Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Turner Farm: In the Kentucky Tradition

Dad's office in the barn was the standard spare room mishmash of horse antibiotics, binoculars, magazines, fishing poles, deer antlers, and a whole host of other necessities. I was pilfering around in early October, looking specifically for a couple of blankets that Dad's favorite horse, Cotton's Last Hope, had won in the early 1980s, and I ended up stumbling across a file with information relating to one of his first horses, Go Red Jet. Inside I found pictures, a typed note from the previous owners, magazine write-ups, and most importantly, a hand-written description that Dad had apparently submitted to various publications. The above ad was based on this particular note (second page seen at right), which although had been chewed on by some office critter, was, for the most part, in tact. I love that it is printed and simply on 8X11 notebook paper, I love that he uses phrases like "superior disposition and confirmation," I love that he included Mom as "owner." Most importantly, I am thankful for the love of animals, farm, and family that we saw every day in Dad.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tater tots.

The editors of Real Simple recently asked readers to "share the little stuff that brings them joy," based on the assumption that "everyday moments and objects pack a powerful emotional punch."

Whereas Charles Schulz (the example provided by the magazine) defined happiness, nearly 50 years ago, "as a warm puppy, an umbrella, and a side dish of French fries," here are a few of my own explanations...

1. I love first getting to know someone and sensing that you would be friends. I do believe Fran Smith is one of the wittiest and most creative people I've met (or been reacquainted with) in a long time. Here are a few of the cards that she was thoughtful enough to make for me (personalized cards and stationary are a wonderful gift; if you're looking for handmade presents, always consider this a viable option).

2. Hearing the history of a dessert (the recipe creator, ingredients used, the baker) and then enjoying it without guilt. Ex. The sampling of peanut butter balls, death-by-chocolate cake, and cookie from Annie Ruby's today...Why I didn't feel guilty is beyond me.

3. Shaved or crushed ice. I love fountain drinks from Minit Mart for this very reason.

4. Watching Tucker (dog) and Sadie (cat) sleep in the living room chair together. And, watching Mom scoot over in fear she might crowd the two.

5. Tater tots.

6. Trying your homemade wine and realizing it's actually not too bad. Incredibly strong, but not bad.

7. Getting an unexpected email that simply has one, "just had you on my mind," clever or thoughtful sentence.

8. Realizing that someone really likes something that you enjoy (not a bit vague), but that you assumed few people knew about or would be interested in.

9. Being really happy with whatever you order at a restaurant (recommendation: Fish Tacos from Garcia's in Glasgow).

10. Having stamp options. I love it when I can pick between 3 or 4 designs.

11. Having someone cover you up, but first flicking the sheet or blanket a couple of times.

12. Those mornings when you put on mascara without getting it above or below your eye. Bonus: The lashes actually look perfectly separated.

13. Having lunch with your significant other.

14. When someone calls you by name, someone who you didn't imagine knew who you were.

15. Hoodies.
A great idea also in the newest Real Simple: Frame a pretty piece of fabric or paper, then write temporary to-dos on the glass with a dry-erase marker.
Semi-home made...
Start with hot cocoa mix of choice. Doctor it up...
1. Broil 3 marshmallows in the broiler or a toaster oven until just golden, about 30 seconds. Mix the hot cocoa with 3 tablespoons malted milk powder. Top with the marshmallows.
2. Top the hot cocoa with 1/4 cup mint chocolate chip ice cream and 1 spring fresh mint.
3. Mix the hot cocoa with one pinch ground chipotle chili pepper and one pinch of ground Cinnamon. Top with 2 tablespoons sweetened whipped cream. Sprinkle an additional pinch of chili pepper and cinnamon on top.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Chopping Cabbage and Smoking Cigarettes

Last night I actually used the phrase "chaps my ass." I'm not sure I have ever put those three words side-by-side in a sentence in my life.

What makes me giggle is that I honestly thought that there wouldn't be many people in Wal-Mart. Turns out, two weeks before Christmas, on a weekend night, and mere hours before possible snow, people shop. Go figure.

