of Mice and Men
and Wedding Planners
Well, we did it. We got the boy married off. Sir Flying Ace and his precious Miss AirHeart tied the knot to fly the friendly skies, united. The wedding was beautiful. The venue was breath-taking and the rain was pouring right up until 30 minutes before the outdoor service with beautiful weather until rain returned just as the guests started leaving. God is gracious.
And THEN there was the rehearsal dinner. That was assigned to me and Mr. Fix-It. We were supposed to put together a Texas Bar-B-Q shindig, at the request of Sir Flying Ace, from 9 hours away and in a venue never seen before – actually to be seen, for the first time, on the morning of the day of the dinner. Piece of cake, right? Wedding cake, that is.
Well, anyone who knows me knows that I love to put together an event. I love designing the invitations, making the favors, coming up with decorations, planning the menu – all of the creative things that go into making a memory. Getting it served and dealing with the chaos? Not so much. But I was a woman with a mission and for 3 ½ months, I spent night and day making notes, making lists, sewing, gluing, designing, printing and on and on. It was so much fun. Putting the centerpieces together was a blast. I even made the stands for the airplanes by cutting Plexiglas and then bending it with my curling iron to form these stands on which the airplanes could be hot glued. We were not allowed to bring any glass to the dinner venue, so everything had to be paper, plastic or metal. The candle holders were sheets of frosted Plexiglas, glued together and filled with iridescent beads to hold LED tea lights. The surface for each centerpiece was a red charger from Hobby Lobby, topped with a doily, blue bonnets and greenery.
Because all this was occurring in a small town and because I was not familiar with the restaurants – what ones there were – and because I love to bite off more than I can chew, (no pun intended) I came up with the brilliant idea to smoke turkeys and hams and purchase smoked briskets to freeze ahead of time and then cart down to Texas to heat in wonderful, roasters that would double as serving stations. I got all the fixin’s for “from scratch” baked beans – three gallons of them – cole slaw, chips, all of the condiments and sauces, hors d’oeuvres , and desserts and all was packed into carefully labeled boxes to be stacked in various vehicles for transport. I was on an organized roll.
But you know that poem by Robert Burns about the little mouse and best-laid plans? Yeah, I was the mouse. The night of the party, the tables were set, with favor boxes placed in a row down the center of each one, burlap banners were hung with bows and the serving tables were cute as could be.
I was dripping in sweat with hair plastered to my head, but planning on hitting the shower within a few minutes. And then, it happened. An hour before guest arrivals, my friend, Deborah, hurried up to tell me, in hushed tones and through gritted teeth, that none of the food was cooked. None of the roasters were hot. The crock pot with cheese sauce wasn’t even warm. She and a couple of other friends were rushing from one roaster to the next, moving them to plug them into different outlets, only to find that none of the outlets worked. The beautiful, expensive venue was wired so badly that it would not even support the crockpot. Every electrical outlet would blow just as soon as anything was plugged into it. No food. Nothing but cole slaw, potato chips, hors d’oeuvres and dessert.
Now, I COULD tell you that I, in my calm and organized manner, took all in stride and barked orders, totally in control of the situation. Nahhhh. I grabbed my cell phone, saw that I had NO service, and began walking up a hill to try to gain service, all the while punching buttons to reach Mr. Fix-It. The longer I walked, no – limped, the more I gulped for air, probably hyperventilating. Finally, I got hold of my hubby. Now, I COULD tell you that I calmly explained the situation to him so that we could reason a solution together. However, I probably should admit that when I heard his voice, the tears rolled down my sweaty cheeks and I wailed, “We HAVE no food!!! We have 40 to 50 people coming in 30 minutes and we HAVE no food!!!!” I hiccupped. He, being the typical man, responded, “What do you MEAN we HAVE no food? What was all that junk we drove with for eight hours??” I explained and then, in a matter of seconds, a plan began to form in my racing mind.
That morning, at the HEB Grocery Store, truly the establishment that gives reason why all should move to South Texas, there had been a sign advertising a shrimp and crawfish boil for the day. It would last from 11am until 6 pm. I looked at the time. It was 4:45. I breathlessly cried, “Shrimp!! Get some shrimp at the stand at the grocery store. See if they have enough for us to buy plenty. And get their corn-on-the cob too!” Mr. Fix-It got very quiet as he calculated what that was going to cost him and then asked, “How much? How much shrimp?”
I told you that my mind was a-whir. I told you that I was not calm. I told you that I was out of breath and had tendrils of hair clinging to my neck, face and forehead. That is my excuse, because instead of saying, “Enough for 40 or 50 people.” I said, “Enough for 40 or 50 POUNDS.” Oh yes. I did. And being the obedient, dutiful husband that he is, Mr. Fix-It went to the booth, explained the situation and spent $400 on 40 lbs. of freshly-caught and steamed gulf shrimp….a pound per person.
I, on the other hand, had only enough time to run into the venue restrooms and put my entire head under the faucet of the sink, where I let cold water run over hair and skin alike. I took an extra shirt and used it as a towel, and then dried my hair under the hand dryer. Fortunately I had a change of clothes and makeup with me, as well, and so, I pulled my hair up into a ponytail, donned fresh clothes and makeup and pretended to be as cool as a cucumber. The shrimp was a hit and fun was had by all and most were none the wiser.
What, do you ask, did we do with all of the food? Two turkey breasts, two full hams, three briskets, 20 lbs of shrimp and three gallons of baked beans? Well, we got dry ice and took all of it home where I canned 21 pints of ham, 21 pints of beans and 14 pints of turkey and froze three briskets, as well as 20 lbs of shrimp in 2 lb bags. And in the next several posts, I’ll show you some recipes for that canned meat.
Oh. And did I tell you that there WAS a wedding?
