The road ends, but the journey continues...

Tag: food (Page 1 of 3)

Family travels MMXX

Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening!

We’re back from our jaunt up to Michigan to visit our middle daughter and son-in-law. In fact, we’ve been there and back since Tuesday*.

But wait – I bet you didn’t even know we were away from our COVID cage nest. Surprise!

After some deliberation, we decided it was a reasonable risk worth pursuing – traveling during a narrow window of reduced regional COVID-19 surges and seasonal transitions**.

We packed up the 2003 Jeep Liberty and drove the 14-16 hrs straight through as we always do because we just like to drive. And because we’re all needy about seeing and being with Family.

Armed with my easy-to-reach ‘COVID’ box filled with sanitizer, wipes, paper towels, half can of precious Lysol Spray, all of our cloth masks plus a 5 pack of disposable gloves and the usual travel food box, duffles, pillows, and blanket, we were set to go. In addition, I carefully packed my Bernina, assorted notions, fabric scraps & batting bits and neatly nested all of that in with everything else.

Hubby secretly recorded us getting ready for our photo pose – notice Jude, the quilt eating kitty, sharing the couch with us

Say what? A sewing machine?

Often when we visit, I pack up Maddy to get a hands-on lesson at Elderly Instruments in Lansing with Neil Woodward but that wasn’t an option this time around due to COVID-19. Instead, I was on a sort of rescue mission – to repair as best as possible the three quilts kitty Jude chewed huge holes into since our last visit.

I’m happy to report that two of those quilts are 100% repaired. The third is ready for handstitching. Michelle is eager to begin repairs once I send her the appropriate fabric in sizes larger than I brought with me.

But of course, this trip was more than the sum of its seams…(groan).

Michelle Lilly Solorio, PhD 2020

We had a delayed in-house (pun intended) Family ‘hooding’ ceremony*** celebration, with Michelle gliding down the stairs of their 100 yr old home (there’s the punny connection) in full PhD regalia to the recorded traditional tune of ‘Pomp & Circumstance’.

We shared time around the Family table, spitting opinions (okay, too graphic for sure) between bites of fantastic food.

Took long walks, a Sunday Drive and spent plenty of time just ‘being’…

…Together…


*We drove off Thursday September 24th and returned on Tuesday September 29th

**Timing is indeed everything as both factors have since dramatically shifted.

***Official University ceremony postponed, now cancelled due to COVID-19.

Pandemic Potpourri #4

As mentioned before: herein I will blog, and commenters can comment, without feeling guilty about seeming to disregard the seriousness of our present COVID-19 Reality. In other words, this space is reserved for escaping/managing Reality – however that translates. Anything goes, so here goes!


From bloggers I follow:

laura c's purple orange lily

Laura C’s Purple-Orange Lily.

Nature’s melding of my all-time favorite purple color with an injection of an emerging orange-craziness!

Roseanne's tote bag using my African Fabric scrap block

Roseanne’s finished tote bag.

She did a great job incorporating the scrap block I sent her just for fun & friendship into something functional!


From the kitchen:


And then there’s always ice cream – what’s your favorite?

tillamook ice cream

Tillamook Coffee Almond Fudge ice cream.

A huge splurge but really needing a treat in this heat!


He will be the sure foundation for your times.

Isaiah 33:6a


Pandemic Potpourri #3

I’m finding it very hard to focus on much of anything these days. How about you guys? I really think it’s a COVID-19 shelter-in-place/isolation induced thing – but that irritation is much better than the actual COVID-19 infection itself, so I’m not complaining really. Just noting it.
~~

I’m not a fast food type of gal, but the other day I craved, just craved, a Burger King Whopper and McDonald’s French fries. Hubby obliged by sitting in each of the two respective drive-throughs to indulge my primal need.
Yeah, he’s a keeper.
In keeping with the French Fry Theme, here is a snappy, happy Celtic inspired piece, Danse des Duex Pommes Frites (aka The French Fry Song) by Steve Baughman and performed in duo with Robin Bullock*.
Musical French fries have zero calories, guys, so enjoy!

