Monday, July 21, 2008

Why?

People who don't Think probably don't have Brains;
rather, they have grey fluff that's blown into their heads by mistake.”
Winnie the Pooh

Even though I'm having some deep thoughts, today I'm feeling like I have grey fluff between my ears! But don't you just love Pooh's wisdom? When all else fails, I feel like I can call on a bear of very little brain to have an answer. Except, maybe, for questions like those that follow.

I spend what I think is an inordinate amount of time at the grocery store. Granted, I break up - which really means double - my shopping trips so I can buy the basics like paper products, toiletries and other things not on my list but I consider gotta haves at a one-stop-shop place like Walmart, and the meat, produce and bread at Publix. It's more expensive that way, but I've learned - the hard way - that giant megastore produce is not the freshest and does not have the same amount of staying power. It could be all in my head, but that's what I've concluded. For example, I bought a really pretty, large, pink, taste-tempting Florida (thus the freshness is guaranteed, right?) grapefruit last week. Alas, when I cut into it I found it was dry and just about juiceless. Since I'm a sucker for pretty when it comes to both my produce and my red meat, I think Publix has won me over for both plus taste.

Since I spend so much time in stores surrounded by food, I have plenty of time to ponder deep food questions. Yet, mostly I mosey up and down the aisles in a food-induced (or lack of food-induced) stupor, relishing not in the plenty but the lack. As in lack of other places to hang out, or lack of friends to shop with, or lack of enough joy to care that I probably look like a proverbial basket lady. Publix is the place I had a major meltdown after my mother died. A song played on the radio that conjured up her face and my loss so I bent right over my cart and cried. Publix is also the place that for the longest time had a fluorescent light that flickered in syncopated time which caused me to have a headache and feel like I was maybe having a brain strain. Most recently it was in the Publix produce section that I felt like sitting down among the fruits and vegetables to take a nap. Don't ask me why. All I know is that while trying to decide whether I wanted curly leaf or romaine lettuce I was overcome with a great lethargy. To be honest, I know the decision was NOT of monumental proportions but when one is struggling with depression, even minor decisions bring on a great desire for sleep.

It is usually in the cold cut department that I ponder great food questions. Why, for example, do the people who stock bacon ALWAYs put it on the shelf backwards? Oh, I know, they want you to be able to read Oscar Meyer, or Hormel, or Walmart on the label, which is very nice, except it tells you absolutely nothing about whether or not the bacon has any meat content at all. The real way to purchase bacon is to look at the meat to fat ratio. (Oh, come one, we all know bacon is full of fat. And yes, we all agree that it is unhealthy and should be strictly shunned, but we also know that sometimes a crispy BLT is the only thing that will satisfy a lunchtime craving.) And the only way to determine this ratio is to peek into the little window that the packagers have inconveniently put on the back of the product. I say inconvenient because in order to see it, you have to paw through each and every package, turn it over, determine the worthiness and, if you see nothing but a big hunk of pig fat, move on to the next. Don't tell anybody, but I've been known to turn over each and every package of bacon on the shelf AND leave them that way. I feel like I'm doing other customers a great service, but I have to ask, have I turned into a crazy bacon lady? Do the people in charge of keeping the shelves neatly stocked come behind me and re-turn all the packages?

Am I the only person who questions why "vine-ripened" tomatoes are called vine ripened when they have obviously been picked way before they've turned anything that even comes close to being the color of red that represents ripeness? Sadly, I have learned that if one actually leaves a tomato on the vine to redden properly they not only crack but they get buggy and become good eats for backyard critters. So why don't produce managers just save themselves the effort of making the vine-ripened sign? We all know the tomatoes were green as Kermit the Frog when they were picked. Who are they trying to kid? [Photo L: This picture has obviously been airbrushed for affect!]

I heard an advertisement the other day for Smart Balance, Omega three milk. Apparently milk no longer comes from cows - even happy California cows. Well, it does, but apparently no one should drink it. According to this ad, a glass of 2% milk has 20% more saturated fat than a small order of french fries. What? I thought the whole point of buying 2% milk was to cut down the amount of fat. And let me ask you this ... if given the choice would you rather have a glass of milk or hot, right out of the fatty grease, covered in salt french fries. At least if you're going to die from a fat induced coma, you'll die without a milk mustasche! [Photo L: Got Milk?]

As long as I'm asking questions that most likely don't have any answers, does anyone know why decaffeinated coffee costs so much more than regular coffee? Seems like if something has been taken away, i.e. the caffeine, then it oughta cost less. But no that is not the case. There must be a high salary demand for the people who pick the caffeinated beans out of the can, thus sending the product cost skyward. If I wasn't caught sleeping in the produce section, or crying in the cereal aisle, or hunkered down reorganizing the bacon, I think I could be caught having a heart attack in between the blue and green coffee cans. Just seeing the difference in price takes my breath away - not in a good way.

Anti Antijen, [of antijen.blogspot.com fame] my fellow blogger and inspiration has written a post today that has left me wondering big time. I have to ask. Why, why, why would the makers of the multi-colored sugary sweet little nuggets of yumalicious candy even consider vomit, booger, baby wipes or skunk scent as possible tastes? Do you think they employ Arthur Slugworth type villians to do their taste tests? I suppose the real question I should be asking is this - are there people in the world that actually purchase then EAT said jelly beans? But I know the answer before I ask it - Yes. Indeed there are very intelligent, high scoring LSAT takers with big rescuing hearts who freak out at the thought of sleeping with cat turds but don't shy away from photographing them who not only buy but also eat candy that supposedly tastes like snot. I mustn't judge too harshly, however, because these may be the same are people who are not allowed to laugh at breakfast.

Who knows for sure, but I find the questions too deep for this blogger who hasn't had even one glass of caffeinated tea yet today and it's already past high noon. My blood sugar has dropped. I'm beginning to think of bacon.

If you have any other deep though provoking why questions, don't hesitate to share them here.

TaTa for Now,
Merry Me

P.S. One more question and then I'm finished. Who knew you could make cookies from potato chips?

Potato Chip Cookies
(Janice Schleunes)
1 cup butter
½ cup sugar
1½ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup crushed potato chips
½ chopped pecans
1 tsp. vanilla
Powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar. Add flour, chips, nuts and vanilla. Shape into small balls. Roll in powdered sugar and press down with a fork. Bake until the cookies appear light golden brown. Makes about 4 ½ dozen cookies.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Depression Busters

"The best way to pay for a lovely moment is to enjoy it."
Richard Bach

According to a recent news article scientists have discovered that chimpanzees often use hugs and kisses the same way as humans to comfort, sympathize and decrease stress in fellow chimps. "Researchers found that stress was reduced in chimps that were victims of aggression if a 3rd party chimp stepped in to offer consolation." What makes this behavior interesting is that it is only used after a conflict.

