Sunday, December 8, 2013
Today, I took 148 pictures of grilled cheese. Is that ridiculous or what? I was trying to get the best angle. That is my excuse, anyhow. I have been in love with grilled cheese since I was five. I have many memories tied up with this most perfect of sandwiches, including almost burning down our house when I was in fifth grade.
I'd walked home from school that day to make myself a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch. (They let you leave school for lunch back then: this was before the wheel was invented.) The fire wasn't about the sandwich, it started from the candle I'd lit in my bedroom. (I write this with a candle burning beside me, so, apparently I learned nothing from this escapade.) Don't ask my why I ran up to my bedroom to light a candle then forget about it when I was only home for thirty minutes before I had to dash back to school. Even though the fire was not from the grilled cheese, I still associate the two. Don't worry, a neighbor saw the smoke pouring out of my window and called the fire truck. It came in time to save the house, though my room was ruined, along with all my stuffed animals, which I thought of as family members.
Another grilled cheese memory was a road trip I made with my great aunt Ruth when I was twelve. We were going from Pittsburgh, PA to Lake Temagami, Ontario: a twelve-hour drive, though with Ruth it was a twenty-hour drive, as she was an exceedingly cautious driver, who liked to drive comfortably below the speed limit. It was a major coup that I got to go by car with her, when my sisters, cousins and grandmother all had to go by Greyhound bus. We were going to spend the summer at my grandmother's cabin up there. I got to ride in style (a Gremlin hatchback) because I'd broken my leg in four places trying to slide down a wet, grassy hill and couldn't easily get on or off the bus with my huge cast and crutches. Being a klutz occasionally has its advantages.
Anyhow, Ruth's and my trip spanned two full days. Every time we stopped for a meal, I got grilled cheese and water, that being the cheapest choice, and thrifty me having to buy my own food with the babysitting money I'd saved. By dinner on day two, Aunt Ruth forbid me to get another grilled cheese, saying I had to get a regular meal for my health. I got a pork chop. Of course, I had to pay for it, as Ruth was even thriftier than I was. Oh well, I still had fun riding up there with her.
When I was twenty-three, my mom died. She was already in a coma, but that morning, I felt her leaving as I was driving to work. It was a strange feeling, which I've only ever felt that one time, like my heart skipped a beat and a force field passed over me. I instantly knew what had happened, and turned around to head back to the apartment. I called my sister to confirm the news. I spent the afternoon packing up the car for the long drive across several states as soon as QG could get home from work. I didn't have much of an appetite, but made myself a grilled cheese for lunch and sat out on our tiny porch to eat it in the May sunshine. Somehow, it was comforting eating that sandwich and listening to the birds as I awaited our drive through the night.
All this brings me to today's grilled cheese recipe. It's a very exciting combo, which I recommend you try. Here's how to make it:
Fruity Irish Grilled Cheese
Irish Cheddar, cut into thin slices (I used Kerrygold)
2 slices bread (I used whole wheat, but fresh-baked crusty bread would also be a great choice)
several paper-thin slivers of sliced onion
Orange marmalade, or you could use raspberry jam, fig jam or whatever other kind you like
yellow mustard (optional)
Lay a slice of the bread down, put the cheese slices on it to cover, then the onions. Slather the marmalade on the other slice to coat well, but not heaping. Sandwich the two together and cook over medium to medium-low heat in a fry pan with a little melted butter, turning when golden brown to cook both sides. I like to add mustard before eating the sandwich for the perfect combination of tastes, but this is optional depending on your preference. Enjoy!
Friday, December 6, 2013
Sometime during the night, our power went out. This morning, I could barely drag myself out of my warm bed into the freezing room, but, eventually, I popped up, slapped on a few sweaters, and ran into the kitchen. "Oh my gosh, how am I going to make coffee?" Coffee is always my first morning thought. Without it I am nothing. QG looks at me and goes, "Coffee may not be the worst of our worries today." I thought, speak for yourself, Dude. He doesn't like coffee, so he could never understand the intimate bond that coffee and I share, nor the years of shared experiences and camaraderie we have built up developing our relationship. Aaah, the memories.
Thankfully, crisis was averted. QG got out his camping stove and set up shop in the garage, from which he soon emerged with a steaming cup of good old Joe. So I guess he accepts this thing that Joe and I share. Then we looked outside to see the ice covering every surface from tree to road. That freezing rain sounded like gravel hitting our window all night long. So, we lit a fire. It was nearly freezing inside. Jamiewoo had to borrow a sweater. She is a Texas dog and hates cold. Here's where we spent the morning. The power went back on a couple hours ago. Whoot hoot! Oh course, this was right after I'd dragged the melting ice cream along with all of our freezer contents outside into the yard, only to bring them back in. Oh well. I'm considering that my work out for the day. I hope you are staying warm and cozy this December day. If you live in Dallas, may the electricity gods smile upon you and keep your power on.
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Happy December! I love this month because it means looking forward to Christmas, being all cozy inside when it is cold outside, baking cookies and hitting up whatever holiday parties I can shoehorn my way into. Since I am hosting my pokeno group tomorrow, I was forced to decorate today. I tried to keep it simple due to time constraints and my newly-acquired nearly-Zen-like minimalism. But Santa had other ideas. Or should I say Santas? A posse of those jolly fellows have hijacked my living room. Each one is adorable, right down to his little plastic or wooden heart. Pictures tomorrow if I have time.