Just a reminder that shopping locally not only helps support community businesses, saves gas, and in my case, saves money, but ultimately, piddling around local shops makes patience and sanity a little easier to come by during the holidays.

Some more local finds...
Pat Ritter and Gary Cooper are both amazing artists. Check out their webpage for shots of Pat's paintings and Gary's woodworking projects: http://www.artmusic.net/index.html. I don't want to ruin the surprise; I'm keeping my order a secret.
Find a pretty ornament (this one picked up at Main 210) and do your own decorations. Nothing says sophistication like a big, puffy Santa and an assortment of yellow "ho ho ho"s.

Custom framing is always a good option. Stop by and see Charlotte and Danny Cash at The Square Corner on Hwy. 90 east. Mrs. Cash has some wonderful matted photos and drawings for sale as well (plus, it is just a beautiful home and farm).
I found this pocket photo album at the Dollar Store for an actual dollar (I love that nearly everything in there is more than $1) and had some photos developed and enlarged at Morgan's Medicine. Save one sleeve of the album for a favorite poem, song, or personal note.

Lucy and Willie are getting new dog beds from Fred's this year alongside some homemade treats from a dog cookbook a dear friend gave to us last year.
Since my boyfriend no longer reads Pillow Book, it won't hurt to show this. He loves to eat crap. He "is red." Hence, lots of balls of red sugar and sugar-coated nuts from Kountry Kitchen for his stocking.
A $1 tie and two, $3 shirts from the Methodist Opportunity Store.

*I am also getting something monogrammed at Country Peddler (I'll show pictures when it's finished), stopped by Grider Flea Market to check out cookie jars (Dad got me, Leigh Ann, and Mom all one several years ago and it remains one of my favorite Christmas presents of all time), explored Brown's Supply for stocking stuffers, listen to the Swap Shop every morning and write down numbers for people who have hens and roosters, and asked an incredibly creative local card designer to possibly do a few for me to include with a gift.

Let me know if you have other suggestions!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Sign Ain't Playin' - Cumberland Co. Really IS the Best Kept Secret in Kentucky

A few of my favorites from my Cumberland County Christmas shopping... (I still have several "colors" that need to be addressed; will likely be a Part II to this post)
Above: Methodist Opportunity Store - $3.00 for two tea cups and matching saucers; Below: Same store, $.25/tin (plan to do some trail mix, Christmas cookies, and various goodies dipped in chocolate)

Smith's Pharmacy has a wide selection of Christmas cards for 50-75% off. Save some money and go this route, but personalize with your favorite poem, lyric, family update, child's drawing, or joke on the inside. Call Caroline - bet she has some classic holiday jokes worked up.
For a $10 donation to the Cumberland County Public Library, get yourself one of these cute t-shirts. Black and olive tote bags (that simply say "Cumberland County Public Library") are also available (you could fill them with someone's favorite book, a candle, neck pillow, hot cocoa mix, magazine subscription card, etc.). Added bonus...You get a chance to check out new books, DVDs, and magazines. Plus, I hear the Director is really cool.
"Bella Baby" products are a good idea for girls of all ages.
The cutting boards/trivets, handcrafted by Sherman McCoy, are some of my favorites. I suggest giving one of these alongside the homemade wine you're making and some specialty cheese or homemade bread from Kountry Kitchen.
I found these ramekins at what used to be "J's Discount" for $1.00 a piece. I plan to include these in a gift box accompanied by recipe cards for individual desserts and a spice medley from Kountry Kitchen.
Above: Some of the neat things I found at Main Street 210. I paid $12 for the beautiful scarf, $8.00 for the baking dish, and .$20 for the ornaments (which Andy and I plan to paint designs and a message on). Below: This may not make it into a gift package...I love the stained glass I stumbled across at MS 210 (less than $10!).

I absolutely adore everything I found at the Yellow Ribbon Trading Post in Marrowbone. For $12, I got the vase, three incense holders, homemade pumpkin butter (made by a Cumb. Co. resident), homemade candle, and two coffee mugs (which may not make it into a gift either).

