper advertisement for the details. Something about grilled fish. Which we won't be doing as there is no grill, so our sample will be cooked in the skillet on the single burner we have to work with.

 Along with some sort of hot slaw recipe. I looked it over before I left the store last night, and it looks tasty. But will give a full report after I have cooked and given it away five times. I've had hot potato salad and thought it yummy, but never hot slaw, so this should be interesting.

everyone dreads...

...an appointment with the dentist. Even if it should be no more stressful than a routine cleaning visit, in your head it can get blown all out of proportion and turn into a crisis before you walk in the door. Knowing you will walk out of the office with clean sparkly teeth and the freshest breath in the past six months is not enough to overcome the anxiety of knowing you will be walking IN the door of the 'D-word'.

Yesterday was even worser. I knew it would be bad. So bad that I used a variety of lame excuses to reschedule, postpone the appointment I made: literally originally months and  months ago. Cancelled after the original appointment early in the year, mostly out of fear, but partially due to work conflict. Backed into a corner when I went back six months later, and began to reschedule, able to postpone a couple of times. And finally went on Tuesday with a bucketful of terror along for the ride.

The appointment was for eight o'clock, so I woke up about 4:30, thoroughly apprehensive, nearly despondent at the prospect of spending the morning with other peoples' hands in my mouth. I knew it was too late to reconsider, turn back, beg off - and laid there for hours deciding for and against drugs. The last time I was facing  my fears of the dental chair, I'd begged for meds. to calm anxiety. And was told I could not drive myself when 'under the influence'. I still had meds. and pondered the value of use, or possibly just taking my little rubber mallet to have them whack me on the head. But it was too late to recruit a driver, so had to face my quivering-like-Jello anxiety: stone-cold sober.

Yes - it was a bad as I had anticipated. After more than one injection of pain killers and profound consternation. When he got started, my heart was pounding so, I thought I was having palpitations, expecting to pass out. I survived three and a half hours in the dental chair. There may be some benefit to modern technology as I won't have to go back - he did everything while I was there, and there will be no need for a follow up visit. But it was awful. Rest assured I will not be doing that again without drugs.

So much that it reminded me of the time I was still a teenager and the dentist insisted two wisdom teeth/third year molars needed to be removed. I was so full of fear and trepidation, I found the parents  hidden stash of fruit cake bourbon in the closet and had a stiff drink. There was nothing in the house to use a  mixer, so I had it in a glass of milk - it's a wonder I lived long enough to get to the dentist?

it was five more hours ....

...of cookin' at work. The same recipe I made five times on Monday. I did it three times on Tuesday. And had it so 'down pat', I might have looked at the actual printed recipe one time to check on the quantity of some ingredient. But other than that- I don't think I referred to the little laminated card the company prints in quantity to disperse a single time.

So it was pretty much same-old, same-old. A Ready-to-Eat pork roast with a can of black beans and two tablespoons of sofrito sauce, put in the microwave, Just long enough to heat thoroughly and serve over the rice (instant - just add to boiling water and wait while it fluffs up) that is getting ready while you are heating protein. A mixed salad that got lots of good comments, probably due to the fresh squeezed lime juice you add to the Italian dressing.

The helpful hints that were included in our prep. instructions were to let customers know they could also drain the beans well, mix in the rice (and no reason you could not add greens to make it a 'well-balanced 'meal) and roll in flour tortillas. Turn it into a' hand held' that would be appealing to kids.

cookin' at work....

Monday, August 24, 2015
...today. A recipe I made five times, and will make three more times tomorrow. I guess it was good - all the tasters said it was yummy, but I did not put any in my mouth. Due to the fact that basically the only two ingredients in the meat dish was pork roast and a can of seasoned black beans. You use one of those RTU heat-and-eat refrigerated vacuum packed meats and just add the can of beans and a couple of tablespoons of sofrito sauce. Some one who tasted the sauce today said it was flavored more like an Italian dish than something Latino. Just passing along the things I heard from all the people who ate it.

You just mix together and heat in the microwave, serve over rice. Or you could drain the beans so there is not so much juice in the dish when you heat it, and roll  it up in flour tortillas. There was also a green salad that lots of people commented on, probably to the fresh lime juice you added to the dressing, and the tablespoon of chopped up fresh cilantro that went into the mix.

It was good (according to the passers-by) and tasty. I could not make myself put the pork in my mouth, but brought a small container of left-over home for the guy who will eat anything to try. I will be making it again tomorrow at the store where I normally work, and have the recipe pretty much memorized.


... in a different place today, due to someone being out. I got a call on Friday, asking if I could replace someone at another store today. Though I had a bit of finagaling to swap work days and be off on Sat., agreeing to work on Monday instead, it all worked out. I will go to replace the replacement at the Macon Rd. store, who has been working full time while the regular cooking demo. person is on vacation. This all sounds confusing, especially when not using names to identify individuals.

