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Archive for May, 2009

A change of scenery for me today. Here I sit in the dark (coz it’s very early in the morning and my hubby is still sleeping. Since I don’t see him too much, I actually enjoy his little bit of snoring and I don’t want to interrupt him! So I have not turned on any lights in here). I’m sitting on the bed in our daughter’s apartment in North Carolina, enjoying some……oh you know it!…..delicious morning coffee.

Yesterday was her graduation ceremony to celebrate her earning of an Associates in Applied Science in Motorsports Technology Management. She is continuing on with her studies to earn a second degree in Accounting, which I’m thinkin’ is a marvelous idea. She is certainly living in a time when life-long learning is an important part of surviving in our economy, and I’m glad she finds interest in so many different things. Not that even 10 degrees guarantees a successful monetary future! But it should open more doors for her and simply make her whole life more interesting for sure.

First stop for me after she picked me up at the airport on Friday? Seafood restaurant, of course! Oh my goodness!! A plate full of crunchy, fried, hush puppies, clam strips, and scallops!! (Oh be still my heart! Really? oops! I guess too much fried fish could really do that, huh. my bad.) Wow was it scrumptious! The plate was piled high – literally (and I use that word in the literal sense). And I ate almost all of it. Truthfully, almost all of it. I’m not sure when I last ate that much at one sitting. Hannah had a plate of seafood herself, ate all she could, placed the rest in a to-go box, and I was still stuffing the face. (did I say smiling face?) That scenario is what made me finally stop. I could have finished it all right there! But it was embarrassing to be so gluttonous right there in public for all the world to see. That type of eating for the Southern lady is to be done only in private.

Maybe it was that meal that made it hard for me to eat anything on the following day? Later that night the hubby made it down from Virginia. And the next morning I prepared a few sausage biscuits for our breakfast, with my famous only one-ounce each sausage patties. Now, these are small patties for small whopp-um biscuits (you know, the ones you whopp on the counter to open?). I could only eat one, and I made myself eat that one because the morning would be long (graduation ceremony) with no snacks.

That little biscuit and teeny tiny piece of meat held me fine until about 2:00pm when we stopped at Olive Garden, and I ate on their delectable salad and breadsticks. I also had a few mushroom caps stuffed with a crab meat topping from Hannah’s trio appetizer (which she ordered instead of a regular entrée). I truly adore the Olive Garden salad. It’s the dressing. Honestly, there is nothing so unique about the vegetable composition of this salad – so easy to duplicate at home. But that yummy dressing? Oh how I smack my lips at the prospect! Really, I’m licking my lips right now. My…… that’s sad, isn’t it? Maybe not. Surely it is OK to feel that grateful for the variety of nutritious foods available from our earth.

I would love to buy a bottle of that dressing and take it to Kansas with me (no Olive Garden in my K-State city), but there is that whole “liquids” thing when flying these days. Unless I check a bag, pay extra $$$ for that, and then wait in a long line to complete the process. Nope! I’ll just eat my usual scrumptious Good Seasons salad dressing at home and treat myself to the Olive Garden concoction when I visit our daughter in North Carolina.

Well, thank you world! While I’ve been sitting here, talking to you, contemplating my day and my life (now aren’t you glad I didn’t get into that conversation?), the sun has come up and I’ve just about finished my second cup of coffee. Hubby’s still snoring. Our daughter continues to sleep on her couch with her greyhound and two kitties, even though I’ve heard one kitty stirring around just a little. It will be warm and humid here again today. Well duh. It’s the last day of May and I’m in North Carolina.

And I’m smiling. I have a family I love. Another day of food on the horizon – and the wonder and curiosity of “what will those morsels of goodness be?” (I surely would never speak or write a sentence ending in a preposition, but I do tend to think that way at times.) In a few days I’ll be back at K-State U working as a Government Documents Librarian (the best job in the world for me). I’ll continue my quest for delicious foods with my new Kansas friends. And, I guess I ought to add in a new regimen of daily sit-ups in there someplace. Dang.

