Roasted Branzino

A few weeks ago, OK, maybe 6 weeks ago, I was lazily watching cooking shows on PBS, and a French chef who has restaurants in Las Vegas, Hubert Keller, was making a poached Branzino. It looked really good, though to be honest, I didn’t have the equipment to poach it, and thought I might prefer to roast it instead. So I poked around the Internet, and found a recipe that looked good on a blog, Girl and the Kitchen, here.

It looked delicious, and I decided to give it a try the next time Maya would not be home for dinner (she’s not a big fan of fish). I followed the recipe, and the only complaint that I have is that the skin did not crisp up as nicely as hers. Perhaps I did not dry the fish enough, or I did not cut enough slits in the skin, I’m not sure. That’s purely aesthetics, though, because I didn’t really intend to EAT the skin, so who cares.

I found Branzino at my local Whole Foods, and they cut off the head and tails for me. Girl and the Kitchen said to leave them on, but I don’t like looking at the face of my food, so no. The fish was delicious, and I think we will have this again, another time when Maya is not home. Or perhaps even when she is home. She may like it, it’s delicate and not a strong fish flavor.

NOTE #1: Here’s where this post gets a little weird. Looking at my picture, above, assuming you click over to Girl and the Kitchen’s blog, you can CLEARLY see that it is not the same as the Branzino on her post. For one thing, NO ONIONS OR SHALLOTS on hers. That’s the big giveaway. Also, it kinda looks like I didn’t cut ANY slits in my fish. That means that this is NOT the recipe that I used, though it did pop up in my history when I was searching for Branzino. And a recipe including shallots does NOT pop up, nor can I find it. What to do? I have decided to give full disclosure that I did NOT make this recipe, that I have NO idea what recipe I did make, and keep the recipe here anyway, because I would like to try it someday soon. I know, I’m weird.

NOTE #2:  After posting this, I did another, slightly different, search, and I found the recipe that I made.  If you’re so inclined, you can find it at All Recipes, here.

Anyway, here’s the recipe that I INTEND to try, because the one I did try was tasty, and this one looks like it might be even better.

Greek Whole Roasted Branzino
Author Mila Furman

Ingredients
2 branzino about 3 pounds total, lavraki or sea bass
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil * fruity kind
4 garlic cloves minced finely on a microplane
4 sprigs of fresh oregano
1 lemon cut in half and sliced thinly
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
Place the oven on highest broil setting.
Place parchment paper onto a sheet pan large enough to fit the two fish.
Slice 3-4 slits into the fish, parallel to the fish’s head, going with the direction of the scales.
Pour the olive oil all over the fish, ensuring both sides and the insides are covered.
Slather the garlic mixture into the cavity of the fish evenly.
Place the oregano stems into the cavities of the fish.
Place the lemon wedges into the cavity of the fish.*
Place the sheet pan into the preheated oven for 18-20 minutes or until the fish flesh is flaky and white. Serve with extra lemons.

My Reading List

I have not been in the mood to read lately.  By lately, I mean, since my Dad died.  I just veg out in front of the TV. But I miss reading.  I miss getting sucked into a story, and now I have a couple of reasons to crack a book.

First, Ted’s aunt and I are both fans of Dick Francis mysteries.  He died several years ago, and his son has taken over the franchise.  Auntie is much better than I am about remembering to watch for a new release.  Well, there is a new release, which she reserved at the library.  She read it and then gave it to me.  So now I have to finish it in the next few days.  It is due on Wednesday, but I’m about 3/4 through, and I expect I will make it.

Pulse is the story of Dr. Chris Rankin, an emergency room physician in England, who is trying to solve the mystery of a well dressed man who died in her care, but without any identity.  Dr. Rankin has demons she is struggling with…anxiety and an eating disorder.  She is trying to get better, for herself, and also for her husband and twin boys.  This is the first Francis book I can remember with a female protagonist.

Second, I heard an interview with an author on NPR, talking about his new book, which sounded interesting to me.  I put the book on hold at the library, not expecting that I would get it quickly.  What do you know, I got it, just a day or two after the other book.  So I have a couple of weeks to read this one.

Solo is a YA novel, about a young man named Blade.  He is the son of a washed up rock star and drug addict, who has his own interests in music.  A family secret comes out that may change his understanding of the world around him.

Third, I started a book that was sent to me by a friend, right before the mystery showed up at my door.  I had to put it aside, because of the time issues with the library books, but I’m enjoying it so far and look forward to getting back to it.

Through the Kaleidoscope is the story of a young woman who moves to San Francisco in the 60s, looking for her father, who she has never met.  (A little familiar maybe, huh?)

Last, Maya gave me a book for Christmas (or maybe my birthday) last year, and I’ve been meaning to get to it.  I think once I get through the other three, I will dive into this one.

Between the World and Me – I know nothing about this book yet.  Just that Ta-Nehisi Coates is very much in the public eye right now, that his new book is getting rave reviews, and that the book above received wonderful reviews and won the National Book Award.  And Maya liked it enough to give it to me as a gift.

Will I finish all of these by the end of November?  I doubt it.  I have the library pushing me to finish the first two relatively quickly, but the others are not a rush.  I am hoping that reading the first two will get me pulled into the second two.  Wish me luck.

Everything I ever learned, I learned at Mr. Steak


Ted has been asking for that as a title for a post for years now, because all too often, when we’re having a conversation about anything at all, I will pop in with a story about my time at Mr. Steak. I worked there for 2 years, from 1982 – 1984. I think the first year was as a hostess, and the second year was as a waitress. So I was 17. Back then, when you took an order, you wrote it on a ticket, and turned the ticket in to the kitchen, and they cooked it for you/your customers.

I remember as a hostess, watching the waitresses take care of their customers, sending back anything they didn’t feel comfortable serving. “May I have a different potato, sir?” (We called everyone ‘Ma’am’ and ‘Sir’ at Mr. Steak). Or another time when I was a waitress, serving a steak and lobster tail, and I turned around too fast, and the lobster tail went flying off of the plate onto the floor. I took it back into the kitchen and asked for a new lobster tail, ASAP, and they wanted me to serve it anyway. I refused, and threw the lobster tail into the dish area, where the dish pig promptly and happily solved the problem by eating it. Sorry, dish pig is very un P.C., and a rude thing to call a coworker. That is what we called him, what he called himself. Once he took a bite of the lobster tail, they were forced to make another. The customers were close enough to the kitchen that they heard a lot of the conversation, and I got a good tip for insisting on their behalf.