But all it really amounts to is working more hours than expected/scheduled this week, and getting a bigger paycheck in two weeks as a result of extra time on the job. When I consider how exhausted I will be after standing on my feets, giving away food while smiling, being congenial, looking like I love my job, for eight hours, it's not certain the pay off is worth the investment.

Especially after that 'situation' occurring back early in the year, where I was informed I could expect a considerable pay cut due to a change in my 'job class'. Even though it will be a fruitless endeavor, I feel compelled to have another conversation related to the loss of remuneration. I likely think more highly of myself than my employer does, but keeping opinions to oneself will not resolve the problem. I am in hopes that 'the squeaky wheel continues to get the grease'.


Saturday, August 22, 2015
... to south GA. Drove down yesterday afternoon, and packed my car to the brim with more boxes of stuff. Kitchen things like place mats, pots and pans, glass ware, pancake turners, flatware, canisters for dry goods, ten-year old tea-bags (?). Sadly, stuff I did not personally put into the boxes, so I will have to unpack and make a tedious list before loading it back in my car to take to the women's shelter and donate.

Spent the night in Valdosta with my auntie - which is definitely a story for another day.

Got up this  morning and drove up to the north side of the county to visit friends who live in Ocala. They had come to visit their daughter who lives/works in Valdosta and is celebrating a birthday today. There was noise and activity going in on the kitchen at 9:00 am when I arrived, and I thought the 'birthday girl' (who is actually a highly capable young adult) might have been baking her own cake. But she was making cupcakes in anticipation of various and sundry young partiers attending. And her mom was making the birthday cake, with lemon-cheese filling/icing (no actual cheese involved.) Four little people and one lap baby, with numerous adults milling around, eating good stuff, filling all the seats in the house, telling funny family stories. Little people loved the chocolate icing on the cupcakes, but as you would expect, abandoned the actual cake part after licking them clean as a bald pate. Kids running in and out, making the birthday girl a 'dirt cake', that fortunately did not come in the house.

You know how the best part of a vacation/trip is coming home and settling down, getting back to humdrum daily routine? I am sure the best part of the celebration will be when the traveling circus departs for various homes, and peace and quiet reign. Dirty floor, dirty dishes, house in complete disarray, but calm and quiet....

the clean underwear fairy...

... oddly happened to be a story I told two times yesterday, so thought it was worth relating here. People who are not accustomed to doing the family laundry, or even taking care of their own personal clothing will likely not 'get it'. And people who have been doing the chore for years will possibly not see the humor. But I am of the opinion you might as well laugh ...

The long-standing joke (only marginally funny) here is that the man in this house still believes in the clean underwear fairy. He knows his clean garments reappear in the drawer neatly stacked and folded on a regular basis, and never questions how it mysteriously happens from week to week. So the assumption is that some entity possibly related to the tooth fairy of yore must be the responsible party.

Two different people on Friday heard the story of the ongoing mystery that occurs here. There was a time a couple of years ago when no one did the laundry for over a week, when I left town traveling out of the country. Upon my return, the laundry basket full of undershorts and T-shirts, overflowing in fact, due to brand new items suddenly appearing. That would indicate he not only does not do laundry, but he went to the store and made purchase when the supply got dangerously low.

One of the people who heard the story told about a man who had to be trained on how to open the washer and drop his clothing in, along with a lesson in how to operate the machine. I said: 'I can top that.' And told my story. She laughed uproariously and agreed that I won.

the early bird...

Friday, August 21, 2015
...is not at all interested in worms: I swept the floor first thing this morning. Between the living and the dead,  I put a dozen millipedes in the trash. With intentions to get the floor mopped last weekend, I waited so long after sweeping a week ago, I had to do it again today. But Yes, It is Clean Enough to Eat On.

I have to go into pick up a man I have never met, and his wife, to get him to an appointment at a doctor's office this morning. It is part of the program I have volunteered for with the American Cancer Society where individuals provide transportation to patients who need assistance with travel. All the other people I have been a driver for were going to the local center for treatment. The name of the facility is the John B. Amos Cancer Center, so it is commonly known by the acronym of Jbacc (Jay-back). I am assuming the man today has a problem with his unmentionables as the appointment is at the Urologist's office.

I expect to devote about an hour or so of my time to this, but have never had a 'rider' go along. It should be interesting. I am wondering how 'chatty' she will be, but expect she will go in with him to the appointment, so I am taking my book while I sit and wait.

one hundred o'clock...

Thursday, August 20, 2015
... was what happened when I woke up in the middle of the night. Naturally I had no idea what time it was, so when I looked at the digital clock I can see on a table at the foot of the bed, the green numbers said it was one hundred. I was so profoundly confused, and could not figure out what that meant. I had never known it to be one hundred o'clock before and was completely baffled as to what I was supposed to be doing or thinking as a result of it being such an unusual time.

