The Couple Next Door

Crowley blogI started visiting because my Yugo-sized dog Crowley is obsessed with birds of every kind.

In a neighborhood that’s on our walking route, there are a few retention ponds.  Ducks and geese can usually be found in the largest one.  When we go for a walk, we take a short detour to look for the water fowl. winter pondWhen the winter came to an end, two couples; a pair of Canadian geese and some mallards decided to stay and set up housekeeping.

A female mallard lays eggs the same time she and the male molt which grounds them temporarily.  Then male stays close to protect the nest and care for the female.mallardsOnce the eggs hatch though, and the male regains the power of flight, he’s history.

Canadian geese are very different.  At approximately three years old, it’s time to start a family.  There are elaborate mating behaviors by the male, and the female chooses her spouse by how much she enjoys his dancing and how well she thinks he can protect her and her brood.goose coupleThen the geese mate for life.  The female makes a nest and lays four to nine eggs. She sits on the nest with the gander nearby.  They also molt now, and for the four weeks the eggs take to hatch, the female doesn’t get up, eat, or drink.

There’s deep affection within a goose family.  There is no sibling rivalry among the goslings and youngsters are very respectful to their parents.  Most of the children stay with their family until they choose a mate.  Geese are celibate until they pair bond.  Often unattached males will help care for the children of their siblings.goose familyCrowley and I visited the pond every day.  Soon five tiny ducklings and four little goslings made an appearance.  Like a scene out of Robert McClusky’s Make Way for Ducklings, tiny fuzzy birds walked in straight lines with parents both leading the way and bringing up the rear.

One night our walk was delayed until nightfall, so we didn’t visit our aquatic friends.night walkThe route we use takes us through a field, then out onto the sidewalk of a busy road about fifty yards from the pond.  As we came around, I noticed something in the street that looked like a tree stump.  As I was trying to convince myself it must have fallen off the back of a landscaper’s truck, we got closer.

That’s when I got a good look.

It wasn’t a stump, but a large goose that had been hit and killed by a car.  Even though there are many geese in the area, I got a really, really, bad feeling.morningThe next morning, I hurried to the pond.

Standing on the pond’s causeway, surrounded by her four children, Mrs. Goose searched the skies.  I stood there and cried as she called for her missing mate with a series of slow, plaintive honks.  But because she couldn’t leave her flightless babies, she’d never know what happened and where he was.  It was heartbreaking. mrs gooseMy best guess is the male made a test flight to try out his regrown feathers which weren’t quite ready, and he fell into the path of a car.  But he was a good mate and a good dad.

He’d be very proud of his family.  The goslings are big, healthy, and almost old enough to begin flying.  But there’s a gander-shaped hole in that little family.

goose 1

I took this photo yesterday of Mama Goose and her four almost grown children.  To the right, in the water is Mrs. Mallard and her ducklings.

And, there always will be.

So, to every kind of dad out there; to my dad, to The Kid’s dad Petey, and especially to the ones who want to be with their kids but can’t anymore: Happy Father’s Day.jfkThanks for your time.

Twisted Citrus

gossipGentle Reader, this week there’s no time to chat because I have two big lemon recipes.

First is a pasta recipe adapted from a Barefoot Contessa dish.  It will look kind of unappetizing at the beginning but cooks into a gorgeous, silky sauce.  Also, it will splatter as it cooks, so use a screen.

Creamy Twisted Lemon Pastalemon cavatappiYield: 4 servings

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 or 3 cloves minced garlic

2 cups heavy cream

2 lemons

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 bunch broccoli

1-pound dried cavatappi pasta

½-pound baby spinach

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1-pint multi-colored small tomatoes, halved

Directions:garlic sauteHeat olive oil in medium saucepan on medium, add garlic, and cook for 60 seconds. Add cream, zest and juice from lemons, 2 teaspoons of salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until it starts to thicken.

