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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:

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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?)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Ready to roll

Once the eggs are really, really whipped:

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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.

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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!

 

 

 

Short Post: Busy!!

Happy Wednesday, Dear Readers:

My sincerest apologies for falling off the face of the earth. I’m still here, but busy.

Upwork

I’m still writing on Upwork, and have worked with a couple of international clients, too. (They pay through Upwork and Upwork pays me via Paypal–no fussing about getting paid.)  I had the good fortune to chat on Facebook with a great lady named Laura Pennington recently, and I took her sage advice. After re-writing my profile narrative and proposal pitch, I’ve been busy ever since. (I owe her a testimonial and some home-baked cookies.) She’s in the process of moving, so I haven’t heard back from her in a couple of weeks. But I’m earning from writing, and while I’m not at six figures yet, I’m hopeful.

So is BF, who last night told me he’s proud of me. Awwww. . .I am still feeding him well, despite what he tells you.

Last Friday, I signed two new clients, in addition to the ones I’m doing articles and things for now. I’ve also got more 5-star ratings, which helps my profile on Upwork. If I’ve made clients happy, well, more clients want to be happy, right? So I keep at it.

My iPhone is old

I’m looking to buy a new iPhone to replace my busted, working but outdated 4S, although it won’t be the newest model, of course. I think it’s going to be an iPhone SE, which is similar to the one I have now. It won’t be grossly expensive, and I will probably get one when I earn enough money to cover it.  I hope it’s soon, and it may be. I’ll do a little more research before I put down the ol’ debit card. Hopefully, soon. . . and then my own Internet service at the Casa de Rurale. Then I won’t have to head to the library or Starbucks for online access.

Slow Cooking Saves Lives!

I’m telling you, the Crock Pot has saved us more than once. Yesterday, I made Stephanie O’Dea’s Apricot Chicken for us. I had some last night, BF didn’t, because he had a late lunch with his friend Big H. But we’ll have it tonight–me with a little quinoa or gluten-free pasta, BF with his usual cooked white rice. Stephanie’s email yesterday promises that it would satisfy all the fussy eaters in the house. Since I only have one, well, we’ll see. I’ve also got another slow cooker recipe and thing going on that I hope to share by next week. Fingers crossed on that one.

If you haven’t taken out your slow cooker yet for the summer, or don’t know what to do with it, do two things: first, go read my post from 2015 on slow cooking. Second, sign up for Stephanie’s emails and get recipes and tips every single day so that you’ll always have back-pocket recipes for tomorrow’s dinner.

Confession: I didn’t tell BF what I was making yesterday. I just skuttered off to Walmart with his debit card and bought the milk, butter and <cough> Cokes he needed, plus the chicken, sugarless apricot spread and one other thing for the recipe. Then I mixed it, chopped the chicken and poured it into the crock before he got out of bed.

More Tox-sick follow-ups

Remember my two posts on Suzanne Somers’ book, Tox-Sick? I’m still looking for less-toxic things to replace what we use. Sunday, I was in NOLA and visited with The E-Man and his fussy felines. Afterwards, I headed to Trader Joe’s in Metairie and got three more bottles of their SLS-free body wash. Got a tube of their fluoride-free toothpaste too; next trip, I’ll buy more. I’ve also bought dishwashing liquid and laundry detergent that’s free of dyes and perfumes, cycling out the stuff we had, and continue to seek out less toxic household stuff.

BF still thinks I’m nuts, but he indulges me. Usually while drinking a <cough> Coke.

Another Starbucks work day

BF tells me he’ll be heading to Denham Springs one day next week for work, so I’ll be packing up my stuff and going with him. He says there’s a Starbucks right on the corner, so I’ll be closer than the last time. It was great in the Watson location, and I got to try some of their Passionfruit Iced Tea as well–for free. I’ve got two free things coming, so there may be a nice Frappuccino on the way out. (No salads or Bistro Boxes anywhere in Louisiana, I’m told.) I like the looks of the Midnight Mint Mocha. But of course, these are seriously sugared drinks, with a lot more calories and sugar than coffee with half-and-half or tea with stevia in it. It’s an occasional treat, nothing more. Like the last time, I’ll order an 8-ounce “short.” BF wasn’t interested in the last one I tried, not even a sip.

