Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Just In Case You Don't Understand The South

I am new to the podcast world.  For some reason I didn't get the podcast memo and had no idea how much fun they could be. Go ahead and call me tragically unhip. It won't offend me because I know I am.

Son1 tries to keep me in the loop of what is hot and what is not, generally unsuccessfully, but he insisted I snag S-Town, set in Woodstock, Alabama.  It is an extremely small town located between Birmingham and Tuscaloosa so I thought I would give it a try.

The podcast is part of an NPR hour long broadcast, This American Life. It is an investigative murder series hosted by Brian Reed.  It began with a series of telephone calls to Reed from a rather eccentric Woodstock local, John B. McLemore, horologist, gardener, depressive,  and master critic of life. It can be found here.

I am adding this warning, the language is strong, and this story is anything but typical of our area, but people like this are around.  It took about 15 minutes for this series to suck me in completely. The best thing about a podcast is that it is like a teacup poodle, easily totable.  As long as I have a pocket and my cell phone I can listen to it anywhere and any time.

If you want to hear a tale of drinking, drugs, rednecks, death, tattoos, racism, secret mazes, misfits, conspiracy, global warming, and every other thing you can imagine  (or even things you've never begun to imagine) this might be for you. Even if you those things are not in your wheelhouse this series is so compelling that you might want to at least listen to episode 1.

If you do listen to it, tall me what you think.  I plan on heading to Woodstock soon just to see what is out there, and maybe go to the lumber yard there just because I feel I need to go.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Positively Monday

As I have said on previous Mondays, in order to keep my mind set in a good place, I end each day thinking about the best thing or things that happened that day. For me it is so much better to dwell on life's positives instead of wallowing in aggravation, despair, angst, self pity (name your poison here) , yadda, yadda, yadda. This does not mean every day is perfect.  In fact, most of my days are far from perfect, but I am choosing to revel in those moments that create a sense of calm, excitement, or wonder.

Monday: Got to spend the entire day at home alone.  Occasionally I love a day like this to recharge my batteries, and get things organized without interrupted time.

Tuesday: The mornings are glorious now, the pollen is all but gone, and I was able to have a couple of cups of coffee on the deck just listening to the birds.

Wednesday: TheHub had a dinner meeting so I grabbed a chicken meal from Bojangles, ate in front of the TV and caught up on several shows I had DVR'd.  I love being able to watch an hour long show by zipping through and taking only about 15 minutes to follow the plot line. (And yes, I understand I am missing some of the intricacies of the story but I am not deeply enough invested to care abut anything but the major story line. I will never do to a show I really like. Can you say "Game of Thrones")

Thursday:  Morning coffee on the deck with birds singing  was really nice but the best thing about the day was Son2.  He has been working at Mom's house in my dad's old workshop making these really cool vases for the participants at Independence Place to give their Moms on Mother's Day. He and his gal pal hung around a little after and ate dinner with Mom which met her social needs, plus she eats much better when someone else is there.  And can you guess what happens when she eats food? She actually feels better and has more energy. Imagine that! So special thanks to you two. You made my night so much easier.

Friday: Got the car cleaned out, loaded Mom's lawnmower in the car (It is in her way since she has never cut the lawn in her life and started using a lawn service after Dad's death. But everything is in her way now and everything must be taken care of. Right.  This.  Minute. After taking care of the intrusive lawnmower, we headed to the lake place. We got there is enough time to wash the pollen off the porch so we could sit out there and enjoy the sunset. Nirvana!

Saturday: A/c at the lake place is on the fritz.  Bummer and it was kind of hot, but we have a big screened porch plus one of those magnetic screens on the house door to the porch so we were able to leave the bugs outside, the door open  and the fans on so the air at least moved. Late at night the storms came and the temps dropped quite a bit, enough that we actually had to sleep with a sheet and light cotton blanket covering us.  Sleep perfection, breezy stormy night with occasional owl hoots.

Sunday: Home again, home again, jiggety jig. We had plans to be at church Sunday evening to pack food for a world hunger mission. In 2 hours about 150 volunteers packed, sealed and boxed 50,000 meals. The church will be doing this for a couple of more days so I will probably volunteer at least once more because I truly do believe it is a blessing to be a blessing.

