Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Dog Days Have Come

"Amy Falls Down" by Jincy Willet proved to be a lot of fun to read. Unlike the last novel, this one won me over right away, and kept me reading long past my bedtime. Perhaps it was the cover with the adorable birdbath drawing, or maybe it was because I identified with the protagonist, whatever the reason, I think I've found a new author. Have you heard of her before? I had not, and now that I have, I'll make it my business to read her other novel and book of short stories.

Amy is a writer, of what might be termed, "former acclaim." Reading her story, I got to thinking that if I'd been asked as a young girl what I wanted to be when I grew up, it sure as heck wouldn't have been an x-ray tech! Truth be told, I suspect I might have said a writer, although with a brain lacking imagination, I don't know how I would have pulled it off! That must be what's kept me writing this blog for so long. Who else would write 1204 posts for nothing but the satisfaction?

So, that being said, if you come across "Amy Falls Down," you might just find it amusing.

We are definitely in the dog days of summer around here; if we're lucky there will be only about six brutal weeks left. If we're not lucky, we'll have a hurricane! Actually, hurricanes, despite what you may read or hear, are pretty uncommon. Did I tell you about the brother of a new vendor at Winter Garden? A former television weatherman, he told me he regularly got into trouble with the station management for not hyping every little weather disturbance. Figures.

Have you been missing the birds? They have been in hiding I suppose because in the last few weeks they have not been nearly as plentiful. Yesterday afternoon, however, there were four red-winged blackbirds on the feeder in the back yard. Molting season has them looking pretty pitiful!
Mama cardinal doesn't look much better!
We've not had even ONE drop of rain since our rain-out at the market, with temperatures in the low 90's  this week. Isn't that always the way?

I've been in the pool just a little bit ,and while there I saw the craziest bug!
Look at those back flipper! Not only does it swim, but when I got too close, it up and flew away.

After such a good sales days over the weekend I spent a good little while on Monday working on my order, a process I don't much care for. While doing so, I went through 1,500 pictures Roger had put together in a web album for me to help me with the ordering process. There is so much junk in there I barely see the good stuff! Marking each and every one of them, whether to go or stay, I'm hoping in the near future it may become easier. Selling at the same places, week in, and week out, poses different challenges--people are always looking for the latest and greatest and I try to keep up with their wishes, although at times I feel as if I'm doing nothing worth printing. This would be one of those times.

A trip to Whole Foods was in order to buy dog food and while there I came across this amazing bunch of gladiolas for $3.99. Don't you just love the whole 99 cents ploy? Do they think customers can be so easily fooled? I took this Tuesday afternoon, and you should see it now!
Our lovely anniversary flowers from Matt and Tom in all white inspired my purchase because they were spent. Not forever though. While Sue was over the other morning she hung the roses to dry; hanging them upside down from a clothes hanger with clothes pins, apparently the trick is to keep them separated. Pretty soon I'll have a lovely keepsake.

We went to another funeral Tuesday night. One of our neighbors died this past Friday. 80 years old, Frank suffered the last few years, so it's really a blessing for everyone. Have you heard of Moose Lodges before? I've driven by them, but as far as I know, I'd never met someone who was a "Moose." That is a thing of the past. Four of Frank's lodge brethren directed much of the service, with another neighbor officiating. What most saddened me about this particular funeral, aside from the brow beating altar call given by Kent, was that if not for the neighbors, there would have been very few people. Plus, I forgot, the casket was open throughout! Nothing like an open casket to add to the misery of a funeral. A note to my children: keep me covered!

Finally, as I continue riding the same streets, especially in the heat, my picture taking has slowed down somewhat. Thank goodness! However, most days something speaks to me, as in story form. I rode by the yellowest, if that is a word, house the other morning, and then noticed the garage door with three samples of yellow.
I understand yellow is a difficult paint color to get right. Once upon a time, I had a sunflower theme going in my kitchen and the paint to go with it. I still remember being in the midst of the painting when one of the twins and their friend came in. They did not have nice things to say about my choice. At any rate, are there new owners here? Has the shade of yellow just become too much? If so, why pick it again? As you know, I'm pretty easily amused...

Here's looking at you kid:
Is there such a thing as "cat days?"