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Archive for the ‘Humorous’ Category
When I was young, it didn’t take me long to figure out that Europeans were first introduced to coffee by the tribes in South America in order to stunt their growth and make them less of a threat to said tribes. I mean, really, if you coffee drinkers were honest, you would admit that you would have been at least six inches taller with better muscle tone, if you had not daily ingested multiple cups of that horrible stuff.
I think that all of us have to admit that this has been a strange summer, weatherwise. Thankfully, our normally three digit temps did not appear, however, three monstrous tornadoes – one right after the other – destroyed much of our local landscape. Fires and floods in other parts of the nation have wreaked all kinds of havoc and our prayers go out for those in Colorado who are struggling through some of those floods, right now, after having to endure fires. Abnormally cool temperatures up north have kept places like Alaska in igloo conditions. But now, the days are growing shorter and there is a different feeling in the air. County fairs are popping up and the sound of college football, with its background of cheering fans, dominates the television on Saturdays.
Fall used to always be hard for me. No joke. It seems that everything bad that happened, occurred in the FAll. For the longest time, when that crispness in the air appeared and the tell-tale muted sunlight of autumn days rose, I would get this feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach – a heaviness of spirit if you will. But that has since passed and now the Fall is my favorite time of year with Spring my second choice. I can’t wait for Thanksgiving and I so enjoy the baking, canning and preparation that I do like a squirrel storing up nuts for the winter! I’ve included a recipe for one of those meals below.
I’ve decided to give you a peek into one of those “bad” Autumns so that you might get a little picture into my ready-for-psychiatric-research psyche. Perhaps you won’t find me so strange after all. And then again, this story may make me that much more strange!! Read on.
It was the end of August of 1992. I was 38 years old, skinny, full of energy and the mother of two young children. My sister and her family had invited us to Dallas, from Mt. Pleasant, TX, to join them at Six Flags Over Texas. The kids were excited. I was ready for a fun day. And it was fun…that is…until we hit the kiddie ferris wheel (emphasis here on “kiddie”). My daughter, all of 11 years old, begged me to ride with her and so I hopped beside her in a swinging chair and watched as the safety bar was lowered over our midsections. Shortly thereafter, the gears ground, the music started and we were lifted probably a whopping one and a half stories into the air. As we came to the highest point, open swing rocking and pitching, I discovered, for the first time in my life, that I am afraid of heights. And I don’t just mean “close your eyes and don’t look” afraid of heights. I mean “scream in abject terror and beg for mercy” afraid of heights. I began to hyperventilate. I started to cry. My heart raced and I gulped for air between screams emitted through clenched teeth. My daughter grabbed my arm and tried to soothe me. She looked genuinely stunned and dismayed – not embarrassed that her mother needed a straight jacket and an ambulance waiting at the foot of the ride. My family members in the crowd below, however, looked like they wanted to change their names and claim no acquaintance with the crazy woman who was unraveling on the kiddie ride.
When the ride finally stopped, I fell out of the chair, onto my knees, and struggled to stand. My makeup was a mess but that was no comparison to my mental well-being. My daughter led me to find our family which had scattered in embarrassment and someone brought me a Coca-Cola to fill me with caffeine and make me crazier. I finally gathered my wits and returned to a state of calm, trying to laugh off my apparent phobia. We moved on to food and more fun. We knew not to put me on anymore rides that went more than a foot off of the ground.
I know. You are thinking, “So?” I understand. But that isn’t the end of it. We continued our Six Flags experience and as darkness descended, my niece indicated that, as a last ride, she wanted to do the Splash Water Falls, a ride that sends a boat down a steep slide to hit, bow first into a deep pool of water, sending a wall of water over a walk bridge that acts as the exit for the ride. Those standing on the bridge, at just the right location, get drenched by water cascading over them. I was actually able to handle that ride and even enjoyed it as we plummeted into the water. I’m thinking that it had to do with the idea that falling into the water is safer and less painful than spatting onto concrete from the height of a ferris wheel. My children and I exited our boat and climbed to the bridge to watch my sister and niece take their turn. I pressed way against the back, concrete wall to avoid the water that would inevitably come from their trip. My daughter ran forward to the railing to get a better look. In a series of actions that could only have taken seconds, I first realized that my daughter would be soaked (and would soak the car as well, since we were leaving immediately). I then ran forward to attempt to pull her back as I called out for her to move. She moved. But I was caught in the very center of the width of the bridge. That wall of water came over the top of the structure, full force, hitting me squarely in the chest, picking me up off my feet and tossing me like a rag doll against that back concrete wall and then onto my back on the concrete walkway. All of the air was knocked out of my lungs and I gasped, looking, I am sure, like a goldfish poured out of its bowl, flopping in a huge puddle of water. There was not one inch of me that was dry. Did I mention that I had on white cotton shorts and a white cotton t-shirt? I’ll leave you to imagine the result of soaking white cotton. The guy running the ride and a number of visitors ran to help me up. I could see, “Lawsuit” written all over the poor Six Flag employee’s face. Down below, my entire family was rolling on the ground laughing so hard that they couldn’t even get up the stairs to help me. They didn’t stop laughing until they realized that they hadn’t gotten a video of the whole incident to win $10,000 on America’s Funniest Home Videos.
I headed back to Mt. Pleasant, beaten, bruised and assured that my children were going to be advertising for a new, less embarrassing mother. And again, you say, “So? What’s so bad that you would hate Fall?” I’m not finished.
The following week, still literally blue and smarting from my tumble and embarrassed by my fits of hysteria, I went about my normal work which included taking care of our pet raccoon. Rascal the Raccoon had shown up at our home as an unweaned baby whose mommy had been hit by a car while he was clinging to her back. We took him in and nursed him, bottle feeding him to weaning. Rascal readily accepted house training like a cat and soon had run of our home.
