Perfect post-beach dinner

I just made this crockpot recipe tonight – and it WAS AMAZING!!!  Most of my crockpot excursions turn into “learning experiences” via “let’s order pizza.”

I got this off the internet.  It’s so good!  I can’t boil water without it catching fire, so this is a no fail recipe!

Sweet Hawaiian Crockpot Chicken
1 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (I put in slightly less)
1/3 cup soy sauce (I put in 1/4 cup)
2 pounds chicken breast tenderloins

Add all ingredients to the crockpot and cook on low 6-8 hours (mine was done in 3.5 hours).  It falls apart when you take it out.  Nom!

Die Essen (The Food)

OMG.  The food was amazing, I learned about so many different dishes!  I even bought a German cookbook (downside: it’s all in German and metric). Here are my favorites (and I have recipes!!!!):

– Currywurst

It’s pronounced “curry-verst” in German.  It’s a street food that is beyond amazing.  It is pork sausage with a tomato based sauce with spices and topped with curry powder.  Best part is the sausage is already sliced in pieces for you, so you can dig in right away with an itty bitty fork.  It’s usually served with french fries.  Nom.  Now I’m not much a sausage person, but this stuff really knocks it out of the park.  I ate it every chance I had.  It got to the point where The General was currywursted out.  “The wurst is yet to come,” I said with a smile.  As soon as I “dry out” from my meat bender and find a butcher in this beach town, I’m going to make this.

– Berliner Weisse

If it’s one thing the Germans get right, it’s beer.  I’m not much of a beer drinker, but our tour guide did recommend one beer that he said “was too sweet for him” – the Berliner Weisse.  I knew then I had to try it.  (I have a sweet tooth….in every tooth).  It’s a brand of beer I’m going to attempt to find here, Berliner Kindl (A slang southern German that translates as “Berlin Child.”)  It’s akin to Budweisser here, light and clear.  It’s then mixed with a sweet syrup that’s either grün (green) or rot (red).  Red was raspberry, green was apple — my favorite.  I’m about to order it online.  Because of America’s absolutely fantastic alcohol import laws, I am unable to find Berliner Kindl here; but it should be easy enough to find a replacement.

Nom

It turned out amazing!  I impressed myself!  It tastes like Sweden, it reminds of the food in Stockholm.  I know it’s not the most healthy of recipes, but it’s all made from scratch and life is too short to count calories.

And no fire fighters were invited to dinner — bonus!  Even as The General was walking out the door to work, he paused to ask, “You know where the fire extinguisher is, right?”  “Yes, under the kitchen sink.”

I think even he will be impressed with tonight’s creation.

The best part?  Drinking the rest of the wine.  The recipe only called for 1/2 cup.  Oh yeah.  I win.

Fricassee Kitty

Growing up, we had an outdoor cat named Shadow, a rather large muted calico (who Katie reminds me so much of).  Whenever she would do something bad like crawling inside the open bedroom window in the middle of the night to snuggle or bringing a half dead baby bunny into the garage and proceed to butcher it, etc., my mother always threatened to make “Fricassee Kitty.”  Because I lack the ability to make eggs and other simple items (I can never remember if you butter toast before or after the toaster….), I never really thought much about what “fricassee” was.

The most amazing website EVER for food, thekitchn.com, I found a recipe for Tarragon Chicken Fricassee with a tagline about how it was a southern dish.  As a southern transplant, I get excited about southern recipes, since I grew up in the great white north of Illinois.  I had no idea what tarragon was, but I figured I could find it at Tarris Heeter (it’s a plant).  It turns out that fricassee is between a saute and a stew.  Interesting.

So for dinner tonight, that’s what I’m making — with chicken breasts instead of a whole chicken (or oversized cat).  Here’s the recipe.

Also, The General and I just bought our 1st Costco membership.  We’re keeping a spending journal for the year to see if it is cost effective compared to Wal-Mart or Tarris Heeter (okay, it’s really Harris Teeter, a chain grocery store here, but I like my name better).  I’m amazed at what they have there — but it is so easy to overspend!

So here goes nothing.  To quote Sir Paul on the Beatle’s Anthology, “Let’s hope this one turns out pretty darn good.”

Yup

Why is it that every night at work is a bad night?  I spent most of the night trying not to cry tears of frustration.  I run in circles, accomplishing nothing.  The computers AND the machines were out to get me tonight.  And as much as I hate to admit it, they won.  I actually stayed over to help catch up on another department’s work that our shift didn’t get to for the mere fact that I needed to calm down before I went home and exploded.  I can’t keep doing this.  I never smile anymore.  My blood pressure is through the roof.  I’m going to age prematurely at this rate, unless my adrenal gland detonates with all the F bombs.  Seriously, I never swear — it’s just at my job.  I even scaled back my schedule – working 5 days a week instead of 4 (less hours/day).  Today is Day #1 and already I can tell it’s not going to work too well either.

I haven’t even shot the picture for our annual Christmas card yet.  I plan to do that tomorrow.  I feel so far behind.

