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Archive for November, 2008

Now I will write more about the past two weeks. I traveled to DC for a fantastic conference held at the Library of Congress (LC). Washington, DC, is one of my favorite cities to visit, with congressional offices, the White House, Supreme Court, Department of State, Government Printing Office, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Middle East Institute, and, as mentioned already, the Library of Congress. Many other federal and international offices that I have still yet to visit. But I will someday! Yes, Washington, DC is this Government Documents Librarian’s dream city! I also like Chicago and New York City and just about any other large city I have visited, but it is actually a very small list.

Anyway – back to my trip! To save money I took a flight into Dulles instead of Reagan, which involved a bus trip and metro ride and a five-block walk to my hotel in Foggy Bottom. But from there I bundled up (I think the Kansas cold and wind followed me there!) and walked 14 blocks to the Middle East Institute and had a wonderful little tour of the research library given to me by a young woman who worked there. Books were stuffed everywhere! It was a fascinating library and I plan to return again someday. From there I walked even further back to the Watergate complex and bought a few groceries to cook in the little kitchen, which was part of my room at the hotel. I had packed my own favorite coffee blend, along with whole wheat pasta noodles and a few Luna and Lara bars (Thank you, Jenny, for getting me started on Lara Bars!), in my suitcase. I needed Half & Half, pasta sauce, and cheese and crackers. I knew I would like some snack food, and who can go three days without cheese?!? Not me!

It was great each morning preparing my own favorite coffee and having a Washington Post slipped under my door and into my room each morning. I would also eat some fruit and part of my “meal” bars before my two-mile-plus-a-little walk to LC, where in our conference room in the Jefferson building I was greeted with more delicious coffee and an array of pastries. I didn’t each much of the pastries (honest!), but I did enjoy a small one each morning with the coffee. It was great after that cold walk.

The first morning I walked south by the Department of State building, the World War II memorial I had never seen, and the Washington Monument, staying mostly on Independence Avenue. I walked between the north and south buildings of the Agriculture Department (love the style of most of these federal buildings, and these were two I liked), and then turned left to continue up the National Mall area. I had never seen The National Museum of the American Indian, and the curves, beige-colored stone, and glass may have looked out-of-place to some, but to me it was another truly interesting and beautiful building. I then weaved around the Capital building, which took a little longer than walking straight up Independence Avenue, but I love that building. The Capital, LC, and the Supreme Court building, all there together, really inspire me. So much power there, and I continue to pray for the good of that power.

One workshop that first afternoon was on a subject that really did not concern me, so I took that opportunity to visit my congresswoman’s office and those of my two senators. Senator Roberts did walk past me and spoke to me on his way out of the office, but other than that I just left each one a note and my business card. I think it is important to check in with our representatives whenever possible. I don’t know what happens to my notes, but all I can control is what I do, and I think putting forth effort to stay in touch is very important.

As I was leaving the Hart Office Building, I noticed that just left of the exit door was Barbara Boxer’s office. She is a senator from California, which, of course, means I am not one of her constituents. But she wrote a book a few years ago that I purchased and thoroughly enjoyed. A fun, fiction story about murder in DC, with the Senate as the background. So I stopped in her office and left my card with a note written on it about the book. Again, can’t control what happened to my note after closing the door behind me, but I wanted her to know I enjoyed it. I did my part!

That night as I was walking back to the hotel from the Foggy Bottom metro stop, I stopped at The Tonic restaurant, which was filled with students from George Washington University. One sign said Tonic, one sign said Quigley’s Pharmacy. Hmmmm….. The restaurant offered another architecturally interesting building, so I decided to read about it on the web. Interested? Try the
GW and Foggy Bottom Historical Encyclopedia link to the history:

I was super tired after all the walking I had done that day and the time spent at the conference, so I just picked up a delicious cobb salad (without chicken) and carried it back to my hotel. Honestly, you might think that a conference of librarians cannot be too tiring, but we were presented with a lot of information stuffed into two days. Much of it was new for me and I took lots of notes, and my energy drained away by 5:00pm. I was so sleepy I could hardly even finish half of my salad before crawling into bed! However, the half I did eat was fresh, crunchy, and topped with delicious avocado and blue cheese dressing. Accompanied by some of my Watergate crackers and small Diet Coke.