I also got a fantastic deal on a gift item I picked up at Anderson's Cowboy Store, I found another coffee mug at Smith's (red and orange with an initial on the front - plan to fill it with pumpkin pie biscotti for my "orange" recipient), and spulrged on a pair of jeans for myself at Millie's for $7.

While you're out and about, I suggest that you go to the news office to check out the paintings Billy Guffey will have on sale for the next couple of weeks and then cross the street and swing in Annie Ruby's for a chocolate chip cookie/buttercream icing sandwich. Finish your day with whimsical socks and Love Actually.

Happy shopping!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bet You've Never Been So Happy to Not Be on a Christmas List

This year I've decided that I'm going to buy most, if not all, of my Christmas presents in Cumberland County. Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be showing you examples of some of the little gems that I, have already, or plan on finding. Oh, and just for kicks, I've also decided that I will have a color theme for each person (there is absolutely no rationale for this). I put the following colors in a basket and then drew a different one as I scrolled down my list of recipients: green, red, blue, black, yellow, orange, purple, white (don't start with the, "white isn't a color," nonsense), teal, maroon, pink, and chocolate brown.

For the time being though, here are a couple of suggestions...
1) Consider concocting your own wine, bottle it, and then make your own labels (check out: http://www.grapestompers.com/articles/wine_labels.htm). A friend recommended the following recipe (from allrecipes.com) and it truly was super easy. I settled on a white grape concentrate, and apple concentrate, and an already-prepared cranberry (just added the yeast to the gallon jug). All have been sitting now for about 4 weeks; I'll let you know more when I've actually tasted them.

1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
4 cups sugar
1 (12 fluid ounce) can frozen juice concentrate - any flavor except citrus, thawed
3 1/2 quarts cold water, or as needed

Combine the yeast, sugar and juice concentrate in a gallon jug. Fill the jug the rest of the way with cold water. Rinse out a large balloon, and fit it over the opening of the jug. Secure the balloon with a rubber band. Place jug in a cool dark place. Within a day you will notice the balloon starting to expand. As the sugar turns to alcohol the gasses released will fill up the balloon. When the balloon is deflated back to size the wine is ready to drink. It takes about 6 weeks total.
2) For that one, non-local, purchase, choose wisely... Whimsical dog socks from Walgreens are a sound option.
And, this, my friends, is one of the many reasons I said "yes" to Andy.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Elusive Art of Gratitude

I love that Caroline can sing the praises of Kanye West's new album, highlight an NPR interview with Jay-Z, and post an incredibly thought-provoking Chicago Tribune essay all within a 48 hour time span on her Facebook page...one of the many reasons I think she's so cool.
I want to think that I am capable of the emotions and mindset that Schmich so interestingly describes, but I know that there will be days when I roll my eyes and find her disconnected and pretentious. And, that's okay.

"Even the terrible things seem beautiful to me now:
A mother's insights on gratitude become clearer near Thanksgiving"
Mary Schmich

November 21, 2010

"My mother once said something that has played over and over in my mind in the few months since she died, and I hear it strongly as we get closer to Thanksgiving.

"Even the terrible things," she said, on a sunny day in what would be her last September, "seem beautiful to me now."

I rarely saw my mother cry, despite the many reasons she might have, but on that afternoon in her backyard, she cried a little, tears that I sensed were equally for the beauty and the sorrow in her life, and for the recognition that, when it's all done, beauty and sorrow are one and the same.

Even the terrible things seem beautiful to me now.

What she was saying that day, I think, was that it's all life. The things that hurt your heart, wound your pride, drain your hope, leave you lost, confuse you to the point of madness. That's life, life with its endless, shifting sensations and its appalling urgency and its relentless drive toward mystery.

What could be better than that? What could you be more thankful for than that?

At Thanksgiving there's a lot of talk about gratitude, a word that has been so merchandized — on calendars and coffee mugs and in self-help manuals — that when you hear it you may want to reach for the hand sanitizer to wipe away the goo.