Having my family here was awesome — like all gatherings of my immediate family, there were a few skirmishes, but nothing terrible.  My Dad always finds a reason to re-wire a room in my house when he’s here and this time it was the kitchen.  He fixed our 3 way switch after much sighing and berating my husband for his lack of electrical knowledge (long story short: we switched out the switches in the kitchen for color reasons and they hadn’t worked right since.  Turns out we had the wrong kind of switch, it wasn’t The General’s fault [pun unintended]).  Meh.  We’re medical people and this concept seemed to evade my dad.  My mom fell on the stairs at the beach and hurt her knee quite badly, we’re thinking it’s a sprain, so she was laid up for the last day.

It’s no secret that my parents’ marriage is quite austere, to the point where it could be placed in the abusive/neglect category.  Like a Windows default, I’m programmed to stay silent during the verbal spars, as all through childhood.  I prayed when they came, if it became an abusive situation, that I would have the strength to say “STOP!”  There was only 1 conversation that was going down the road of verbal attack and I thank God He gave me words and actions.  I actually raised my voice to my father.  He got the message and stopped.  We changed the subject and all was well.  Hmph!  I will not take the kind of language in my house, especially towards someone I love.

Outside of that, it was a wonderful experience.

They spoiled us rotten.  My mom and I went to pick up a “few items” at the ABC store (it’s where us North Carolinians get hard liquor) and we bought out the liquor store.  I told my mom I actually want to remember this Thanksgiving — because we were going to float away with all the wine and spirits.  She was too kind.  And despite my alcohol fast (she didn’t know) and the amount we had, I was never drunk at any point.  My dad went to Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Auto Zone to get stuff for my car and the house — again, spoiled beyond measure.  They picked up the tab when we went out, too.

My sister and her boyfriend were fun.  I haven’t spent days together with my sister in years so it was interesting to observe.  I didn’t feel much of a connection with her.  She suffers from severe bi-polar disorder.  She’s on a lot of meds (like a lot a lot), but the disease is ever present.  She was up.  She was down.  She was wired, she was sound asleep on the couch.  My sister is slightly immature on top of it, but smart as a whip.  Smarter than me: she did better in college than I did.  Her boyfriend was cool to hang out with.  He’s so even keeled – I showed him how to play Rumikube and he won.  It was interesting to watch them interact.  He’s got her number and knows how to reel her in.  He’s good for her.  She’s good for him.  They’re going to make beautiful babies someday.

You know the psychology stuff about you marry a version of your father?  Well, I turned that notion on it’s head.  I married my sister.  If you take the bi-polar away, my sister and The General are cut from the same cloth.  And it’s kinda freaky.

Our family adventures included walking around downtown Wilmington, walking on the pier at Carolina Beach, the rocks at Federal Point (my sis is obsessed with hermit crabs and was very amused by the ugly wild ones!), and the rocks at Fort Fisher.  I took a picture of everyone on the rocks and it looks like they were posing for an album cover.  Hilarious.  I would post it, but I can’t blur out everyone’s faces enough without losing the continuity of the picture.  We also hit up Enchanted Airlie at Airlie Gardens.  If you are in the Wilmington area, you have to check it out.  It’s so beautiful and we had a great time.

Oh!  I almost forgot the Turkey Day part!  Phenomenal.  Mom did not disappoint with the stuffing and grasshopper pie.  I brought the German roots by making a spaetzle casserole.   The General made the turkey and everyone raved about how moist and yummy it was.  Pat and Kris showed up with enough food to feed everyone for a few days.  I prayed a short prayer before dinner.  There was silence for about 5 minutes as we were all way too into the feast for conversation.  We watched the movies Fix and Zombieland.  It’s tradition: you watch movies completely inappropriate for the holidays.  Drug addiction and zombies – how more un-turkey can one get?

Overall?  It was awesome.  I loved having a houseful.  It’s kinda weird now that everyone left.  And I ate the last piece of stuffing today.  I need my mom back to make another pan of it.  And to polish off some left over wine while we make it.

I never felt the tug to stay on my alcohol fast — and while I don’t have the answers, I know who does.  And I am His.  And what will happen will happen.  And it will be for the glory of Him.  However it’s all suppose to turn out.

O Christmas Tree

It became apparent this year that my husband, who spent his formative years pushing deer in the Pennsylvanian wilderness, had never had a up close and personal encounter with a Douglas Fir.

The General was kind enough to put up our Xmas tree this year, complete with lights *that worked* so I could decorate it.  I noticed I could see the middle support beam quite clearly in it, unlike from years past.  It seemed…..anemic.  As I got a closer look, I found most of the branches weren’t fully extended out from storage.  Hmph.  Confounded, I asked him about it and he said he was in a rush to set up the tree.  Ah, that explains it.  Classic.

With it’s branches fully extended and full of ornaments, it’s perfect.  I even put up the ceramic Christmas tree form the 1970’s that my Oma displayed every year.  It’s officially Christmastime here in the barracks.