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Ah……Saturday……the first day of a three-day weekend! The first day of a three-day weekend is the best day of a three-day weekend, don’t you think? I still have work-related tasks to do, but it will be on my own schedule, and that is always great! It’s cool outside right now, so my window is open and I’m listening to the birds and a few squirrels. I didn’t wake up until almost 6:00am, so I think I missed the morning train go through town. Shucks! That is another sound I enjoy. It’s a lonesome sound for some reason, but I always wonder about what goods are being shipped and where their journey is to end. I’m getting ready to pour myself a second cup of my custom blended coffee, my kitty is asleep on the bed with me, so life is good, good, good.

Ah…….second cup. And thinking about this delicious coffee, and how good life is for me today, I must share some wonderful news! Our son and his wife gave us another beautiful grandson this past week. They are in Virginia, and I am here in Kansas, so I have not met this little booga, yet. However, I talked to the mom once a few hours after the birth, and again for just a few seconds last night. No long conversations. Coz you know why? She sounded so very tired. Both times. Giving birth, even when things go well, is exhausting. I hope she is able to rest there in the hospital before going home.

This new little life’s PaPa, my hubby, will be checking in with the growing family today. And my flight is already booked for the middle of June so I can help out a bit. And visit. And play. And now playing will be more fun because there will be two little boys! Two grandsons! I’ll have to plan what books to read with them when I get there.

This past Tuesday at the library was the Pizza Day! Not only did our Administration treat us to several varieties of pizza, they treated us to several different pizza shops! What a way to go guys! I walked right up for my favorite “chain-restaurant delivery” pizza – Pizza Hut vegetarian. Mmmm…….OK, so I prefer the thin crust, and this pizza was not thin crust, but it was still very tasty. I went back for a second piece and it was all gone! I guess everyone likes the vege. But I found another kind to devour and I did. All of it. I mean all of the ONE piece, not the whole pizza! Even I couldn’t do that. Did someone say “gooey cheese”? Yes, there was gooey, gooey cheese on top of those little morsels of nutrition. Mmmmm…….wish it was Pizza Day again today at the library! I’d even go back and pack more boxes and move more books, even on my day off, if it meant more gooey cheese!

At Houlihan’s they have an appetizer I really like: goat cheese, Kalamata tapenade, finely chopped tomatoes, a few spring greens with balsamic vinegar, and really crispy bread/cracker thingies. And I believe there is seasoned salt on the cheese. I made something similar this week and placed it on Ritz crackers. Oh my goodness! It was SO good! And it made for a very healthy supper. Only I left off the greens. So there were no veges. No, wait, I think I substituted a few raw carrots for the greens. More sugar than greens, I know, but at least it was a vegetable. Well, this weekend I am going to do that again. I bought more goat cheese and will use the small food processor to chop up my tomatoes and olives. I chopped my olives in this processor the last time, only I didn’t have many Kalamata olives, so I mixed in some green ones stuffed with pimento. What a grand idea! The less expensive green ones “stretched” the olive mixture, and the purple, green, and red all mixed together was really quite attractive. I believe what I made was not an official tapenade, because it consisted of just olives. But it was still so delicious! I liked it anyway.

I want to go to Howie’s this morning to take my recyclables. On the way back I can stop by People’s and buy some almonds, pecans, and more Amy’s salsa. But after all that I want to come back home, park the car, and walk to town and the mall. I’d really like to buy a hat of some kind to keep the sun off my face. Wearing sunscreen all the time really helps, but the sun out here is quite something! Plus, maybe Emerald City Market has fudge today? And some of that “fruit only” jam that I need? Yes, I need the jam and I need the fudge. How else am I going to walk to and from Poyntz today? Have you ever tried to drive a car with no fuel? Doesn’t work. Good thing Emerald City Market is on Poyntz, now, or I’d never be able to walk back home!

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I really enjoy Radina’s Coffee in the mornings, sitting there at my little table, surrounded by “my” regulars, and often visiting with my Manhattan buds. But today I decided on Starbucks, and I am enjoying it here as well. I’m enjoying their music, which is surprising. Because the last few times I’ve been in a Starbucks they play jazz. Jazz is very popular right now, but…..well….I just don’t like it. Dunno why, but I just do not. I’m listening to a mixture of soul or old R&B – I’m not sure of the term for this genre. It’s just really smooth, and I like it just fine. And the coffee is tasty, too! Um, I like a little fat with my morning coffee, so there is half & half in that cup, making it sooooo smooth. Perfect creamy companion for the music.

