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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!

 

 

 

 

CAKE
CAKE! (Gluten Free!)

Red Truck Bakery. . .let me tell you all about an incredible cake they make.

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

I’ve got a few minutes to tell you about a cake surprise I received recently from longtime friend of the blog AK. You may remember a few years ago that she sent me a Suzy Homemaker washing machine I found on eBay and posted on Facebook just for fun. I still have it, and it still works, but it’s still packed in a box right now until I get more bookshelves and have a place to put it. Well, she sent me something else.

But first. . . .

I’m still working on Upwork, and BOOKED UP. I’ve been making money, not a fortune, but able to buy groceries and take care of some stuff for us. It’s not a lot, but we’re not on just his paycheck anymore. I’ve had some technical problems too, which I hope to solve soon so I can get on with it. I haven’t bought any more glasses, but that will happen again soon, probably after the holidays. I hate having just one pair. . .but it’s temporary. I’m hoping to surprise BF with a nice little (inexpensive) present for Christmas, too.

The Royal Wedding!

By now you’ve heard that Prince Harry is engaged to American actress Megan Markle. This was a big non-event to BF, but I have ordered a McCall’s pattern that is a very close copy to the white one she wore from Line The Label. (View D) The pattern happened to have been on sale that day, and I ordered a couple of other patterns while they were cheap. (I miss Hancock Fabrics!) You can’t even buy that coat now, because they’ve all been bought and the company’s website crashed that day.

BF asks, “How does this affect my life here in Louisiana?” I responded that it’s a positive event happening in the near future. He didn’t agree.

I also came up with a new fitness goal for us. We need to get in shape for the Royal Wedding! Now, I’ve been busy and haven’t been exercising, but I’m planning to change that this week. I thought it would be a great way to set a fitness goal for both of us. But the minute I said “Royal Wedding,” that went over like a lead balloon.

For the record, I am still The Duchess Of El Dorado. In case you were wondering. . . .

And, BTW, wedding cake in the UK and Australia is traditionally fruit cake, if you didn’t know that.

Not The Same Thanksgiving

We didn’t host this year, and although I ordered two jars of Sur La Table’s turkey brine, I was glad. After last year’s mixed-bag of likes and dislikes, I kind of felt like my time as the star turkey maker was over. BF’s daughter is expecting her second child, and her partner had to work that day, so it kind of fizzled out. We went to his father’s place up the road, where BF’s sister-in-law made ham, potato salad with green olives and something else, and some other stuff I didn’t try. No, not traditional, but I like ham and the occasional potato dish. Maybe next year.

Pesto!

This summer, much to BF’s chagrin, I made three batches of fresh pesto for the freezer. The basil was growing wild again, so I made some, along with a batch of Pea & Pesto Soup for myself. BF called me from work one day and I told him I was making some. His response: “Oh, I can hardly wait.” Smarty-pants.

I’ve got what I hope is a good supply for the winter. Y’all know I love Pea & Pesto Soup!

Our #StarbucksDate

If you read this on Facebook. . .my apologies.

Back in July, we had to head to Hammond for a couple of things, including a stop at the new Petco to get a “cone of shame” for the pit bull, who managed to injure himself and get caught in an fire ant pile. He looked like he’d been dog-fighting and lost, but that’s not really what happened. Poor puppy. We cleaned him up and applying some topical antibiotic stuff, but he kept scratching it. For three days he tried to pull the thing off, but BF’s ingenious use of zip-ties ensured that he couldn’t.

Petco is right there in the strip mall where Starbucks is. I also get the emails that let me know about goings on. For various reasons, BF is not a fan of Starbucks, but I am. So when I got the email announcing the free tea tasting that day, I made sure BF knew about it, and that we were going. Reluctantly, he agreed.

He Indulges Me

Starbucks was offering free 12-ounce (“Tall”) cups of their hand-shaken iced tea infusions, one per customer. I requested the peach-white tea infusion; BF, after some confusion, requested strawberry with green tea. I’m not a fan of the green tea, but he’s had it. They served us our tea, and I suggested to BF that he try a sip first, then add a packet of the stevia they have, since it dissolves instantly and completely. That’s what I did, and it worked perfectly. BF. . .not so much. He didn’t take my suggestion of the stevia, instead, opting for a half cup of white sugar. It didn’t help. I drank most of it, but the sugar sinks to the bottom and doesn’t dissolve. Not wild about the taste, either, but I think stevia would have been a better option. He probably would have liked the peach teabetter. Oh, well. At least he gave it a shot, and it was free.

BF has frequently told the story of being in Kuwait and seeing his fellow service members stand in line in 100F heat waiting to get a hot coffee at Starbucks. Baffled, he asked them, why? “It tastes like home,” they said.

