Namecheap.com
Still writing. . .(short post)

Happy Saturday, Dear Readers:

My apologies for not posting in so long. We haven’t fallen off the face of the Earth. Yet.

I’ve been working it every day, primarily in the legal genre, although I do get client work that isn’t. It’s interesting, researching different subjects, but it does take time. And then there’s the house.

The famous countertop dishwasher is still doing great, and I brag about it regularly. It still runs like a dream, and is a big help in keeping the kitchen from becoming a nightmare.

I’ve actually got a couple more additions to tell you about soon, as well as some cookbook reviews. I bought and returned one cookbook because it was supposed to be “clean” but really wasn’t.

And then there’s BF, who has been reluctantly tasting some new things I’ve made recently. But mostly he goes around telling people that I’m trying to do him in. Still. Or again, I’m never sure. A couple of weeks ago, I was on the phone with his sister-in-law, answering her questions about blogging. BF was heard over the phone telling her, “she has tried to kill me, multiple times!” He rattled off a few dishes that he tells everyone about, like Overnight Oatmeal. The SIL was laughing on the other end.

Tonight we were invited to Big H’s place for pizza. No, it wasn’t gluten free. No, I didn’t indulge. My stomach was bothering me, and I wasn’t interested. But Big H is pretty proud of the brick pizza oven he constructed by hand in the rear of his property. Rightfully so, because it’s lovely but unfinished. It’s thoroughly functional, though:

That does remind me of my fireplace in Houston. I really do miss it. I’m gunning for BF to get us a digital fireplace heater that we can keep in the living room and pretend it’s a wood-burning model. The GER calls that sort of thing a “fake-me-out fireplace.” I wouldn’t mind, just a small one.

BF gobbled up some homemade pizza and I had some Tums. Oh, well.

The garden is still not dug yet, but we’ve had a cold spring, so I’m afraid of putting the tomato plants out too early. I’m cloning basil again, so I hope to have plenty again this year, much to BF’s chagrin. I’ve got seeds galore, some of which came with me from the Genoa Friendship Garden.

I’m hoping to get far enough ahead this week to write a couple of blog posts, but it depends on how the week goes. Fingers crossed.

Thanks for sticking with me. We’re still around.

Enjoy!

Wheat Belly Gumbo In A Bowl
Gumbo La Casa!

Gumbo–that ubiquitous dirty-dishwater looking stew of whatever people throw in it, unique to Louisiana, happened in the Casa de Rurale recently. It could have even happened in Texas. Not quite what you think, and I ate it too. Read about how I made it, I ate it, and how it was somehow gluten-free and wheat-free thanks to a certain author.

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Hi, Again, Dear Readers:

Do you idly flip through cookbooks and think about making something? I do. I think about how nice it would be to try this recipe, and how enjoyable it would be to have, and maybe how much I enjoyed making it for Miss Alice, or for a group of people.  One day I did it, but it was for BF. But first, some news.

Little Japanese Cookies

So three of our Buddhist youth division went to Japan in February for a training course, and they had a pretty incredible spiritual time, from what we heard. No, there wasn’t any sake or karaoke involved (or they left that part out) and they brought back lots of stories. Well, one of them came to our district meeting and brought the cutest box of little cookies:

Box of Japanese Cookies

Isn’t it beautiful?

Kansai is a city in Japan where great things have happened, and one of the places they visited. I insisted that our district leader/hostess let me take pictures as she opened the box. Little things like that from Japan are just adorable. So, here we go:

Front of the box of Japanese cookies

The label came off

The back of the box:

Back of box 1

I think this is the manufacturing label

Company information

Company information, I guess

Then we cracked open the box to see:

The box opens

The contents revealed. Aren’t they adorable?

They’re really tiny, no kidding:

Raspberry cookie in the palm of hand

I told you! Tiny! (No, that’s *not* a wedding ring.)

I had to try one, this one being raspberry. Mildly sweet, crunchy like an amaretto cookie, and lightly flavored. I didn’t ask for a translation of the ingredients list. Again, so cute:

Banana cookie bag

Banana?

I have no idea what it says. I brought two or three home to BF, where he devoured them all in a quick bite.

On the way home, I made a quick stop at Whole Foods (I was only a couple of miles away) and noticed this in the parking lot:

Charger for electric cars

Really?

No kidding, a charger for an electric car, and it looks to be free for Whole Foods customers:

Charger screen closeup

Interesting, no?

Of course, the first thing I wondered was, “does anyone in Louisiana, let alone Mandeville, have an electric car that needs this?” California, sure. Arizona, maybe. Texas, probably with all the petrolheads. But Louisiana? No idea. But if you have one, well, you can charge up that the Mandeville Whole Foods. I don’t know about any other Louisiana location.

I’m sure it won’t be free forever.

Quick Note On Sourcing Ingredients

Finally, I realize that my new favorite online vitamin store also sells a myriad of healthy food products. Why didn’t I think of this before? Vitacost carries all manner of healthy foods and ingredients. I was looking for corn flour recently to make more of my favorite vegan cornbread from Babycakes. Nobody carried it, even in New Orleans. Finally I thought about ordering it directly from Bob’s Red Mill, but then I looked at Vitacost. Oh, yes–they have ALL that stuff, including their own brands of things like pink Himalayan sea salt and a three-pound bag of the sweetener Erythritol (the subject of an upcoming blog post) for a really good price. They may not have absolutely everything, but if you’re looking for something that’s hard to find, check Vitacost’s website first before giving up on it.

And of course, don’t forget Amazon’s website for hard-to-find ingredients, either.  Remember the best part about both these merchants: they ship it right to your door!

Update On The Dishwasher

My fabulous countertop dishwasher is washing its heart out these days, but I discovered that the model I bought is currently unavailable. Why? Because Edgestar and Compact Appliance will be bringing out new models this summer. If you’re looking to get one immediately, check other online outlets to see if they’re still available. If not, give it a couple of months.

Also, I have a new client who asked me to write some “green” articles. Because of that, I’ve discovered that Seventh Generation powdered dishwashing detergent works really well in this dishwasher. I’m going to start buying so I can help us get a little bit greener. It’s a little more than the gelpacs I’ve been using, but I only use a tablespoon, so that box will last me quite a while. The previous powder was the Walmart brand, which I’d bought thinking it would work fine. Nope–it clumped and glued itself into the dispenser. But Seventh Generation doesn’t do that. I’ve got a big box, and will be returning the gelpacs one day soon.

Friend of the blog LK in Houston buys her, um, bathroom tissue from Amazon, and they deliver a 48-roll case to her front door. I think she has Prime, but I don’t remember. It may be a good option for us, too, since we’re. . .way out here. The mail lady and several other courier drivers have become very familiar with the Casa de Rurale since I started regularly ordering stuff online.

The Re-Education Of BF

Sometimes, I wish I’d never picked up cooking as a hobby. Especially with BF around. I get bored making the same thing, stuff that looks like a Swanson TV dinner. Sure, it’s easy to throw in the CrockPot, and I appreciate that part of the meat-and-potatoes dinner. But geez–can’t we eat something different sometime? Grass-fed beef if it’s on sale? It wouldn’t hurt to buy organic milk when we have the chance, either.

Last week we had to head over to Baton Rouge, and I twisted his arm to take me into Sur la Table. It’s a smaller store than Baybrook, and they don’t do cooking classes, darnit. When I told him about it, he kind of knew where it was, but had no idea why. Finally, after trying to explain “professional cooking tools,” and not getting through, I decided to take it to his level.

See, BF isn’t stupid or ignorant–but sometimes, he has no frame of reference. It’s not ignorance–that’s just not ever knowing what something is. Like a popular TV show that everyone else watches, but you’ve never seen it, so you have no idea what the other person is talking about.  Happens to both of us all the time. To him, buying something at a pricey store is no different than going to Walmart for it. Finally, I thought on his level, and realized how to explain it.

“It’s Snap-On Tools For Cooks.”

THAT made sense! If you’re not familiar, Snap-On Tools are the high-end, professional grade mechanics’ tools that are coveted by car guys and gals everywhere. They work the FIRST time you put that wrench on a bolt. Sure, they’re expensive, but they’re professional grade and are made to last a lifetime, just like Le Creuset pots.