Besides, I’m now down about 30 pounds. I don’t want to put that back on, I want to keep going down. . .somehow.

Until Next Time

Thank you for your patience and for sticking with me. I hope to write more soon, more often. There’s always something new in food, and we’re always hungry for more.

See what I did there?

Seriously, I’m hoping to finish my next blog post for you soon, with recipes and pictures.

Happy Dining!

 

 

gluten free starbucks
Starbucks’ New Gluten Free Breakfast Sandwich

I’m sampling Starbucks’ new gluten free breakfast sandwich today.

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Hi, again, Dear Readers:

Well, I found another thing to write about. If you’re one of my gluten-free readers, this one’s for you.

But first, some news

Remember my blog post on einkorn wheat, the original form of wheat that’s being grown again for a hungry world? My einkorn article for my client OffTheGridNews has been published, just this week, and you can read it here. There are two more articles in the queue that haven’t been published yet.  I’ve been paid for all of them, so they’ll be out eventually. On Facebook, that article garnered about 10 comments (not all nice), 79 shares and 80 likes. So I guess I can write. . . .

Food Redux

It’s long been known that the food industry throws out a lot more food during the selection process than they keep. Farmers know they can’t sell a funny-looking tomato that will taste incredible, because appearances are everything. Misshapen produce is a big one, but there are other bits and bots that are, shamefully, discarded, adding to food waste and landfills. Ever think to yourself, “we could be feeding hungry people with that”?  (Or said to a child, “there are starving people in. . .so eat it?”) Well, turning leftovers into food is a trend that’s happening now–but it’s startups that are leading the way.

From the Washington Post, food waste is the “hot” new trend in food. Edible but ugly produce is turned into jam, flour is milled from the remains of coffee beans, and stale bread is turned into beer. It’s not dumpster-diving, because nothing has gone that far, and a lot of “waste” has been kept out of landfills. These innovative folks are just taking something that’s usually discarded, but useful and still edible, doing something new with it. I like that.

My question: why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?

Teaching Lettuce

Zeponic Farms, part of George Mason University, is a little gardening operation in a re-purposed shipping container that grows lettuce, other green stuff. They work with folks in the Mason LIFE program to offer education and work experience to those with special needs. The lettuce they grow is sold to the campus food service company, Sodexo, and served in the campus dining hall. Can’t get any more “local” than that, and it benefits a lot of people. Eventually, they hope to offer employment to the special needs community as well.

I’m sure they’re not growing *that* kind of herbal in there. Not where anyone can get to it. But Louisiana’s own LSU is getting on that medical pot bandwagon to–what?–generate revenue. Because revenue from alcohol and gambling casinos only goes so far.

Starbucks, again

On a lark, I decided to head to Starbucks in Hammond for the day, since the library closes early and BF works late. I’m sure he won’t mind. Knowing that I had two free things, I figured that I could try their new gluten free breakfast sandwich today. Originally, I wanted BF to join me so he could try it with me, but. . .well, I think I need a new taste-tester for this humble blog, since he complains about it a lot. He doesn’t want me near the Crock Pots again for a while, and he’s all but banned me from waffling anything for him, so. . .that’s enough of that. BF is now retired as the  HeatCageKitchen taste-tester. Problem is, I don’t have anyone else to use, so I tried the darn thing myself.

The issue with a lot of the “gluten free” stuff, like many “alternative” foods (diet, diabetic) is that they taste bad or have a dreadful texture. One bite, and you realize that you’re better off chewing your nails. The market share and demand for decent-tasting gluten-free food increased when more people went gluten-free. It’s not just folks with the allergy anymore. The more people read about what modern wheat really is, (i.e., Wheat Belly), the more they leave it alone.

They finally made one

A couple of years ago, I called Starbucks to ask them about doing something gluten-free. The response was that they were unable to because they couldn’t guarantee against cross-contamination with other gluten-laden products. Some of that problem has been dealt with, as I’ll show you.

Hungry, I sauntered up to the counter and requested one along with a refill of hot brewed coffee. When the little oven went off, I was handed this little package inside one of their standard white envelopes:

gluten free starbucks

That’s how they solve the cross-contamination issue!