Then of course, I figured out what I was really looking at was 1:00 a.m. And now I feel really doofus. There is no telling how many times in my life I have looked at a clock, not necessarily digital, when the minute hand was perfectly on the 12. Making the time precisely on the hour.  Not so bad on a clock with numerals and hands that inch around the dial endlessly.

But for whatever reason, I was thoroughly perplexed by the clock telling me it was one hundred. Possibly having something to do with my poor eyesight, and not having vision clear enough to see the dots between the numeral one and the two zeros.  I guess it could have just as easily had me believing the time was  two hundred or four hundred, but there I was trying to decide what to do about it being one hundred o'clock. Thoroughly confused, and now feeling like a total dimwit.

cookin' at work...

Wednesday, August 19, 2015
...over the weekend when there was a 'steak fest' on the schedule in addition to the usual recipe to be prepared and served numerous times. There was nothing remarkable about the steaks, per se, but there were a couple of different dipping sauces to accompany the meat. The recipe calls for a New York strip - and you know if you start with a good tasty tender cut of beef, it's pretty difficult to mess it up.

Did you know that the meat department guys love to be helpful? They will prep. your fresh meats to your specifications! What ever you ask, they will attempt to do. If you want to buy the pork loin and have them cut it in half, so you don't have more than a meal, they will package so you can put 1/2 in the freezer. If you want your chicken breasts packaged separately for single servings, they will do that. If you want your steak trimmed off fat before you get it home, they will do that. I am forever taking meats back there to have the icky stuff trimmed before I start my prep and cooking. Saves me time, and effort of trimming off the inedible parts after it is cooked and I am ready to serve.

You coat the steak with a combination of chili powder, brown sugar and garlic salt, so by the time you have cooked it for about eight minutes in the skillet, it has a crusty covering due to the sugar you rubbed in before you put it in the pan.

The dipping sauce recipes:
1/2 cup salsa verde plus 1/4 cup prepared guacamole
1 cup sweet and spicy barbeque sauce plus 2 Tbs. chipotle pepper sauce.

I would have probably liked the green one, but did not try either as I did not have anything to dip, other than my finger, and that would not have gone over very well with management.

After four hours of that, I went back to the pork roast recipe over and over that I had cooked so many times I had it memorized.

a book I recently read...

Tuesday, August 18, 2015
...though there are no actual trains involved, gives you the feeling of witnessing a train wreck. You know how you hear people talking about things that you don't want to actually look at, but they are so mesmerising in a perverse way that you find you can't Not Look? This book was like that. You knew well in advance, that it would come to a very bad end, but you keep turning pages, with the dim, faint hope that there will be some divine intervention. The predictable, tragic end you expect will not actually come to pass...

"In the Kingdom of Ice" by Hampton Sides. He has published other books, and written articles found in Outside magazine. I'd read a reference to this one, and had it on my list of things I thought I might enjoy reading. I happened upon it recently on the shelves and brought it home. I started it, but it was such a horrific tale of woe, I continually had to put it down. More than you ever wanted to know about early Arctic exploration. You can imagine with no maps or accurate info., they just went dashing off into the unknown - you know the part where you see written: 'there be dragons here' on old, incomplete maps, because no one had actually been and survived to report.

There was a lot of material available for research:  journals, diaries, personal correspondence, news articles. It was well written, with plenty of factual history. But still a harrowing tale of lead poisoning, frostbitten extremities, starvation, death by freezing, sinking into the freezing water of the north Pacific without hope of rescue. Adrift in sub-freezing temperatures in small, open, unprotected row boats with insufficient food, water and clothing, in a winter storm. Caught in pack ice for months on end with no one on the planet knowing where they were or if they were still alive. Walking across Siberian marshland with no idea where they were going, or food to provide the energy to travel. But remarkably some did manage to find help, and eventually made it back to the US, bringing the journals and their stories of survival.

I finished it, and though it is pretty gruesome, it is also fascinating. How determined they were to complete their expedition and careful in recording the events as they occurred. They knew about scurvy, and took canned vegetables to prevent health problems - then got lead poisoning from the cans! Melting ice to prevent dehydration, then getting sick from the high salt content of the water.
Desperate enough to boil their shoes to get the nutrition for staying alive, but getting frostbite and losing toes and feet from walking on snow and ice.

Don't read it in the winter, especially if you are some place where there is ice and snow.

more things on that list...

... are pretty commonly enjoyed, but now that I can gracefully decline, I choose to not eat stuff like:
 chocolate cake. I don't like it and hope I am polite when it is offered, and will decline gracefully. I could put it in my mouth, but really don't want to waste calories on something I don't care for. Oddly enough, I tell anyone who will listen that I think the bakery located in my workplace makes the best wedding cakes I have ever eaten - flavor and texture wise - if I never ate another bite of chocolate cake it would be too soon.  