Yes, Starbucks DOES support service members, veterans and their families. There’s a long-running rumor that’s still rolling around the world. I’ll say it again–I’m not always wild about what the company puts out, but they are still a good company and mean well. Starbucks has always been great to me, and they do support our US troops. Anyway. . . .

Brownies. . .

Sometimes fast food is brought into BF’s place of employment. Usually it’s pizza, fried chicken or something else of the same nature. Sometimes management pops for food, sometimes they pool money. Recently BF walked in after work with this box:

Red Truck Bakery

What’s this foolishness?

It seems some of the folks had been to the new local Pizza Hut, and bought these, anticipating the finest creation from a patisserie. BF took them after they told him these brownies were “a little too rich.” Well, they look normal:

Brownies. From Pizza Hut.

Yes, I tried a bit. (Cake-like texture.) Yes, they look like brownies. No, they don’t taste anything like brownies. They have no taste to them at all. Seriously. They taste like chocolate flavored rubbish.

Maybe it’s my age–I’m not 16 anymore. (My birthday was in October, nevermind how old I am!) Maybe it’s my tastes that have changed, or I know rubbish when I taste it. Or maybe. . .I dunno. BF ate them one at a time with his lunch, and they’re gone. Yuck.

Here’s my professional blogger/foodie advice: if you want pizza, go to Pizza Hut, your favorite Italian restaurant, buy a frozen one or make it yourself. If you want brownies, find a recipe or buy a mix and bake them yourself. Get a recipe from Pinterest and make waffle brownies. Stop at a bakery, coffee shop or even the grocery store. Or make some Yeast-Free Brownies with Swerve Sweetener. But for cryin’ out loud, don’t buy brownies in a pizza joint when you’re having a chocolate craving.

I mean, think about it. Would you ask your mechanic to decorate your house? Would you hire an interior decorator to tune up your car and change the CV joints? How about ask a dog trainer to babysit your cat? NO! So don’t buy brownies in a place where they specialize in pizza. Brownies from a pizza place are generally not what you’re looking for.

Speaking of brownies

I found the last picture of the lot from the einkorn article. Dunno what happened, but here it is:

Both were well received. But that’s a lotta brownies! (Duncan Hines on the left, Amy’s einkorn on the right.)

More Hatch Chiles

I’ve been busy with writing and everything else, and I just never got around to really cultivating the Hatch chiles. Darnit. You Texas readers appreciate the Hatch chiles. I was thrilled to find them in this area, and even happier to find out that a few people actually know what they are. (Buddhist friend JL knows all about them and gets it.)

BF’s BFF, Big H, was working in New Mexico this summer and has discovered Hatch chiles after I told him *all* about them. I warned him about the “red or green sauce” thing, and he found out I wasn’t kidding.  One day he sent me a picture:

Big H’s first outing with the beloved Hatch chiles.

Hot dawg! He tried it–and he liked it! Which is more than I can say for BF, who I believe is just the victim of way too many MRE’s in the Navy.  I only seek to educate, and in Big H’s case, he discovered that the mild green chile is a pretty good addition to a burger. BF, on the other hand, has taken to telling everyone, particularly *my* friends, “She’s tryin’ ta kill me!” He’s still alive. If I was, he wouldn’t be!

The Red Truck Bakery Surprise

A few months ago, mid-summer,  I got a FB message from AK, a fellow copywriter asking for my home address. I gave it to her–I’ve known her in person for several years–and she said that I should expect a package on Thursday. Oh, BOY! But what was it? She wouldn’t tell me. She would only tell me that it was coming via UPS.

Well, Thursday came. It was raining and it was getting late. UPS runs late, especially at the holidays, so I knew it might be night before the brown truck arrived. And about 7:30 that night, it did. The UPS guy was even interested in what it was, because I told him my friend in Idaho was anxiously awaiting my text of receipt. (He knew when he saw “Red Truck Bakery” on the shipping label!) When I saw where it was from, I thought, “oh, I don’t normally do this kind of thing.”  But then I opened it up and discovered this cake:

CAKE! And yes, it was gluten free! AK knows me. Immediately, I sent a picture to BF at work.

And naturally, let her know immediately that I’d received her kind and generous gift.

Red Truck Bakery is a mail-order bakery in Virginia, and they ship nationwide. They even have a testimonial from former President Obama, who apparently loves pie. Hey–it’s like the royal crest, right? (Even if you didn’t like him–trust me, on this, the former POTUS has very good taste.)

AK has had a number of treats from Red Truck Bakery, including some gluten-free ones that she’s highly recommended.