A couple of days after the trip to Texas, I let Rascal out for a stroll. He was still pretty tiny and so I watched him carefully because I did not want him climbing into one of the huge trees of Northeast Texas. Of course, the first thing that he did was head for the biggest of those trees. I called out to Rascal and walked quickly to retrieve him from the tree trunk, not seeing the large tree root in front of me. The tip of my toe clipped under that tree root and I pitched forward. I tried to catch myself on my left leg, but my leg twisted so that my foot was inward as I continued to fall forward. The sound of a large tree branch snapping echoed through the Fall air as I hit the ground and I noticed that the lower half of my left leg, about 8 inches below my knee was laying in the totally opposite direction of the rest of my leg. It wasn’t a tree branch that had snapped. It was the bones in my leg. I did what any normal person would do. I screamed and screamed for help. And I reached down and picked up the wayward portion of my leg and tried to put it in the right position. Bad idea. My poor, stoic 11 year old daughter was the only person home and she came running out to see what had happened. She quickly assessed the situation, called a neighbor and brought me two ibuprofen and a glass of water without me asking. I was too in shock to know what I needed!! My neighbors arrived and slid a cutting board under my leg, securing it by wrapping and wrapping with a horse lead rope and then slid a blanket under me. They took corners of the blanket and lifted me to a car seat where I passed out. Two surgeries and a $20,000 hospital bill later, a year and a half of physical therapy and the leftover scars and arthritis of 3 plates with 13 screws, I walked out of the physical therapist’s office one Spring, relieved that I would not be a cripple the rest of my life.
Rascal finally grew up and wandered off to find a woman Raccoon, but he left us with an unlimited list of funny stories and precious memories. He was a wild raccoon and needed to go back to his habitat. We eased him from his home life to the great outdoors and he finally did not need us anymore.
So there is an example of ONE of my bad Autumns. As I have said, those memories are a distant past and now I can’t wait until I see our first scorpion – emphasis on the word SEE – because we know that Fall is just weeks away. I start getting the urge to cook heartier meals and fill the house with the smells of baking. Here is a recipe that I came up with to use our Shawnee Mills Country Gravy Mix for a hearty, lower calorie pasta meal (I’m on a diet you know) and Mr. Fix-It, my critic, gave it a two thumbs up.
3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbs butter
1 lb chicken breasts cut into strips
1/2 lb ground Italian sausage or 1/2 lb ground pork mixed with salt, pepper and fennel seed
8 large shrimp, shelled
6 large mushrooms, sliced
1 – 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
1 pkg Shawnee Mills Country Gravy Mix or Peppered Gravy Mix prepared according to directions
1/2 to 1 cup chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned (depending on your taste)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tbsp. chopped red sweet pepper
1 cup smoked gouda cheese, grated
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
4 cups cooked bowtie pasta
Prepare Shawnee Mills Gravy mix according to directions. As 1 1/2 cups water is heating, add tsp garlic powder and oregano to the 1/2 cup water and powdered mix.
When gravy has thickened add tomatoes
And add chopped peppers
Add gouda and parmesan cheeses. Stir until cheeses are incorporated, cover with lid and set aside onto warm eye.
Toss chicken and shrimp with Cajun seasoning. Separate chicken from shrimp. Add 2 tbsps. olive oil and 2 tbsps. butter to skillet and heat skillet to smoking. I am using a cast iron skillet here because I think it is best for a blackened meat. Put chicken into skillet and sauté until browned with black areas. Add shrimp and toss until no longer opaque.
Add sausage and chop and stir until crumbles are cooked all the way through.
Place meats into a bowl and put into the oven that has been preheated to warm or put into a warming oven if you have one.
Return the skillet to the heat and add mushrooms to the skillet. Stir fry, constantly stirring.
Cook mushrooms until browned and add to bowl of meats. Toss to mix.
Prepare pasta in salted boiling water with a tablespoon of olive oil added. Drain well. Stir gravy sauce and slowly add to the pasta, stirring to coat until pasta is covered according to your tastes.
Spoon pasta and sauce onto 4 plates and divide meat and mushrooms to top each plate of pasta. Drizzle leftover sauce over the meats and then garnish with grated gouda and parmesan cheese with chopped tomatoes. Serve with garlic bread and a salad.
So there’s a Fall meal for you! Hope you are ready to dive into this year’s season like I am!!!
Don’t forget to leave comment to enter this month’s giveaway. This set of canning utensils is going to somebody’s home!! Better sign up before April 15th or you will miss out on your chance!
I figure that since most people are too busy for soap operas on tv anymore, but almost everybody sits at a computer, I would offer an Oklahoma Pastry Cloth™ soap opera for your enjoyment. It’s too long a story to put into one post and so you will get two installments – one today and one tomorrow. Will there be a happy endng? Stay tuned for…da da da (that’s organ chords)…The Old And The Feckless!
Isn’t it funny how we get it into our heads how something is supposed to be, get all bent out of shape when it isn’t that way at all and then God provides a whole new direction that puts us all back together in contentment? I had that experience last week and I thought that I would share the adventure.
Mr. Fix-It and I took a trip – a long trip! It started out heading to Georgia where Mr. Fix-It did some training to remind him that computers, his life’s chosen vocation, never work the way that they were intended. He’s just not as technologically savvy as I am. I know that the squirrels running the machine are simply out looking for nuts. Anyway, I took the opportunity to visit my uncle for the first time since my aunt’s death in December. It was a wonderful visit with much laughter and ample reminiscing.
And then we went north to Kentucky. Now, Kentucky is beautiful and it is a wonderful state, but I was a little bummed about the trip to the place because we had to go through the mountainous part of East Tennessee where my parents had lived up until a year ago and where I grew up…and we didn’t stop…because my parents aren’t there anymore. I was sad. My mom and dad sold their house and had moved to a retirement community in a town in Kentucky that I had never heard of before and which was not ‘home’. When we got off of I-75 to wind our way to the town on narrow roads carved into the sides of huge bluffs (with no guard rails) and which narrowed down to one lane bridges in a number of places, I felt heavier and heavier. We were in the middle of nowhere and I was looking for the dueling banjos. “What were they thinking?” I asked myself.