~~

Speaking of calories.
About 8 weeks into sheltering-in-place, I glimpsed my reflection in the sliding doors entering the grocery store and my Lord! Forget about that masked (wo)man staring back – is that huge-hipped, thunder-thighed lady, me?

Hubby's favorite 'Bridge' Path - sometimes he comes along for the walk & fresh air, too

Hubby’s favorite ‘Bridge’ Path – sometimes he comes along for the walk & fresh air, too


After the Coronavirus took away my meager 45-minute daily workouts on the elliptical at the Y, my regular walks around the block and on the McLeod Path across town took on a more immediate level of importance.
I even do a few planks on my Yoga Mat and shake the house down doing jumping jacks in the kitchen…but admittedly, the Coronavirus has limited my exercise options.
Whilst (I love that British term!) taking a walk around the McLeod Path a few weeks ago, I noticed a pair of ladies beside their respective cars, a proper social distance of 6 feet, jumping rope. These ladies were ladies of a certain build that made me think: if they can do this, I can do this!
 
Mushroom at McLeod Parking lot

Look what greeted me at the nearly empty McLeod Path parking lot last week!


Thus began my search for the perfect jump rope and determination to add jumping rope into my anemic Pandemic exercise routine.
Last week, with my new rope in hand, and a 5 minute ‘Beginner’s Guide to Jumping Rope’ video on my phone, I drove back to the McLeod Path parking lot intent on re-learning how to jump rope.
Yep. Re-learn. Turns out, that ‘double hop’ us kiddos did back in the day is detrimental to progress in the realm of jumping rope for fitness.
For the next 20 minutes, I judiciously went through the preliminary exercises devised to help in redirecting old habits. When I felt ready, I set forth and did a full continuous three minutes of jumping rope.
Three excruciating minutes of jumping rope the ‘correct’ way.
The guy in the video even concedes it’s a biggie challenge to begin again on the jump rope exercise scene. He suggests beginners hold back enthusiasm in advancement by restricting jump rope sessions to 3 per week for the first 4 weeks.
Shin splints, muscle aches and cramps, coordination misfire whips against the body by the jump rope itself – all can add up, hurt and hence discourage continuing on in one’s advancement of jumping rope as a total body workout. Being an older adult, I heeded hubby’s suggestion to ease into my new jump rope routine to 2Xs a week for 4 weeks.
Tuesday this week was my second date with that ole jump rope. In that same parking lot.
The mushroom was long gone, but I managed to do two 5-minute spurts of continuous jumping rope! 10 minutes total. I never in a million years thought I could ‘advance’ so quickly on something so taxing and demanding.
I am not the athletic type.
I was always the last chosen on sports teams back during School Gym days. But my enthusiasm and persistence have always been my redemption. I love hiking, skiing, biking, swimming, diving, volleyball, softball – I’ve just not ever been good enough for ‘teams’!
And now: Here I am, beginning my new COVID-19 jump rope exercise regimen. And succeeding!
Next appointment with my rope? Saturday. Can’t wait.

~~

 *Hubby and I had a date planned to take in Robin’s show at The Isis Music Hall & Kitchen in Asheville, NC on March 29th, 2020 at 6pm. Guess what happened instead? As I re-looked up the concert venue today, lo & behold to my delight and surprise there is a re-scheduled concert set for September 17, 2020 – we’ll see if we can keep that date!

Pandemic Potpourri #2

“I don’t know about you guys, but I could do with getting lost in trivialities. Making small talk with strangers, while waiting for my coffee to be made, about inconsequential things. Nothing of importance that mean everything.”       Andy Murray

As mentioned in Pandemic Potpourri #1 herein I will blog, and commenters can comment, without feeling guilty about seeming to disregard the seriousness of our present COVID-19 Reality.
In other words, this space is reserved for escaping Reality – however that translates. Anything goes, so here goes!