Why so early?  We’re hosting my side of the family for Thanksgiving.  Mom, Dad, my little sister, and her boyfriend of 5 years (I refer to him as my brother-in-law, he’s part of the family) are all coming from Illinois to stay with us.  I am super excited!   This is my 1st ever real holiday as host to family…..I’m officially an adult now.  And as someone who’s job is a 24/7/365, the fact that I have days off around a holiday are such a blessing.  This almost never happens.

Luckily for everyone’s sake (fire department, family, State Farm, etc.), The General is the executive chef for this event, although I find myself planning the menu and doing most of the cleaning — but it’s all good.  I’ve been slacking and he’s working straight through until they get here.  My 2 favorite things, grasshopper pie and Oma’s German stuffing, are going to be made by my mom who is a master at both recipes.  I tried both of them in years past and they always turn out badly.  Cohesiveness in the final products elude me.  The grasshopper pie didn’t set (too much creme de mint, perhaps?) and the stuffing crumbled in to bits when it should have been cake-like. And to top it off, Kris and Pat are joining us too for a total of 8.  It’s going to be CRAZY at that dinner table – especially since I can only find chairs enough for 7 and we have 8 showing up!

….and I break my fast.   Haven’t heard much from God on it.   2012 is going to be an interesting year, for sure!

Oh, the adventures of Wal-Mart and beyond

I just realized I totally forgot to get light bulbs.  Oops.

I just had a quick trip to Wal-Mart to “pick up a few things.”  It ended up costing $45.  How does that happen?  I think my most expensive item was a bag of apples at $5.  I decided that today I would start cooking.

I’m surprising The General with pumpkin cupcakes and homemade cream cheese frosting.  Oh, and this that I stumbled upon this morning.  It looked too good/easy to pass up.  And all I needed were apples.  Yeah, I’m that kind of wife.  I’m also going all out for moi as well – I have 40 hours of work to smash into the week before the weekend hits – and thought it would be a good day to make food to take to work.  Tonight’s menu is a family favorite of mine: my Mom’s curry chicken.  The General is not a fan, but it’s okay, there’s more for me.  I was going to halve the recipe because I make such a huge pot it takes 2 weeks for me to go through it and by then I’m sick of it.  Then the light bulbs I forgot clicked on and I thought to myself, “You could have frozen part of it for the coming weeks.”  I still might do that, but I’m an onion short.  Hmm.  Maybe The General has some onion power somewhere.  He has all the cool spices.  I’m also going to make homemade empanadas as soon as I can convince myself that yes, I will have enough energy left at the end of the day to make bread.  This may be something for Thursday.

I usually avoid Wal-Mart as much as possible, and if I have to go, I go at the wee hours of the morning.  Pallets are stationary, unlike small children and southern women, and so it’s easier to navigate.  Yelling, “Watch out, Yankee coming through!” is not appropriate I’m told.  Well, as soon as I walked through the door, a twentysomething stopped me to ask if I could return something for her (using my ID) for cash because she had already exceeded her returns with her ID.  I told her no, I was not able to do that.  And then added as a quick aside, “There’s a warrant out for me!” and ran into the produce department.  I hate it when people catch me completely off-guard.  The stupidest things will come out of my mouth.

All was well until I got to the dairy section.  A woman opened the refrigerator door for the milk and proceeded to have a conversation with a friend of her’s in the back. “Hey Susan, guess what I did this morning!”  OMG.  It was hilarious…and so random.  Who does that?

The randomness followed me to the confectionary aisle.  As I’m looking for the canned pumpkin, an older gentleman passes me and says my alma mater.  It wasn’t that random, my alma mater  was on my shirt.  “Yes,” I replied.  It turns out he was from a town near-by and so we talked a bit what brought us out this way, 1,500 miles from home.  He’s been out here longer than I’ve been alive — he had on an ECU shirt, but it was where his son went — turns out he worked for the same company my Dad did and ironically, my sister was born just up the interstate from his hometown.  Crazy.  I ran into him again at the poultry counter.  He was a very kind man who seemed tickled there was a fellow Illinoisian roaming around Wilmington as well.

By this time, I made it back to my car without further oddities.  Whew.  Wal-Mart is always an adventure, but this was too much.

….and it has come to my attention that it may be time to start heeding my own advice.  How does one make a completely life-altering decision?  I’m not at the point where I can blog about it because my own thoughts are still incomplete and empirical.  Extremely empirical.  Emphatically empirical.  A possible impasse that may echo for some time to come.  For the time being I’m going to fast from alcohol until Thanksgiving as a sacrifice in prayer to attempt to see what the Lord has to say about this and to commune with Him.  No worries, it’s nothing bad.  It’s just…..life.

“You can’t and you won’t and you don’t stop”

Shhhh.  I’m being a bad girl today.  It feels kinda good.  I totally called into work simply because it was easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. The General and I are heading out on a roadtrip tonight and wanted to leave mid-shift for me.  For fear of being stuck at work due to work load, I figured why not just take the day off?  I screwed my co-workers a bit……and I do feel bad about that…….but I’ve been there every day (plus extra time out of the kindness of my heart) for the last 4 months……so I rationalized it that way.  And I dreamt all night of patients who have a bad pancreas and all the fun that comes with that.