The second morning I walked back to the LC via Pennsylvania Avenue and the White House. Construction was taking place for the upcoming festivities for our President-elect Barack Obama. Exciting to see. And the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House was an amazingly huge and beautiful building. Lots of classical columns but with definite French influence for the roofing. I really could have stood and studied the outside of that building for over an hour!

The conference, again, was educational with presentations regarding digitization projects and the filming of rather esoteric newspapers that scholars yearn for in their research. Lunch each day consisted of sandwiches and two salads (one made with cheese-stuffed pastas, tomatoes, oil and vinegar, and feta cheese!!), which were pretty filling.

That last night in DC I really, really wanted a hot meal where I could sit down and relax, so after my walk from the metro station, I decided to eat in the hotel’s tiny restaurant. The menu was limited but I was able to find just what I wanted, so I took the mystery book I was reading to the restaurant and ordered a glass of Riesling and French-fried sweet potatoes to start. The whole meal was wonderful, I enjoyed my book, then ordered a cup of de-caf to take to my room.

The next day I had a few hours to walk before catching my plane back to Kansas, so I walked over to the Lincoln Memorial, and also by the Vietnam Wall and the Korean War Memorial. Seeing all the names on the Vietnam Wall, and the statutes honoring the Korean War soldiers and one for the nurses of the Vietnam War, made me realize, once again, how war is really so horrible. I wish it was something no one in the world ever had to see. Never again.

Since my return to Kansas I’ve had two extra fantastic meals. Last weekend I went to the wonderful Indian dinner on campus, sponsored by our Indian students. I met several friends there which made it oh so much more fun! My friends were truly more into Indian food than I was, but it was the best Indian food I have ever eaten. Really – the best! I’m just not fond of too much spicy food at one time. Everything I had was scrumptious, and there was plenty of naan to balance out the one really hot curry, but I just couldn’t eat much of it. The next day at lunch, though, I was regretting that I did not take some containers so that I could carry home leftovers. I’d like to do that next year for sure!

And day before yesterday was Thanksgiving. So, you are wondering, what did I do for that very special American meal? I made a sweet potato dish and took it to another friend’s house and we shared a lovely evening together over a meal of roast beef, green beans with almonds, sweet potatoes, whole-grain rolls, Waldorf salad, red wine, pumpkin pie, and de-caf coffee.

It was really great! I love toasted almonds on green beans, and her Waldorf salad had a dressing of mayo mixed with a little sugar and heavy cream. That was surely new to me! I asked for some of that to bring home with me and I will enjoy it later today for sure. My mother made Waldorf salad often, but she only used mayonnaise as the dressing. I also like just the mayonnaise, but now I know a new way, too! There were crunchy honey crisp apples in this one – my favorite new eating apple.

Her roast was super-tender, and the gravy so rich that I poured it over my roll. My oh my! I ended up using the end of my roll to sop up the rest of the juices on the plate! Not very lady-like I’m sure, but at that moment the food was more important! And the sweet potatoes? Well, I must confess they were awesome! I got the recipe from my mother-in-law, and it involves grating the potatoes while raw and stirring into a mixture of eggs, butter, cream, vanilla, and other spices. A custard of sorts, but with the sweet potato throughout. Yes, twice this past week I’ve experienced one of my absolute favorite activities, good friends, good food, good conversation.

Am I thankful? Absolutely!! World? Happy Thanksgiving to you!!!

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It’s been some time since I wrote here. My time at the library has been very busy the past few weekw, plus this month I’ve traveled to a wonderful conference and flown once to visit with friends and family. Other than those trips, I just haven’t had the time or energy for much of anything other than my job lately.