I texted BF and let him know too, and what it was, and cracked open the box:

CAKE

The carefully wrapped cake

Now, I promise I’m not being ungrateful when I say this–but it doesn’t look like the picture on their website:

CAKE

That’s what it looks like when it leaves their bakery. Shipping does funny things to the appearance

It comes in Red Truck’s lovely and classic bakery box too:

CAKE

Classic presentation

However, when you cut into it, you really won’t care what it looks like. I carefully unwrapped it:

CAKE

It was all I could do *not* to cut into it until BF got home!

You smell the delicious aroma of almonds and amaretto when it’s opened. However, I didn’t cut into it, I simply put it in the fridge and waited for him to get home from work that night.

After we had dinner, I cut us each a slice.

CAKE

Oh, yes. Who needs frosting?

This almond cake has no flour and is called “gluten free,” but I’m telling you, serve it to just about any group and don’t say anything–they’ll never know. It’s not a “diet cake,” because there is sugar in it. A very, VERY delicious cake it is, and you definitely won’t miss any frosting. Great anytime, or with a cup of coffee or tea, this is the kind of cake you hope for when you buy one.

CAKE

With cappuccino. . .oh, yes, please.

Red Truck Bakery is in Marshall, Virginia, and they ship nationwide. This delicious Almond Cake With Amaretto would be just the thing for holiday gifts for friends far away, whether or not they’re gluten-free. Red Truck also offers a menu of other delicious baked goods AK assures me are just as delicious as this cake is. Whatever you decide to order, apparently, you won’t go wrong.

I can highly recommend this cake to send as a gift, or to order for your holiday table. It really is incredibly delicious.

A Congratulations

I talked to AK later and asked her what the occasion was. Well, I’ve been bragging on Facebook about the clients I’ve gotten, the work I’ve been doing and the fact that I’ve made a little money with it. (It impressed the heck out of BF.) She said the cake was a gift to celebrate my recent successes, and hopes for many more.

I wouldn’t say I was “crushing it,” but apparently folks think I have been. That’s good. I really am working and making a little money. Sometimes I have more than BF–but it doesn’t last long. <smirk>

He Likes It, Too

BF had one slice, and decided it was very good, too. After dinner, I made a cappuccino, poured him a glass of milk, and we had dessert. But he only had one slice. I asked him if he wanted another slice of cake, and he said, “Well, it’s delicious, but it’s really for you.” 

Awwww. . .I did finish it, eventually, one slice at a time.

Christmas Is Coming. . .

It’s coming whether you want it to or not, so think about Red Truck Bakery if you’re either stressed out, or would like to send a delicious gift to someone (including yourself.) This almond amaretto cake would be a perfect gift.

I’ll try to blog again soon–but if I don’t, please have a delicious and Merry Christmas this year.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

anniversary
Anniversary (with a brownie recipe!)

I’m back, at least this week, with an anniversary post. It’s been a year since I left Houston. I’m still getting used to it around here.

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

It’s me again! The Dislocated Texan hasn’t gone away, she’s just been really busy. I’m still doing freelance work on Upwork, writing about different things, and trying to keep the laundry monster from overwhelming us. It has, a couple of times. I’ve received some great feedback from different clients, even though a couple of them aren’t clients anymore. That’s just the nature of the beast.

One Year Anniversary

Me and BF recently realized that it’s our one-year anniversary since he “rescued” me from Houston. He first arrived on Friday, September 9th, and then I made two more trips before the “drop dead” date of September 15, when I had to be out. We went one more time, about a month later, to retrieve the rest of my paltry things from Neighbor E’s place, which he graciously stored for me. Despite the desire to, we’ve not yet been able to go back for a visit.

From the place I used to live, I’ve only heard from Neighbor E since moving away; none of the other neighbors have corresponded. Do I care? Nah–and Neighbor E doesn’t, either. We keep in touch, of course, on Facebook, by phone, and the occasional emails and texts. He has told me a few times to be glad I don’t live there anymore, since it was already an unfriendly atmosphere before I moved. There are “lots of new people” there, but they’re primarily renters, I suppose, since owners figured out they could make a bundle doing it.  Neighbor E owns his condo, and has lived there for 30 years–he’s not able to just pick up and move like I did. That’s why I would never buy a unit that needed a good $25K in repairs, although nobody could have predicted how it all went down.

And Then She Was Gone

My former residence, a one-bedroom condo I rented for 12 years, was unoccupied for nearly a year after I moved out of it. E told me that someone had just moved in it in mid-August. After completely renovating the place, the management company couldn’t rent it or sell it for love or money, but I guess they finally found a sucker. . .I mean, tenant, to take it. I wonder if the kitchen sink drain has backed up on this person yet. (I know, not nice.)