Yup–sealed in a parchment pouch that can withstand the heat of their mini-ovens. No mistaking which one this is, either. But how do you know it’s really gluten-free?

Gluten Free Starbucks

That’s how.

And this means?

Certified gluten free means that, depending on the regulating program, this food product contains less than 20 ppm (parts per million), although the Celiac Support Association (formerly the Celiac Sprue Association) requires foods to have less than 5 PPM. According to this article, anything less than 20 ppm is not detectable, and most people with the allergy don’t have a reaction at that rate.

The FDA also has official rules on what constitutes “gluten free,” setting that bar at 20 ppm.

Companies that jump through the hoops to get certified are usually catering to the gluten-free crowd anyway, so they want to make sure you’re getting what you asked for. Knowing what kinds of foods are gluten-free already helps.

The Starbucks Gluten Free Breakfast Sandwich

Drum roll, please.

Tearing open the envelope, I carefully removed this:

gluten free starbucks

The Gluten Free Breakfast Sandwich at Starbucks

OK, so it’s a little lopsided. They get jostled about in those little packets. They can’t straighten it out because that would require opening the packet. Then I took a bite:

gluten free starbucks

Looks like the regular breakfast sandwich, doesn’t it?

And another bite. . .

gluten free

No. . .it’s not mold.

What did it taste like?

For a gluten-free item, it’s pretty good. The same tasty fillings you’d expect in their regular sandwiches. The bread is only slightly stiffer than regular bread–think ciabatta or French bread. Then there is the matter of a little bit of flour on it, something the regular sandwiches don’t have. Just don’t eat it too close to your keyboard, I’d say.

Oh, yeah.

The fine print

If you’re wondering what’s in these, well, this is the back of the packet:

gluten free starbucks

I know, I know. . . .

Bread normally has a lot of ingredients, but because it’s also egg, cheese and Canadian bacon, well, you know.

You can read more about this sandwich on Starbucks’ website, and it should be available nationwide. Hey–if they have it in one way out here, you should be able to find it anywhere.

They sell about 12 of these a day  in Hammond, I’m told, so there’s definitely a market, even in places where people don’t follow the food trends. Southeastern Louisiana University is also in Hammond, so that may also be a factor. Bigger cities like Houston probably sell 12 an hour, if not more.

Rejoice!

Starbucks carries a myriad of things, many of them gluten free, as I’ve mentioned before. But now, you can get a gluten-free breakfast sandwich in Starbucks, too.

It’s getting on time to go and pick up my former taste-tester from work.  He had a frozen dinner today for lunch after his rampage through Walmart this morning. Tomorrow will probably sandwiches.  His choice.

Until next time. . . .

Enjoy!

RaceTrac
Amy’s RaceTrac Experience

RaceTrac–a nice little place to stop in the South.

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Hello, again, Dear Readers:

It’s Good Friday, and I’m in Starbucks today! Why? The library’s closed. It’s open on Saturday, but not Good Friday. I haven’t seen anyplace close down for Good Friday since I worked at Baylor College of Medicine–how long has that been? But that’s OK–it’s a “star dash” weekend, giving extra points for the Bacon Gouda Breakfast Sandwich. I had two, although not at once, and it bumped up my points. I now have two free things coming, which I’ll save for my next trip to New Orleans.

As you’ll see in today’s post, Starbucks isn’t the only place to get coffee when you’re out and about in the South. If you see a RaceTrac on your travels, I’ll tell you why you need to stop there.

Progress in La Casa de Rurale

BF put up my EZ-Gym, finally, seven months after I got here and four months after taking it out of my big suitcase. I’ve actually used it this week, too, while watching one of my Britcom DVDs. Since the episodes are exactly 30 minutes long, it’s a great way to time your exercise, especially on a machine like the Nordic Track. But the EZ-Gym is a neat thing to have, easy to use once you get the hang of it, and portable if you need it to be.

We don’t have a Home Depot or Lowe’s, but we do have a small Ace Hardware (where I went to visit the baby chickens a while back) and another “hometown” hardware store that BF has taken me to a few times. (There is a Lowe’s in Hammond, 30 minutes away.)  I went in for the wood screws to mount it to the wall, and came out with a canvas painter’s drop cloth, too. What the heck?