"This study removes doubt that consolation really does what the term suggestsL provide relive to distressed parties after conflict. The evidence is compelling and makes it likely that consolation behavior is an expression empathy," said Dr. Frans de Wall of the Yerkes Primate Center at Emory University. [http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2008/06/16/chimp-hug-kiss.html, Chimps Hug, Kiss to Show Support, Randolph E. Schmid, Associated Press]

I found this information of particular interest and quite timely. Since I've been feeling blue, my Sweetie has come to my rescue by offering big bear hugs and not flinching when I cry loud, snorty tears all over his shirt. I don't know if we have any chimpanzees in our family tree, but I do know that you don't have to be a monkey to reap the benefits of an extra large hug. In fact, I suspect that when the Creator was creating he must have said something like, "the better to hug with" when he gave us two arms. Perhaps if we employed more hugs we'd need less bullets in the world. Who knows? Can't hurt.

Here are some other depression busters I've encountered in the past few days:

The first tomato of the season. Well, not exactly the first, but the first that didn't stay on the vine getting red and get drowned by all the rain we've had! I decided to let it ripen in the window sill.









A mama duck and a whole herd of fuzzy, black and yellow ducklings. A couple of the babies were having a grand time in a pan of water but as soon as I approached with a camera, the mom called them together and they waddled off into the protection of the grass.




The second annual summertime lunch at Steak N Shake with my friend Desire. Her cousin insisted we try the cheese fries which weren't too bad until they got cold. We decided in unison to get the full-sized shakes not the juniors. Dang, they were good!





A giant cactus that has obviously been in the neighborhood for years but I'd never noticed before. For some reason cacti always make me smile.







Signing off and hoping you found something to make you smile today,
Merry ME


Little Brandied Fruitcakes
3 cups coarsely chopped pecans (10 oz.)
¾ cup coarsely chopped candied pineapple (4 oz.)
¾ cup halved candied cherries (6 0z.)
1 ½ cup quartered pitted dates (8 oz.)
¾ cup all purpose flour
¾ cup all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. baking powder
3 large eggs
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3 Tbsp. brandy

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Arrange 32 2-inch fluted foil baking cups on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Put pecans and fruit in a large bowl; toss to mix. Sprinkle flour and baking powder over top and mix with hands to coat. In another large bowl beat eggs, sugar, vanilla until well blended. Add fruit mixture and mix with rubber spatula until evenly blended.

There will be just enough batter to cover fruit. Fill cups with scant ¼ cup mixture, stirring often to mix batter in. (Mix will mound over tops)

Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool on rack. Spoon 1/4 tsp. brandy over each cake. Store in a tightly covered tin at room temperature for 1 month.

Notes:
I may be a bit of a fruitcake, but I'm not much for eating it. This is one of the recipes I have in my collection that is hand-written by my mother, so it is a keeper even if never used. I think she probably made them for Christmas parties.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Welcome to the world, Chase Z - P.S.

"Babies are such a nice way to start people."
Don Herrold
Dear Chase,
Good gracious, what was I thinking? You are just a little tyke and before you can do all that lofty "chasing" you've got to learn to walk. Not to mention, sleeping through the night, eating on some kind of schedule, holding your head up, smiling and cooing.

I think all that other stuff is good information. I hope that you will be able to use it to your advantage as you grow up. But until then, here's some advice that is more age appropriate:
  • Chase butterflies and fireflies on a warm summer day.
  • Listen for the sound of garbage trucks and fire engines. Chase them to the end of the street.
  • Chase your sisters with green spotted toads.
  • Chase raindrops. Jump in puddles. Make mud pies.
  • When a spoon won't work, chase peas around your plate with your fingers.
  • Chase away the blues by looking at big puffy clouds while laying on your back in a field of soft green grass.
  • Jumping in a pile of crisp, colored leaves is a sure way to chase the chill right out of the autumn air.
  • Put on a baseball glove and chase pop flys.
  • Sometimes follow Winnie the Pooh's advice by not chasing anything, “Don't underestimate the value of Doing Nothing, of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering.”
  • Turn an ordinary day into a magical one. Wrap yourself in a bath towel cape, jump on a broomstick steed, protect princesses Kylie and Taylor by chasing dragons from your realm.
  • Pretend you're a monkey. Hang upside down on a jungle gym. [This doesn't require chasing, but it's fun to do!"If you feel the urge, don't be afraid to go on a wild goose chase. What do you think wild geese are for anyway?" (Will Rogers)
  • Watch puppy dogs chase their tails. Spin in circles until you get dizzy.
  • Visit the sea shore. Chase fiddler crabs. Make sandcastles. Float on you back. Let the rhythm of the waves relax you.
  • Chase away boring afternoon. Read Dr. Seuss stories. "The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”
  • Delight in the way balloons, dandelion fluff, paper airplanes and sea gulls chase air currents and ride on the wind.
  • When all else fails remember this: "Adventure: the pursuit of life." Daniel Roy Wiarda

Hugs and blessings, little man,

Merry ME

Disclaimer: Thinking about new baby boys and how they get to be old men has taken my mind off the food theme for the month. Sorry. I have, however, been fairly good at typing up my Christmas cookie recipes. It's much easier than I thought it would be. I've even considered (that would be considered as in maybe, maybe not) doing all my recipes! me

Fruit Cake Cookies
(Janice Schleunes)

1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup butter
3 eggs, well-beaten
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. Soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 lb. white raisins
6 slices crystallized pineapple, chopped
1 box (15 oz.) chopped dates
2 cups candied cherries (halved)
7 cups chopped pecans
3 tsp. vanilla
Dark rum
½ cup flour

Soak fruit in rum then dredge in ½ cup flour. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, soda, cinnamon, vanilla and flour. Mix batter well. Pour batter over fruit and mix well b hand. Drop from spoon onto greased pan and bake in a slow 300 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Oops! I forgot!

"Grandmas don't just say "that's nice" --
they reel back and roll their eyes
and throw up their hands and smile.
You get your money's worth out of grandmas."
Author unknown

Well, I didn't actually forget to add this to last night's post. I was tired and went to bed. Plus, my food posts and lists of recipes are way behind so basically I gotta say what the hay!

This recipe has become one of my sister Linda's holiday traditions. They are easy to make, less time consuming than decorated sugar cookies and quite tasty.

Enjoy!
Merry ME

P.S. BEWARE: I googled Grannie Cookies and was surprised to find that it actually leads to what looks like a grandmother's porn site. What's that all about? When I clicked on one of the sites that looked like it had an actually recipe, the last ingredient listed was 2 penises. Huh? The good news, I guess, is that nowhere in the actual recipe did they say to chop up and stir in the penises. I suppose they were just added for a little baking inspiration!

Grannie Cookies
(Linda Gibson)

3½ sticks of butter (no margarine)
3 cups flour
1¾ tsp. soda
1 cup sugar
1½ tsp. vanilla
2 cups Rice Krispie cereal
1 12-oz pkg. chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar; add vanilla. Sift together flour and soda. Add to creamed mixture. Add cereal and chips. Roll into balls (1 tsp.). Place on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes until light brown.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Welcome to the world Chase Z !

"Good men must die, but death cannot kill their names"
Proverb

While I fumed about the small stuff last week a perfectly formed miracle, small by some standards, infinite by others was about to take place. On July 11 the newest member of my extended family was born. My daughter’s husband’s brother’s wife gave birth to their third child and first son. That makes me, in a round-about-extended way, a grandmother, doesn’t it?