Another night, I was not so lucky. I took a table’s order, perhaps my last of the night. When their food hadn’t come out after about 20 minutes, I was worried. Remember, I was 17. I did not handle it well. I went back to the kitchen, again and again, asking where the food was, but communication was not good, and they did not tell me that they didn’t have a ticket for that table. Perhaps 40 minutes in, the customers are PISSED, and I finally found the ticket…still in my pocket, on the pad of tickets. I never turned it in. Once I found it, I immediately turned it in and begged forgiveness from the kitchen, and then I went to apologize to my table. I told them what had happened, and how sorry I was. I told them that dinner was on the house, approved by my manager, with our apologies. They yelled at me, in front of all of the other customers. They told me how horrible I was and that they were hungry and I had ruined their evening. I brought them their food. They ate it. They left me a $20 tip, unheard of in 1983. I think they felt badly for how they treated me. Perhaps they were hangry. I don’t know. I felt badly about how I had treated the kitchen staff, yelling at them because the ticket was in my pocket. I gave them a big tip that night, but probably not the entire $20. I wasn’t THAT nice.

Last month, my Great Aunt Flo and I went to dinner at Red Lobester in Stockton. We got our drinks quickly, and our cheddar bisquits, and our salad. Then we sat and waited for our meals. And waited. And waited. Finally a manager came by to ask how our dinner was, and told us that our waitress was in training. I told them all was well, but it had been quite awhile since our salad, and we were waiting for our dinner. Then, a few minutes latter, our waitress came by and said, “it’s all my fault, but your dinner will be here in a minute.” I had to ask…did you forget to submit our order? Yes, that was the problem. So I told her my story from back at Mr. Steak, and that we were OK. We had had salad and bread, we weren’t too hungry, and I had made a similar mistake back in the day, I understand. I told her not to worry. They brought the dinner out quickly, and an extra order of cheddar bisquits for Aunt Flo to take home, and they were grateful for our understanding. I left her a bigger tip than usual, remembering my horrible night. They did not comp our dinner or our wine even, but that’s OK. I felt like I was paying it forward in a way, showing compassion to the young staff. I didn’t really receive compassion myself in the same situation, but I learned from the experience anyway. I’m glad I did. Not glad that it happened to either of us, but glad that treating people decently was a lesson that I learned.

Winter Squash Soup


I have a fondness for cooking shows, especially those where they show you how to cook something interesting. Most of the cooking shows I watch currently are on PBS, but I also enjoy watching Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa. A few weeks ago, she made a delicious looking soup, with butternut squash and canned pumpkin. I thought it looked like a good dinner to have on Halloween, considering it was orange, so I made it. It was delicious, and I will definitely be making it again.

I made a couple of changes to Ina’s recipe. First, I cut up the butternut squash, then roasted it in the oven until it was soft, rather than cooking it in the soup. I think that gives it more flavor. Second, I used milk instead of half and half. Third, I don’t have a food mill, and I’m not about to go out and buy one since there is zero room in my house for any new ANYTHING, so I used my handy immersion blender, which worked perfectly.

I love butternut squash, but sometimes it is a little too sweet for me.  The pumpkin balanced it out, and maybe the milk did too.  This is a savory soup, and really good.

We didn’t put any cheese on ours. I had mine with toasted sourdough bread, and Maya had hers with cornbread, which was leftover from the night before’s turkey chili. Ted just ate the soup. We all loved it. Here’s the recipe, unedited by me.

Winter Squash Soup

Ingredients
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon good olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
1 (15 – ounce) can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut in chunks
3 cups homemade chicken stock or canned broth
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup half – and – half
Creme fraiche, grated Gruyere, or croutons (see Note), for serving (optional)

Directions
Heat the butter and oil in a heavy – bottomed stockpot, add the onions, and cook over medium – low heat for 10 minutes, or until translucent. Add the pumpkin puree, butternut squash, chicken stock, salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer over medium – low heat for about 20 minutes, until the butternut squash is very tender. Process the mixture through the medium blade of a food mill. Return to the pot, add the half – and – half, and heat slowly. If the soup needs more flavor, add another teaspoon of salt. Serve hot with garnishes, if desired.

Cook’s Note: To serve with croutons, remove the crusts from 2 slices of white bread, cut them in 1/2-inch cubes, and saute them in 1 tablespoon of butter until browned. Season with salt and pepper.

My Le Creuset

Back in early July, my beloved Le Creuset Dutch oven suddenly came down with a horrible chip in the bottom of the enameled coating.  Suddenly, you could see the cast iron at the bottom.  It looked like this.

There isn’t a lot of danger from the cast iron, people cook with cast iron all of the time. But if the enameled coating is chipped, it could continue chipping, and you don’t really want to bite into that. So I did what any 21st Century person would do, and I complained on Facebook. A FB friend (a friend I knew in real life, back in college) mentioned that her Martha Stewert Dutch oven did the same thing, and she returned it to Macy*s, no questions asked.

I liked that solution, but Martha Stewart Dutch ovens are sold exclusively at Macy*s, so it’s not hard for them to take a return. Much as I might rack my brain, I could not remember where I bought my Le Creuset. Macy*s, Williams Sonoma, or Sur La Table. Why can’t I remember? Generally, I do remember such things. Clearly, I had no receipt, as I’ve had it for several years now.

So I looked online, and they have a lifetime guarantee. So you pay to send it back to their returns department, in South Carolina, and they will review it and determine whether it is a defect or not. If it’s a defect, they will replace it, in between 2 – 4 weeks. If it’s not a defect, they’ll send you a coupon to buy a new one at a steep discount. The Le Creuset website doesn’t say how much the discount it, but another website said 75%. That’s pretty awesome.

