Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Treats! Truffles and Pecans and Cats - OH MY!

I have been off my post level since November - too much to do and not enough time to think deep thoughts, much less write proper sentences that weren't work-related.
Christmas is now 5 days away and I am at last making treats. Praline Pecans are one of my specialities, much-loved by people who get to eat them and easy enough for me to make while doing other things.
This receipe is based on a Southern Living 1997 Annual Recipes entry.

3 cups freshly-shelled pecan halves
4 tbl Heavy cream
1 cup tightly packed brown sugar
Confectioner's sugar
Ghiaradelli Chocolate Powder

Spray an 8.5 x 11" glass or metal baking pan lightly with cooking spray, pre-heat oven to 350.
Check pecan halves for shells, mix in a bowl with cream and brown sugar until all halves are covered.
Pour into pan, bake for 12 minutes; stir, and bake another eight. Ths is very important to watch carefully. Most ovens (unless regularly calibrated) have different heats and you do not want to burn something as expensive as pecans. You may have to add/subtract minutes or reduce temps for your own comfort. I usually bake mine at 325 for 25-28 minutes. When you stir them at twelve minutes you can see how much more time they really need. They are ready to take up when you see granulation on the pecans.
Pull them from the oven, cool for a minute or two while you get a cup of confectioner's sugar and a cup of chocolcate powder, a sieve and 2 pie plates ready.
Pour a tbl or so of confectioner's sugar into your sieve and then add about half of the pecan mix in, shake over the pie plate and add more sugar as you shake until the pecans are coated. Empty the pecans into the pie plate with the used sugar to cool.
Pour the other half of the pecans into the confectioner's sugar-coated sieve, shake, add chocolate powder a tbl at a time while shaking over the other pie plate until the pecans are coated. Pour pecans into pie plate to cool.
I use the same sieve without cleaning because the chocolate powder benefits from the confectioner's sugar reside.
Let this all cool for an hour or so, put in airtight storage and get ready to be assaulted for your delicious offerings:)

Now, about those truffles.....
They are far more tasty than attractive. My hands were too hot to roll the cubes into balls so I settled for just having rounded edges. The recipe produced a delicious and smooth ganache so I suggest you give Cooks Illustrated a look for the technique and make this in cooler climes.

The cats seem to know the holidays are here and that I need my $ for other things than their toys and treats and have been intent on reminding me of my priorities. Wink had an abcess that we caught pretty quickly but was small enough to burst before we got her to Doc. We took her in, he shaved and cleaned the area, gave her the vacinations for which she was due and some antibiotic and we were about $200 poorer. Then Pojorita stopped eating so we had to take her in. She had apparantly eaten something that clogged her innards and after a bit of barium she was fine. Since she was old enough we went ahead and had her spayed. Goodbye, $300.....My sweet basement cat Fang was next to require an investment. He has gotten old enough that his little bowlz make our feral male think he's competition so Tuxedo had apparantly gotten a good claw into his underside, producing another abcess.
So Fang went to see Doc to have the abcess drained and seen to and his little nards nipped. Another $350.00. Fang is feeling better, his black fur is shiny and healthy again; Wink has been ruling the house for some weeks now and Pojorita has resumed eating everything that smells interesting. Except for string, I hope.

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Joyous Winter Solstice and general Good wishes to you all and thanks for reading:)


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Go West, Young Woman!

I enjoy the west coast of the US. It is so different from here; the coastline itself is lapped by cold water instead of the warm water that kisses toes here on the Gulf.
And as far as colonization goes, many western ports are far older than my home shores.
We spent a few days in Seattle, WA.
This landmark was walking distance to our hotel (The Marriot in the Alaska Building). The Farmer's Market had pretty produce - fat raspberries and blackberries alongside unseasonably pretty tomatoes. I sniffed those and knew they'd received help to get the color. The berries were solid, though, and I wanted them - bu we were on our way to a restaurant with friends and had to pass.
We got to Washington on Saturday night. The weather was cool and a little damp and the ride to the hotel lives in my head as a swoosh of lights reflected from wet leaves as the cab climbed a mountain and I looked down into the valley. I was hot and had the cab window down so I could feel the wind on my scalp and cool my face.
Our first night was in a hotel in Bellevue; we moved the next day to Seattle to the conference hotel. Charlie grumbled about "the longest hotel check-in ever" but we got a HUGE room. We had an entryway, bed space and living space with windows covering two walls. If you ever have to stay in the Marriot Courtyard Downtown in Seattle, stay in a room ending in 10 or 02. HUGE.
We ate at fabulous restaurants. Best meal? The Metropolitan Grill.

I love beef carpaccio. It is usually served with arugula and sliced parmesan reggiano, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. This is Wagyu beef carpaccio and, my darlings, it was fabulous. Wagyu is the US version of Kobe in which (I think) Kobe and Black Angus are bred to bring the marvel that is Wagyu to plates. For my entree I had the paired filets; one of Nebraska beef, one of Wagyu. After tasting each I just wrapped the Nebraska beef and ate my wonderful Wagyu.
It is, simply, unbelievable. Mine was cooked medium rare, more on the rare side, and seasoned with a sprinkle of salt, grilled over mesquite wood.It was tender and perfetly beefy without the 'dull' taste some beef can have. My family has raised cattle for beef for what seems like forever so I am particular about my beef - this was better than anything from the Beaty Ranch.
I am running out of steam since in addition to a love for Wagyu I have brought back a sinus infection (or something) which is kicking my butt. I feel like the boxer who was losing the bout who shouted "no mas! no mas!"
No mas snot  y coughs, por favor.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

History and Me

I think I may have noted somewhere that I majored in History at FSU. I had planned on teaching community college; nice classes of people learning Western Civ that I could regale with the stories of the 6 wives of Henry the 8th, court gossip, old scandals that help today's students remember the important parts...That's not where I ended up but my interest in social/intellectual history colors my view of the world even now.
That facet of my personality made this week's trip to DC even more exciting than usual.
I was going with colleagues because of a Microsoft Foundation grant we are operating, which meant meeting at DC's Microsoft HQ. That, in itself, would have been plenty exciting for most people. What I was focussed on were my two wishes: an aftershock from the earthquake that had rocked DC a few weeks earlier and the opportunity to gather with a group related to the Occupy Wall Street protest.
My few days were dwindling away and I feared I wouldn't get either wish - I comforted myself with the fact that I had finally tasted Iberico Ham at Jaleo and that it was all I had hoped it would be - silky, melt-on-the-tongue cured ham that I will eat again.
On the last morning, the USA Today paper had an article about Occupy DC along with its location. At Last!
The protesters were at Freedom Plaza on the corner of 14th and Connecticut Avenues. My hotel was on New York Ave, a long trek away for a fat woman with a bad ankle. Oh, yes - the ankle I twisted on the same foot as the toes I had broken! I had twisted it again the previous morning when we climbed to the Russel Building to meet some Senators. I was determined to get there and really needed to walk off a few of the calories I had so eagerly consumed in the previous days.