The winds from Irene only made it up to gusts of 70mph here…..so my hurricane virginity remains intact.  ::sigh::  For my 1st major storm, it was a learning experience.  I didn’t realize how strong “the bands” were of the storm that come through bringing gray stripped skies and a crazy amount of wind and rain.  The winds were the worst the day after the storm, I had never experienced wind/gusts quite like that yet.  The worse damage done to our house from Irene was a branch down in the yard with leaves and sticks all over the place.  State Farm kept calling me and leaving messages on my phone of who to call about making a claim…..made me laugh.

Hurricane Katia is churning out in the Atlantic now.  I was excited for some waves…..but it looks like Katia wants to wrap up her summer in Myrtle Beach.  She could turn, dissipate, or slam into our coast — as the computer models are currently predicting.  I’ve decided that I like hurricanes, I love a good storm – it’s the midwesterner in me.  However, now that I am living in my dream house I’m a little more worried about the damaging effects of these monster storms.  I decided when we bought this joint that it was going to be just that: a house.  It will not run my life, it will not be my life, and if the Lord takes it away via foreclosure, storm, or circumstance – then so be it.  We’ll just be on our next adventure  My faith is in Him.

Speaking of waves, the other weekend my nieces Mary (12) and Martha (9) came down with my sister-in-law and we had a blast down at Kure Beach.  I took the girls out surfing — Martha was content to be on the boogie board, but I did manage to talk her into riding some waves I pushed her into on my 7’6.  Mary, on the other hand, was a natural.  It took her a couple of hours what took me the better part of 2 summers!  She caught a couple of waves and kinda stood up, but nonetheless she was stoked and had some great rides.  Mary is also my height and the same bra size as me.  That was humbling.  They said they were coming back down in the fall sometime and I am excited!!!!  It was awesome to share the gift of surfing with my nieces…..and they were eager to wax the boards too!!  I called Mary my “wahine” (wah-hee-nee) which is Hawaiian for “girl surfer.”  Super awesome.  We also played a rousing game of spoons that had us erupting into fits of silent laugh mode.

I am so psyched for our roadtrip to the state gamelands of Pennsylvania!  It’s The General’s family reunion – about 100 people with similar alleles all gather together for fun, beer, great food, more beer, and 2nds or 3rds through the food buffet.  Last time we went we were dating — several weeks before he proposed.  Much has changed, much has not.  I’m looking forward to seeing my in-laws, nieces, and aunt-in-law.  I plan to surprise The General with 375mL of Jim Beam and airplane bottles of Bailey’s for his morning coffee :-).  I have a feeling I’ll be driving home if the dark rum I’m bringing doesn’t get to me 1st! We’re camping out in a tent again and it’s suppose to be warmer than the 10C outside it was last time!  For the 11 hour car ride I also made a huge batch of puppy chow.  Heehee.  I really need to take a nap before we hit the road.

For lunch today, I stopped at Tidal Creek, the local co-op for everything organic.  I grazed off their salad bar (I’m trying to be vegetarian, but with moments of meat here and there) and had the most amazing concoction: chocolate zucchini cake.  OMG.  Nom.  I need to find a good recipe for it — I could taste the zucchini just a tad over the chocolate and there wasn’t bits of zucchini — it was amazing.  I might go back just for the cake.  I’ve been eating terrible the past couple of days and this reunion isn’t going to help, but all bets are off when surrounded by all that wonderful food.  I’m going to try out this “portion control” bit that I’ve been working on.

The title of this post in a line from “Sure Shot” by the Beastie Boys I heard on the radio today while driving around.  The DJ mentioned this clip and I had to share it.  As a former fan of Sesame Street, this is quite amusing.  Enjoy.

The Knuckle to the Thumb Tour

Where was I?  Oh yes, boarding a plane in Myrtle Beach.

The teenage gentleman sitting in front of me has his seat reclined before I got to mine, so it was a bit uncomfortable, especially since everything I had with me was under his seat.  I was a little miffed at his obvious lack of courtesy (it’s a 2 hour plane ride! Geez!).  I  ignored all this by reading my current book, Walden, by Henry David Thoreau.  When I got up to let my seatmate out, he saw the book in my hand and said, “Thoreau.  Nice.” with a head bob of approval.  It made me smile and completely forget he was more in my aisle than his.

Once on the terra firma of Illinois, my mom met me at the airport as we headed back to the old homestead.  We had  big dinner of steak and potatoes complete with my entire family plus future brother-in-law and my “aunt” who is really an old family friend.  Even better?  After dinner my sister showed me how to correctly apply eye make up and gave me a bunch of make up supplies!  Wow!  I’ve been experimenting with eye color and technique and am so thankful she showed me the ropes.  I had been correcting her papers for college (my sister: “Was there a lot of mistakes?”  me: ::head hits wall::) and after the 1st one with literately line by line corrections, her writing improved to just polishing what she had written.  I even asked her, “Where have you been all my life?”  It’s so weird we’re close now that there are 5 states between us, but when we lived near each other we rarely spoke.