Paul Hollywood’s authentic Hot Cross Buns

Paul Hollywood's Hot Cross Buns

Paul Hollywood’s Hot Cross Buns


I saw a Great British Baking Show ‘masterclass’ rerun on PBS last week where this was a featured bake. It inspired me to bake up a batch for this coming Easter Morning. Seemed reasonable as I always have Bread Flour in stock. I use it for my own special breads as opposed to regular All-Purpose flour and know there truly is a difference in baking results for specific items. When I checked on my personal supply, turned out our cupboard was bare, so I had to go out into the cold cruel COVID world of grocery stores in search of a 5 lb bag. Guess what? The grocery shelves are also bare of any type of flour whatsoever.  So I’m debating whether or not to try this new-to-me recipe with the regular flour I have on hand…still undecided – what do you think?
Oh and BTW: Paul’s from Liverpool, folks! yeah, yeah, yeah

~~~

In the previous Pandemic Potpourri Post I featured a photo of a colorful array of newly planted Gerbera Daisies on our front porch. That very Friday evening I jotted this down – sans margarita!

On the front porch – gorgeous afternoon – the cool/dry lull before the ‘storm’ of a normal SC Spring/Summer filled with heat and humidity.

What is adding to my delight are the heavenly scents of BBQ* chicken wafting in & out with irregular intervals that tease and entice. Looking over to my right – a few feet away from my – ahem – feet are the bring-a-smile-to-my-heart newly planted Gerbera Daisies. They’re settling nicely into a fav Italian Lemon Tree clay pot with the tree stumps collected from our Family mountain property in CO and Breck** behind and beside this bit of joyful color.

TWL’s (my hubby) BBQ is filling the neighborhood with smells of soulful food. Our appetites continue to need quenching regardless of this virus that is eating away life as we know it – scattering collaterally damaged humans as its tally & proof of power over us as vulnerable.

Because Green Gunk*** Allergy Season is in full swing, I am struggling with fatigue and other allergy related malaise in the afternoon especially. A price I willingly pay for enjoying these few otherwise perfect days outside before the SC Spring/Summer (seasonal weather) ‘Storm’ and expansion of the COVID-19 ‘Storm’ continues to ravage this Earth and its peoples.

In conclusion, please enjoy “The Sound of a Pandemic” parody by Shirley Serban – shared and brought to my attention by bloggers Jennie and By Hook Or By Hook:

 *Apologies to our Southern neighbors, but we call it BBQ, not ‘grilling’.
**Breck = local term for Breckenridge, CO
***Green Gunk Season = my term for the SC seasonal thick coating of pine pollen that engulfs and smothers anything outside from mid-March to around mid-April

Pandemic Potpourri #1

“I don’t know about you guys, but I could do with getting lost in trivialities. Making small talk with strangers, while waiting for my coffee to be made, about inconsequential things. Nothing of importance that mean everything.”   Andy Murray

Thanks for the inspiration, Andy and welcome all to the first of my new series Pandemic Potpourri. Herein I will blog, and commenters can comment, without feeling guilty about seeming to disregard the seriousness of our present COVID-19 Reality.
In other words, this space is reserved for escaping Reality – however that translates. Anything goes, so here goes!

Sign newly planted in the grass across the street from where we live:

Margarita's Curbside SignI’ve been dying to do some baking lately – and took advantage of a straggling cooler day to bake up a batch of my “Laura’s Lovelies” *.  I really wanted to share these with the neighbors, but honestly, if anyone gave us something homemade, would I trust their level of COVID Cleanliness enough to eat them? So, hubby and I ate some of them ate too many of them before I froze the remainder of the batch in packets of 3…guess who gets the second helping?

Cookies and Clorox