This was the first picture I took. See the foot under the bench? That belongs to the woman holding the sign. She had it facing the street when I first saw her, looked over her shoulder and saw me and understood my turn-the-sign-around mime efforts and did so.
I've been saying for a long time that people need jobs that pay a living wage. I'm not talking communism/gimme, I am talking about paying people what their labor is worth. The CEOs are skating off with not just the biggest piece of the pie, but the VERY biggest piece.

This poster vilifies some CEO who got a big-ass bonus while foreclosing on homes - not really sure about the details but my contention has always been, even before this crisis, "how many islands can you own? How much do you really need to have a luxurious life?"
I think a lot less than they have now. I am not in favor of direct wealth re-distribution (i.e. take the rich folks' bank accounts and divvy them up) but restructuring the tax system so the middle class pays less, the rich pay more, and business and industry can't have a profit margin greater than 20% of payroll after you subtract operating expenses. People used to be able to have one breadwinner in a household and still have enough money (in all cases but the poorest) to own a house. I know abut the exceptions, this is a sweeping generalization.
My focus was on the piece of Occupy DC that concentrated on the economic side of the nation's problem. There were lots of other parts of the protest, threads to make a whole tapestry. The people against the Tar Sands pipeline, many elderly and wealthy-looking, were present along with the anti-war folks (which included quite a few veterans) as well as others; all of whom made up the consensus of the whole: Government should be about US, not the corporate interests who can line the pockets of Congress.
I came home Friday night. It was my eleventh wedding anniversary, 17 years total of being with the exactly right man for me.
My beloved Charlie had a vase of a dozen of my favorite roses, secured by a small box on the base to prevent any cat-astrophe, waiting for me. The cats twined around my ankles and sang "give us treats!" while I read my anniversary cards. I hugged and kissed my darling and decided that I had had enough "going" for a few days and would indulge in a little "staying" for the next few days in my perfect little corner of the world.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Autumnal Aire

Doesn't that just sound sweet and heady? Like music with high notes from flutes and zithers, the scent of ripe pears, the beginning of citrus blossoms gracing the air...
It was like I went to bed Thursday night wearing a stinky fur coat of humidity and awoke free and weightless Friday morning.
I forget the joy of the first little bit of fall we get here. It seems to my memory that there is far too little of that; that we just barrel down the seasonal highway from being mugged by heat to feeling like our eyelashes are so cold they'll break.
Friday morning I finished writing a grant, the glass door to the deck open so the cats could flow in and out like the breeze. I worked at the breakfast nook table so I could see the activity in the yard through the three big windows.The temptation to "help" me work is usually so high that an open door to the garden isn't enough to draw away my furry distractions. Everything smelled and felt so good to them this morning that I worked in peace.
We went to dinner with the Son, Darling DIL and GrandBeauty to celebrate the pending arrival of a new family member in March. The Beauty is not quite 2 years old but displays (naturally enough!) remarkable intelligence. She was very good at dinner, no shrieks, many charming behaviors.
Look at those pigtails! She is eating organic gummies as her appetizer and shared some cheese with us as well as some of her Mama's Spaghetti Carbonara.
After dinner, the men went to the cars to put away leftovers and we three girls went into the street for Octoberfest.
Jacq had been so good we let her run unfettered. DIL pointed out that Jacq was running with her nose up, questing the air like a cat or dog, enjoying the wind on her face and the fragrances of fall in a Florida City.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

My Own Little World

That's where I lived this weekend. Charlie was in Pigeon Forge being a Ham and I didn't have the extra cash to engage in Big Shopping so I amused myself at home.
Of course, the mountain o'laundry had to be done, but that is the perpetual background music to my weekends so it just happened while other things went on. I stopped at the grocery on my way home from the office on Friday to pick up special food treats for me since otherwise I'd just eat garbage food. Got some pretty cantalope, thin-sliced proscuitto and some sashimi. The Japanese kid behind the sushi cooler at Publix and I had to have an extensive conversation involving lots of pointing and drawing of imaginary sashimi in the air before we had what I wanted settled between us.
I don't like the rice part of the whole sushi/nigiri/sashimi experience (I use all 3 dish names because the whole thing has been so bastardized) and I am particular about what I do like: raw tuna with cucumber sticks and slices of avocado topped with ground pepper, sea salt and fresh lime juice. NOM.
I set the tuna free from the eel ribbon with which it had been wrapped around the green goodness, gave all a quick chop, dressed and tossed it. I had a little of the cantalope wrapped in the ham and called myself full.
Saturday I boiled ten pounds of chicken leg quarters with onion, celery and garlic to make food for the cats and stock for us. The latter was accidental - I was boiling the leg quarters three at a time and after I put the third batch into the pot in the same liquid I noticed that the color was pretty rich - gave it a taste and decided to pay more attention to the broth-becoming-stock.
As a reward, I used my martini shaker to make a version of a Spring Flowers (ala Highlands Restaurant) martini. I used equal parts St. Germain Elderflower liquor and vodka and one jigger of Sparkling Ice pink grapefruit drink.
It was delicious!
Today Charlie came home and we lounged around, watched the cats play and napped.  I got a cute picture text from a friend based on a nickname I have - woozy- of something she saw with a version of that name.

A "woozie" is apparantly a wine koozie. Clever, eh?
Charlie is happily ensconced in his recliner with a soup mug full of chicken and dumplings and I am re-eneregized for another week out in the Big World.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Football Food!!!

I really dislike winter. I can tolerate fall, but for me, spring and summer are my seasons of existence. I must be related to Persephone, that pretty mythic princess whose mother cursed the earth with cold for the months her darling had to spend in Hell every year.
The only positive for me about cold months is the food I can create and serve that are more suited to the cool months so tonight I baked something that is a good party snack, football treat or breakfast on the run.
The chili-cheese pickup is an old favorite that I serve with malt vinegar or hot sauce or just plain 'nekkid.'

Chili Cheese Pickups

1 carton Better N Eggs plus 3 large eggs
1 1/2 cup SR flour
pint carton cottage cheese
2 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1 stick butter, melted
1 4 oz can green chilis, chopped
1/2 cup chopped jalapenos (more if you like hot)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, spray a glass 9 x 13 pan with cooking spray. Mix all ingredients together, give a couple of grinds of pepper and about a half tsp of salt and stir again. Be sure the eggs are well-blended with the flour etc to make a relatively smooth (except for cheese curds) mixture.
Pour into baking dish and bake for 15 minutes at 400, reduce heat to 350 and bake another 20-25 minutes.
This bakes up pretty because of the Better N Eggs. Don't use Egg Beaters or all eggs if you can avoid it - they dont produce a pleasing texture or mouthfeel. I use real butter because you are not supposed to eat this like quiche - this should be cut into two inch squares with one or two squares eaten per normal person:)
This reheats like a dream in the microwave, about 20 seconds on high per square wrapped in a paper towel.
Play with this recipe by adding more chilis or peppers, adding malt vinegar or pepper sauce before baking, even sauteeing some onion and sausage and adding that. Just be sure you've drained the grease off of the sausage thoroughly before adding to the egg mixture.