I wish I could hold him in my arms and look into what I’m sure are big round brown eyes and tell him how special he is. Alas, it’s true what they say … you can’t always get what you want. While his mom and dad are busy juggling feeding schedules and diaper changes, I’m several hundred miles away doing the same thing except the object of my concern is at the other end of the age spectrum.

The next best thing to rocking him in the middle of the night will have to be this letter ….

Dear Chase,
Welcome to the world, little man! Everyone is so glad that you are here. On loan from the Creator, you bless us by your very presence. You have been entrusted to the care of your mom and dad and sisters and grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, yet all the world says hello and awaits the chance to make your life special.

What a great name your parent’s gave you. Chase, which comes from the Old French meaning “huntsman,” and Zubin, in honor of your uncle. It’s a big name for such a little guy, but I believe in time you will grow into it. And I believe your uncle’s spirit will be your guide.

One of the dictionary’s definitions of the word chase is this: “to follow or devote one’s attention to with the hope of attracting, winning and gaining.” In that context, your name could possibly be a mandate for your life – that you will devote yourself to the pursuit of all your hopes and dreams. Pursue away, sweet child, but remember this: “our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.” [Don Williams]

As I think about your future I reflect upon your Uncle Zubin’s past - the man he was, the lives he touched, the dreams he held. In the years to come you’ll hear all about the man for whom you’ve been named. Sometimes you’ll laugh and sometimes you’ll cry. Sometimes you’ll say, enough already, I’m me not him. But be patient with us, Chase, because those of us who loved Zub, still hold on to his memory with hands clutched tight. With that in mind I hope you will find a way to integrate some of his dreams into your own.

I don’t know for sure, but I bet if your uncle was here he’d sit you on his lap and give you this advice:

  • Chase love: For it in loving that we are loved.

  • Chase freedom: “Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed – else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

  • Chase adventure: Wherever it may lead you, preferably in a Volkswagon bus. And don’t forget that in the long bike rides of life there will be blisters along the way.

  • Chase knowledge: Read. Listen. Learn. Don’t be afraid to develop your own ideas.

  • Chase companionship: Friends are what will help you through the hard times and make the good times even better.

  • Chase Spirit: Believe in something greater than yourself.

  • Chase romance: When you meet the girl of your dreams you will know it.

  • Chase opportunity: “Life’s ups and downs provide windows of opportunity to determine your values and goals. Think of using all obstacles as stepping stones to build the life you want.” Marsha Sinetar

  • Chase laughter: “The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.” e.e. cummings
  • Chase spontaneity: Every now and then say something outrageous (like the "F" word?) and enjoy the reaction you get. Be careful whom you pick for this experiment. It could backfire.

  • Chase trust: Trust others. Trust your own instincts.

  • Chase art: Life is a collage of sights and sounds. Color outside the lines. Write poetry. Take photographs. Discover the music of your soul.

  • Chase dreams: Every successful venture begins with a dream. Imagine how you want things to be, then make them happen.

  • Chase family relationships: Your family is the nest from which you will be able to test your wings, and come back to when the cold wind blows. They will love you despite of some of the stupid things you’ll do. (And you will do them!) That’s what families are for.

  • Chase competition: In a game of cards, or the game of life, play the hand you are dealt the best way you can. Strive to win. Enjoy the race. Bet on the Sonics.

  • Chase nature: Relax in the sun, shout from mountain tops, sit by the ocean, listen to the call of the wild, behold the beauty in a field of tulips. When all else fails shout, “Serenity now!”
  • Chase health: Limit the number of cokes you drink in a day. Eat fruit.

  • Chase happiness: Open your heart to the all glories of the world. You don’t know where you might find them – in a cold, juicy orange, a hot cup of sugary tea, a gathering of sausage-eating friends, or a map of the stars. Savor the moments.

  • Chase financial stability: Don't use credit. Pay your bills on time.

  • Chase hope: “Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” Dale Carnegie

May God bless you and keep you safe all the days of your life.

With love, Merry ME

Sunday, July 13, 2008

R&R

“Don't underestimate the value of Doing Nothing,
of just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear,
and not bothering.”
Winnie The Pooh

Let's face it, either there is just nothing to say about food on a daily basis, or I'm just not any good at every day posts. Probably the latter is closer to the truth. My intentions are always good at the beginning of the month, but as the days wear on I just lose my steam. A part of me feels bad that I seem to be utterly unable to follow through on this commitment, and another part of me thinks what's the big deal.
Yesteday I had a choice. Write about food or take off with my Sweetie for a meritorious day off. Guess what I chose?

We headed for the small town of Waldo which is best known for being a speed trap between Jacksonville and Gainesville. Our plan was to wander through the flea market and buy fresh fruit at the Farmer's Market. What we hadn't planned on was the rain.
As we neared our destination the skies literally opened up. Big black clouds poured out bucket of rain. Since I wasn't driving it was actually kind of nice. Who am I kidding? Hurricane Bertha could have been drowning us and blowing the van across the road and and I still would have enjoyed the sights and sounds ....

The wipers on the van go swish, swish, swish.
The girl in the van says, "look at the goats!"
The driver of the van says, "move over fool!"
The GPS in the van says, "turn right here."


And as luck would have it the rain stopped as soon as we walked into the flea market. If you ask me, flea markets are strange places. First of all, why are they called flea markets?
[Photo Left: Notice anything funny about the placement of the door. Inside there was actually a sign next to it that said Fire Escape!]


If this place was any indication, it is true that one man's trash is another man's treasure, if in fact the trash actually sells. I think there was about a half mile of row upon row of stuff, inside and out. Old stuff, new stuff, farm stuff, food stuff, pet stuff, rusty stuff, stinky stuff, plant stuff. You name it and I think you could probably find it in this place. (Except, of course, fleas. I didn't see any fleas for sale, though I did see a few chihuahua puppies jumping around in their poop lined cage. Gross!)

Our original plan was to buy fresh picked peaches and melons from the local farmers. Even though there was a plentitude of fruits and vegetables for sale, none of it was from Starke. The peaches, corn and peanuts all came from Georgia which, due to it's proximity, could be considered local but I was hoping for right of the tree fresh. Or maybe I just wasn't in the mood to buy peaches.

As we headed home, it began to rain again. How's that for perfect timing? We took a different route which took us through the Florida countryside. It was a pleasant drive. Just Sweetie and me enjoying the peace and quiet. Green trees lined one side of the road, while row upon row of charred pines lined the other. It was strange to see how only the trunks were burned. Cows huddled close together trying to stay dry in large green pastures. Newly built contemporary houses sat on well-groomed lawns next to acreage studded with doublewide trailers. We couldn't help but question where these country dwellers shopped. It was a relief not to see a drug store on every corner. Come to think of it, there weren't many corners - just a two lane road meandering through the rural wonderland.

When we reached civilization again, I tested my memory by trying to find my grandparent's home. The house where they lived isn't there anymore, but the sign that marked their woodsy drive still stands - Pleasant Point, indeed.