Meanwhile, cut broccoli in florets and discard stem. Cook florets in a pot of heavily salted boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain broccoli and run under cold water to stop cooking. Set aside.blanced broccoliCook pasta according to package directions in heavily salted water. When done, take out a cup of pasta water and set aside, then drain pasta and place it back into the pot. Immediately add cooked cream mixture and stir together over medium-low heat for 3 minutes, until most of the sauce has been absorbed into pasta. Stir in 1/2-3/4 cup of reserved pasta water to help sauce cling to the pasta and give it a silky mouth feel.  Add spinach, Parmesan, tomatoes, and cooked broccoli and gently toss. Pour into large serving vessel, season to taste, and serve hot.pasta listThe next one is my take on a lemon icebox pie.  It has a vanilla wafer crust with lemon zest, and an unexpected, creamy topping.  It’s the perfect dessert to eat on the porch on a hot summer evening.porchTwisted Lemon Icebox Pie

Preheat oven to 325.

Crust:vanilla wafer crust50 vanilla wafers

3 tablespoons packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

zest from 2 lemons

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup brown butter (melt butter then continue cooking, watching closely until the solids are caramel-brown and the butter smells nutty)

Put cookies, sugar, salt and zest into food processor or blender.  Run until the cookies are small uniform crumbs.  While the machine’s running, pour in butter and vanilla extract.

Place the crumbs into 9-inch springform pan and cover bottom and 2/3 of the way up sides.  Use a straight-sided glass to press it into even layer.

Filling:icebox pie2-14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk

1 & 1/4 cups strained lemon juice (from the 2 zested lemons and 4-6 more)

8 large egg yolks

1 teaspoon salt

Whisk filling ingredients until fully mixed and lightened in color, about 1 minute.  Pour into crust, place pan on cookie sheet and place in oven.  Cook for 25 minutes or until filling is mostly set and center is still a little jiggly.

Let pie cool on counter for 1 hour and then in fridge or freezer for at least 6 hours or overnight before removing from pan.  To de-pan, run knife around edge, then open pan slowly in case of stickage. 

Topping:sour cream1 & 1/2 cups sour cream

3 tablespoons packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 teaspoon salt

Whisk together and refrigerate for at least a couple of hours.lemon icebox pieTo serve:

Run serrated knife under very hot water before slicing.  Drizzle on a spoonful of topping.

Try to stay cool, and I’ll see you next week for a longer visit.ladies who lunch

Thanks for your time.

Morpheus Is Having A Party

helicopter momSo, it looks like slumber parties are quickly becoming a thing of the past for many.  Because of the threat of disastrous social media postings propelled by the poor judgement of children combined with nervous helicopter parents, many families are opting out.

qe1 sleepover

One of the very popular pajama parties at the home of young Queen Elizabeth I.

I discovered this when I decided to write about sleepovers and did some research.  I was looking for the history and origin of the pajama party—did little Mary Todd giggle about log cabin boys and hoop skirts with her girlfriends?  Did Boudicea and her squad paint themselves blue and festoon the local Roman garrison with toilet paper?50s adAs best as I can tell, slumber parties became a mostly American thing after World War II.  Madison Avenue sold the whole “suburban, two kids and a dog, backyard cookouts, summer vacations, car in the garage, wifey in the kitchen” scenario.  Parents who just a few years earlier had learned that life can be changed forever in a moment wanted to live that safe and comfortable ideal.7upPajama parties declared to the world there was enough room, food, and fun to share.  That here was an average middle-class families that belonged.  Just like Donna Reed, Leave It To Beaver, and Ozzie and Harriot; they were neither different nor unconventional.1970s pj partyI grew up going to and throwing slumber parties.  I consider myself somewhat of an authority on the rituals of mid-late 20th century pre-adolescent overnight accommodation festivities.black sheepThe guest list is usually populated from classmates.  But there are always one or two kids that the host knows from scouts, or dance class, or somewhere else.  This child will know no one else and unless of unusually strong personality, feels like a duck at an armadillo farm.sad puppyThere will be a sad sack.  This is a child with little or no sleepover experience who is both timid and quiet.  Often the child’s presence on the guest list is at the mom’s behest and will be cousin, younger neighbor child, or child of a parent’s friend. fancy cheetahThe glamorous child.  This kid is possibly a bit older, but definitely more sophisticated.  In a room of tweens, she will be the only one with a bra and a boyfriend.  Pajamas will be silky rather than snuggly and lip gloss will not be clear.  Almost always gets her own way when she declares something is “lame”.judgy turtleThe suck-up.  This is the same kid that in school reminds the teacher she forgot to assign homework.  This kid is kind of a pill and will strongly object to most of the dares in “Truth or Dare”.  But she will get help if things go south, and her mere attendance will keep the shenanigans from going from mischief territory into felony-ville.kim cryAt least one person will get their feelings hurt and there will be tears—often from the sad sack, but sometimes it will be the young hostess.  Emotions are high at these parties, and the hormones flow like beer at a frat party.  Normally the rest of the invitees will then go into protective mode and tissues, “I love yous”, and promises of undying friendship will abound.sick treeThere’s also a high probability that at least one child will call their parents to be picked up.  Homesickness is the most desirable motivation, but much more likely will be the result of upset tummies and unsightly fluidic eruptions.