It was nearly dark when we arrived in their tiny town…and I do mean tiny. There are no fast food restaurants, only one gas station, a Dollar General Store (nope – no WalMart) and one grocery store. I had made reservations at a bed and breakfast (one of several) where the manager was kind enough to allow our little Ellie dog to join us in our room. The manager had informed me over the phone that we would be staying in a log cabin where the owner had a cat and so a little, long-haired dachshund would be no problem. We stopped at the main home of the two-part B&B, met the manager and found out that the cabin, we would call home for several days, was outside of town. We were to follow her car to the location.
It felt like we drove forever, but that is always the case when one does not know where one is going. Off of a main highway, we came to a drive that led a long way down into a “holler” to a picture perfect sight of two, big, authentic Kentucky log cabins. I calculated their ages as it was revealed to us that they were built before Kentucky became a state. 1792 was that year – George Washington was president and Daniel Boone was a resident of the state! Wow.
But my heart sank as we carefully navigated the flagstone walkway that just begged me to be my usual, accident-prone self and climbed the stairs to an uneven porch and to an old, front door. “Now you have to work really fast to get the front door to unlock,” we were told as the manager unlocked a single knob with no deadbolt lock. “Just shove the key in and turn quickly. If you are timid about it, you won’t get it to unlock. Oh, and be sure that you really jam the door shut and double check that it has closed.” There was a note taped to a door pane that ordered, “Please make sure the door is closed.” The obstinate door creaked open and we stepped into a dark entry way, lighted only by an old, opaque globe with a light inside, showing off the various countries of long ago.
First, we were shown our bathroom. The door to the bathroom opened out into the dark entrance where any other guest would walk right past. I was relieved to find out that it was our personal bathroom, but the privacy was definitely wanting. Inside the bathroom was an old claw foot bathtub with circular curtain and old shower assembly. A tiny space heater provided the only heat. We then went into the parlor to the left of the bathroom and I felt like I had walked into an Edgar Allen Poe story. The boards of the floor (original) creaked and sank under the weight of our steps and ancient furniture, books and multiple stuffed animals were strategically placed around an old fireplace on a wall that was obviously uneven, old, painted plaster. Electric Christmas candles in the windows and a floor lamp in the corner offered dim lighting, and a large collection of crucifixes adorned the mantel and hearth. I was looking for the raven quoting, “Nevermore.” A narrow door of vertical boards, held together by a couple of cross boards and painted with enamel paint opened to a narrow set of stairs that led to the rooms upstairs which were occupied by another couple of visitors.
The door to our room was the same type of door, but wider. It was a little lopsided so that there was a gap between the door frame and the top of the door when closed. The doorknob was the old, metal enamel type with no lock. When opened, the door revealed a large room with three chinked log walls and one plaster one, a set of twin beds on a floor that sloped enough to mess with your equilibrium and a very large, lighted Christmas tree in the corner.
That tree, along with a floor lamp, a set of electric Christmas candles in the window, a dim table lamp and a collection of strange, lighted plaster art on the mantel of a huge fireplace, served as the lighting for the room. In other words, it felt like we would be living by kerosene lantern light. The bed that would be Mr. Fix-It’s had one leg leveled by a wooden block. There was a television. And there was a light switch on the wall, but we were cautioned that the light switch would turn off everything, including the space heater and it was cold!
Because there were no electrical outlets, a maze of extension cords and spike bars crisscrossed the corners of the room and over the mantle. A large extension cord dangled from the mantel to be used for a space heater on the hearth. Mr. Fix-It surveyed the electrical nightmare with horror. I just looked around in dismay at the very weird room. By this point, I was really depressed…(and with that, I will leave this to be continued tomorrow!!)
I’m a big ol’ softy when it comes to animals, especially hurt animals. That awful ASPCA commercial on television that uses the Sarah McGlaughlin song, Angel, just sends me into sobs and now, I just have to turn the channel at the first strains of the song. Dump a dog and I’ll hunt you down. Bugs and snakes, I could care less about, but birds and mammals hit my tender spot.
And so, this morning, as I was preparing to leave the house for the day, that instinct kicked in. I heard Mr. Fix-It come back in the front door after I thought he had left for work. “There’s a hurt cardinal in the flower bed. He must have hit the window,” he said matter-of-factly. Actually, Mr. Fix-It wasn’t expecting for me to do anything about it. He was just informing me in the same manner that he would tell me that the UPS truck had just driven up. He headed back out of the door, hopped into the car and was gone.
I, of course, went out to check on our feathered friend. My heart broke to see this gorgeous, male cardinal flopping around under a rose bush, wing dragging, and obviously broken, and mouth open in a pant. I had to do something!! And so, I went into the house, slipped on my pair of leather gardening gloves and went back out to retrieve my patient.
I have this bad habit of acting before I think, and this time was no different. I tried to gently capture the bird, but he dove farther into the rose bush. I managed to finally grab him with one hand and he let out a squawk that so surprised me that I nearly dropped him. He grabbed a gloved finger of my other hand and bit down for all he was worth. He would not let go. I stood in the garden, unable to free my hand, unwilling to turn him loose from the other hand’s grip, and contemplating the fact that I had not made preparations for this invalid in the way of a “hospital” setting. I stayed stock still in an attempt to keep the bird calm and for me to decide what to do. Mr. Cardinal let out another squawk which released my finger. Then he looked at me, calmly, with the biggest, blackest, most unsettling eye as if to say, “OK, dummy. What’s your big plan?”