The sun is setting earlier, the air is losing its moisture and the temperatures are dropping. I am going to start my list of Reasons Winter Months Can Be Tolerated so I'll be ready when February gets here. If we can stay warm through October it won't be so bad....


Saturday, September 10, 2011

The End Of The World

Tomorrow is the ten year anniversary of the end of a way of life. I remember flying, living before the attacks in September of 2001. I also remember having to fly about a week afterwards.
Reflecting on that morning and the days that followed reminded me of a belief I have always held; the world will end on a normal day. That September day fit the bill. It was a typically beautiful early fall day in north Florida and when the radio announcer said planes had flown into the World Trade Center my mind shifted into a bit of a fugue state. I saw my hands, I knew they were on the steering wheel. I also knew that my body knew the way to my office so I let my auto-pilot take over.

In March of 1993 I was barely 32 years old and on my second gig as a country radio station program director. I didn't particularly like country music, but I liked programming and understood the business and how to manage the infantile personalities most disc jockeys had. We had a contract engineer instead of one on staff which meant that when I had an equipment problem that I couldn't fix, I called him.
My station went off the air somewhere around three am that March day and my overnight girl called to let me know. I started trying to figure out why the power was out at my transmitter site some 40 miles away but the power co-op wouldn't answer. I called the engineer. His name is Charles, and he is still an engineer, but then he was a very young engineer and trying to be brave when he picked me up at my studios. It was just starting to work towards a grey dawn when we got close to the transmitter site. Driving out of Tallahassee was like playing hopscotch. We had to dodge tree limbs in the roads and highways and jittered over diet cokes as we took 90 minutes to make a 45 minute trip.
I don't think the sky got past a sickly shade of pale pear the entire day, and all of the wind that had made the night frightening had sucked away across the Gulf leaving nothing but stillness.
I knew my parents were safe, they were in Tallahassee too and we had only experienced the equivalent of a cat 1 hurricane. Rain, rain; wind, wind, power outage and some downed limbs. Other family and friends were down close to the Gulf and that was where the horror was.
When I was a kid, my dad was head Forest Ranger and we lived on a compound. There was a sweet lady who lived there, too, with her Forest Ranger husband and young children. Her name was Miss Allie Jean. Her family all lived on the corner of a canal and the Gulf in big houses on stilts that were connected to each other by walkways high off the ground. We used to go crabbing in their canal, and I remember being 6 or 7 and looking up at those three houses knitted together by wood slats and rope.
Her family woke up in the middle of that wild night to water, 12 feet high, lashing in from our normally gentle beach.They ran to be together in the house furtherest back from the water by ten feet or so and held hands to try to save themselves from the suck of the outgoing waves. The storm picked them off like sweet grapes from a stem. Allie Jean lost eleven of her brothers, sisters, neices and nephews and even her mother that night. 
That day, that dreadful pale-green sky day, was an End of the World day. That was what the Last Day should look like.
Not that sweet, soft September day ten years ago.
This is my new reality. I live close to one major airbase and less than two driving hours from two others. Paradise with a poisoned thorn - who wants to live next to the Big Red X?
Apparantly me since I moved here.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Lazy Weekend

I stayed home most of the weekend and it was dee-light-ful. Now, if I only had about another three weeks of that I'd get something done around here:) I need to reorganize both guest rooms, clean out my pantry and about a dozen-ty million other things nobody but me can do.
But this weekend...I got my hair cut and colored by a real hairdresser for the first time since last October. I had suspended that personal service while I paid a credit card down since it was easily $150-$200 a month between color and product purchases.

Isn't that pretty? I feel really good about it.
I have spent the summer with my hair in a bun and am ready to be pretty again. I am ready to peel off some poundage, too. I was so active all summer that I lost weight but now that I am back in my office I believe there are fat globules following me and waiting for me to sit down so that they can re-attach. I am going to start using the Sensa I bought to make myself eat less. That's the whole point of the stuff and I have three or four month's worth that I have barely made a dent in. I would not put it on things that I wanted to eat because I wanted to EAT them, not eat part of them. Well, that isn't working so time to just eat part of what it is that I want. I have a few hundred dollars worth of the stuff so I might as well give it a good try.
I am between a size 16-18 right now as a reference point and I am aiming for a size 8-10.
I have to check into the gym at work (argh) since I clearly am not going to walk around the neighborhood. I am not morbidly obese but far larger than I'd like to be. After a certain point on a short person's body extra weight can't figure out where to go and just plops itself wherever. That makes clothes shopping damn hard. Too small for Woman's World, too big for Petites and the only slacks that fit in Misses are the ones meant to be mid-calf. So I've been living in Chico's Travellers short length stuff and stretchy waisted other stuff. Time to get pretty again, though I'll never be thin I can go back to nicely curvy.
The one really useful thing I did this weekend was find the gift bag I had hidden from the cats which contained my Granddaughter's gift from Alabama. There was a store of cutesy stuff that carried Vera Bradley and the little one has decided she likes carrying a purse. Naturally I had to contaminate this innocent desire on her part with some label snobbery - low level, but there just the same. This is the GrandBeauty modelling her new purse in the Vera pattern "Happy Snails,"  purse style 'Caitlyn.'

I spent hours looking for the gift bag. I found it in the china cabinet.

Tomorrow is a chicken night with a new recipe that I will share after I've worked it through.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

You Can Tune A Piano but....

...you can't tuna fish - ar, ar.

We grilled our first tuna steaks in years tonight. I say "we," but Charlie is the Grill Master and I season (sometimes) and marinate and talk about times before turning.
Our first tuna steak from the grill was an expensive mistake. Tonight was near perfection, and since Publix had frozen tuna steak on sale it wasn't expensive.

We used the Ina Garten/Barefoot Contessa approach of Less Is More with the tuna. A brush of good olive oil, sea salt, pepper and a hot gril for 2 minutes per side and the tuna was done.
I also cooked some shelled edamame in water with about half a cup of chicken stock with my favorite seasonings. I cooked them longer that I usually do because Charlie asked for them to be more tender. A fresh salad of green lettuce, cucumber, tomato and red onion with a few orange slices and balsamic vinegar rounded out the meal. I don't know why people say "fresh salad," but I did to indicate that I cleaned the ingredients minutes before serving. No bagged nuffin' here:)

I was pretty pleased with this meal because there were no animals treated inhumanely in the process - the tuna were wild harvested, chicken stock organic. Best of all, everything my darling ate tonight was healthy for him.
Yes, I just watched "Julie and Julia" and am full of the love Julia Child (JC - any coincidence?) had for her husband and for food. I am regenerated and ready to do more elegant cooking after a summer of cooking to the least common denominator - the tastebuds of a ten year old.....