And apparently when I called Mom and she didn't answer when we got home from the lake, dressed and went on our little service mission then went out to eat I caused her severe angst which impacted My Beloved Sister.  It seems that by 3 pm Mom had decided I was in a wreck and dead on one of the little country roads between here and the lake. Don't ask me why.  By 7 pm she wanted my sister to drive her to the closest emergency room we would pass driving home from the lake.  My beloved sister had tried to call our cells which we had turned off during the meal packing (per request) and neither TheHub or I had turned our ringers back on  when we were at the restaurant. By shortly after nine when I finally called her she was in near hysterics and it was all my fault.  I would feel guilty but her crisis level was exactly the same when her refrigerator alarm beeped last week indicating her water filter needed to be changed, or when she got a piece of junk mail fishing for her to renew her car warranty.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Sleep Blogging

I am looking for an answer to a purely hypothetical question. If you are trying to read your blog on your Ipad while in bed (nearly asleep) and delete a post accidentally while half awake is there a way to retrieve it or is it gone for the ages it?  Not that it happened to me or anything but I am somewhat curious.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Positively Monday on Tuesday

It seems Monday came and is now a memory.  I promise this was positively ready to post Sunday night, but due to user error and a mountain of Monday chores someone forgot to hit publish.

Monday:  Slept like a log until about 8:30.  My bed is great and I can have all the pillows I want. The Empire has not gotten on the hotel dream bed bandwagon and I had 3 very unhappy nights trying to sleep there.

Tuesday: Spent most of the day with Mom at a couple of doctors and then getting her prescriptions filled and checking things in her house because I had abandoned her for 4 days. Good new is she is doing OK physically.

Wednesday:  Caught up on two of my DVRed addictions! (I did forget it was Wednesday though until mid day so I missed my Wednesday class)

Thursday: We missed using our tickets to see Phantom of the Opera while we were in New York.  We were able to trade them in for seats to Thursday's performance.  It is not my favorite play but it was still visually stunning.

Friday:  Beautiful day and weather was perfect for grilling a steak while sitting on the deck with TheHub and an adult beverage.

Saturday: We were supposed to go to the lake but TheHub was not feeling well.  Instead I got a lot done on some projects for The Independence Place Spring Sale.

Sunday:  Easter celebrations with the family.  It was a really nice day with a spectacular dessert!

And the new addition to today's post is this ditty I found on Youtube: Hooray for Tuesday. I have never heard it before and it is an odd oldie, but it is about Tuesday so possibly enjoy it.  (It does have a rather long intro )

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Lazy Chantilly Cake or A Comedy of Errors: You decide!

Last week when we were trying to fly to New York the weather was not exactly cooperating and our flight that was cancelled but rescheduled the next morning kept getting delayed and delayed then delayed again.  When that happens it seems a lot of the fellow passengers begin talking among themselves and TheHub and I found ourselves talking to 2 delightful gentlemen. One was a former NY Times reporter who lived in Shanghai before relocating to Los Angeles.  He was visiting friends in Birmingham, before returning to NYC to visit his publisher. (Though I did not ask I am assuming he had a book deal in the works). The other gentleman was a former Brooklyn resident who had moved to Birmingham after his retirement to be close to his grandchildren.

Somehow during the conversation the topic turned to foods, restaurants, and bakeries.  I know there are a lot of really good restaurants in town, but I am always amazed when people who have lived in places with phenomenal eating establishments talk about how good the food here is. Not only do they love the food here but both were thrilled to find places that are very easy to access. I guess, because we live in a driving city with parking lots throughout, accessibility never really enters into my mind, but both men talked about how simple it is to get into every restaurant in town by car.  I suppose it is true because even those places with little on site parking all have valet parking services so you can get out of your car right at the front door of any restaurant in town. Additionally nearly every place in town has street level seating, so there are no stairs up or down. I imagine you never really think about the things your hometown has to offer, focusing instead on what is not there. (Bad, bad of me)