In the commercial version of gratitude, life is filled with cozy meals, cozy weather, friends and relations who smother each other in hugs and greeting cards. To the extent that hard times figure in, it's only once they've been vanquished and can be toasted farewell with a glass of premium wine facing a perfect sunset.

It's easy to be grateful for such easy pleasures. Who can complain about cozy meals and friends who put up with your annoying behaviors?

But to see the beauty in the terrible things and to be grateful for those moments — that's an elusive art.

I think you have to be old to see how beautiful the terrible things are, my mother said that afternoon, and I suspect she's right.

Maybe we can't see the beauty in the terrible things until we're approaching the final beauty and terror. In other words, death: the ultimate proportion gauge.

Maybe only when you take your last step back from the canvas can you see how gorgeous all those wrong strokes and smudges look when viewed together.

All of the best times in my life have grown directly out of the worst times. What feels like manure often turns out to be fertilizer.

But what I took from my mother's remark wasn't just that good may grow out of bad. It's that the bad is its own beauty.

We all resist what's difficult and painful. We run from it. We curse it. It comes anyway, as inevitable as weather.

Most of us have gone through at least one time in our lives that we would call terrible. Everyone I know well certainly has.

A disease. A rape. A parent's suicide. The death of someone you love. The collapse of a dream.

These are things you would never wish on anyone, just as I would never have wished for my mother some of what befell her.

But as we approach Thanksgiving, I'm more grateful than ever to her for the ways she helped everyone around her understand that the hard times make you whole. They make you play the entire keyboard. They allow you to experience the full range of the most basic thing we give thanks for: being alive."
I have long thought (and have even elected to tell multiple people) that Jay-Z, Beyonce, and I would be good friends.

And, remember, nothing says "Thanksgiving" like an ABC Beyonce special.

And, yes, my desire to perform "Single Ladies" lingers.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Tribute to My Favorite Reader

I do a Library article for the Cumberland County News each week. I thought it only fitting to use the space this past week to pay tribute to my favorite reader.
Curtis Turner was a farmer and a teacher for much of his life. He never made a lot of money doing either, but he enjoyed both nonetheless (well, maybe not the paperwork, as many High School and Central Office staff members have told us over the past few days). He was a farmer who loved his horses, cows, dogs, and cats almost as much as the three little pony-tailed girls who likely drove him crazy for 32 years with pleas of pony rides – both actual and the occasional “buckin’ bronc” game in the living room – , fishing trips, and opportunities to hang onto ropes and “ride” the horse walker. He was a good teacher (based on my own experience and on those that others have been kind enough to share with me), one that could make us laugh with some dry, offhand comment and scare us in the same breath with both his knowledge of “a little bit about everything” and with the pointy toes of those classic cowboy boots. He was a teacher that cared about one’s gender, race, or class even less than he did about that paperwork Jill, Ellen, and Margenia pulled teeth to get. He doled out praise and discipline to the “good ‘ol boys” in the same manner as he did to those admirers who took his class primarily because of his “pretty blue eyes” (according to one visitor at the funeral home, and by implication of much of the hospital staff, Curtis Lee was “eye candy”). And, this is why we loved him – we knew any of us could earn his wrath or his appreciation on any given day.

Come sundown, though, Dad was neither farmer nor teacher. He was a “eat supper with my wife and kids” man. He was a “help with homework” man (even if that “help” was often in much more practical terms than the formulas and theories proposed in textbooks – he often said, “now think about this in real life,” and then proceeded to explain math concepts based on the distance from the house to the barn). He was a news watcher. He was a reader. He loved to sit in his big brown chair in the living room, often with a dog squeezed in right beside him, and pull out his favorite Wendell Berry collection. He enjoyed horse magazines just as much as books of political theory. He appreciated Kentucky authors. He had an affinity for collections about agriculture, sustainability, and simple pleasures in life. He was open to trying poetry, although it wasn’t his favorite and sometimes invoked a little eye-rolling or sarcastic comment. And, this is one of those everyday things that I will miss everyday – walking by and hearing him repeat some line he found particularly interesting or ridiculous, a line he was able to read only because he had not lost his incredibly dirty glasses that given afternoon – but one for which I am incredibly grateful. I appreciate the love of reading that he instilled in me and I feel so fortunate to be in a position now where I can share that love, Tuesday-Saturday, with those of you who feel the same.

