Cooking All Day

Easter Sunday looms in the very near future, and that means a week of food preparation. Oh, and a celebration of the resurrection of our Lord, which often gets lost in the talk about ham and Easter bunnies.

This year, I am cooking Easter dinner for much of our Arizona family, but the meal will be served at the house of my brother and sister-in-law. You might recall that Sami broke her back just over a month ago, and while she’s doing remarkably well, she isn’t quite ready to prepare a big holiday dinner, or, frankly, even withstand the rigors of a holiday dinner at someone else’s house. Our answer is to provide her the comfort of her own home, but not require her to slaughter the fatted calf herself. I will do the slaughtering as it were, with help from others.

Yesterday morning I did my first last shop at Walmart, where, to my surprise, I was able to get most everything I needed except for Gruyere cheese for the cheesy scalloped potatoes. I will purchase the cheese when I do my second or third last shop somewhere that isn’t Walmart.

As I started planning out my week (just which day do I make my lemon pie and how long should I marinate my leg of lamb) I recalled an article I came across entitled 10 Tips for Cooking All Day Without Making a Mess. You know that I didn’t write the article, because if I did, it would be entitled 10 Tips for Cooking All Day and Making Such a Mess That You Can’t Even Find the First Thing You Cooked But It’s Probably Under the Soggy Lettuce Leaves.

Here are their suggestions….

  1. Start with a clean kitchen. So I’m in trouble right off the bat, because my kitchen is never really clean. There are either dirty dishes sitting on the counter or clean dishes draining in the sink that have not yet been (nor will probably ever be) put away. There is maybe a window of seven minutes in the evening when I have loaded the dishwasher with our dinner dishes that I would consider my kitchen to be clean, but by that time I’m looking longingly at my jammies.
  2. 2. Make a game plan before you start. Another fly ball. No game plan. I have been known to start preparation for a cake only to realize that I have no eggs. As for a recipe, if I haven’t pinned it on Pinterest, I’m unlikely to ever locate it.
  3. Use the right tools for the job. I almost have this one nailed. I have a tool for nearly every job you could possibly think of. I just don’t know where it is.
  4. Get canisters that are big enough to fit your measuring cups. Boom. A home run. My measuring cups all fit in my canisters. Of course, the measuring cup I covet is the one used by Ree Drummond on her Food Network television shoe that is a two-cup measuring cup which would fit in exactly none of my canisters. I actually have one sitting in my cart on Amazon just waiting for me to justify it in some way and therefore hit the purchase-this-with-one-click button. I’ve come thiiiiiiiiis close.
  5. Measure over the sink. This is a good tip, something it never occurred to me to do. Since reading it, I do it and it results in fairly easy cleanup. This is a good thing as I always, ALWAYS spill my flour all over my counter.
  6. Use a plate as a giant spoon rest. I can’t. They’re all in the dishwasher or stacked up in the sink.
  7. Make friends with aluminum foil. Oh man, Mr. Aluminum Foil is my besty. That, and Mrs. Parchment Paper, both of which I carefully crinkle up and throw away and give a passing thought to not even washing the pan. I mostly do wash it. Did I say that too quickly?
  8. Get rid of food scraps. You know, I find Rachael Ray to be one of the most annoying people on television (is she still on television?). Don’t call olive oil EVOO and don’t call thick soup stoup. It’s irritating. But while on the surface, her idea of having a garbage bowl seems dumb, it actually works really well for someone like me, who finds opening up the cupboard and throwing things in the garbage to be too much work. I mean, seriously? I can’t even write those words with a straight face. But reality is reality. Having a bowl in which to place all of my various scraps and other garbage as I’m cooking works really well for me.
  9. Tidy up as you go. Nope.
  10. Schedule cleaning breaks. Nope to the second power.

And so, this holiday, like last, will remain disorganized, but we will muster through. At the end of the day we will all have full stomachs and will be able to rest in the knowledge that even if my kitchen is dirty, I have still been saved through our Lord’s death and resurrection.