I opened the front door with my free hand and wandered around the house, carrying the bird and trying to be creative. I thought of our pet carrier, but thought the cat smells might upset the birdie. “I tawt I taw a pootie tat.” I spotted a couple of laundry baskets and a brilliant idea formed in my pea brain. With my one hand, I grabbed newsprint and lined one basket with the newsprint. Dragging the basket into the front guest bedroom, I situated it in a draft free location and went to retrieve the second basket. And of course, Mr. Cardinal was still trapped in my left hand, being whisked from room to room in my frenzy to solve my problem.
I grabbed a small bowl and filled it with water, went to the garage and got cardinal food with whole sunflowers and then placed the water and the food into the floor of the papered basket. I gently placed the bird onto the floor of the basket and quickly put the second basket upside down on top of the first basket. Mr. Cardinal just sat on the paper and stared at me. It was then that I remembered my suet that I had made and proudly announced to the stricken bird that he was in luck. I grabbed some of the suet from the frig and shoved it through a slat in the laundry basket right in front of the cardinal. I shut the door to the bedroom to protect the bird against our aging, but agile, Mr. Sway Cat.
I had to get on my way and so I decided that I would call an animal rescue mission near us and see if I could bring the bird by later in the day. In the meantime, I would text my friend down the road to see if she might have a bird cage. Feeling rather proud of myself, I took off to accomplish my various required journeys.
It was around 1:30 in the afternoon when Mr. Fix-It called me to let me know he had gotten home early. I told him about my brilliant accommodations for the bird and I explained that he could not open the door or leave the door open to the bedroom because of the cat. I neglected to tell Mr. Fix-It that I wanted to take pictures of my friend before I took him to the shelter. A few minutes after this conversation, my phone rang again and it was Mr. Fix-It. He nearly screamed, “There’s a cardinal flying around the bedroom!!!” I told him to shut the door so the cat wouldn’t get it. He seemed to think that was a little condescending for me to think I would need to tell him that! And then he said, “Now he’s perched on top of the curtain rods of the window! He’s going to mess on everything!!” I asked Mr. Fix-It, rather incredulously, if the bird was actually flying. I got a very curt “of course…how do you think he got onto the curtain rod??” I then asked Mr. Fix-It if he had taken the top laundry basket off of the bottom one. I was definitely NOT making any Brownie points with him at this point. He said that he had opened the door to the room and that the bird had already escaped. It was my fault. I hadn’t tied the baskets together. I guess cardinals are strong little suckers. And I guess this cardinal didn’t have a broken wing after all. He had just been stunned.
I told Mr. Fix-It to just wait until I got there and that we would figure something out. I was mentally visualizing a butterfly or fishing net, neither of which we own. My hubby wasn’t too happy. I could just see him standing in the room next to the antique 4-poster bed, ducking each time the red bird dive bombed him. And he couldn’t open the door to leave because..well, yes…because of the cat. Of course, my blogger brain was calculating, “I’ll take a picture of the cardinal on the curtains, for the blog, and THEN we’ll catch him. I kind of giggled, because I was certain that the distinctive cardinal ‘peep peep’ was being aimed at my husband and that the cat was probably outside the door in a fury. Poor Mr. Fix-It.
However, I don’t give my husband enough credit. Before I ever reached the front door, Mr. Fix-It had managed to get the window open and the screen removed so that Mr. Cardinal ‘flew the coop’ without so much as an ‘au revoir’. I got no picture – just bird poop on the carpet, the comforter, the curtains and the window table, bird seed scattered all over the carpet and a soggy mess of water and newsprint in the bottom of my laundry basket. But, yay for the bird. He’s off somewhere happily reunited with his wife and hopefully a little wiser about big windows.
I know they say that hell is paved with good intentions, but this time, I like to think that I gave that bird some R & R so that he could gather his wits before a dog or cat got him. At least he lived to fly another day!!
It’s been rather crazy around here. Much, much traveling with back-to-back trips. One trip was to Georgia so that Mr. Fix-It could do some training while I got to spend time with my precious Aunt Lois and Uncle Ed and see the new cottage that they are building. It is next to what will be their daughter’s home. They are in a retirement home right now and all I can say is that I am THRILLED that they are getting out of there and into their own place. I am not lying. I felt 90 years old when I left that retirement home. No smiles. No laughter. No sound. No nothing. Very dismal. It is so gratifying to see how my cousins are willing to give their parents the support, encouragement and help that honors the sacrifices that my aunt and uncle made for their children over the years.
Of course, if one is in Georgia during peach season, one MUST buy peaches and that is exactly what Mr. Fix-It and I did at the most enormous peach orchard I’d ever seen. There was no end to the peach trees and it just made me tired to think of all the work that goes into dealing with that many peaches. This family-owned orchard also supplies homemade peach ice cream to perspiring customers who brave the heat and humidity to purchase baskets of huge fruit. And what fruit it was! “Like candy,” comes to mind.
Mr. Fix-It and I came home to an even hotter Oklahoma of 110º – 114º days with no rain. We watched as grasses dried to a crunchy carpet of brown and trees slowly died, even though Mr. Fix-It diligently watered everything as best he could. Fires raged in nearby areas and the thought of leaving again was not really an option. But I had a high school class reunion to attend and I am sure that y’all can imagine that Mr. Fix-It was chomping at the bit to attend it with me!! This reunion, I am willing to admit, was my 40th year shindig. Yep. My classmates are all old. I’m not old, but they are! Fortunately, we Okies got about an inch of rain to alleviate any fears of leaving home to the fires and so Mr. Fix-It got his wish to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to a party where he was to converse with people he’d never met, didn’t know and who played absolutely no part in his world.