Thank you so much to those who made a contribution to the Cumberland County Public Library in lieu of flowers. The money will go toward books in his honor that I know either he would have enjoyed himself or those that we think he would have enjoyed reading to Isabella Kurtys.

Classic pick of the week: The Unsettling of America by Wendell Berry (who, by the way, will be speaking at Centre College in Danville on Monday, Nov. 15; it's free - if you live nearby, take advantage)
Dad always liked Alan Jackson. This song reminds me of him.

Friday, October 29, 2010

I know, your life just hasn't been the same...

I apologize for my absence (An illness in the family has kept me away for a while). Thank you to all who continue to do, say, and write things that remind me of the good, and the funny, and the interesting all around me - fodder for upcoming posts abounds. I hope to see you soon.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

God Willin' & the Creek Don't Rise

Oh, Amazon's good ol' "If you like..." and "More items for you"...

Ray LaMontagne's God Willin' & the Creek Don't Rise and Mumford & Sons's Sigh No More. Haven't even opened yet - will give a review next week. And by the way, I still really love actually buying CDs.
I adore the Made From Scratch cover.
A weekend project...
I found two of these in "the plant" (Papa's Turner Farm Sausage building) and decided they might look nice on my front porch. Word of Advice: Decide how much Krylon Blue Ocean Breeze you think you will need. Buy twice that much.

An excerpt from Bill Ellis's essay, "History Is Always Personal" which can be found in the October issue of Kentucky Monthly...

"More frightening than the lack of historical knowledge is the loss of a sense of irony. We need another public intellectual like Reinhold Niebuhr, the author of The Irony of American History, who explained to a post-World War II, Cold War-era America that in opposing totalitarianism (or organized terrorism today) we must not lose sight of the frailties of our own humanity. We are fallible human beings in a fallible world. Nothing will ever be perfect, but it is the quest to make this world better that makes us human, humane and noble.

Unfortunately, a sense of irony has been replaced by a cult of bitterness in public discourse. It is not ironic to cult of bitterness conservatives that the 'War on Terror' continues to produce terrorists. It is not ironic to cult of bitterness liberals that a well-meaning law cannot change society for the better overnight.

History is personal for you and me. To be fully engaged public citizens, we must cultivate opinions based on a working knowledge of history."

Friday, October 1, 2010

Shanks, C

I really love going out to eat. I enjoy exploring websites, looking for fonts, colors, and graphics that reflect a restaurant that "looks like me" (Ex. how I found The Tomato Head in Knoxville). I am probably one of few people who really likes listening to a server talk about specials on a given day (especially when they tack on, "it's really good," and accompany said descriptor with an unmistakable sparkle in their eye). I try to order things that I don't know how - or would just never think - to make at home. I have to hide frustration when others at my table order the same thing as someone else.

With all that being said, sometimes there's nothing better than a grilled cheese.
I'm not snobby about it; I will eat and enjoy a slice of processed American cheese on enriched white flour sliced bread (which we had at mom's a few nights ago...with tater tots and homemade vegetable soup). However, I do occasionally like to spice things up a bit. One of my favorites is apples, bleu cheese, toasted walnuts, and some sort of balsamic vinaigrette on sour dough bread (idea came from Stella's on Jefferson St. in Lexington).

What are some of your favorite grilled cheese combinations?
I want to share two wonderful gifts...
1) Terry (the co-worker who so graciously helped me move a couple of weeks ago) found this today while out and about at the Roller Coaster Yard Sale. She said she saw it and just thought of me. It, along with Isabella and Leigh Ann's lunch time visit to the Library, absolutely made my day.
2) It's been a while since I've talked about how much I love Miss Caroline Kraft, so...here's an ode to the friendship I am so very lucky to share with this amazing woman. And, a sneak peak into the epistolary novel that we plan to publish one day.