The approximate cumulative sleep from an average guest list of six children for the duration of this so-called “slumber” party is a total of 90 minutes.  It is strongly suggested there be multiple adults in the home, and they sleep in shifts—fully clothed.slumber morningThanks for your time.

 

Morpheus Is Cooking!

pajama partySo, despite slumber parties being an endangered species, you’ve lost what was left of your self-protective candy coating, and your cotton-picking mind, and agreed to host a horde of ravenous tween Mongols.

Or, maybe the grand-offspring are coming to stay the night without parents, and you’re eagerly looking forward to tearing up the parents’ list of dos and don’ts in regard to their care and feeding and partying with the progeny.grparentsBut the result is the same: it’s a low-level special occasion, and you need to feed kids.

When The Kid turned sixteen, we rented a really cool venue and threw a bash.  Petey and I wanted to make it special, so I investigated catering.  I discovered that for our budget, it was prohibitively expensive—like bare bones basic ran about $40-50 a head (and this was eleven years ago).caterSo, we decided to self-cater.  I spent months searching for and auditioning recipes.  I finally decided on about six items that were interesting but not too complicated, light and fresh, and could be made ahead and finished on-site.

We also had tubs full of soda and juice on ice, big bowls of different chips, two different desserts, and beach buckets (like the kind kids use to make sand castles) full of various candy bars.candy storeThe kids devoured the soda, chips and candy.  The rest of the food was barely touched.  We gave away as much of the carefully prepared food as we could, but there was still a ton of waste.

After that fiasco my policy for feeding kids in social situations was stacks of pizza with sides of junk food.many pizzasBut I do have a few refinements.

Make your own pizza and personalize it.  By the time you let every kid decide what kind of pizza they want to order they’ll be in graduate school.  Make it at home and have a topping bar.

First check each guest’s dietary restrictions.  You don’t want the little buggers to swell up like a Macy’s parade float.  pizza barFor pizza: buy pre-made dough from a pizza joint, including whole wheat and gluten-free, if necessary.  Have a couple different cheeses, pepperoni, sausage, and some veg.  Don’t have more than three or four choices so they don’t become paralyzed by indecision.  Let them make their own and just bake or grill them.taco barFor tacos, make a visit to your local tortilleria (tortilla factory, they’re everywhere these days, just google them); they’re fresh and cheaper than the grocery store.  Get corn tortillas for tacos and larger flour tortillas if you want quesadillas on the menu.  Get a modest selection of toppings and let the kids create their own.jiffy popYou must have munchies, but don’t get carried away.  Jiffy Pop popcorn is fun, and a lot of kids have never seen it.  I like a 50/50 spread: 50% chips and such, and 50% fruit, nuts, and veggies and dip.  Popcorn falls somewhere in the middle.  You can also make things like rice crispy treats, granola bars, and tiny little pb&j’s.sundae barFor sweets, have a Sundae bar with no more than three flavors of ice cream and a small selection of toppings.  Just have plenty of cans of aerosol whipped cream.  Small fry adore them—I know The Kid and Petey sure do.pancake barFor breakfast serve a make-ahead potato casserole, bacon, juice, and pancakes with plenty of drop in choices like nuts, chocolate chips, and fruit.