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Nine out of Twelve

Those are the statistics from Cole about how many markets of late have closed due to stormy weather, and Sunday was no exception. Just as a young lady was buying my elephant photo,  I noticed a shift in the wind, and moments later, a downpour began. And what a downpour it was with eight people taking shelter in my tent. All closed up, it got sort of lively in there! Following 40 minutes of hard rain, here's what it looked like outside the confines of my tent:
Dina and Cole, soaked to the skin, are trying to unplug the newly refurbished drain. Obviously it could not keep up with a Florida rainstorm! Unexpectedly, with a 1:30 closing time, I sold a record 7 small canvases along with other assorted prints. I am ever so grateful for repeat buyers, of whom there were several.

Surprisingly, Sunday was not blazing hot prior to the storm, unlike the heat Saturday at Winter Garden, where it was difficult to stay cool even with my fan blowing on the highest speed. Never was I so glad for the clock to read 2:00, a slight exaggeration, but not by much. If not for a few new buyers, my day would have been a bust. I cannot wait for the cooler weather, and the folks that come with it! During the cooler months, there are about twice as many chairs, without an empty one in the bunch.
Bruce got a new suit for his special night at Nordstrom on Friday with bonus points for it not being made in China! According to Matthew, the clothes in Britain are not all made in China, however, that happy news has not made it to America. It's not that I begrudge Chinese people having jobs, it's just the quality I find fault with. One wearing and knit shirts have little pills on them, seams split, buttons fall off after a few washings, and other mishaps. Then there are the dyes which aren't nearly as colorfast, not to mention the ridiculously hight prices on some clothes which cost the company little to make. Enough already.

What else have I been up to lately? The usual, however, as is always the case, I discover new things to amuse me, whether they be a mushroom growing in our yard,
or a new kind of opening on a wine bottle. By the way, this one is quite clever:
After removing the lower ring, you are left with a little stopper which is very useful indeed. Much better than a plastic faux cork. Furthermore, adding interest to this whole thing is a clear bottle, something you rarely find in a red wine. Not amused? I know, it's a bit of a stretch....

How about some daisy practice?
And then there was the blue moon late last week which I didn't get around to posting. Looking out my kitchen window, my goodness it seemed so close and obviously full!
Apparently in a technicality, which I don't fully understand there was another blue moon, a phenomenon I was not expecting after the one last summer. Unlike last year, when the blue moon rose over the Atlantic Ocean, I had to content myself with glimpses through the trees this time. I fully intended to photograph it at daybreak the following morning, however, cloud cover made waste of my best-laid plans.

Have you heard of "Cook's Illustrated?" While shopping at Costco recently, I picked up a copy of their magazine, sort of one of those "best of" issues. So far I've made the vinaigrette recipe with great success and now I've mastered the chewy sugar cookies. These folks get very, very technical about cooking science; basically about the how and why things work together to form yummy food. He starts the cookie recipe by saying that it seems quite simple, however, to get the best taste and texture is quite another matter. I bet you've tasted, as I have, some pretty ordinary sugar cookies in your life. No more! As an example, after making batch after batch of them, they discovered that "a cookie's "chew" depends largely on the ratio of saturated to unsaturated fats." He calls using both baking powder and baking soda the dynamic duo for a nicely mounded cookie. What he did not address was the perfect circle end of it! My cookies were made even more delicious by using the addition of chopped coconut and lime zest and juice. Oh my there were good! Below you can plainly see that they do have a nice mound with crisp edges and chewy center, well, I guess you can't see that, but trust me. What they lack are the perfect round shape. Something went amiss after making them into balls, rolling in sugar, and then flattening them with a glass.
A little rough around the edges is the perfect description! Guess what? In a first for me, following the recipe, I melted the butter before adding, and actually used a whisk throughout, rather than my beautiful mixer! Figuring I'd try his way, I was surprised at how it worked like a charm.

We've finished Season Two of Downton Abbey, and are anxiously awaiting the arrival of Season Three from Amazon. Seeing the gorgeous clothes is enough to make anyone want to watch that series. Although late to the party, we love it as most folks do! Thank you to Jon and Alissa for an awesome birthday gift!

Friday, on an afternoon run to the Polasek, the clouds threatened,
following through on the threat just as I arrived to deliver some more cards and prints. While there I learned from Petra that people were hoping for a different picture of "The Sower" because of the flowering tabebuia tree in the background. I loved that photo, as did Debbie, the museum director who made it the logo for a year, but if it isn't selling than it is time to move on. The rain was my friend in this case because it is hard to get a good photograph of a sculpture anyway, and in our case, the harsh sunlight really adds to that. Perhaps they will like this one better:
Although not much of a check, each month I receive one for cards or prints sold in the gift shop. I split the profit 50/50 with them. We are all very happy indeed to discover that the people who visit the gardens and museum love butterfly photographs which I happily provide. Yet another nice thing of late was a larger than expected check from Sun Dance. Oh how we love "mailbox money."