So there you have it, a day away, just what this girl needed.

Wishing you a day of peaceful relaxation with the one you love,
Merry ME

Friday, July 11, 2008

What a difference a day makes

"Nature will bear the closest inspection.
She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf,
and take an insect view of its plain."
Henry David Thoreau

After my Walmart experience I figured I'd do better to spend my time today outside with the birds and snakes and lizards. My original goal was to repot some plants. I did that, got covered in dirt, then moved on to unsightly weeds. I crawled around on the ground, reaching inside hedges pulling up bits and pieces of a vine that used to be called "wandering Jew" when it was sold as a houseplant. I don't know the religion of the stuff I was pulling up, but it did indeed wander.

Perhaps because of the early morning heat, I didn't see too many crawly things; blessedly I saw no snakes slither through bushes where I was working. Some people use outdoor activities as form of prayer. I just revelled in the silence, interupted only by the warnings signals of the mockingbirds who were concerned about my proximity to their nests. It was actually quite pleasant, hot, but pleasant.

I've been surprised to learn that my forays into the backyard have been like having my own National Geographic program. First there was the lizard/snake do-si-do, then a very cool dance routine performed by our resident Brown Thrasher. This lusty bird was pulling out all the stops. He sang his most romantic song and strutted like Mick Jagger. He fanned out his tail feathers and circled the woman of his dreams. But unless she was just playing hard to get, the object of this avian dancer's affection was not impressed. She was busy eating. Funny how mating rituals often involve food!

All this going on and I had a "bird's eye view" of the whole show. The whole display was taking place right outside my kitchen window. I was impressed, but the doves and jays paid the choreography no mind. Is there a lesson to be garnered from these green experiences? I'm not sure but I'm reminded of the lyrics of a song, "I hope you never lose your sense of wonder .... "*
Signing off with this suggestion ... "when you get the choice to sit it out or dance. I hope you dance..."
Merry ME

P.S. As I was writing this my Sweetie called me out to see what he found in the pool. Sitting on the vacuum hose, catching his breath and undoubtedly wondering how he was going to get himself out of the vast blue ocean that surrounded him was an itty bitty little mouse. Omigod! A cute little mouse. I know it's gross to think about swimming in mouse water, but Sweetie has poured so much chlorine in the pool in the past 24 hours I don't think it's going to be a problem. Who knew mice could be so cute?


* I Hope You Dance by Lee Ann Womack

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Crazy Walmart Lady

"You got to know ... when to walk away and know when to run."
Kenny Rogers, The Gambler

I discovered today, that this bit of Kenny Roger's wisdom is something I'm seriously lacking. While on a very simple visit to Walmart, the sole purpose of which was to make 4, count them f-o-u-r returns, I should have turned around shortly after I walked in the front door. I didn't and here's what happened. .....
  • The guy, Pearson, is responsible for not only saying hello but also making sure all returns get a label so that the person making the return does not get accused of stealing it at the Customer Service desk. Pearson's label making machine was broken, which was obvious the very first time he tried to print a label on return item number one. And it was still broken on times 3, 4, and 5. As people with empty baskets passed me by, Pearson kept trying. I began to fume. It is no joke that my normally short fuse is at an all time low point. I asked if I could just walk over to the CS desk and explain the printer malfunction problem. Pearson, who's job it is to be friendly, gave me a very sharp, unfreiendly negative reply. At this point I'm thinking that the people who passed the recent law that ordinary citizens in Florida can openly carry a weapon on their hip, next to their cell phone which probably plays Dixie, were out of their every loving minds. Clinically depressed, menopausal women against a piece of you-can't-steal-this-equipment. This is the kind of incident that could easily lead to a shoot out. Finally, Pearson relented. He stuck plain, unadorned labels on each item and I was on my way to the next step in the simple process. Except ....
  • The line of people at the CS desk was longer than usual. When I first approached it, I was number 10 of 10. Lady #9 informed me that there had been three people on the registers, but for some reason one of them left. Perhaps it was time for a break. Gimme a break! So we waited. I knew my blood pressure was rising and couldn't do anything about it. I like to think of myself as a patient waiter. Let it now be known that I AM NOT! I called my Sweetie and asked him for some guided meditation. He gently suggested I concentrate on my breathing, not the line of people which was now up to 15 and still not moving. "See yourself driving on the highway," says my own personal coach. "Huh?" Silence on the other end of the phone until I realized the coach was serious. "Okay, I'm driving," I played along. "Now, see yourself slowing down. Concentrate on your breathing and slow down." "Oops," I said, "I just smashed my car into the 10 cars in front of me. " "Do you need me to come pick you up?" said the coach. Then ...
  • A new cashier, Kevin, is thrown into the fray. Kevin has no problem telling the man who looks like he broke in line (when in fact he moved out of line because he mistakenly thought there were TWO LINES) that he has to go to the back of the line. "Oh, God," I pray. "Please grant me serenity ...." The line moves. The supposed line-breaker goes back to his original place in line that isn't moving. Switching my focus, I realize Kevin knows what he's doing. I am getting closer to the front of the line. Then ...
  • I remember my manners and let the man behind me, #11, who is about 80 years old go in front of me. He only has one item, a broken fishing pole. How long can he take to return a fishing pole? Kevin almost has him arrested for queue breaking. It took about 15 minutes but my turn finally arrives. I hear the cashier in the next line ask for the woman's driver's license. "You're just messing with me aren't you," she says. I on the other hand am prepared. Hell, while standing in a line for that amount of time, I could have balanced my checkbook - Ha! I have my credit cards and ID ready. Ida process my return in less than 3 minutes; she never asks for ID. I know I should be grateful. I'm not. My blood pressure skyrocketed. My blood sugar has dropped. I should walk right out of the store and go home. I don't ...
  • Instead I go to the pharmacy area and pick up Jack's sleep meds. I begin to unwind by winding my way through the household items, then the linens. I'm not fooling myself, I'm heading towards the fabric department. I know I shouldn't but I do. Then ...
  • After picking out fabric another lady and stand in front of the cutting counter wondering where the cutting person is. We wait. We discuss fabric selections. We wait. We search the aisle close by for someone who looks like a cutting person. We wait some more. Do I have to tell you that it was at the 7 or 8 minute mark that steam started coming out of my ears. I could have left the fabric bolts right there and walked out. Probably I should have but I decided to take a stand. I stormed right back to the CS desk and demanded that a manager and a cutter person meet me in the fabric department, NOW. I actually said N-O-W! Kevin looked up at me, smiled and nodded. I stormed back to through the store. I didn't look right or left. I don't know if people stepped out of my way or not. When I got back to the cutting station, the other woman was gone, her selected fabric and lace strewn across the counter, clearly tossed in a fit of anger. There was no manager. But, before I had time to actually blow a gasket, Diane the Electronics manager came to my rescue. She listened to my rant. She apologized. She picked up the scissors and laid out the fabric. Let me just say that cutting a straight line is not required of people who sell electronics. To her credit, Diane tried but the edge of the fabric looked like it had been cut with pinking shears. At that moment, I didn't really care. To smooth my ruffled feathers Diane was cutting full yard pieces instead of 1/2 yard. Is this kosher? I decide not to look a gift horse in the mouth. Diane is, after all, a manager. She picks up pricing gun that is connected to the label printer that looks suspiciously like the one Pearson was using at the front door. I tell the truth when I admit to looking through the racks of fabric for a hidden camera. Had Alan Funt been in there I would have punched him because ....