What did I need? A good potato masher. I make mashed potatoes for him a lot now, and so I needed one. I wanted a good one that would last a long time, and I got it. (It also doubles as something strong to whack him with if he starts messing around in the kitchen.) Of course, all he could think of was, “It’s overpriced.”

A Tale Of Two Salads

To give you an idea of the contrast between us, BF took me to a local seafood restaurant recently, where they have a salad bar. If you order an entree, there’s one trip to the salad bar. You can just have salad for one price with multiple trips. If you’re really hungry, order an entree *and* multiple trips to the salad bar. I make mine count.

As a veteran of places like Sweet Tomatoes, I look for the good stuff, and frequently pass on salad dressing:

Amy's green and veg salad

Healthy, fresh, green salad. Yum.

Oh, yes. And those are raisins and dried cranberries, too. Not too many, but some for added sweetness. Now, when BF hits the salad bar, this is what he comes back with:

BF's salad dressing bowl

He calls this “salad.”

About a half-cup of lettuce, some cheese, red onion, 12 ounces of Thousand-Island dressing and several bread croutons. And yet, the lettuce gave him. . .gas. That’s what he says, anyway. He takes the hush puppies off my plate, too.

BF cringes when we go to restaurants, but thankfully, it’s not very often. I try hard to find the healthiest thing available, and I’ve been successful each time by asking questions. So you see what I’m working with.

Amy Makes Gumbo

Much as I’m *not* a fan of Louisiana food, I made gumbo for us recently. Why did I grow up in Louisiana, but don’t want any? Well, I’m done with it. And, Louisiana food is a lot of flour, hydrogenated oil and other unhealthy stuff I don’t want. So I dropped it years ago. Mexican food, yes, thank you, with lots of guacamole, sour cream, cheddar cheese and fresh salsa. But you can keep the rest of that stuff. Yuck.

Oh, and BF’s daughter made a gumbo for us once that used the base out of a packet. No. Everybody here has their own way of making gumbo, but. . .well, she bought a gumbo mix or something.

Admittedly, if BF decides to go for some boiled crawfish, I’ll gladly have some. Shrimp, of course, I love, as long as I don’t have to peel 150 pounds of them. (I’ve done that too.) I usually order shrimp in a restaurant, because I don’t have to mess with them. Crab, it’s been way to long. And oysters are only good if they’re deep fried in hydrogenated oil with high-carb cornmeal and flour, so I usually pass. But jambalaya and gumbo? No thanks. Until now.

Could It Be. . .Gluten Free?

Yes, indeed, it can, thanks to my accidental finding of a gumbo recipe in a cookbook a couple of weeks ago.

Now, I showed you the pictures from the gumbo cookout we visited at the holidays. (BF recently visited Mr. Calhoun at his place of business, the auto shop, for car stuff for one of his clients.) On one of those trips, BF had the occasion to have lunch on the road, and he got. . .gumbo. The “real” kind, from somewhere in Baton Rouge, I think. He texted me the picture:

Gumbo in a bowl

This is what *real* gumbo looks like.

And yes, he loaded up on crackers. No thanks. He actually didn’t finish it, brought it to his brother’s place of business, and his brother gobbled it up. Enjoy, guys.

I had a few cookbooks sitting in the kitchen, and I started flipping through one to find *something* else to make for dinner. I knew we had two chicken breasts in the freezer, but that gets real boring real quick. And then, I came across something in the Wheat Belly 30-Minutes (Or Less!) Cookbook: New Orleans Gumbo.

Say what?

I went over the ingredient list, and realized that I only needed a few things to complete it. Andouille style sausage and a bell pepper. Carefully, I made plans to purchase these ingredients and wondered how I would get them into the house without him knowing.

He Found Out Anyway

Well, I told him I was making something *special* for dinner that I knew he’d like, but I wouldn’t tell him what. Finally, he wrestled the book away from me and saw it. “New Orleans Gumbo!  Well, I’ll try anything you make.” That’s his rule, (and his standard answer), so he’ll have one bite of it. But if he doesn’t like it, well, it’s back to grilled cheese sandwiches or something.

So once the proverbial cat was out of the bag, I got busy with making dinner.

The Setup

The Setup #1 (minus the coconut flour)

Of course, I left out one ingredient out of the picture, essential to the dish:

Coconut flour

A must for the wheat-free roux

So let’s get on with it. Make your Cajun seasoning first:

Cajun Seasoning setup

The Setup, Part 2

Mix it and pour it into a storage jar:

Cajun Seasoning Jar Labeled

Done! Now I have it for later

At this point, you can get a pinch bowl for the teaspoon you need for this dish, set it aside, and stash this back into the pantry.

Heat your oil over medium-high heat:

Olive oil pouring in pan

Just a couple of tablespoons of olive or coconut oil is all you need

Chop the chicken and the sausage:

Raw chicken breasts

Which I forgot to photograph diced

 

Chopped sausage

Like this, I guess

Add these to the hot oil:

Chicken and sausage cooking

A good start

And let them cook for about 8 minutes. When they’ve cooked and browned, take them out with a slotted spoon, put them in a bowl, set them aside, then drop the heat down to medium.

Then You Make A Roux

If you’ve never heard of this, a roux (“roo” or “rew”) is the basis for a gravy. It’s done by cooking flour in hot oil on the stove, and it takes a while. You use a fair amount of it, and when you’re done, it’s all thick and brown and. . .gravy.

The Good Doctor has an alternate method.

Pour one cup of chicken stock into the pot, and add the coconut flour one tablespoon every 30 seconds until it’s thick enough for you:

Making Roux chicken stock coconut flour

Just like you would with oil and wheat flour

The coconut flour doesn’t really add a noticeable taste to it. Once that’s done, add the onion:

Diced Onion into the pot

Like this! (So glad I bought this chopping board.)

Then the garlic:

Garlic in dicer

Like this

Diced garlic in chopper

I love my garlic doo-dad!

Then the bell pepper:

Diced bell pepper

I prefer red, orange or yellow, but he uses green, specifically

And the seasoning mix and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes until they soften a little:

Stirring the vegetables

I don’t have a picture of the seasoning mix going in.

See how it’s thickening?

Ok, next–add the sausage and chicken back into the pot:

Meat and veg cooking with tomatoes

Add the tomatoes too

And then add the rest of the chicken stock:

Adding chicken stock

This is two cups the remainder of the three.

Then just cover and cook it for 8 minutes more. The chicken should be completely cooked and the vegetables softened.

What About The Rice?

Don’t panic. I’ve got you covered.

When you get gumbo in a restaurant, it’s usually served with rice, or the rice is in it. That’s not low-carb, and I’m not sure about gluten-free, either. SO. . .I made rice for him and quinoa for me.

Organic quinoa

I know, I know. . .but that’s all they had, and it is certified organic.

I used the last of the chicken stock for my quinoa:

Pouring chicken stock into pot

Didn’t want to deal with leftovers, so the quinoa cooked in it

And, of course, made some rice for BF.

Stove with pots

Busy night at the HeatCageKitchen!

And then it was time for dinner. You won’t believe what happens next. . . .

The Tasting And The Conversation

So I fixed his plate, and then mine, and we sat down to have gumbo on a Saturday night.

Wheat Belly Gumbo In A Bowl

Here it is. The real thing. With quinoa.

He takes a bite, and then another. He doesn’t say anything at first. It went like this:

“Well?”

“It’s pretty good.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“OK if I make it again?”

No response.

“Well?”

“I feel like I want to yell at you for not making this before! Why haven’t you ever made this for me?” (He’s still stuffing his face with it.)

“I only found the recipe last night.”

“How long have you had that book?”

So, there we have it. Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

It Really Is That Easy To Make

If you want to make this for yourself and/or your family, I’ve put a printable PDF copy on the Recipes page. You make the seasoning, and then make the gumbo. Doesn’t take too long, really. Healthy, tasty, and a great weeknight meal, with or without rice/quinoa.

Coconut flour is pretty easy to find these days, and I can get it here in my area (although I still get stuff at Trader Joe’s sometimes, too.) And as I said earlier, Vitacost and Amazon can ship it to your door if you can’t find it locally.

What are you waiting for? Make some and enjoy it.

Happy Dining!