The rest of this blog entry today is not my usual “about food.” The rest of this posting is more about public policy. So, I thought I’d share that info early in case you are just totally not interested and want to sign off now!

I read last night that our U.S. Senate passed the Credit Card bill H.R. 627, a bill that would make it more difficult for credit card companies to raise interest rates on already existing bank accounts. The title of this bill begins with: To amend the Truth in Lending Act to establish fair and transparent practices………. I love it!! Many banks (maybe all?), for years, have been using this practice of “changing the rules in the middle of the ballgame”, which in my opinion is just plain wrong. It may be legal, but I believe it to be very dishonest. Even though this practice is written in the midst of the several pages of rules, and we can read it all before we sign, it is conveniently “hidden” in there. Which makes me very excited about the phrase “transparent practices” in the title. So maybe the word I should have used earlier in this paragraph was deceitful, not dishonest.

It has not been a personal problem for me until recently when the credit card we use on a regular basis did the same thing. I called and rejected the new rate, which means I am still charged at the old rate, but I can no longer use the card. If I do use the card in any way (other than pay my payments to eliminate the balance), the interest rate will automatically jump up 6 points. Sure, we should not have a balance. We should pay it off each month, but like many people, we have not. I am simply very grateful this morning that our outstanding debt is way below the national average.

It is ultimately our own responsibility not to run up debt, but that doesn’t leave these banks totally UN-responsible, either. It was so much easier to make a large purchase when I was a young adult. If we needed to make a large purchase, such as a car repair, new tires, or a new washer and/or dryer, we could go to the bank and borrow those few hundred dollars with a “good faith” loan. And we did that several times, because we had a history of paying on time each month.

But that practice is not around any longer. At least certainly not at the banks I have used for the last 20 years! By giving us credit cards, they encourage us to use it when someone says “Hey! Let’s go out to lunch.” In my mind I know I only have $3 in my wallet, but I also know I can use that credit card. And the banks know the cycle will continue and their profits will skyrocket higher than if I had only borrowed the $400 and had no card. At least now most bank account debit cards have the Visa or Master Card emblem, and we can use money directly from our checking accounts to book flights and reserve hotel rooms, making us more accountable to ourselves on a daily basis.

In the long haul, I hope this economic fiasco will help us all get out of debt, because now we are getting more serious about saving money and spending less. I say that rather easily, though, because neither I nor my hubby have lost our jobs. Nor our home. Yet.

I am reminded of the time during the early part of last year, when George W. and a few others were saying, “The economy is still strong.” It was as if they said it enough times, the statement would become true! It didn’t. And the people that were already losing their jobs knew it then. So now our Congress is busier than ever because too many of our leaders (not just President Bush and fellow Republicans) tried to sweep away our problem.

Anyway, the bill will next move through the House of Representatives. The Senate passed the bill with an overwhelming positive vote of 90 “yeas”, 5 “nays” and 4 “not voting”. To our senators I reply, “What a way to cross the aisle!!” And I’m hoping the House will do the same. And I also hope this new bill will really help “Main Street America”.

Thank you. And I vote. And I hope you do, too!

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Thoughts in my head this morning. Just darn too many! Lucky for you I won’t make you listen to all of them. But one thought I have concerns our desire for more information, or our desire for the lack of information. I’m thinking about many things we do in our lives that really are not good for us. Or are they? Therein lies the desire for lack of information. [As I have often read, it is easy to make a decision when you don’t have all the information.]

When an environmental group discovers that a new building project will harm or totally eliminate a tiny fish or insect, and they petition to have the project stopped, the rest of us talk about the nuts that want to stop that wonderful bridge to protect an insignificant creature. Why, it might be something we don’t even eat! Who cares?