Thanks to Facebook, I can keep in touch with everyone else, even folks I haven’t seen in a while. The GER isn’t on Facebook, but we keep up on email and the occasional call. (He doesn’t text, either.) Heard from Debbie the Avon Lady just last week when “Hurricane Nate” blew through; we didn’t even notice it.  I’ve spoken to LK, the GER, Miss Alice and others frequently since leaving. I still refer to LK as “my district leader in Houston,” even though I’m not in her district anymore (and neither is Miss Alice.) Still I have a great new district leader in Mandeville, which is nearly an hour drive from here, and I go to SGI activities whenever I can. BF has gone with me to the district meeting once, and met everyone. NM took a few pictures of us, one which is now our “anniversary picture.”

A Little Spirituality

OK, so not the usual thing from a food blog, but I’m going to shift the focus with a little bit of Buddhist scripture. You’ll understand why shortly:

The Buddha promised in the Lotus Sutra that, for women, the sutra will serve as a lantern in the darkness, as a ship when they cross the sea, and a protector when they travel through dangerous places. (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, Volume 1, page 614.)

One of the biggest reasons I became a Buddhist on my birthday in 1986 was because women were not excluded or secondary. Throughout the Lotus Sutra, it states that women are equally able to become enlightened, in their present form–it’s not reserved for just men, and it’s not only something that’s possible in a future state. (Next week is my 31st anniversary of starting my Buddhist practice.)

A big reason to practice Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism is protection. It’s not to say that bad things can’t happen to Buddhists, because they do. But sometimes those bad things can be good things in disguise, and you find out later that you were protected. Or that something that you suffered could have been a lot worse. I could tell you about the time I was returning to Houston after visiting New Orleans and took a turn off the I-10 to get a coffee, returned to I-10 and discovered a multiple-car accident. That could have been ME. A $2 cup of coffee saved me a lot of time, hassle and money, not to mention the potential for injury, a long way from home. LK also knows a parable that explains it well, but I don’t know it all myself.

Next week is my 31st Buddhist anniversary. Not giving it up.

Texas Isn’t Texas Anymore

As I’ve said many times, the inbound migration is changing the face of the entire state of Texas. People flocked INTO Texas from everywhere, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that eventually the glass is over filled and spilling out. In January, MD Anderson Cancer Center announced layoffs of over 1,000 people. Both Neighbor E and I had applied there, and I went on multiple interviews there. I really, REALLY wanted to get hired at MD Anderson–we both did. I’ve known many people who have gone there for cancer treatment and rave about MDA. But after the way I was treated as an applicant, I’d keep my cancer before I went there for treatment.

Then there’s NRG, who, like other big companies, laid off longtime workers to hire cheaper people. How nice they are. I hated having them as my electric service provider, especially when I had to talk to a customer service person in Mexico. How do I know? Well, the heavy accent was a dead giveaway, but of course, when asked, they told me.

I was protected from that layoff, as well as others.

Other companies in Texas have laid off in 2017, too. General Dynamics IT, the Houston City Club (they closed), and others. The Houston Symphony. St. Luke’s. Even Walmart laid people off in Houston.

My brother, who has been in and out of Houston many times, told me that “Houston is full of unemployed people.” So, while I didn’t see it at the time, I was protected.

The Unwanted Visitor

Living on the Gulf Coast, you get used to star-struck meteorologists with acting experience making a big deal out of a little wind and rain. One of the Baton Rouge guys has a theatrical routine: he takes his suit jacket off and rolls up his sleeves before his actual segment, when he’s talking to you about what he’s going to talk about in the weather segment. Then he puts his jacket on for his “turn.” He takes his jacket off again, exposing the rolled-up sleeves, for another “teaser,” and then for the closing segment with the news wonks and the sports guy, he’s got his jacket back on. (I prefer to depend on the Wunderground app.)

In a lot of cases, they over-dramatize things, scaring the bejeezus out of people. In September of 2005, as Hurricane Rita roared into the Gulf of Mexico, people all over Houston went bonkers.  I haven’t forgotten being in traffic with Catmandu and Kismet trying to get to Austin from Clear Lake in the middle of the night, windows rolled down to avoid using the car’s AC. I was on the phone with my brother online trying to find my way through back roads to get to Austin. Hurricane Rita was coming, and it was going to wipe out Houston! It was just weeks after Katrina, and everyone panicked.

The Infamous Hell Ride

I found a Walmart open in Waller somewhere on the way, and some petrol, too. But we didn’t need to evacuate. Austin’s normally a 3-hour trip, but it took 11 hours to get there. I was exhausted. Other people had the same experience, and people died during that nightmare. They like to err on the side of caution, they’ll tell you, but going on TV and all but saying, “We’re All Gonna DIE!!!” makes people ignore you when it’s the real thing.

Unfortunately, sometimes they’re wrong.