Saturday, August 27, 2011

"They're Outrageous"

In 1972 I was an 11 year old dreamer with a record player and a firm belief that (a) there were aliens from space and they were smarter than humans and (b) I was a lost alien.
I was beginning to define myself musically and culturally through what I liked to hear, read and wear. In about a year I convinced my parents to let me stay home from church and fry the chicken for lunch. I read anything I could get my hands on (my mom was SO cool - I read Erica Jong!) and wore my cool aunt's sandals and jeans when I was 13.
The album was "Can't Buy a Thrill" and the hit was "Reeling in The Years."
I learned the album by heart, and did the same for all subsequent Dan releases.
There was something subversive in the lyrics that appealed to my off-center sense of humor and the word choices the boys made, the imagery they created, built the world in which I was supposed to live.
I am/was a slinky shadow haunting alleys of rain-dark glass, the female version of Clint Eastwood's spaghetti western no-name loner. When I had a name, I was Josie (Aja, 1977), the raw flame/the live wire; drinking my big black cow and dime dancing with plans for a nap later under some banyan trees.
So for years seeing Donald Fagen and Walter Becker play live was something I desperately wanted to do. And for years they flat would not tour. They didn't like it. Then they broke up. And I listened to their solo stuff and waited.
The 90's saw them together again and they continued to be the soundtrack to my inner self.
And they started touring again. Just the northeast to start, then they stretched out, and in 2011 they played the Wharf Ampitheatre in Orange Beach, AL.

That's Orange Beach. I took that photo behind the famous Flora-Bama bar. The Ampitheatre at the Wharf is seriously in the middle of a stand of pines - you get there by walking across elevated wooden ramps. They span what might be a swamp or mayhap just some low ground that probably has snakes in it but at least we're ten feet above it. I am getting ahead of myself - let me back up.
In April we learn the Dan will be on tour in the South and Orange Beach is the closest spot. My darling husband gets tix and I start dreaming. We left for OB Saturday before the show, had dinner, watched tv and sacked out.
Sunday we had brunch at Cobalt, highly reccomended.
The decor is light, bright, and a little funky. Loved the mermaid!

After brunch we went to the Flora-Bama bar on the Florida-Alabama line. The bar is famous and odd and about half-built. We loved it.
A bolt was loose in the second floor roof piling so Charlie HAD to play with it. I had a cartoon vision of him pulling that one bolt free and the whole place falling down around us. The two of us are seen after the dust clears standing with drinks in hand atop the wreckage, exchanging a glance and shrugging, taking a sip and sauntering off down the beach.


These posters were in nearly every window of the shops at the Wharf. I was so excited that I could hardly stand myself so I can imagine how Charlie felt, walking in the near drizzle with an adult woman who periodically screeched "EEEEEE!"
We very sensibly bought rain ponchos that could have doubled as garbage can liners from a sunglasses store and walked to the venue. My hair began to absorb water and make the ambient humidity in my bubble rise so I put it up in a twist and kept smiling. It was raining, I was in a stand of planted pines in Alabama on a rusted folding chair. BUT Steely Dan would be taking the stage soon and the place sold booze - expensive and limited, but booze.
Then the guys hit the stage - and life was good. They played a lot of old stuff, a lot of my favorites and one of my newer favorites ('Godwhacker,' which appeals to the Roger Zelazny fan in me) and all around us were people as happy to be there as I was. I sang along and noticed that there was a lot of that going on - EVERYONE knew the lyrics. Suddenly I was a loner in a crowd of them - and we were all happy, non-brooding types singing "Boddhisatva - Gonna sell my house in town!"
'Deacon Blues' got a lot from the crowd because of the lyrical reference to Alabama's legendary Crimson Tide football team.
Thirty-nine years after my ears first heard the complexity of Steely Dan I got to see them live surrounded by other people who were as full of Dan-love as I am.
Although this could have happened without him, it would not have been as wonderful, memorable, or happy without my Charlie.
His eyes are the color of Gulf water and he can take the world apart and reassemble it even better if someone would just hand him the correct screwdriver.
And we lived happily ever after:)

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Not Too Late!

I am so happy that all of the fresh vegetables of summer have not come and gone before I could cook some of them from fresh!
I went to my favorite produce stand today in hopes of getting SOMEthing, even if it was just green peanuts. Imagine my delight to find fresh corn, cream 12 peas and okra.
Tomorrow night I am going to roast a fat duck and serve it with creamed corn, field peas and fried okra. The peas are easy enough - rinse them, put them in enought water to cover plus an inch and a half, pop in a ham hock and some ham base and cook til good. Fried okra and creamed corn are a different kettle of fish. People make it too hard for themselves and ruin the fresh goodness in the process. Easiest recipe first - Creamed Corn!

5-6 ears fresh corn, husked and silked
1/2 tsp bacon grease
1 tbl water
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the nibletss from the corn and be sure to squeeze the "milk" from the cobs. Ihave a corn stripper but you can do this with a paring knife. I like to conduct this part of the prep over a glass pie plate because you can scrape the milk and niblets out more easily.
In a non-stick pan melt the bacon grease (optional, but makes it better. If you've cooked bacon for breakfast, just scrape the plate it drained on and you should have enough) and add the corn niblets and milk, heat on medium low. The corn should thicken - add a little salt and pepper. The cooking process doesn't take long, maybe five minutes or so, because you don't want to make glue of the corn or completely cook away the crispness. Taste it and stop cooking when it tastes good to you. Add little bits of water as needed to keep the corn the proper consistency.

Fried Okra
This is my favorite thing to share when it comes to country vegetable cooking tips. Okra shouldn't be dunked in breading and fried like a popper.
2 pounds fresh okra, rinsed, topped and tailed and cut into quarter to half inch pieces
corn meal
Bacon grease:)
Canola Oil
salt and pepper

Scatter about a half cup of the cornmeal (I use buttermilk cornmeal mix) over the okra cuts, toss til the okra pieces are well covered. The meal should stick to the okra pretty well. After you've rinsed it, go straight to the cutting so you don't lose any liquid. Add a little salt and pepper. Add a tablespoon of bacon grease and a tablespoon of canola oil to a non-stick or cast iron skillet and melt it over medium high heat. Toss the okra a bit to shake loose the meal that isn't coating the vegetable.
When a drop of water sizzles in the pan, add the okra and let it cook a few moments, move the okra around the pan with a spatula and try to let as many surfaces receive a crisping as possible. Reduce heat to medium and continue to stir around; okra should be tender in fifteen minutes. You can remove it from heat and let it sit while other dishes cook and then pop it back on a burner on high for  minute or so to reheat.