Buttercream icing. I worked part time in the bakery some years ago, spending part of my week in the floral dept., and three days a week in the bakery, combining the time in the two to create a full time job. When I watched the baker make a huge vat of buttercream I discovered what goes in it, and immediately quit eating it. The bowl they use in the big commercial mixer must hold fifty gallons. You start with a big ten pound block of buttercream 'base', that is shipped from the warehouse frozen. Let it soften to room temperature, and add ten pounds of butter. You will notice that ten and ten equal twenty, so you are looking at twenty pounds of fat. Then you beat it and beat it and beat it some more. To incorporate enough air to make it fluffy so it almost fills that fifty gallon stainless steel bowl. But it is still all fat, though it gets quite fluffy. Similar in texture to whipped topping - and about the same amount of nutrition.

Did I say 'oreos'? I have eaten a lot of them, but never liked them. Not even dunked.

Yay! pie success....

...from a different cookbook. After the disappointing result a week ago, I was determined that I could and would make a successful 'chess pie'. In doing so, and researching several of the cookbooks I have on my pantry shelf, I discover the reason it is named that is the earlier versions would have the cook making a woven pastry top that looked like a chess board. Aha!

This recipe, the one that I made today after having to  make a trip to the store for butter since I used all I had in the pie fail recently, came from a big thick paperback: The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. The book is the size, length and width of a Reader's Digest, but is as thick as a dictionary. Honestly. It has 1231 pages. I can imagine it being the only cook book you would ever need as a reference.

Chess Pie
I started with a frozen pastry crust/shell, buying a two pack at the grocery, knowing I wanted to make one to take to a pot-luck dinner, and leave one at home.
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 Tbs. cornmeal
1 Tbs. cider vinegar
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter
1 Tbs. vanilla
heavy cream, whipped, as topping, if desired

Prick pie crust all over with fork. Bake in preheated oven till barely browned. Mix ingredients together, except cream. Bake at 350 for 45 min. Serve warm or room temp. I did not attempt to 'double' when mixing ingredients, but made it twice to make two pies, and cooked at the same time.
I found it got too brown around edges as a result of cooking before adding filling, so you will want to cover the edges with foil at some point to keep the crust from getting too dark. But it was really good, as well as pretty.

So I am satisfied, and can quit trying, now that I have found a recipe that 'works'.  I knew I remembered seeing recipes that included a spoonful of cornmeal, not sure why, but this was good, and looks like I think a chess pie should. Full disclosure: I used two tablespoons of self-rising cornmeal that would have had a leavening in it - just what I had on hand - I am really bad about tinkering with a recipe, or just adding a 'glug' without actually measuring.

items on my urpy food list...

Sunday, August 16, 2015
...of things I hope I never accidently put in my mouth again will probably surprise you, as some are things that are commonly found to delight one's taste buds. But I have gotten to the point in my life that, finally, after all these years, there is no reason to eat things I do not like. Not even to please other people, or to be a button busting member of the Clean Plate Club.

In addition to not caring if I never eat another chocolate chip cookie (unless someone should offer it in the form of ice cream - also fond of moose track or there is any un-cooked dough sitting around in the fridge), there are other things I can politely decline. I have never cared for coconut, in any form. Cake nor cookies, or that traditional holiday treat: ambrosia with fresh citrus fruit slices.  Or, oh horrors: macaroons!  I have definitely eaten my share as a child when I knew I should use my manners and not decline but have honestly never liked it.

I have probably eaten hundreds of boxes of Cracker Jacks. I guess because it was sweet, and a treat. Plus there was guaranteed to be something wonderful in the bottom of the box. It's I find just thinking about it to be: nasty, messy, sticky, 'way too sugar-y, and the prizes are sadly worthless junk.

Marshmallows. Not even in s'mores. Not even charred in the ashes of the campfire. I will gladly cook one for anyone who wants it, but I do not want to even think of putting one in my mouth. Too sweet, especially when sandwiched in between Hershey bar and graham cracker, all gooey and stuck together.

There are others - but it is late and I am tired after working on my feets for ten hours today, so good night.

pie fail...

Saturday, August 15, 2015
...due to circumstances beyond my control. I go to a pot luck type dinner at least once a month and often do not have anything edible in my hands when I walk in the door. There are times when it is all I can do to get myself there, without considering what sort of food I might take to share. On a recent Tuesday night, I took a package of (on sale) chocolate chip cookies. That the eaters obviously were not particularly impressed with, as I returned home with about half the pack intact.

So I put cookies in a gallon zipper bag to pass along to people who can eat that stuff without guilt or dramatic blood sugar problems. They could not linger around this house, as I do not like chocolate chip cookies, and they on my list of foods I hope I will never again put in my mouth. My list of 'urpy foods' is a blog for another day...

I made the pie mostly due to the fact that I really like custard-y type things, and was thinking how good it would be to make two and have one that was not traveling, but staying at my house. They were not a roaring success. There were several slices of the one that went to the covered dish dinner left in the plate that I gave away, knowing another of the (disappointing) pies was awaiting my return. I will give the recipe exactly as it was written in the cook book and you will soon discern why it was not a pretty pie to take to a dinner, and sadly not particularly interesting in the mouth as well.

