Thursday Thoughts

Orange Crush
I’ve seen the commercials, but frankly haven’t paid a bit of attention to them. I’m talking about the Bud Light commercials in which they proudly say they are putting your beer into cans dedicated to your favorite football team. So the other day, I was busily looking at the menu at our favorite Greek restaurant (why, I don’t know, since I always get the same thing) and wasn’t paying attention when Bill ordered his beverage of choice – a Bud Light. So when the server brought over his drink, I was visibly startled to see what I thought was a can of Fanta Orange soda. I think I actually sucked in my breath. It’s not that Bill doesn’t drink soda, but when he does, it’s always a Diet Coke. On rare occasions when he’s feeling his oats, he might have a Diet A&W Root Beer. But never, never ever, a Fanta Orange. So it was with great relief that I realized that he wasn’t in fact drinking an orange beverage, but the beverage can was simply honoring the Denver Broncos. Whew….

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Twinkly Eyes
The other day my daughter-in-law Lauren posted school photos of Joseph. She took a picture of his last three photos, including the most recent. Seeing his happy face made my face happy. I showed Bill, and he immediately said, “Oh my heavens, he is getting so big.” This, from the man who saw Joseph and his family a mere few weeks ago. Still, the most recent photo (farthest to the right) does make him look alarmingly grown up. He looks devastatingly handsome in this year’s photo, but I have to admit that I am partial to the middle photo. I love the twinkle in his eye. And the twinkle? That’s Joseph, my friends…..

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Can You See Me Now?
I may have mentioned that Bill has spent nearly the entire summer working on his pretty red sports car. While I – shockingly – complain a bit about his devotion to the car, I am happy to see it coming to life as it has been a paper weight in our garage for the past 10 years or so. Much of the work has involved Bill lying underneath the car doing heaven only knows what. Recently, I picked 2-year-old Cole up to bring him home to spend the day. It was a rare morning when Bill was inside the house doing some legal work. We got out of the car, and I said to him, “Cole, let’s find Papa.” He smiled, and crouched down and looked under the car!

Television Time
It’s my favorite time of the year (and I don’t mean Pumpkin Spice time!). The new season of television programs has begun. Bill and I have selected a few new ones that we are going to give the ol’ college try, and a couple of them are winners, at least in my eyes. I absolutely LOVE This is Us. It is the story of three grown siblings (triplets) – a man who is an actor, his sister who is obsessed about her weight (she is very obese), and their brother, an African American man who was born the same day as the other two, but left at a fire station, and who their parents adopted. I have only seen two programs thus far, but the twists and turns keep right on coming. Bill and I also like Designated Survivor with Keifer Sutherland, the story of the head of HUD who becomes president after a terrorist attack kills the president, all of Congress, and the other cabinet members, because he was the cabinet member selected as the designated survivor.  I also love The Good Place, which (though I’ve only seen one thus far) made me laugh out loud. And our guilty secret is Lethal Weapon. We’ll see. They may all disappoint us eventually.

The Great Pumpkin Marathon

I’m afraid it’s that time of year again, Ladies and Gentlemen. It’s September, and it’s time for my grouchy All-Things-Pumpkin post.

It’s certainly not that I don’t care for pumpkin. In fact, pumpkin pie is one of my favorite pies. My sister Jen used to make a pumpkin roll that was absolutely splendid. She hasn’t made it for me for a while. I suspect it might have something to do with the fact that I write a yearly Grouchy-Pumpkin-Post. Starbucks offers pumpkin bread which might rival my all-time favorite lemon bread as my sweet bread of choice on the rare occasions that I enter a Starbucks.

I might actually have bypassed the Grouchy-Pumpkin-Post this year because I haven’t been to Bath and Body Works for quite a while, and that is the place that most astounds me when it comes to offering pumpkin-related choices. Still, I was reminded of the All-Things-Pumpkin mindset when my sister Bec – likely in an effort to get me worked into a tizzy – began sending me photos of items she saw recently at her grocery store in Chandler, AZ. They trickled in, sent as she wandered through the store. First there was this one…..

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Followed by this…..

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Seriously? Pumpkin-flavored Cheerios?

Then this….

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Pumpkin flavored fruit snacks? Doesn’t the All-Things-Pumpkin Nation know that pumpkin is not a fruit?

Then my old friends at Kellogg’s refused to be left out of the pumpkin mix….

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And then, the final blow….

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My Oreo-worshiping husband called for a moment of silence when he saw the denigration of his favorite chocolate cream cookie by a pumpkin spice infiltration.

All I can say is, if I were the Apple Nation or the Pear Nation, I would be asking for a Congressional hearing. Pumpkin spice monopoly.