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Working on Healing

I am still mourning the loss of my handsome and darling Cabrillo. My son says that there have been coyote cat-kills a block from our house in the past month.
I don't know about that. I continue to subscribe to the county shelter's newsletter to see if any of the furry faces doing time there are familiar and call the city shelter regularly. Luckily they are both no-kill so if my baby turns up there he won't be euthanized.
On a happier note, we ate brunch at a restaurant with a stupid name but good food that could have been better.
One of the dangers of closed-dish buffet service is out of sight, out of mind. Workers walk right past food that has sat for so long that a steak knife won't cut it.
I had to ask for some refills on the salad bar, an area out of staff view.
The fresh items were really good and the grits bar/eggs and waffles to order were also well done.
There were quite a few dishes that gave me ideas and some things served so simply that they were surprising - hearts of palm with a little olive oil and paprika, succotash served cold, make with grilled corn niblets cut off the cob and shelled edamame. My favorite breakfast entree was their open-faced po' boy which was unlike any po'boy I'd had before. they start with a thin slice of French bread, a piece of filet mignon that has been pounded, breaded and fried like chicken fried steak, a teaspoon or so of cheese grits topped with a sunnyside-up quail egg. Lovely!
To my taste, quail egg yolks are richer than the average hen's egg. And I eat cage-free hen eggs which sport thick, yellow yolks so I have a particularly specialized egg palate.
Anyway, next time I need to make a brunch I think I may create a brunch of quail eggs on English muffin cubes. A dab of hollandaise on the muffin to create a seat for the egg and some proscuitto on the side.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The PERFECT Fried Green Tomato

One of the treats of summer is the tomato in all of its fresh glory. The beautiful red-orange of an imperfect orb served in thick slices on white bread with mayo; diced and tossed with olive oil, fresh basil and cubes of brie; cut into fat chunks with cucumber, Vidalia onion and apple cider vinegar - these are the cold dishes I dream about on winter days.
After the initial frenzy of picking and eating tomatoes just as they turned ripe and then settling into the happy confidence that a tomato sandwich was no further away than the back yard, we were ready to start raiding the tomato "nursery" for firm, green, unripe specimens to slice and fry.
Most people can get the dish started properly - wash, thinly slice, coat in cornmeal mix with salt and pepper....
My canola oil is heating to medium high; I slice and meal as many tomatoes as I can since once the frying begins there is no time to waste between batches. I make sure I have two pan's worth of tomatoes ready between each frying batch.
If the heat is too high, the outside burns and the inside is soggy and the taste "off." Too low, the tomato is a greasy mess. I've found medium to medium-high heat and two inches of oil in a 14" skillet gets the job done.
This beautiful nibble is crispy on the outside, sweet-tart on the inside and on its way to join its bretheren.
But where? On a plate lined with paper towels? In a paper bag to shakeoff the excess oil? Nope. On a cookie cooling rack.
This simple trick keeps the tomatoes crisp all over. Charlie was engaged in a radio contest in his Man Cave so I fried his tomatoes first, piled them on a plate and gave them a grind of pepper and took them to him. After I fried mine and ate them I checked on his verdict - he loves FGT (fried green tomatoes) and is an expert on their quality. These were declared "the best I ever ate. Crispy, full of flavor, very tomato-y with a hint of sweetness."
I was pleased with them, myself.
I've never liked making FGT as a side dish because of the awful potential for sogginess and reputation damage as a cook so we used to just eat them right out of the pan. Using a cooling rack will allow me to add FGT to my entertainment menus since I can keep the dish warm and crispy in the oven.
The keys to good FGT are sharp knives, firm tomatoes, clean oil, nothing more than meal to coat and cooling racks.
Eat 'em up, ya'll!

Monday, July 4, 2011

How Does Your Garden Grow?

We had planted a garden of tomatoes, basil, Japanese eggplant, zuchinni and cucumber.
My belief that the people who write the "how far apart you must plant" instructions are wrong was finally put to rest; the tomatoes, basil and eggplant have crowded everyone else out of existence.
At least the victors in the Lebensraum of the Garden skirmish are producing, well, produce. My tomatoes have the perfect balance of bold acidity and and the slight sweetness those lacy slices of juice-rich, red-orange orbs can bring. The Japanese eggplant are growing firm aubergine fingers as testimony to the fertility of the soil they are in and the water they've drunk.
My daughter and son-in-law were in town for the holiday weekend, staying with son, darling DIL and granddaughter so we arranged  dinner out last night. I had picked the garden in the morning and had a fat basket of slim eggplants to share. I put enough in two bags, along with a can of anhcovies each, to give to the kids so they could make one of their favorite step-Mama side dishes we call the Eggplant Thing.

Eggplant Thing
3/8-10 inch long Japanese Eggplant or one fat standard eggplant,
sliced long ways and scored, top cap discarded
6 tbl good olive oil, separated
Sea Salt, fresh pepper, dried thyme and oregano
6 fat cloves of garlic
1 can anchovy filets

Bring 1 tbl olive oil to medium high in a 10" skillet, add eggplant cut side down; cook until light gold and scoring opens, you may need to add oil since eggplant really soaks it up. Place eggplant halves into a glass pan (9x13) that you've greased with about a tsp of olive oil, set aside. Pre-heat oven to 350. If you have a small food processor, get it out. Otherwise get out a small glass bowl, sharp knife, garlic press and whisk.
Clean and press garlic into glass bowl or processor bowl with olive oil, 1/2 tsp each dried thyme and oregano, salt. If using a food processor, pulse for ten seconds or so. In a glass bowl, mash ingredients together under a plastic spoon.  Whisk. Chop anchovies finely with knife if no processor, large chop if you have the equipment, add to olive oil mix. Whisk or whir together to get a fairly smooth consistency. Scoop out about a tbl and begin spreading into the eggplant halves, being sure that you get the mix down into the scores. Once you've covered all surfaces use remainder to top off the halves. Grind pepper to taste over the eggplant (I don't like pepper and use Cavender's Greek Seasoning instead) and place in oven.
This shouldn't take more than 30 minutes; you want to cook until the meat of the eggplant is tender.
Even if you think you don't like anchovies, try this. And remember that you eat anchovies in anything that has Worcestershire sauce:)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Absence Makes The Heart Grow Harder

My Cabrillo has been gone over a month now. Other cats have disappeared as well, including Cab's twin George.
Oddly enough, the cat-napper hasn't taken the cats I only kept to save them from the Shelter.
I look for my fur babies at the local shelters, in the neighborhood. I had heard a coyote was killing cats in the neighborhood but found out that was last year an no-one has seen any coyotes this year.
I am very close to taking everyone except Romeo, Randy and Jerry to the shelter. I've talked to Charlie about an invisible electric fence to keep the cats in the back yard.
I have to let this go so I can write again. It is just very hard...