Mom and I left the house at 5am the next morning.  Everything went fine until we got here.  And that’s when the trouble began.

Afew miles over zee boarder, there’s a new casino.  I’ve only been to casino once and I was 19….so, needless to say, at 0630, we were seated at slot machines.  And losing.  I highly suggest hitting up Four Winds Casino – it was quite the nifty place. I had no idea what I was doing, so some of it was lack of experience; some of it was sheer bad luck.  Next time, Gadget, next time!  When all was said and done, I lost $15.  I’m a bad influence.

We stopped in Paw Paw for coffee at That Coffee Place, which was across the street from St. Julien Winery.  OMG.  Michigan wine rocks.  I bought some for the General!  Their Blue Heron wine goes nicely with his tattoo of his totem.

Our 1st planned adventure was the Detroit Public Library special collections downtown for some genealogy research.  I didn’t hit the jackpot, but I was more successful at the library than I was at the casino (such is the life of a former honor student, eh?).  I found some more leads, figured out who some people where, and now I have a few more boxes filled out on the tree.  And I know which church they attended.

After staying the night at a 4 star hotel (my mom is an anti-camper), we headed up north for the thumb portion of our tour to Port Austin.  This was the place my family vacationed year after year when we were kids.  It seems so small now, after walking around downtown.  I guess I’ve seen more of the world since I was 17.  I bought a mood ring while I was there.  Ah, the simple joy of being a kid for a moment again.  This place is especially important to me on my spiritual journey: I accepted Christ here in July 1998.

We headed for the old cottage on Lake Huron to meet up with my second cousin, Austin, who had just lost his wife.  It was so good to see him again.  We headed out the the lake, sat around talking, and eventually headed out to dinner in the sleep small town of Pigeon.

It really made me homesick. I miss the small farm towns.  It was so wonderful, I wish I could have bottled it up to relive it every so often.  I love my ocean, but I found my heart longing for the homeland and snow accumulation.  We ate at the Main Street Cafe and Bakery – I had sauteed perch.  I love me some perch. You can’t get it down south.  For desert, their chocolate cream pie was out of this world.  Wow.  We came back to the cottage for wine and more laughter.  It was a good time.  The weirdest part?  “Austin, you have a message,” I said as his answering machine was blinking.  “I do?  Oh,” he said.  “I think I know who it is.”  Sure enough, it was an old message from Bea, his dead wife, letting him know where she heard the best fishing spots were that morning.  And to call her once he made it up to the cottage so she wouldn’t worry.  54 years of marriage and they were the best of friends.  I can only hope the General and I are like that in our upper years.

We left early afternoon the next day after farm fresh eggs and recently slaughtered bacon from the butcher up the road.  Amazing. We sat and talked some more and hit the lake one more time.  I was amazed at how far out I could walk (about 200 feet) and not have to worry about the current.  While the love of the lake will always be in my soul, my heart lies in the ocean now.  I’ll take my rolling waves and salt water over a lake.  Never thought that would happen!

Mom and I headed to our next adventure: Frankenmuth, Michigan.  It’s this cute little tourist town of German culture – shops, german family restaurants with chicken recipes that will make your mouth water.  Mom and I walked around and eventually ended up at one of their flagship stores, Bronner’s – a store that has wall to wall Christmas stuff – and it’s as big as 2.5 football fields.  Oh yeah!  As someone who suffers from OBD, Ornament Buying Disorder, this place is like a keg party to an alcoholic.  It’s a Christian run organization, slightly expensive, but it has everything Christmas.  Seriously.  There were even bulbs hailing my medical profession!  You can order stuff online, too — that was information I probably didn’t need to know.  I have 3 new bulbs this year to hang on the tree — and I have a feeling there might be more.

After Frankenmuth, we hightailed it back to the Motor City burbs.  The next day was the day I had been waiting for all week.

Mom and I went back to her hometown: Grosse Pointe.  For those of you familiar with Wilmington, Grosse Pointe is like the more affluent older brother of the Mayfaire/Landfall area.  These people had money.  And extremely large boats.  And manicured lawns that would make a Landfall member green with jealously.  It was 30 years since Mom had been there – and 30 for me too.  I was an infant the last time I was there.  My mom was born here and moved away in 1972, in her early 20’s, as my grandparents relocated to the burbs because of work and my grandfather’s heart health.  We parked the car on her old street by the house and walked around the neighborhood as Mom pointed out things as she relived her childhood memories.  We grabbed lunch at a local cafe, went down by her old high school, grabbed wine down at “The Hill” – the cute shopping district.  We also stopped at the church where my ancestors worshiped: everyone on the line I am researching had this church mentioned in their obituary.  While it was closed and the lady who did all the historical stuff was gone for the week, the kind gentleman cutting the lawn gave us a church directory.  Inside, it has the brother and sister from one of the branches I was looking for!!!  Sure enough, they’re still in the area and I have addresses and phone numbers.  I am going to write them and include a early 1900’s picture of her grandparents with her dad as a baby.  Next on my list is to contact the lady who runs the historical records – she’s in her 90’s and may have even known some of my great grand aunts and uncles!