Speaking of apples and pears, I was wholly unsuccessful this year in gathering my apple and pear crop. Last year I had enough apples that I was able to make apple sauce, apple crisp, and a number of apple cakes and pies. This year my trees didn’t bear much fruit. It happens on occasion. Quite frankly, Bill is thrilled when we recognize that this will be a year of few or no apples since he has to rake up the many, many apples that end up on the grass below the trees.

My pear tree actually did bear fruit. I spent an afternoon picking pears. I then dutifully placed them in a box in the basement for them to ripen, as I had successfully done in the past. And then promptly forgot about them. By time I remembered they were there (since I didn’t have any pear-related grocery items to remind me; just sayin’), they were way beyond ripened and had moved to scary and smelly.

By the way, I recognize that my anti-pumpkin tirade is likely a result of me getting old and grouchy. That’s why this meme, posted on Facebook by a friend of mine, made me laugh out loud. This is me, my friends, this is me….

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Chinese Cheesiness

When did fortune cookies become politically correct?

fortune-cookies_2094Have you noticed this? Back in the days of yore, the papers tucked inside the almost-tasteless cookies offered actual fortunes. Something along the lines of You are about to come into a large amount of money or maybe something like A tall, dark, and good-looking stranger is about to enter your life, or my favorite, Whatever the hell you do, don’t open that secret locked door in your Great Aunt Stella’s basement and if you do – and survive – don’t  come back crying to me in Chinese.

Now the fortunes are not fortunes at all but are completely innocuous. Here are the fortunes contained within the two cookies Bill and I had after our sushi yesterday: Bill’s – Hope is the best stimulant of life; mine – Fearless courage is the foundation of victory.

See? Not fortunes. More like stuff your mother told you the next day when you came home past curfew the night before and you blamed it on your best friend’s car. Not fortunes; nags.

I’m blaming it on the trial lawyers. Maybe someone sued a Chinese restaurant because they spent their entire savings on lottery tickets when they got a fortune that read A small investment will result in great riches for you. Let’s face it; if Taylor Swift can be sued for plagiarism for the words Haters gonna hate in her song Shake it Off, Chinese fortune cookies can’t profess to see into your future without threat of lawsuit if their prediction, in fact, doesn’t transpire.

And why did the sushi restaurant from which we got these fortune cookies serve fortune cookies anyway? Aren’t fortune cookies usually served in Chinese restaurants? And really only Chinese restaurants in the United States because I’m pretty darn sure you wouldn’t go into a restaurant in, say, Beijing, and end your meal with a fortune cookie containing the fortune Our nuclear weapons are superior to your nuclear weapons or You’re wasting your time learning Spanish when if you really had foresight you would be learning Mandarin.

However, despite the fact that it was at a Japanese restaurant where we got the cookies containing these watered-down fortunes, I remain firm in my belief that there is not a prettier food than sushi. See what I mean?……

sushi

The first time I tasted sushi was many, many years ago when I visited a college chum who had left Colorado and moved with his wife to the island of Maui, Hawaii. On that trip, I also learned to use chopsticks for the first time. Surprisingly enough for a young woman who spent (at that time) most of her life eating beef on the Nebraska plains, I loved sushi from the first bite. I’m pretty sure that I recognized immediately that it was a great vehicle for what I really loved – the wasabi. My tastes have matured since then and I actually now enjoy the flavor of the fresh fish and wouldn’t even need the wasabi. Well, except for the fact that I can’t get enough of that feeling that your head is about to explode and your sinuses become completely open.

But back to fortune cookies. I promised Kaiya that she and I would make fortune cookies sometime soon. Since I will see them this weekend, I see a fortune cookie making experience in my future. I assure you that she and I will put our heads together and come up with more meaningful fortunes than A smile is your passport into the hearts of others.

Blah.

Burnt Sugar and Volleyball

When I was in middle school and high school, I was a tremendous athlete. I was the captain of our volleyball team. I was the starting pitcher for the girls’ softball team. I still hold the Nebraska girls’ record for pole vaulting.

I’m lying.

I didn’t play a single sport. Not a one. It wasn’t entirely my fault. At my high school in the 60s and 70s, there were no athletic options for girls. None. Zero. Zip. There are now, but in those days, if you weren’t a cheerleader, you got no school-sponsored exercise beyond gym class. And then most of the exercise in gym class came from attempting to outrun the gym teacher so that you didn’t have to take a shower which would require taking off your clothes in front of others.

In my case, it didn’t make a lick of difference because I likely wouldn’t have played any sports even if I’d had the option. I’m just not very athletic. Though my siblings and I all love many sports, and eagerly watched our kids and now watch our grandkids in all sorts of athletic activities, it’s safe to say that Mom and Dad weren’t troubled by too many letters of intent to any colleges for any of us.