Cookies and CloroxOn our side of the street (across from that Margarita Curbside Sign) there is a fresh produce stand that also sells Christmas trees starting November 10th each year and then bedding plants starting the end of March. Their new stock of Gerbera Daisies caught my eye and I just couldn’t resist…

Gerbera Daisies newly planted on our front porch:Gerbera Daisies on Front Porch

Wishing all of us a great weekend!

 *Thusly named by Amy-next-door, during a ‘circle’ block party in the old neighborhood ~ Lafayette, CO circa 1988

Snips, Snaps and Soggy Bottom Pie

Catchy title, eh? It’s been rolling around in my head as a title for a poem since 2015.
The alliteration, associated visuals, meanings and rhythmic feel just lends itself to something more creative than yet another blog post. I mean, speak this out loud: snips, snaps and soggy bottom pie.
Like I said, the perfect set-up for something more to follow than just another blog post. I think four years of this title sitting in a Word file of ideas for poems is long enough. It needs to see the light of day.
Which brings us to this day.
Notice that what follows is not a poem – more like a framework of thoughts prompted by said title. Which is handy as I’ve come against a brick wall lately trying to sort through the myriad current events and life events crowding my mind all screaming for first place in being presented in ‘yet another blog post’.
I’m sure most bloggers squash up against that brick wall every once and awhile. It’s one of the commonalities we bloggers share.
I therefore choose to start with Soggy Bottom Pie as the first smack down of that formidable barricade.

Soggy Bottom Pie

My current favorite PBS series, The Great British Baking Show aka The Great British Bake Off in the UK, is rich in such ‘show stopping’ images. (Yep, pun intended, for those of you familiar with the show).
Can’t you just hear Mary Berry intone, “It mustn’t have a soggy bottom,” as she pokes and prods a contestant’s pastry crust in the pie baking ‘Technical Challenge’?

cherry pie a la mode

I like mine with 2 scoops of the creamiest French Vanilla Bean ice cream available!


Truth be told, I am partial to a good homemade pie with, yes, a slightly soggy bottom. Sensuously luscious when the à la mode melts deep underneath the crust, bathing the jammy juices within.
My favorite pie is cherry. My extra favorite is a cherry pie made with Montmorency cherries picked from our own backyard tree*…seems like centuries ago when our kids and the neighborhood kids all helped pick once the harvest was in full swing.

What’s your favorite soggy bottom pie?
What’s your favorite reason why?

Snaps

“Contrary to popular belief, I am a snapdragon…” snapdragonsThus began a post I wrote in 2014. Based upon a now defunct ‘What Kind of Flower Are You?’ internet quiz, it was a fun foray into matching flower personalities with us humans. Or should that be human personalities with flowers?
I came out a snapdragon 8 takes in a row – even though I’m more partial to giant purple irises, deep red orange poppies, daisies and milkweed blossoms. I learned that my cousin Marybeth and blogger friend Deborah (christened ‘flower-sister’) both came up snaps in the quiz. We three are also October babies. Connection?

Snappy, flappy, flower laughing lips.
Caring, sharing, dreamy dew-drop drips.

Snips

Come a Stranger by Cynthia Voigt coverI do relish reading books and finding passages float up from the page past my eyes and into my (he)art. When that happens, I often mark it with a sticky note, reread it later, then if it still resonates, hand copy it into my book of quotes – or snip(pet)s if you will.
I often find lovely prose in young adult novels. Here’s one from Come a Stranger I jotted down 4/15/07.

“Even after everyone had gone home, the house was filled with the good time they’d had, as if it could linger in the air like the voices and music lingered in memory. Mina wrapped the memory up and put it in her heart; there was a quiet gladness, deep like a tree and tall in her.” Cynthia Voigt

 

 A tisket, a snip(pet)
A green and yellow kismet.
~~~