I hope this helps.  Just remember, don’t get too fancy or complicated.  They could eat cold cereal out of the box, and because it’s with a bunch of friends at a party, they’d be thrilled.pj partyThanks for your time.

On Both Sides

holy warIn 2018, Washington state representative Matt Shea wrote a document describing a “Biblical basis for war” against people who “practice abortion and same-sex marriage”.  In it the currently serving, elected government official instructed: “If they do not yield, kill all males.”.

peta

I swear to dog, an actual PETA billboard.

Also, in 2018, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) came out against what they call “speciesism”.  This is the thoughtless anti-animal language populating the idioms of our language.  PETA urges us to replace “beating a dead horse” with “feeding a fed horse”, and instead of “taking a bull by the horns”, they’d rather we “take a flower by the thorns”.fanaticsOne is mind-boggling evil, one is outrageously ridiculous.  But they are both depressing examples of the extreme ends of the spectrum.  The ones that result in people fearing and hating them or finding them so whiney and absurd that even when they have something important to say, no one listens.politicsIn political science, there is a phenomenon known as the horseshoe theory.  It posits that rather than a straight line between pure communism on the left, and fascism on the right, it’s shaped like a horseshoe with the extreme ends residing very close together in belief and action.duck rabbbitThis kind of ultimate extremism, whether it’s the driving force at the heart of an entire nation or an organization of true believers, can only be maintained by authoritarianism or totalitarianism.  When those in power are completely convinced, down into their very marrow, that they have all the answers to all the questions, and only they know what is best for everyone.  And this dominion must be maintained at all or any costs.  They are absolute in their belief that the decisions they make, and any discipline or punishment meted out is necessary, in fact good, and even ordained.the foolBut the only people who have all the answers and see the world solely in stark shades of black and white are fools, children, and fanatics.  Sure, it’s easier and more comfortable to put our fellow man in neat little boxes like hero, villain, saint, and sinner, but all thinking, reasoning humans know that life doesn’t work that way.life roadEvery one of us has a story.  There were shady garden paths, dangerous rocky roads, and tricky confusing detours that got us to where we are at this moment.  We’ve had missteps that have made us kinder, tragedies that have hardened us, miracles that have amazed us and made our souls a little brighter, and betrayals that have almost broken us. out of bedAnd yet, we regularly get out of bed in the morning to do it all over again.  And most of us usually try to be our best selves.  The selves that are shocked, horrified, and saddened by those zealots out on those horseshoe fringes.

So, what do we do about those scary outliers?  How do we protect against such stark, unyielding absolutism?

Here’s my best advice: we try.tryWe try to make the world around us a better, kinder place.  We try to make the journey of our fellow man a smoother, more peaceful one.  We try to help where we can and call out evil when we see it.  We look within ourselves, and attempt to exercise our better angels, and exorcise our demons.angelsAnd if a member of a marginalized portion of the population says that something we or others say or do is hurtful, or frightening, or patronizing, we listen to them.  And imagine if that person had your mother’s face, or your child’s, or your own.  And try to understand and do better.love circleAnd remember, if your heart’s in the right place, you’re halfway home.

Thanks for your time.

Cool, and Light, and Best of All, Pre-Made

summertimeWith all due respect to the Gershwin Brothers and DuBose Heyward, they must have been high when they wrote, “Summertime, and the living is easy.”

‘Cause it ain’t.summernicEven when people lived very close to the land, in previous centuries, summer was no golden hazed, idealized dream world of fried catfish, starry nights, and summer breezes.