I should have realized there was 'something wrong with this picture' when the instructions had me cooking the ingredients for such a low temp and such a short time, with three eggs in the mix. I looked at several recipes and some how failed to compare the cooking times... obviously something is very much askew. It's 'dense', and kinda' homely in the way someone will say 'she has a great personality' - meaning she looks like she has been beat with an ugly stick. The man who has eaten three quarters of it reports it is very good. My response was 'of course it is, there is a stick of butter and cup and a half of sugar in it.'

Chess Pie
(as copied from the 'In Spired Delights' cookbook, though the author/guilty party will remain anonymous.)
1 stick butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 eggs, beaten
1 Tbs. vinegar
Melt butter. Add sugar and beaten eggs. Mix well and add vanilla and vinegar. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake for 10 min. at 300, then at 325 for about 30 min. or until set.

I cooked it for much longer.  And still could not decide if it was ready to take out of the oven. The sugar made a crust on the top of the pie, so it was hard to test with a toothpick to decide if it was done. I was really sad and disappointed but took it to the dinner anyway, so they would help with eating up TWO unsuccessful pies. There is still about a fourth of one in the fridge, but I am not even remotely interested in eating that homely pie.

drivin' in the dark... also...

Friday, August 14, 2015
... brought on a' MercyMe' fest. I tried to go to the library last night, but my timing was obviously off. I thougth they would be open till nine, but they did not wait for me, and closed before I was able to get my energy and motivation together. I'd worked for over nine hours then came home to a man who asked if we had any dinner plans, so put a meal on the table. (Something wrong with this picture, right?)

I usually have a talking book in the car, that I can plug into the CD player and read/listen while I travel. Due to poor planning, I had to entertain myself when I left home at 5:30 this morning. Before the crowd on the public radio station is even up and ready to talk to me. On the road early, hoping to avoid the worst of the going-into-the-city traffic, and be off the interstate by 7:00.

As I was leaving Decatur, I found Mercy Me CDs to listen to, so had a grand time playing music too loud all the way home. Ninety un-interrupted minutes of loud. Remembering some songs I have not enjoyed in years, and thinking about which ones I would love to hear in church on Sunday morning.

drivin' in the dark...

...due to a late start home from Decatur. Where I enjoyed spending the day in a highly non-productive mode. And did not remember until I got home just now, and open up the back of my car: part of the reason I planned on going was that box of flotsam and jetsam. Stuff from my parents house that was either too valuable or too trivial to donate to the thrift shop.

Sadly, a huge truckload of furniture went to the non-profit down in south Ga that provides low cost basic necessities to people in need. Or the lucky soul who shows up at the shop when the truck is being unloaded. I didn't really intend to be so profoundly generous but you can only wear the weight around your neck for so long before you realize it is dragging you under...

The box full of carefully wrapped collectibles, memorabilia and antiquities is still sitting in my car, right where I put it early in the week. When I planned that we would take photos and post on line to try to sell some of the cute little tzochkies I don't know what to do with. Daughters have very specifically said Do Not Bring Anything Else To My House. But I am hoping the idea of stuff that is just 'passing through' is acceptable?  I do want to get rid of it, but currently not badly enough to donate to the thrift store. And sincerely believe someone (who is not me) will find these little bits of history so endearing and precious they will find a place in their hearts and homes for dust-catchers to sit.

this week...

...was the start of classes for local public schools. So I have seen lots of little people while I was at work this week, dressed in crispy new school clothes. Some in uniforms that look so 'grown up' and business like seeing the sharply creased khaki pants and freshly unpackaged white collared knit shirts. Or brightly colored, obviously newly purchased flouncy little dresses - so new they have yet to be laundered and faded with washings. Little guys in fresh, stiff-as-a-board, almost with the tags still attached, jeans with pants cuffed until they have the growth spurt mom expects before they wear them out.

Reminding me of years ago with little back-to-schoolers, who had to have new dresses and shoes for the first day of returning to class. Along with new book bags, and new unsharpened, freshly purchased pencils, patiently posing by the front door, with big sparkly grins, waiting for photos to be done, as we marked the new beginning. Ready to get started with a new school year!

randomly reading...

...a book I picked up, haphazardly off the shelf in the library. I took my computer in to get advice, and had to wait twenty minutes while the desk holder-downer finished her shift at the check out. So walked into the stacks and picked up a likely suspect to read while I was in a holding pattern.

Recommended! I finished it this morning, after reading on it for several days, around working hours. Actually took it to work place on day to read on my lunch hour, and generally read myself to sleep every night (or in the wee hours when I wake up and know I could be lying there in the dark forever, unable to shut my brain down to resume rest.) "Esther", which as you might assume is based on the character from the Old Testament. By Angela Hunt, who is apparently a writer of a number of fiction books based on biblical stories. This one even has some questions in the back, that could be useful for book club readings, or the type thing a women's study group would gather to talk about.