Countertop dishwasher
The HeatCageKitchen Dishwasher!

More big changes at the Casa de Rurale, and this one involves a new appliance–the countertop dishwasher!

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Some of you may be shoveling snow, or not. After three hard freezes, two with snow, we’re in spring-like weather here in Central Louisiana, and I’m in shorts.

Some of you may remember my Karma of Spare Parts series, in which I describe buying spare parts online to be able to use what I have. I’m still at it! In addition to meeting the mail ladies many times, I’ve also met several UPS and FedEx drivers who bring packages to the Casa de Rurale, including one smoker who handed me a big package from Vitacost with a cigarette in his mouth. No kidding. I didn’t complain to FedEx, because he was very nice, but I did lecture him a little on the irony of smoking while delivering my package of health products.

More Spare Parts Karma

Just last week I ordered some replacement glass beakers from Sur la Table:

French Press replacement glass

Finally, all my French Presses are back in action!

I actually ordered three of these little ones, and one of the 8-cup beakers. The two smaller ones broke on the trip from Houston. To get more of these requires either online ordering or a trip to Baton Rouge (that’s now the closest Sur la Table to me; New Orleans doesn’t have one.) So, I finally ordered the darn things. I have three small pots–two of the Brazil model and one of the Chambord. (The small Chambord was in my desk at work while at Boeing after seeing an executive with an 8-cup model in his office.) The two Brazils went straight into my suitcases, because I like to take them on travel (not that I’m going anywhere anytime soon.)

And, finally, my little Apple Master contraption is now whole and complete again, after however long it was since the rubber vacuum cup broke on the bottom:

Norpro Apple Master

I can use it again!

BF is going to help me replace the rusted fork soon. He has no idea what this thing is for–and that’s just fine, because then he won’t touch it and hurt himself, either!

Online Ordering From HEB

For my Texas peeps: You probably know about HEB’s new curbside ordering service. Well. . .they also ship. Nearly anywhere in the US, as a matter of fact. Recently, I ordered me some coffee! A bag of decaf Taste of San Antonio and a bag of decaf Breakfast Blend. The next order will include bigger 2 pound bags and a supply of decaf espresso for cappuccino and lattes at home. Even with shipping, it’ll be cheaper than $15 at Starbucks for it (not that I don’t like Starbucks, either.)

Love the new packaging, too. The previous packaging was nice, and had been in use since I started buying their coffee in 1998. I guess it was time for a refresh.

Plus, there’s all those things I can buy with Hatch chiles in them, including salsa. I’m happy that I can get canned Hatch chiles in Winn-Dixie, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and The Fresh Market. But there will be more online ordering from HEB in the coming months, because there are a lot of things I want that I just can’t get here. In the case of the large bottle of coarse-ground pepper, it’s available and cheaper than the small bottle I can get at Albertson’s in Hammond. I so miss my HEB.

No Toaster Oven Yet

In my online shopping forays, I remember companies that I’ve bought from some time ago and see if I still have an account with them. In the case of Overstock, I actually do. I’ve updated it with my new email and snail mail address, and I get their emails again.

The last time I ordered from them was in 2005, when I ordered a pair of earrings to go with a necklace. This was years before Comfy Earrings were created, and it was for a formal night out. The completed order was still there, with the comment that it is now “past the return window.” I still have the earrings, I’ve worn them once or twice since, but the jewelry is packed up for a wedding that’s in our future (we’ll be guests, not participants.)

I’ve been saving my Bed, Bath And Beyond Coupons for a long time for the day I get a new toaster oven. Upon checking the Overstock website, I discovered that not only do they sell the one I want, they also sell it as a refurbished model.

I can even get one nearly the same as the one I had before I moved, the one that didn’t make the trip well, as a refurbished model. How have I missed this?

So, at some point, soon there will be a new toaster oven, finally, and this time around, it may be the less-expensive refurbished option. I miss my toaster oven so much. Since winter is pretty much done now, it’s time for a new one, especially since BF is complaining that he’s tired of anything slow-cooked.

Presenting The New Dishwasher!

Now, let’s talk about something I bought out of urgent, utter necessity.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the moment you’ve been waiting for. The relocated HeatCageKitchen in the Casa de Rurale now has a counter-top dishwasher:

You’re probably thinking, “that’s a dishwasher?” Yeup. There’s a reason for it, too. Much like the new glasses, I really needed it.

I’ve been really busy, and I don’t anticipate that changing anytime soon. In fact, both of us are. BF works a rotating 40-hour-per-week shift, plus he does some mechanic work for folks. I work on client work in between all that plus dishes, laundry, hound care, cat care and other stuff. Well, the dishes were really piling up, and BF just does *not* do dishes. Without disclosing any TMI, it was getting ridiculous, but he didn’t see a problem. I needed a dishwasher, darnit.

Not For HGTV

You have to understand that this house is an old “mother-in-law house,” literally built to accommodate someone’s elderly mother. Not exactly ergonomically or functionally designed, you understand. But it’s paid for, and BF is proud of that fact, even if there are a number of things that are left to be desired (as well as repaired.) Like a dishwasher!

In the kitchen, there really isn’t a way to install a dishwasher without remodeling the whole kitchen. Neither of us have that kind of money, even to get stuff from IKEA. I’m not spending money to renovate a house that will never belong to me. So. . .we manage. Until we can’t.

I’ve been spending hours trying to catch up on washing dishes by hand at the expense of everything else. I finally got tired of it one night and yelled at BF about it. Just annoyed as the dickens that I’m the one doing all the dishes. Sometimes the clean laundry can been piled up for a while.  But then, I got an idea. . . .

Enter The Compact Appliance

When most people think of kitchen appliances, they think of the full-size versions–refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, laundry appliances, etc. But smaller compact versions? You can get a small fridge, some with freezers, pretty readily. But compact dishwashers? You don’t see them in places like Lowe’s, Home Depot, or even Walmart–but they’re available if you know where to look.

One night I got to thinking. . . what about a counter top dishwasher? Do they exist? I set out to do some research, and it didn’t take long–they’re everywhere! Again, if you know what you want and where to look.

Note that I am not talking about the electric automatic potato peeler BF’s daughter has. I’m talking about important stuff here.

First, Amazon

The first place I tend to go for research when I’m considering or looking for something is Amazon. Love them or hate them, they have just about anything you could want. Even if you don’t buy, you can research for free, and read comments by people who have bought these items. I know they’re not all accurate, but you can get an idea of what to expect.

Amazon has a range of dishwasher models, small and regular sized. I didn’t know you could still buy full-sized portable dishwashers that you can roll around. They have some, although they cost more than the countertop model.

Of the models that Amazon had, both the websites for Target and Walmart had many of the same ones with more reviews.

At the bottom of the Target website was a series of those “sponsored links.” One of them was to a site I’d visited many years before and forgot about.

CompactAppliance.Com

And then there’s this site. I’ve known about them for many years, but never bought from them.

Years ago, I’d planned on buying a very small chest-type freezer for the condo I moved out of in 2016. I went to the Clear Lake location of the chain appliance store, Conn’s, but they didn’t want to talk about anything but “the great financing we can do for you!” That, of course, is how they actually make a profit, I believe. I walked out.

I knew about the freezer, and it was about $100, but they didn’t seem to like the idea that I would either write a check or give them my debit card to pay in full and walk out with it. (It was small enough to easily fit in The Mighty Saturn.) I never got around to going back, and never bought one, despite the thought staying way in the back of my mind.

I really, REALLY don’t like being treated like that, and I generally won’t return to a place that tries to force a financing contract on me. That’s why I never went back to Conn’s.

There was another occasion I was thinking about something else, and I came across Compact Appliance’s website. In addition to compact appliances, they also have full-size appliances like Conn’s and Lowe’s and the like. I should have signed up for their emails, but I didn’t. Well, I finally did.

It’s Time

After looking at Amazon’s website, there were a couple of dishwashers I was going to consider buying, even if I was a bit concerned about the possibility of returning it if it didn’t work.

Not a matter of *if” I bought a dishwasher, you understand, just a matter of *when.* And I let BF know about it. He just gave me that look that says, “I smile because I have no idea what’s going on.” Like the day he looked into the pantry after I’d unpacked all my stuff in there. (It still needs a reorg.) BF says he doesn’t mind about anything I do in the house. Good thing.