If you laid around in the summer instead of working your non-air-conditioned fingers to the sweaty bone come winter time you and your family would likely starve.  The summer is time for tending the fields, harvesting and canning, and killing, butchering, and smoking.

vacay traffic

A vacation traffic jam III Painting by Hilde Goossens

Nowadays we bustle around taking the kids to camp or intersession care.  At work we’re either filling in for vacationing co-workers or getting ahead for and/or catching up from our own vacation.  It’s hot, the traffic’s a mess, and tempers are short.  We’re horrifying ourselves shopping for a bathing suit, aggravating ourselves by returning said bathing suit, or giving up and getting no bathing suit at all.hot flashI am not even joking a little bit when I say I am over the summer already and impatiently awaiting the State Fair and sweater weather (the feelings may be exacerbated slightly by these hellish, fury-provoking flashes of heat I’ve been experiencing lately).

This week’s newly revamped summer recipe can be eaten for breakfast, as a snack, or dessert.  It contains seasonal fruit, and it’s vegetarian, but can be made vegan, gluten-free, keto or paleo.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s chia pudding.  Chia seeds are small pips which swell and soften when mixed with liquid.  It’s similar to tapioca pudding but is so much quicker, easier, and healthier.

I’ll give you a quick basic recipe, then break down ingredients so you can make substitutions and create something that is uniquely yours, tailored to the tastes of you and your family.

Summer Chia Seed Puddingchia pudding recipe

1 ½ cups milk

2/3 cup whole chia seeds

3 tablespoons liquid sweetener

½ teaspoon extract or flavoring of your choice

pinch of kosher salt

1 cup berries

Garnish and topping

Directions

Place berries in bowl and mash almost completely with potato masher.

Put milk, chia seeds, sweetener, flavoring and salt into bowl with berries.  Stir ingredients together.  You’ll feel the seeds start to absorb the liquid and swell. 

Cover and refrigerate for three hours or overnight, until seeds have swollen and softened to the consistency of tapioca. 4 servings.perfect chia puudingMilk-use anything from whole milk to fat-free; white, buttermilk, chocolate, or strawberry.  Don’t use anything thicker than whole because it will become greasy cement.  You can also use nut milk, coconut water, or fruit juice—cook’s choice.

Chia seeds-you can find them everywhere.  Buy black or white ones, organic or conventionally grown, it doesn’t make any difference.syrupsLiquid sweetener-Honey, maple syrup, agave, corn syrup.  If it’s sweet and you can pour it from bottle, you can use it.

Berries-they’re needed here because they add extra liquid to the pudding.  But another very juicy fruit works such as very ripe peaches, citrus fruits, or even tomatoes.juicy fruitsMix-ins and toppings-I love toasted pecans and dried cherries.  But what about salted peanuts and dried banana?  Or chocolate chips and biscotti pieces?  Or pomegranate seeds and pistachios?

Service-Ladle it into jars and sprinkle on toppings.  Then grab and go from the fridge or stick them in a cooler for road trips.  Or layer it (unset) into parfait glasses with cookies or pound cake for a dessert trifle.chia trifleThe whole idea of this chia pudding is that it’s stress-free and open to a multitude of interpretations.

And while summer may be anything but easy, this cool creamy treat truly is.

summer village

Not an actual depiction of an actual summer.

Thanks for your time.

What Is Inside?

monty hallMy quirk was probably precipitated by watching “Let’s Make A Deal!”.

In the 1960s “Let’s Make a Deal!”, hosted by Monty Hall was a big hit.  The audience would dress in costume and make spectacles of themselves in hopes of getting the chance to compete for prizes.  It was possible to win a new kitchen, a car, or if unlucky, there were booby prizes such as donkeys and 50-gallon drums full of hotdog mustard.monty handbagBut at the very end of the show, Monty and his lovely assistant Carol Merrill would roam the audience.  They’d pick a woman, and award $50 or so if she could pull a random item from her purse.  It could be almost anything; a bobby pin, a spoon, a band-aid or a postcard.

At the time, I was only about six or seven, but it made a big impression on me.  I guess I internalized it, because my purse and I are always ready to be confronted by Monty and co to produce odd yet specific items from the depths of my handbag.  Within my family, I’ve become notorious for it.When my dad asked me about upcoming columns, I told him I was toying with the idea of an inventory of my bag.

His response?