Hunt has a pretty extensive bibliography listed so she has obviously done her homework. Lots of references to document a time in history where there was probably very little actually written about daily life, only primarily recordings of major events and personages. But a really well written book, with lots of well developed characters that bring the story to life in a way that makes it hard to put the book down.

free to a good home: millipedes...

...but not at my house. I thought we were done with that, when a daughter convinced me that they were coming in through a crack in the foundation of the house.. Semi-convinced, we sprayed where she thought the most likely entrance was located. Admittedly there were practically, nearly none for a while. So the plan did have merit.

I find them in the most unlikely places, all over the house. Curled up, crispy little dots, scattered  down the hall. In the corners in the living room. Along the baseboards in the bedrooms. Little curlicues, on the tile floor in the bathroom, where they ran out of steam, and thought: this is a good place to die.

But they are back with a vengeance. I think it might have something to do with the weather? We have had several good drenching rains in recent weeks, and I am convinced they breed/incubate when there is a lot of moisture. At any rate, I swept over a dozen up one morning this week. Perhaps it is time to spray that most likely crack in the pantry again...


...takin' the day off to be totally non productive. I have been swimming for the first time in at least a year. Pretty strange, considering how much I used to like it. It seems to take more effort to get organized and to the pool than I am willing to invest.

I have a membership at the Y, so I could go six days a week, were I to be inclined to motivate myself to get there and change clothes twice. But, sadly, have not been in a couple of years. The man who pays for the membership occasionally reminds me/reports that his checking account is being charged each month for the fee. Wondering why I don't use it. Though I told him months ago: you can pay it or not pay it, but you are Not Allowed to remind me about it over and over again. 

I just did, had a great time. The water was cold, but the day was bright and sunny, so it did not take long to get  hot enough to make the adjustment. I am not a proponent of 'inching' into cold water- might as well just go ahead and jump, definitely of the Do It and Be Done With It persuasion. Initially unbearable, but you just gotta' stay in motion, keep moving and eventually you either get used to it or your nervous system shuts down and you are so numb it doesn't hurt any more.

cookin at work...

...though it does not precisely qualify as 'cooking' it was pretty interesting. Not necessarily delicious or appealing, so you see that 'interesting' can apply to lots of things that you are not at all certain whether they are good or thoroughly distasteful. As my mom would say: "covers a multitude of sins".

The recipe was for a cold soup, so I guess you could describe it as a gazpacho sort of item. Being very fond of soups, I should like it - but due to the color could not bring myself to put it in my mouth. It was sort of a sea-foam green. I  did not expect all the ingredients to readily fit into the small cannister we have for the blender at work. And was surprised when it all did go so I could screw the lid on and puree.

Ingredients included a cup of honeydew melon, one half of an English cucumber, diced green onions, jalapeno pepper...so you can imagine how green it was. There are several more ingredients, considerably more complicated than the pork loin on the same recipe card, but I don't recall.  When you serve it you put a little dollop of yogurt on top. Mostly, they said it was surprisingly tasty - but some simply declined to even taste. (That would be me!) It does not look like something I would enjoy, but lots of tasters reported it was a good dip for the pork roast on their little sample plates...

cookin' at work...

...when I got back to The Real World. I made this recipe three times on Thursday, five times on Friday and five more times on Saturday. So yes, I think I had it pretty well memorized. But for the life of me I cannot remember what it was - so in reality not actually all that 'memorable, I guess.

The one I can tell you about is the one I cooked on Wednesday of this week. It was a pork roast. I did not taste it, as I could not be convinced to actually put the porker in my mouth. But had some really positive feed back. A number of passers-by, when asked if they would like to have a 'taste of this yummy new recipe', looked at what was in my casserole dish and asked if it was chicken. But if they had bothered to look at the sign on the front of the stand, would have seen it saying 'Pork' and something like sun-dried tomatoes with capers. I was surprised by some of the remarkably strong opinions people have about capers: both positive and negative. I'm take-it-or-leave-it, but there were people who asked for extra and people who refused to even take a taste due to the inclusion.

It was really simple. Using a pound pork roast, sprinkle with seasoned salt (Lawry's was what we used), and brown in a skillet. Coat it with half the 'finishing butter' that has been flavored with the sun-dried tomatoes mixed with capers and put in a pre-heated oven for twelve to fifteen  minutes. That's about it.

The pork loin comes pre-packaged in a vacuum sealed bag and weighs in at about two pounds, so I used one half each time I made the recipe. You could double, or put half away for another day. I told many folk if you wanted to take the package to the meat department, they would cut it in half for you, and package it so you could put the part you didn't cook for supper tonight in the freezer for another meal. Plus it's on sale this week, so now is definitely the time to buy.

Most of the recipes we demo. come closer to being a complete meal, with the addition of a vegetable or carb. added. But this one had no rice or noodles included. But it did have a very strange item added: cold cucumber soup. That might or might not have been appetizing....

a book i read while traveling...