Ode to the girl who knows the sound of the latch,
the one who will do yoga with me and not laugh,
the roommate who ignored my 6:00 am Saturday wake-ups,
and the classmate whose bellychain jingled as quietly as mine.
Ode to the friend who knows I owned an inordinately puffy, puffy coat
the girl who would look stylishly cute even in the puffiest of coats,
the traveler who has lived and been much cooler places than I,
and yet, the Marrowbone visitor who still enjoys a front porch.
Ode to the best friend whose handwriting makes me smile,
the best friend whose honesty doesn't make me defensive,
the best friend who I genuinely love as much as a sister,
the best friend who I am thankful for every day.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tomorrow we'll probably find Waffle singing a little Prince in the bathtub

Bet you didn't know that you can actually bypass Campbellsville if trying to get to Knifley from Burkesville, did you? On September 18, after two convenient store stops, the latter of which confirmed both my faith in old men who eat breakfast at locally-owned gas stations and the fact that I had indeed stayed on Hwy 55 rather than veering right on 551, I arrived at the Janice Holt Giles cabin in rural Adair County. I had gone for a couple of reasons. A library patron had recommended that I check out "Kentuckians Reading Kentuckians," an annual event that gives local authors a chance to read their own work or the work of their favorite Kentucky writer. It was also just a pretty morning, the kind that reminds you that fall is in fact a few days away - insert any seasonal cliches that involve the word "crisp" -, a morning that necessitates a drive on a country road (or in my case, numerous roads, several of which were completely unnecessary).

Upon arriving, I took out my lawn chair, Avett Brothers bag (which housed my favorite Wendell Berry book, prep material in case one of the readers didn't show up), and camera. I walked past the pond, quietly stood while the presenter at the time finished her excerpt, and then made my nest under a maple tree (which I quickly identified as a maple not because I had a horticulture class in high school - sorry, CLT - but because I recognized the leaves from a hockey uniform). Comfortable with both my partly-shaded, partly-sun exposed furniture arrangement and the fact that every other attendee had a good ten years on me, I settled in for what turned out to be a lovely day.

*I got such a kick out of a couple, probably 75-80 years old, who wore matching shirts and performed a "duet poem" about cheating spouses. I enjoyed them even more in retrospect when I realized (the following Thursday night) that they were actors in the Barnlot Theater's production of To Kill a Mockingbird.
*I wish I owned the folk-artsy cabbie hat that Lynwood Montell so gracefully pulled off.
*I had the opportunity to hear Darlene Campbell, an elementary school teacher from Adair County, read some of her own poems and an excerpt from an upcoming novel. I respected her comment: "I make a living from teaching; let the writing money go to something that matters" - a statement made in reference to the proceeds from I'm Listening Momma. I was moved by her poem, "If The Devil Had a Name," a personal denunciation of cancer (her father is also battling the disease right now). I enjoyed her engaging presentation style and the laid-back sincerity clearly evident during our one-on-one lunch time chat.

If you get a chance, read some of Janice Holt Giles' work, be on the lookout for Darlene Campbell's upcoming novel, and consider attending next year's event...with or without a significant other and/or matching shirts.
This has been my piddle project the past couple of days after work...
This was Waffle's old doghouse. Mom decided that we needed to put the much nicer one (that no dog was using) in the pen for everyone's favorite dog (despite the fact that we named him "Waffle"). I decided to fix this one up for Lucy and Willie.
My trusty tools. I love that the saw handle is held together with duct tape. If this doesn't scream Curtis and Jackie, nothing does.
Well, it's not quite finished (I'm going to paint it this weekend), but I'm happy with the progress so far. We decided long ago that if they could actually write their names, Lucy would do hers in a rather dainty cursive, Willie in big block print.