As for my part, I agonized over what to wear. You know: “What outfit will make me look like I stepped out of Vogue even though, I don’t know what Vogue is or how one steps out of it? What jewelry will give the appearance that the Queen of England felt obliged to give me the crown jewels? Sandals or dress shoes? Heels or flats? Teeth whitening or ventriloquize through closed lips?” And my Thyroid Eye Disease tends to make me look like I’m either drunk or shocked at the sight of everything – wide, red, watery and exaggerated – how was I going to downplay that? Let me tell you, if you make it to your 40th reunion, you no longer care what the guys think. You simply want the girls…er..women..er…mature females…to look at you and gush, “Oh MY! You haven’t changed a bit! Why, you are just as cute as a bug’s ear and pretty as a peach,” while thinking, “Oh my gosh. I’d have never known her without a name tag. Her hair is platinum (remember?! We don’t say gray!) and I thought she used to be thin! I’m thinkin’ she’s eaten one buttermilk pie short of a bakery!!” And so I chose my wardrobe carefully to reflect only half a bakery and settled for a raid on James Avery for jewelry. There was nothing to be done about my eyes, except to keep them closed – along with my lips.
The trip was uneventful – 15 hours of driving through drought-stricken Oklahoma and Arkansas and a stop at Trader Joe’s in Nashville, Tennessee. Trader Joe’s is my favorite. I’ve begged them to come to Oklahoma but was told by a number of their young, geographical geniuses that it isn’t possible to get over the Oklahoma mountains. What part of “wind comes sweepin’ down the PLAINS” do they not get?? We rolled into Knoxville to the home of our dear friends, Clyde and Mary, and settled in for the evening.
It was then, that my vanity reared its ugly head. (Yes, admitting one’s flaws is a direct road to continuing them without embarrassment.) I had taken my wedding rings off. I wanted to wear these beautiful gifts from Mr. Fix-It the next day, to prove to my classmates that I had really talked somebody into sharing his paycheck with me on a regular basis, but my ring finger knuckle had swollen twenty times its normal size. Not to be deterred, at 11:30 that night, with Mr. Fix-It and our host and hostess already in bed, I decided to make sure that I could wear the rings. I don’t know why. Don’t even ask me. All I know is that I was determined. I slathered a ton of hand cream all over my hand and finger and got the rings to the knuckle and then, with tongue stuck out between my unwhitened teeth, I forced them the rest of the way into place. There!! They were on. And as I happily looked at them, my finger began to swell more. Oh no. I knew that my finger was going to turn blue.
I tip-toed in to Mr. Fix-It, at midnight, and woke him up to inform him that my rings were stuck. You can imagine the sense of compassion and urgency he felt. He said, “I really wish you hadn’t done that. It’s midnight.” Long story short, he watched as I walked around the room with my hand over my head, stuck my hand in the freezer, ran cold water over my finger and tried another round of lotion to no avail. Clyde and Mary, stayed asleep, I think. By 12:30 am, the swelling had at least stopped and since my finger had not fallen off, Mr. Fix-It chose sleep over panic and I slept on the couch with my hand on the back cushions to keep it elevated. About 2 am, Mr. Fix-It came in to check on me, scared me to death and said, “I really wish you hadn’t done that. It’s 2 in the morning.”
The next morning, finger still immensely swollen, our friends recommended their family jeweler, Lamon Jewelers, for rescue and I was driven to a very painful experience of getting my rings cut off of my sausage finger. It hurt!!!! And when my precious jewelry had finally been removed, it lay in a bent and twisted heap of metal and jewels that looked nothing like a set of wedding rings. I didn’t cry, but I wanted to. However, this afternoon, I signed for a FedEx package that contained my repaired and glistening rings, shipped all the way from Tennessee and they look just like new. Thank goodness for skilled craftsmen!!!
The day of the reunion was full of fun, including a luncheon with a group of my former girlfriends and an afternoon spent with my friend, Robyn, traipsing through old neighborhoods to find the homes in which we had grown up. We found them and shot pictures of ourselves in front of the structures and even met the people who currently live in them. I found out that my old home is haunted – yep – that’s what they tried to tell me – and Robyn traded email addresses with the lovely woman who now calls her place “home” in order to send photos of the house from 50 years ago. The reunion was grand and I so enjoyed seeing the gang that I ran around with in high school, some of whom read this blog and were eager to meet Mr. Fix-It to verify that he is truly the wonderful man portrayed! They were in agreement. The trip back to Oklahoma the next day was also uneventful except for the moment that I came out of a restroom stop and calmly entered the car, wondering where Mr. Fix-It had gone, only to see him sitting in another car nearby. I was in the wrong car. He was laughing his head off. 1900 miles in four days is a bit rough, but it was worth it and I will treasure the memories of seeing so many people from my past.
I thought that I would show those of you who haven’t ever made a peach pie before, how I do mine if I am not using my homemade peach pie filling. That was the case with the peaches from Georgia. I froze them in slices and thawed a gallon to make a pie, but I also use fresh. I figure that I’ll be ready for the next reunion where they can say that I only look like I’ve been eating one peach pie short of an orchard. Much healthier, I think.
1 gallon sliced peaches
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 double pie shell
2 pats butter
Make your pie crust. My recipe for multiple pie crusts is great for a quick pie.
Put peach slices into a large bowl with flour, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and toss until pieces are coated.
Pour coated peaches into an unbaked pie shell
Wet the edges of the bottom crust with ice water and lay top crust on top.
Roll bottom and top crust edges together to form a coil around the edge of the pie.
Flute the edges by using a floured knife end and pushing the pie dough into the pinched fingers of your opposite hand
Cut slits in the top of the pie dough to vent the pie
Sprinkle cinnamon/sugar over the top of the pie crust and dot with butter. Bake in a preheated 400º oven for one hour or until golden brown and filling is bubbling. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack for an hour before cutting.
(Don’t forget to comment to enter our newest giveaway for this heavy, heavy, marble and wooden rolling pin and package of a Made In Oklahoma mix to roll out! Winner will be announced Labor Day weekend.)
