27 January 2016

A LITTLE FUNNY (or what's in a name?)

You might remember that I told you yesterday we had some business at the bank.  The young man we were meeting with was knowledgeable and efficient and pleasant, all those good things.  The subject of names came up when we were talking about how I sign my name on legal documents.  Practically all the girls on my maternal side are Mary something, and we all used to be called both names, back in the day, like a lot of little Southern children.  I also had two Aunt Marys on the maternal side who were "by-marriage aunts".  This doesn't even include boo-koodles of Marys several generations back.  I use my middle name and have since 7th grade (my mother always called me Ellen away), but there is only one cousin who is now called just Mary, mostly outside the family.  Those of us in the family who grew up with her still call her the cute nickname she hates.  ("Tunie" which is short for Petunia.  Ha! Adorable.)

But I digress...  After I produced my driver's license and the question of my legal name was raised, I mentioned in passing how it has caused some difficulties from time to time that I do go by my middle name, as did my father and probably a lot of other people.  (No, his first name was not Mary.)  It is just plain irritating, to tell you the truth.  I always wonder who people are talking to when they call out "Mary?" at the doctor's office -- than, oh, I guess they mean me.  I have actually thought of legally changing my name, but at my age, what's the point?  My father dropped his first name because it was not so much that he didn't like it, but it was his father's name, and since gramps was not a morally good person, my father did not want his name.  It was a weird name, anyway, so I probably would have dropped it myself.  Back in my father's day, before every last little thing about you including your DNA is stored on a computer chip somewhere, it was no big deal just to let it go.  Done deal.

Moving on...  Then my husband and I laughed, because we both thought about the story of both his parents' names and my FIL's sibs.  At the funeral of my FIL's sister a few years ago, we found out that ALL of the children in his family had been named for old movie stars!  


There was Gloria Swanson_____ (the guest of honor at the funeral), her pre-deceased brother Hal Kenneth _____, and my living FIL, Tom Mix _____!  So Sweet Husband and I had a chuckle, and the little banker looked baffled. As in totally blank.  Like, what's so funny?  Who are all those people?





    Film actor
    Thomas Edwin "Tom" Mix was an American film actor and the star of many early Western movies between 1909 and 1935. Mix appeared in 291 films, all but nine of which were silent movies. Wikipedia
    BornJanuary 6, 1880, Mix Run, PA
    DiedOctober 12, 1940, Florence, AZ
    SpouseMabel Ward (m. 1932–1940), More

The banker finally asked, "Who is Tom Mix?"  So we had to explain that all these people were old movie stars way back in the early days of the movies.  Tom Mix was of course a cowboy movie star, the predecessor of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry.  I think Hal Kenneth was some sort of leading man in silent films, although I do not know about his film credits or what he looked like.  I couldn't find anything on him.  




Of course, Gloria Swanson was the ultimate glamour (bad) girl of the 1930s when she was also the mistress of Joseph Kennedy,  bootlegger and father of JFK the president.  She was inconveniently married to someone else at the time, one of her six husbands.  When the son of Aunt Glo divulged this preference for star-studded names at her funeral in his eulogy, there was a great deal of tittering in the congregation.  It seems that during her life-long marriage, her husband (Skeeter) used to tease her, calling her "Swanson" when he wanted to get a rise out of her.  However, it turned out that Swanson was not her middle name after all!  They had just told her that all her life, and she always believed it as did everyone else.   

We think this is all pretty funny, too, but the old movie star allusions were totally lost on this kid at the bank...  This is the kind of thing that makes you feel old, you know?  These stars were before my time as well, but having always been star-struck (I was planning to be a movie star, remember?), I did know who two of them were when I heard this at the funeral.  Of course, I already knew about my FIL's name.  When we had our first wills drawn up not long after we married 25 years ago, the lawyer in Ft. Worth just couldn't contain himself.  He cracked up every time he read "Tom Mix _____" as we were reviewing the documents prior to signing.  

I have been called a lot of names over the years by various boyfriends and husbands, some of them cute, not all of them flattering.  These would include "Dah-lin'", "Princess", "Mae" for Mae West, "Miss Ellie" (gee, I wonder where he got that one?), "Elle" which I kind of liked, and my favorite so far -- "Dingbat".  That is the term of endearment my husband and I often use for each other because we were crazy about the show "All in the Family" and we are both kind of goofy ourselves.   We have watched the reruns a gazillion times, and it always makes us laugh when Archie would call Edith, "Dingbat."