All that to say that so far this has been a banner year for me even with all our early market closures from stormy weather. I'm as surprised as anybody! My sales have surpassed last year's mark with four more months to go.What's happening around here? Is the recession finally starting to ease? For everyone's sake, I sure hope so.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Buying a Party Dress

You might think that aside from the anniversary, not much was going on around here. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. That said, can you stand one more photo from the trip? I mentioned how beautiful the sky was painted before sunrise, however, I realized later I gave you no photographic proof. You be the judge...
We've had some good news around these parts in the last few weeks, some for Bruce, some for me.

Beginning with the most important, Bruce won what's called a Brilliance Award at work. Long time readers will remember, or at least I hope you do, that last year was the absolute toughest year of Bruce's long career. Not only were the projects located 3,000 miles away, but they were all different, AND more importantly, there were all subject to insane building codes and the like. I won't re-hash it all, however, let's just say it was so terrible for him that he decided he'd had all he could take. Agreeing to finish the projects, his plan was to retire upon their completion. The restaurants were completed and after some time to think about it, he stayed.

So what exactly does it mean? Here's an excerpt from the email telling him the happy news:
  • Bruce Peck has been selected as a 2013 Individual Brilliance Award winner. Brilliance Award recipients are honored for their extraordinary contribution to the success of our Restaurants or Restaurant Support Center. This year we received 102 nominations and fourteen (14) individual winners and five (5) teams were selected.
And here's the next part:
  • The Brilliance Awards Celebration is Darden's RSC premier recognition event and will be hosted by senior executives at The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes on the evening ofThursday, Sept. 12, 2013. Winners are encouraged to invite a guest to share in the celebration. To make this day even more special, we want to provide all winners with the afternoon off work prior to coming to the celebration. 
So, a girl's got to look good to accompany an award winning husband doesn't she? Actually, while Nancy was visiting, I realized how far I'd let myself go--not getting my hair cut, nails done, and the like. Then too, swimming and biking are not great for keeping one's hair in the greatest shape. Furthermore, I'd let myself mostly run out of all the Kiehl's products I've used for years and years. A trip to Nordstrom was in order.

I love Nordstrom, don't get me wrong, but the truth is, I do not live a department store life. At my age, trends leave me cold--I don't want to wear a dress with a gigantic zipper exposed, nor do I want to carry a small suitcase around with me--see purse, or make that "handbag", department. I will admit though that the cosmetic department is both intimidating, and intoxicating, at the same time. The friendly sales clerk helped me pick the correct shade when I said I wanted moisturizer, and why not get the tinted version? First she insisted on putting some "special cream" under my eyes that she gently massaged in, telling me all the while I should do it each morning to minimize my bags. Try as I might, she would not buy the "it's genetic" line I gave her. I was not kidding--somehow, of all the sisters, I got the biggest under eye baggage of the bunch from our parents! I left with moisturizer, toner, shampoo, conditioner, hair cream and I can't remember what else. That sounds like a lot ,and it is, but the great thing about Kiehl's products is that you use very little of them making them last forever. Well, maybe not forever...

Of course I wanted a new dress for the occasion! I tried on a bunch of them; red, turquoise, coral, and more. All lace because that is the latest trend! Sadly, none of them seemed just right. The red fit great, but I couldn't think of wearing red, so you might wonder why I tried it on. No clue really. 

There are lots of reasons for loving Nordstrom, one of which is their great dining room, seriously classy and delicious!  Always, well make that a few times a year, I sit at the counter to watch the cooks. While waiting on my food I saw these two ladies:
Apparently she did not want to carry a gigantic handbag, instead opting for an enormous and WEIRD backpack! Because it was later than the normal lunch time, the chef had some time to make sauces while I sat watching. While chopping a bunch of cilantro,  I quizzed him about how long it took to get good at chopping. You might be surprised to learn he told me three years.
I, for one, cannot begin to chop like chefs do. How they keep the end of their knife down on the cutting board is beyond me.