So I packed my Dutch oven into a Priority mail box (if it fits, it ships, for one price) and mailed it off. I didn’t hear anything for awhile, so I called them. They said they had determined that it was in fact a defect, so they would replace it, but that she didn’t know WHEN yet. They had to send the order over to the warehouse.

I’m getting a little bit bored of telling this story, so I will fast forward. 4 phone calls, 2 emails, and 14 weeks after I mailed my Duth oven, I finally received my replacement. Isn’t it pretty?

My lessons from this are, no matter what the instructions say, heat is not your friend. At least, not direct heat. I’ve been doing some ‘research’ online (I kind of think online research should often be in quotation marks), and it seems like high heat on the stove is bad for enameled cast iron, as well as non-stick. The oven is different, because it is indirect heat. But I kind of think that you don’t want to use high heat on the stove unless you are using regular cast iron, or maybe aluminum. It’s a hard lesson to learn, and I’m in my 50s already. Shouldn’t I know this stuff by now?

Apparently not.

Dad’s Memorial

Flowers that my sisters picked for the memorial

My Dad’s memorial was last weekend. It was difficult. But it was very nice as well. It was a lovely service and very well attended. I think there were maybe 300 people there, which showed how many people’s lives he touched. There were people there from the alternative newspapers that he started way back when, from his time managing (and more recently as a board member) an alternative, non profit radio station, from his many years working in grant writing, from mentoring others to writing books, to teaching classes. People from Meals on Wheels, where he volunteered as a delivery person for over 20 years. People from my step-mom’s life as a top tier yoga instructor in Oregon. People from the neighborhood. Friends and family. Lots of family.

It was lovely to see my step-mom, Julie, and to spend some time with her. We went to the beautiful Japanese Garden in Portland, hiked in Forest Park, and ate delicious dinners. It was lovely to spend some time with my sister Melissa, shopping for birthday gifts for my niece and nephew, buying a thank you gift for the kind neighbor who took us in when Ted and Maya joined me a few days in (I went up on Thursday morning, and stayed at the house with Julie, who has two big cats. Ted is VERY allergic, so once he and Maya came up on Saturday, we stayed the next couple of nights at the neighbor’s house.) We went up to Lewis and Clark to see the chapel for the memorial. It was so nice to have some time, sad as it was, just with my sisters and step mom, where she gave us a copy of Dad’s arrest documents from Georgia in 1963, where he was arrested for being part of a march for civil rights, as well as copies of his books, etc. Once Ted and Maya joined me on Saturday morning, we spent a bit of time just the three of us. We went downtown and bought a new shirt for Ted, and had a very nice brunch.  We then went to my sister’s house to arrange the flowers that my sisters had picked at a U Pick farm while I was picking Ted and Maya up from the airport.  Saturday night we went to dinner as a large group, maybe 25 or 30 of us, close friends and family who were in town for the memorial. Sunday was the memorial, which was hard. Monday we went for a hike in Forest Park, then lunch at the house with Julie, then flew home. It was very nice to be home.

The memorial service itself was very nice. In addition to the officiant, Dad’s three daughters each spoke, as did his two best friends. It was hard to get up in front of that many people, but more sad than scary. I started crying pretty much right away, but managed to get through it all. I had ideas of using inflection in my voice and so on, but that did not happen. I just read it and barely got through. I looked down at my hands at one point and saw that my hand was shaking, so I guess I was nervous. Here is what I said.

My dad has been my stalwart, supporting me through tragedy and triumph.  There to cheer me on through life’s events, big and small.  Life in college.  Falling in love with my beloved husband, Ted.  Moving across the country.  Giving birth to my darling daughter, Maya.  Supporting me through the pain of my mother’s death in 2008.  Buying a house.  Getting a job.  Losing a job.

I didn’t know my dad growing up, we have never lived in the same city, or even the same state.  We met when I was 21, and he was 44, when he drove from Portland to San Francisco to meet me.  Since the day we met in October of 1987, he has been there for me, loving me, being my dad.

If you are here today, celebrating his life, you know the kind of man he was.  You know that he has always had a deep sense of justice.  You know that he is kind.  You know that he worked hard his entire life in support of both justice and kindness.  You know that he wanted to have adventures, and enjoy the successes in life.  You know that he was grateful for all of the gifts afforded him. You know that he loved his family deeply, and was a devoted father, husband, and friend.

My inheritance, then, is to live my life following his example, in my own ways. To care deeply about issues that are important, and for those that I love.  To find ways to work for justice.  To be kind whenever possible.  (And it is nearly always possible.) To live my life with integrity, to listen to my inner voice, and trust that voice.  To give of my heart, my time, and my effort.  Most of all, to be grateful for the gifts afforded me, and that he was my much loved Dad.

My Stupid Shoulder

Mulder and his Crabby on his THICK bed

Back in early April, I was home alone, and bringing a newly laundered tablecloth downstairs. I was holding it just so, so that it blocked my line of sight in just the right way that I tripped over Mulder’s bed. He has a thick bed, and my foot caught on it in such a way that I could not pull my knees up and catch myself. Instead, I fell flat on my face, while my arm went above my head. I fell hard. I was bruised and sore.

After a few days, the bruising and most of the pain went away. But my shoulder continued to hurt, badly enough that I couldn’t raise my hand up high, and it woke me up in the middle of the night. So, after a couple of weeks without improvement, off I went to the doctor. I said I wanted to try physical therapy (Maya’s suggestion), and I didn’t want to pay for X-Rays or anything. I have better insurance now than I did back in 2014 when I came down with the stupid arthritis, but of course there are still expenses, and I hate expenses. The doctor said it didn’t sound to her like a torn rotator cuff, and she was OK with sending me to Physical Therapy. So off I went.