His main concern was spending a lot of money on a brand neither of us had ever heard of. I agreed, but three hours of washing dishes by hand was getting to be too much. This solves the problem, and it’s not built-in. And yes, if I ever decide to move back to Texas, I can pack it and take it with me. (He can buy his own!)

I got paid, and I had enough to order one on December 27th. I got a 5% discount for signing up for their emails, and free shipping. Should I have a problem, they’re ready to help–I asked before I bought. I think there were three phone calls before I finally ordered.

I waited for its arrival. Meantime, I bought some of this stuff:

Countertop dishwasher detergent

Finally, I had one on order, so I bought this in anticipation

Reading all that I had, everyone said that the gelpacs worked the best. Having used three different types, I have to agree–they dissolve quickly and cleanly, and leave no powdery residue. A couple of times, I’ve put stuff in there that accidentally blocked the little door, and I had to run it again because the powder cakes in the compartment. So gelpacs it is.

Two Days Later

I was sitting at my desk when the FedEx driver rolled up. I had my office mini blinds open, and BF was asleep. And then the dogs started barking (they were inside because it was so cold out.) And then I ran through the house, yelling, “It’s Here! It’s Here!” He took this as his cue to start moving around, put some warm clothes on and get out to the patio to get it into the house.

While he did that, I had a nice chat with the FedEx driver, who is a single mother of 4, lives in nearby Mississippi, and would also like to work from home. I gave her an intro card from SGI-USA, taught her how to chant, and gave her the “elevator pitch.” She was open to the idea, and thanked me for the card. (She also dropped off another Vitacost package a couple of weeks later.)

The Box Opens

Of course, I was so excited to open this box that I didn’t take any pictures. BF started carefully cutting open the taped edges, and removed the machine with equal care to put it on the counter top.

Countertop dishwasher

Ladies and Gentlement, may I present: The Countertop Dishwasher.

I had to read the manual first, to make sure I didn’t do something wrong. It was pretty simple. Truth is, They put the owner’s manual as a PDF on the website so you can look at it before you buy it. How’s THAT for good customer service?

Oh, dear–mine isn’t on the website right now. However, this is a similar model, and the manual is available there, down the right side. Hmmmm. . .well, anyway. . . .

How It Works

It hooks up to the sink with a couple of little hoses, and a screw-in metal bit that screws into your faucet, once you remove the diffuser:

Countertop dishwasher connector

The hoses clip onto this bit. We just leave it on the faucet.

The plastic you see on the right clips onto the metal. Turn on the water, turn on the machine, and you’re washing dishes!

These are also great for offices and labs, if you didn’t know that. But in a small kitchen, or where you can’t install a dishwasher, it’s awesome.

I would also like to point out that BF graciously replaced the kitchen faucet that’s been problematic for a long time. The hot water leaked so much that in order to use hot water, you had to turn it on under the sink. That problem, thankfully, has now been eliminated. Plus we have one with that little sprayer thingy that’s plumbed separately into the water line, too. Isn’t he sweet? (The bathroom faucet is also due for replacement, but it hasn’t happened yet.)

Countertop dishwasher connected

Clips on just like this

The little red button on the right is for water. Just push and you get some out. Be careful though, because it’s like a fire hose. And, don’t use it while the machine is filling.

Countertop dishwasher hookup

It’s hard, but you just push it and the water comes out

It runs a lot like a laundry washing machine, really, off the water supply. There are some on Amazon who say they can plumb it directly into the water line, but BF’s not going for that, and I don’t mind, either. It’s not been that much trouble to use. We don’t have to unscrew that bit, although we could do that. Works just fine the way we have it.

So What’s It Like To Use?

Well, in a word, AWESOME. But there’s a few caveats I have to tell you about while I explain all this.

Since it’s smaller, it obviously won’t hold as much as a full-sized machine The idea behind the design is service for six, that is, six dinner, salad and dessert plates, drinking glasses, coffee cups (small flat ones) and cutlery. But of course you can wash other stuff in there, too.

Countertop dishewasher loaded

Loaded!

Bigger than a microwave oven, it holds quite a lot, but that bowl takes up a lot of room. That’s OK.

Countertop dishwasher cup and mug rack

An area for big cups as well as smaller items

You may be wondering why the dishes are wet. That’s another caveat–it doesn’t have a “dry” cycle like the big ones we’re all used to. So what do you do? You can dry them by hand, pull the rack out and let them dry, or unload them into a dish drain or on a draining towel so they dry on their own. I usually just pull the rack out, but if I need to use it again, I just unload them and start the next load. Believe me, it’s OK, too.

When you’re ready, drop in your detergent:

Gelpac in countertop dishwasher

So neat & tidy

Turn it on:

Countertop dishwasher

Very easy

Then touch the start button:

Countertop dishwasher buttons

And away we go!

When you touch the start button, the colon between the numbers blinks, and it starts in ten seconds. I haven’t tried the delay function yet. Or that other one. . .better read the manual again, yes?

The big round knob gives you several cycles to chose from I just like the hour-and-fifteen-minute cycle, but you can chose whichever you like, from the nearly two-hour cycle to the ten minute “rinse them off” cycle.” When the detergent caked on, I picked it all out, moved the obstruction and used the 45 minute cycle for the re-run.

Whenever the cycle finishes, it beeps and the numerical readout goes back to the original time of the cycle. I just turn it off, open it up, pull the rack out, turn off the water, pop the pressure and remove the hookup from the faucet, letting it drain into the sink. The whole cycle only uses about 3.5 gallons of your hot water! And it makes a neat “moaning” sound when the water flows out of it into the sink. I just roll the hoses up behind the dishwasher after they’re drained, I’m done with the washing and that’s it.

The Last Caveat

Obviously this wonderful machine can’t wash as much, or everything that a full-sized one can. Again, that’s OK. Also, I’m not naive enough to think I’ll never hand wash again; far from it. Big pots, cast-iron skillets, and a few other things that can’t be washed in the dishwasher will always have to be hand-washed. I can handle that. But for everyday dishes, coffee cups, flatware and other smaller things, this dishwasher has been a wonderful thing. I’ve spent as long as 3+ hours catching up dishwashing. I hope I don’t have to do that anymore, and so far, I haven’t.

Facebook Bragging

I was so happy to finally get this dishwasher. Is it wrong to love a kitchen appliance? Well, I got this one because it’s much easier to get than the Suzy Homemaker model:

Suzy Homemaker Dishwasher

I still want one.

And I think mine holds more, anyway.

I kept talking about my new dishwasher on Facebook, and well, I guess it’s one of those things you look and go, “oh, how nice.” But one gentleman, who I’ve never met in person, ended up buying his own dishwasher right after I bought this one (the same one, too.) He lives in a 900-square-foot “fifth wheel,” an expanded trailer kind of thing. He’s a single guy, lives alone and hates washing dishes. So. . .I made him happy, too. He loves his as much as I love mine. Isn’t Facebook great?

What Else I Learned On Facebook

Well, if you have dogs that do not want to take a bath, there’s a way to make it easier. Get a jar of cheap peanut butter and smear some on the walls of your bathtub or shower stall. Lead them to it, let them have it, and wash while they lick the peanut butter off the wall. Think I’m joking? I’m not, and it works like a charm. It’s how I washed a 65-pound pit bull today, as well as a 25-pound mutt.

BF says it’s “cheating.” I say it works, and nobody’s keeping score, so who cares?

Caveat: if you let the dog lick the utensil, don’t put it back into the jar. If you do, make sure you mark the jar “DOG ONLY.” Or you’ll be eating the dog’s peanut butter. (Because BF couldn’t remember if he did or not.)

The New Addiction

This little detergent scoop comes with the dishwasher, along with some other plastic parts I’m not yet sure about:

Countertop dishwasher powder scoop

It hangs there ready when I want it.

I was thinking, “Wow, a little Command Hook right there will keep it where it won’t get lost.” Indeed, it does.

Unfortunately, I’m now addicted to Command Hooks.

Measuing cups held by Command Hooks

Found on Pinterest, naturally–and there’s now more on this door since I took this pic.