Thursday Thoughts

Erin go Bragh
I am preparing corned beef and cabbage this evening rather than tomorrow for several reasons. The first is that I’m not Irish, so I can make my corned beef whenever I darn well please; second, it works better for some of the people who will be seated at my table; third, St. Patrick’s Day is on Friday when Catholics abstain from meat, so Jen and I elected to make the meal on Thursday. Of course, the Phoenix archdiocese announced last Sunday that the no-meat restriction was being lifted for St. Patrick’s Day. I find that funny, but I won’t argue because we don’t have to try to fight the Catholic masses in our effort to find good fish-and-chips, at least for one Friday in Lent.

Fish Fry

Culvers fish-and-chips

And just what do I mean by that last statement? Culver’s offers really, really good fried fish in the form of sandwiches and fish-and-chips. They proclaim – via television commercials – to fly the cod in fresh and bread it themselves right in the store. I have no reason to doubt that Culver employees’ mornings are spent breading fish. All I will tell you is that I believe that every single Catholic in the East Valley over the age of 55 was at our nearby Culver’s last Friday evening. Bill and I arrived early — around 4:30 — and the line to order was out the door. I sent Bill on a futile search for a table while I stood in line. He came back about the time I was getting ready to order and proclaimed not a table to be had. So I ordered our food to go, sad that it would only be marginally warm by time we rolled into our garage, but what’s a Catholic to do? As we were waiting for our food, a table right near where I was standing opened up, and I shot myself like a cannonball into the seat. (The 98-year-old woman that I knocked out of the way got up from the floor almost entirely by herself.) I told Bill that because our order was to-go, he would need to wait for our number to be called. Now here’s where my proclivity for exaggeration is coming to bite me, because you won’t believe what I’m telling you. Bill waited a full 30 minutes to get our order. While he waited up front, senior citizens continued to troll around the store like sharks looking for dinner. The most wonderful thing about this story is that once Bill came to our table with the food (which was piping hot!), he wasn’t a bit crabby. He had spent the entire time chatting it up with another NASCAR fan, and they discussed the upcoming race. My husband has a patient temperament in many ways.

Customer Serviceless
I’m not anti-Walmart; I’m really not. Their prices are lower than other supermarkets and that alone makes me go there once in a while for one thing or another. Yesterday Bill needed some kind of gardening item, and since I needed a few things for tonight’s meal, I decided I might as well pick them up while he did his shopping. One of the things I needed was horseradish, and I find that to be one of the items I have trouble finding in stores, particularly the kind that needs to be refrigerated. So, there was a young man stocking shelves, and I politely asked him where I could find horseradish. He gave me such a blank stare — and for so long — that I wondered if I had inadvertently spoken in German.  That seemed unlikely, however, since I don’t speak German. He sent me on a wild goose chase because he, of course, not only didn’t know where the horseradish was, but didn’t have the slightest idea WHAT it was. Good thing I didn’t ask him for braunschweiger.

Sprechen Sie Deutsch?
And my last comment about not speaking German reminds me of something that happened when Bill and I were on our big European Adventure back in 2008. We were in Germany having lunch, and I needed to use a bathroom. I had taken four years of high school German, but I can’t say I ever really learned the language. Nevertheless, I decided to try speaking German to the food server. “Wo is das badezimmer?” I asked the startled woman. She looked at me with puzzlement, so I repeated my question. Finally, she said to me in PERFECT ENGLISH, “Are you looking for the toilette? It’s right back there.” Now then, a few weeks ago, Bill and Bec and I went to a German restaurant here in Mesa, and while waiting for a table, we sat at the bar. Seated next to me was a very nice woman who was from Germany but lives now in AZ. We got to talking, and I related my story to her. She laughed, and explained that what I had actually asked the woman was, “Where is a place to take a bath?” Ah ha. That explains the German waitress’s puzzlement.

Ciao.

Follow Through

The other day I was at Walmart. You know, Walmart: The King of Customer Service. I was looking for something specific in the pharmacy, and because the Walmart Pharmacy area has aisle after aisle of products, I was not having any success finding it. A pharmacy employee walked by clearly headed Someplace Important (his break?), and I called to him and asked the location of the product. He literally didn’t even slow down, but kept walking and shouted back at me, “It’s on the aisle just after the vitamin aisle,” undoubtedly thinking, “My Cup-O-Noodles isn’t going to cook itself, Lady.”

