Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sunday Trip to Grandma Jo's

Jack Aidan came with Mommy and Daddy to Grandma Jo's for pancakes and to see Auntie Jeanine. Of course, Jack Aidan had to model for us another brand new outfit. This was a preppy little green overall outfit. Then he went into the hood when he tried on Auntie Maria's turtle bath blanket. Maybe it was that little turtle or the little piggy from Sweet Bev that got him laughing out loud. At any rate he was a delightful little Sunday guest.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

What To Serve With Duck Farts

I had a Duck Fart Party on Thursday for the ladies. I like to think French at all times so I called it The Ducque Pharte Party. But what do you serve ladies at 6:00 P.M. on a very hot and humid August day in Virginia? Well, I skipped the tray of veggies and dip because I have the type of friends who save their weekly calories for a party. And when the chance to party arrives they pass up the veggie tray and head straight to the good and rich stuff. So I served things that would go well with scotch and water or bourbon and water: mixed nuts, olives in sherry vinegar, rustic bread with assorted cheeses and bean salad. The ladies liked the beans. See end of post for this recipe and some others. Two of the ladies were coming straight from work and a long commute (If you live in NO VA., you know what a long commute is.) so I thought I better have something substantial for a main course at the dining room table. So I relied on my old Christmas morning brunch recipe: Shrimp Curried Eggs with Croissants. At this point some of us switched to white wine for drinking though one member insisted that she stays with whatever she first starts to drink at a party so I passed her the bottle of Makers Mark Bourbon. Finally we moved on to dessert and the Duck Farts that I discovered in Alaska this spring. A Duck Fart is a shot drink and it can be found at The Red Dog Saloon in Juneau. It consists of Kahlua, Bailey's Irish Creme and Canadian Crown Royal. You layer this in a shot glass in the order given above. It helps to put just a glaze of Crown Royal in the shot by using a spoon and if you go down the side of the shot glass you can get a nice layered shot. Here are my recipes for a Ducque Pharte Party or plain old Duck Fart Party.

Sherried Olives

Just pour out the regular vinegar and place olives in a nice glass serving
compote and pour sherry vinegar on olives to cover completely.

Hot Day Bean Salad

This is a whole protein meal if you pass the bread with it. Use your colander to drain and rinse each type of canned bean and vegetable that you want to use. Thursday I had white cannelli beans, red kidney beans and white shoepeg corn. In the past I have also used green lima beans and those beige garbanzo beans. Whatever you think you would like to use and have on hand in the pantry. Then add one half cup of each of the following chopped veggies: green onions, the inner stalks of celery with onions and carrots. Flavor this bean salad with one chopped clove of garlic, some chopped basel leaves and ground salt and pepper. Then stir in some salad dressing to finish the salad. In the past I have used Vidalia Onion dressing or Italian Dressing but on Thursday I used bottled Ranch Dressing. Like all salads add what you like and flavor with your favorite dressing. This takes about 15 minutes to throw together and is great for that hot summer evening when you don't feel like standing at the stove cooking. And if you use Italian Dressing this is a good picnic salad because you don't have to worry about food spoiling in the heat.

Shrimp Curried Eggs

This recipe has several steps:

#1 Let a pound of frozen shrimp thaw out in the sink for later use.
#2 Hardboil a dozen eggs and shell them and cut them in half for "
deviled curried eggs.
#3 Take the yolks and make the curried deviled eggs by using the following
ingredients to flavor the yolks: pinch of salt, pinch of paprika and 4-5
pinches of curry powder. Bind yolks together with about one third cup
of mayonnaise. Then stuff the whites with the yolks. Place these eggs
in a buttered 11 x 13 pyrex casserole.
#4 Make a white sauce in a saucepan by melting 3 T. butter with 3 T. flour.
Thicken the roux with one and half cups of regular milk. Then flavor
this white sauce with some salt, pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of curry
powder. You decide how much curry you want in the sauce by tasting.
#5 Dress up this sauce with 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese, 1 soup can
of cream of shrimp soup. Taste again to adjust seasonings. Lastly
throw in the pound of shrimp and remove from heat. Pour this sauce
over the eggs in the casserole.
#6 Take two slices of bread and put in food processor to make some
fresh bread crumbs. (Don't use storebought dry crumbs! Yuch!)
Spread lightly the fresh moist crumbs over the casserole dish. Then
cover casserole with foil and put in the fridge for next day.

