Saturday, September 19, 2009

Don't Forget To Write

Justify FullI don't know where to start with this. Everything feels out of balance. Having been busy of late with off-line life and family doings, I've pretty much neglected giving more than cursory attention to on-line "families of the heart." Upon finally checking back in yesterday, there was a notify e-mail that took me to Jo's Journal. What I read there was not unexpected but, as we all know, we are never really ready to see a loved one slip out of here ahead of us. Jo, I miss you already.

A lot of folks are saying that very thing right now, those of us who were given the gift of her warmth and humor and sheer love of life. When Jo extended her friendship, she was nothing if not generous. Jo had many good qualities but I'm in awe of her courage. In spite of all too much physical misery, she never stopped living her life as fully as she could for as long as she could. Part of the reason she could do that, I know, was because of the devotion of her husband and best friend, Bill, who signs his comments here as "The Old Guy." If you click over to his "Cud Chewing" blog, you can read more about Jo.

This muddle we call Life being what it is, it seems there is always something you find yourself wishing you'd done or said while your friend was still alive. I had written to Jo because a long silence from her was beginning to worry me. And she responded with a nice long letter. And I didn't write back. Lord knows, I meant to. It was never far from my mind. I can list a hundred reasons for that neglect but not one single damned excuse. Well, there simply isn't any, is there. A huge regret, to be sure, but no excuse. So I'm just saying, if you have someone in your life who might need a line or two from you, try not to put it off. We just never know how much time is left so don't forget to write.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Some of you who drop in here for virtual coffee have also shared that beverage with our Canadian friend Wilma, also known as Jade Angel. (See "Wilma's Word" in my blog list in the sidebar.) I was shocked and saddened to learn her dearly loved husband Tim passed away suddenly this last Thursday. She asked me to let you know, just in case you hadn't stopped in there lately. Here is the link for Wilma's beautiful tribute post. There is also a link there to Tim's obituary.

Wilma, words are so inadequate but please know there are a lot of folks who care deeply about you. There are chains of light and love directed at you from points all around this globe. May that help give you strength.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

My Cup Runneth Over

I am SO in love with Amazon. Really. Remember how I was whining and sniveling a couple of days ago because my amazing food processor wasn't due to arrive until this coming Monday? That's because, as always, I selected the free shipping option. Which takes longer, of course. Except when Amazon does something totally cool -- like upgrading my shipping to Priority Mail. The food processor arrived at the post office YESTERDAY and I didn't even know it!

Fortunately, grandson Albert came over with great-grandson Archimedes and they went to the post office to pick up my mail. I knew the TimTams I'd ordered were in but that's the only package I was expecting. Albert and Archimedes came back with the TimTams and assorted mail and then Albert dumped my favorite short person in my lap and said, "You have to watch him while I go back for your KitchenAid."

"You're expletive deleting me!" I said (without deleting the expletive).

"Nope," he grinned. He was as tickled as I am. So I got a brief-but-delightful play date with Archimedes as an extra bonus to the wonders this day has produced and then Albert helped me unpack the Beast. (That dude is heavy, Coffee Mates!)

Didn't take me long to read through the User's Manual and it certainly didn't take much time to wash and dry all the components and set the Beast up in his place of honor by the sink. In fact, that's why the food pusher is not in the feed tube in the photo above. It's in the drainer in the sink. Don't worry. If you've seen one food pusher, you've seen 'em all.

It has long been my firm belief that when one has a new toy, one should play with it. For my first act, I shredded some cheddar cheese. Zap-whiz! Zap-whiz! Oh! What a blast this iz! And just like that, I had a bowl full of shredded cheese. Dumped it in another bowl, rinsed out the processor work bowl and whupped up a batch of bread dough. (Which included that shredded cheddar and some jalapenos.) Amazingly enough, the dough was ready in something like two minutes. It took longer than that to gather all the ingredients!

Now, the bread machine kneaded the dough for a good long time and the results were always excellent. Then I tried mixing bread dough in the stand mixer. That took -- I dunno -- 5 to 7 minutes, I guess. And the bread came out just as good as that mixed in the bread machine. I thought that was fairly amazing and was afraid it would be asking way too much to expect anything that good with only 2 minutes in the processor.