Okay. I found the correct aisle, and yet it took me a very long time to find what I was looking for. I finally did. Hoo-rah!

imgresBelieve it or not, I thought about this situation when I heard the Gospel reading Sunday from Matthew. In the gospel, Matthew tells us that Jesus was walking along beside the Sea of Galilee and came across, first, Andrew and his brother Peter, who were casting fishing nets, and then, two more brothers, James and John, also fishing with their father Zebedee. As Jesus passed them, he shouted out, “Come and follow me, I’ll make you fishers of men.” And so, they all did.

How much nicer it would have been if the Walmart employee had said to me, “Come and follow me, I will show you where your item is located.” There is, of course, no comparison to a Walmart employee demonstrating simple customer service and Jesus asking strangers to follow him and help change the world. Still, that invitation to follow me is welcome in times of trouble and distress.

I have often wondered, and frankly did as I listened to the story this time, if the men knew of Jesus beforehand, if they had heard his teachings, and that’s why they dropped what they were doing and followed him. Or was there just something so charismatic about Jesus that they followed without question? The problem with scripture readings, of course, is that they are snapshots. There is some context to this whole story that we must fill in ourselves. The priest/homilist pointed out that every story we know from the scripture makes it clear that the apostles weren’t crazy about their career choices. Scripture tells us about the frustration of empty fishing nets; the discomfort of rough seas; Peter, Andrew, John and James sitting around mending their nets, a mundane activity for sure. Matthew was a despised tax collector, and he couldn’t have loved that job. So perhaps they had simply heard about Jesus and thought to themselves, “What could it hurt? We can follow him and see what happens.”

As I listened, I also wondered just what Zebedee thought when his sons up and left him to pull in the nets by himself. He couldn’t have been very happy about his sons walking away. And then he had to go home and tell his wife that James and John weren’t coming home because they followed that crazy preacher. A few chapters later in Matthew’s gospel, he tells us that that James’ and John’s mother asked Jesus if her wonderful sons could be on his right and left when they were all in heaven. I bet she thought that was the least he could do after having taken her sons away from she and Zeb.

Nevertheless, follow Jesus, they did. And they may not have been the most reliable of disciples (betrayal, denial, doubt), but their decision to follow Jesus changed our lives as well as their own. Now it’s my turn to say yes to Jesus when he asks me to follow him every day of my life.

This post linked to the GRAND Social

Thursday Thoughts

Do They Come in Different Colors?
Here is a conversation I overheard at Walmart last week:

Customer: I’m looking for a squeegee. Do you carry them?
Clerk: Yes we do. Do you want a big one or a small one?
Customer: I would like a big one.
Clerk: We only carry one size.

Wait, what?

The Skies’ the Limit
I recently got a $100 gift card for Amazon from my nephew and niece as their way of thanking me for something I crocheted for them. It was such a nice gesture because they had already paid me for the item as well. Scoooooooooooooooooore! Anyway, a $100 GIFT CARD FROM AMAZON. I am practically at a standstill because I simply don’t know how to spend my hundred bucks at Amazon. It’s not that I can’t come up with an idea. It’s Amazon; there is practically no end to what I can buy – or at least a hundred bucks worth of just about anything. I believe they outlawed the sale of body parts, but I don’t care because thus far my kidneys work fine. I’m trying to think of things that I have wanted but have told myself I couldn’t justify the purchase. I’m considering a new Wustof 8-inch chef’s knife. What would you buy?

Would You Like Fries With That?
Bill and I grabbed a quick lunch at Arby’s yesterday as we were doing some shopping. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t expect Arby’s counter help to have graduated summa cum laude from Harvard. I do wish, however, that they had completed a basic math course and developed some simple customer service skills. Here was our order: One Arby’s Classic Meal, One BLT sandwich, one drink. It sounds simple, doesn’t it? I can’t begin to tell you how many times he had to ask us a question about our meal. He even needed to bring in help at one point. Bill was paying, so I went to sit down. After an unexpectedly long period of time, Bill came to the table with our order. As he sat down, he deadpanned, “I must say, he put the FUN in dysFUNctional.” Well said.