Late last week, Addie texted me and asked if she could come over and do a test run on making crème brulee, something she wants to serve at her upcoming dinner party. Yes, you are recalling right. Addie is 13. But she has a yearly dinner party for which she prepares all of her food.

Anyway, I agreed to help her with the crème brulee test run on Saturday.

addie-putting-up-netAnd then she texted me a bit later and asked if it would be okay to set up the volleyball net in our back yard and invite two or three of her girlfriends over to play volleyball, as volleyball tryouts are being held Tuesday and Thursday.

Yep, I assured her. That would be just fine. And then, of course, Bill got to work making our backyard look like an Olympic volleyball court. He mowed an area the appropriate size. He laid down a rope to indicate boundaries. He trimmed the nearby tree. I was waiting for the truck to pull up and dump a load of sand. I love my husband.

Just before the girls were scheduled to arrive, I left for a quick trip to the grocery store. When I returned, my vision of some girls tossing a volleyball around and giggling was put to rest. Addie had set up a full-out volleyball clinic, including a coach. Now, to be fair, the coach is the mother of one of the girls, but she had played volleyball in school, and was very good and very knowledgeable. It was serious business, my friends. If those girls don’t make the team, it will be through no fault of either Addie, Bill, or me.

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Back to my area of expertise, which is certainly not volleyball. Crème Brulee.

Addie and I spent the morning making the crème brulee. And they turned out perfectly….

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Once the girls took a break from volleyball, they came inside and took a turn at using my rarely-used kitchen propane torch and burning the sugar on their individual desserts….

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I will leave you with the recipe for crème brulee, but not the recipe for successful volleyball skills. You’ll have to ask Addie.

Crème Brulee
Makes six servings

Ingredients
1 qt. heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 c. white sugar, divided
6 egg yolks
Hot water

Process
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Place the cream, vanilla bean and its pulp into a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring it to a boil, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Once it reaches temperature, remove it immediately from the heat. Cover and let it sit 15 min. to cool. Remove the vanilla bean.

In a medium bowl, whisk together ½ c. sugar and the egg yolks until the mixture just starts to lighten in color. Then add the cream A LITTLE AT A TIME, stirring continually. If you add the hot mixture too quickly, the egg mixture will scramble. Once combined, pour the custard into 6 (7-8 oz.) ramekins. Place the ramekins onto a large sheet pan or roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake just until the custard is set but still shaky in the center, about 40-45 minutes. Remove the ramekins from the pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 3 days.

When ready to serve, remove the ramekins from the refrigerator and allow 30 minutes to come to room temperature. Using the remaining sugar, spread evenly over the custard. Then, using a kitchen torch, melt the sugar and form a crispy crust.

Allow to rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Nana’s Notes: I assure you, the crème brulee did not rest 5 minutes before the girls dug in. From the sounds of delight, they must have been good.

This post linked to the GRAND Social

Saturday Smile: Let the Battle Begin

5195med3vzlA couple of weeks ago, Jll sent me the schedule for the kids’ extracurricular activities for the fall. As you might imagine with four kids, it would have been easier to read War and Peace. Soccer. Softball. Cross Country. Church activities. School trips. I would need hired help just to keep it all straight.

But one activity in particular caught my eye. Alastair was participating in an Iron Chef competition for Boy Scouts.

It was held outdoors, so the cooking apparatus was a camp stove. I would like to see the real Iron Chefs prepare a meal on a camp stove. The boys worked in teams. They were given a $20 budget, and two secret ingredients. They had to prepare a main course, a side dish and a dessert. When the leaders said go! two boys from each team ran to the grocery store. And when I say ran, I literally mean they ran on their two legs to the Safeway about a quarter mile away. I would like to see Bobby Flay running to the grocery store.

The secret ingredients? Cantaloupe and waffle cones. Alastair confided in us that their menu was chicken quesadillas, salad with melon, and s’mores inside a waffle cone.

Bill and I were observers, and I would have bet a hundred bucks that Alastair would win. After all, he is known throughout the west and midwest for being the butter carving champion of Iowa.

I started getting nervous when, upon the return of the two running boys, I saw them place four or five whole chicken thighs into a skillet over a measley campstove flame. Hmmmm, I kept thinking. They should have cut up the chicken so that it would cook more quickly.

The boys took turns turning the chicken. And turning the chicken. Though it was getting dark, I could see that the chicken wasn’t cooking quickly. It was all I could do to keep from walking over to them and suggesting they slice the chicken into small pieces. But then Alastair would have gotten a demerit or whatever Boy Scouts get as punishment. Flogged by an Eagle Scout?

As it neared 8 o’clock and it was so dark that they could no longer see their food, Bill and I left, praying that whoever had volunteered to be judge wouldn’t die of salmonella. The next day I texted Jll to find out if Alastair’s team won.