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Summer of Changes

We are finally free of breeding female felines. I had to send Pinky Lee to the shelter; she hated humans even after 3 years of effort and passed her distaste for us on to many of her progeny (who usually died, something wrong with that cat).
We are also missing two beloved feline family members - Cabrillo and Trixie. This is Cab:
He is so smart that I almost expect him to speak English to me when he has stored up enough to say. In the meantime he purrs and meows at the same time when he sings to me. He has been gone since Monday and it is killing me.
Monday morning before I left for work I put out food on the back deck, let in all who wanted in, and saw him playing with his twin brother George on the patio. George's differences are eye color and back paw sock length - yellow eyes and tube socks on his hind feet.
Then Trixie, aka velcro kitty, went missing Tuesday. Trix is a medium length hair fluffy black and white cat and I didn't have any pictures of her to use for flyers. My niece took a picture of Trixie's twin, Pixie, who lives 2 1/2 hours away with her. I used them to make the posters.
I have posted color flyers of both cats on stop signs and street signs on my block and one block over and will do the block south of us tomorrow. I'll go a little further with black and white flyers into mailboxes, too.
I am afraid that George may have chased them away. Even though Trix is spayed and Cab and George both neutered, George has always been aggressive with them (all siblings) but I thought he was just asserting his authority as first born.
Now I think he was clearing the decks of cats old enough to challenge his authority. I saw him threaten Fang today. Fang is in line to be neutered and is just shy of one year old (I know, I should have done it sooner, but I had other obligations).
My heart hurts for my Kitty Boy - I went through all of the awful what ifs earlier in the week, have called the shelter daily, and now think they are in the neighborhood and if I knock on enough doors I'll find them.

I went out hunting and gathering today and bought a few new kitchen rugs.
I like the ones that are made from gel padding. These things are usually $20 or more; I got them for $5.99 each.
The one above is in front of my oven.
I can hardly look at pictures of Cab without wanting to sniffle so I have to end this now.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Play Day

Last weekend was work-work-work in Tampa but at least the food was good:)
This weekend is about laundry and play time for me.
Lynn Haven is a little town attached to a big town and things are often aranged with extreme informality. One of those things was scheduled for today - a fund raiser for people with head injuries. T  here is a "clubhouse" program that lets them have a place to go every day like a work site and do something useful. They were set up in a small local park and had music, food, junk and craft vendors.
I bought a hamburger from an older lady who was operating the front end of the set-up with a handsome young man sitting at the cash box. After a few minutes it was clear that he was a clubhouse client.
I sat with my burger and water bottle and watched the world. It seemed to be mostly parents and siblings manning the booths and the attendees were sparse. There was a dad calling for cake-walkers, "Come on, step up, win a cake for your girl! The song goes around, some sit down, last one in takes the win!"
There was a table of yard sale stuff that caught my eye. A young couple, likely siblings of a client, were on duty behind the table.They looked tired and it looked like nothing much had been bought from the table. A small doll caught my eye and as I reached for it the young woman reached to and said "The price tag is wrong." It was a hand-written tag tied to the doll's arm and read, in pencil, $3.
I shrugged and said "Cool. How much?" thinking she'd  ask for five or ten. it was hot and I was ready to walk away if the price exceeded my charitable mood.
She sold it for a quarter and I gave her some future yard sale advice -if you have souvenir ashtrays, try to sell them on line to collectors first to get the best dollar. People don't smoke much anymore so that type of memorabilia is no longer common.
The doll above is my twenty-five cent prize. The red string on the right side is part of the actual "purse strings" so little Miss Roma can hang from a young girl's wrist. The fabric is mostly felt with some ribbon trim.
I love these souvenirs from days gone by. The quality is often very good. This one makes me think of an early 60's movie like those with Haley Mills and Rosalind Russell running around Europe and having madcap adventures. Buses drive by colorful local men will break down, boys will chase girls, and adults will be exhausted by adolescents. An imaginary more innocent time.
I was also on a mission in area Goodwill Stores today - our summer program is a "go" and we want to give the kids fun books to read and take home if they like. I love Goodwill; the work they do for others, the little pieces of other people's lives I see. I collect glass items; clear cut glass and bas relief glass dishes, pottery dishes from California. My everyday china is Franciscan Apple, all of it "antique" with the made in California stamp. The stuff made after the English firm bought Franciscan is crap.
I encountered a lovely new pattern today - Metlox Poppytrail California Ivy.

Look at the handle - see how it is shaped like a rough, thick old rope of ivy? Everything is hand-painted and then each piece is fired, like old Franciscan. This line also includes bas relief patterns of grapes, berries, daisies and zinnias.
Today I found the gravy boat, large platter and vegetable serving bowl. I like this kind of thing just because it suits me. For people who need to make an impression on others, though, using these old patterns as tableware looks expensive (it can be, if you don't hunt it down yourself) and chic. 
I carefully washed my new treasures, water hot but not too hot and using Mrs. Myers' Basil dish liquid (gentle on me, dishes and the environment).
All in all, a good day:)

Friday, May 6, 2011

"The heart is a lonely hunter"

That's a Carson McCullers book title. She wrote it in North Carolina in the late 1930's and it was published to great acclaim in 1940.
I like the phrase because of its essential adolescent melodrama, among other things. The misunderstood loner, aloof, watching, with a deeply hidden heart that yearns for connection. The heart as a leader in the body's reaction to love, loss, elation, satisfaction, stress...Unfortuately it is just the title of another damned depressing Carson McCullers story. She either needed to drink more and play more or just write less. Gah!
My heart has been acting peculiarly for a little while. I think that's what it is, and the doctor seems to think that is what it is. I'll have a test Monday to start sorting it out.
For the past year or so, without warning, I get a heavy and painful feeling in the middle of my chest that sometimes radiates right up into my jaw. This is such a painful thing that while it lasts all I can think about is pressing my fist against my chest to try, somehow, to get the pain to move to the outside. I've never made notes about it or talked to the doctor about it because I have always been afraid it was some psychosomatic mystery pain or yet another example of my neurological misfires. I spent a few hours connected to electrodes when I was in my late teens because I had started smelling things that weren't there, feeling an odd heaviness in my head and other things that I didn't take drugs to cause. The tests came up empty.