The best part of the trip was saved for last.  Just as we were about to leave GP (as I affectionally call it now), we drove one more time by the house my mom grew up in.  We watched it for a long time.

“Let’s knock on the door and see if they’ll let us in,” I said, seeing as how the garage my grandfather built was open with a car inside.

“No, we can’t do that!” My mom said.  “They won’t let us in.”

“Come on, let’s try,” I replied.  “Worse they can do is tell us to shove off and slam the door in our face. We won’t be back here – let’s do it!”

“I’m not comfortable with doing that.”

“Alright, let’s head out.”

Just as she has clicked her seatbelt, an SUV turned into the driveway.  “Let’s go,” was all Mom said and she lept out of the car.  I quickly followed.

A beautiful twentysomething stepped out of the SUV and Mom introduced herself as someone who used to live here.  “Would you like to come in?” she asked.  Would we?!  YES!

And just like that I got to walk into the house my mother was born in.  The girl, Mel, introduced us to her mom, Dar, who was in the house.  They ushered us through the house, detailing what was redone and what was still original.  My mom chatted away, pointing out things, asking questions.  A lot had changed.  The ground floor master bedroom had an addition put on it and was now a TV room.  The new master bedroom took up the entire 2nd floor (it was originally a bedroom with a half bath where my uncle had his room).  It was huge.  My mom’s room that she shared with her sister was now Mel’s room.  The bathroom had the tile my grandfather put in — it’s quite retro — but very nice.  The living room and dinning room have remained untouched as it was when Mom lived there.  The basement still had the tile and the “bar” my grandfather put in – the bar isn’t very big nor attractive and they plan to take it out eventually, as with the tile.  The fruit cellar is now a bathroom.  I got a picture of the fireplace – only because I have a picture of my grandmother standing by it on my mantle.  Here’s a look:

It’s not quite the same angle, but it still made my heart skip a beat.  I didn’t take too
pictures of the house, just the common rooms, as I felt a bit weird snapping pictures of someone’s private residence.  They were so kind to allow us to indulge in such nostalgia.  I sent them a letter thanking them and included the picture of my grandmother seen above.  Not only did I want to thank them for making my mom’s summer, but I wanted to prove to them Mom actually lived there and we weren’t casing the place.

Amazing!  We just kept saying, “Can you believe we did that!?” for the rest of the night.  So awesome, my mom was so happy about it.  We celebrated our genealogy successes and toasted our amazing trip at this great Mediterranean place in Northville, Le George.  The food was amazing, even thought the menu was hard to read — so many words I had never heard before — but the waitress explained everything so perfectly!  Dinner was fabulous, a chicken dish with perfect spices; it summed up our trip perfectly.

Saturday morning came too soon as I boarded a plan in Detroit bound for Myrtle Beach and a $50 parking tab.  Ugh.

So much research is ahead of me and I am so thankful I did this trip with Mom. Not only did she spoil me rotten, but we have these amazing memories that will keep us smiling for the rest of our lives.

Linx

I also made it to Sugar on Front Street – finally!  OMG, their frappuccino is to die for!  I think I will dream about it tonight.

And if you happen to be in Carolina Beach, check out this place on the south end of the Boardwalk.  It’s a great place to balance out all the saltiness of spending the afternoon on the beach.

I also picked up some of these for my flower bed at the farmer’s market.  My goal this week it get them planted and finish the last battle against greenbriers and stubborn shrubs along the driveway.

Attack of the amazing sandwiches in downtown Wilmington

I am not a critic by any means, but I do want to draw attention to some fabulous eateries downtown ILM….

Wayfarer Delicatessen
Tucked away on Front Street, south of Dock Street, is this gem of a place.  They have paninis and sandwiches of all sorts, something for every taste.  The menu is quite large for such a little spot.  Here’s a quick peek:

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I went vegetarian with The Verduras Asadas – which means “roasted vegetables” in Spanish.  It was marvelous, one of the best I’ve had.  I traded in chips for potato salad (I’m nearly 75% German, I cannot resist der Kartoffelsalat!) for an extra $2.50 which I didn’t realize, but it’s printed several times in the menu, I was too distracted by the awesomeness of their food.  I was not impressed with the potato salad.  It was way too creamy for my tastes and I am hooked on The General’s family recipe, which is more traditional.  Oh, and the best part about all this European inspired fare?  The tax is included in the price on the menu.  Ah, so lovely.  I wish this would catch on in America beyond the gas pump.

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Behold, The Verduras Asadas, in all it’s chlorophyllic glory!  The pesto did it for me.  I would eat drywall if it came with the pesto they used.

Chop’s Deli
After Bible study, I was looking for a new place to grab lunch.  My friend suggested Chop’s, over by the post office, also on Front Street. I decided to try it out.  I made a quick decision once I got there, all the choices were so good!  I didn’t know what to get!  I got one of their signature sandwiches, The Chicago.  The picture below only shows half the sandwich — the other half was eaten at this point.  My tastes are not used to medium rare roast beef, but it’s something I could get used to!  It was a very refreshing sandwich on a hot summer day in the Port City.  This place only takes cash or check, but luckily they have an ATM outside for those of us who only carry plastic.  I will totally go back.  And they have a veggie wrap, too!  Next time, Gadget, next time!