Sunday, August 9, 2015
...and would have finished in a day, except for having to go to work when I got home, returning to the real world'. I'd taken a couple of paperbacks, intending to dispose of them if I got finished to lighten my load. But liked the one I read so much I could not let it go. And brought it back to GA, though I intended to lighten my load for the return trip. It was one of those Sue Grafton mysteries, with the dysfunctional PI Kinsey Millhone, named for letters of the alphabet. I haven't read them all, but this one was near the end: "W for Wasted."

The book I was given to read on the flight home was "The Ginger Tree" by Oswald Wynd. It was a paperback and pretty old, according to the discolored quality of the cheap newsprint it was printed on. A really interesting story. Written as a journal, from the point of view of a woman who was going from the UK to China to marry a man she barely knew in the earliest years of the 1900's. Travel that distance was by boat, taking months to reach China on the far side of the globe. She spent most of the rest of her life in China and Japan, had two children, who were both forcibly taken away from her when they were quite young.  It progresses through her letters to her mother in Scotland, a friend who is married to a French diplomat and years of her journal entries over half a century, through two world wars. No spoiler here.... A really neat page-turner.

You get to the end of the story before you ever find out what the significance of the title is, and I am still sort of wondering. The actual ginger tree was such a non-entity, of practically no import, that I am even now baffled as to why the author gave it that title. It is a really interesting story, and worth the time to read., when I

inquiring minds want to know more...

about what we did and saw when we were traveling, right? After two days in the Seattle area, we left and drove west towards the coast, and south until we got to Oregon. There is a huge river separating the two, I think the one that finally got Lewis and Clark to the Pacific, after lots of mis-adventures and detours. It is the Columbia and as wide as a lake, or looking like one from the viewpoint of a south Georgia flat-lander. The trip along the sort-of coast was scenic, lots of little towns and water.
My traveling companions were anxious to put their toes in the ocean, so we stopped at a little resort-y town and they walked out on the beach, which was remarkably cold and windy. Inspected Haystack Rock, where puffins and seabirds nest and perch.

Then we drove across the bridge that spans the Columbia, and had eats at a neat little brew pub, tasting an assortment of beers, and enjoying the view of the river, after a short trolley to nowhere and back again. On to Portland area, where we spent three nights. We did several tourist-y things in Portland on Monday: Powell's Bookstore, the Voodoo Donut shop,(that was an experience -especially for someone who does not eat/like donuts) and an amazing Rose Garden. The part of the story I remember about the huge rose garden: it started with plants that were brought over to save from destruction in England before the Big War. And it has become a sort of national treasure, where lots of test/experimental roses are grown and lovingly cared for by a large contingent of volunteers with a few paid staff to supervise. It smelled heavenly. Thousands of fragrant roses of every color imaginable in full bloom, scenting the air with aromatic nose delight.

On Tuesday we drove the river gorge, inland along the Washington side, and across the bridge that transports walkers along the Pacific Coast Trail from Mexico to Canada. And back to Portland area along the Oregon side, where there a lots of protected areas, state parks, scenic stops, waterfalls, hiking trails, with the interstate highway hugging the river's edge in places. A really neat place to stop and enjoy the view is one of the highest points along the gorge, at Crown Point. Beautiful scenery. Mostly evergreen trees, things like spruce and fir, with not many of the deciduous trees we see in GA.

Got back on the plane in Portland to return to GA. I do understand it is about a four hour flight, but when you are time-traveling, returning east from the west coast, you gallop through three zones, and loose your bearings. So, we got on about 12:30 and got off about 8:30, though it only took four hours to actually get from point A to point B. My brain is still fuzzy.

inquiring minds want to know...

...about the excursion, right? We had good time, saw lots of stuff, safely returned to our appropriate original starting points. I wrote a check to Mastercard yesterday, so it's practically paid for. How's that for fun?

We left GA for WA on Thursday, July 30. Really too late for me to be out wandering around in the dark: well past my bed time, and surprising to think that Miss-Go-To-Bed-At-Dark was in motion and getting on a flight at 10:30 at night. I did not make the travel arrangements and not yet sure why we were traveling in the wee hours. Hard to believe the price would be cheaper because you were willing to forgo sleep and start your travels sleep deprived, in addition to jet-lagged. But we did.

Plus doing it again the following night, to meet the third member of the party at the same time, when she could not get away from work to travel with us on Thurs/Fri. I'm pretty sure I am still not 100% caught up on shut-eye, as I generally cannot sleep sitting bolt upright squeezed in 'tourist' class seating. It was a uneventful trip.  Even though my brain is still semi-frazzled four days after getting back to GA, due to traveling light years and back again in a five day span.