Speaking of pictures, yesterday was my second photojournalism class. Most of our time was spent looking at everyone's photos from our first assignment and discussing them. Okay, I'll admit it - I flubbed the assignment. I panicked in my rush to get the shots before the sun went down, got confused about aperture settings, had to use a tripod, which was awkward, and chose the wrong lens. All of my pictures were out of focus. Every single one. Aargh! After the instructor got done telling everyone else what a good job they had done, he looks at me and goes, "You may want to repeat the assignment." After that, he examined my camera to make sure my automatic focus was working properly. It was.
Yes, I'll repeat the assignment. And I think I've got the aperture thing down now that I've been scared straight. On one hand, I'm pretty appalled by my own ineptitude, but on the other, I'm strangely excited about how much there is yet to learn. I can study photography for years with no chance of boredom. And I plan to. Cha-ching! Aaah, the benefits of being a slow learner.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. I was mixing up a pumpkin pie cake that morning in the bowl above. I love that bowl. I set down the whisk to turn on the oven, and when I looked back at the bowl, happiness swept over me. I was grateful for the bowl, the colors inside of it, my dog laying on the floor, the sunlight filtering in through the curtain, The Splendid Table playing on the radio, the pumpkin-scented candle beside me, my daughter, landing soon at the airport.
Where does gratitude live? Maybe in the ordinary moments, when you notice every detail and catch yourself breathing slowly to memorize this second. Gratitude often seems as skittish as a feral cat, but the more I seek it, the more it elbows its way into my brain, crowding out the less-useful thoughts, like worry. This has surprised me.
I'm finding the more I think about good things, the more good things seem to crop up. Not outlandish things, like winning the lottery or suddenly waking up with a skinny waist (let's get real, people),but small things, like beautiful golden leaves falling from a tree, a lush sunset, or the scent of baking bread. I try to stay alert to these minor wonders and to specifically ponder three of them each night as I fall asleep. I got this idea out of a book. Sounds corny, but it has altered my thinking profoundly, kind of like planting seeds which slowly take root and grow. Who knew gratitude was so powerful? The mysteries of life are endless. That's the best part.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Below is a shot of Venice, taken from St. Mark's square looking across the canal. Between the church, the Doges Palace and the Palazzo Ducale (the former royal residence), this area was my favorite in Venice, except for the Peggy Guggenheim Collection museum.
The shot to the right below is Venice along the canal. Love that combo of colors. The one to the left is from Sorrento, Italy at La Sorgente, which is an olive and lemon farm where we did an olive oil tasting. That freshly-pressed olive oil is like liquid sunshine. The flavor is so intense and robust, nothing like the stuff I typically get in the grocery store. So, now, I have a new appreciation for olive oil, which borders on obsession. Not that I needed a new food to obsess over, what with my ice cream, Stilton cheese, coffee, cranberries and granola fascinations already keeping me busy. Where does one sign up to be a professional food appreciator? I've got mad skills in that department, which, sadly, seem to be the highlight of my skill set.
Oh, oh, oh. I almost forgot. QG and I started watching Breaking Bad. Just as we are always a few steps behind on technology, we are late to the table on this show. The good part, though, is that we have lots of seasons to burn through in extended sessions of hunkering down in front of the TV for hours on end, which is my idea of a perfect life. Especially when combined with snacks and simultaneous crocheting. Enjoy your Thanksgiving! Don't forget to be a slacker and relax.
Monday, November 25, 2013
I've been thinking about words a lot lately, and one particular adjective never fails to usher cheer straight into my being. Salubrious. Try it. Say it slooowwly. Say it again. Nice, huh?
Part of the joy of this word is its goofy, cockeyed sound, like a drunken sailor about to tumble over. This word is no prig. It is chill, yet attentive in its efforts to promote well being. It describes anything wholesome or restorative, like a big bowl of chicken soup, a vat of coffee, or a kind comment.
When you find yourself feeling low, think of the word salubrious. Then treat yourself in a salubrious manner. Think hot baths, cheese and crackers, herbal tea, nature walks, whatever you like. Think boldly loving yourself exactly as you are, even if you're not as perfect as you'd planned on being. Who is? Who cares? Foibles are interesting. We are all just beginners practicing this life the best way we can. Namaste.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
Exciting news on the bargain-hunting front. Don't know about you, but I love to hear about other people's finds. Gives me a vicarious thrill, and inspires me oh so much. So, I share this to inspire you. Just doing my share to help humanity.
Yesterday, I was driving past Goodwill and felt my car turning, of its own volition, into the parking lot, even though I've been trying to eschew collecting more junk of late, due to my severe de-cluttering efforts. I have a split personality: I want to be all sparse and Zen with nothing but a yoga mat and a rock to sleep on. On the other hand, stuff is so cute and comforting. Yesterday was not a Zen day, so I took a walk through Mecca once my car had taken me there.
Found this heavenly leather jacket. Yes, I collect leather jackets, but only soft ones that fit perfectly. This one feels like butter, and is in perfect condition. I had to rescue it. For $19.99, it was pricey for Goodwill, but worth it. My precious!
Also got this Italian silk/wool blend scarf for $1.59. And speaking of Italy, I'll have lots more pictures of that stunning place, and Spain as well, soon as I can work on them.
The shot at the top is my neighbors tree the other morning. I was walking Jamiewoo the wonder dog, and had to zoom back to the house to get my camera soon as I saw this glorious tree. The saturation on this photo has not been enhanced: these were the actual colors of tree and sky. I basically climbed into the tree as if it were a tent. Thrilling nature - gotta love it.
At bottom are the dried cranberries I made yesterday. The new method worked great, and it only took seven and a half hours. Yum.