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ILM

The other day, The General and I found ourselves randomly walking around downtown Wilmington and we found 2 very awesome spots that are new….to us.

First was Filthy Rich, a jewelry store on North Front Street that has authentic replicates of famous jewelry pieces, from the earrings Vivien Leigh wore in Gone with the Wind, to a necklace Jennifer Aniston was seen wearing.  It’s expensive jewelry in my book ($55-$100+), but the pieces were beautiful.  I especially loved the ring from Casablanca — it’s still my favorite movie.

The second one had been around for many years, Old Books on Front Street, but they have a new location and a cafe among all the stacks!  I had no idea a cafe, Sugar on Front Street, was in there!  They only use whole ingredients too!  I didn’t have the chance to experience a drink there, but it is high on my list of places to go.   It’s such a chill place and the people there are very awesome — and off beat.  They’re not pushy corporate drones, they truly know their craft and do it well.  The General was looking for a particular book and they were most helpful!  I have a few books still left on my summer reading list, but when I’m done, I’m heading back there!

 

Pita!

It’s a little hard to get the lighting right, but my pita bread came out PERFECT!!!!!!!!!!!!  The ones on the right are the best, the ones on the left are thick (just how I like ’em).  It was suppose to yield 8, but I got 7 (ate 2).  Not bad for my 1st go around with pitas.

My favorite snack is pita bread with hummus topped with munster cheese and slices of green bell pepper.  Nom.  I will be making more of these very soon….perhaps a double batch.

 

 

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Gettin’ hot in The Kitchn

I am really getting into this whole cooking thing.  And I’m not sure what spurred this all of a sudden, but I am enjoying the experiment.

Tonight for desert I made this ice box cake.  With real cream.

It seemed innocent enough until I did the math: my desert (total) is about 4,000 calories.  Even though it contains strawberries, it’s far from healthy.  A whopping 650ish grams of cholesterol with about 200 grams of fat.  I couldn’t figure out why everyone was saying to use Cool Whip instead.  I started having chest pains just looking that this awesome creation.  I used vanilla wafers instead of gram crackers (they were cheaper, lol).  Holy Atherosclerosis, Batman!

Tonight’s menu includes homemade pita bread (if this works out, I am set for life, I LOVE pita bread) with kabobs in a made-from-scratch marinade. Nom.  And for desert, we have a heart catheterization an ice box cake!

I’m not obsesed with this website, honest.

Oohh, oven preheated! Bring on the pita bread!

Late afternoon ramblings under the influence of green tea

I spent the 1st part of the afternoon at Kure Beach — the water is starting to actually be warm.  It’s not that biting cold it was a month ago and now it’s just refreshing.  It also helped that today’s high was 33.

I came home for a quick bite of kaesebroet, German for cheese bread (i.e. a French baguette with shredded mozzarella) and then decided to head out into the homeward stretch of reclaiming my yard from the onslaught of green-briers.  I wasn’t all that successful.  I got the last flowerbed cleared out of brush from the past decade, but was thwarted by the mosquitos. One bit me on the face, just below my left eye so I can actually see my cheek when I look straight ahead…..I mean really!  Bug spray does not affect these creatures.  I was willing to let it go until I saw a snake slither into bushes.  It was just a garter snake – as I say, I’d much rather have a snake problem than a rodent problem – but I figured that was a good stopping point.  Garter snakes are harmless, but we just killed a baby water moccasin the other day, so I’m a bit on edge still.

There is a neighborhood block meeting tonight about the neighborhood watch program they are starting.  I should go.  I need to meet more people in the neighborhood.  The General and I went to a HOA meeting last week and I am by far the youngest homeowner here.  They went over a lot of the info there and I really don’t see how another meeting about it would help.  I’m not going simply because I just don’t feel like it.

I’m making this for dinner.

I need to clean up the kitchen.  I need to do laundry.  I work 16 hour shifts both Saturday and Sunday so I need to have not only my game face on, but clean socks.

Rhett, my tabby cat, is watching me type all this by sitting on my printer and staring at me.  He wants to go out on our enclosed deck and I won’t let him because I have the AC on.  He fails to understand how expensive it is, especially when you have the door open.  Why not just close the door, you wonder?  Because in addition to being a scardy cat, he’s also claustrophobic and will rip out the weather stripping on the door if in feeble attempts to open it.  Speaking of which, I need to replace it.  He ripped through it again.  If he only he paid rent….

One of my favorite bands, Halestorm, just released an album of cover songs they did…..wow.  Here’s one of my favorite Beatles’ songs they did:

And Lady GaGa:

And in some really good news, the crepe myrtle tree we moved is making new leaves after some TLC.  If there were an ICU for plants, it was there.  It’s condition has been moved from critical to stable.  Yay.  Water an compost seems to fix most problems around here.