But It Keeps My Hair From Blowing
Every time I hear a flight attendant give the spiel about how our seat bottoms will serve as a life preserver in case of a water crash, I think of what Butch Cassidy said to the Sundance Kid in the movie when they are about to dive off a cliff into the river. Butch Cassidy says, “What’s the matter?” The Kid says, “I can’t swim.” Butch responds, “Are you crazy? The fall will probably kill you.” I’m pretty sure that my seat bottom isn’t going to save my life if the plane plummets into the Atlantic Ocean. But I also recall these lines when I put on my helmet prior to taking my scooter out for a ride. I can’t really envision a situation in which my scooter would fall over and I would hit my well-protected head. And I’m not sure my light-weight helmet will keep me protected in the case of a real emergency. Still, it’s better than nothing.

Casey’s at Bat
Addie called us somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 o’clock on Monday evening inviting us to come to her softball game. We were literally just sitting down to eat our dinner. Such a late dinnertime is unusual for us because I shoot for 6 o’clock or so, but life happened and we ran late. So we didn’t get to see her game. But Tuesday, when she came by to play with Kaiya, Mylee, and Cole, she told us that they won a really exciting game, in which she pitched a lot. And when she was up at bat, she had no strike-outs, a couple of runs and a couple of walks. Here she is getting ready for one of her pitches….

13533253_10209022398493322_2983687789254036365_n

I’m happy that my grandkids enjoy baseball and softball. Now if I could just get my head around the game.

Ciao.

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

I recently came across a book – in fact, I am reviewing the book on Friday – entitled Dimestore. The book is a nonfiction memoir about a writer whose father owned a dimestore in the small Virginia town in which she grew up.

Oh man, I thought. Why couldn’t my dad have owned a dimestore instead of a bakery when I was growing up? Of course, I don’t really mean that because having parents who owned a business that produced scrumptious goodies every day was pretty darn good. But still…..

As I was basking in this good feeling about dimestores, I began to wonder at what age one must be to actually know what I’m talking about when I say dimestore. So I did some quite unscientific research. I sent two identical text messages – one to my 35-year-old son Court and one to my 13-year-old granddaughter Adelaide. Here is what the text said:

Research question: If I talk about a dime store, do you know what I’m talking about w/o looking it up?

I heard back fairly quickly from both of them.

Court: No idea. I assume it’s like a dollar store?

Addie’s response was shorter, but more repentent….

No. Sorry.

I will be honest, however. I was pretty sure Addie wouldn’t know what a dimestore was, but I thought Court would know. And, based on his answer, he could figure it out. Dimestore v. Dollar Tree? Inflation?

But I guess rather than comparing it to a dollar store, I would describe it more like a much smaller version of Walmart. And much more fun simply BECAUSE it was smaller.

In Columbus, where I grew up, we had not one, but TWO, dimestores in our downtown. One was called Scott’s Dime Store. I think that one was locally owned. A block further down our main street was Woolworth’s, another dimestore.

CC_My-Childhood-Woolworths-Circa-1960s

Of course, during my formative years in Columbus, our main street was the only game in town. There was JC Penneys, Montgomery Ward, and a whole bunch of smaller locally-owned stores and cafes. Columbus also had two bakeries on our main street, one of which was the Gloor Bakery, and the other of which was the other bakery, which name we never spoke. Of course, Woolworth’s was a national chain, but we didn’t know that at the time. It was just another beloved dimestore, but one that included a lunch counter with much-sought-after booths by the window for your cherry coke.

Since my research suggests that non-baby-boomers are unfamiliar with dimestores, I will explain. Dimestores were (are there still dimestores in existence?) stores that carried a little bit of a lot of things at a reasonable price. Our dimestores carried things ranging from tennis balls to gold fish; from penny candy to sewing notions; from school supplies to kids’ shoes. Oh what fun it was to just wander into the dimestore and browse the aisles.

Scott’s Dime Store is where I bought my grandmother afghan kits that included everything necessary to make a ripple afghan. It is also the location of an incident about which my grandmother spoke the rest of her life. When I was 4 or 5 years old, she and I walked the two blocks between her apartment above our bakery and Scott’s Dime Store for reasons I have long ago forgotten. (It wouldn’t surprise me if the only reason we went was to kill time by browsing and perhaps (probably) to buy some candy. All I know is we were half the way back to her apartment when she glanced down and noticed that I was barefoot.