Next day bake the casserole in a 350 degrees oven for around 35 minutes or until the sauce begins to bubble up. Do remove casserole from fridge about an hour before baking so it can come to room temperature. I like to
serve this with either fresh fruit for brunch or with a naked lettuce salad
for a light supper.

Grand Dames Chilled

This is a chocolate refrigerator cookie that tastes great with a Duck Fart Shot. Ingredients: 1 stick of butter melted and poured over 1 heaping cup of crushed graham cracker crumbs. Pat firmly into bottom of 11 x 9 baking pan. Then spread a 12 oz. bag of chocolate baking chips over the crumbs.
Then spread a 12 oz. bag of shredded coconut over the chocolate chips. For the top layer use a spoon to spread evenly a 14 oz. can of sweetened Borden's condensed milk over the coconut and chips.

Place this into a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until is just melts and browns. Cut the grande dames into long
bar cookies while still warm and place on serving dish. Refrigerate grande dames so they are well chilled. Then they become grande dames: cool ladies with sweet delectible hearts.

Final comment for Duck Fart Blog:
My younger daugher's Mother's Day present to me this year was a cute Duck Fart Kit. It had all the ingredients for making those duck farts and had a little green wooden duck that looked like he had just passed some gas and was totally embarrassed! My daugher wrote this on her card: To Mommy (a woman who will try anything) From Jeanine (a girl who can spell fart!) The spelling reference was to remind us that the night before she went off to kindergarten she told us much to our dismay that she was going to tell her new teacher that she was ready for kindergarten because she knew how to spell fart: f-a-r-t fart.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Most Memorable Birthday Party

This past Saturday night our neighbor Ken turned 60 and his wife Tracy surprised him with a most memorable birthday party at their home. Jack and I attended and were enraptured with the party. The birthday invitation requested that everyone wear white which was a wonderful idea. The guests looked like something from a F. Scott Fitzgerald book or a party at The Rosecliff in Newport, RI. And our birthday guest of honor looked smashing in a white suit. There were many memorable moments at the party: the trio of caterers who attended to your libations and food needs; the flautist who played for us in the living room; the singer who serenaded the birthday honoree and the magical lights on the yard umbrellas and flickering candles on the deck. But the most memorable moment was the moment when each guest was told to pick up a silver balloon for the late evening balloon launch in the yard. Suddenly all the guests (average age of guest was between 40 and 50 or more) turned into excited little kids who had a balloon on a string to play with and then release. And what a wonderful sight to see over 100 silver balloons float up in the night sky to the moon. See attached photos for a glimpse of this most memorable birthday party.

Aldie Mill in Aldie, VA

This is the old historic Aldie Mill in Aldie, VA which is on route 50 near Middleburg, VA where Jackie Kennedy Onassis would go horse riding. We toured it two weeks ago for the first time. Our tour guide was Joe and he gave us and hour and half in depth tour of the buildings and grounds. In September there will be a festival at this mill. Some common expressions that originated at mills:

Keep Your Nose to the Grindstone means keep your eye on the milling
or else you may clog up the millworks. I better keep my nose to the
grindstone to finish this blog today.

Put through the mill means to be put between two stones and ground
up. When you go to college you are put through the mill.

Run of the mill means what is normally ground up at the mill. The
Aldie Mill's run of the mill was wheat and corn.

Have a millstone around one's neck means to have a heavy burden
to solve. According to Al Gore the global warming problem is a
millstone around our world's neck.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Elvis: The Life and The Legend

When I was in grade school two singers came on the national scene: Elvis Presley and Pat Boone. Fifty years later and one is alive but forgotten while the other is dead but not to be forgotten. Love him or hate him but do admit that Elvis was the most unique entertainer that America has ever produced. And Graceland has to be the most unique home of an entertainer. The number crunchers say that excepting the White House which now is off limits to most people Graceland is the most visited tourist home in America. Graceland outsells Washington's Mount Vernon, Lincoln's log cabin in Ky, the Hearst Castle in California, the Biltmore Estate in NC and the Marble House in RI. And I dare anyone to make it thru the house and memorial gardens without shedding a tear or two. Yes, the entire place is a time capsule of mid 20'th century American consumerism.