And now for some more tea.  But 1st, a shower to get all the salt and mud off of me.  Ah, summertime in North Carolina.  How I missed ye.

It ain’t a diet, it’s a lifestyle

I love to eat.  I love food.  It’s the 1/4 French Canadian in me.  This week, more by chance than by planning, I went vegetarian.  No meat.  I still ate cheese, dairy, etc.

I gained 2 pounds.  LOL.

It went fairly well and it wasn’t a struggle — giving up meat is like giving up alcohol: sure, I’ll miss it but I won’t crave it like I would Nutella.  Or chocolate.  Or sweets in general.  That would probably require a detox program to keep me in line.

I don’t plan to make this a permeant lifestyle change – there’s actually a term for it – flexitarian, or “semi-vegetarian.”  I usually order the vegetarian option when I’m out at a restaurant just because meat is expensive and it’s probably highly processed with tons of added Na+.  I won’t become militant about it either — I’m not going to say, “Oh, I’ve had meat twice this week, I’m done!”  If I’m offered a steak, I will eat it!  It’s just more of a direction; like trying to cut back on sweets and eat healthier in general.  I also have given up pop, unless it contains rum.  I really only drink tea or water now; juice, if it’s fresh.  I still love my martinis and glass of wine or cocktail — it’s just not as often.

I found the most amazing website that has all these yummy meal ideas on it – which include meat – the recipes are simple and gourmet that are bikini friendly.  I keep finding all these vegetarian websites that use ingredients I’ve never heard of.  Today I plan to make dinner off this website — if it turns out, I’ll post what I did 😉

Away, away down south in Dixie

150 years ago today, North Carolina succeeded from the Union to become part of the Confederacy.  Crazy!

By mere coincidence, I am currently reading a book about the Civil War, mainly the Reconstruction period.  I’ve learned so much about what went on that no one covered in any history class I’ve taken: most of the south couldn’t vote in the 1868 election and Virginia’s statehood was revoked — it was referred to as “Military District One” — North Carolina was “Military District Two.”  Insane!

Anyway, while I was reading this book, I found a word I had never heard before: hard tack.  It’s a cracker-like biscuit that they ate on the battlefield, a staple of a Union soldier’s diet.

And with all things Civil War, there was the southern equivalent: johnny cakes.  As a carpetbagger myself, I feel more southern now than I do with my northern roots.  Sure, I will never say “soda” (it’s pop, people!) or buy supplies for the forecasted blizzard (2 inches of snow! In an afternoon!  Agghh!), but I love the southern lifestyle here.  So as a good southern wife, I decided to make johnny cakes using a real Civil War recipe.  The General had to work at the crack of dawn the next day, so I thought this would be a perfect for him before going into battle.

Well, they sort of worked.  Two things occurred to me with my 1st bite of johnny cake, fresh out of the oven:

  • I know why the south lost the Civil War.  It’s because of these cakes.  They are disgusting.  Flavorless, dull, slightly bitter and all around terrible.  Even honey didn’t help.
  • I should only serve these to people I don’t like.
It wasn’t a failure on my part, surprisingly; it was the fact that I used very bland ingredients — they didn’t have a whole lot on the battlefields for food.  I’m sure it would have been improved on an iron skillet in something that had previously cooked pork over an open fire, but my modern day stab at johnny cakes wasn’t good at all.  Much like Gettysburg for the south.
A friend suggested finding a recipe that uses eggs and sugar and other good tasting stuff.   Maybe someday I’ll get the the taste out of my mind and try again.  After all, the south is suppose to rise again, or something like that.
Here’s the recipe I used…..it sounds good, but they come out without cohesion and gnarly – I forced mine into balls.  You’ve been warned.

Civil War Johnny Cakes
2 cups cornmeal
2/3 cups milk (I had to add a bit more)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoons salt
Mix ingredients. ((the recipe calls for making “8 biscuit sized dodgers – whatever that means)).  Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes or until brown.  You can also fry these.

Just Say No

I love trying new foods from different countries….and now that I am currently seeking treatment for a Nutella addiction, I figured I should branch out a bit.

World Market has some of this stuff called Marmite aka Vegemite that is popular in Britian, New Zealand, and Australia.  It’s a vegetable spread that is made from what’s left over of the yeasty stuff when making beer.  A native New Zealander said it was amazing, so I bought some.  An itty bitty jar cost $5 for 125g, but I figured, why not?

We got home and I immediately tried it on a cracker.

I don’t think I have ever tasted something so awful in my life.  I think the worst part of it was leaving the hoppy taste in my mouth and was unable to find anything to get rid of it with……old tea, water, and a plain cracker helped. Oh my.

Even The General was a little squeamish about it and he loves thick hoppy beers.

So if you come to my house, you will be offered a bit of Marmite on a cracker; it will be for my entertainment if you have the same reaction I did or if you love it, well, you just got yourself a free jar of Marmite.

Tonight’s dinner is a also a conglomeration of cultures: Low Country and German.  The menu includes crab cakes from the kitchen of Chef General and Spaetzle Casserole with swiss cheese and sauteed onions by yours truly.