There are lots of boards and pins dedicated to organizing your home with these babies, but there aren’t all that many “new ideas.” Most are the same ones recirculated, although I wish I’d known about hanging curtains with the bigger ones a long time ago. However, they’re all quite useful ideas:

Command hook on coffee tin

It waits for me, just like the detergent cup

I got this idea from one of the articles suggesting putting a measuring cup on a hook on your cereal container (it was oatmeal in a plastic bin.) It works, just like this one that’s also quite useful:

Rubber Gloves held by a binder clip hanging on a Command Hook

Finally, a place to stash these!

It was the first binder clip I could put my paws on, you understand. And then there’s this:

Command hooks holding potholders

Neat and handy (and I made those, too.)

Now, I actually had a large cup hook there, but it’s just sheetrock. I put it there to cover the old landline phone jack, because, well, we have cell phones, so who cares, right? But the cup hook kept falling out, and the little picture fell a few times, so–Command Hook to the rescue!

Command hook holding oven mitt

Looks better doesn’t it?

This is BF’s oven mitt, which was hanging by a nail, and knocked to the floor many times. Not anymore.

And there are more in the house, including the bathroom. 3M actually makes a specific type to use in the bathroom to withstand the extra humidity.

I’ve also hung up my yoga mat bags on the back of a door, individually, with bigger hooks.

How Did I Miss These?

When I moved to the condo in 2004, I bought a Command Hook to put up a thingy I made to hang extra rolls of bathroom tissue on the back of the door. I put the tape on backwards, but it stayed up, and the hook was there when I left. (I’m sure it’s gone now, but who cares?)

But they were relatively new then, and somewhat expensive. Guess I didn’t pay enough attention over the years, and then life got much more complicated. But now there’s a huge selection of these sticky-tape products, and they can do quite a lot of things, without putting holes in the walls.

So now when we go somewhere (especially if we head up to Hammond), I’m fond of telling BF, “We need some Command Hooks.” He asks, “what kind?” I respond, “I don’t know–I just know we need some.”  (We probably need more of the tapes, though.) Alternately, I’ll tell him, “Oh my GOD! I haven’t bought any Command Hooks lately!” He either ignores me or looks at me funny. As usual.

Until Next Time

If you were wondering how the heck you’d get a dishwasher in your kitchen, I hope I gave you an option. I’m loving mine, and I know my Facebook friend RG is loving his, because he tells me. I’m always looking for other options and alternatives, because I know in this world, they do exist. (I can’t answer for other worlds, don’t ask me.) With both the dishwasher and the Command Hooks, it was a matter of “what took you so long?”

Hope I’ve helped someone out today. I’m looking for new stuff all the time, I just don’t always find stuff to write about.

Enjoy!

Mr. Earl’s Year-End Party With Barbecue

Happy New Year, and Welcome to HeatCageKitchen: Automotive Edition! There’s some delicious barbecue in Central Louisiana, and BF and I were cordially invited to have some.

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Happy 2018, Dear Readers:

Welcome to another edition of “What Are These Two Lug Nuts Up To Now?”

No, I promise not to mention you-know-what that me and BF are supposed to be getting in shape for. Haven’t been able to carve out exercise time just yet. Need to do that soon–it’s February! I’d be riding my bike now if I hadn’t hurt my back this week. . .standing up from a seated position. No kidding. It’s getting better now.

So, does your office coffee look like this? Mine does.

French Press coffee pot with milk, cup and sweetener

Office coffee, Amy Style

I posted that on Facebook the other day, and a former coworker was actually jealous. He worked with me at Boeing and now lives in the Seattle area.

I’ve got a short break in client work, so I thought I should try and finish a blog post. Irony: I know from writing blog posts for digital marketing agencies that in order to get rankings in Google and other search engines, you need to regularly publish useful and relevant content. Yes, I can do that. . .soon. Besides, I’ve already paid for the domain name for another year (It’s not expensive.)

Let’s get started.

Vegan Beef Jerky

You’re probably thinking, “what’s this foolishness?” Like I did when I saw this stuff in Whole Foods recently:

barbecue

Are you kidding me?

This is not a joke:

Nothin’ but love? No kidding–sounds like a whole lot of nothing. Yuck!

If you think that’s healthy. . .no, seriously, it’s not. And it isn’t cheap, either.

Price Tag for Vegan Jerkey, $6.99 a bag

Seriously?

For a bunch of soybeans and sugar for people who eat “nothing with a face,” but it’s made to TASTE like something with a face. (Remember last year the “beef-free beef broth” I found in the same Whole Foods?) It’s similar to this product from my favorite snack company Epic, which is also available in Whole Foods, and about the same price with actual MEAT. But this “vegan jerky” has no beef in it. What’s the point of fake-me-out “beef jerky” made with soybeans?

If you’re vegan, why are you going to mess with something that tastes like something you don’t eat? Makes no sense, but, well, supply and demand and all that. Apparently the company makes several types, too. Here’s a picture from their Instagram page via their website that says “Happy Science Fiction Day.” Oh, the IRONY.

I’m still allergic to soy. Just say no and save your money for real food. Yuck.

The Christmas Kittens

Christmas was relatively low-key for us, just like Thanksgiving. We were alone, and we went to visit BF’s daughter, her partner and their son, then to his Dad’s place up the road. BF will have another grandson in March, which we were notified of about October, I think. His Dad was thrilled that we went up to that little room upstairs and cleared out all of BF’s old rubbish, and burned a garbage bag full of old bills from 10 years ago. Mr. C. said it was the best Christmas present ever.

At the kids’ place, someone dumped off two very tiny, helpless kittens a few days earlier. These two millennials were going to leave them to starve out in the cold. She’s pregnant, they have dogs, so. . .on the way out, I scooped them up and brought them home with us. They made themselves comfortable immediately after they had some food and water.

Sweet little angels

These two were just all over the place:

They hadn’t yet learned to use a keyboard, thank heavens.

It subjected me to an adverse environment:

barbecue

How am I supposed to work under these conditions?

The full-grown cat was VERY unhappy to have these interlopers. I never intended to keep them, of course, just to make sure they didn’t meet a terrible fate outside. These two weighed about as much as a sandwich, and they’d been outside in the cold on their own for a few days without their mother or shelter, fed once or twice. BF understood, and didn’t mind me taking them home for a rescue.

The pit bull puppy wanted to play with them, and they put him in his place with some hissing and swatting.

Pitbull and kitten standoff

Standoff!

I kept putting the little fur balls on the other side of this “doggie gate” BF built to keep the dogs in the living room. I wanted them to stay back there so that they’d be safe. But they’re so tiny that they just kept walking right through the slats.

They tried to make nice with the big cat, but Tabbicat wasn’t having any of it. A week of keeping them separated with a makeshift litterbox in my office was all we could take, but we endured. Tabbicat whizzed in a corner, then moved on to BF’s living room chair, multiple times. I think we got the smell out, but BF still isn’t sitting in it. There may be a slipcover in its future.

Only the big cat minded. Because Tabbicat is very, very bonded with BF (he should announce their engagement) he didn’t mess with the kittens when they climbed up his chair and onto his chest. I had to peel them off BF, so that their scent didn’t mix with his.

I attempted to contact several local animal rescues, and only one responded. The lady from the one I got to met me  at the Hammond Starbucks that Friday and I sadly handed them over. (I was crying on the drive down there.) She noticed that they were very docile, and they should be adopted pretty easily. I told her that if I ever found out she was involved in dog fighting I would hunt her DOWN. She laughed at me. I knew they were going to have a better life, and I wished them well, told them to be happy in their new homes.

It would have been nice to have adorable kittens a little longer. But we know we did the right thing by them.

The New Year’s Eve Barbecue

I’ve probably mentioned this before, BF is a car guy. He’s not only a mechanic, he also builds race engines. Additionally, he also knows people in the genre, and he’s been to a number of events where he’s met lots of people. This is similar to my going to AWAI Bootcamp and other conferences where I’ve met people that I’ve kept in touch with over the years.

But on this day, we drove a couple of hours to a small town near Lafayette, Louisiana, for Mr. Earl Schexnyder’s annual get-together for all his “race guy” friends. Well, OK, there were women too, but the majority of the race people were guys. Us gals were there as dates and to see what they get up to. Fortunately, BF doesn’t drink, smoke or anything like that. And I was there as a food blogger, taking pictures and nibbling like the rest of them. Oh, boy, did I nibble–just like at Bootcamp.