“Belgian Linen”

In the latest issue of Mary Janes’ Farm magazine, there’s an article on making “budget” linen tablecloths out of them. I’ve considered using drop cloth before (for projects from the old Martha Stewart Living magazines), but the stuff in Home Depot was too heavy and stiff. Our local place had the exact same brand and type that Mary Jane Butters used, so I grabbed one. You use the 6 ounce weight, because the 10 ounce is too heavy.

As MaryJane instructed, I washed it three times, let it dry outside the third time, then washed it a fourth to make sure it didn’t smell like a manufacturing plant. It feels pretty nice now that it’s all washed out. It’s a 9-foot by 12-foot piece, which comes out to 36 yards of fabric, for $17.99. That sounds like stuff I bought at Hancock Fabrics. I’ve got the big dining room table measured, I just haven’t made the tablecloth yet. But I can’t wait to tell people it’s “an expensive Belgian linen tablecloth.”  Pictures when I finish it.

Exercise?

BF says he needs to get back into exercising and back into shape. For some time, my “exercise routine” has consisted of moving and unpacking boxes, doing laundry and washing up, chasing a frisky 60-pound pit bull around, investigating and cleaning up cluttered corners and moving stuff either out to the rubbish pile, the burn pile or to the trash can for pickup on Thursday. Since I’ve been busy freelancing (still no million-dollar paychecks yet) I haven’t been doing that, hence, the EZ-Gym being installed on the only free wall stud in the studio. (BF had to make his silly joke about “looking for a stud? Here I am!”)  If I ever start traveling again, I’ll buy another one to keep in my suitcase. It’s not going to work setting it up on a door in BF’s place. I can see the TV from that spot, too.

He has rather muscular arms (particularly the biceps), and wants to start lifting those 15-pound hand-held weights again, as well as use his regulation punching bag and boxing gloves out in the garage. I’m using my kettle bells again, in addition to the EZ-Gym and the old Exercise TV No Sweat Yoga DVD last Saturday morning. (This morning was an hour of walking, partly with the Hounds.) I explained kettle bells to him, but he said, “yeah, we did that in the Navy.” Okay, bud. But I guess it’s time we started working out, either separately or together, or both, because he watches a lot of TV after work. And we aren’t getting any younger.

If I could just get him dancing properly. . .he grabs my left hand and doesn’t understand that it should be my right. Maybe I should find a “couples yoga” or “dance with me” DVD for us. . . .

Lil’ Diabeetus

I told him that if he really, REALLY wants to lose a few pounds, his Cokes would be a good thing to eliminate. In addition to all the awful things that soft drinks are, Cokes are 140 calories a can, primarily sugar. He drinks 4 a day when he’s at work, and occasionally one or two, more buying them by the case twice a week. So that’s at least 560 calories per day he could drop, and replace it with something healthier (like water, darnit.) Additionally, he could drop the L’il Debbie “fairy cakes” he likes to pack with his lunch (just my sarcastic nickname for them.) Now, calories aren’t the be-all and end-all of weight loss, otherwise we could all subsist on chocolate bars and be thin. There has to be real nutrition to keep the “machine” running. Or you can see this in your future:

RaceTrac

This is the picture they don’t show you. It’s what Lil’ Debbie looks like when she gets older. (Pic courtesy BF, who likely found it on Facebook.)

Anyway. . .between the EZ-Gym, the Thighmaster set (yes, I use it regularly), yoga, and kettle bell moves, I hope to get back into a better shape this summer, and beyond. Biking, well, not so much yet, since I’d be by myself, unless I decide to get myself one of those bike trainers you put your cycle on and pedal while watching TV. (Gotta rustle up more clients and money soon!)

Gardening!

The gardening still isn’t going on much, although I do have some new little tomato seedlings. The Hatch chile seeds, however, did not germinate, and there are no seedlings, darnit. I know where to order some seeds, but will keep trying with the ones I have been saving, first. GRRRR. . .I’ve only met one person here who knows what Hatch chiles are, everyone else, I have had to “school.”