I’ve been sitting here, patiently twiddling my thumbs, having dutifully turned off all computers and the water heater due to a power outage this afternoon, that occurred without warning. I called the power company to alert them that we are without electricity and the woman laughed at me! She did. I asked if she had any idea how long this outage would last, and again, she laughed. Did I sound that funny? Or maybe she heard the terror in my voice as I assumed that she was hinting to me that we would never have electricity again?
Mr. Fix-It isn’t here this afternoon and so I am totally on my own. I am like Mrs. Ingles on the prairie, only with two dogs and two cats instead of children. And you can’t eat your dogs and cats any more than you can eat your children!!! How will we survive? I have already assessed my stock of deydrated food stuffs, mentally preparing what could be on the menu for the evening meal. I still have two quart jars of my homemade beef jerky that I have managed to hide from Mr. Fix-It and lots of veggies. I have water in the Berkey to boil and pour in with the veggies and meat to make soup and figure that could last us a few weeks. But it just dawned on me that we are under a burn ban so there will be no fire to boil the water. And it is getting stuffy in here. Never mind that the 115 degree days have broken. It has been 88º outside and who can live in 88º without air conditioning? I mean, really? Well, that’s all there is to it. We are all going to die. I remember the nice man who came to talk to us about a generator. We had all chuckled that if we invested that much money into something, we would end up never needing it. That is how Murphy’s Law works, you know. We didn’t buy one. Now it is payback. No generator – no electricity. I can’t even get the car out of the garage because the door is electric and HEAVY and I haven’t competed with Olympic heavy-weight lifters in some time now. And I have no water! Ack. The well pump is not working. All I have is what is in the Berkey. I have to conserve and I feel like it’s been weeks since I had a drink of water. My tongue is sticking to the roof of my mouth. This is rough.
Oh wait. Never mind. The lights just came on. Yep! And water is coming out of the faucets. I’m tellin’ you. That was the longest ordeal! The electricity was off, like…let’s see…hmm…an hour and a half? Really? Huh. I thought it was weeks. You know, you just lose all track of time when you are having to rough it.
OK. So I’m being silly. The fact of the matter is that Mr. Fix-It is looking into a generator and I’m thinking this episode will give him a little extra boost toward that purchase! We lose electricity a lot in Oklahoma. And this has given more pause for thought on our water situation, as well. A hand pump would be a handy addition to our well system or a windmill with a tank. We’ll have to think about that too. We all need to be thinking about ways that we can live more sustainably without depending so much on outside forces. And trust me, two quarts of beef jerky won’t cut it!!
This kind of thinking always sends my tastebuds to grilling out. Unfortunately, we can’t do that right now. Too dangerous with a chance of a grass fire. But it hasn’t been that long ago that we weren’t under a burn ban and I tried a meat marinade that Mr. Fix-It found online that is just to die for. He said that he found it at American’s Test Kitchen. It is wonderful and unique and doesn’t take much time. Try this out. I promise that you that you will be hugging yourself and saying, “Who needs a Steak House??!”
So, here’s hoping that you have electricity all the days of your life…and that you will be well-prepared just in case you don’t!!
Warm-Spiced Parsley Marinade with Ginger
1/2 cup (packed) fresh parsley leaves
1 jalapeno chile pepper, seeded and chopped course
1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped course
3 medium cloves garlic, peeled
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/s cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
3 or 4 one inch to one and a half inch thick steaks, preferably New York Strip, Ribeye, Filets or Sirloin
Place first 10 ingredients into a food processor or blender
Process until all ingredients are well-blended and fine
For Kabobs, trim all fat from steaks and cut into 1″ cubes. Sprinkle with tenderizer. Or, leave steaks whole and sprinkle with tenderizer.
Place steaks or cubes into a container that has a tight lid and add marinade from the food processor. Seal with lid.
Toss until all cubes or steaks are coated with the marinade. Place in the refrigerator, covered, from 4 up to 24 hours. I did mine overnight and until the next evening – probably 18 hours.
For kabobs, on skewers, alternate meat with pineapple, sweet onions, green pepper or you can also add mushrooms and parboiled new potatoes.
Place steaks or kabobs on a hot fire. Coals should be gray, glowing red. And these are now my instructions about how we cook a steak. Sear one side of the meat until browned and quickly turn to the other side. Immediately cover the grill with lid and allow steaks or kabobs to cook, undisturbed for 7 minutes for medium-well, 6 minutes for medium and 5 minutes for medium rare.
Immediately remove steaks or kabobs to a platter and cover with aluminum foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.
The good news is that my meds seem to be working and I don’t feel like I’m burning up from the inside out, with the accompanying clammy persperation from a metabolism gone haywire. And my eyes are a teeny tiny better and that is awesome. Thank you so much for your kind words, thoughts and prayers. But the bad news is that it is 105º outside. There was a roadrunner on the drive, carrying a frilly, little parasol to beat off the heat as she looked for a lizard. OK. So, I’m exaggerating a little. It was actually just a tiny fan.
I have to tell you about my adventure with our little Ellie-dog, our long-haired mini dachshund, in this heat. I was driving on the interstate, after having made some deliveries, and Ellie went along for the ride. She was in the front seat, panting from the very hot day and trying to get comfortable, when all of a sudden she jumped down to the floor. I told her to get back into the seat, but she dove under the car seat to the crackling and rustling of paper and plastic wrap. Backing out of her hideout, she jumped into the seat with a stale, partially eaten, chocolate cupcake. Chocolate can be deadly to dogs and I knew it.
Just to give background: A few weeks ago, in a moment of absolute insanity, I had purchased a packaged “Super Chocolate” cupcake from a huge pile on a table at the grocery store. The pile was so inviting to a person who is supposed to be totally abstaining from such things and besides, there was a big, big sign that declared, “SALE!!”. They were on sale. That’s a siren song to this coupon shopper. I had to have one. So I did.