At one point the discussion started focusing on desserts and bakeries, and the one man who had moved here talked about chantilly cake.  It is evidently his all time favorite cake and he told us every place in town that makes it.  TheHub has not stopped talking about it since, and we did see one at Publix the other day, but I thought 27 bucks was a little too much to pay for a cake we were unsure if we would even like..  Instead I looked up a couple of recipes and decided to use a combination of two to come up with our personal variation of one

I notice both recipes called for a traditional yellow cake.  I knew I had a yellow cake mix in the pantry so I decided to whip it up and save a huge amount of time.  When I pulled out the yellow cake I realized it was a pineapple cake mix.  At first I was bummed out but underneath the pineapple cake was a strawberry cake mix.  Since the cake is filled with berries I decided the strawberry cake would be just fine, so I made it.  Then, as I was getting ready to pour it into my cake pans, I remembered I had taken one of my round cake pans to the lake place and left it there.  My options were to run out and buy another round pan or punt and make a square cake. So, of course, the square cake option won.

Chantilly Cake

For the cake
1 baked 2 layer yellow cake* (or go wild and make strawberry)

For the syrup
1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam (Yeah right, I had none so I used lingonberry jam. Worked fine!)
2 tablespoons hot water

For the frosting
1/2 pint heavy cream, whipped
8 ounces marscarpone cheese, room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
4 ounces butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

1-2 cups mixed berries
Additional berries for garnish

From here on out I will mostly tell you how I made mine and than you can adjust as you wish.

Bake a 2 layer cake (I am not supplying the recipe for a yellow cake but this one is delicious)  As I mentioned above I used a strawberry mix because the cake mix mix-up, and I figured I couldn't go wrong using a strawberry cake since mixed berries were n the filling anyway.  After I got my cake mixed and baked in the square pans I noticed they had not risen much while baking.  I guessed correctly that the cake mix was well past it expiration date and would have added additional baking powder if I had realized it was.  Oh well, now instead of two nice round yellow cake layers, I had two rather flat strawberry square layers. (At this point seeing I had flat cake  I normally might have decided to make a yellow cake from scratch, but it was 2 a.m. so NO!) There was no way I was going to be able to split the layers to make a four layer cake, as the original instructions called for.  Instead I cut them in half so I had 4 4 1/2 x9 inch layers. Then I decided rather than stack it 4 layers high I would have a 4 1/2 x 18 inch 2 layer cake. (I was afraid since I was only going to have a 4 1/2 x9 inch rectangular base, stacking 4 would probably create a cake avalanche which I did not want for Easter dinner).  Caution: Before you move on to the next step make sure the cakes are completely cool.

To make the frosting, whip the heavy cream and set aside.  With a mixer blend the marscarpone, cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until it is smooth.  Slowly add the confectioners sugar until everything is creamy.  Then fold in the whipped cream. (Now begins the lightning round. You have to work fast because it gets really messy very quickly.  Learn from my error so you don't have to make one )

Put your first layer of cake on your serving plate.  Spread the thinned down jam all over the side facing up.  Spread berries over it (I used strawberries, blueberries and raspberries) Spread about 1/2 cup of frosting over the berries, then put the next layer of cake on top of it. (If you are using round pans and making 4 layers repeat the process 2 more times.  If you are making a crazy skinny long cake put the 2nd bottom layer as close to the first as you can get it, add the jam, berries and frosting then top with the last layer.  Now you either have a really tall 4 layer cake or a really long 2 layer one.
Working as fast as you can. spread the remaining frosting over the entire cake.  I suggest starting at the top then icing it quickly on the sides and ends. (If you made a round cake don't worry about the ends because a round cake is not going to have ends!) Put the whole cake in the refrigerator immediately.  If you don't the frosting will start running down the sides of the cake and you will have a big mess..

Leave it there until about 10 minutes before you plan to serve it.  Garnish with a few berries and serve.  This stuff is incredible and delicious and every other good thing.  We do have some left over (I am secretly thankful Mom made a cake and brought it even though I asked her not too.  Everyone had a slice of both cakes instead of 2 slices of the chantilly cake)  This is going to be great tomorrow, possibly for breakfast!