Well, I’m not sure I really care either. But I am sure I don’t know enough to make that decision. If that fish disappears, and in a few years we discover that the fish emitted a certain element, or provided food for something that provided food for something I DID want to keep around (like catfish), then I’d be sorry. Or maybe it is a bug that would naturally harm that beetle that kills so many pine trees. I’m not sure anyone can know all that every creature contributes to our lives. And when we recognize our inability to know everything about the earth, we shouldn’t be so quick to discount any creature. Or any plant. Ever.

And speaking of plants, I need to eat more of them. Soon the local Farmers’ Market will be offering some of my favorite goodies, and I will be over-spending my money every Saturday. Every week. Squash, corn, okra, tomatoes, potatoes, and kale. And corn. And more corn.

This weekend I made a really tasty salad of edamame, craisins, and feta cheese. Flavored with a little basil, finely chopped onion, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Oh my it was so delicious! I have a little left in the refrigerator I could take for lunch today, but because of the extra physical labor involved in our work lately (yes, Virginia, librarians can also perform physical labor), we are being served pizza for lunch! Will there be onions? mushrooms? and lots of gooey cheese? Oh my! Oh my oh my oh my! Yes, gooey cheese. So tonight I will have the rest of the edamame salad for supper. And if I don’t get enough cheese for lunch, I could accompany that salad with a grilled cheese sandwich, made with both American and Swiss cheeses. A true United Nations sandwich.

I also made one of my favorite “jello” salads this past weekend, one that my grandmother use to make. It’s pretty healthy with low-fat cottage cheese and crushed pineapple and a few more goodies, but I’m not so sure what is in that little box of sugar-free lime gel mix. I mean, to taste so limey, and to be so green, and to be perfectly sweet without natural sugar. Do I read the box to find out? No……hmmmm……here in lies my own secret desire for lack of information! I’ve started taking all the ingredients, except the jello and water, and mixing them in the blender. Then pouring that creamy white into the jello. It’s pretty because it becomes kinda swirly looking. And it is so smooth it tastes and feels like a mousse. So then it becomes a dessert to my lunch instead of a side dish. Ummmm, I just might need to have some of that with my breakfast! Not so sure I can wait until later today!

Yes, I will wait. My breakfast this morning is my usual home-mixed muesli. I make it up every night in a bowl so that it is ready for breakfast. That way, in the morning I can spend more time on my computer! I start with a commercial raisin bran, add a portion of ground up flax seed, some wheat bran, and last night I toasted a few almonds and set them on top. Sometimes I add more raisins or raw oatmeal (not the instant kind). You know, variety. Then, around 9:00 or 10:00am I will have one-half an apple. Sigh…..such a creature of habit. However, I do have a warning about wheat bran. When you have a stuffy head, and have to breathe through your mouth, avoid the wheat bran! Really. How many times in the past have I been in that situation, started to take a bite, breathe in through my mouth, and suck that wheat bran right down my throat! Really, you could choke to death! No amount of milk stabilizes that wheat bran.

Well, just so I don’t leave you with the false impression that I eat healthy all the time, know I made a trip to Emerald City Market this weekend and bought a piece of fudge. And ate it. All of it. At one time. Now, I was not going there this weekend, but a friend ask me to go with him to help him pick out a gift. And I heard God saying to me, “Yes, you can have fudge again this weekend. I will help you get there.” And God picked me up and put me into that passenger seat in that car, and the next thing I knew there was nothing between me and that fudge but a piece of glass. Thank you so much, God. It was delicious!!

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Thought I would bring you up-to-date a bit on what I have been doing and what tasty nibblets I have experienced lately. I actually posted last weekend as well, but after reading my words the next day, well……they just read kinda lame, so I removed the post. So I’m going to try again!

Last Saturday was a beautiful day here in Manhattan, Kansas, and I walked over 8 miles, just around my small city, looking at the yards as homeowners are getting out and upgrading their landscaping. Flowers are blooming; hostas all look so green; it was a fantastic day! As much as I love Kansas, toward the end of the winter I get very tired of the brown. Almost every tree and blade of grass is brown. Everywhere. Brown. So when I see the green hostas I truly get excited! Thank you fellow Manhattanites – for providing me with the green. As much as I love flowers, the green replacing the brown is what really lifts my spirits!