I went 3 times a week for about a month, and it helped with range of motion and strength, but the pain was still there, still waking me up at night. My physical therapist said it might be time to see an orthopedist, just in case. Sigh. Off I went, had an X-Ray, and the diagnosis was a tiny fracture in my shoulder. He wanted me to have an MRI, to check for further damage, but for that, you have to wait for insurance approval. The word surgery was suggested, which I did NOT want. Another thought might be a cortisone shot, which would be fine. But I had to wait for the insurance approval. That finally came through, only after I called the office and asked about it, 2 weeks later. Last week was the MRI, my first. If you’ve never had an MRI, it’s fine. Not painful or scary (unless you’re claustrophobic, which thankfully I am not), but it is loud. A few days later, back to the orthopedist to review the MRI results. The good news? No surgery needed! There’s no tear to the rotator cuff, thankfully. Just a bruised bone, which has another name, Bone Marrow Edema. Which means, inflammation in the bone. Sigh. A cortisone shot won’t help. Only time will help. And my inflammatory arthritis might make it take longer than it would for most people, as that is my body fighting with inflammation, and my body takes it seriously.

So, WHEW, no surgery. That’s a huge relief. I’ll keep up with the exercises that my Physical Therapist gave me, and spend some time in the pool this summer. Keep Ibuprofin around, as I do seem to sleep better if I have that.

Grandma Ward

Grandpa and Grandma 1941

Grandfather Roland and Grandma Ginny, 1941


This is my much loved Grandma Ward, with her first husband, Roland, back in 1941.

Grandma was born in Southern California but moved to the Central Valley near Modesto when she was a young girl. She remembered riding the bus with the high school kids when she was in Kindergarten, because her parents didn’t want her taking the bus the other Kindergarteners took, as it was on the Highway and they didn’t think that was safe. So she rode with the big kids. The step to get on the bus was too high for her to reach, so a high schooler would lift her up. Kindergarten was 1/2 day, and High School was full day, so she waited outside the school for 3 hours or so until the big kids got out. All alone. Can you imagine anything like that today? Her parents would be in jail for neglect.

She fell in love with my Grandfather Roland when she was in High School, on a date with another boy. I guess that boy was friends with Roland, and they double dated. They didn’t care a bit for the others they were with, and Roland asked her out the next day. A few months later, they eloped. They had to elope, because he was older (27 to her 18) and divorced. The older her family could have dealt with, but the divorced would have been a deal breaker. So they chartered a little airplane that flew them to Carson City, Nevada, and they got married. They came home and she went to school and didn’t tell anyone until after graduation. Her parents couldn’t do much with her, but they didn’t let her younger sister Florence out of their sight for about 2 years, and she wasn’t allowed to date, which she said was fine with her because she was too shy anyway and it gave her an excuse.

Roland worked in construction, and he and my Granmda (Ginny) lived in a little trailer that was hitched to the back of their car. They drove up and down the valley following work, and were very happy. My mom came along about a year later, and made them even happier. Ginny felt like my mom was her little doll to play with, and had a great time being a mom. They had another baby, a boy, two years later, but baby Roland was very ill, and never came home from the hospital. He lived for several months, but kept getting sick before he could be released. When he died, they were devistated. They had another baby, another boy, a couple of years later. This baby was my Uncle Forrest, and all was well, they were again very happy and loving life with the two little children. I think they had an apartment now. One day, Grandpa Roland stepped on a nail while at work. He wasn’t terribly worried because he had had a tetanus shot. But the tetanus shot turned out to be ineffective, likely expired when given to him, and he died quite suddenly. He complained of a headache at breakfast, and was dead before lunch. My Grandma was left with a high school education, a 5 year old, a baby, and a broken heart. They had no life insurance, because they had cancelled the policy because it was too expensive.

Grandma had to find work, and couldn’t keep her kids with her. So my mom went to a convent, and my uncle to a foster home. Grandma and Aunt Flo had an apartment together, and Grandma’s small wages went to pay for the convent and the foster home, plus of course food and rent and so on. This went on for a couple of years, until my Grandma met my Grandpa, who fell in love with her and her kids, and the next thing you know, they were married. My Grandpa was in sales for a large printing company, and they sent him around the country. They lived in Puerto Rico, which is where my Aunt Colleen was born. They lived in Texas and New Mexico and Colorado, and eventually back in California. My mom and Grandpa did NOT get along (he was abusive in many ways) and she left to go live with her Great Aunt Julia in Modesto, which is where she finished high school, and where she met my dad.

My grandfather lost his job at the printing company, I believe because they thought he was too old (he was in his 50s) and they moved to Stockton, where he opened his own company, taking most of his clients with him. They lived there the rest of their lives. My grandfather died in 1988, and my Great Aunt Flo moved in with my Grandma. Aunt Flo’s husband had died quite awhile before. She had taken care of her parents until they died, then helped Grandma take care of Grandpa, and now they were living together.

These last few years, Grandma has not been well. She blames it on having had four children, while Aunt Flo’s kids are step kids, so of course she was healthier. The reality is a combination of factors, including a 60+ year smoking habit, dieting every day from about the age of 12, breaking her hip at the age of 40, and scoliosis in her spine, which as she aged and her spine compressed, became very painful. Aunt Flo has been her nurse and caretaker, as well as her sister and best friend.

When we moved back to California from Alaska when I was 9, Richard and I came first, my mom and our dog (Samantha) came a couple of weeks later. Grandma and Grandpa had downsized to a mobile home park at that time, and it had a swimming pool. Grandma would take us swimming every afternoon, and we would watch cartoons on cable TV (which we hadn’t had in Alaska) before dinner. It was a lot of fun and they spoiled us. They decided that mobile home living wasn’t for them, so they bought a house, which was 2 blocks from our place. I would spend the night at their house sometimes, I spent a week there for Spring Break (called Easter Vacation back then), and my Grandpa would make me apple turnovers for breakfast. When my mom decided we were vegetarian, I would go over there for dinner and Grandma would make me pork chops. When I had swimming and karate lessons at the Y after school, my Grandma would come pick me up and bring me to her house until my mom got home. We were pen pals, which started when we lived in Alaska, and lasted until a couple of years ago when she broke her wrist, plus her eyes weren’t what they once were.

When Ted and I got engaged and moved in together, I worried that she would be angry and scold me. She had asked me to promise never to do such a thing a few years before, when Richard was living with a girlfriend. I wrote to her and told her my news, and asked for her understanding. She wrote back that she had had so little time with my Grandpa Roland, and she thought we should all take our happiness where and when we could. She wasn’t thrilled, but she was OK with it.