“Oy yoy yoy Krisily,” she probably said because oy yoy yoy was her universal term of surprise or frustration and –ily was added to every one of her grandkids’ names as a show of affection. “Where are your shoes?”

Oh boy, I thought. No clue.

So we walked back to Scott’s Dime Store and went up and down each aisle until we finally located my shoes. She put them back on my feet and I received, of course, not a single scold from her. In fact, she possibly bought more candy.

By the way, as another arm of research, I asked Bill if he knew what I meant by dimestore. He, of course, knew exactly what a dimestore was. He pointed out, however, that they called them 5 and Dimes instead of dimestores.

Big City shoppers!

Fire the Underbutler

Housons 2015

Bill, Bec, Jen and I enjoyed our annual New Year’s Eve LUNCH at Houston’s in Scottsdale. We were sound asleep at midnight.

The first Monday after New Year’s Day is always a combination of a letdown and a great relief. I’m sure many of you are like me, that is, beginning somewhere around Thanksgiving you enjoy an extravaganza of eating, drinking, shopping, and partying that is like no other time of the year. I swear that since December 24, I have eaten every iteration of beef imaginable. My colon is going to seize.

Like many others, I woke up yesterday morning determined to start anew. I went to Walmart fixing to purchase nothing but healthy items so that I could cook wonderful and nutritious meals for Bill and me.  I, of course, was not the only one who had decided to stock up their larder after the holidays, particularly here in the Valley of the Sun with the return of the winter visitors. I’m pretty sure I say this every year: Do my larder stocking during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. Someday I will actually remember this.

Nevertheless, things went pretty well Walmart-wise, until I tried to pay for my groceries. As you are all probably aware, stores everywhere are in the process of changing their credit card machines over to ones that accept the new chipped credit cards, which mine is. Many more stores are ready to go here in Arizona than they are in Denver. In Denver the only store I have found ready to go is my little neighborhood liquor store, which is owned by a friendly husband and wife who apparently are smarter than King Soopers when it comes to installing the new technology.

Anyhoo, after the cashier rang up all of my groceries, she gave me the total. Once I got over the shock of how much she said I owe, I stuck my card into the card reader and it proceeded to tell me my chip was damaged. Now, that was a possibility of course. However, minutes before, the chip had NOT been damaged at Target. But, things happen and perhaps it had gotten damaged while riding in the car in my purse in the front seat. You never know. The cashier, however, told me that her particular Walmart store had been having technical troubles the past couple of days with their little credit card machines. (Perhaps they should contact my Denver liquor store owners.) She kept trying, and the people behind me in line kept getting more and more impatient. As for me, I kept telling her, “Never mind, I have another card I can use.”

Finally, she reluctantly agreed to let me use my second credit card. However, you guessed it. It, too, wouldn’t go through. “We’re having lots of trouble with our little machines,” she told me once again. By this time the line behind me was becoming just short of belligerent. A riot was about to ensue. The seniors were revving up their electric carts.

“I have one last option,” I told her. (Golf clapping from the masses behind me.) “I have a debit card.”

Well, I’m happy to tell you that my debit card worked and a riot was forestalled. Remember the olden days when we used, uh, cash? Something that mostly doesn’t exist in my wallet.

This, by the way, was not a problem faced by Lord and Lady Grantham Sunday night in the Season 6 premiere of Downton Abbey. Financial issues, yes. A possible need to fire the underbutler was the greatest crisis Robert and Cora are facing following the season premiere. There is a promise of much greater drama, however. I won’t say any more at this time as I’m not wont to be a spoiler. (See, sitting down and watching one episode makes me say things like “not wont.”) The only thing I will say is, oh Anna. You’re beginning to get on my very last nerve.

With her bad luck, her credit card wouldn’t go through at Walmart either. Although it would undoubtedly be Mrs. Patmore who would be sent to stock up the larder. And she would actually call it a larder, as well. Oh no! I’m starting to speak in Downton Abbeyese.  I may have to speak to Bill about firing the underbutler. Oh, wait. He is the underbutler.