This might possibly become my go to cake.  Even though there is nothing remotely low fat about it, it still managed to taste "light" and fresh.  If you try it let me know what you think, or if you already make it tell me your thoughts on it and tell me why you never shared info on this deliciousness with the rest of us!

p.s. the platter I used is 5 x 20 inches and the cake was a perfect fit!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

T-Minus 100 and Counting

Time is a commodity we all take for granted.  I know I tend to do things from one week to the other without thinking too far in advance about daily things.  Sure I might have appointments or trips on the calendar  for a couple of months ahead, but I rarely think in depth about each and every day. I tend to just fumble through life between events so I am trying to look at my days as 24 hours I can live intentionally.  I have decided to track my life for 100 days just to see what will happen if I slow my thought process down and live in the present without tremendous thought to what's next.

I am setting up a system of personal accountability for each day, with constructive, creative, and down time in it. I want every day to be productive, but I also want it to have the opportunity to appreciate beauty, as well as to have some time for personal growth.  This is not something I am going to post about until the 100 days are over and then I will assess how I did with this approach. Will I learn to live in the now or will  I just fall totally off the cliff and into the abyss of living with my mind set between big events again?

No real clue what will happen, but I imagine there will be days I live with intention and others I just get through while waiting for the next big thing. It should be a revealing experiment about my persona either way.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Positively Monday

In order to change my somewhat jaded look at life I decided to jot down the best thing or things that happen each week.  I will admit some days just suck and finding something good is hard, but every single day has at least one good thing in it. This is a list of the past weeks good things,

Monday: Volunteered at Independence Place.  I find my joy spending time with their wonderful participants.

Tuesday:  Got Mom's business affairs in order so I can take a few days vacation.  Sorry to My Beloved Sister who has to take up the slack for me this week.

Wednesday:  TheHub bought some travel hangers (Yep he is one of those who never travels without dress shirts and a couple of sport coats) which were delivered to the wrong address.  Thanks to our neighborhood FB page I was able to find where they were delivered got them just in time to finish packing. We were supposed to fly out of town that evening but the weather cancelled our flight until...

Thursday: . . . We woke at 4, to be at the airport for a 6:15 rescheduled flight to NYC.  Got to the airport only to find it was delayed until 10:45. (yes we got the text from Delta right as we were checking our bags in) so we went back home for a few hours. The flight finally left at about 12:30 (Did I mention I was upgraded to first class?) and after circling to avoid storms at LGA we finally landed and were headed to Son3's concert right in the middle of the 5 o'clock traffic.  By 6 we were still not on the Manhattan side of the bridge, but we did manage to get to our hotel right before 7, checked in, changed clothes and were seated by 7:20 (10 minutes before it started)  The night truly got better and better, including a sidewalk chat and walk with Mr. Marsalis

Friday: In spite of the cold wet weather we still have a couple of really nice times.  We ate lunch at this funky Chinese-Peruvian fusion restaurant.  If you are in NYC and want something deliciously different try Flor De Mayo on Amsterdam and 83rd (I think it was 83rd). Later that night we went with Son3 and Girlfriend3 to hear  Jazz at the Lincoln Center Orchestra for a Buddy Rich tribute plus a new composition by Ali Jackson, the drummer.  After we went out for some late night Italian (Good but no better than an other Italian place)

Saturday: Matinee time to see Miss Saigon.  It was a fantastic performance!  We have changed our approach to ticket buying and decide on 5 plays we would like to see, then just get there and see what show has good seats left. Saturday night we at a French place Bar Boulud.  The food is exceptional and not too pricy by Manhattan standards. (The downside is their very small cocktails)

Sunday:  Seriously delayed return flight home, but no flight issues and we had nothing pressing us so the time didn't really matter. Got home too late to cook (bonus) so we headed to Full Moon to pick up some BBQ take out.  You have to love a joint whose tagline is "Best Little Pork House in Alabama"

                                                Ali Jackson and a little high hat action

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

You Know You're From Alabama When . . .