However, during this time I’ve had some very tasty meals! My first full day in Virginia with family (the first of November) was spent with our grandson. Oh my goodness what a cutie! But he wore me out, and by the time I got home that Thursday night I was absolutely pooped! He’s 16 months old and into everything, and being responsible for him makes me a little more nervous than when my own children were that young. But we read a couple of books and watched the same DVD over and over and over. And over again!

While I was there I prepared supper for his mom and dad. I know working all day and coming home to fix supper can be quite exhausting, especially with a little one. And since I was going to prepare a Thanksgiving meal with our daughter in Concord on Saturday, I really wanted to fix something for our son and his family. Jamie (the mom) prefers simple foods, and I know she likes green beans and white potatoes. So I prepared both of those vegetables, fried a pan of apples, cooked chicken drumsticks, and made a lemon pie. The lemon pie was one of my staples, and my mother use to make it often. It has been a long time since I’ve made one because since I most often eat alone, I try not to eat sweets. You know, I save them for special occasions, and that means any occasion when I am sharing a meal and conversation with a good friend!

Here is the recipe:

3 egg yolks and 1/3 Cup of lemon juice, mixed well together in a bowl
Add 1 can sweetened condensed milk and stir until thoroughly mixed together.
Pour into a graham cracker crust and chill for several hours.

That’s it!

The chicken was a new recipe for me, one I found on the Internet. I changed it a little and thought it was delicious! I just had to try a bite, you know. So simple: browned drumsticks in a tiny bit of vegetable oil, then covered and simmered for about 20 minutes Removed chicken and added to the pan a little thinly slice onion, chicken broth, and cooking wine. I also added 1 Tbls. of flour and stirred in up with the wine before adding that. Then a little cream and Dijon mustard. Yep! Mustard. And it really was yummy!

Afterwards, Brent and I went to my brother’s house for dinner, and my oh my I’ll be dreaming about that meal for quite some time! Johnny lived in New York City for several years back during the 60s and 70s. He lived in Little Italy, and while there he learned to prepare the best tomato sauce ever! And it has been several years since I’ve eaten his sauce, so I invited myself over for an early Holiday Dinner, or just a plain ol’ Christmas present for myself, actually. Oh my oh my, did I eat too much! It was so absolutely delectable!! He made a large pan of stuffed shells – lots of ricotta and Parmesan cheeses, then added a big hunk of mozzarella to each to just melt down, over, and around each shell. Smothered in the tomato sauce. Wow! [oh yes! And did I say there was cheese??!?] He also made a pan of fried sausages with onions and sweet red peppers. I didn’t have any of that, but it was Brent’s favorite part. Sigh…..I should have taken some of the shells home for breakfast the next morning.

Anyway, we talked about the presiential election (two days before) and about Johnny’s time living in Little Italy and the music he plays now with some of his long-time friends in our little Virginia town. It was such a lovely evening. Hmmm…….I wonder if there were any shells just sitting all lonely-like in his refrig the following morning? The next morning I might not have had any shells to eat, but I sure did enjoy that first cup of morning coffee while sitting on our porch just before dawn. It was cool, foggy and quiet there out in the country.

Friday I spent some time with my mom in the nursing home. And then I met one of my best friends for a wonderful lunch at Molasses Grill, a small “gourmet” restaurant in Halifax (Virginia). She had a Cuban pork sandwich, and I had a cobb salad without the chicken. Lots of blue cheese and a little avocado made it very, very good! We sat and talked about the election, the economy, a little history, and other current and public policy issues. We shared conversation for as long as possible, but then she had to return to work.

A few hours later Brent and I drove (OK, he drove, I rode) down to North Carolina to visit with our daughter. That night she had prepared some really good spaghetti with meat sauce and a pot of non-meat sauce, tossed salad, and then followed with the same lemon pie that I made Kevin and Jamie on Thursday. Only Hannah made cute little indivdual tarts.