First, there was Ike

After the Rita evacuation disaster, I had no plans to evacuate when Ike showed up. When the fire department started driving around telling people to leave, and all my neighbors were gone, I figured it was time to go. I called The E Man and told him I was coming.  It was the last time I went over the Sabine River until last year. I was at their place for nine days, staying in touch at coffee shops, the libraries, and other places, with my Boeing laptop. There was some serious damage, and I knew people who had water in their houses. But that was nothing compared to this year.

That was also when Catmandu hid in their sofa. When we extracted him, he went bonkers and we had to isolate him in a closet for a few days until it was time to head home. I never considered evacuation after that!

But what if I hadn’t left? What if I’d stayed?

Then Came Harvey

The eight-year anniversary of Ike saw a new arrival. Harvey.

Nobody saw this guy coming, until he took aim squarely at Texas. Rockport. Port Lavaca. Port Aransas. Matagorta. Port O’Connor. High Island. San Luis Pass. And finally, Houston. The 3rd largest county and the 4th largest city in the United States, drowned by a Category 5 hurricane. Louisiana got some of it too, in an area called Cameron in the southwest sector. After Harvey rampaged through Beaumont, Port Arthur, and a handful of other places in Texas. He had a grudge, folks. You can read a recap of it here, on Wikipedia.

The most incredible picture I saw on social media was this one:

That’s not Galveston Bay, The Sabine River, or any other body of water. That’s the I-10 freeway, between Houston and Beaumont, under about eight feet of water. This is what that stretch of land normally looks like.

From Google Maps

BF and I made four trips on that very stretch of the I-10 between Houston and Beaumont this time last year. I can’t tell you how many times in 18 years I made that drive by myself, leaving Houston for a trip. We had no idea.

Everything Flooded. Everything.

Neighbor E had a little water in his unit, but it was from a drain pipe. Many of the “new people” didn’t know to move their cars up to the easements, and their cars were flooded. LK had a tiny bit of water in her garage, but her new school flooded, and she was required to go and clean up her new classroom. The GER had about an eighth of an inch of water in the Funk House/Junk House, which is on a slight hill. But the GER’s other neighbors had 2″ to 15″ of water, and he was helping them clean up. Aunt Ruth was willing away the water, which came up to her place three times but not inside. Aunt Kathy had to clean a flooded storage unit all by herself. Others I know and keep up with on FB had four feet of water in their houses for several days.

I was 300 miles away, and didn’t have to deal with anything like that. Miss Alice was in a place that should have flooded, near Hobby Airport, but didn’t. That’s protection. Her new school was destroyed, and the Houston Independent School District (HISD) relocated them to a new school.

Neighbor E’s truck

He left it in his usual parking space, but water didn’t get INTO the truck, just close to it:

The truck didn’t flood, thank heavens. (Used with Neighbor E’s permission.)

I can’t believe people buy SmartCars in Houston and actually drive them on the freeway, but they do. Of course, in a Chevy Silverado, or a Ford F-150, you can’t see these little insects over your hood. But there are occasions where it’s not a bad thing to have:

Seriously. . .why not just park it on your patio?

It can also come in handy here, although I have to wonder if the infamous homeowner’s association would ticket them for it:

anniversary

Table for two?

“Ain’t Skeered?” You ain’t been around long enough, Honcho.

The Cleanup

Crain’s Houston puts the damage at about $50 million dollars, and will take Houston years to clean up and get back to normal. Even places that normally don’t flood, flooded. The Woodlands. Conroe. Katy. Friendswood. Galveston. You name it, they probably flooded. Although, I’m told those pictures of Southwest Airlines planes underwater at Hobby were Photoshopped.

The Complete Change Of Scenery

I used to dream about that cabin in the woods, living out of the city, and having lots of trees around. Well, I’ve got it–just not in Texas. I’ve posted pictures before of the area I call Cow Road. The whole area is like that, except the roads are better. We no longer have to take Cow Road to get to town, but when I go pay the water bill, I make it a point to go that way. It’s a beautiful ride, bumping and grinding along, with trees covering the entire airspace above the road. I drive up and down small rural highways that are surrounded by native growth trees, older houses, beat-up trailers next to “showcase” homes, into town to shop at. . .Walmart, or on my way out somewhere.

Fellow redhead writer LM has also had a recent change of life, involving not only a new man, but horsies! She’s moved her business to a farm somewhere in California (she was living in Sherman Oaks) and gets to live the ranch life. She’s safe and happy, so that’s the most important thing. I met her at Bootcamp in 2011, and kept up ever since. (Obviously, she’s better than me at the business side of copywriting.)  I’m not going to Bootcamp this year, but will be here at La Casa watching it live-streamed starting Wednesday evening. So glad I joined AWAI’s Circle of Success when I did, in 2011. Ah, yes, another anniversary, this one in my copywriting life.