BF has known this man for many years, meeting him at an annual event called Drag Week. However, due to his work schedule, BF has never been able to go on New Year’s Eve. This year, he put in for a vacation day, since Mr. Earl decided to schedule his annual cookout for the 30th of December. It fell on a Saturday, so we got up early, took care of things, and hit the road.

Road Selfies

barbecue

Do you like this one?

barbecue

Or this one? (BF liked this one better.)

Mr. Earl has been doing this annual cookout for many years, and enjoys inviting the people in that he has worked with and knows from his business. While he’s doing gumbo, he’s not the only cook.

Now you’re cooking with gas!

This was the chicken they added to the Gumbo. Please note that I have no idea what “Slap Ya Mama” is like, nor do I condone such violence.

Chicken

Dropped right into the pot.

And rice to go with the gumbo:

Very old rice or slow cooker iwth the namem Ada on it.

Any idea how old this is?

Some 90 miles from home, we passed all manner of vehicles, including at least a dozen with Texas plates on them. Through areas with nothing and little areas with lots of mobile homes, we ran the gamut of Louisiana. I talked him into taking me to Trader Joe’s in Baton Rouge on the way home. We had three week-long freezes, twice with snow, and I wanted to make sure that I was stocked up with chocolate almond milk. No way am I giving up my yeast-free hot chocolate for anybody!

The Shop

Remember, this is an auto repair shop, not a professional kitchen.

Food stacked on the lift

Food on the lift!

 

guys in the shop

Hungry men ready for gumbo, barbecue, and anything else that was tasty

It’s a social event, of course, and a nice marketing thing, too. Think of it as the mechanic’s version of a cocktail party, and everyone enjoys themselves.

Guys standing in the garage door opening

A friendly crowd

So, some of the things we saw when we walked in:

Strawberry cake at the barbecue

Isn’t it pretty?

It was the first thing I saw, and it was a white cake with all that frosting. I didn’t touch it, honest. But what I did touch, multiple times, was this:

7 layer dip

BF stayed away from this, I think it confused him. It looked like 7 Layer Dip, but I didn’t ask. I was too busy nibbling at it. And I couldn’t keep my paws out of these, either:

 

Chocolate Pretzel Pecan Bundles at the Barbecue

They tasted better than they looked. I couldn’t stop.

Being garage guys, you know there are:

Donuts

Donuts!

And of course, cars, cars, and more cars. With guys talking about cars. But we’ll get to that later, OK?

But let’s talk about something really important to a Texan, native or naturalized. Barbecue.

Meet Alvin Calhoun

Now, I’ve always enjoyed barbecue. I make my own barbecue sauce (when BF isn’t home so I don’t have to listen to it.) I believe that Texas has the best barbecue, but that’s an 18-year prejudice. I’m not saying Louisiana can’t have good barbecue–but that stuff BF likes in Hammond has absolutely no taste to it. It looks like dog food, and tastes like it could be (not that I’ve sampled dog food myself.) On this occasion, BF was telling the truth, and we met some nice people, too.

In this little town on the other side of Lafayette, in an auto repair shop, on a slightly cool, and cloudy day, was the best barbecue I’ve had in a very long time. BF kept telling me about this man with a long history of doing all kinds of things, including car stuff, and now he does barbecue, too. Everyone loves his barbecue. When you have it, BF says,  “It’s a life-changing event!” I was about to find out.

This is the very nice and very avid barbecue guru, Alvin Calhoun:

Alvin Calhoun

The man, the myth, the legend!

In all seriousness, you’ll notice this man is in a wheelchair. I won’t go into the specifics, but yes, he’s in a wheelchair, and he’s creating barbecue. Delicious barbecue. As in, you wish you hadn’t eaten all that other stuff before you had this delicious barbecue. Because now you’re going to need a wheelbarrow to get back into the truck to go home. His barbecue has won awards, beating out New Orleans’ own Brennan family. That should tell you something.

Now, all my Texas readers are thinking, “what does he use in his barbecue sauce?” Well, my Lone Star friends, Mr. Calhoun has a different opinion of barbecue sauce. Much as I like barbecue sauce, he said something I wasn’t expecting.

“Barbecue sauce is for when you have something to hide.”

No kidding. I wasn’t expecting that.

Baby back ribs on a barbecue grill

Waiting for the baby back ribs

Mr. Calhoun is from North Louisiana, but now makes his home in the Baton Rouge area. He was taught by a friend how to barbecue. His approach was to think about how primitive man found himself with a feral hog on a fire, and finding out it was delicious.

Screwdriver barbecue tool

That’s not actually a screwdriver. . . .

How He Does It

Mr. Calhoun uses a dry rub, the ingredients of which are secret. I wouldn’t be crass enough to ask what’s in it, and he wouldn’t tell you anyway. But he’s always cooking, and he’s known far and wide by folks who appreciate it.

The temperature at which the barbecue is cooking

While these were cooking, we had a nice chat:

 

Ribs cooking on the grill

Still cooking

Of course, Mr. Calhoun has some great help, too, and I offered to bring him water or whatever he needed while he was tending the grill pits. We all had a nice time talking about stuff, but for some reason, he thought I was a food critic. We’re all “food critics” to a certain extent, but no, I’m a food blogger. I just write about stuff. Admittedly, since 2012, I’ve mentioned a few things to avoid (like Splenda and Aspartame.)  But barbecue from Alvin Calhoun’s barbecue pits is not in that group. Do not avoid this man’s cookery.

So, after a while, he asked around for a plastic knife. What the heck? Because it’s ready when you can cut it with a plastic knife.

The Moment Of Truth

He offered me the first piece.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Alvin Calhoun makes some really incredible, delicious barbecue. Two thumbs up, and if I had more, they’d be up too. Hot from the grill, but not pepper hot, but not overly sweet, either, like some barbecue can be. A great flavor with a hint of sweet, a hint of spice, but *not* the kind that whacks you upside your head and has you begging for a fire extinguisher.

And did I mention the husband and wife who drove in from San Antonio to meet Mr. Calhoun and visit everyone? We talked about HEB and other great Texas stuff. To which BF said, “and nobody cares but you.”

Don’t Miss The Barbecue

If ever you are invited anywhere this man is cooking, DO NOT eat anything else until after you have some barbecue, because you will, indeed, regret doing so. As I often say, I speak from experience.

Cooked barbecue ribs in a pan

YUM.

Thank you, Mr. Calhoun. Everything they said was true.

There Were Other Things Besides Barbecue

Ok, so, BF reminded me that it wasn’t really a “barbecue.” Mr. Earl’s was a cookout that had barbecue on the side. Well, it really was on the side–since it needed to be outside, Mr. Calhoun and his equipment was parked under the car port at Mr. Earl’s house on the other side of the parking lot. And of course, doing barbecue with pits, there’s the whole smoke thing, so he needed to be outside with it.

There was gumbo, cooked by Mr. Earl himself:

Gumbo

Now you’re cooking with gas!

I didn’t have any, because I’m not a gumbo fan, but BF was all over it.

And then, FRIED TURKEY

fried turkey

Fried turkey

Let me preface this by saying that frying an entire turkey in a vat of hot oil can be a very dangerous thing. Stories abound about the *wrong* way to fry a turkey. Fortunately, we witnessed nothing like that.

Baton Rouge General Hospital has a series of ads about their different medical services, and this one involves the potential dangers of fried turkey. It’s short, but funny.

So, what I was told by Mr. Bill Doucette was that they injected the turkey with something that I can’t remember–something that’s made for that purpose. (The “Cajun Injector” kind of thing.)

turkey going into the hot pot

Turkey goes into the pot

They used peanut oil (I think) because of the high smoke point:

Turkey cooking in very hot oil

Bubble, bubble, toil & trouble. . . .

It doesn’t take long, either, something like a half hour, maybe. Remember that to roast a 22-pound turkey in the oven, you’re looking at about four hours.

When it comes out, it looks like this:

Fried turkey done

Done!