  • at this moment we discovered the printer had NO batteries. Every time she pointed the gun at the bar code, punched in the yardage cut and pushed the GO button, nothing happened. She left me to find someone who knew how to make it work. Can you here him? Can you hear Kenny Rogers singing, "know when to walk away ......" I started counting to 100 OUT LOUD thinking this would still my racing heart. Diane came back with Bill, another supervisor, in tow. He listens to my story of woe. He apologizes. He helps Diane with the machine. He calls Kevin and tells him to prepare a Customer Satisfaction card for me and leaves. Diane kept cutting but the machine never worked. We compare notes on hot flashes. Both of us are dripping in sweat and I seriously doubt it has anything to do with hormones, though we both sort of laugh it off. Finally she prints out a label, I don't know how and don't care. I want out of there.
  • I head to the CS desk and Kevin hands me a $20 gift card. I take it, but I begin to feel guilty. Diane has already given me extra cuts of fabric. Should I accept the gift? I decide to take the money and run. As I head for the check out lane, I can't help but notice there is NOBODY in line for returns. They are all in line elsewhere. At the express lane I was #2. Piece of cake ...
  • Before I head home I decide I better go to the bathroom. Walmart bathrooms are not my favorite, but when I gotta go, I gotta go. I walk in to discover only one stall open. I step in, and say the only thing I can think of, even though I know it is blasphemy. "Jesus Christ," I swore and beat a hasty retreat. A Walmart employee was behind me also looking for a place to pee. "That bad?" she asked as I brushed by her. I don't even acknowledge her; I am out the door. Kevin coming in my direction gives me a big smile. I think I have lost my ability to smile. "The woman's bathroom is disgusting," I tell him in as I pass by not even breaking stride. "I'll take care of it," he replies and I think to myself, "stand by Diane, you're about to get a lesson in plumbing."

  • I get to my car. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. What has happened to my ability to take things in stride? Where is the girl who sings LaLa instead of meeting confrontation head on? When I got home, my Sweetie held me in his arms. His arms said, "I understand" but I bet his eyes said, "what a goof ball."
Glad this day is almost over,
Merry ME

P.S. I am fully aware that this post has no mention of food and I didn't post yesterday. Oh well.

July 8: Caramel Corn

14 cups popped popcorn
2 cups brown sugar – packed
1 cup butter
½ cup light corn syrup
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
Optional: 1 cup mixed nuts if desired

Remove any un-popped kernels. Place popped corn in a buttered metal bowl and keep warm in a 200 degree oven.

Combine brown sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt in a heavy saucepan. Bring to boil, stir occasionally. Boil without stirring for 5 minutes or until mixture reaches 255 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove mixture from heat and add baking soda. Beware! CANDY WILL FOAM! Stir well.

If using nuts, add to popped corn. Pour mixture over corn and toss with buttered forks to distribute evenly. Spread onto 2

un-greased baking sheets. Bake at 200 degrees for 1 hours, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool corn completely. Break into clusters. Makes 3 ½ quarts.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Two by Two

NaBloPoMo disclaimer: This post has nothing to do with food other than the promised recipes at the end. I've included two to make up for missing yesterday.

"Falling in love with someone isn't always going to be easy ...
Anger ... tears ... laughter..
It's when you want to be together despite it all.
That's when you truly love another. I've sure of it."*

After reading some of our earliest correspondence for my previous post, I spent time today thinking about my Sweetie and me. In doing so I had an "epi-phanny" of sorts. It occurred to me that even though we've only been together for 4 years, I have a vision of us as one of those couples you see in the Sunday newspaper who have been married for 50 or 60 years.
The vision, I know, is a little skewed. My sweetie and I are relative youngsters when it comes to the relationship longevity. Babes, you might say, in the proverbial relationship woods. Those newspaper couples have been tested by time; they've weathered the storms life has blown in their direction. They've laughed and cried and worked and played together. Its inevitable that they've shared both good times and bad. That's what marriage is all about.
My head knows that Sweetie and I have only been together for a short time, that we've got a lot of years ahead of us. Yet, even at this seratonin-challenged time in my life, my heart feels at home and okay with today. As he might say, "this is a good thing."
Along these same lines, and those of my previous post, here is a list of some great couples/friends that I'd like us to one day be a part of:

George Burns and Gracie Allen
Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn
Anthony and Cleopatra
Robin Hood and Maid Marion
Fred and Ginger
Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning
John and Abigail Adams
Tramp and Lady
Mickey and Minnie
Ricky and Lucy
Napoleon and Josephine
Wendy and Zubin
Bert and Ernie
John and YoKo
Prince Ranier and Grace Kelly
Winnie the Pooh and Piglet
John Denver and Annie

Wishing you love and friendship and many years to enjoy them,
Merry ME

July 6 and 7: Two all time favorites

Old Fashioned Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup packed brown sugar
¾ cup vegetable shortening
½ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
¼ cup water
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups uncooked oats (quick or old fashioned)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt (optional)
½ tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat together brown sugar, shortening and granulated sugar until creamy. Add egg, water and vanilla; beat well. Add combined oats, flour, salt and soda; mix well.

Drop by round teaspoonful onto un-greased cookie sheet. Bake 11-13 minutes, or until the edges of golden brown. Remove to wire racks. Cool. Store tightly covered...

Variations: Add one cup of one or a combination of: raisins, chopped nuts, chocolate chips or shredded coconut.

For larger cookies: Drop by rounded tablespoon onto the un-greased cookie sheet. Bake 15-17 minutes. Makes 2½ dozen.

For bar cookies: Press dough into the bottom of an un-greased 13x9x2 inch baking pan. Bake 30-35 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars. Store tightly covered. Makes 24 bars. From the lid of Quaker Old Fashioned Oatmeal
Peanut Butter Cookies
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup shortening (part margarine)
1 cup peanut butter
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream sugars and shortening. Add peanut butter, eggs, and vanilla; blend well. Combine flour, soda and salt; add to peanut butter mixture. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto GREASED baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes.
Note: I like to flatten out with the tines of a fork dipped in sugar.

Procrastination!

"Don't do today what you can put off til tomorrow."
Words of wisdom from Merry ME*
I didn't even make it a week. The NaBloPoMo challenge has now officially been added to the things in my life that need tweaking. It's not that they don't get done; they just don't get done on time or when they do get done it's kind of half-assed. Well, that's not exactly true, yesterday's post didn't get done at all.

I could make the case that my father and Sweetie come first. (Sadly, most often in that order). I was busy getting soundly trounced in a game of rummy by my Dad who had obviously been touched by the card fairy. He couldn't do anything wrong, and I couldn't do anything right; he got Aces, I got stuck with cards costing 10 points in my had. It made for a very lopsided score and most likely took my mind of anything that had to do with food, especially writing about it.