 Snips, Snaps and Soggy Bottom Pie

What comes to your mind as this phrase echoes about?

*we’ve since moved from our ‘growing-a-family-and-garden’ home…sigh.

Virtual Brownie (Muffin) Sharing Circle: Susan's Single Step

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him
Psalms 34:8

 Some of you may remember my VBSC posts (#1, #2 and #3).

In keeping with the spirit, if not literal brownie connection, of these Virtual Brownie Muffin Sharing Circle visits, today’s installment features a recent post by Chef Susan Nye.
On her blog, Susan freely shares a plethora of tried & true, homey & experimental recipes and meal suggestions along with a huge helping of good storytelling. I often peruse her recipes looking for something new and interesting to try, but more often than not, I find myself drawn to the tales and thoughts she shares along with those recipes.

Begin with a Single Step & Rhubarb-Walnut Muffins

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
From Tao Te Ching by Laozi

I need a new word; one that combines sad and angry. Three mass murders in eight days created this mix of emotions. These most recent crimes are on top of the tens of thousands of annual gun deaths and injuries. Foot-dragging politicians talk about mental illness, video games  and the need for more information. Then, if history repeats itself, they will do nothing. No study group will be formed. No funding will be provided. The outrage will subside. The moment for action will pass until the next crisis.
While I am sure that common psychological or sociological threads can be found, let’s face it – each crime is perpetrated by an individual. Some are fueled by hate, some by despair. Some are part of a larger criminal enterprise; others are powered by extremist religious or political fervor. Some are the product of mental illness, drugs or alcohol abuse. Some perpetrators were bullied. Others are bullies. There is no one root cause, no single, elusive answer. Gun violence is complex. There is a long list of explanations for each terrible crime. However, there is one constant, one common denominator. Regardless of the crime – mass murder, drive by shooting, burglary gone bad or family violence turned deadly – easy access to guns makes it possible.
We will never make any progress, if we don’t take a first step. The vast majority of Americans want sensible gun control. And yes, my definition of sensible may be different from yours. But again, we will never get anywhere if we don’t take a first step. We need to make the effort. We need to try. The step can be small. It can be a compromise. We just need to take the first step … and then another and one more after that. Eventually, what is now very imperfect will become a little less so.
This morning I made muffins. I find peace in the Zen of everyday activities. Simple tasks, done one after another, are grounding. Recipes, no matter how complex, are nothing more than taking one step and then another and another to make something. Something you can share. Something that makes the day a little better or brighter or at least keeps you from going hungry.
I measured flour, baking powder and spices. I preheated the oven. I chopped rhubarb and nuts. I whipped butter and sugar, added eggs, vanilla and sour cream. The dry ingredients gradually joined the wet, followed by the rhubarb. Not done yet, I scooped the batter into muffin tins and then slid them into the oven. All told, I guess it took about a dozen steps.
Fifteen minutes later, they were golden and delicious. However, if you arrived at my door hoping to find a big breakfast, an all-encompassing solution to your morning hunger, it wasn’t there. Only muffins, one piece of what could become a more comprehensive feast.
A friend did come over. I took two more steps; brewed coffee and heated milk. We sipped lattes and ate a few of the muffins. We had a lovely chat about writing and freelancing and making a living as well as life and a few other things. Progress of a different sort was made.
Although some may lead you astray, most steps take you at least a little closer to where you need to be; closer to a more perfect imperfection. If the life of one child, one teenager, one man, one woman can be saved by taking the first step, isn’t it worth the effort? Isn’t it worth a try?

Here’s to a safer tomorrow and bon appétit!

Rhubarb-Walnut Muffins
A neighbor gave me an armful of rhubarb the other day so I made muffins. They are delicious as a little something to nibble with coffee or tea. Or include them in your next brunch – maybe you refer to it as a comprehensive solution to morning hunger. Enjoy! 
Makes 36 muffins

Susan Nye's Rhubarb-Walnut Muffins

Susan Nye’s Rhubarb-Walnut Muffins


4 cups all-purpose flour
5 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups sour cream
12 ounces fresh rhubarb, cut into small dice
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners.
Put the flour, baking powder and spices in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the walnuts and whisk again.
Put the sugars and butter in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and continue beating until smooth. Add the sour cream and beat until well combined.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients. Gradually add the rhubarb and continue beating until just combined.
Use an ice cream scoop or two spoons to fill each muffin cup about 3/4 full with batter.
Bake in the middle of the oven until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 15-20 minutes. Cool the muffins on a rack for a few minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sixty Pho’ part one

Got this postcard from our son Joe in the snail mail a few days ago.

Make Pho' Not War

Welcome to the 21st century, Vietnam and Baby Boomers!