And they let me try it. Honest, it’s nothing like the brined turkey I like to make, but it is indeed good. A different flavor than the brined/roast version. I might try to do this one day, but. . .not until we have at least two or three new fire extinguishers available. And the undisciplined dogs are completely away from everything.

And Of Course, Cars

If the GER had been with us, he would have been licking his chops over not only the barbecue, gumbo and donuts, he would have been salivating all over these cars. Alas, my friend, I offer you the pictures I managed to get off my phone.

Every other day of the year, Mr. Earl runs an auto shop called Schexnayder Racing (this is his Facebook page.)  We went in the ultra-reliable White Knight, but others were in, shall we say, much more aesthetic vehicles than we were. Then again, the White Knight is a truck, not a race car, just like Mr. Earl doesn’t run a restaurant.

Old Car

Right this way, Miss O’Donnell. . .

This ancient vehicle is a mid-1930’s Pontiac, so says BF. Someone actually drove this to Mr. Earl’s place, no kidding.

Plymouth close up

This is a closeup of the hood

 

Plymouth steering wheel

Yes, you can drive it on the roads, it’s legal

But something tells me it’s not completely finished.

Pontiac interior passenger side

Maybe one day

Pop the hood:

Open hood on purple truck

Under the hood of this classic

This is ACTUALLY what Mr. Earl does the rest of the year.

There were other project cars in various stages of completion, too.

old sedan

This lovely old thing was LOUD!

All these cars, all while there was cooking and barbecue going on.

Now this one was particularly interesting:

orange car at barbecue

Isn’t it a beauty?

 

Chute bags on the back of a car.

These are the chutes that deploy at the end of the race to stop the car, but it also has brakes.

We saw some amazing vehicles. But I didn’t get to ride in anything but The White Knight.

Mr. Earl’s Gift To His Father

The other big event was this car being unveiled:

The Gift Car

The Gift

The elder Mr. Schexnayder had a house fire a while back, and lost literally everything, including his race car. His family, including Mr. Earl, got together and found another car just like it, and have been sneaking around behind his back to have it not only restored, but to make it exactly like the car he lost in the fire. They had a heck of a time with it, but they found one, in Texas somewhere. It’s not finished yet.

The Schexnayder family and the new race car for their father.

That’s the elder Mr. Earl with the plaid shirt on

When they were ready to take it out of the truck, BF leaned over to me and said, “You’re about to see a grown man cry.”

The car isn’t quite finished yet, but the elder Mr. Schexnayder was quite happy with his gift.

Before we left, I looked across the street and saw this:

Field across the street from Schexnayder Racing

The view from Mr. Earl’s shop parking lot.

How’d you like to drive this one?

Silver Firebird with black roof

Well, hello there.

A Pretty Good Saturday

It was a long, but very enjoyable Saturday for us, and I ended up driving home after we left Baton Rouge and Trader Joe’s. BF took a nap, and I streamed some music on my phone (that he didn’t like.)

Many thanks to Mr. Earl of Schexnayder Racing for the great food and the great time we all had. It was great to meet everyone, and BF was quite happy to see people he hasn’t seen in a while.

And of course, to Mr. Alvin Calhoun, Louisiana’s Barbecue Master. I’m serious–if you ever have the opportunity, do make the effort to see Mr. Calhoun and sample his wonderful barbecue. He’s a really nice man and we really enjoyed spending time with him.

Coming Soon

I’ve bought some new things in the last few months, and I’m not finished. No, I’m not buying lots of “trinkets,” as BF puts it, but I can contribute to the household and cover things BF can’t. But right after the barbecue, I bought something we needed around here, and next time, I’ll unveil the new “baby” that’s in the kitchen.

Meantime, Happy New Year, and Happy Cooking!

 

 

Bowl of Pozole, "dressed."
The Buddhist Christmas Party

Remember the Buddhist Thanksgiving I used to do in Houston? This past weekend, there was a Buddhist Christmas Party. Sort of. There was FOOD. So that makes it a Christmas party to me!

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Merry Christmas! Are you ready for Santa to drop by? Sorry I’m late again. There’s a lot going on. . . .

Snow At The Casa de Rurale!

Ladies and Gentlemen, on Friday, December 8, 2017, we had four inches of SNOW. No kidding. I was happily camped in with a pit bull, a rust-colored mutt and a fussy old cat. BF braved the four mile drive to work and made it home safely. He hates cold weather and absolutely abhors it after waking up in a snowstorm while stationed in Afghanistan many years ago. He was not amused, that’s for sure.

Houston got a half-inch of snow, as did New Orleans, but certainly not the four inches we had. I have a new client up the freeway in Jackson, MS, and we were chatting on Skype about it. This project manager has young daughters who had an absolute blast making snowmen.

The local Baton Rouge news and weather wonks called it “Sneaux Day 2017.” (“Sneaux?” It’s a thing, I suppose.)  So glad I stocked up on chocolate almond milk the weekend before while I was in New Orleans. It was only supposed to be a freeze, but snow was a gift.

Snow Covered Hay Bales

These hay bales looked like frosted jelly rolls! They’re on the property behind us. Don’t they look delish? (Taken with my iPhone 6, no kidding.)

You can see the pictures I took in the two Facebook albums (you don’t need an account, it’s an external link) and the videos I took online. These were taken during the actual snow,, and these were taken the day after. My YouTube snow videos are here, and, yes, I narrate the videos, too. I’m going to use the Shutterfly app soon to get those pictures printed up for the price of shipping. (This one may be an enlargement, too.)  It was SO much fun. First time in a long time I’ve made a snowman hood ornament.

The Royal Wedding!

By now you’ve heard that Prince Harry is engaged to American actress Meghan Markle, and their wedding is set for May 19th. Well, he was always the “fun” one, right? Harry has definitely had a little more fun than he should have. . .but this beautiful actress captured his heart.  I’ve burned my signs that say Marry Me Harry!

But still BF isn’t excited about a royal wedding. And like me and BF, Meghan is working on Prince Harry to get him healthier. She’s told him he’s got to quit smoking (something I didn’t have to do with BF because he never smoked.) She’s a longtime fan of yoga, partly because her mother is an instructor. I suggested we start doing couples yoga, and I could get a DVD for us. Yeah. . .that went over like the proverbial lead balloon. But I also suggested that we should get in shape for the royal wedding. BF: “Yeah, I’m all over that.” Well, it’s a goal, right?

The day after their engagement, the McCall’s Pattern Company posted on Facebook a pattern for a coat exactly like Meghan’s:

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle First Engagement Picture with White Coat

Since the patterns were on sale that day on their website, I ordered it immediately  and it arrived a week later (McCall’s 7480, view D, if you’re interested.) I am hoping to go buy fabric to make it after Christmas. This one is unlined, so it should go pretty quick. Not making it white, that’s for sure. I’ll see what Joann’s in Baton Rouge has to offer in coat fabrics. Then I’ll be wearing the coat of the future Duchess of Sussex.

Right away, the company posted the pattern on Facebook so we could all “sew the look.” Someone asked if it was newly designed, or just a coincidence that they had a pattern like the one Meghan was wearing. One of the employees with the social media team at McCall’s answered the question with, “Lucky Coincidence!” I’ll take it. . . .

Ms. Markle wore a very nice beige skirt the next day (under a different coat) that one lady in the private Facebook group for McCall’s patterns has already re-made and is ALREADY WEARING IT. But McCall’s has announced that they are working on a “sewalong” for 2018 with the theme of #royalwedding, with dresses and hats and the like. Let’s see if I can keep up.

The New Star Wars Film

Speaking of the Princes. . . .if you’re a Star Wars fan, you’ve probably already seen The Last Jedi. But if you didn’t, I won’t spoil it for you. We went to Hammond the day before it opened to run errands, and BF walked right up to a kiosk outside and bought the two tickets. Nice–and we even had assigned seats, apparently.

I’d read a few things online, but not anything that gave away too much. But Princes Harry and William are both fans, and have cameos in the film as First Order (formerly Imperial) Stormtroopers. No kidding. They were visiting the set, and someone said, “hey, you guys wanna be in the film? You can be Stormtroopers!” The Princes were suited up and stood in the film.  They’re in the scene where Finn gets captured with a female character, and since they’re both over six feet, they kind of stand out. (Stormtroopers have to be 5’10”.)  I saw them. BF didn’t care.