Grandma was so strong. She outlived two husbands and all four of her children. She had many adventures and lived a good life.

She has always been a fierce ally, always on her grandchildren’s side, always wanting the best for us, always loving us. My grandma died last Saturday, and I am going to miss her terribly. I’m glad she’s not suffering anymore, but I will miss our trips to Red Lobster and our visits.

Bitter

Clinton Cookies

Clinton Cookies*

These were supposed to be our victory cookies, based on a recipe from the 1992 Presidential election, when Hillary Clinton made a comment on the Today show that she supposed she could have stayed home and baked cookies, but instead she continued her law career.  She was slammed, with the assumption being that she held contempt for stay-at-home moms, that she thought their life was simply baking cookies and drinking tea.  She quickly fell in line, doing the politically expedient thing and entering a cookie recipe in the Family Circle baking contest, a First Lady challange that survives to this day.

I decided it would be symbolic of how far we’ve come to bake a batch of her cookie recipe.  I baked some on Saturday and sent them to my Grandma and Great Aunt, who were SO EXCITED about this victory.  I baked the rest for us yesterday.  I made one small change, in that I used butter instead of shortening.  I’m not enough of a baker to know how the shortening ones would have turned out, but I looked at both oatmeal and chocolate chip cookie recipes, and both seemed to generally call for butter.  

And now, here we are. President Trump. It sticks in my throat and gave me nightmares last night. I cannot believe we are here. I cannot believe our next President will be a man with zero political experience, who denies climate change in the face of all evidence, who says and does the things he says and does. It is a bitter pill to swallow.

Anyway, since I had it ready to post yesterday, here is Hillary Clinton’s recipe.

Hillary Clinton’s Chocolate Chips

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup solid vegetable shortening (I used butter)
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar (I used dark because we had it)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 12 oz semisweet chocolate chips

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease baking sheets (I used parchment paper instead, so the cookies wouldn’t spread as much.
  2. Combine flour, salt, and baking soda in a bowl.
  3. Beat together shortening (butter, room temperature), sugars, and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy.  Add eggs, beating until light and fluffy.  Gradually beat in flour mixture and rolled Oates.  Stir in chocolate chips.  (Add some nuts if you’re baking for Grandma and Aunt Flo, omit if you’re baking for Ted and Maya.  Life is a little complicated sometimes.)
  4. Drop batter by well-rounded teaspoonfuls onto baking sheets.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden.
  5. Cool cookies on sheets for 2 minutes.  Remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: 7 1/2 dozen cookies

* The Almond Joy is Maya’s superstitiouss move…she enjoyed an Almond Joy for Obama’s win in ’08

Presidential Cereal

I had a dream last night (or was it a vision?) of a cereal box with Trump’s picture on it.  I know, what a horrid idea.  I told Ted, and he went and found this picture, likely in order to torture me.

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I mentioned it on Facebook, (which is where Ted put the picture), and my FB and prior bloggy friend V-Grrrl said that her nephew (founder of Air B&B) had presidential cereals back in 2008.  So I did a search for Presidential Cereals, and found these.  The Obama Os and Cap’n McCain’s are VGrrrl’s nephew’s.

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Good thing these aren’t around all the time.  I for one do not want to see politicians in the cereal aisle?

Do you have a favorite?  I’d try Clinton Crunch.

Friday Randomness (on Saturday)

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Maybe I should say something about the election that’s coming up, but I can’t.  I’m sick of the whole thing.  I wish that Clinton had a more worthy adversary.  I want her to win, but I’d rather it be on her own merits, not because her opponent is such an asshole.

We went to Portland a couple of weeks ago for a ‘drive by visit’.  Maya is in school, Ted and I don’t have a lot of vacation time saved up, so we flew up Friday night, spent Saturday with family, flew home Sunday morning.  My sister got married back in March, a VERY small ceremony, and this was the party to celebrate.  It was so lovely to see everyone, but again it reminded us that we are living far from my family, and the kids are growing up without our frequently getting to see them.

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Back when I worked in a cubicle farm, I had a clock radio/iPod docking station, because I wanted to listen to my iPod at work.   When I started working from home, I brought it home and put it next to my bed.  The clock sucked for being next to my bed.  I hated the backlit display, SO bright, and it was hard to read the numbers at night.  At some point along the way, the volume stopped working well.  It was hard to get it to a decent volume.  Too loud, or too quiet.  I had no idea how to set the alarm on the thing.  For some reason, inertia mostly, I kept it for years.  Finally, I decided that I had had enough, and I went to the drug store and bought myself a new clock radio to keep by my bed.  It’s not the best ever, but it has a dark face with red numbers, very easy to read at night.  It was still a bit more bright than I wanted, so I bought an interesting product to dim it.  It’s black film that clings to the front of the clock.  You can’t even see the numbers during the day, but I don’t care about that.  What I like is that it’s dark in our room at night, and I can easily read the numbers.  I haven’t tried setting the alarm yet, so we’ll have to see how that works.

Monday was Canadian Thanksgiving.  Since Ted was born in Canada (though they came to the U.S. when he was just over a year old), I like to make Thanksgiving dinner for the three of us.  Often I make a turkey breast, but this year I wanted leftovers, so I made a small turkey, about 10lbs.  There was enough that Monday night we had Thanksgiving dinner, Tuesday we had turkey chili, Wednesday we had leftovers, Thursday we had turkey pot pie. Friday I was looking in the fridge, and we still have yams, cranberry sauce, and gravy, but no more turkey.  So I decided to buy a turkey breast, and we would have Thanksgiving dinner part 2.  When I told Ted, he said he would rather have pizza, he’s a little tired of turkey.  So pizza it was.  I’d already bought the turkey breast, so we will be having that along with the yams and so on, probably tonight.

Are you a fan of the Gilmore Girls?  I’m a fan, and I’ve been watching the series again on Netflix in anticipation of the new season coming out after Thanksgiving.  If you’ve not been paying attention, it’s going to be 4 episodes, I believe 90 minutes each.  Each episode will be a different season, so they will take place over the course of one year.  There’s been a lot of speculation as to what has changed over the almost 10 years since the series ended.  One change is that the actor who played the father, Ed Hermann, has died in the interim, so there will be no Richard Gilmore.  I’m sad about that.  I loved him and Emily best for the whole show.