Here is her text back to me: Inedible. Dave says the chicken was raw and they were not allowed to eat it. Third place out of 3. But they liked the dessert.

Don’t give up your plastic butter carving knife, Alastair.

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Have a great weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: Temple Secrets

searchIn the way that I become aware of books to read (Amazon recommendations, daily deals offered by Book Bubs and Goodreads, regular emails from a variety of publishers), Temple Secrets by Susan Gabriel was somehow brought to my attention. My interest was captured because of my love affair with Savannah, GA, a city I have only once visited but that is the location of many books I choose to read. Think Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Only don’t think Midnight when it comes to this book. I wanted to like it a lot more than I did. The premise gave me great hope.

In this novel, the Temple family has been an influential part of Savannah’s history for generations. One of the reasons they keep their stature and influence is because going back as far as the Civil War, they have been keeping a written history of the indiscretions of the most well-known people of the city. Knowledge is power, as they say.

The book has been safely kept in a safe deposit box until suddenly, one-by-one, the secrets are being printed in the daily newspaper. No one knows who is responsible, because it certainly isn’t matriarch Iris Temple, the keeper of the book. Nor is it her half-sister Queenie, the daughter of one of Iris’ mother’s black housekeepers who has the same father as Iris. Queenie currently lives with Iris and cares for her. Nevertheless, Queenie, along with many others, becomes a suspect because it seems Miss Iris is an irascible, nasty woman with many enemies.

When Iris suddenly dies from a stroke, likely related to her concern over the release of the secrets, her estranged daughter Rose comes home from her ranch in Wyoming to bury her mother. She didn’t expect, however, to begin to see the family unravel as more and more secrets are revealed, some of which deeply affect those she loves.

Gabriel’s characters are interesting, and I rather enjoyed the descriptions of voodoo and Gullah magic. It just seemed that some of the situations were unbelievable and the characters, though interesting, didn’t seem realistic.

I would read another book by Gabriel as she writes primarily about the south which is my interest range. Still, it wasn’t the best book I’ve read about either Gullah magic or racial inequities.

Here is link to the book.

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Thursday Thoughts

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Jessie, second from the left with her Capstone Project group, is still and always, little.

Would You Like Ketchup With That?
When my niece Jessie was a little girl (well, arguably, she’s still a little girl, though in her 20s. A good wind could blow her away.) Anyhoo, when asked what she wanted for lunch, she might say a plain hotdog. In fact, the first time she asked me for a plain hotdog, I — quite reasonably, I think — placed a weiner into a bun and handed it to her. No ketchup or mustard. No onions or pickle relish or chili. A weiner and a bun. No, I want a plain hotdog, she said firmly. I eventually came to understand that for her, a plain hotdog meant a hotdog bun. Period. No weiner. No ketchup. No mustard. A bun. This is the same girl who, along with her sister Kacy, would go through the salad bar and place croutons on the plate, douse the croutons with ranch dressing and call it a salad. Like bread much? I thought about this recently as I served Cole a hot dog in his preferred style…..

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Autumn Leaves
September is perhaps my favorite month of the year. I like that the days are still warm, but nights start to cool off. I like that I can without guilt give up on my flowers and let them play out until they give up the goat. I like the changing leaves. I was recently at a nearby park and saw this beautiful maple tree that is just starting to turn…..

fall-leaves

And yet, I find that the fall has a bit of a melancholy feel to it. Perhaps it’s the flip side of all of those things that I just listed that I like. Click on this link and tell me if Nat King Cole doesn’t make you tear up.

Slob
My sister Jen and I recently had a conversation about a woman she knows who, she said, is perhaps the worst dishwasher loader ever. This is in contrast to my daughter-in-law Alyx, who can load a dishwasher so efficiently that I think she could make it hold every dish I own. Unfortunately, here is a picture I took of the dishwasher after I loaded it recently. I’m not proud of it, my friends…..

sloppy-dishwasher

Phresh Phish
I had lunch the other day, and as usual, paid for it with my credit card with no problems. However, as I walked to my car, I got a text message that indicated my credit card (they named the bank that issued it) had a problem, and requested that I call the toll-free number provided. Since I had just used the card, I felt that it was reasonable that there really could be a problem. I was just about to press the number they provided, when I heard (in my head) my husband’s voice saying, “Never assume the number they give in a text or email is safe. Instead, always call the number on the card. And so I did. And I learned that there wasn’t a thing wrong with my card. The customer service representative complimented me on being a wise consumer, and told me the text was undoubtedly phishing. Not only am I proud of myself for not falling for their dirty tricks, I’m also proud that I know the correct way to spell p-h-i-s-h. Don’t mess with me, tricksters. I wasn’t born yesterday. And now, if you’ll excuse me, there is a Nigerian prince who has asked for my help.

Ciao.