“Even if you use every page in the whole newspaper, will that be enough room?”redactedSo what follows is a heavily redacted list—but only because of space constraints.  The items may be numerous but are definitely not a risk to national security.  Not top secret, just overly abundant.

Hungry?  With packs of nuts, mylar envelopes of cookies, granola bars, some gum and a bit of chocolate I could lay on a slightly odd spread, but for a post-apocalyptic zombie hunting squad, this buffet would be the party of the year.

doctor purse

They are in my purse.

Feeling a bit under the weather?  With my supplies, I could birth a baby, perform brain surgery, or cure disease.  I’ve got files and cutting implements.  I can stop an allergy attack, treat aches, pains migraines, and combat digestive ills.  I can clean up and sanitize scrapes and cuts, and bandages to stop the bleeding.

glam squad

These glamorous people are in my purse.

You’re going to be on the red carpet?  I have a brush, comb, sprays, and hair ties to rescue or even create any coiffure—from simple chignon to elaborate, gravity-defying bee hive. I can turn your lips to a variety of colors, with textures from matte to a liquid-look shine.  In case of wardrobe malfunction, I’ve got tape to hold things together and a fashion lubricant to keep other things sliding smoothly.

newstand

This is also in my purse, but I stopped carrying tobacco in 2014–just never changed the sign.

If you’re bored I almost always carry magazines, ranging from Our State, to British fashion magazines, to Mad Magazine—I may worry about almost everything, but my role model, Alfred E. Newman does not.  I also carry at least one library book (lately it’s been thrillers, but it could be anything from 1000-page history tomes to gothic romance).gothic romanceI have approximately forty thousand consumer loyalty badges collected on a keychain which also holds a brass penguin and a souvenir fob from JFK airport that has the New York skyline on one side and DEBBIE on the other, which perpetually flashes off and on, thanks to a very reliable photocell.black holeThere are many other objects, both sacred and profane in my old curiosity bag.  Every time I reach into the black hole that is my tote, I find something that I’ve either forgotten about or is so unexpected I’m sure it must have been placed there by ghosts.

But if I’m at Costco, and Monty Hall approaches me, guess who’s walking away with a crisp new portrait of Ulysses S. Grant?monty cashThanks for your time.

Do This In The Memory of the Day

So, my neighbor is a calendar.pool partyEvery year, the week before Memorial Day, she has a couple different crews come out.  One is to spruce up the landscaping, and make sure the yard is clean and the bushes and trees are trimmed and neat.  Another bunch wash and paint the outdoor furniture.  And, a third team does maintenance on, and fills the pool.

Then on that last Monday in May, the traditional start of the summer, she throws a pool party.neighborUnfortunately, the neighbor and I only have a wave hello, comment on the weather kind of relationship, so I’ve never actually been invited to one of these Memorial Day pool parties.  But I’ve thought about them, and in my mind, they’re potlucks.

So, of course, I’ve thought about what I’d bring.  I decided on two dishes; one sweet, and one savory.  Shockingly, there is neither cake, nor potato salad on my list.slime photoThe sweet is a cool, creamy lime/pear jello recipe that has been a family favorite for literally, decades.  It’s named after that seventies toy/curiosity, Slime.  The savory is a new pasta salad based on one from a new local grocery store, Sprouts.  It has no mayo, so it’s perfect for an outdoor dining (Look Ma, no salmonella!).

Slime

slimePrepare a large box of lime Jello according to package directions. When cooled, but not set, pour into a blender along with one 15 oz can of pears, drained, and one 8 oz block of cream cheese, softened. Blend until completely smooth. Pour into mixing bowl and fold in one packet of Dream Whip (Whipped topping mix found in the baking aisle. Can substitute thawed, 8 oz tub of Cool Whip) which you’ve made according to directions. Let set for at least four hours before eating.  I consider it a dessert, but there are folks who call it salad.  So…

apple snickers salad

An honest to God Apple Snicker Salad-America is doomed.