He loves to sleep like this. Don't know why.

He loves to sleep like this. Don’t know why.

Puppy Boy was super sick last week.  We have to assume that he ate something he shouldn’t have, or licked up something nasty off the ground, but we don’t know exactly.  He has a habit of barfing.  Not sure why, but he does. Maybe he has an acid prone stomach.  Generally we give him a Pepcid AC every morning, and that takes care of it.  But last week, he started barfing and couldn’t stop.  He threw up all over the house, with us following close behind with the carpet cleaner, until it had been a couple of hours and he was just puking foam.  We decided enough was enough, and took him to the vet.  He threw up in the car on the way there, and at the vet’s as well.  The vet said it could be that he ate something dangerous, or it could be obstructed bowels, or who knows.  Blood work and x-rays were next, followed by an IV of liquids and anti-nausea meds.  He stopped barfing.  The vet said to take him home, and if he was OK in the morning, no need to come back.  If he threw up again in the morning, we had to bring him in again.  There was something on the x-Ray that was PROBABLY nothing, but if he was still barfing the next morning, we should check into it.  Morning came, he drank some water, and barfed it up.  Back to the vet for us.  More x-rays.  More IV.  More meds.  The x-Ray was again inconclusive, but the spot that the vet worried about was gone.  We brought him home, and then the diarrhea started.  That went on much of Friday, thankfully all in the yard, none at home.  Saturday he was a little better.  Sunday he seemed almost back to his regular self, and every day got a little better until now he’s fine.  The only thing that’s bothering him at all now is that while he was sick, he was eating chicken and rice, and now it’s all gone and it’s back to kibble.  So, we never found out exactly what was wrong, except that the blood work didn’t show anything like poison, and the x-rays didn’t show anything too crazy.  Our puppy boy is fine.  Our bank account is not.

Remembering Edelmiro Abad, Again, Still

Here we are again, 15 years after that horrible day. What strikes me today is remembering the days and weeks following the attacks of September 11th, how we all seemed to come together, as a country. And how much of the world came together for us as well. So much of that is gone. I want it back in a way, but I want it to be for a good reason, not because of another horrific, unimaginable event.

Here then, I again remember Edelmiro Abad, one of the almost 3.000 who were murdered that day.

Edelmiro Abad

Beloved husband, proud father, loving son, brother, uncle and dear friend are words that best describe Edelmiro Abad. Ed touched the lives of all who knew him with loving words, a kind gesture, or his unique sense of humor. Ed lived a happy, fulfilled life with his wife of 29 years and three daughters. He also enjoyed a successful career with Fiduciary Trust for 26 years. His co-workers and clients became more than just friends; they became family. Although we have lost a beautiful person, we have truly gained an angel. We love you, we miss you, and we will meet again.

He was my mentor and friend. He was always there when I needed him professionally and personally. First and foremost always were “his girls.” He would always burst with pride when he told us about his writer, his dancer, his chef and Lorraine just being Lorraine. Ed was loved and respected by all who had the privilege of knowing him. Ed, thank you for your strength and kindness. I will miss you more than you could ever know.

-Michele Kearney

Back in June, I read on Ally Bean’s site about this project, called the 2996 project, where you can volunteer to take the name of one victim from the September 11th attacks, and write a memorial to that person. I was assigned the name of Ed Abad.

This project seems far removed to me, far removed from my life in California, 3,000 miles from New York, DC, and Pennsylvania, where people suffered immeasurable horrors on that day. And yet, I thought, maybe I can do my part. Maybe I can write about how this loss, the loss of Mr. Abad and so many, too many, others has affected me. How it has affected us all.

September 11th, was, for me, supposed to be a day when I went into Oakland for a payroll conference, learning about boring changes to reporting requirements from the spokespeople from the Social Security Administration. It was a chance to get out of the office, maybe have lunch in a different place, learn some new things about my newish job.

I was in the shower, getting ready, when Ted came in and told me that his Aunt had called his mother, called from England since she knew we were so far removed, time wise, and might not yet be up and watching TV or listening to the news. Ted told me that someone had flown a plane into the World Trade Center. By the time I got downstairs, the first tower had fallen…they were showing the second plane hitting, over and over again. I remember the horror that I felt, not knowing whether this was the work of foreign terrorists, or perhaps the work of another Timothy McVeigh type psychopath. I remember worrying about Ted and his family, about the fear that was felt by many people of color, of that certain color, during the first Gulf War, that they would be targeted for acts of violence and hatred.

Then the second tower fell. It was such a horrid time, such an amazingly horrid event in the history of our country. I remember thinking…this is what people in Northern Ireland, Israel, Kashmir, and London have been living with for years. Now it has come here.

My boss came to my house, not sure if what he had heard on the radio was true, or if it was a stupid radio stunt. He knew by my face that it was true. We left from here to go to Oakland for our conference, not sure that that was the thing to do, but oddly holding on to normalcy. We arrived in Oakland, went through maybe 15 minutes of training, before the Federal Building there was shut down as a precaution. So we went home. Then in to the office, oddly. In retrospect, I’m not sure why we went. Just habit I suppose, like I went into work the day after the earthquake in ’89. Stayed at work for a few hours, watching the news unfold, crying quietly in my cubicle. Finally the word came that we should go home.

I came home, hungry for more news. Turned on the TV, only to see pictures of people, desperate people, jumping to their deaths from the top of the twin towers. It was the most horrid sight I have ever seen in my life. I hope to never see anything like it again. I turned off the TV, cried, cleaned house, tried to get some idea of how to deal with this.

I remember the weeks following…the days of strange quiet in the air when no airplanes flew…knowing that there were no airplanes, from coast to coast, border to border. It was a very strange feeling.

I remember being told by my leader that we needed to act normal, that we needed to go shopping, to keep our economy afloat. This cut me to the quick. I wanted to sacrifice…to give up something, as the victims of the attacks had done. As our grandparents had done after Pearl Harbor, with their shortages and sacrifice, that you felt and knew were contributing to the greater good of America, the fight against evil. Instead, we were asked to go shopping.