The Key Lime and Meyer Lemon trees are doing well, and I see lots more buds than I did in Houston, and we’ll have a bumper crop of key limes, too. I haven’t planted the darn trees yet; maybe this weekend.  I’ve got green onions going on, and I hope I haven’t killed my little Rosemary plant. If I did, I can go back to the local Ace hardware store and get another one, while visiting the little baby chickens. (Haven’t done that in a while.)

I know, I know. . .pictures, Amy.

Miss Shirley, you will be happy to know that sitting here in Starbucks, I just discovered a place I need to go investigate.

RaceTrac

But do they have Hatch Chiles??

It’s probably not like the Genoa Friendship Garden (that was a fun place!) but it’s local, and it’s all about gardening. When I get there, I’ll give a full report.

Now, if they have Hatch chiles, I’ll be tap dancing on the bar!

RaceTrac

Longtime readers know of my affinity for coffee, and for Starbucks. But in addition to the local PJ’s, I’ve also discovered a new place to get pretty good coffee. It’s a convenience store that sells more than just Twinkies and Cokes.

When I visited BF last year, I needed petrol for my rental car to return home. Because it was right there off the freeway (or as they call it here, “th’ Innerstate”) and coffee for my soul (and the trip back to Texas) it was my first stop on the way out. I have to say it was pretty darn good coffee, and a nice clean place. But I was on my way back to Houston, and never gave it a second thought. Because. . .I was never coming back, right?

Right?

Nine months later, I’m lamenting the loss of my fabulous HEB, IKEA, and multiple Starbucks within a five mile radius, one walking distance from the front door. The Racetrac in my new ‘hood is being renovated. When they finally re-opened, it was much nicer than before, with lots of new menu options, including frozen yogurt and packaged salads.

This is a petrol station?

It sure is, and a lot more. Really, REALLY nice people work there, too.

I’ve gone in many times with my black 16-ounce stovepipe Starbucks travel mug and gone for the hot, fresh decaf on the way to the library, and shot some Hazelnut or Caramel sugar-free flavoring in before adding in half & half.

Recently RaceTrac installed a new center-island fixture that has, among other things, three kiosk screens to order yourself some food or fancy coffee drinks. On one trip, I was filling up my Starbucks mug for a 98-cent “grande” when I was asked, “Would you like to try one of our new espresso drinks for free?

Someone is offering me free coffee? Yes, please! I just say “thank you.”

RaceTrac

Well, I did ask if they could make it decaf–yes, we can! So we were off. After handing me a coupon to take to the register later, we walked over to the kiosk screen and I tapped it in. Cappuccino, French Vanilla flavoring, whipped cream, extra shot of espresso. . .POOF! Off it went to their ordering system behind the coffee counter, where the nice lady made it fresh on this machine:

RaceTrac

They make it fresh–no “formulas.”

They can flavor it any way you like:

RaceTrac

Flavors! And check out that counter!

They can also make the iced coffee drinks for you, too:

RaceTrac

You can make nearly anything with a Vitamix!

Those machines, of course, are designed for heavy industrial use–every day.

I paid for the regular coffee and the cashier rang up a $3.75 coffee drink for free. Of course, I said “thank you” many times–I’m no slouch! I took that and my *regular* coffee with me to the library, sipping the cappuccino first on a clear, cold Louisiana day. Suddenly, the day was a little bit better.

There have been other times

Occasionally, randomly, I have poured some hot decaf, fixed the way *I* want it, got to the counter and was asked, “is that all you have?” Yes. The cashier’s response has been, “have a nice day,” or “OK, you’re good.” In other words, your coffee is free today! It’s a random thing, or maybe I should download the RaceTrac app and know when they have “free coffee” days. While I have spent a fair amount of money on 98-cent coffee over the last few months, especially when it’s cold, I’m heading over to pay the water bill for BF, or I have a few minutes before BF gets out of work, I have also been randomly offered free coffee, too.

I just say “thank you.”

It’s a Southern thing

RaceTrack is headquartered in Atlanta, and operates facilities in 12 southern states. While the stores here aren’t as big as Buc-ee’s, the folks are every bit as friendly, and darnit, the coffee’s good, too. They have a full breakfast menu–even croissants!–and breakfast wraps that look pretty good (although I haven’t tried them yet.) I’ve seen those packaged salads, but not bought any yet. With three kiosk screens, they make up some of the food on demand, as well as the espresso drinks.