And much of it is tacky looking, especially the shag carpet on the ceiling in the jungle room in the basement. But that is what America was all about in the 50's, 60's and 70's: Penny's and Murphy's and the local mom and pop furniture stores supplied the new middle class Americans who were enjoying the post WWII economic growth. Now it is 2007 and we have tastefully decorated rooms on HGTV to show us what to purchase and
display in our homes. Williams Sonoma and Pottery Barn are the arbitrating stores of choice for us. Maybe 50 years from now we will be back to the Elvis look in home taste. Now wouldn't that be a hoot.

But why do we cry when we go to Graceland? Even people who never cared for Elvis's music and style shed tears. I think we cry as much for ourselves as for Elvis. We are weeping over our lost youth and innocence. The Elvis look may return in fifty years but never will we go back to the world as we knew it in the 50's, 60's and 70's. We had terrible events during those generations but nothing like what we face today in our world. Soldiers were killed in Vietnam at an alarming rate but they were not beheaded or slaughtered like some are in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today's terrorists make all of us want to return to the heyday of Elvis in America. As for Pat Boone. Well, even he in his old age has adopted some of the Elvis look: black leather and big rings and longer hair. It just takes some people longer to get their groove on.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Hummingbird Personalities

We have two hummingbird feeders and four hummingbirds who are frequenting the food stations.
I've learned this summer by watching them that hummingbirds have personalities. I've named our four hummingbirds according to their personalities:
Hummer, the all American good hummingbird.
Humms, the zen female hummingbird who is my favorite.
Hip Hop, the hummingbird that flies like a little bunny going hop, hip, hop near the ground.
Helter Skelter, the hummingbird from Hell.

Well, you ask, how do tell their gender? I don't know. But I think Humms acts like a girl. She likes to sit on the rose trellis near the feeder and just contemplate life in my flower garden. She is like in a tranquil zen state. But then along comes Helter Skelter, the little bully, and he knocks her off her meditation pedestal by dive bombing her. I can just picture Humms saying to herself: these guys are so juvenile! When are they going to grow up?

Hummer is the biggest drinker. When he comes to the feeder attached to my breakfast room window I can see his little mouth (beak?) gulping down the sugar water and his little wings are beating so fast that I can see the illusion of four wings: two going up and two going down.

Hip Hop is the funniest flyer. He skims the ground in a series of hip hops instead of helicopter moves that most hummingbirds use.

Helter Skelter is just plain mean. I can't think of anything good to say about him. He hides in the shrubs and trees and then does sneak attacks on the other birds at the feeder and poor Humms on her rose trellis perch.

Two of these hummingbirds like to fly together in a vertical rocket formation. They look like the Air Force Blue Angels doing tricks in the air. They will fly straight up in the air---higher than our two story house. Then they break formation and fly off in a dive in two different directions. What a sight to see.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Farmers Market at Heritage Hunt

Now that Heathcote Blvd is up and running we have discovered a wonderful Farmers Market at the entrance to Heritage Hunt. The market is open for business under tents on Tuesday mornings. Take a look at the beautiful heirloom tomatoes, yellow pattypan squash, white eggplants, colorful peppers and sweet cabbage that I bought. There is also a gentleman selling African style handwoven baskets and a Mennonite family selling baked goods. The bread and cherry pie were delicious! In addition there are vendors selling organic meat and
honey products. So mark your calendars and cruise down Heathcote
to the Farmers Market. You will find
great things to purchase and the vendors are a lot of fun to talk to too.
I got into a long discussion with one
lady about Paula Dean's appearence on the Larry King Show. We got to discussing Paula's longtime affair with a married man. Paula warned the viewers that that was a bad mistake on her part. An affair with a married man will just give you bread crumbs--no bread. And there you have it from the mouth of Paula Dean.