Well. I'm here to tell you, out of that batch of dough, I made two Epis for Albert and Holly and I made myself two small round loaves. The above photo shows one of the latter after slicing. Folks, that bread is as good as any I've ever made and, by darn, I've made some excellent bread. (With the machines doing all the hard work, of course.) I had to go over and fondle the Beast just a little bit to let him know I appreciated the fact that quality did not suffer from the application of speed.

But my adventures were not over for the day. No, indeedy. See above? That is NOT peanut butter. That is freshly made cashew butter. I just happened to have 2 cups of salted cashews and that seemed like an excellent way to break in the mini bowl that sits inside the big bowl with its own little multi-purpose blade. I had never tasted cashew butter before but I'm definitely a fan now. All I added to it was some olive oil and then turned the Beast loose and let him run until the consistency was right.

What can I say? I got to play with The Short Person, Amazon treated me extra nice, KitchenAid puts out superb toys for goddesses and, oh yeah . . . my brother called and they'll arrive here sometime tomorrow. My cup runneth over and I will moppeth not because I want to wade-eth through it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

In Transit


Those are such small, innocent-looking words, aren't they? In transit. Who would have thunk they could engender such roiling, boiling impatience in a person. But here I am, roiling and boiling, trying to keep the lid on my fidgets and fiddles, all because there are a couple of In transit situations on my calendar as we speak.

Like, fer instance, my brother and his wife are driving out from Illinois this year. Talked to them on the phone today and they were somewhere in Wyoming. They figured to spend the night near the Utah border and keep on keepin' on tomorrow. The ETA is Thursday.

They are IN TRANSIT.

Then there is the other item. I have been waiting -- quite patiently, in fact -- and saving so I could treat myself to a handy-dandy food processor. It's not something I need but it is definitely something I want. Did all kinds of research and then kept track of fluctuating prices and "best deals" and, finally -- when I least expected it, of course -- my targeted KitchenAid 750 went on sale. Woohoo! I had to make a temporary loan with daughter Patti and SIL Roger because the sale was going to be over before my monthly SS came in. Then, when we had that all arranged, the particular color I was going for was already sold out. Well, shucky-darn. The next best price up was only $13.00 more so I said, "Hah! I can do this," and I did. They shipped my baby out at 7:10 pm from Goodyear, Arizona Saturday.

From the moment I got that notice, my patience disappeared and I've been agitating ever since. Every day -- even though by now I know better -- I go to the page where you're supposed to be able to track your package, courtesy of the United States Postal Service. And it's true. I can do that. Sort of. Their idea of tracking and my idea of tracking do not make a perfect match.

Do they give me a blow-by-blow as the little guy wends his way to me? No, they do not. They tell me the estimated delivery date is Monday, September 14th. They tell me "Status: In transit." That's all the tracking I'm going to get. Now where's the fun in that?

There is an undeniable thrill one can enjoy when one is able to vicariously make the trip with the expected package. You can measure in your mind's eye each increment that inches tantalizingly closer every day. There is something about that kind of detailed tracking that helps the wait go faster.

It keeps you from raking long, wicked gashes in the walls with your fingernails.

It enables you to curb the incessant muttering and the sporadic howling is almost eliminated.

The twitching is easier to control so folks don't even know you're doing it unless they look close to see why you're slapping yourself.

Does the United States Postal Service care? I guess not. If they did, they'd be willing to inform me of interesting details like, maybe, the mail truck paused briefly at Gila Bend or Burro Butt and is tooling its way through the desert toward, oh, say Palm Springs or even Wendover. They would tell me neither sleet nor snow nor desert sand storm would stay the steady course of my trusty mail carrier truck/train/plane/person. They would include me in the fun, the excitement, the romance.

Oh. Excuse me. (Twitch. Slap!) I didn't mean to start howling again. Sometimes it just comes over me, you know? I'm going to "woman up" now and try to maintain my dignity until this coming Monday. I'm counting on Merle and Linda to distract me when they arrive Thursday. I'm sure they will make the final few days of the Other In Transit go much faster.