We are easily amused...



Don't forget, if you want to comment on or follow a Google Blogger blog now, you must create a Google profile, but you do not have to have a blog.  The numbers on the Goggle Friend Connect feature on the sidebar of Google blogs continue to drop, and that is why.  So go get yourself a profile set up so I can see your smiling little face over there, OK?  You might have to follow me again once you do.







26 January 2016

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER DOLLAR

It is a dreary day, just typical late January I suppose, but we have business to attend soon, so this will be brief today.

I suppose I was having a "moment" yesterday because the thing I was talking about happens so often, not just on my blog, but others, too.  I often look through comments when I am preparing to leave one, mainly to see if someone else has already said what I might say.  If that opinion has already been expressed, I usually just move on.

I do appreciate everyone who reads this blog, even if you don't leave a comment.  I do get taken aback when I read one which clearly indicates that the commenter really did not read the post at all.  Maybe I am too wordy?  I will try to work on that.  Most of the "professional bloggers" now insist that you must have the photography skills of Ansel Adams to be a successful blogger, not to mention a camera costing thousands of dollars, but I do the best I can with the photography with what I have.

Technical pastimes are not my strong suit, anyway, but I think the writing is.  It is nice to be appreciated, and I thank everyone who commented on my little rant yesterday.  You all know I am pretty outspoken, and I suppose I just reached the saturation point.  









25 January 2016

IS ANYONE ACTUALLY READING THIS BLOG?

If you actually read the words in my last post, you realize that the "snow photo" I opened with is not what happened here in Alabama. (We only got a light dusting in some places, and nothing at all stuck here in Birmingham, Alabama.) That opener was an NPR photo of somewhere in the Northeast. 

I have come to the conclusion that there are some "readers" who only look at the pictures, which is really kind of sad.  I am not a professional photographer, nor do I possess the kind of camera which would even produce that quality of photo.  I do work very hard on the words on this blog, though, and it cuts pretty deep to know that some who look, or maybe visit out of duty because I came to their blog, do not even bother to read what I wrote.

This is one of the reasons I question the wisdom of continuing to blog.  If a percentage of people are not reading  -- only looking -- well, then, what's the point?

You tell me.







23 January 2016

SUN'S OUT!

from NPR website

The worst of the winter storm is evidently over down here in Alabama.  Yesterday was definitely an indoor day, but this afternoon the sun has shown its beaming face.  None of the flurries ever stuck, but it is cold.  Around noon it was only 32 degrees.  Last night it sounded as though the house was being strafed for hours, the wind causing a rat-a-tat-tat barrage of sweet gum balls against the roof.  Sweet Husband was out back by late morning, yellow bucket in hand, raking them where he could, picking them up by hand where he couldn't.  

The back garden is nice and neat again, but that's just till the next good wind.  Those sweet gum balls seem to be never-ending in supply, and it doesn't take much to knock them off the tree.  He is using them as a mulch over in the two "no man's land" areas we have to either side of the pergola which are not graveled or totally planted.  Do any of you gardeners know anything about this?  It won't hurt anything, I hope, and it does look kinda cool as opposed to pine straw.


Cherry cobbler -- ever made one?

It is fantastic!

The mailman arrived with more books today, and they are calling my name like those pesky sirens.  Day before yesterday I made a cherry cobbler with fresh cherries that I pitted and froze last summer, so we are having some of that, and then I am going to settle in with a book. 


I got this little rack which is supposed to be for utensils as a freebie when I ordered the vertical pot rack to the left.  I thought I could make better use of it this way.
Another organizational point for me!


Stay warm, stay dry, stay safe!


I am linking up to the new party TABLE IT at Life and Linda and friends.  Go see what's up!

22 January 2016

WINTER WEATHER DAY



A wee dram of some of this might help you stay warm?