Randy Wright April 1958-August 2007

Randy Wright
April 1958 - August 2007

In Memory of Jack's Nephew

Birth is a beginning
and death a destination
And life is a journey:
From childhood to maturity
and youth to age;
From innocence to awareness
and ignorance to knowing;
From foolishness to desecration
and then perhaps to wisdom.
From weakness to strength or
from strength to weakness
and often back again;
From health to sickness
and we pray to health again.
From offense to forgiveness
from loneliness to love
from joy to gratitude
from pain to compassion
from grief to understanding
from fear to faith.
From defeat to defeat to defeat
until looking backwards or ahead
We see that victory lies not
at some high point along the way
but in having made the journey
step by step
a sacred pilgrimage.
Birth is a beginning
and death a destination
And life is a journey;
A sacred journey to life everlasting
Author Unknown

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

What To Do When It Is So Hot

The heat this week in Northern Virginia is oppressive to say the least. Thank goodness we have a nice home with air conditioning. I just hope we don't have a power black out this week. When it is this hot I start to remember other times that I have been hot, hot, hot!!!!!!!! When I was little and living on a farm in Ohio we had to keep the windows open and pray for a breeze because we didn't have any air conditioning back in the '50s and '60s. When we couldn't fall asleep upstairs we would go down to the cool and damp basement and sleep on an old couch. One of the hottest farm jobs to do in the summer was unloading a wagon load of hay with the help of an elevator. The one on the wagon had it the easiest. The ones in the hay mow really sweated through the undertaking. My Dad always insisted that everyone have a nice cold glass of homemade sweet lemonade before heading back out to the hayfield. I still remember the lemonade recipe:
4 lemons rolled then cut and squeezed
1 and half cups of sugar
and enough water to fill the pitcher to the very top

I also can remember two extremely hot days in Arizona. The first occurred in the '70s but let me tell you first about the one that occurred in July of 1989. My husband and I had taken our two daughters to Arizona for a long visit with friends and relatives. While in Phoenix we wanted to show our girls the campus of Arizona State in Tempe. Wow, was it hot in Tempe in July of 1989. Temps each day were approaching 116 degrees. Now that is hot, hot, hot! My husband always likes to say when people gasp at that number that it isn't so bad because it is a dry heat not a humid heat like back in the southeast. Well, let me tell you how you too can experience a dry heat----set your oven on 116 degrees and after the oven warms up put your hand in the oven to see how it feels. Now try to imagine how your whole body would feel in the oven. That's Arizona in the summer. Here are some more heat experiences in Arizona in July:

Use oven mitts or gloves to touch your car handles after a day of work or sightseeing.
You can burn your hands on the car doors. Erma Bombeck wrote about that.

Don't ever open a car sitting in the sun and just hop in to drive. Open all the doors and let
the built up heat escape first.

Don't sit down in a hot car that has leather or vinyl seats while wearing shorts. You will grill
your legs and buttocks to a crisp.

Don't ship your pet by air to or from Phoenix's Sky Harbor in July heat. If the plane sits
on the runway the poor pet will be baked to death in the cargo hold.

Try not to fly in the heat. Heat can stress the metal of the plane and lead to an accident.

Well, I think you get the picture. Arizona in July is hot, hot, hot! So here we are in Tempe on the campus of ASU and we are showing an amazed nine year old and a stupefied thirteen year old the sights. How hot was it? It was so hot that all of us decided then and there that if we managed to get to our car and to get the car cooled enough for entering and driving, we would never ever in a million years consider sending our daughters to school in Arizona. The problem was reaching the car without passing out in the heat since many of the campus buildings in the summer were locked so we couldn't rely on walking through buildings to get to the car. We used our campus map to plan strategic moves across campus: walk along the overhang of this building till you get here, then walk quickly as you can in this heat to reach those palm trees for shade, then walk by the trees next to that building over there, etc. We finally were able to do a retreat by car from ASU and our two daughters promised themselves and us that they would not apply to any Arizona universities. Suddenly the University of Virginia and James Madison University started looking pretty good. And that folks is how we avoided paying out of state college tuition. It just took one trip to Arizona in July to do the trick.