After that, my Sweetie and I got totally involved in a Dateline story about two scuba divers who were left stranded in the ocean off the Great Barrier Reef for over 18 hours. The only connection that has to food is that they could have been, but luckily were not, food for hungry sharks looking for lunch .. or dinner ... or breakfast. Egads!*

Then there was the bedtime discussion between Sweetie and I about how hard it is to live with a depressive and how hard it is to be depressed and be in relationship - with anyone, especially one's self. This, too, was not a topic that lent itself to a food posting. Instead I felt like throwing up. But it cleared the air. We kissed and made up. It got to be past midnight and I had failed in the writing department.

Oh well, as AntiJen has pointed out to me, I can backdate this post and no one will be the wiser. I won't do it, but it's good to know I can. I wish I was able to be more devious than I am. No, instead, Merry Me lays it all out in the open and offer to start the flogging herself.

That's enough of that. Here's the tie into food. I woke up this morning, not raring to go, but willing to give the day my best shot. For some reason known only to the people who study the intricate workings of the brain during deep sleep, I awoke thinking of liver and onions (liver and onions????)

And this, my friends, naturally led me to thinking of my Sweetie. I know it's a stretch but stick with me. Back in the very beginning of our relationship, before we even had a relationship, when I was just a name on an Internet date site, my future sweetie "winked"* at me with the following message:
Are you the
Yin to my Yang?
Sugar to my Cream?
Liver to my onions?
Hey; if you're smiling; read on!

And I did. And even when I'm a big cry baby and the whole world looks gray and cloudy, I'm glad I did. He says he loves me regardless of my recent resemblance the WWW (see photo at right). At times I question his sanity but who am I to point my witchy fingers at someone who eats liver and onions and smiles at the gourmet delight?

All this brings me to a list of food combinations that can either make your mouth water or stomach churn:
liver and onions
mac and cheese
spaghetti and meatballs
soup and salad
coffee and donuts
green eggs and ham
chips and salsa
cream and sugar
ice cream and cake
burger and fries
rum and coke
steak and potatoes
beet and carrot salad
sausage and peppers
pancakes and syrup
broccoli and hollandaise sauce
Oreos and milk

Now that's what I call a food post. Sorry it was late.

Merry Me
* I wanted to start with a procrastination quote. But most of them were about NOT procrastinating. Instead I made up my own, which I found is not too terribly original. I found this funny little article on the Internet which I'll share with you because it says so well what I wanted to say:

* If you didn't see the show, the couple was finally rescued, but not before, with the rescuing helicopter hovering overhead and watching as if in slow motion, a venomous sea snake swam up to the woman and looked her square in the eye before swimming away. Apparently she didn't look too appetizing which is a good thing.

* Things may have changed in the 4 years since I was on the Internet looking for love. Back then, a wink on Match.com was a way of letting a person know that you liked what you saw and read on their profile. If he/she was equally intrigued then the winking could go back and forth until email addresses were exchanged. One wink from "greyromantic" was all it took for me. What can I say, I'm easy!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Harder than I thought

"Nothing would be more tiresome
than eating and drinking
if God had not made them a pleasure
as well as a necessity."
Voltaire
Writing about food has proven to be more difficult to write about every day than I originally expected. Maybe it's because I've been depressed and writing about anything every day would prove problematic. But it could be that food is the proverbial thorn of my flesh. I have a love/hate relationship with food. While I don't consider myself a glutton and certainly am not by any standards a gourmant, but I do like to eat. Over the years, my once lithe, limber body has slowed down and spread out. Not an uncommon side effect of menopause, yet, truth be told, I can't blame all the spreading on hormonal sluggishness. Most of it has to do with eating too much and exercising too little.

Food is both a comfort to me and a challenge. The comfort comes from the eating, but the trial is in the preparing. How can you have one without the other?

Who can pass up a delicious bowl of homemade crusty-topped macaroni and cheese, hot and bubbly right out of the oven? But the cheesy delight is only possible after dirtying at least two pans, a colander, a cheese grater, measuring cups and spoons, and a stirrer of choice. Some days the joy is in the journey; the cheese and milk and pasta are the tools the artist uses to make a masterpiece. Other days pouring macaroni out of a blue box from Kraft is tiresome. Cooking and eating on the run leads to an indigestion of the soul as well as the stomach.

But what then of a medium order of piping hot McDonald's French fries and icy cold coke? Or the drive through equivalent of the creme de la creme - a DQ hot fudge Sundae topped with frothy whipped cream and nuts and cherry. Oh Lordy, I swoon at the very thought of such a treat.

My main problem with food is not really with the food at all. It is the requirement, in this house, that three meals be prepared every day on a somewhat regular basis. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, breakfast lunch dinner. Day in and day out. I realize we all have to eat and I'm the person who has the task of seeing that this requirement is met. Sometimes I just get tired of the sameness of it all.

Don't get me wrong, as whiny as I sound, I realize just how lucky I am to have food at all and the opportunity to cook on a stove in an air conditioned kitchen that looks out over a cool and inviting swimming pool. I am blessed. I am grateful. I am hungry.

May the blessings of each day, be the blessing you need most,

Merry ME



July 6: Snickerdoodles

1 cup shortening (part butter or margarine)
1 ½ cup sugar
2 eggs
2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. soda
¼ tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (med. Hot)
Mix shortening, 1 ½ cups sugar and eggs thoroughly. Blend flour, cream of tartar, soda, and salt. Stir into creamed mixture. Shape dough in 1 inch balls. Roll in mixture of 2 Tbsp. sugar and cinnamon. Place 2 inches apart on un-greased baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes. These cookies puff up at first; then flatten out. Makes 6 dozen cookies.

Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book, pg.23

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Recipe Only

Sorry, I can't think of anything to say about food today. But here's a recipe for Sugar cookies, a Christmas baking staple.

Merry ME


July 6: Ethel's Sugar Cookies

¾ cup shortening (part butter or margarine)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
½ tsp lemon flavoring or 1 tsp. vanilla
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (mod. Hot).Mix shortening, sugar, eggs and flavoring thoroughly. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together; blend in. Chill at least 1 hr.

Roll dough to 1/8 inch thick on lightly floured board. Cut with 3 inch cookie cutter. Place on un-greased baking sheet. Bake 6-8 minutes or until cookies are a delicate golden color. When cool, decorate with frosting, sprinkles and nonpareils. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

Notes: From the looks of this page in the cookbook, this is the recipe I use most often. I have tried others, but usually come back to this one. I think the lemon flavoring is what makes it different.

Be sure to chill well. However the cold dough does not always roll easily. You have to keep working with it until you kind of get in the groove.

Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book, pg. 18

Friday, July 4, 2008

Food Facts in the News

" When one has tasted watermelon he knows what the angels eat."
Mark Twain

Gone are the days when personal hygiene and, ahem, dysfunction were discussed only in the privacy of the doctor's office. You know that cold, sterile environment with nothing to look at while you sit on a paper-lined steel table waiting for an exam of parts "down there" that can't even be named out loud.