Next stop--Bloomingdales at Millenia Mall. I wandered around the dress department, of course, hitting the sale rack while there. More lace in a variety of colors. Then I came across the rack with Coast dresses, a brand from England. They are beautifully made, and some were even on sale. I tried on a bunch.
The lighting in dressing rooms is so iffy, one can never really know what one looks like. Barely a lace one in the bunch! After much deliberation with the two young ladies assisting me, I went with the one on the far right--navy blue with some sheer parts, and some lace. In a new policy they put this sensor thing on the dress that you have to take off when you wear it because it's hanging from the hem. Apparently people who have no morals were wearing the party dresses, then returning them after their night of looking glam. Bad form.

The trouble was, I was not in love with the dress. It seemed serviceable. When Bruce got home from his trip I tried it on, and he wondered if it was in style? Although he said it fit me well, I was pretty sure he felt it had no "wow" factor. Yesterday, after trying on dresses at Nieman Marcus, I headed back to Bloomies with the dress in tow. I'm not sure how I missed it the first time, but this trip I did fall in love with a dress, mostly for the color. And now it is mine.
Now, I'm super excited to wear something pretty to the Ritz with my brilliant husband. While at Bloomies, the girl asked me if I needed a clutch? Not for $100 I don't! This morning, while working in the yard I remembered two bags I brought home from Bruce's Mom's house when I cleaned it out after her death. What could be better than to bring her along to the celebration, after all, Bruce is her son. So, here's my choices:
What do you think? Speak up if you think it is a goofy idea!

For my part, after six years of entering the Historical Preservation Calendar Contest, I finally made it to the cover! I can't tell you how happy that makes me. Furthermore, when we returned from Daytona there was a message on the machine from a woman wanting to buy a few prints. That was a nice surprise. And finally, I heard from Alejandra at Sun Dance. Here's what she had to say:

Things are going well at SunDance. We actually re-sold the attached... sold QUITE a few! It will take a little while to see the good stuff ($$$) but it's in the works! Very very exciting. They told us the image is doing extremely well for them. 

How nice is that? It's the image that ended up at Kirklands. 

Finally,  THIS is why you can't trust other folks opinions. ( a classic? who are they kidding?) Honestly, I cannot believe the high ratings on this book I finished reading last night. Nor can I believe I kept reading it, because if ever there were a book full of stereotypes, this one was it. I love a good Southern novel by Lee Smith, but shoot me if I ever pick up another book by Beth Hoffman. I can't resist listing the formula:
  1. Born on farm in Kentucky
  2. Taciturn father
  3. Can't get along with her Mother
  4. Has big dreams
  5. Weird younger brother who goes missing
  6. Follows said big dream to Charleston
  7. Rescue dog as her companion
  8. Eventually finds true love, but not without challenges
  9. Black man as helper 
  10. Mother dies just as she is set to apologize
  11. __________you fill in the blank
What is most remarkable to me is that in the hands of a really good writer, all that stuff might add up to something. I suppose it is like that with all the arts, isn't it?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

World's Most Famous Beach

Some couples, celebrating four decades of married life, take to the skies, heading to far away places; not so Mr. and Mrs. Peck.

Nope, we drove over to the "world's most famous beach" for a night at the Hilton.
Nancy, during her stay with us, came back raving about Daytona, following her weekend visit with some old friends who have a condo on the beach. Because we had no other plans, we decided to give it a try.

Getting up early Saturday morning, Bruce finished up a work related project, packed the cooler with some of the fried chicken and fruit and off we went. Gloomy skies greeted us upon our arrival around 9. The link above gives you a little history if you are interested in finding out exhaustive details about the area, however, if you have little time, I'll tell you in a nutshell, Daytona became famous for car racing on the hard packed sandy beaches, beginning in 1911.

That hard sand is what still allows people to drive right onto the beach and park their car, which if you've never done so, I highly recommend it. Bruce is easily burnt, and in fact doesn't really like the beach that much, but as we all know, he will do most anything for me. I'm one lucky gal! Anyway, we set up camp, watching the sky grow darker by the minute.
Mr. Bruce is enjoying some fried chicken as a mid-morning snack. The storm clouds were really something, leaving the tiniest sliver of light just above the water. Moving out to sea, it left the most lovely color of blue sky in it's wake.
I went down to the food truck for ice cream sandwiches for another morning treat. Very uncharacteristic for me, but what the heck, it was a holiday! The water was chilly with very small waves, similar to our day at Jetty Park a few weeks ago with Matt and Tom. So, with the sky looking the way it did, some people, including Bruce, assume you cannot get a sunburn. WRONG! You can, and he did, more so though when the sun eventually came out.