My other story about Arizona summer heat occurred one August day in 1975 after I returned from summer school at the University of Kentucky. Jack's mom mentioned that there used to be an old marble mine in the mountain range near Bowie and the Cochise Stronghold. Well, before we had thoroughly thought through this plan, we jumped in the truck and set out to find the marble mine and our fortunes. Mom directed my husband on where she thought that marble mine might be. Soon we had left the paved highway and were on dirt roads and then we were bouncing and banging around over no roads---just rocks and cactus. Then Jack's mom announced that this was just the beginning of the trail and that we were all going to have to get out and hike the rest of the way on foot. On foot! Well, my flip flops were not exactly hiking boots. Mom had on sensible mom shoes and Jack had on his sneakers so they were in better foot gear than me. So we walked and walked and walked and climbed and climbed and climbed but we didn't see anything that looked like a cave opening with a marble mine inside. We did run into some billy goats and some aggressive female geese that were intent on blocking our path by biting our legs and butts. This last experience led to a hasty decision to give up on making our fortunes by finding that marble mine. In the meantime the hot sun was bearing down on us. In the shade it must have been at least 100 degrees and remember that we didn't have shade. We just had rocks and cactus and heat. Why we had left in such a rush of enthusiasm that we didn't even have hats, water or sunscreen for protection. If I am ever in a presidential debate and someone asks me to give a past mistake I won't pull a Gulliani. I will answer immediately that my big mistake was making that trip with my husband and mother-in-law to find that marble mine near Bowie, Arizona. What a stupid thing to do. We did finally make it on foot back to the truck and we did a reverse trek over no roads, then dirt roads to interstate #10 and Mom's house trailer in Bowie. Jack and I both agree that the best shower we ever had in our entire married life was after that little adventure in the desert.

So what to do now that it is so hot outside? Stay inside and don't get any bright ideas. Just chill out like your house pets. They know better than to go out in this heat except for a quick trip to the outdoor potty.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

I Want A Phone That Works!!!

Jack and I have been caught up in the downfall of our phone provider, Sun Rocket. Our phone service promptly up and stopped on July 16. A couple of days earlier the company sent us a final email message stating that they were no longer accepting service calls and ended with the statement: good by. We thought that message was very abrupt and rude but we had no idea as to what was coming at us next. We learned thru the Washington Post that Sun Rocket was going bankrupt overnight and that the CEO broke the news to the employees, then fired them. She then announced that she was resigning as CEO. She picked up her purse and briefcase and walked out the door. Well, that left us with no home phone service except for cell phone service. This all happened three weeks ago and we have been trying to get new service since then. Apparently there is a wait period for going from one phone service to another if you want to keep your same phone number. The thought of changing numbers and having to change our personal checks and notify all friends, relatives and businesses of the new number was not a pleasant thought. So we have been trying to be patient but after two and half weeks we are about to throw a hissy fit. What's taking so long! In the meantime we have been reading in the Post horror stories from other former Sun Rocket customers---like the lady about to deliver a baby and no phone access to call her husband to tell him to take her to the hospital ASAP! And we have our own horror story. This week we asked the new provider to give us a temporary phone number to use till we can be checked out or whatever it is they need to do before they start our service up again with the old number. Well, this new temp number apparently was last used as a fax number. So now we are breaking our -uts to get to the phone when it rings and all we get for our efforts is a fax machine beeping in our ear. Oh, and yes, of course this phone dis-service began the month after we paid our phone provider in advance for two years worth of service. I don't think we will get a dime from this company that has filed bankruptcy so abruptly. Trials and tribulations. If you run across the former CEO of Sun Rocket, give her the old heave ho.

Hobos, Bums and Tramps and Memoirs

I love a good memoir or autobiography. My top twelve favorite autobiographies or memoirs are:
#12 Edward Ball: Slaves in the Family (South Carolina and Georgia)
#11 Thomas Vogel: Growing Up in Vietnam (Minnesota and Vietnam)
#10 Katherine Graham: Personal History (Washington D.C. and Virginia)
#9 Willie Nelson: Willie An Autobiography (Texas and all 50 states)
8 Roze Zar: In The Mouth of The Wolf (Warsaw, Poland and the Nazis)
#7 Nathaniel Fick: One Bullet Away (Quantico, Afghanistan and Iraq)
#6 Chaim Potok: Davita's Harp (Jewish New York 1930's and 1940's)
#5 Rick Atkinson: Long Gray Line, From West Point to Vietnam and After--
The Turbulent Odyssey of the Class of 1966 (West Point to Vietnam)