To you folks up in the North, and today that would include anyone north of the Alabama state line, my deepest sympathies.  The weather here is wet and somewhat cold, and we are having a few flurries which are not sticking.  Naturally we have the TV on CNN or the Weather Channel, and this is a very adrenaline-producing situation.  Please stay warm, dry and safe.  This is a good day to read, cook, do some laundry, or just putter.  Watch some old movies or go write a letter.  Read a good book.  Play with your kids or pets.  Cuddle up with the one you love.  Just stay indoors.  



I have chili on the stove in the big iron pot, and I made hot oatmeal for breakfast.  We gave the pizza maker another shot at lunch, and the result was definitely not worth sharing here, although it was edible.  Still working on it, people.



I am still in my flannel jammies, and I will be till time for my shower tonight and some clean ones.  I actually like days like this.  I am reading a wonderful book which would be a great selection for your book club. I started yesterday, another cold wet day, and I am almost to the end.  It's one of those where you want to know what happens, but you hate for it to end.



Right now I am going back to the book, and we'll chat later, OK?




21 January 2016

SEGUE

It's Carnival!


Mardi Gras on the mantel

We just got over the Christmas holidays and so forth, and now we all organize and clean our houses.  At least that's what I read on all the blogs.  Some of us, however, feel the need to continue that party vibe -- because things are now looking so bare and Winter is coming and everything is grey outside -- most especially our favorite bon vivant in New Orleans, Ron at The Uptown Acorn.  He especially loves Mardi Gras (and any holiday), and he and his partner decorate their beautiful house with unbridled enthusiasm -- because every holiday is a party. That's life in NOLA!


Beads on the wine table, bought at the party store, not caught at a parade, alas.


The glittery pinecone topiary stuck around after Christmas, and now sports confetti on a wire for Mardi Gras.

I lived there for a couple of years myself when I was a very young adult, arriving at the age of barely nineteen, when the Southern Crescent pulled into the depot after an all-day train trip from Anniston, Alabama, one surprisingly sultry November evening.  It was an awakening.  This adventure is a long story, not for telling today, but I will tell you this:  I felt that I had finally come home, like the Pearly Gates had opened, and before me was spread the sumptuous banquet of life, just waiting to be gobble up.  


See my pretty stemless wine glasses?
Jenna painted those.

I have never lost my love for the place, and I don't get there nearly as often as I would like. NOLA is where I really learned to cook.  Everybody there seems to cook, and they are more than willing to instruct and train a young novice.  That construct of imprinting that they teach you in intro to psychology?  I was that little duckling following The Big Mama Easy, after the food and the joie de vivre of South Louisiana,  which forever imprinted itself in my DNA because there is nothing finer in any part of the world. 




I have a small bag of decorations that I put somewhere in my house every year when Carnival kicks off -- if I can find them, that is.  This year, I ran across the bag in my newly reorganized attic, and I put them in the LR.  Sometimes they go in the DR or just in the kitchen.  My stuff is nothing like Ron's where he pulls out all the stops, but then again, I just live in Birmingham, not NOLA.  There are no parades passing by my house now, unlike when I lived in my first dumpy apartment down there, right on St. Charles.  There were some parades that I could see from a very rickety balcony off my neighbor's also-dumpy apartment which faced the front.  Mine only had a window on the back and another on the side street.  There was one more in the "kitchen" but it was broken and covered with cardboard, never repaired while I was there.

Do you celebrate Mardi Gras?  Are you fortunate enough to live where  they have parades and parties and King Cakes?  Do you make Jambalaya, Crawfish Pie, FilĂ© Gumbo?  Do share, cher, in the comments.









19 January 2016

A GREAT COLD WEATHER RECIPE

To begin, let me clarify about the trip to Apple yesterday.  The tech DID remove the Malware from my computer.  To unlock the frozen browser, she first disconnected from the Internet, then deleted those screens which were locked on tight.  She may have done some other tech-y things, but in a nutshell, that is how she did it. She told me if it happened again, start with disconnecting from the Internet before I freaked.  She also commended me for not calling that number!  (Does she think "mature" ladies know nothing?)  For me, that would entail just pulling the plug on the ATT router.  I hope it doesn't happen again so that I have to test it!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  




Now on to more pleasant topics --  like hearty hot food on a cold day.  A few days ago, I ran across this recipe -- Pasta e Fagioli -- on a wonderful food blog called Cafe Sucre Farine.  A blog written by a husband and wife, Scott and Chris, (boy that would be a dream, if Sweet Husband could write and cook...), their food is innovative and always really good.  