Hatch Chiles!

Another anniversary thing. Amazingly, I managed to get some Hatch chiles this year–both Whole Foods and Rouse’s had some, and I grabbed a bunch. I also feasted on guac and chips at the Whole Foods in Metairie–you don’t get offered that in Cracker Barrel. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Cracker Barrel, OK?)

anniversary

Real Hatch Chiles!

Naturally, I roasted them as I did many times in Houston, filling the house with their delicious scent.

MMMm. . .roasted.

I should have done it when *he* was at work, because all I heard was, “Oh, my GOD–what’s that horrible SMELL? It stinks in here! For God’s sake, woman, open a WINDOW!!” This from a person who owns two stinky dogs, has a cat litter box in his house, and is frequently coated in sweat and some kind of automotive substance.

And, it gets worse.

Nutella Brownies

A couple of weeks ago, a very nice lady who is good friends with AK posted a recipe for Nutella Brownies. The recipe is simple, four eggs and a cup of that delicious Nutella. No kidding.

anniversary

How can this be bad?

Carefully warm one cup of the Nutella in the microwave until it’s a little bit liquid. Or, more liquid-er, I guess. Use the remainder as you like (i.e., dig it out with the little spatula and enjoy it yourself, because there isn’t much left.) Meantime, whip the heck of them eggs.

anniversary

Whip until they triple in volume, about 6 to 8 minutes.

Line your baking pan with parchment paper, and grease it, as well as a little grease on bottom of the paper, on the inside of the pan, primarily to hold it in place. I think I used coconut oil.

anniversary

Ready to roll

Once the eggs are really, really whipped:

anniversary

Like this

Admittedly, because of my favorite chocolate cake from one of Suzanne Somers books, I added a pinch of baking soda in the eggs before I beat them. Carefully, at this point, you start ladling in the Nutella. WARNING: if your Nutella is hot, it will cook the eggs and you will not have brownies. Make sure it’s just kind of warmed, and a bit more fluid, before you start this process. A cup or so at a time, on a slower speed, until it’s all incorporated.

Bake them in a 350F oven for 25 to 30 minutes. I baked them in a rectangular pan so I could use the smaller oven, because I still have no toaster oven.

anniversary

Nutella Brownies!

I don’t buy Nutella often, for two reasons: one, it’s sugar, and two, I can’t stop.

You can find the recipe from The Kitchn here, and the video here.

So, What Happened?

Happy Anniversary, Honey!

I thought they were delicious–rich, eggy, but not too sweet. It’s gluten free, but you can add a half cup of flour to make them more cake-like. Pretty good, with a nice texture. BF turned his nose up at them, but did make the attempt to try them. I don’t remember his comment, but it included, “well, at least I tried them.”

And after that, I don’t cook or bake anything for him that’s from the “post-Amy menu.” Everything he eats is now “pre-Amy,” unless it’s for me. There was some roast chicken and pork roast this weekend, but anything beyond that, I just cook for myself.

We’re going to see if Walmart has “Thanksgiving In A Box” this year. I’m having whatever I want, and he can make the things he likes. Anyone coming over? Well, he knows how to make instant mashed potatoes and mac and cheese from a box. With his daughter’s news of his second grandchild come March, he’ll have more chances to be hands-on with the 3-year old.

Maybe. But definitely not to the extent I did Thanksgiving last year. There will be CrockPots involved, that’s for sure.

Otherwise. . . .

Well, we’re still here, with two hounds and a rude little cat. She doesn’t much care for me unless it’s time to feed her furry butt. She’s all about BF. Think of her like the female who goes after your man right in front of you, and that’s pretty much our cat.  They don’t make them like they used to.

We did manage a little anniversary dinner at Cracker Barrel, but they don’t have any more Big Little Fudge, darnit. Just because we’re not married doesn’t mean we can’t have an anniversary, right? We have no plans to, so that’s why I call him my “partner.”  Before you say, “the term ‘partner’ is just for gay couples,” no, it isn’t, and I’ve seen it both ways. But it sure confuses the heck out of people here!

Five Years of Blogging

Yes, it’s true, I’m coming up on five years of blogging. WordPress should be reminding me of that anniversary real soon.

Finally–New Glasses!

I’m still not making a LOT of money, just enough to help out and get some things I need. One thing I really, REALLY needed was new glasses to replace the old ones. When I say old, I mean FIVE YEARS OLD. No kidding. I had one pair that I wore every day, and were horribly scratched, and a second pair–thank heavens–that I bought and kept only for job interviews and dress occasions. They were the last pairs I bought through the insurance I had with Boeing, and BF was starting to complain that maybe I couldn’t see well enough to drive. I reminded him that my glasses were five years old.