All that hard packed sand looks sturdy indeed, however, later in the day when more people arrived, there were vehicles all around us getting stuck in the sand as they parked. Although we both had a book, mine largely went unread because, as I told Bruce, why go someplace and not enjoy the life around you, rather than go into another world through a book? Have you had similar feelings?

So, a lady pulls up adjacent to our car in a gigantic truck with matching gigantic wheels. My how those big wheels spin sand when stuck! It took about five men to eventually get her out onto the harder packed sand. Her daughter didn't hang around waiting for the truck to get unstuck, instead she got her adorable bicycle out of the back and took off riding down the beach. When she got back I asked her if I might photograph said adorable bike, and she happily agreed.
Isn't it cute? I love those turquoise wheels! Plus, there are polka dots on the seat!! What's not to like?

We took a walk down to the pier, watching all the activity, including this woman who is throwing caution to the wind using all her gadgets out on the sand.
Then too, throughout the day, a steady stream of cars, what I call low-riders, paraded down the beach. One pulled in very quickly on the other side of our car and you guessed it, got stuck like you would not believe--all the way to the axle. He and his companion took off on foot down the beach, returning with a posse of young men. Try as they might, there was no budging the vehicle. Eventually someone drove up with a four wheel drive SUV, and dragged the car out, nearly pulling off the front bumper in the process.
Eventually we got to wondering if we would be able to get out, but we need not have worried. It was all good.

Our room at the Hilton was lovely, overlooking the boardwalk, pier, and the ocean.
After a little rest, we got dressed and went to a restaurant in the hotel called "Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse" which proved to be a wonderful choice as the food and service were excellent. Mr. Romantic had packed a wonderful bottle of wine for the occasion.
Do not ask me why I did not have the server take our picture--duh! But then, you know what we look like don't you?

Nancy told us there were concerts in the bandshell, as well as fireworks over the ocean on Saturday night, which sounded very appealing. That said, by the time dinner was over, Bruce's sunburn was not feeling so great. Before going back to the room I took this shot of the crowds in front of the Daytona bandshell.
The boardwalk I mentioned? Here it is at night:
The two red towers are for what's called, "the slingshot" ride. How it could be considered fun to get in a cage, be catapulted into the air, far above those towers, while the cage rolls around, is beyond me. I nearly got sick just watching it! Crawling under the covers with the curtains wide open, I fell asleep, only to be woken by Bruce at 9:45 to say the fireworks were beginning. They were really terrific, not cheesy at all.
I am the world's worst fireworks photographer, but that doesn't keep me from trying!

You know what comes next when we visit the beach....I wake early, heading down to the beach for the sunrise. You also might know what happened when I did get down there; my camera lens, fogged up with the humidity, with me wiping, and wiping. The problem is that the room is so cold with the ac running, and the outside air is so warm. When will I ever learn?
The sky was beautiful, beautiful, just before sunrise. I wasn't the only one out there trying to get a photograph:
I am, on the other hand, much too cavalier about it to take a tripod along. I did though, at least have a little something more than my mobile phone like these folks:
Since our last visit to Daytona, maybe five years ago, they have redone the pier and the boardwalk so it is all very nice indeed.
There was no question of Bruce heading back out into the sun, so after a nice breakfast, we headed back to Orlando, but not before I took this daytime shot of the famous clock tower on the "world's most famous beach."
It was going to be a lovely day at the beach, much nicer than the day before, but then again, if it had looked like this, Bruce would have been in real trouble!
Short as it was, the weekend will live on in our memories as a lovely anniversary celebration at the "world's most famous beach."

Monday, August 19, 2013

Happily Ever After

Last evening, just as we were settling in for a Downton Abbey marathon, Matt and Angela came over, claiming they wanted us to be the first to know that they have a cash buyer. Good news and bad news. Naturally I'm happy for them to sell their home in six days, but on the other hand, I don't want them to move! Anyway, just this morning I discovered that we are partially to blame for the quick sale. Remember when I took Lynn over there to see it before it was listed? Yup--she's the realtor with the buyers! Small world we live in...