No, today, just about everything that was once private and personal is fair game for pharmaceutical marketers. Erectile dysfunction, vaginitis, the spread of genital herpes, constipation and pooting in public are all freely discussed by celebrities and ordinary people. I don't know about you, but I prefer not hearing about certain symptoms that the ads promise to alleviate. Any discussion of odor and itching is way more information than I need. Nor do I care to hear about all the possible side effects. In fact I find it hard to believe that the list of scary possible concerns could possibly help the sale of the advertised medications. About the only thing not listed as a complication of using Viagra or Cialis is that the once flaccid member that is in dire need of help might actually fall off. This could be the reason the advertisers strongly suggest that hopeful Viagra users talk to their physician before taking the drug. Well, duh!

And my point is? Well, yesterday the lead story for every news program was that scientists have discovered a Viagra-like effect produced by watermelon. Indeed this is interesting information, and I'm guessing that the sale of watermelon, even at today's inflated prices, will skyrocket this weekend. Celebrating patriots will gorge themselves on hot dogs and beer, then leer suggestively at their mate as they eat an extra slice of juicy melon and spit seeds through their teeth.

Science Daily reported that the director of Texas A&M's Fruit and Vegetable Improvement Center [is there really a center for fruit and vegetable improvement or did someone make this up?) said, "Watermelon may not be as organ-specific as Viagra. But it's a great way to relax blood vessels without any drug side-effects." Unfortunately most of the "photo-nutrients that deliver these healthy effects - lycopene, beta carotene and citrulline" are found in the melon's rind and I'm thinking that a hefty intake of watermelon rind will produce an intestinal pain that will overshadow even an erection that might last for hours. Now that I've offered my own brand of advertising that I just railed against, I feel it is also important to remind you that the photo-nutrients are found in trace amounts. To get enough of the effect you're hoping for you may also, unwittingly, ingest enough sugar to send you into a diabetic coma. I suggest you check with your doctor before trying this summertime dessert/aphrodisiac.

Watermelons that produce sexual stimulus is intriguing but what about this little gem of information I found in a pamphlet from a local hospital?* According to a study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, "substances found in dark chocolate, called phenols, may play a role in improved blood pressure." Participants in this study were asked to eat 6.3 grams of either dark or white chocolate a day. Those in the dark chocolate group had reduced blood pressure results. And here's the best news - no one in the study gained weight.

I don't mean to sound skeptical but the first question I have to ask is just exactly how much is 6.3 grams? And how did the scientists who devised this study come up with the number 6.3? Why not 5.7 or 7.0 grams?

I'd also like to know how many Hershey miniatures equal 6.3 grams? This could be a medical breakthrough for every member of my household who not only have high blood pressure but also tend to stick their hand into the candy jar on a regular basis. Do you think the fact that my pressure has been going up rather than down, would indicate that I need a little more chocolate in my diet?

Good eats and good health!
Merry ME
* St. Vincent's Healthcare heartmatters, Summer 2008


July 4: Chocolate Crinkles

½ cup vegetable oil
4 sq. unsweetened chocolate (4 oz.) melted
3 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp. salt
1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix oil, chocolate and granulated sugar. Blend in one egg at a time until well mixed. Add vanilla. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt; stir into oil mixture. Chill several hours or overnight.

Drop teaspoons of dough into confectioners’ sugar. Roll in sugar; shape into balls. Place about 2” apart on greased baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes. DO NOT overbake!

Makes about 6 dozen cookies.

Notes:
I use the same pan that I melt the chocolate squares in to do all the mixing.
You may have to clean your hands several times during the ball making stage. It’s pretty messy.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Lizard Stew ... Not

I can't think of much to say about food today except that I'm glad I'm not a lizard. My sweetie and I were in the pool this afternoon, cooling off after pulling about a kazillion weeds and prickly vines. We were minding our own business, not bothering the reptiles sunning themselves on the expertly trimmed azaleas. All of a sudden, a lizard literally zoomed out of the brush skittering across the cool deck. If there was such a thing as lizard Olympics, I'm pretty sure this speed demon would lead the pack. Then we noticed another smaller lizard clinging to the tip top of a water sprinkler pole with all four of his little tiny webbed feet. Clearly, something had spooked the critters.

We had to look close but there it was. A snake. A black snake. A black snake who was silently slithering up on his anticipated lizard dinner. It was like having our own personal animal planet program. We watched as the snake closed in on his prey. I held my breath hoping the lizard wouldn't move; wisely he didn't even take a breath. The snake stopped, looked, waited. We all waited. I'm glad to say that, at least for today, all's well that ends well. In this reptile showdown, the lizard out waited the snake. Whew!

Merry ME

July 3: 7-Layer Magic Cookie Bars

½ cup butter or margarine
1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)
1 (6 oz.) package semisweet chocolate morsels
1 (6 oz.) butterscotch flavored chips
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
1 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a 13x9 baking pan, melt margarine in oven. Sprinkle crumbs over butter; pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over the crumbs. Layer evenly with remaining ingredients; press down firmly.

Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool. Chill if desired. Cut into bars. Store loosely covered at room temperature.

Note: Pouring the milk is a little easier if you warm it up a bit while the oven is preheating.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Why My Stomach Hurts This Morning

"A good resolution is like an old horse,
which is often saddled but rarely ridden.”
Mexican Proverb

I found AntiJen's first Food post for NaBloPoMo much more positive than mine. She attacked the challenge with gusto. But then for a girl who buys cat food 200 cans at a time, I'd say gusto is her middle name!

Yesterday I had a bit of a vacation. My sister took over all the household duties from making lunch (and dinner) to discussing Dad's constipation. My sweetie and I took off for St. Augustine with one goal in mind. Well, two actually. The first was to enjoy some time together and the second was to purchase some tea bag holders that I saw months ago and have been unable able to forget. For some reason found I am unable to live without them. [I want to have a tea party and how can I do such without all the table accouterments? Thus the lust for tea bag holders!]

While being with my sweetie was indeed refreshing, I've got to say not much else about the trip was. St. Augustine in the summer is just plain hot, and usually steamy from a storm that is either brewing or just passed over. Walking down crowded St. Georges street with other summer tourists in various stages of tourist garb and sweat really isn't refreshing at all. We got half way down the street, found the items I drove 50 miles (with gas at $4.00/gallon) to get, turned around and headed for home. What does it say about my state of mind that 3 hours in a car can be considered a vacation?

But what's a vacation without food? Isn't the best part of time away eating what one wants without giving thought to calories or pocketbook? We passed up the dripping waffle cones and chocolaty treats that others were wearing in St. Augustine. We ate Subway sandwiches instead of partaking of the famous 1905 salad at the Columbia House restaurant for which my mouth had been watering. Sadly I got so hot, I couldn't even think about food - even yummy, famous food.
After we got home and cooled off we continued our longing for some good Mexican food. Our favorite restaurant closed down a few months ago and we were at a loss as to where to go to get the look and feel of authentic Tex/Mex food. You know, a place where the aroma of lime, tequila, chilies, cilantro, fried corn chips and sizzling fajitas meld into a cloud of taste-tempting delights; where mariachi bands strum twangy guitars and serenade you with Latin love songs.
Much to our delight while letting our fingers walk through the yellow pages we discovered that the original version of our closer-to-home-but-now-gone-forever-favorite Mexican food outpost was still up an running at Jacksonville Beach. Visions of corn chips danced in our heads as we headed East for the 15 mile drive to the beach. Gas schmas. We were still on vacation!