Here is the link again to their printable recipe:

http://thecafesucrefarine.com/2016/01/slow-cooker-pasta-e-fagioli-soup/


I do recommend that you read the recipe all the way through before beginning, and espcially her notes at the bottom.  


Believe or not, I followed the recipe pretty closely -- unusual for me, I know.  I do not have the same type of slow cooker that she does.  Mine is made by All-Clad, and the insert can be used on the cooktop to brown meat or whatever you want before transferring it to the slow cooker.  I love it because you do not have to mess up an extra pot!

I did, however, drain all the fat from the meat through a colander after browning it and before adding anything else.  Italian sausage has a lot of fat, and I did not want all that grease in my soup.  I had to substitute the red beans with garbanzos because that is what I had, and I used elbow macaroni for the same reason.  My rosemary and oregano came from the front garden, and my tomatoes came from a box (Pomi brand).  (I do not use canned tomatoes except for Rotel now and then.)  There may have been more tomatoes, therefore, than the recipe calls for.  Otherwise, I don't think I changed anything.  

I decided to add the macaroni into the soup at the end instead of keeping them separate, and sure enough, it did make a little thicker which we prefer.  The flavors were married so well by the second day, and I am sure today's lunch will be even better.    The smell as it heats is making me salivate.  This recipe makes a ton, and I froze half which is wonderful to have.  The next time temps take a nosedive, we have another batch ready and waiting.  

Speaking of frozen foods (the kind you freeze yourself, that is) we enjoyed a dish of that lasagne I made at Christmas for dinner last night.  I am loving have that huge freezer on the bottom of my new fridge.  Slowly, I am getting it filled with homemade food.  

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A last footnote about the Google issues:  I went through the Google help pages, and found that I am not the only one with the problem of being not logged in.

Nitecruzer -- their apparent resident guru -- said that the settings which restrict third-party cookies may be to blame.  On a Mac, it is not referred to in exactly that way, but I did relax my restrictions on cookies a bit, and that seems to have solved the problem.  If I start getting spammed to death again, I guess I will know why!













18 January 2016

MALWARE AND SCAMS

Beware!

There is a new scam in town.  It is attacking computers everywhere, and today it got me.  If you read the AARP Bulletin, you may already be aware of this.  Ironically, I was installing an update on my Flashplayer, and I picked up this little newspaper to flip through prior to tossing it when my eyes fell upon this article about new scams targeting retirees.  I was reading it when this thing suddenly zeroed in on me.  Talk about irony!

What happens is that you suddenly get pop-up messages that indicate that "Your computer is at critical risk!"  and "high-risk sources are tracking you!"  "your passwords and credit cards are being compromised!"  blah blah blah.  They urge you to call a number to get it fixed immediately, and then a voice comes over your computer  to scare you some more.  

DON'T DO IT!!! It is a scam.  The AARP article only talks about Microsoft, but I use a Mac, and it happened to me today, too.  It scared the crap out of me, and I am pretty sure my blood pressure was about up to the head-exploding level.  I hightailed it to the Apple store, and then had to go back for an appointment three hours later, as they are quite busy.  

This pesky thing totally froze my browser (Safari), so I opened another browser just to see, and it promptly froze that one, too.  Blogger is still acting funny, and the tech said although I did have some Malware, the Apple issues are resolved.  She explained that these two Malware bugs were waiting for me to call that number, and then get scammed into buying some "protection" that I do not need.  The Blogger issue is apparently unrelated, so I don't know what is going on there.  When you call that number, at that point they are actually installing Malware which can do some damage if you don't buy their so-called "fix".  

She installed an update on the Malware checker for Mac, and also put it my husband's computer.  I was unable to open that, too, this morning, as that was the first thing I attempted to do when this crazy chain of events started. This is kind of unusual for a Mac, since they are not as susceptible to this sort of thing as a Windows computer.  

So now, about this Blogger issue. It says I am not signed in, but apparently I am.  How weird is that?  And you don't see the place so that you can sign in.  There is no prompt to create a new post, either, so I had to do an end run around it to write this.  