                                                       (blue sky view from my front porch)

           . . . The State is closed on account of bad                                         weather!

Monday, April 3, 2017

My, My Cherry Pie___Not! Plus Positively Monday

During my recent use it up challenge I found many foods that had gotten pushed to the back of the freezer and forgotten, including about 5 pounds of pitted bing cherry halves. I really do love eating frozen cherries, but obviously never found them in the icy abyss and now I need to use as many as possible as quickly as possible. Eating my usual 1/2 cup serving would take forever to finish them, so I decided to get a little creative and use them a couple of other ways.

Last night we ate from the freezer using another pack of peas, squash and green tomato slices (yay us!) Since I was going to bake cornbread to use my ever growing kefir stash I figured I might as well bake something using some of the cherries and a little more of the kefir. I decided on a clafoutis because it tastes really good, it is  really easy, and would bake at the same time and temp as the cornbread and "fried" green tomatoes. A perfect trifecta!

A clafoutis is a baked dessert that is somewhere between a pudding, cobbler and a custard.  It has no added fat but it does have a fair amount of sugar, so it is neither the healthiest nor worst dessert in my repertoire. It is mainly just a simple really tasty end to the meal. (And the leftovers are not horrible cold for breakfast either!)
                                                         Easy Cherry Clafoutis

2 cups pitted sweet cherries (I used frozen because I had them in the freezer. Fresh would be better probably)
3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar (omit and add 1 extra tablespoon sugar if you don't have any)
1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
2 pinches salt
1/2 cup kefir (Just because I have a lot in the fridge)
1/2 cup milk  (Use 1 cup and eliminate kefir if you don't have any)
2 teaspoons amaretto (use about 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract if you prefer)
1 teaspoon  vanilla extract

 Preheat the oven to 350°

Butter and flour (Yeah right, spray that sucker with Pam) an 8x8 pyrex baking dish.  (You  can easily use an oblong or rectangular dish just make sure it is no larger in volume than an 8x8ish dish)  Toss the cherries evenly in the bottom of the pan.

Mix the sugars with the eggs until it is a smooth mixture.  Add the flour and salt and whisk until the flour is all incorporated and the batter is smooth.  Add the milk, amaretto and vanilla and whisk through. Gently pour the batter over the cherries and pop it into the oven.  Bake about 35-40 minutes. I test it like a custard and stick a flat blade knife into the center of it.  If it comes out clean (It will be slightly damp but clear looking) I call it done.  It will still be a little wiggly in the pan but that is how it is supposed to look.  Let it cool a bit the serve.  It will deflate but that is what is is supposed to do. (It is not a souffle after all.)  Enjoy it anyway!

This is TheHub's preferred method of eating anything with cooked fruit.  It pretty much negates that whole no added fat thing I was talking about earlier. You really don't need to top it with ice cream, but I am not going to fight any battle not worth fighting, especially since he can buy ice cream now when he does his recreational shopping.  Oh well!

And as for this weeks positive events:

Monday: Major seasonal clothes change over done!
Tuesday: Book Club dinner out with the gals
Wednesday: Got the spring garden planned and got the spring/summer project list finished.
Thursday: Got Mom's taxes totally taken care of (I love finished!)
Friday: Out to eat with TheHub then a little recreational shopping at Publix (He was excited)
Saturday: Nice phone visit with my cousin, and a different but nice phone visit with Uncle Bob
Sunday: Lovely Sunday morning at church, then an accidental 2 hour nap!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

It's A Wrap!

This is the final  post of my self imposed March food challenge. My freezer and pantry were
both tremendously overstocked and I needed to use up a big hunk of food inventory so I  pulled a rabbit out of my hat and decided we would use what I had on hand buying only necessities for the month.  In my mind that meant fruit, salad fixings, milk and bread.  TheHub had other ideas so I wound up having to accommodate his recreational shopping habit in my food budget. (Chips, Fat Boys. Chocolate Milk, etc,)  Consequently I am about 15 dollars over my anticipated 100 budget for the month, but the pantry and freezer stock is substantially reduced.  I still have a fairly decent amount left in the freezer, and the pantry is nowhere near as full as it was.   I decided I will continue a modified challenge throughout April and will have at least 2 meals per week that are made entirely from items I already have on hand. That will give me a minimum of 8 meals to make another dent in the freezer, and will keep the Publix shopper I live with happy.  I will keep a list of those food storage meals and will post it at the end of the month.