You can use any type of noodle for this salad that you like—the pasta police will not break down your door with a side dish subpoena.  But, I first had it with a broken capellini (angel hair).  I like the way the sauce coats these noodles produce a silky mouth feel.  And, it’s a departure from the norm.fideoYou can use angel hair or spaghetti, then break it into approximately 2-inch pieces.  Or, in the Latin food section of your grocer is something called fideo; it’s short pieces of angel hair pasta.  And, it runs between 33 and 50 cents a bag.

The dressing can, and frankly should, be made well in advance.  The garlic will kind of cook in the lemon’s acid, and thus will make it less sharp and biting, and more mellow and round, almost sweet.

Lemon ‘Sghetti Salad

Dressing:lemon sghetti salad dressingJuice and zest of 1 large lemon (about ¼ cup)

½ cup olive oil

Pinch of sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium sized tomato cut into ¼ inch cubes or 1-pint grape tomatoes, halved

2 heaping tablespoons capers in brine, drainedsghetti dressingWhisk together lemon juice and zest, oil, sugar, salt and pepper.  Taste for seasoning, and re-season, if necessary.  Fold in tomato, garlic, and capers.  Cover and refrigerate for 6-24 hours before using.boiled fideoA couple hours before service cook one 7.05-ounce or 200-gram bag of fideo in heavily salted wateruntil al dente (around 6-8 minutes).  Strain and cool completely.

Mix pasta and sauce and let sit at room temp for at least 45 minutes.  Cover leftovers and refrigerate up to three days.

Optional-Stir in 3 big handsful of leafy greens like spinach, arugula, or mixed herb greens.lemon cappellini salad

Thanks for your time.

If you have an invitation for a pool party potluck or any invitations at all really, contact debbie.

pool party invite

We Saw The Light

say boom boxGentle Reader, I listen to music constantly; ear buds in, I wrap myself in the musical arms of whichever style and artist I’m in the mood for.  Often, and alarmingly, I sing along, although my dulcet tones would sound more appropriate coming from rusty machinery or a bag of broken glass thrown out a window.live musicBut there’s something about live music.  The give and take between artist and audience.  The shared affection of large groups for performer.  Nuance and spontaneity that cannot exist in recordings.

It’s been many years since I’ve been to a concert and I didn’t remember how much fun a live performance can be—it’s like when you reunite with someone after many years apart; you’ve forgotten how much you actually love being around them.shakey audio treeLast weekend The Kid and I went to the Ritz, in Raleigh, to see Shakey Graves, a blues/rock/country troubadour.  He had two opening acts.

The first was Kate Rhudy, a folksinger and songwriter.  Her music was entertaining, but, her red-headed bass player stole the segment.  He had the most magnificent mullet I’ve ever seen.  It was haircut, fashion statement, and lifestyle choice.  It deserves its own fan club.sweet mulletThe next band was Illiterate Light.  Historically, opening acts are place-holders.  They are something to get through until the guy you came to see comes on.

Then drummer Jake Cochran and guitarist Jeff Gorman performed.

Firstly, they were a two-man band, which takes a particular kind of bravery and skill; the fewer music-makers onstage, the more attention is paid to each. ill lightDuring their first song, I decided they weren’t bad.  Then they went into their second number, and along with the entire crowd, I watched it with my jaw on the ground.  These guys were amazing.  I could feel the delighted astonishment that flowed through the crowd.  We were all musical Madame Curie’s and they were our discovery—we were instant fans.ill light 3Cochran had an endearing charm, the cheeky good humor that drummers are famous for, and the ability of the best classic rockers.  Gorman’s guitar riffs and electronic sound manipulation had us all cheering and gasping in near-unison.  Their singing and performances were glorious and so full of emotion, that at one point I was afraid the boys might have a stroke.  Their cover of Neil Young’s Vampire Blues was so exciting and intense I wanted a cigarette when it was over.ill light 2They’ve recently been signed by a major recording label which will soon release the first single.  I will keep you informed with date and info.

They were so good I felt like I was in Hamburg, watching the Beatles in 1962.  They were so good, I wasn’t sure Shakey could top them.