In the meantime, I'm going to wander into the kitchen and enhance my sacred coffee with some golden nectar. I might lay in one more casual swipe of gashes if I can find a section of wall I haven't already shredded but I think the worst of it is over now. Except for the snarling -- but I do that very softly.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Epi-logue Epic

Will you just feast your everlovin' eyeballs on those puppies? Have you ever seen anything prettier in your entire life? Okay. Your kids. And your grandkids. And maybe Sean Connery for those of you of the female persuasion. Well, yes, chocolate is mighty pretty. The list can go on so let me concede the point and just say the above photo is ONE example of pretty. Not only that -- it is also an example of creative engineering and, blessedly, much easier to accomplish than it appears. Therefore, should you choose to make a bouquet of these critters to present as a hostess gift next time you're invited to dinner, you will be almost ashamed to accept the awestruck compliments you're sure to receive.

What are they? The French call them "pain epi" and Wise Geek has this to say about them:

"In French, epi is the word used to describe the flower of a wheat stalk. Since pain, roughly pronounced “pan,” means “bread” in French, epi bread may be listed as pain epi at many bakeries."

What epi bread is, is a clever way of putting all your dinner rolls on a stem, like a little choo choo train with all the cars linked together. You just tear off one of the "seed heads" of the wheat stalk and dip it in whatever is provided and start wolfing down that crispy crunchy crust and the tender fluffy center that laps up your olive oil and balsamic vinegar -- or your melted butter -- or whatever. I've been going to try this for a long time and finally got around to tackling the project earlier this evening.

The recipe I used is adapted from one a charming young man named Pete offers at his web site, where he calls it Cheesy, Savory Monkey Bread. Pete, in turn, adapted his recipe from one offered by Chris Pandel, a popular young chef at The Bristol in Chicago. His version is called Monkey Bread With Dill, Butter and Sea Salt. My variation on their versions was a healthy dose of my Lemon Dill (because I didn't have any fresh dill) and a quarter cup of grated Parmesan (because I didn't have any fresh Parm) but otherwise I kept pretty much to what they said. Except, of course, for turning the dough into epi bread instead of monkey bread. Works for me, she said with an unrepentant smile.

For the magical moment when you actually turn your bread dough into wheat stalks, I have two links for you to enjoy. The first one is a very short but impressive demo on YouTube. The other is a photo shoot of epi making at the Fig Jam and Lime Cordial web site. (You have got to love a name like that!)

So I did my version of the monkey bread recipe and was grinning like a fool when I discovered clipping a branch of epi was actually as easy -- and fun -- as it looked. I didn't indulge in all that butter like the guys did, though. Just brushed the epis with some olive oil and sprinkled a small scatter of coarse kosher salt across the top. Put the pan in the 375 degree oven and set the timer for 20 minutes and then I decided to get artsy fartsy with my spread of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The idea was to put the vinegar in a shot glass, put a dish over it, then turn them both over so the glass would contain the vinegar. Then I was supposed to drizzle the oil around it, quickly whip the glass up and -- tah dah! -- there would be a little pool of vinegar beringed by olive oil.

Heh, heh. As you can see, I fumbled the pass and lost half the vinegar in the flip. Had to mop it off the table. That's why the purple puddle has a Rorschach-like tail. Please don't tell me what you see in that image. I'm laughing too hard at my own vision.

It really didn't matter because very shortly after I sat down with a small glass of some pretty good Australian Shiraz, the Rorschach puddle got thoroughly reshaped anyway. I am here to tell you, Coffee Mates, the next few minutes were pure bliss. I don't mind admitting, I moaned when I ate. It was wonderful. I dipped and munched and sipped and dipped and munched and sipped and -- in a magical confluence of the Forces of Light and Goodness -- all that sipping and dipping and munching came out even. That is to say, I decided I was stuffed at exactly the moment I emptied the wine glass.

And no wonder. I was shocked to discover I'd actually wiped out half of one of the epis! Shocked but not really surprised. When something tastes that good, accidental gluttony should not come as a surprise. As I sit here and gaze upon the final shape of the culinary Rorschach, I've decided it is a fitting epilogue to the epic Epi adventure. No, I will NOT tell you what I'm laughing about now.