#4 Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (Holland and the Nazis)
#3 Jeannette Walls: The Glass Castle (West Virginia, the Southwest and NYC)
#2 Malcome X: The Autobiography of Malcome X (Omaha, Michigan and NY)
#1 Louis L'Amour: Education of a Wandering Man (North Dakota, the West)

, the number one memoir in my opinion is the Lous L'Amour's memoir of his life that he wrote just months before he knew that he was going to die from cancer. It is the story of his wandering thru both life and books: from simple western beginnings in Jamestown, North Dakota to Singapore to Klamath Lake in Oregon to Kingman, Arizona to World War II battlefields in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany, to New York City and Hollywood and finally to his Colorado ranch. And while Louis was wandering over the earth he was wandering thru any book that he could find. What I like best about this memoir is that Louis kept lists of all the books he had ever read in his lifetime. What an astounding thing to do.
The lists show how books influenced his life and his writings. Every time I check his list of books read I think to myself: now why haven't I read that yet?

The reason I'm writing about my favorite memoir books is that thru my neighborhood book club I have found a memoir that has leapfrogged to #3 on my list. The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls is the story of a young girl living in a very dysfunctional family. Holy Cow, what a strange story! This has to be a memoir because nobody could dream up such weird circumstances and characters in a book. It is simply too, too wild to be fiction. Robbyn, what a great book selection. I can't wait to discuss it his Friday nite at your house.

And the reason I'm labeling today's blog Hobos, Bums and Tramps and Memoirs is that I happened to pick up L'Amour's memoir and read the passage about hobos, bums and tramps. Do you know the difference between the three? According to L'Amour a bum is a local person who doesn't want to work to make a living while a tramp is a wandering adventurer who doesn't want to work to make a living. In contrast L'Amour described his early career years as a hobo: a person who wanders around the country to earn a living. A hobo is a person to be admired. Well, in The Glass Castle the father is the bum, the mother is the tramp and the second daughter is the hobo who makes it from a rain soaked shack in West Virginia to an Ivy League university (Bernard) and a journalism job with MSNBC in New York and Washington.
(An aside: during the depression years my mother fed a lot of hobos who traveled from town to town by train. She spoke well of them all except for the one who threw her fried egg sandwich in the road ditch after she stopped her chores to make him lunch.) And while we were on our cross country road trip we bought a CD of famous train songs and one of them was the Hobo's Lullaby. I told Jack that I needed to learn the lyrics so that I could entertain our grandson. Jack, however, questioned whether Daddy Karras wanted his son referred to as a little hobo: Go to sleep, you little hobo.....

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Baby Jack's Baseball Team

This past week Baby Jack got to prove to his paternal grandparents that he is going to be a little Boston Red Sox fan. Terry and Patty drove down from Cape Cod to see their newest grandchild and they came bearing gifts for the whole family. Grandpa K, the electric man, promply installed a ceiling fan above Jack's crib for those warm summer evenings. However, in return Baby Jack had to take a baby oath. He had to swear that he would always support the Boston Red Sox. Please check out Baby Jack's baseball outfit in the photos.) It was a tough thing for Baby Jack to decide to support the Red Sox. If he had followed the baseball teams of his maternal grandmother born in Ohio, he could have chosen the Cincinatti Redlegs or the Cleveland Indians. And if he had chosen the Cleveland Indians, he would be sitting in first place in the American League right now! If Baby Jack had followed the baseball teams of his maternal grandfather born in Missouri, he could have chosen the St. Louis Cardinals or the Kansas City Royals as his favorite baseball team. But that didn't happen. He went with the Red Sox and he is proudly wearing a Red Sox outfit. He even has Red Sox baby socks! And Daddy Karras couldn't be happier right now. But here's a warning for Daddy. Lock the doors and keep Baby Jack's Aunt Jeanine at bay because she is threatening to sneak into the house and put a New York Yankees outfit on Baby Jack!