I needn’t have worried about him following Illiterate Light.  He came out and his talent, skill, and charisma blew us all away.shakey caseAs musical “All About Eve” scenarios faded from my head, Graves played his first song, Roll The Bones with guitar and the one-man, foot-operated percussion instrument he’d designed and used during his tenure as the officially designated busker on the Mumford and Sons tour.Shakey 2He played songs like Counting Sheep and Kids These Days from his new album, Can’t Wake Up.  The stage backdrop was the beautiful color-saturated artwork he’d created for its cover.  It was at various times hard-rocking, funny, and touching.  His sweet yet funny song, Dearly Departed had everybody singing along.  It was a thrill seeing him performing the first tune of his I’d ever heard, Late July.

During Shakey’s set, The Kid smiled at me and said, “I’ll bet you have your column for tomorrow, don’t you?”20190511_225518I just smiled and nodded my head along to the music.

Thanks for your time.

I Hope That Something Better Comes Along*

But you know, sometimes it doesn’t.road map‘Tis the season for road trips.  I enjoy traveling to new and interesting places or well-loved homes away from home.  But I really hate flying these days; it’s unpleasant in a multitude of ways.  And, I’m not great sitting in cars for long stretches, but I’m working on that.

Being there is much better than getting there.travel troubleBut, for me, being there makes my body anxious and cranky.  Unfamiliar water makes my skin break out.  It’s almost impossible to get a good night’s sleep.  And, after a few days, my body starts to rebel if I’m not eating right.

A lot of times traveling means eating on the fly—sometimes literally.  But one should keep some semblance of healthfulness.  Being logy and having an upset tummy will take the fun right out of a vacation.touronsMy goal is to have a balance of carbs for energy, protein to keep me feeling full longer, and healthy fats, with fruits, veggies, and whole grains to keep my engine from seizing up.  I want as flavorful and nutritious bang for my caloric buck as possible.

Of course, the best way to do this is to prepare your own food.  I’m a huge fan of dried fruit/toasted nut mixes—just watch the portion sizes; it’s very easy to inhale a whole fruit bowl that when dried appears to be only a handful or two.  140 healthy calories can turn into a ruinous 2000 if you’re not mindful.travel snacksThose pre-packed snack boxes have the right idea, but usually are full of sugars, sodium, unnecessary fats, and chemicals.  When it’s packed at home, it can be tailored to your own tastes.  Mix something like semi-hard cheese, whole grain crackers, a hard-cooked egg, some grape tomatoes, and dried blueberries.

Sadly, packing your own is not always an option.  Sometimes the only way you’re going to eat is to get some version of fast food.  Luckily, these days it’s not impossible to find healthier choices.macoatmealAt Mickey D’s, breakfast is now served all day.  The oatmeal is around 300 calories if you get it made without dairy; which is often just a container of their coffee creamer dumped in.  There are whole grains, fresh apples, and dried fruit.  The yogurt parfait is also a not horrible bite.  It’s only 210 calories and has fresh berries and low-fat granola.

If you order one of their salads, get one without fried meat.  The Southwest grilled chicken salad is 350 calories and has fresh fruit and veg.  The grilled chicken ranch is 320 calories.sheetzSheetz, with their War and Peace-sized, fully customizable menu can also be an option.  Their breads include whole-grain options, the meat can be grilled, and they have crispy greens to dress them.  I made a tasty loaded rice and bean bowl with vegetables and guacamole for only 300 calories. You can build a salad for yourself—just ask for the dressing on the side.panera spinachPanera’s showing up along many highways, and they have a commitment to providing clean healthy food.  Their green passion smoothie is 200 calories and full of fresh fruit and greens.  They’ve introduced a new spinach salad full of good stuff that is very similar to their old spinach salad which I loved and have sorely missed.

But hey, you’re on vacation, so don’t deprive yourself totally.  Splurge occasionally.  Stop at that ice cream stand and have a cone.  And maybe at Sheetz, buy an order of their decadent, delicious tater tots, but share them with your companions.muppet*The title is a song from that classic road trip film, The Muppet Movie.

Thanks for your time.