The next day we walked around the mall and had a cup of coffee at Starbucks where Hannah works. We spent the day together having a really nice time, and then I made a Thanksgiving dinner, with a tender baked hen, homemade gravy, and dressing (or stuffing) made into large spoon scoops on a cookie sheet – just like my father use to make. I prepared some of our favorite vegetables, soft rolls with butter, and then we simply purchased a cake and had it with decaf coffee before we all fell into bed stuffed full! The next morning I flew out early from the Charlotte airport to come back to Kansas.

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What a weird week for food. Remember those hot dogs I could not wait to eat? Bought a package of beef hot dogs (less greasy than others and the only kind I can usually eat). Prepared slaw and raw onion just the way I like. Nice soft bun. Fried the hot dog and soak it twice in a paper towel. Took one bite and thought, “Oh my goodness!! poo. yuk. I cannot eat this thing!” Boy! What a waste of money and waste for the cow, too. That’s not good.

Last night I really, really wanted a steak. I found a one on sale at Dillons. Cut it in half so that I’d have no more than 4 ounces. Sliced mushrooms and onions, and cooked those with a little butter, garlic, and cooking wine. Prepared those 4 oz. just the way I have always liked and only ate one bite. Just couldn’t get past……something. I just can’t eat it. But I seem to want it!

However, earlier this week Larry had a reception for a visiting lecturer and was kind enough to invite me for the lovely fall meal. His apartment was packed with students and faculty, all gathered as best as they could around his dining table. Larry served scrumptious chili, and I ate almost a cup of that, I think. It was very, very good. Lots of beans. The chili was sitting in a huge pot on top of the stove in the kitchen, and the dining table held the homemade guacamole. Oh my that was delicious! He also served grated sharp cheddar cheese (not the stuff that comes pre-grated in a bag), sour cream, corn chips, and a bowl of extra fresh cilantro. Also a platter of soft cheeses and crackers. What a spread! Very simple menu. And I could tell that everyone there thought it was absolutely perfect. There was red wine and a large pitcher of ice water with lemon slices floating on top. Well, duh to me, it’s not like they sink, ya know.

He also had two pitchers of Sangria. Now, you know I can’t really drink, so I waited until just about time for me to leave before someone poured me a cup of that. Sure enough, even after eating some chili, that Sangria went right to my head! I left soon after, taking the rest of my drink up the steps to my apartment. Got ready for bed, checked the news on the Internet, finished the Sangria, and fell right to sleep without getting up one time! As we all know, for someone who is over the age of “mumble mumble“, going all night without having to get up at least once is quite the feat! I’ve decided Larry needs to market his Sangria as “The Fruit That Makes you Sleep Good.”

I did prepare for myself at least one other tasty meal this week. I try to stick with brown rice, but a few weeks ago I bought a package of the white rice flavored with saffron. Love that stuff! I froze individual servings of it, and pulled some out this week. Topped it off with black beans I had cooked and seasoned just right. Just before I ate the beans and rice I added pieces of fresh tomato and chopped raw onion. Now that was a great meal. Made a small vegetarian pizza that provided two meals.

And I ate lunch at the student union when the Bluemont Room prepared their Halloween buffet. The buffet was a good price, but I can never seem to eat enough to make the money worth it. What did make the meal worth the money was sharing the meal with Tara C. I always enjoy our times together. We had both completed our “interview” with the tenure committee that morning and just needed to unwind a bit. I’m not really sure if we ate more or talked more! But we all know that one of my absolute favorite activities in this world is sharing a good meal with a good friend over good conversation. That day – was worth every penny.

Another great evening occurred that same Thursday night. Several of us met after work to relax together after the day of pre-tenure interviews. I splurged with a real Dr. Pepper. (I really like those!). I ordered onion rings, which ended up being my supper. Well, except for some of the sweet potato fries that Elisabeth ordered and shared. Mmmmm……..oh my!………..

Today will be busy. Going into the library for several hours to get a start on the next two weeks of activities. Dropping off two DVDs I rented at the public library, taking items to the recycle place, and then maybe can spend tomorrow just watching junk TV I recorded this week. And figure out if I can get into a mood to prepare something very, very good to eat. Hmmmm……

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