I walked to my own People’s Grocery that day and purchased a few bulk items (I had depleted my supply of not only the wild rice blend, but also brown rice. oops!), and some Amy’s salsa. I’ve been on a beans and rice and salsa kick for quite some time, so I keep running out of the main ingredients! I’m not a fan of Amy’s frozen foods, but Amy’s salsa is organic and tasty, and it offers a little something extra I like: a useful and functional jar.

Many of you know that I will often pay extra for a product in a glass jar for the “eco” reasons. Whenever possible, I avoid plastic. Well, so far all salsas I find are in glass, but Amy’s jar is heavy and a little square instead of round. Plus, the top is colorful! So Amy’s jars are the ones I especially like to save for storage. When I re-use them they fit well on the counter or in the cabinet. Amy’s should advertise that after these jars are empty, they “play well with others”.

I went out to lunch one day with a professor that seems very organized in her thoughts. I can be organized with my things, but not so often with my thoughts! She talked with me about the article I’m struggling to write after so many hours of research and a failed first attempt at putting it on paper. What was so wonderful was the fact that she didn’t tell me what to do, she simply asked me questions, making me look at my own work and figuring it out on my own. And while we talked, I ate a delicious salmon salad with a little sweet dressing. I couldn’t finish it all, but the productive lesson, fun conversation, and healthy “brain” food made for a magnificent break in a busy day.

Yesterday I walked just a little over 6 miles, once more enjoying extraordinary Kansas weather. It was not too warm, and I guess I would describe it as a hefty breezy day. You know, more than a gentle breeze but not enough to blow your head off. Again I walked on various streets admiring the green and flowers, but I went to Poyntz instead of People’s.

I needed to purchase the new book for our Ft. Riley/K-State Professional Reading Group, and I decided to go to Walden’s in the mall since someone told me they had a copy. Plus, it gave me an excuse to get out and walk again. I treated myself to a butter and salted soft pretzel and water for a lunch-snack. I didn’t call it a lunch because it wasn’t quite enough to call it a balanced meal. But whatever it was – it was great. Ah……bread with butter and salt. Yeah, not too nourishing.

On my way back home I stopped at Jo-Ann Fabric and Crafts on Poyntz and purchased a few beads to make another necklace. I just make simple necklaces and earrings from time to time, but this way I can acquire just the colors I like without spending too much money.

And then, before I knew it, there was Emerald City Market. Right there. On my right. With a huge OPEN sign on the door. OK, so the sign isn’t huge, but I tell myself it is so I can blame the store for encouraging my weakness for their fudge. Really. It is Larry’s and Clark’s fault that I buy their fudge. Always their fault.

First, of course, I browse the store, pretending I’m a sophisticate that is interested in the chinaware, cappuccino machines, gourmet tapenades, and luscious pastas. [And sometimes I really am interested in those items, just not today.] No need to tip them off early that I am just in there for my creamy fudge fix! What do I want today? Plain milk chocolate? The dulce de leche? Chocolate with the creamy coconut filling? I decide on the chocolate with the praline filling, and believe me – Emerald City did not disappoint! Oh my oh my! It was all I could do just to take a few bites before I got home. Really. It was hard to stop munching!

This week I also devoured a delicious burrito with lots of black beans and salsa and cheese. My neighbor Larry introduced me to cranberry juice with a little diet tonic water, and I’ve been enjoying that right often. And there was some baked chicken along the way, French fries I made from scratch, tomato bisque (lots of 2% milk and a little cream), and, of course, peanut butter. I almost always keep 2 or 3 Ritz and natural peanut butter crackers in my drawer at work for when the hunger pangs attack! However, this weekend I stocked up on celery, which makes a healthier base for the peanut butter. And after a week of fudge and French fries, we all know how the health component is most important to me! Truly, it is. But for some reason lately all I want is comfort food, and I better quit it, or too soon there will be too much of me to comfort!

All in all, yesterday was a wonderful start for a beautiful Mother’s Day weekend! Happy Mother’s Day to all Mamas including me!

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