Wednesday night I had a long and painful session with the fat hatchet in my chest and a jaw that felt like it had hit a wall. It finally eased off and I slept but in the morning I woke up to something new - the pains were still present but at a much lower level.
Mystery chest pain usually completely disappears after it has inflicted its torture.
With the pain still playing a frightening back-beat behind my sternum I decided it was time to chat about the feeling to see if I needed to see a doctor.
Mother and husband both voted for a doctor visit so I called my GP to see about being worked in. The receptionist spoke to the nurse who suggested that I go to the Emergency Room.
Really? REALLY? The EMERGENCY ROOM, where I could grow old before being seen? Fuck that!
I controlled myself nicely, however, and said "Well, suppose I don't go to the emergency room. When can I be seen?"
Then I called a walk in to see what the wait was and went to see them. EKG was fine but the PA was concerned about the situation and I now have an apointment Monday for a stress test and echocardiogram. I also have an appointment with my GP that day at 2 which I am not sure I am going to make.
I think it is just my body's reaction to stress. Last year I had a stabbing pain every 8 minutes in the back of my head for 2 days solid. It was stress. I have broken a tooth from grinding. Stress (I got it fixed!). My shoulders are so tense that I have to conciously remind myself to relax them. So having subverted my body's attempts to express stress in other ways I am being attacked by my own heart.
Dammit, man!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Happy Week

It doesn't take a lot to give me a general feeling of well-being these days. If the sun is shining in a blue sky, the scent of some blooming thing is in the air and my cats are watching me like I am about to make magic happen, I am having a good day. Knowing Sweet Charlie will be home for dinner, that I have an interesting task on deck at work and that there are blackberries in the refrigerator on top of that, bliss.
This week was a week of work to look forward to doing. We are getting our work study (I'll call her ""Sweetie" here) ready to move to Tallahassee for school. The fine people at Goodwill gave us carte blanch as a professional courtesy in kitting our girl's apartment out and we found fabulous things. Word to the wise - next time you need to redecorate/refurnish, find out what day the Goodwills in good (well-to-do) areas do furniture pick up so you can shop them. We found such pretty things that our Sweetie will have a living room that I envy. And I am glad - she is an Aged out of Foster Care youth which means she turned 18 and was put on the street. We've gotten her into the Independent Living program but she still needs love and guidance and protection. The women of my office have been trying to cram 18 years of love and life-teaching into 8 weeks. I am praying we've done enough to keep our lessons in her mind and her heart attached to us so we can "mother" her from afar. We are building a safety net for her in Tallahassee, but she's our baby so letting go is hard.

Today was also a happy day. I rambled through a few yard sales and got some non-essentials for Sweetie and a scrap-booking tool for the kids in one of our youth programs. Big Lots yielded skeins of one of my favorite yarns for a dollar each and some tomato cages. When I got home, the mail had run and it was time to check for treats. I love mail.

I received two cool mail items - a shipment from BzzzAgent for my latest campaign:
Covergirl is our Bzz campaign right now for their new NatureLuxe foundation and lipbalm. Note that I posed it with my L'Occitane Divine products. That stuff is bottled so prettily and works so well that it inspired a massive clean-up in the make-up nook:)
Anyway,I hope I like it, I have coupons to share and am in need of another inexpensive weekend makeup.  Updates will be coming:)

My other treat through the USPS was a bottle of an energy-diet supplement I bought from a friend. The samples seemed to work well so I'll see how the bottle does. At this price, though, prescription diet pills are cheaper.
That's 30 days' worth of V3 for $62. I had thought it was a 60-pill bottle. Well, if it works it's worth it. Another "updates will be coming" issue!

My husband is home from North Alabama now; he had gone up to help get some radio stations back on the air. During emergencies, terrestrial radio gets vital information out to people moreso than TV since people generally have battery powered radios.
I'm going to make him something good to eat right now and watch kittens on Animal Planet:)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sometimes You Just Have to Laugh

I have been working crazy busy stressy for the past few weeks. The big stress has been needing to depend on other people to make my plans happen. I can do anything - but I can't always get the other people to cooperate so I can get my magic done. THAT is what is stressful. And some times there are parts of a plan that look easy-peasy but can be screwed up if you don't do them yourself.
And that's why I was on the Hathaway Bridge heading east on Thursday when my BRAND EFFING NEW SORRENTO crapped out on me. I was heading for Gulf County to measure a room for some equipment we need for a project when the SUV started hesitating. It smoothed out for a moment, then started up again and an amber warning light that I couldn't translate lit up. I pulled into the breakdown lane to think, put the vehicle in park and then every light on the dash lit up and the Kia shut down.

It was hot and I was mad. I was even angrier when I couldn't find the info I needed in my owner's handbook in what I thought was a reasonable amount of time.


All I wanted to know was what the damn light on the dash meant as it related to the reason my BRAND NEW EFFING KIA SORRENTO crapped out on the bridge.
Oh, and I wanted to know where the emergency flashers were since I was in the accident lane of a bridge frequented by tourists and my chances of being rear-ended were pretty high.The owner's manual of this model sucks. ALL owner's manuals should have emergency information in the FRONT. When you open the cover of the booklet, you should see the list of what all of the warning lights on the goddam dash mean and where the control for the emergency flashers is. You would not believe how poorly the index on that manual is laid out. I was only slightly panicked and couldn't find what I wanted. Humpf!                                                                                                         
So after 2 hours the tow truck came, allowing the DOT cop who had kindly pulled in behind the Sorrento to leave. I had worn a floaty skirt, the day was hot and without being able to run the AC in the Sorrento my choices were to stand in the wind on the bridge and risk my skirt flying up around my ears or die of sweatage.  My skirt got away from me when I was getting into the tow truck but by that point I didn't care anymore. 
Several hours later I learned that the Sorrento was in the ICU and I would be getting a very likely shitty tiny rental car.  I am sunburned and grumpy because a BRAND NEW GODDAM KIA crapped out on me on the bridge and I spent TWO hours sweating and fighting with a skirt to stay decent and/or cool and they were going to give my princess self a Ford Escort?                                                                                                   
I am naturally inclined towards being a sweetie. Snarling and threatening seems to make my face dry and just worries me later. I will admit to capitalizing on looking scary by threatening new hires with tales of my temper and I have been known to verbally swat miscreants but I would prefer to get what I want through kindness.
The fates smiled on me this afternoon and instead of a crappy compact death machine the lovely young man at the rental place handed me the key to a Kia Borego.
I WANT MY OWN BOREGO. I called the dealership and talked to the guy handling the sick Sorrento and told him to keep it, I'd just take the Borego. She's a beauty, a big black beast with tan leather seats and 3-rows of them, built so a lady can hop into the driver's seat without a stepladder and still sit high enough off the ground to feel safe.
So at the end of this stressful week my SUV is at the fix-it, I am sun-burned from standing on top of a white bridge above the reflective bay, I didn't get the measurements I needed and I still only have one site for my project. But - I have a beautiful, cool loaner to drive, the weather is encouraging my little food garden to thrive, and I got a good story to tell. Oh, and the sun on my face has settled into a pink glow:)

                      


Friday, April 22, 2011

Nattering

That cool little word, "nattering," just means surface chatter, shooting the breeze; but I always think of it as having an undercurrent of comfort. As in being comfortable enough with the people around you to talk of inconsequential things, to let words of no particular significance flow and oil the rope that binds you together as friends, keeping the relationships flexible and thriving.
That's a close up of Tea Olive blooms, which smell like all of the best green things about spring. That's the kind of thing I natter about, along with music and yappy dogs who eat catfood and upchuck. There was natter about old days when friend Lorne and I were young and still building our careers, the odd attraction law enforcement and radio people have for each other, and how we fit that paradigm. Lornie's eyes are the color of a Hershey Bar wrapper and she still fixes them on her husband's face with the same attention and intensity a she did when they first married. 
Then Charlie and I were the chatty audience as Ingrid insouciantly concocted the perfect fruity shot for the guy at table 17 while we sang bits of 40-year-old songs across the bar to each other. She looks like a cool blond sophisticate until she speaks. Her inner Italian then emerges with waving hands, eyes that can shoot sparks and personality that defies stereotyping.