Has anyone ever actually been successful in contacting Blogger in recent years?  If you have, do let me know.




16 January 2016

IF YOU ARE ON A DIET, DISREGARD THIS POST!



On at least one weekend day, I make a nice hearty breakfast, at least in the Winter time.  Today is a nice sunny day, albeit quite chilly, but Sweet Husband needs his energy.  He has a little work to do outside in the backyard, and of course, he needs to keep up his strength to watch all that football, you know.




Today I was mulling over doing some scones.  I read quite a few food blogs, and many of the recipes I export to my desktop before cleaning them up into another folder/filing system.  Often they are merely inspiration, since I wing it a lot times when I cook.  I am creative like that, you know.



I woke up this morning thinking of the flavor of almond paste, like the gooey center of a bear claw, one of my favorite flavors in the universe.  I took stock of what was in the shelves, and discovered I had two containers of almond paste, including this one I got at Sprouts, a brand I have never tried before.  The regular grocery brand is Solo.

A scone is basically just a sweet crumbly biscuit cut into a triangle, and I usually can't be bothered to roll and cut, etc.  I just pat the dough out in a pan, score it, bake it, and then cut it into wedges after it cools off two or three minutes.  That is what I did here.

I served this with country sausage patties and canteloupe chunks.  It was seriously tasty and there is enough for another breakfast.  





Scribbler's Almond Paste Scones 

2 cups SR flour (White Lily)
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick salted butter, COLD
1 package almond paste
enough buttermilk to get the right consistency

I am sorry I don't know exactly how much buttermilk -- I just go by how it looks.  It should look like biscuit dough.  If you don't make biscuits, then my best suggestion is add about 1/4 cup, then a little more if necessary, till you get the right consistency.  The dough should stick together loosely, but not be at all liquid, like cake batter.

Really, you should teach your self to make biscuits if you don't know how.  There is a perfect recipe on the bag of flour.

Pulse the sugar and flour with the stick of butter (cut into chunks) in your food processor. Then add in the almond paste, also cut into chunks and pulse a few times.
Now add the buttermilk, and pulse a few more.

Turn out into a prepared 9" springform pan.

Score with a knife, sprinkle with about 1 T. sugar and dot with about two teaspoons or so of butter.  The scoring may or may not show after it is baked.

To prepare the pan, spray with Baker's Joy, pop in a liner of parchment on the bottom, (either one you cut using the bottom of the pan as a guide or one you bought); spray that with Baker's Joy, too.   

Bake somewhere between 350 and 375 degrees F. depending on your oven.  You know it better than I do.

My electric ovens are very temperamental (I hate them), so I use an oven thermometer and keep a very close eye on whatever is in there. If you have a nice gas oven with a convection function like I had at my last house, well, lucky you.


Remove the outer rim of your springform pan.  Carefully cut the scones into triangles after two or three minutes.  The crumb is very tender.  You might still see your scoring, but you might not.  You can be plating the rest of the food during this time.  Prepare to be gobsmacked!







13 January 2016

THAT ELUSIVE PERFECT PIZZA



The pizza lovers' toy


You might remember that Santa Claus brought us a Breville pizza maker.  We had high hopes for this little toy because we dearly love our pizza.  We love all kinds:  thin crust, thick crust, deep dish, healthy veggie, or decadently drowning in meats and cheeses -- pizza is the fifth major food group in our book.  It is like a whole meal on a crust, so it seemed that the sale price on this little pizza maker at Williams Sonoma was not bad because we thought we would be using it constantly.  



Well, so far, none of my pizzas have exactly looked like the gorgeous photos in the WS catalogs.  We have used it three times, and it will get another tryout this weekend.  What I can tell you so far is this:  you cannot make a big hearty pizza of the kind we like to make in the oven on our well-seasoned 20-year-old pizza stone.  This appliance has a stone, too, but it will take a while to season.


On our first try, we decided to make a Mexican pizza.  Not having all the ingredients for the recipe in the booklet that came with the appliance, we sort of winged it, using toppings that you would usually add to tacos, minus the lettuce, of course.  I decided to get creative with the crust, and I added some corn meal to it.  The result was a mess, because it would not release from the pizza peel, the big wooden paddle that we use to transfer the crust to the stone and then remove it when it is cooked.  So many parts of the beautifully composed pizza got dumped all over the place, into the coils, etc. while trying to slide it off onto the stone.  