I knew then that we would attack Iraq. Hoped in my heart that I was wrong. Hoped that our leader would not take this opportunity to settle a grudge against the man who shamed his father. But deep down, I feared that I would turn out to be right on this.

I remember the day my mother and I had chosen to go to an Afghani restaurant for dinner, and decided it was somehow wrong to change those plans because of current circumstances…that maybe if we went, we would be telling the people who ran the restaurant that we understood that THEY were not the Taliban. THEY were not Al Quaeda. THEY were not the people who had attacked our nation. The day we chose, sadly, was the day that the U.S. started dropping bombs on Afghanistan. Our waiter walked around like a man in a dream, a man in a nightmare. I felt like we were there to support him, but that maybe, he just wanted to be home, alone, to not have to serve food to strangers, white strangers, and wonder what we thought of him, if he even had those thoughts at that time. Any thoughts to spare save those for his friends and family at home.

I remember that there were songs that were not supposed to be played on the radio. One of those songs was U2, Sunday Bloody Sunday. To this day, the opening lyrics tie me with September 11th, with the pain and horror of watching those buildings fall, of watching people fall to their deaths rather than stay in such a toxic, horrid building.

I can’t believe the news today
I can’t close my eyes, and make it go away
How long, how long must we sing this song,
How long?

Now, 5 years later, how am I to put any sort of perspective on that day. On the many, many horrid days since that day. On the loss of American life, the loss of life for our allies from England, France, Germany, Australia, etc. The loss of Iraqi life, the loss of Afghani life in a now mostly ignored war….what to say about the more recent loss of life in Israel and Lebanon…what to say about the hatred in our hearts, that pits person against person so venemously.

I want to say moving, amazing words to remember them all. To remember Ed Abad, of Brooklyn, who I committed to commerate this day. And truly, I don’t know how.

Fixing your Fridge

We thought our refrigerator was dying yesterday. Such a sad day. Don’t get me wrong, I dislike our fridge. Our last fridge had a bottom freezer, which I really liked. But when it died, we didn’t have a lot of time to shop and wait, as living without a fridge can be difficult, so we went with what was in stock in the color that matches our other kitchen appliances. We’ve never replaced all of our appliances at once, so we’re always trying to match what we have (bisque). Anyway, our current fridge is a top freezer model, and the drawers are difficult to pull out to clean, and the door compartment things (where you put your mayo and so on) have broken twice, and are not easy to get replaced. I overall dislike it.

However, much as I dislike our fridge, I don’t want to have to buy a new one. This one is 5 or 6 years old. I resent how cheaply appliances are made these days. When our last one was dying, we had a repairman come out, and he said it was expensive to fix, and the problem nowadays is that you can buy an expensive fridge with all of the bells and whistles, or you can buy a cheap one, and they have different configurations, shelf space, bells and whistles, but the basic guts of them all are now cheap and don’t last. I HATED hearing that. GET OFF MY LAWN! I know, I’m old, and I don’t like this disposable economy that we live in. I want a fridge that will last 20 or 30 years.

Side story, we bought a stove quite a few years ago. There was a crappy little piece of plastic in the control knobs that broke, and one burner would not turn off. It was always on, at a low temp, but on. Not good. And yes, it was a couple of weeks after the warranty ran out. Grrr. The guy who came to fix it said it was a tiny piece of plastic in the back end of the knob, which of course used to be metal, but is now plastic, and they don’t make them like they used to.

So here we are. Maybe a week or two ago, I was in the kitchen and the fridge was making a weird noise, starting and stopping, starting and stopping. Uh oh. But it mellowed out, and turned out OK. Or so I thought. Then a few days later, I noticed some green onions had frozen in the fridge. Not good, but what’s going on? Off and on over the next week or so, we hear the stopping and starting of the fridge, like, “START.STOP.START.STOP” quickly like that. Then yesterday, we noticed that our food didn’t seem as cold as it had been. It was luke warm. We looked in the freezer, and noticed that the freezer had snow/ice in it. Ted’s parents were over for dinner, and they mentioned how that had happened to them, and it meant blockage in the vents between the freezer and fridge (ice), which causes the air to not flow. They unplugged their fridge for a couple of hours, and that melted the ice blockage, and it was fixed. Maya looked on her phone for an answer, and that seemed to be it. So Ted and his dad cleaned out the snow inside, and vacuumed the horrible amount of dust on the back of the fridge, and we all hoped for the best.

When we woke up this morning, the fridge was 60 degrees (according to our meat thermometer). Not good. I decided to take my life in my hands and eat eggs anyway, and the milk smelled fine, so I put it in my tea. Then I read up on such things, and talked to my friend Cherry, who went to culinary school and studied food safety, and decided to follow Ted’s advice and throw things out. So when Maya got up, I took her to breakfast/lunch. I cleaned out the fridge, and took our perfectly frozen food to our neighbor’s house, and unplugged the fridge. I left the doors open and put a fan on it to try to melt the ice blocking up the works. When Ted came home from work a couple of hours later, the snow had melted, but the ice in the vents was still frozen solid. So he worked on that, attacked it with the hair dryer, etc. for a couple of hours. When all was clear and looked good, we plugged it back in. Here we are, a couple of hours later, and it’s looking good. There is still a chance that we will need a new fridge fairly soon (Do I want this? Yes. Do I want to pay for this? No.) The fridge isn’t down to the required

Here’s the video Ted watched to give him tips on what to do when your freezer is still cold but the fridge isn’t.

What the crap?

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What the crap is going on, that it’s been 6 weeks since I last posted? God I suck.

So, what’s going on here? Well, Maya is graduating from our local community college with her transfer AA next Friday, and she has been accepted to every school she applied to for transfer, including her number one favorite tip top choice, U.C. Berkeley! YAY! We’re so proud of her it’s ridiculous. This year at least, she’ll live at home, which will save us about $16,000 in room and board.