I have no great epiphany to offer here, no clever joke to tell. Just a reminder to talk to your friends, even about nothing, just a flight of fancy or a re-telling of an old story. Watch their faces and remember their expressions. When you get right down to it, the stuff that enriches your life is the stuff that lives - your friends, whether human or furry, finny/feathery, the growing living environment that hosts you, and the thoughts that decorate the space between your ears. Keeping your bank full of those things only costs your attention. Pay it.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Things That Make Us

Way back in the distant mists of my teenage-hood I met a really sweet, goofy boy named Bill. He was smart, funny, and good-looking with blue eyes and curly red hair. He was tall, too.
We dated for several years and lived through times that changed me, probably him as well, and eventually parted. I don't remember why; I lost big pieces (apparantly, I don't really know how much) of my memory after a car accident. So if you knew me in high school and you say "Oh, do you remember?" and proceed to tell a story and I just nod and smile vaguely it means that was one of the memories that landed in the Fiero-shaped vortex on Mahan Drive in 1994.
So, on Facebook tonight my old beau Bill sent me some photos of my late dad from a scanned newspaper. Daddy was a forest ranger and for many years the guy the head dude sent to do PR stuff.
That's my pop. It's odd to see how much my brother looks like Daddy. I think of them as being so different; my calm and measured brother and my hot-headed dad.
Timing is an odd thing.
We got our tickets in today's mail to the Steely Dan show we're in going to in August.
My first album was their first album - Can't Buy A Thrill. The Dan have been the soundtrack of my life; from pre-pubescence through existential twenties and to the now of what feels like a second chapter of the energy and social indignation of my early thirties. Only I'm 50. Just the same, only different (old joke).
Friends and boyfriends and jobs and pop culture filled some of the record slots on my mental jukebox but the one constant has always been Steely Dan. I was a fantasy and science fiction-reading kid and identified with heroes like Corwin from Nine Princes in Amber and anything else Roger Zelazny ever wrote; the dark loner with a wry sense of humor and an over-developed vocabulary. I knew where the places were and what the words meant in any Dan song that hit the air around my ears. Guadalajara, William and Mary, The Quarter, the Washington Zoo, Dean and DeLuca, Scarsdale, the City of St. John, Barrytown - I knew them all. I even learned about Bodhisattva, piasters and the Santa Anna Winds.
I wanted to be Josie or Peg but these days I'd settle for being Security Joan.
So as much as people and places and books and visions and years have shaped me, so have odder things. Like Star Trek. And the smell of hot sun. And Steely Dan.

Sorry for all of the Steely Dan references but I think I write this more for me than anyone else based on the stats for this scribble.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Everything was nice -- except for the lack of Charlie

My sweetheart left yesterday for Las Vegas. He is attending the National Association of Broadcasters convention as he has every year since we first set up house together so I should be used to it by now - unfortunately, it is just long enough after the end of hunting season for me to have gotten used to having him around again!
I spent the day doing laundry, napping and watching HGTV. I am addicted to House Hunters, especially the International version. I am especially keen on kitchens and bathrooms and when there is an indoor courtyard, whee!
I will be growing some of my very own blackberries now, so bowls like this one won't cost two day's worth of grocery budget.
My son came over with his post-hole diggers, dug holes and planted the berry bushes, my mimosa tree and two hydrangeas. I tended my little garden and added Japanese Eggplant, more cucumber, yellow squash and zuchinni. I am going to put my bell peppers into pots since I don't think there is enough room in the raised bed for them.
The meowies helped, naturally enough. Pojr led the black cat brigade of himself, Tip and Fang as they frolicked around the bed while I worked. Tip invited himself into the middle of the little garden, jeopardizing the future of a newly-planted cucumber and I shoo'd him away. The boys have sweet, very tiny voices so when they complain it sounds more like a chirp than a kvetch.
They quickly lost interest in the garden since I wouldn't let them dig and began running as hard as they could back and forth across the yard. My golden boys, Cabrillo and George, used to like to do that when they were younger. They also engaged in Matrix-like mid-air collision avoidance, leaping 3 or 4 feet up and twisting their bodies to insure a feet-first landing. The sheer joy they have in breathing fast while running, feeling the sun on their fur, and watching the little world that is my backyard reminds me to enjoy these things as well.
Which I did, until the damned mosquitos began gnawing on me like I was crab legs on the Chinese buffet and they were tourists. GAH!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Can I Get a Tan, Man?

Last year at this time I was attending a tanning salon, getting nice and brown and enjoying the periodic escape into a warm, humming capsule. Then I got a skin cancer on my chest, had to listen to "I told you so" from husband, mother, best friend and doctor and get the dratted thing hacked out. It was so big/deep there was no hope for a pretty scar but the plastic surgeon really tried.
I got out of the membership and resigned myself to selfless tanner since my last experience with salon spray tan had been Mystic Tan which was a mess.
My boss popped into my office Monday morning with "HEY! Have you heard about Zoom Tan?"
A bit of research and a few days later we arranged to go get a tan. My boss is also my best friend which really makes things nice. I can't be a screw-up because she trusts me and also because it isn't in my nature but sometimes, when we have both been working like demons after hours, we play hooky.
Friday afternoon about 2 we showed up at the salon and got the sales spiel and then the tan. We both opted for the medium level tan. You strip down, put on a hair net, put barrier cream on palms, toe and finger nails. I put a towel down in the booth to stand on to avoid any tan soles. It takes longer to get undressed and then dressed than it does to be sprayed. This will tell you about the booth experience:

Zoom Tan with video

Now, the results. The attendant told us we would look freckled until we showered. I felt like I was a pointillism experiment in golden brown. After the shower, I was lovely and tan!
I didn't pose properly so the web of my hand didn't get tan. The pink you see is me:)



That is my smooth, brown leg!

The leg you see if the biggest reason I wanted to be tan. I want to be able to wear short and dresses and not look pale, not have my varicose veins in stark relief to my paleness. An added benefit is a nice facial glow that eliminates all but a need for bronzer, brow pencil,lipstick and mascara.
You can't tell here but my eyes are blue. This is a makeup-free moment.

I am very pleased with the outcome. If you're looking to tan, try the technology from Versa-Spa and go to a Zoom Tan salon if you can. The cost for a sample tan is $10 there ($19.95 at a non-Zoom salon nearby) and the monthly unlimited sunless tanning is $39.99 plus tax.  I'll post more interesting stuff tomorrow  night:)