We spent a couple of days in Seattle, did some sightseeing on Friday. The only thing I was really interested in seeing was the Chihuly Glass Art Exhibit. It was definitely worth the price of admission. I am glad I did not get run over while I was gawking walking down the streets of Seattle, though I am fairly certain they do not drive like the maniacs in the largest city in Georgia. We went to see the Pike Place Market, flowers and fish galore. Rode on a ferry to one of the islands in the Sound, just because it was there, and available. We didn't actually get off when it got to the island, but waited for the driver to go to the other end of boat and take a different crowd back to the mainland port. Had dinner in a brewpub at the Market, and watched the huge full moon rise over the mountains to the east.

After retrieving P. at 1:30 a.m. GA time (three hours earlier PST, so only 10:30 if your brain is not smooshed in sideways from jet lag.), we went up to Mt. Rainier n Friday. All's I can say about that is Wow. It's so hard to fully grasp. The size and height. You can see it from miles away. And drive for hours to get closer, and see it from a Ranger Station/visitor's center in the park and still be saying: Wow. Beautiful drive up through old growth forest, with moss growing on every surface and ferns sprouting from every crevice. We were high enough to be nearly above the tree line, and saw lots of alpine meadows with gloriously blooming wildflowers all the way to the horizon. Really difficult to comprehend how you can be standing there in the brilliant sunshine, in T shirt and short pants, looking at a mountain covered in snow and glaciers in the middle of summer.

cookin' at work....

Friday, August 7, 2015
...has been pretty easy for the past two days. A lot of compliments on the food the passers-by have been eating, as I have come to expect as the recipes are pretty much foo- proof by the time they land on the little six inch foam sample plates. They have liked it so well, I have to keep calling the grocery guys who do the shelf-stocking to bring more stuff as customers buy it out of the cooler that is right behind my little stand. The refrigerated area is designed to hold/merchandise every thing needed for the recipe we are making for people to sample, and this one is so good and Easy, they are buying all the makings and going right home to make for dinner.

Chicken and Rice. Starts with a package of flavored rice by Knorr. Make it according to the directions with two cups of water and a bit of butter. Add diced onions, RTU crumbles of bacon and cheese. Cook about a pound of seasoned chicken cutlets (size of a breast, but thin enough to be done in less than ten minutes). That's pretty much it. If you want you can brush some chipolte dressing on the chicken before you slice to serve it over the rice. Or not.

People come by all the time, asking for a recipe we did last week, or last month or last year. Occasionally they will find it on the little rack where cards are stored, but if it has been a while, not so likely. I will tell them: look on the internet. Go to the Publix website, pull up Aprons, type in the ingredients you remember and you can see all the recipes we have done with that ingredient, or combo. of things your taste buds recall. If you want the particulars for this one, you will have to look in the newspaper advertisement from Wednesday, pick it up at the store, or go to Publix.com. It's good and easy, and your family will gobble it up, ask you do make it again.

I have been telling people all day long, that I think it is probably the 'quickest' I have made since I have been doing the cooking demo. And would be quicker at home than me making it at the store, with only one burner to cook on. You could be cooking the rice, while you were getting the little thin chicken cutlets done, and have it ready to serve in less than fifteen minutes. Add a salad, and your all set... call the kids!

upon returning, and turning...

Thursday, August 6, 2015
... onto my street from a few days away, I discovered a huge lighted, blinking, unavoidable sign at the intersection just past the traffic light. That very plainly, in large letters stated I should expect delays and be prepared for a detour Aug. 6 -8. My first thought was: ?????

With trepidation, expecting the asphalt to suddenly open into a yawing abyss, I cautiously continued towards home, weary from my travels, but anxious to finally alight. Nothing amiss as I turned into the familiar driveway, so I then I thought: 'hmmm....'  as I did not fall into any quicksand, bear-traps or unfortunate circumstances.

As I sit here typing, looking out the window to the north, there are two huge piles of fill material. One is gravel, the other a small mountain of bright orange clay. Both piles are at least the size of a dump truck. I read a notice amongst the stacked up emails as I was deleting this morning providing information about the upcoming road closure. There is an underground/under street drainage culvert that has been problematic for years about two blocks north of our house.  The two huge loads of gravel and fill have been dumped on the empty lot on the corner. Awaiting use as the city digs up what is apparently an undersized culvert. To replace with one more adequately sized for runoff.  The city has patched, altered, cemented, graveled, diverted water runoff for years in futile attempts to resolve the problem... which as you can imagine, only occurs during heavy rains.

The notice via email from the city indicates they will take drastic measures; deciding to wait till schools are back in session to massively disrupt traffic, creating monumental problems with carpools and school busses. This could have been done any time in the past three months when both the nearby schools were closed for summer. So the planners cleverly choose to wait until students start back to classes to create major turmoil for commuters, bus drivers, carpool moms, and me, who will be unable to get out of the driveway due to clogged up traffic for several days. Already not looking forward to schools starting: the elementary a half mile away at the end of the street, and the middle a about a mile away on the street that has to feed into the one we live on. Oh, well. I will need to plan to leave home earlier to make a mad dash out of the driveway....