Speaking of Cal, did you happen to see Sheryl Sandberg’s commencement address? I loved it. Really moving and wonderful. I was impressed by her vulnerability and honesty, and by the advice she had regarding developing resilience.

What else is new? Seems like I went out and got myself a new job. Gulp. I wasn’t really looking for one, though I was open to it. I’ve been at my company for 15 years, and I’m ready to do something a little different. It’s more money, which is GOOD. I’ll still be working from home, which I love. It will be a lot different as far as the actual work goes, and yet my same desk, same room, same same. Strange. Always before, when leaving a job, I say my farewells to my coworkers, and leave the building. New job, new building. So this will be different in that way.

Puppy boy Mulder is doing well. He’s gotten a little better about pulling on the leash on walks, which is good. He doesn’t bark QUITE as often, though he’s still a barky boy. We’re going to a bbq with a bunch of other Keeshonden from the rescue where we got him this Saturday. That will be fun, to see him playing with his buddies.

Ted’s family has been in California for 50 years in a week or so. They came here from Canada back in ’66. We’ll be having a family get together to celebrate, which should be fun.

I’m wanting to re-do our tiny back yard. I was originally thinking I would put in drought resistant plants, but I talked to a master gardener who suggested that that might be a mistake, as our little yard gets very little sunshine, and drought tolerant plants generally want sunshine. So my current plan is to improve the soil by digging in some compost or something, and then plant some shade tolerant plants. It will look nice with our new patio table and chairs. Right now it looks dried out and sad to me, which generally happens when it gets warm around here. What I want is a yard that will look cool and serene. Maybe I need a little Buddha figurine out there to frighten the dog.

And wow, what about this election season? Crazy. Trump is the nominee on the Republican side, barring anything too crazy. Clinton is likely to win over Sanders, but it’s gotten a lot more contentious recently. I do not like what is happening with the Democrats. Not good. I sure hope things settle down before the convention.

Failure and Success

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Tuesday was Maya’s 20th Birthday, and also Spring Break for the elementary school where she works, so she didn’t have work that day. Spring Break at her college was last week, so she did have school, but she decided to play hooky and spend the day with us, her loving parents. I love this kid. (Not a kid at 20, but still MY kid)

We recently watched the movie “Chef” on HBO. Have you seen that movie? It’s really cute, about a chef in Los Angeles who is working for a restaurant that is uninspired and doesn’t allow him to showcase his creativity, and he ends up quitting his job, flying across the country, and starting up a food truck, driving across the country selling Cuban sandwiches. Maya decided that for her birthday, she wanted to go into San Francisco and get Cuban sandwiches. So she went online and found a place that gets fabulous reviews, which is in fact a corner store that also has a little sandwich area. So off we went. When we got there, we discovered that it wasn’t a traditional Cuban sandwich like you might get in Havana, but is instead a Torta Cubana, which has ham, cheese, mayonnaise, chorizo, chicken, pickled peppers, sour cream, fried egg, milanesa, avocado, and hot dog slices. Way too much, when what we were looking for has roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard on Cuban bread, which is buttered and grilled in a press, like a panini. Failure

So I looked on my phone, and found another restaurant, known for the Cuban version (rather than the Mexican Torta). We drove across town, and when we got there, discovered they had shut down, permanantly. Looked for another place, also shut down. Clearly, our internet research skills are lacking.Failure

Ted had to go to work that afternoon, so we found a sandwich shop near his office, and had a late lunch there. No Cubans in sight, but it was nice nonetheless. Since Maya was born in Philadelphia, I had the Philly Cheese, which was quite good. Success (at last)

After dropping Ted off at work, Maya and I went to the Legion of Honor, so we could see a lovely painting by Raphael, Portrait of a Lady with a Unicorn. We do love the Legion of Honor…the views of San Francisco’s skyline and the Golden Gate Bridge, the smell of the sea, the gorgeous Cypress trees, and of course the beautiful paintings and sculptures. The current exposition is a collection of Pierre Bonnard’s paintings from around the world, which we very much enjoyed. Success

The following day, I saw a recipe online that looked pretty good to me, for Rajma, or Red Kidney Bean Curry, which popped up on Facebook, since I follow Smitten Kitchen there. In her post, she mentions a spice mixture that she found at Whole Foods and loved, and eventually figured out how to make herself. I thought that perhaps I might try it, and since sometimes spices in my cabinet can get a bit old, I’d just use the mix. So I went to the spice blend website, which said it was carried at both our local Whole Foods and at another local grocery store. So I went to Whole Foods (since I was in that neighborhood), and searched for the mix. Nope. Not in the Indian food section, nor in the spice section. I asked at customer service, and they said they had never heard of the brand. Sigh. So I went to the Indian spice shop across the street, where I was also out of luck. Failure I asked the woman at the spice shop, and she said the spices for Rajma are coriander, cumin, and garam masala. I had cumin at home that was fairly fresh, so I bought some coriander and garam masala and went on my way. I made the recipe for dinner and served it with rice, and it was delicious indeed. Ted said he could eat it every week, so I suspect I’ll be making it again soon. I varied the recipe in that I added a bit of garam masala, which the recipe did NOT call for, but the woman at the spice shop said it should. Really good. Success

Another recipe I tried this week was something that I saw on America’s Test Kitchen, which was lentils and rice with crispy onions, which included cumin and cinnamon. As they are known to do, America’s Test Kitchen tries the recipe several ways and tweaks it until they feel they have it just right. The recipe was supposed to be a pilaf type recipe, with tender lentils and fluffy rice, and crispy fried onions. When I made it, however, the rice came out gloppy and disgusting, and the flavors were blah. So Maya and I had bagels for dinner, and when Ted came home from work he had leftovers. Failure

Maya, as you know, has been attending our local community college for the last two years, in order to save money. Now she’s finishing up her Sophomore year, and is getting ready to transfer. She applied to one California State University, SF State (where Ted and I met!), and perhaps 6 University of California schools. She has heard from SF State, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Santa Cruz, and she is accepted to all three. YAY! She likely won’t hear from the others for a few more weeks. Her first and second choices are UC Berkeley and UC Davis, so we’re hoping for those. But if they don’t work out, she has some very good options to consider. Success!