We walked into Campche Bay with our mouths watering. We knew we'd leave not only feeling, but actually, being stuffed to the gills, [do people have gills? I don't think so, but if we did, they would have been overflowing.] yet we didn't care. We nearly kissed our waitress, Sara, when she welcomed us like the long lost patrons we were. We drank only water but gorged ourselves on everything else. To my detriment I ate like I don't have a problem with acid reflux. Living high on the hog [no pun intended but probably appropriate] I topped of the evening's gastronomic delectation with a dish of fried ice cream that must have been kissed by Aztec gods. A little but warm, a lot cold, cinnamon-sprinkled, chocolate-covered, whipped cream topped and cherry studded fried ice cream. Mmmmmmmmm.

After an hour or so of unadulterated gluttony, we faced the hardest part of the night. Standing up. I am sure every chip I ate was stuck between my sternum and stomach. The carbohydrate overload made my feet feel like lead. I needed to walk but couldn't make my legs remember how. My brain was swimming in salsa. We trudged to the car. We made it home and sat in our appointed chairs, looking and feeling every bit the couch potato - or in this case the a couch burrito. Can you imagine how I feel this morning? Let me just say that I believe food hangovers are every bit as painful as alcohol overindulgence.

Gone are the days of spending a lively evening at Murriettas [a favorite Bonita, CA eating and drinking establishment] downing margaritas interspersed with Tequila shooters and a wedge of lime. All this alcohol interrupted only by a handful of corn chips and a scoop of guacamole. But then, that's the way of life isn't it? When we're young we can eat, drink and be merry. When we're old we can still eat and drink, but pay the price unless we do so with a measure of Nexium and Metamucil.

Which brings me full circle. One of the reasons I needed some time away was to put out of my head for a few hours the excretory problems of a man in his 90's. It's not that I am not compassionate. It's just that, well ... I needed a different point of view .. my own!

Ole!
Merry Me
July 2: Mexican Wedding Cookies (aka Russian Tea Cakes)
1 cup butter or margarine
½ cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
¼ tsp. salt
¾ cup finely chopped nuts*
Mix butter, sugar, and vanilla thoroughly. Measure flour by dipping method or by sifting. Stir flour and salt together blend in. Mix in nuts. Chill dough.

Heat oven to 400 degrees (mod. hot). Roll dough into 1 inch balls. Place on ungreased baking sheet. (Cookies do not spread.) Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until set, but NOT brown. While still warm, roll in confectioners’ sugar. Cool. Roll in sugar again. Makes about dozen 1” cookies.

*I usually use pecans because that’s what we have an abundance of at Christmas time.
Note: DO not use self-rising flour in this recipe.
Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book
A Complete Collection – for all Occasions, for Every Taste, Golden Press Copyright 1963, pg 25

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Christmas in July

"I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars
and open a jar of it every month."

Harlan Miller

Even though I like to think of myself as an organized girl, I'm not much of an orderly shopper. For reasons I have yet to understand, I find there is cause to go to the grocery store almost every day. I make lists, on paper and in my mind, still there's something I've forgotten.

In the same vane I've never been one of those people who could do my Christmas shopping early. While the lure of extra savings is enticing, day after Christmas shopping makes me sad. I don't do good in crowds and who wants to see the things that they stood in line for at the beginning of the season to assure they'd make someone's dream come true, sitting on a bedraggled, picked-through shelf and marked fifty percent off? Elmos with broken ticklers and Cabbage patch kids who didn't get picked sit in clearance bins like older kids in an orphanage, just waiting to be taken home and loved. Wrapping paper, cards and rolls of ribbon call shoppers to buy now and save later. I don't know about anyone else, but if I haven't bought and sent Christmas cards by Dec. 26th the chances are pretty good that I'm not going to send them at all. Even if I buy them on sale at the end of one year, I'm not going to remember where I stored them come sending time the next.

So, you ask, what's this all about? It's summertime. We should be going to the beach, taking hikes in the woods, eating watermelon, cooking burgers and corn on the cob on an outside grill, making S'mores and catching fireflies. Why talk of Christmases past or future? Well, friends, I've got a plan. It's a little bit convoluted but stick with me.

NaBloPoMo's theme for July is not Christmas (thank God) but food. AntiJen and I talked of making a pact to get us back into regular posting. We agreed discussion of food and our inability to establish good eating habits might just be the impetus to both write and diet! I know it's a far stretch but hey, we were at least having the discussion. I can't remember if we actually agreed to the month long food theme posting regemine, but the idea has been rolling around in my depressed mind. For me, depression and food are a set of bookends. Either I don't eat at all or I eat too much. It's all about control and comfort.

I don't know what AntiJen decided but here's my plan for the month. Since I promised people last Christmas that I would be sending out recipes instead of cookies to lessen my holiday stress, I'm going to use this food posting month as a way to kick-start my 2008 Christmas Recipe Round-Up. I figure if I can copy one recipe a day for 31 days that's doing pretty good in my book. My blog might be kind of boring, because I'm not sure what I can say about food every day for 31 days, but my biggest holiday project will be finished. Woohoo! Depression be damned! I feel the spirit coming on. Fa la la la la la la la la!

Wish me luck.
May your summertime days be merry and bright,
Merry ME
In no particular order:

July 1: Gingerbread Men

(I’ve been making Gingerbread Men with this recipe since Wendy's first Christmas in 1971. I’ve tried others, but always come back to “old faithful.” Perhaps it's just part of the tradition. The dough is user-friendly and can be made into just about any kind of people you want. Cute little boys and girls with decorated Christmas clothes, or more risqué naked people – your call!)

½ cup margarine
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 egg slightly beaten
1 tsp. each lemon and orange peel*
¾ cup molasses
4 cups flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp. each nutmeg, cloves, allspice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream margarine and sugar. Add egg and molasses. Beat well. Stir in peels. Sift together 31/2 cups of flour, spices and soda. Add to creamed mixture and blend. Stir in just enough of the last ½ cup of flour to make a stiff but not dry dough. Cover lightly and chill for 45 minutes. Remove 1/3 of the dough and place on a lightly floured board. Roll out to ¼” thick. Cut and place on a greased sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes, cool and decorate. Makes 3 dozen, 5-inch gingerbread people.

*I find it kind of expensive to buy whole bottles of lemon and orange peel when you are only going to use one teaspoon a year. I often grate fresh peel which adds a touch of citrussy flavor to the cookies.

I never get the stiff but not dry consistency exactly right. The more you make the better you’ll get at juding the right amount of flour.

The cookies will puff up when first baked, then settle back down. Don’t overcook unless you like them crispy. Again, it’s a matter of trial and error to get the right amount of soft vs. crisp (i.e. brittle!)