I should point out that the pizza maker only makes a 12 inch pie.  So if you are used to great big pies, you have to make a couple of smaller ones from your recipe. The booklet's recipe makes enough crust for four, it says, although I have not tried it yet.  The upside is that they cook really fast, because this thing gets seriously HOT, and you need to have the second (and third and fourth) ready to pop in.  They cook in about 8 to 10 minutes.  In theory this sounds great.  


Next, we tried a pre-made fresh dough from Publix, which we often use when the resident Executive Chef is too lazy to stir up her own.  All that fresh mozzarella, nitrite-free pepperoni, good kalamata olives -- became toast!  Literally.  The crust rose so much that it rose up right into the upper coils, burning it to a crisp, along with all the toppings.  Next, we tried not preheating the stone as you are supposed to do, too, and the crust turned out like soft bread, stuck to the stone, and totally inedible.  We had to violate the rule about not scrubbing the stone or running water on it.  For the second time, we laboriously cleaned the coils of burned on food.  I dried out the stone in the real oven.





Third time's supposed to be a charm, I guess, but the next pizza was a cheater.  I used the rest of the taco meat, some cheddar, and various other items in the fridge, but the crust I tried was Naan Bread (an Indian bread) from Costco.  This was tasty, but not a great improvement over a half-decent frozen pizza.  The photos you are seeing are the second try with the Naan Bread.  

It is pretty obvious that the first trick is going to be precooking a scratch-made crust in the regular oven or using a pre-made crust which is partially cooked.  I believe that's the only way the crust will transfer to the pre-heated stone inside the appliance.  

The second trick is to make sure that the crust is not too thick so that the toppings do not wind up in the upper coils, or run over through the cutouts in the stone, which are meant to let the heat from top and bottom coils circulate.  Three out of the four tries when the appliance was pre-heated, we did get that super-crispy crust which the hype promised us.  I DO like a crispy crust.  NOTHING worse than soggy pizza crust. 

Bottom line, there has definitely been some trial and error.  I am not crazy about the Naan Bread option because the ratio of crust to toppings is too "bread-y"    although it does work.  My next effort this weekend will be to make a large batch of my own crust, and prebake them enough so they will slide from the peel into the little pizza maker without sticking.  It seems that they should freeze well, too, so that I can pull out one when I want to use up leftovers in the fridge for toppings.  I will definitely post a followup to this post when I try this to let you know how the idea works, just in case you are thinking of getting this appliance.

I think the pizza maker might do a grilled cheese sandwich or a tostada or possibly crostini as well...  I just haven't tried yet.  Stay tuned.




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In case you have been noticing your Google Friend Connect followers dropping off, here is an update from Blogger:


News from Blogger More »
posted by A Googler at Blogger Buzz
In 2011, we announced the retirement of Google Friend Connect for all non-Blogger sites. We made an exception for Blogger to give readers an easy way to follow blogs using a variety of accounts. Yet over time, we’ve seen that most people sign into Friend Connect with a Google Account. So, in an effort to streamline, in the next few weeks we’ll be making some changes that will eventually require...


It seems that they are going to discontinue this for even Blogger users, although they did it for other platforms a few years ago.



   

12 January 2016

WHAT???!!!!

He's 84, she's 59
Just when you think you have heard it all...  and I am the most liberal person on the planet.  Trust me.  Sweet Husband is a whole lot younger than I, but  Jerry Hall is marrying her Grandpa after having four kids with Mick Jagger (how can you top that for crying out loud?);


Sean Penn "interviews" El Chapo (the Sinaloa drug cartel legend known in English as 'Shorty') for Rolling Stone mag; 





and David Bowie died.  Geez... what a weekend.  Maybe I should go back and start over.

  

My life is so dull in comparison! I polished some copper pots today.  It was hard work, people.  I am thinking they should have paid scullery maids better during the Downton Abbey days.  

I'll be back later with some food and stuff.



I was going to talk about some food and other things, but I think it will have to wait till another day, thank you very much.  










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