Thursday Thoughts

Baby You Can Drive My Car
When Bill and I traveled to Chicago this past week, we parked our car at a hotel near the airport and took their shuttle to DIA. The shuttle driver picked us up shortly after we called. He was a pleasant fellow who chatted almost ceaselessly with us since we were sitting in the front of the bus. We didn’t mind because he was very nice and quite informative. After we had established that we were BFFs, I said to him, “I imagine when you have a day off, the last thing you want to do is drive.” He looked at me with some surprise and told me that he LOVED to drive and never got tired of it. Now that’s a concept I simply can’t understand. I drive every day. I probably put several hundred miles on my car each week, give or take. I hope I can continue to drive for a long while yet. But I never, EVER, enjoy it. Never have. Never will. If I go to purgatory (or worse) after I die, my punishment will be driving a bus day in and day out.

Billy Joe Royal, circa 1966, doing his best George Harrison imitation.

Billy Joe Royal, circa 1966, doing his best George Harrison imitation.

Filling My Brain
As we were driving home from the airport after we had retrieved our car, Bill mentioned something about the boondocks. I don’t remember what we were talking about. Anyway, he went on to ask me if I remembered the old song Down in the Boondocks. Not only do I remember it (Billy Joe Royal), but I can recall every single word of the song, and proceeded to sing it to Bill. Undoubtedly that was a joy for him. But after I completed my tune (People put me down ‘cause that’s the side of town I was born in….), it occurred to me that I use a considerable number of brain cells remembering the words to old tunes from the 1950s and 60s. I also can remember old phone numbers (Columbus home phone number 564-5773, Columbus bakery number 564-7431, believe me, I could go on). And yet I call each of my grandkids by a name that isn’t theirs, generally Addie; but I call Addie by Kaiya’s name. Go figure. Bill assures me I don’t have to worry because I have a huge number of brain cells available, but still…..

Ode to Acting Old
Yesterday afternoon at Walmart, I’m afraid I performed a perfect old-person act, and when I say perfect, I mean perfectly embarrassing. There was a young mother and her 3-ish-old child in front of me in line. She had groceries on the conveyor belt, but there was a 2 foot area with no groceries. Without giving it a thought, I put up the dividing bar and began loading my groceries onto the conveyor belt. The young woman said nothing, and it wasn’t until I had ALL OF MY GROCERIES loaded onto the belt that I noticed she had an entire grocery cart left to check out. Ladies and gentlemen, she wasn’t done putting her groceries onto the belt. I apologized profusely in that way that old people do when they screw up. She was perfectly nice, but I can imagine that she was thinking, “Seriously Old Woman? You didn’t see an entire OVERFLOWING cart of groceries?” Furthermore, because my groceries were taking up the entire conveyor belt, she had to hand her groceries from that cart one-by-one to the checker. At one point the transfer of a 40-oz bottle of Gatorade wasn’t successful, and it fell onto the floor, spilling everywhere. Orange Gatorade.  By the way, it wasn’t over yet for the poor young woman. As I was making my biscotti yesterday afternoon, I couldn’t find the bag of dried cranberries I KNEW I had purchased. All of a sudden, I realized that they had probably tumbled onto the woman’s groceries. She will get home and wonder where in the heck the dried cranberries came from. Oh yeah, she’ll think. The crazy old lady. Sigh.

Tiny Tray

Teeny, tiny tray.

Teeny, tiny tray.

Bill and I flew home from Chicago on Frontier Airlines, and we had the funniest seats. This, by the way, is a follow up to my post earlier this week about flying. The seats were stationary, reclining not at all, and were hard as rocks. But the funniest things were the trays. They were no more than 10 inches by 4 inches and literally barely fit my glass and my can. Not all of the rows had these particular seats, but our row and the row behind us were so blessed. Perhaps we were guinea pigs. I vote no.

petunias preplant

Petunias awaiting planting….

Pretty Petunias
I bought $45 dollars’ worth of petunias yesterday. I always put different colored petunias in the little garden area that lines our fountain in the back yard. Every summer I simply love the colors and the garden makes me happy. But man, there is simply not a job I dislike more than planting my petunias. I do them a few at a time, making the job bearable.

Ciao.