Meanwhile this is my list of the final three days of March.  It has been a fun challenge with few surprises (except for the St Paddys corned beef that I was positive I had frozen but i turned out to be a boneless ham instead). So now I move on to April and TheHub is ecstatic because he gets to watch the basketball finals and have exactly what he wants for dinner instead of what is in the freezer ___hot dogs, buns, chips,root beer and ice cream. (Ha! the joke is on him__the hot dogs are from the freezer!)

March 29

coffee (pantry)
tea (pantry)
T.J.'s chicken burger (freezer)
tossed salad (fridge)
mandarin (fridge)
package of chili (freezer)
oyster crackers (pantry)
bread (pantry)
pork skins (bought)
salsa (fridge)
peanut butter (pantry)
fruit spread, that stuff that is kind of like jelly but not really (fridge)
cabbage (fridge)
carrot (fridge)
scallions (fridge)
oil (pantry)
vinegar (pantry)
salt, pepper, herbs, spices (pantry)
Chulula (fridge)

breakfast: coffee
lunch:grilled chicken patty, tossed salad, mandarin, few pork skins with salsa (and yes I know they are gross but they were here and I wanted something crunchy)
dinner: chili with Chulula and oyster crackers, slaw, tea
late night snack: peanut butter and almost jelly sandwich

March 30
milk 2.00 Cavender's Greek Seasoning 1.79
leftover Asian rice and veggies (fridge)
mandarin (fridge)
pork tenderloin (freezer)
olive oil (pantry)
Cavender's greek seasoning (bought. Drats! I ran out of it Wednesday night)
hashbrowns (freezer)
broccoli (freezer)
tossed salad mix (fridge)
popcorn (pantry)
butter flavored salt (pantry)
cooking spray (pantry)
herbs seasonings, salt and pepper (pantry)
red wine vinegar (pantry)
tea (pantry)
coffee (pantry)
breakfast: coffee
lunch: leftover Asian rice stuff, salad, mandarin
dinner: pork tenderloin, hashbrowns, broccoli, tossed salad
snack: popcorn (two times yesterday), mandarin

March 31
Truthfully on the way home from eating out we bought some things for TheHub's ball game dinner tomorrow, but nothing was used today so it goes on Aprils food budget!  Yay! I can buy more than essentials, but will probably wait until next week to shop since we are leaving for NYC  Wednesday afternoon.

coffee (pantry)
cashews (pantry)
egg (fridge)
coffee (pantry)
tea (pantry)
mandarins (fridge)
pickles (fridge)
oyster crackers (pantry)
cheese (fridge)

breakfast: coffee, McDonald's plain biscuit (I had to take Mom to the dr. butt early so I grabbed a coffee and biscuit while waiting on her )
lunch:  I did not eat lunch but nibbled on oyster crackers, cheese, pickles, cashews and drank tea
dinner:  We went out to a little Mediterranean joint for their Camel Racer sandwich (Gussied up bologna in pita but dang is it ever tasty)

I guess the only thing left is to say this has been very good for me. It stretches my cooking imagination and makes me so grateful that we are able to have a full freezer and pantry. It also reminds me that I might need to expand my volunteer hours to include working in our local food pantry instead of just donating to it.

I won't say I will not stock up like this again, because when I can get 80 percent lean ground chuck for 2.79 a pound I will buy 40 or so pounds and freeze it.  The same goes for 49 cents per pound chicken quarters, or 1.49 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts. And of course I will process and freeze summer produce again.  I just want to be more mindful of what I have on hand and use it more freely throughout the year. By October my freezer will probably be busting at the gills again, and I might have to have a March challenge all over.

And now that this challenge is over and closed I am gong to head over to enter Sulggy's giveaway. Pop over to Don't Read This It's Boring for a chance to win chocolate some cool stuff.