Whilst they were visiting, I got out our wedding album, only to discover that after forty years, the pictures are deteriorating, as are the album pages. :(

We married at a time when weddings were not that big of a deal. I graduated x-ray school in early July, and about six weeks later, we married at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, the church where we spent time together in youth group. Our minister, Don DeBevoise, insisted we have some sessions with him before marrying, focusing on how to be a good husband and wife. As you may remember, his son, Dan, is one of the pastors of the church that owns FAVO! Then too, the family lived down the street from Bruce's family on Nancy Street. Orlando was a small town in those days!
The color in the photo doesn't really do it justice--my dress has a pale pink overlay of flocked daisies--very daring at the time, as the accepted colors for a wedding gown were white, or what they called candlelight, a pale ivory. I found the dress hanging in the dressing room at Jordan Marsh, a now-closed department store. I fell in love with it, despite the now unheard of price tag of $200! To put that into perspective, after graduating I was hired at the hospital where I trained, earning $3.25/hr. Bruce, as a carpenter's apprentice made about $6.50/hr. Sadly, wages for those types of jobs are now reversed with an x-ray tech making more than a carpenter, but that's a story for another day.

August 18, 1973, it rained about 3 in the afternoon, stopping just in time for our 4:00 ceremony. I remember someone, can't remember who, telling me then, that it was good luck to have rain on your wedding day. Perhaps it was the rain, but I suspect it was more that we were really in love, after all, by this time we'd been dating six years, long enough to know that we were pretty much made for each other.
You can't see much of my hair, but I think our hair was pretty much the same length after Bruce cut his for the wedding. You can imagine what our fathers felt about his long hair! It was the 70's you know...
Speaking of which, while we were dating "our song" was "Happy Together" by the Turtles; the lyrics still ring true.

Holding the reception in the church fellowship hall, we served our guests, cake, punch, and I'm thinking mints and nuts. The gifts were things like a wooden salad bowl, which I still have, cutlery, china and crystal, and an occasional cash gift. One we will never forget was a $50 bill in a 25th anniversary card from Dr. Culbert, one of the radiologists I worked with. That was some big money in those days! How did he know we would stay together forever?

Because Bruce's Mom and Dad lived just down the street, we went there to change before our drive to St. Augustine for the weekend. If you've heard this story before please forgive me, if not, you might find it sweet, or amusing, depending on how you look at it! Florida was not very big in those days; Disney World had only just opened, and the Florida, as we knew it, would take some years to completely change. That means all sorts of things, but for this conversation it means that restaurants were few and far between, particularly in the tiny city of St. Augustine. Arriving around 9 at night, we could not find a nice place to eat, and as you can imagine, we were starving! Sitting there eating our food at McDonalds, the only open restaurant, I looked at my ring, looked at Bruce, and asked him if he thought anyone there could tell it was our wedding day? :)

All that to say that one reason I believe we've had such a marvelous life together is because we started life without debt, focusing instead on our marriage, rather than the wedding day, something perhaps couples today might do well to consider.

So that was then, and this is now: forty years later, four fantastic sons, grown and doing well, all with loves in their lives. We so hope they all live happily ever after, as we have. :)

Friday, August 16, 2013

An Afternoon in the Kitchen

Vegans beware!! Meat photos below!

In lieu of mowing the lawn just now, I'm blogging. Would I prefer to be mowing? Yes, and no. Yes because we are going to Daytona Beach in the morning for the weekend, (anniversary celebration), and the lawn needs cutting. No, because I like to write. So why am I blogging? Well, our mower has been giving us fits, well, make that me, as in starting the darn thing. Bruce got home from Miami a little after 3, however, he needed to do a few things before we could mow. Meanwhile, I ran a little errand and when I returned I said, "honey, we need to get out there, it looks like rain." Talk about a prophecy!

Mowing commenced, and I was sailing along, and then it began raining. No big deal really, it felt good to cool off. But, and that's a big but, we didn't bargain for the wind. So, before long, it was not just a mild wetting I was receiving, it was a MONSOON! Bruce came by with the edger, making a cut the mower sign, and so I did. Finally, an hour later, the driving rain quit, leaving 1.2 inches in my brand new rain gauge which hasn't been getting much action lately. Now it has. I'm waiting for the grass to dry out a bit before finishing the next two sections, well, make that three. With a corner lot, your yard is divided into sections. In ours, there are five. You do the math on what I've already mowed.

Yesterday, at this time I was in the kitchen preparing all manner of food.  My trip to Freshfield Farms was for fruits, vegetables, and meat. My plan was to freeze some of the fruit for winter. Have you done this before? I have with success, particularly blueberries.
This time around I used my pizza pan from Williams Sonoma with the holes in the bottom to expedite the freezing process. In just a few hours they were frozen enough to pack into a freezer bag for pancakes, muffins, and perhaps lemon pound cake later in the year.