When I got to the car, I opened the package, took one bite and thought, “Bleh! That’s awful!!” and put it back into its plastic wrapping, intending to toss it in the trash. That was a sale down the drain. I don’t know if my separation from such things made that cupcake taste bad or if it was just a sorry product, but whatever, my picky tastebuds saved me from myself. I placed the wrapped cupcake in a small bag and put it on the floor of the car, where I promptly forgot about it. I must have stopped fast or something, because that little bag rolled under the seat where it went to live in a cupcake no-man’s land.
That is, until Ellie found it. As soon as she had grabbed that cupcake, she jumped onto the seat cushions on the passenger’s side of the car while, at the same time, my hand shot out to grab her nose. Now, remember that I am on the interstate going 70 mph. Ellie was trying with all her might to wolf down her treasure before I could pry her mouth open. Driving with my left hand, I stuck two fingers of my right into the back of her jaw, opened her mouth and scooped out wads of slobbery cupcake as Ellie tried valiantly to grab it back along with my fingers. I yelped. Using the elbow of my left arm, with hand on the wheel, I managed to get the window open partway in order to toss the offending cupcake onto the highway. I figured that it was so slobbery that it would decompose and that wouldn’t be considered littering? I managed to hold Ellie’s collar in such a way that she could not move to grab the chocolate pieces that had broken off and scattered all over the seat. And I mean ALL over the seat.
Instead of heading back to work, I made a detour to the vet and plopped my silly puppy onto the table, stating rather foolishly, “She ate a chocolate cupcake. Not all of it, but some of it and it said that it’s a Super Chocolate cupcake!” The vet dubbed her Cupcake Dog and did an exam, using the name frequently. He determined that she was just going to have a really bad tummy ache because – yes, we read the ingredients on the cupcake package – there wasn’t even enough chocolate to call it just a Regular Chocolate cupcake, much less Super Chocolate. False advertising indeed.
And so, Ellie, Cupcake Dog, did fine and I bandaged my fingers where she had been unable to distinguish between them and globby cupcake. No harm done.
Better for you than preservative-filled, pretend chocolate cupcakes are the veggies in your garden. You do have a garden, right?! If not, then start thinking about next year! If you are like me, your garden is coming in all at once right now. It makes an overwhelming task to deal with mountains of tomatoes, potatoes, corn and every other kind of vitamin-filled vegetable that show up at this time of year. At the request of a reader, who asked what other kind of soups I process that use potatoes, I thought I’d share a recipe that my friend Janis invented and shared with me a number of years ago. She serves it every cold, Halloween night to volunteers who help with her community project. Her method of making this soup is the “dump” method and the ingredients include the “kitchen sink” but I put together a batch and measured what I did so that I could pass that on to you.
The nice thing about this soup is that it makes so much that you are able to can it in the pre-meat stage and then cook up your meat prior to serving so that it is fresh tasting and delicious. The recipe makes about 8 pints of base soup. Of course, you can make this large batch for a crowd and add your meat at the end, without worrying about canning it. So here you go:
6 – 8 cups fresh tomatoes that have been blanched, skinned and quartered or chopped. (You can use canned tomaotes if you do not have fresh, one can being Rotel tomatoes)
1 can chicken broth
1/2 to 1 jalapeno pepper diced (not needed if using Rotel tomatoes)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 medium new potatoes chopped with skin left on
3 carrots, chopped
1 cup corn (frozen is fine)
1 cup green beans (frozen is fine)
1 cup fresh or frozen peas (optional)
1 large onion chopped
1 1/2 cup cooked pinto beans or kidney beans or a can of drained Ranch Style Beans
1 26 oz can of your favorite brand of spaghetti sauce – I like Hunts
To Serve Soup (For 1 quart)
1/2 lb hamburger
3 cloves garlic
salt and pepper
1/3 cup shell pasta
Drop tomatoes, whole, into boiling water and watch for the skins to split. Remove to ice water when the skins split. Slip skins off of tomatoes and quarter or dice tomatoes and place into a large stock pot.
Add can of chicken stock to tomatoes and bring to a boil to stew.
Add chopped new potatoes and carrots. Continue to boil until carrots are tender.
Add chopped onion
And just a little hint. When using fresh tomatoes and cooking them, often they have a slightly bitter taste. If you make spaghetti sauce or even juice from fresh tomatoes, this can be a problem. The solution is to add about 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to the tomatoes as they cook. They will foam up like the top of a volcano! But this cuts the bitterness totally and gives a more smooth, nice taste. If using commercially canned tomatoes, this step can also be necessary. Note: Do not add soda if you are going to can tomatoes only, using the waterbath canning method. This cuts the acidity and reduces the safety of using waterbath canning. For this particular recipe, we will be pressure canning it, so reducing the acid will be fine.
Add green beans, corn and peas (peas are optional). I am using frozen here, but fresh is great.
Add spaghetti sauce
Put soup into jars, either pints or quarts, and process in a pressure canner on 10 lbs of pressure for 60 minutes for pints and 75 minutes for quarts.
To serve, open a jar or two of the soup base and put into a deep pan. Add one cup of water for one quart of soup base. For 1 quart of soup, cook 1/2 lb of hamburger or ground chuck with 3 cloves of pressed garlic, salt and pepper, until browned.
Add beef to the soup. I like to add pasta shells too. Boil until the pasta is tender and add more water as it cooks to thin if need be.
Serve hot with fresh cornbread. This is a wonderfully quick dinner on a cold, winter night. Also, just for information, this is great for camping. Dehydrated hamburger can be purchased at many hunting/camping stores, as well as at Costco. This meat can be rehydrated and cooked with the garlic and salt and pepper and then added to the soup. Great meal for around the campfire or when the electricity goes out!