An Epic Discovery

And what do they have mixed in with the candy bars, small bottles of liquor and little packets of cake? Epic Bars! No kidding–in semi-rural Louisiana, they have my beloved Epic bars, but only one kind–the Bison with Cranberry.  Nobody else here has them, except RaceTrac. Sometimes they’re on sale, 2 for $5, and I’ve bought a pair and taken them to my “work place” at the Tangi Library many times. (Can’t do that too often, though.) I can get a full line of them on Epic’s website, of course. I can also find them locally at Whole Foods in Mandeville, Baton Rouge and New Orleans (not sure about Hammond, but I haven’t looked, either.) But here? Even the cashiers don’t know what they are! I think I’m the only one who buys them, but of course, I’m happy to have them available.

BF has less than polite things to say about Epic Bars, but, well, maybe that’s one too many MRE’s in his past, too. Guess I shouldn’t have given him the turkey one to try first.

Your Southern Summer Stop

If you’re traveling this year to see friends, family, or just going somewhere in the South, RaceTrac is a good place to stop. Starbucks has forced everyone to up their game, so better coffee is more available, even in decaf.

Like I said, Racetrac isn’t Buc-ee’s (which is a Texas thing), but it’s a pretty nice place. You can find RaceTrac locations on their website, and you can also go to their Facebook page and read more about them. RaceTrac also has an app you can download to find out about new stuff and get points or something. If ever I do download it (whenever I upgrade my rather aged iPhone, of course) I’ll let you know how it works.

It’s not Buckingham Palace, OK?  Not even Buc-ee’s. But RaceTrac is a good place to stop if you’re driving through the South this summer.

Made a new friend this week

Speaking of Atlanta, I met a lady in the library the other day who moved here with her adult daughter and husband temporarily. It was great to talk with someone. . .who knows what it’s like to have that culture shock! She said there is a company in Atlanta that’s similar to RaceTrac, where she moved from, called QuickWay. Apparently, RaceTrac goes head-to-head in the Georgia Market.

Know what else my new friend misses? The awesome east-coast grocery chain Publix. Just like I miss my HEB! However, she has married an African man. No, I mean, African from Africa; she’s a black American woman, she’s from here, too. Her husband is from West Africa, and they are getting ready to relocate overseas. No kidding. The wars are over, and they are going to Liberia to help re-build the country (he’s in construction.) She’s been there before, of course.  I can’t blame her for being excited–it’s a big adventure, and of course, her relatives in Louisiana are not happy about her going all the way to West Africa. I can certainly empathize–my parents didn’t want me moving six hours away to Houston at the age of 34, and they don’t even like me!

Anyway. . . .

Winn-Dixie’s new Plenti

Winn-Dixie is changing their rewards program, and the new one is called “Plenti.” Whatever. The cashiers all have new shirts, and the bags are now a bright robins-egg blue. They nag you until you agree to changing it all over. The black cards are going away. I have so many cards from all over the US, I just didn’t need another. My new friend and I were discussing that too. Big, fat hairy deal. Still no place to put your coffee in their baskets.

Here’s a tip: put them all on a separate key ring. Just don’t punch a hole in any magnetic strips. Keeps your key ring from getting too heavy and damaging your ignition.

Until next time

Here’s hoping everyone has an enjoyable Easter Sunday with a great holiday dinner. As I’ve long said, there’s nothing wrong with spending holidays alone, if that’s what your only option is. You make and have a good dinner, wine if you want it, and a tasty dessert. Enjoy a day off to do something enjoyable, whatever that is (unless you’re lucky enough to have a job and are working.)

I don’t yet know what we’re doing, but it won’t be the big thing I did at Thanksgiving. No, BF wants “simpler,” so, if we’re having The Kids, it’ll be a lot of what *he* can cook up quickly.   I think my days of big gourmet adventures are about over, long as I live here. (Unless the GER asks.) Heck, I might end up at RaceTrac, I dunno.

Easter is another Sunday to me, with chocolate. I want a steak salad, and the DVDs I got from the library, with the sewing machine on full tilt. I hope the cat can handle it.

Happy Easter!

 

 

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