Back in August, I had a few dollars and got my first eye exam since April or May of 2012. At the local Walmart, no less. I got a written copy of my prescription, and ordered a pair of glasses from Zenni Optical. They arrived about two weeks later in the mail, and I put them right on. I had a headache for a little while, because my others were so old, and I needed a better prescription really bad. But I’m OK now. I can SEE!

Took this picture just a couple of weeks ago in New Orleans. I wanted something different. So? Whaddaya think?


You’ll notice my hair is getting longer, too. I need to have about a two-inch trim, which I’ll get soon. It’s somewhat thinner than before, but it’s definitely a lot longer than it’s been in years. Like, since about 2004, I think. But I’m also back taking vitamins and still using the organic plant based hair color, so maybe it will grow in thicker. Fingers crossed.

I use this pic on Facebook as my new profile shot. Someone commented on my “flawless complexion” and asked, “what’s your secret?” My response: “an app.”

I do plan to get at least a couple more pairs of glasses in different styles, and if I can make enough money, another pair like these to have a backup. Wish I’d started doing this years ago–I always bought from Target, but not anymore.

Until next time. . . .

Many thanks for sticking with me. I will try to finish some posts up soon and get them published.

Happy Dining!

 

Martha’s Reinvention

Martha Stewart is having sort of a reinvention. I read about it in Cherry Bombe magazine!

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

I know, I know, it’s been too long, and I’m sorry about that. I’ve been busy with all kinds of things, and I still haven’t finished a long article on squashes. It’ll be worth it, I promise, especially if you have some squash and don’t know what to do with it.

Pesto!

I made the two first batches of pesto of the season.

First batches of Louisiana-made pesto.

All that basil cutting propagation business paid off. I now have three buckets of basil growing, and I just bought two more containers to freeze upcoming batches in. I had to get similar but rectangular OXO dishes, because they don’t sell these Pro Glass models here.

While BF was happy that I was able to make more pesto, he was *not* happy that I actually made more. He refused to try a pine nut, calling it “squirrel food,” and claiming that I “tricked him more than once.” Whatever. More for me, right?

If you’ve never seen me make pesto before, I’ve documented it in previous posts. You can use the recipe I like by visiting the Recipes page.

Coping

It’s July already, and although I am coming up on a year since I unwillingly left Texas, I have found more and more things to help ease the difficult transition. Two of them are the cities known as Mandeville and Covington which are a little like Clear Lake. Driving the long stretches between the Casa de Rurale and my district leader’s house in Mandeville, I’ve discovered many of my old favorite stores to shop in.

No new sewing projects

While the the closest Joann Fabrics is still in Baton Rouge, there is one an hour in the opposite direction, in Slidell. Unfortunately, I have neither the time nor the extra funds to go buying any fabric right now, much less sew up anything new. I’ve done some repair work, but new projects aren’t happening. I am looking into buying fabric online, and finding out that eBay and Amazon both sell a lot of what I used to buy at Hancock Fabrics. (Note to the GER: did you know eBay sellers carry fabric? I had no idea!) Michael’s bought Hancock’s online division, and only sell their fabrics online.

There is a Cost Plus World Market in Covington that’s enroute to my district leader’s place, and I can find a few gourmet food items there. Trader Joe’s is still at least an hour in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, but Whole Foods and The Fresh Market are in Mandeville. There’s even a Kmart, near the Starbucks on SH22 in Mandeville, but I haven’t gone in there yet.

I was in NOLA this past weekend and after my activity, I did go on a few errands, including Trader Joe’s. I met a nice couple who drove in from Mobile, Alabama just to shop in Trader Joe’s. They don’t have one. They said it was a couple of hours’ drive from their house. Well, I get it.But I still plan to do an online order to HEB one of these days.

Elsewhere, I was asked, “Are you in town for the Essence Festival?” I almost laughed. I’m not the target market. And, I honestly didn’t know about it. I was just glad I met a couple of deadlines for clients so I could go.

Cherry Bombe

Another place I discovered after our Mandeville district meeting was Barnes & Noble. I was actually looking for Bed, Bath and Beyond, where someone made me a nice Nespresso cappucino. LK, I was talking you up! I knew about the way the machines make coffee from my many trips to Sur La Table, and of course, LK owns an older model. So when the nice lady offered coffee, I asked about decaf. She had some, and I just said “thank you.” I was doing some “investigational shopping,” or seeing what they have and didn’t have. But that was second when I saw the Barnes & Noble next door.

Then I found Cherry Bombe

I was missing Houston again. But a quick trip into there for some nosing around showed me a picture of Martha Stewart on the front cover of the magazine, never like on the cover of her own:

Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart–Forever the Cover Girl.