 The slogans written on the VW bus are as follows:

  • Make Pho’ Not War
  • Draft Beer, Not boys
  • Peace
  • all we need is peace
  • Love
  • Hoian (Quang Nam Province)
  • War is expensive, Peace is priceless

And the best for last:

  • Vietnam against War (using the V and W in the VW logo)

 
Coming of age during the Vietnam War, the country itself has never held any appeal for me to visit. Dove or Hawk, protester or soldier, the war in Vietnam was complicated. The dread of the draft during wartime isn’t too much understood these days as we have an all-volunteer army which implies a desire to be involved in the military in some form or another during times of war and of peace. Those days, enlisting was an option that meant a guy of draftable age could at least choose a branch of the military in which to serve. Hubby chose the Navy.
As such, while hubby served during the Vietnam War, his assigned job as a naval optical man. He’s very adamant about making the distinction that he’s a Vietnam era Vet, not a Vietnam Veteran in deference to those who did indeed serve their tour of duty in Southeast Asia.
Anyway, I have to admit our son’s month long trip hiking, biking and scootering the entire length of Vietnam starting in the North and ending in the South, opened my eyes to its natural beauty, culture, native coffees & foods, and as a traveler’s destination.
Like many of you, I was first introduced to those fresh Vietnamese Noodle Bowls in the 1990’s and graduated to the more complex flavors of Pho’ in recent years. So now, Joe’s fun postcard entices me further as he wrote on the back –

Move over Pho - here comes Bun Bo Hue!

Move over Pho – here comes Bun Bo Hue!


‘I found a pho-sibling that is equally delicious! Bon Bo has a deeper roast flavor to the broth…other delicious dishes to look out for are Bohn Beo, Bahn Khoai.’
Yum! I’m all in!
Darn – I don’t think those selections are on any menu around here in Florence, SC. I even double checked via google since FloTown has been changing in recent years…to be fair. However, I did find in the google search a single listing of a Vietnamese Restaurant that debuted in 2015 and closed down in the same year.
Just sayin’…I’ll keep a keen eye for these dishes elsewhere.
Meanwhile, as for the use of Pho’ as a word in the blogpost title rather than as the name of a delicious dish – How did you mentally pronounce the word Pho’? Faux or Fuh?
Hint: the correct pronunciation of Pho’ helps one to understand its relationship to the Sixty in the title of this post and will become evident as you continue to read on…next time in part two…

So, how do you pronounce Pho’?

Salt Break

Note: Please join me as I take a break from the all-consuming house-selling prep chores.
I’m sitting on the floor, my back against the wall down here in the walkout basement level that leads to the garden of my folks’ house. It is cooler here than any other place even with the AC on throughout the house.
It’s hot, but bearable…knowing these same temps are lingering around Florence, SC (our current place of residence) with the high humidity of the deep South, these Colorado 97 degree days are a piece of cake.
Hmmm, cake? For some reason, my appetite has been wonky – consuming things I don’t normally crave: Potato chips, extra salty fries, dark chocolate salted almond bark – oh yes the chocolate is a common craving for me, but not the desperate need for it to contain salted caramel, sea salted nuts or simply chunks of the rocky salty stuff….a common denominator seems to be emerging here.
Oh, I stay hydrated. In fact I drink water as if it were my own personal national pastime. My family teases me about always having a glass of water close at hand and asking others if they’ve kept up with their own liquid intake needs. I diversify, too, as I treat myself to watery watermelon often.
But this binging on salty and also high caloric food is way out of character for me. Ask any of my newer Southern acquaintances and they’ll tell you it’s odd for me since I dodge most of that part of the country’s traditionally deep fat fried, tongue stingingly salty foods.
So much for the weird…please pass the popcorn – drenched in butter and coated with salt of course.

Virtual Brownie Sharing Circle #3

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him
Psalms 34:8

Inside view of my 'loaded brownies minus one ingredient'

Inside view of my ‘loaded brownies minus one ingredient’


This edition of the Virtual Brownie Sharing Circle answers the question presented in the first VBSC post: What exactly is the missing ingredient in my ‘loaded brownies minus one ingredient’?
In a word: Lavender. In a story?

—Ooo-La-La Lavender Brownies—

was the number one fav vignette of my little list* for 2012. Since then, I figured out the proportions to be 1/8 cup crushed dried lavender buds added to the Ghiradelli Double Chocolate Brownie mix, using a large egg in the prep. (see recipe here)
Personally, if I eat more than two, I’ve found that they don’t settle so well on my tummy…kind of reminiscent of their alluded to ‘cousin’ edible. Continue reading

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