Have you heard of freestone peaches? Three workers at Freshfield Farms had not. When I asked if the featured peaches were freestone, they looked at me like I was crazy. If you already know what that means, skip down a bit. If not, it means that when you cut a peach, or any stone fruit for that matter, the fruit comes away cleanly, meaning you don't waste what clings to the stone. Anyway, after the manager cut one open, we discovered they were indeed freestone with bonus points for no fuzziness on the skin. I HATE fuzzy peach skin. So, instead of all the tips I read on the internet, I simply cut them into slices, and froze them as well.
I know for some folks this is an impossibility because of size constraints, but others might find the information useful. Just before falling asleep, I remembered they were in the freezer as seen above, and went to bag them up. Peaches in November!!

While the freezing was going on, I decided to make fried chicken, one of Bruce's favorites. Looking for my Bon Ton recipe, (which proved elusive), I came across another one from Raleigh, North Carolina, found in an old Southern Living magazine. So, I marinated the chicken pieces with cider vinegar and salt water. That was going fine until I noticed I needed 1 tablespoon of season salt for the flour. What the heck is seasoned salt? I figured I couldn't really decide if I liked the recipe if I didn't follow it, so I turned to Google. Turns out there were loads of recipes for seasoned salt; I used one from a blog that I can no longer find. Good thing I wrote it down....
on the cute pad given to me by my daughter-in-law Michelle. Loads of ingredients, one of which I did not have. Dried parsley. Who uses dry parsley when fresh is so widely available? Corrine does! The finished product.
Looks pretty much like my counter top doesn't it? :)

So now for the flour mixture to coat the chicken:
Next step-- the frying. Seasoned cooks know that food talks to you when it is done. Take cake for instance. You can actually hear a different sound when it is done. Bread, you knock on for a hollow sound. Same with fried chicken. When you first put the pieces into the hot oil, it is loud as heck.
Then, depending on what pieces you are frying, after twenty minutes or so, the fat quiets down and you know your chicken is done without even seeing if it is brown.
For dinner I had one of the pieces ,and it was mighty fine. Is it the best I've ever made? I'm not sure about that, but it is the best looking!
While I was spending the afternoon and evening in the kitchen, I went ahead and put a rub on a small piece of brisket, a meat I've never really mastered. Today I the put it in a cake pan with bar-b-que sauce and water, covered it with plastic wrap and foil, and baked it for four hours at 250 degrees. This much I know already, it is tender as can be. What it will taste like is ytbd. I'm going to find out soon enough because the rain has stopped, Bruce has taken over the mowing, cole slaw is made, along with yellow rice, and I'm heading out to turn on the grill to put a little fire to it. We're having watermelon and biscuits to go along with it so it should be a yummy meal. Or maybe not.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Links, Recipes, and Musings...What More Could You Want?

Where shall I start?

For two weeks I've kept this recipe on my desk, so how about we begin with that?

Taco Seasoning
1 T chili powder
1/4 t granulated garlic
1/4 t onion powder
1/8 t cayenne
1/4 t oregano
1/2 t cumin
1 t salt
1 t pepper

The next time you want to make Mexican, whether it be taco salad, or regular tacos, mix the spices in a small bowl, cook your meat, and sprinkle it with the above while still in the pan. Add about 3/4 c water, bring to a boil, and simmer 10 minutes. I don't know about you, but every now and again, I have a hankering for tacos, and since I already have all the listed ingredients, I'm get to go. Try it if you like that sort of thing.

Cue: Photograph of something....
Yesterday morning on my bicycle ride, which by the way I've now ridden 1,670 miles to nowhere, but that's beside the point...anyway, Sue has finally returned to Orlando, after spending a month at their cabin in Montana, making me very happy. While there she showed me these boots, and because we are having a Texas themed party for J&A in December, I said let's see what we can do. And so we did.

As well, I stopped to see Cheryl, and by golly she has the most BEAUTIFUL plumeria in bloom. See for yourself:
More often than not I struggle with what gender to use when showing you things like insects and the like. He, or she? Cheryl assigns her plants as such: pretty ones are shes, and handsome ones are hes. It appears that blogger doesn't approve of my using the term hes, but I can't think how else to describe her system. How about I call the blasted oleandar caterpillar a he? They are back by the dozens at our house!
We are going back to England on September 30 for a week, and while there, I was hoping to see more from my favorite street artist Stik. When I saw online a big new piece he has done, I was pretty darn excited. Except a few days later it looked very different indeed. This link shows just what happened when Stik and friends collaborated. Banksy may be the king of street art, but I dare say Stik is a prince. If you check out the link you'll see what I mean by that.