I don’t know if Martha actually appears IN Martha Stewart Living magazine anymore, because I quit reading it a year ago. But it’s quite different when she’s the subject being interviewed, and giving a new perspective. I didn’t buy the magazine–I have enough around here that I need to sort through, and that’s a pricey one!

The Reinvention of Martha Stewart

Martha was a stockbroker on Wall Street at one time, did you know that? I also remember when her company, MSLO (Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia) went public at $38 a share. I often wanted to buy a few shares, just to have them, especially after the price tanked. Well, my birthday is in October. . . .

So, what “reinvention” is it that they discuss? It’s what’s next for Martha Stewart and talking about “The New Martha Stewart,” someone who will step up and be “The Next Martha Stewart.”

Nah. It’s whatever Martha is doing next. Which, of course, is whatever she hasn’t done yet at the age of 75. She’s writing her autobiography, and working on creating new businesses. Obviously, she hasn’t created enough of them! But after selling her flagship magazine and selling off the company that bears her name, well, this is one lady who isn’t retiring. Ever.

Martha & Technology

She is concerned about the creeping nature of technology, and the effect it’s having on kids. Martha has long embraced new technology, from iPads to drones, but we’re now glued to them. (I recently upgraded my iPhone, but I use it primarily for business and streaming music on long drives; more on that later.) But seeing people walking around on their phones and some driving and texting, yes, I’d agree. Kids don’t learn to do anything, because they can Google it up on their phone. And what happens when the phones don’t work? Yeah. . . .

Still on TV

When we can get the PBS stations to come in, I can occasionally catch Martha’s baking or cooking shows on the PBS “@Create” channels. I don’t often have time to watch TV anymore, let alone unpack more boxes, so it’s an occasional treat.

Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart–The Goddess of the Home.

But during her daily network TV shows, Martha had all kinds of folks on to talk about different things. 80’s Pop star Cyndi Lauper once made a guest appearance and talked with Martha about pantry organization. Actress Tracey Ullman visited with a friend and talked about their newly published knitting book; Martha had a full English spread for afternoon tea for them. The late Robin Williams visited–twice–and did what he did best while Martha played the “straight guy.” And there were multiple visits from the late comedienne Joan Rivers, who made slightly raunchy remarks while Martha kept her patrician demeanor and tried not to laugh.

The way we think of Martha Stewart, mostly. But this isn’t the way we think of a typical 75-year old woman, either.

Many of these appearances may be available on Martha’s YouTube channel. The contrasts are interesting when she meets with people who aren’t the New York or LA crowd. But sometimes. . . .

Dinner with a Dogg

One completely opposite guest on her show was none other than Cordozar Calvin Broadus, Jr., aka, a rapper who calls himself  “Snoop Dogg.” Gold teeth, necklaces, corn rows and big knuckle-cracking rings, the whole typical rapper bit. They’re actually friends now, no kidding. Somebody in TV world (VH-1, actually) got the wild idea to have a celebrity dinner party show with Martha and Snoop, and apparently it’s a thing now. If you’re interested, it’s called Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party. I haven’t seen it, I no longer have cable. And when I read that news item, I was glad I didn’t! But apparently their opposing chemical natures works on TV.

You think Martha uses all those glasses when she entertains?

The magazine article goes into that business, too, as well as. . . .

Surprise! Martha’s new book

Yes, Martha Stewart also has a new book out, her 7,246th. (OK, I exaggerate, but not much.) A New Way To Bake: Classic Recipes Updated with Better-for-You Ingredients from the Modern Pantry , had not yet been released when I saw this article. From what I read, there are allergy-free and gluten-free recipes, and a few are in Cherry Bombe.  It’s out now, and I’ll add it to my Amazon Wish List for later. You’ll get a full review if I ever get around to getting it.

I bought a book

Ultimately, I did buy a book, but it wasn’t one of Martha’s. It was one of Stephanie O’Dea’s, the one with Five Ingredients Or Less. It was on the bargain shelf. Yes, I’ve used it.  Yes, BF grumbled a little, but he ate good. He insists on “approving” dishes before I set out to make anything.

Until next time

I’m signing off now, but I do have plans to write more again soon. I just signed a new client, and I’ve got a lot of work to finish for two of them, soon.

Admittedly, this post was also a test project for the SEO Copywriting training course I just finished. I’ll be writing SEO-optimized stuff for this new client, so I wanted to see how I could optimize this one, even though I do it already. I don’t expect a million clicks, of course, and the Yoast plugin I use helps, but I wanted to see if I could use my keyphrase enough without sounding stupid. Looks like I did, because Yoast reports everything in real time. But I also wanted to publish a post, too.

I hope to finish up the next blog post soon. I’ve also got a restaurant review, too.

Happy Dining!

 

 

 

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