I will also say that it was heartbreaking to see Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa, knowing that it’s the last time we’ll see her and her character. (I know, a bit of irony to say that, since she died of cardiac arrest.) Spoiler alert–she does *NOT* die in this film, as some have reported. But in the next film, they’ll address the end of the character’s story arc. They won’t digitally re-create her like they did at the end of Rogue One, or some of the other long-departed characters.  I read about this before we saw the film–there is a dedication in the credits that says, “For Our Loving Princess, Carrie Fisher.” And we saw it. Awwww. . . .

Here’s a small spoiler: there is one scene where Chewbacca is very hungry, and he’s about to eat a barbecued bird. It happens to be one of the newest birdie characters with big, puppy-dog eyes, called the Porg. And one Porg stares down the Wookie with those sad eyes, because the Wookie was about to eat one of his friends. Chewbacca was so hungry, but he couldn’t do it. I wanted to give Chewy a hug at that point–he reminded me of BF.

If you love Star Wars, you’ll be thrilled with it. Lots of action, storylines like moving parts, different things going on. Some like it, some hate it, you’ll just have to decide for yourself.

Random Grocery Sightings

I texted this picture to Neighbor E from our local Walmart the other day, but he didn’t respond. I’m guessing he’s enjoying these way too much:

Hostess Christmas Pastries

I hope he’s enjoying these!

There was a trip through The Fresh Market the other day where I found these:

 

Jars of French Prunes

FRENCH prunes?

Yeah. . .I’m all over the French prunes. I’m sure they’re great. . .if you like prunes.

Our Buddhist Christmas Party

Buddhists having a Christmas Party? I suppose I shouldn’t use this term, because, technically, it was our December district meeting. As an “end of the year” celebration, our district leader, who is a Hispanic transplant from LA, made a mildly flavored soup called Pozole, and we all brought some other delicious stuff.

Where has this stuff been all my life? And how did I miss it in TEXAS???

Bowl of pozole without toppings

Straight pozole

If you’re not familiar with Louisiana “po-boys,” people order them either “dressed,” with lettuce and tomato (some places add pickles, too) or “un-dressed” with just the sandwich and fillings (i.e., fried shrimp, oysters, roast beef, etc.)  So what OR did was to offer cabbage, cilantro, radishes and onions (all well chopped) to add to the top:

Bowl of Pozole, "dressed."

This amazing, mildly flavored soup is just what we all need during winter, yes?

Oh, Holy Shish Kebab.

We all gobbled some up, and OR is definitely going to have to teach me to make this, especially if she wants me to keep doing the district calendar. (Just kidding!) Seriously, though, she’s on the hook for a cooking lesson here. It’s not a strong flavor, which is why I think BF will like it, cilantro or no. But because I’ve been busy, and cooking a lot of pork and chicken, BF complains that he’s “clucking” and “oinking.”  I try hard to feed him well, despite his protests, and sometimes, every dish is “new.” Oh, well.

A quick search brought up this recipe for Pozole, and I may actually try it soon. Like tamales (yum!) OM says it’s “laborious.” Well, after seeing Stephanie O’Dea’s recipe for tamales in the CrockPot, I might try Pozole in it, too. (I haven’t made tamales yet.)

I wonder what he’d say if we were given a fair amount of venison and I cooked a lot of it for him. Oh, wait–would he grow antlers?

The Rest Of The Party

Other folks brought some delicious things, and I made some of Nigella’s delicious Chocolate Christmas Cookies:

Christmas Chocolate Biscuits (cookies)

The delicious and fairly simple Christmas Chocolate Biscuits (Cookies)

I assure you, these are not gluten-free, sugar-free or fat free in any way. They are, however, egg free. I still haven’t found any “Christmas sprinkles,” so I’ll have to order some next year. I mean, I was looking for them in HOUSTON and couldn’t get them. What made me think I could get them here? So, once again, we have the everyday multicolored sprinkles that probably contain every allergen known to man. Oh, well.

Sprinkles

That’s what I had, so I used them.

Pictures from the rest of our celebration:

Table shot

Tea and non-alcoholic sangria and. . .carrots.

 

Guac and chips

Someone brought guac and chips just for me! I just say “thank you.”

 

Christmas Chocolate Biscuits On A Plate

OK, so I couldn’t resist another shot of the cookies I made. Everyone loved them, and I gave the recipe to three people.

We had a great time, and all our Buddhist activities are finished for the year. We’ll start back again on New Year’s Day, and we’ll be back doing our regular activities.

If You’re Jewish

I know a few Jewish folks, but I can’t say that I’m particularly knowledgable on the faith. I know that in kosher cooking, you don’t serve beef with a cream sauce, and that some meat has to be “koshered” using the salt. Some folks keep a “kosher kitchen,” but I don’t know any more than that. I actually use kosher salt, because, well, I learned about it from Martha Stewart, and it’s great stuff. (I explained to BF the other day that if I ask him to get “salt,” kosher is generally what I’m asking for.)

I’d heard stories about Jewish people going out for Chinese on Christmas, because, well, they don’t celebrate Christmas, as a rule, and Hanukkah doesn’t always fall on Christmas Day, either. So, since a Jewish family probably doesn’t have a Christmas Lunch/Dinner, they’ll go out to the only place likely to be open on Christmas: a Chinese restaurant.

You’re probably thinking, “Amy, why are you bringing this up?”

Online magazine Mental Floss published this story on Thursday about why Jewish folks are frequently at Chinese restaurants on Christmas Day. I thought it was an interesting read, and wanted to pass it along And, it’s a tradition! Well, here in the US, anyway. And is there ever a bad reason to have Chinese food?

And For A Buddhist

Well, Buddhists in the US can do whatever they want for Christmas Day. As longtime readers know, I have spent many Christmas dinners alone, watching TV (frequently the Doctor Who Christmas specials), cooking and sewing, and maybe having a drink before going to bed. Honestly, I can’t say it was a bad thing.

I did manage to get the Christmas specials DVD for Keeping Up Appearances from the local library a couple of days ago. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without Hyacinth!

But for the second year, I’ve got BF. We’ve not decorated the Casa–the decorations are way to hard to get to right now–but we’re going to visit his daughter and his Dad’s place up the road. And maybe we’ll come home and watch TV for a while. I’m not cooking anything, unless I put beans in the CrockPot and let them roll.

I got him a little present, but when I told him not to get me anything, I meant it. If someone goes all out for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, etc., but then treats you like dirt the rest of the year, who cares?

BF indulges me–like taking me to Mandeville the other night to meet up with a guy who was giving away Meyer lemons from his backyard, because he had way too many. He posted it on Facebook, and said, “come and get ’em!” I thanked him, and set aside some for our neighbor who also loves lemons. We also hit Whole Foods, and I offered to get him something from the cookie bar, but he wanted a milkshake. A quick tap on the phone, and we were at a Sonic. I bought his milkshake for him.

BF will take me nearly anywhere I want to go (although we haven’t made it back to Houston yet) and makes no bones about going to work hours early so I can make a Buddhist activity in New Orleans or Mandeville. He takes me to Starbucks, even though he doesn’t agree with their, um, CEO’s spoutings. (I don’t either, but you know I love to go.) If we’re in Hammond for an errand, there’s a stop at Starbucks–especially if there’s a double star day during a star dash.

You can’t box that and put a ribbon on that, you know? So, yeah, I don’t mind if he doesn’t get me a “Christmas present.

So when he’s off, I let him sleep in like the grizzly bear he is, and don’t bother him much. (When he wakes up is a different matter.)

If you’re alone this Christmas, do whatever it takes to enjoy it, whether it’s watching TV, making some delicious food, or even heading out to your local Starbucks for some food. I know the ones in Houston were open, but I’m not sure about the ones here in LA. Whatever you do, don’t sit around and brood about “being alone on Christmas.” It’s OK, I’ve done it. Getting together with some other folks in the same predicament would also be a good thing. And then there’s volunteering.

Merry Christmas To One And All

From the Casa de Rurale in Central Louisiana, I raise a glass and hope everyone has a great Christmas, whatever you’re doing. I am hoping to have more interesting subjects to write about in the new year. (Have you found your new “diet” yet?) I’ll be back soon.

Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

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