How about another simple recipe? During a trip to Costco while Matt was home, we picked up a large bag of lovely lemons. Obviously you know that when life gives you lemons, or in this case you pay for them, you make lemonade. And so we did. Following this simple ratio made for some delicious lemonade.
Lemonade
Mix 1 c sugar with 1 c boiling water. 
Stir until dissolved
In pitcher add 1 c lemon juice
Add above simple syrup
3 1/c water
Stir or shake
A little lemon zest never hurt anyone.
Drink with gusto!

Cue: photograph of something...
So much for our dry weather I last reported. Torrential downpour yesterday afternoon.

That said, today is once again lovely and bright. Speaking of gloomy days, this post: Adrift from a long time ago tells one tale of the recession. Some days, when I sit down to write, I think to myself, "why bother, does anyone really care?" Turns out even if no one else cares, I'm pretty thrilled to have a record of life as I know it. 

Following that gloominess, here's a link: If you are in need of a good laugh click! Seriously, this is the best.

Cue: photograph of something...
Karen Howard where are you? Why, in North Carolina silly! Here's a reminder of home. While chatting with Cheryl the other day I told her about Palm Gardens on Judge Road where all our backyard landscape plants were purchased. Anxious to see it for herself, I drove her there this morning, followed by a trip to Howard Fertilizer on Orange Avenue, a first for me. Together we purchased a recommended bag of fertilizer to split. Never once, in all the years I've drive by this place, have I stopped. Well now I have, and while there I learned they have been in business since the early 1940's, a feat not many places around here can boast of. Bill, from Palm Gardens, assures us the fertilizer is the best. I'll let you know, but after more than 60 years as a nurseryman, I'm not inclined to argue with him. 

Guess who has the nerve to move? Angela!!! As you can imagine, I am not one bit happy about this new development. If you know anyone who wants a good neighbor, tell them about this house for sale:
After all the work she put into this house, they are walking away, or make that driving away to what is known around these parts as "pill hill." Back when we were young it was one of the toniest parts of town, mostly occupied with doctors, thus the name. It's only a few miles from here, but there will be no more just walking across the street for an afternoon cup of tea. :(

Back to Sue's house, I took this one from her screened in porch:
As you can see, she is a big collector. For my part, there are so many things to photograph, I hardly know where to start!

Recipe...what else shall I include??? I know, a simple summer meal we had the other night..

Pasta and Tomatoes
If large, slice a bunch of grape tomatoes
Finely dice about three cloves of garlic
Combine the two in a bowl
Add a few splashes of balsamic vinegar
Twice as many dashes of olive oil
Salt and black pepper as you like
Big dash of red pepper flakes
Torn basil leaves as you like
Allow to sit at room temp for a few hours, 
I used linguine because I had it, but angel hair, spaghetti, whatever is in the cupboard
Cook as directed saving a cup or so of pasta water
Dump pasta water over tomatoes
When pasta is done, dump in bowl, combine
Sprinkle with more basil, chopped Italian parsley and cheese if you like
Eat with a smile on your face.
Here's where the musings come in:

For some time now I've taken advantage of the terrific offerings at Freshfield Farms up the street. Once called Mom's Meat, and Pop's Produce, a few years ago they gave themselves a makeover, attracting lots of newcomers as a result. Then too, we know the owners who are professing Christians, so much so, there are quotes of Scripture on some of the interior walls. So far, so good. Today, however, when checking out on the meat side of the store, I complimented the cashier on her friendliness and speed of checkout. She thanked me, and when asked how long she'd worked there, she said five years. She went on to tell me that she was now at the top of the pay scale, and had to go home at 2:00 to reduce her hours. There was more: her job is in jeopardy because they don't think she is fast enough. Furthermore, she also claimed that, she, and most of the other employees are on food stamps because they don't make enough money, and can't get enough hours. To tell you the truth, I was horrified by what she had to say. Surprisingly, she did not seem bitter, claiming other companies are operating the same way. I must add, she did not offer this on her own, it was as a result of my questions. Although it is convenient, I'm wondering if I may have to re-think things and go back to Publix. Modern life can be one big fat conundrum, can't it?

Let's close with a pretty photo shall we?
The butterflies were out in full force at Palm Garden today. :) 

I'm heading into the kitchen to try a new recipe for fried chicken. You'll be the first to know what I think.

Long Beach, CA