Monday, September 27, 2010

I find most themed months to be dumb. October as "National Pizza Month" is an exception.

Just a couple of recipes to enjoy now that it actually feels like fall...

Mushroom-Sausage Ragu
I found this in the latest Food & Wine magazine. Although I haven't actually tried it yet, it seems like something I would love (I really enjoy mushrooms, polenta [If anyone has a good polenta recipe, please let me know], and water chestnuts). I'll report back.
Servings: 4

1 cup dried morel mushrooms
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 sweet Italian sausages
1/2 pound shitake caps, quartered
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 thinly sliced shallots
6 water chestnuts, sliced 1/4" thick
1 tbsp. tomato paste
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
Chopped parsley, for garnish

Soak the morels in 1 1/2 cups of boiling water until softened. Rinse and pat dry; reserve the soaking liquid. In a skillet, heat 1 tbsp. of the oil. Add the sausages, cover and cook over moderate heat until no longer pink within; slice 1/4" thick. Heat the remaining oil in the skillet. Add the shitake, season with salt and pepper and cook until softened. Add the shallots and morels; cover and cook for 4 minutes. Add the water chestnuts. Pour in the morel soaking liquid. Add the sausages and simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Season with salt and pepper. Off the heat, swirl in the butter and sprinkle with parsley. Serve over polenta.

Butternut & Sweet Potato Bisque
I posted this recipe a couple of months ago, but the 65 degree weather begs for a reprint.
Servings: 4

1 1/2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
4 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
1 medium sweet potato, cooked, peeled and cubed (I used new potatoes)
1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
2 tbsp. minced fresh ginger (I used dry)
1 1/2 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375. Cut squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds and gooey stuff (as if cleaning a pumpkin). Sprinkle butter or olive oil, salt and pepper on both halves. Put about an inch of water in a baking pan and then place squash, cut side up, in the pan. Bake for about 75 minutes. If using sweet potato, cook at the same time (since I used the small, red new potatoes, I just peeled and cooked them on the stove top about 40 minutes into the squash cook time). 2. When the squash and sweet potato have cooled a bit, scoop out the good stuff and put the peelings in the compost pile.

3. In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until it begins to brown. I also added celery...just because I really like celery.

4. Add squash, sweet potato, corn, ginger, brown sugar, coriander, salt, pepper, and 3 cups water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until squash is tender (15-20 minutes).

5. With slotted spoon, transfer solids to food processor or blender and process to a smooth puree. Return puree to saucepan and stir to blend with liquid remaining in pan. Serve hot. (You might consider adding sour cream, cheese, fresh herbs, or cream fraiche on top).

And on those nights that you opt for a homemade or delivery pizza, try these pairings:

Rosato + Vegetables: A vegetable topping makes for a fairly light slice - even with all that cheese - so go with a lighter side of wine. Rosato (the Italian term for dry rose) is a tasty choice.

Pinot Noir + Mushrooms: There's no better pairing than Pinot and mushrooms - they're all about earth and spice. A little oregano makes the match even better.

Barbera + Fresh Tomatoes: Barbera, a medium-bodied red from Italy's Piedmont, is berry-bright and only moderately tannic (I think this means "acidic")- great with fresh tomatoes and herbs.

Chianti + Prosciutto Arugula: Good Chianti is savory and spicy, so it's good with salty cured meats like prosciutto or peppery greens - or both together.

Primitivo + Pepperoni: Big southern Italian reds like Primitivo are juicy and full-bodied, just the wines for a classic slice like this one.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I actually went to www.cheese.com to see where "Gouda" was located.

I don't think I have ever looked up, seen my waiter/waitress walking toward me, and actually been prepared to order. I like to hear what others choose. I like to pose an invariably well-phrased "if you were me, what would you get?" question to the server. I like to stare at the food being brought to other tables (which, I imagine, does not creep out said patrons in the least). So tonight, in keeping with tradition, I narrowed my options to three and then asked my delightful waitress (who, by the way, had already poured me three perfectly normal-sized glasses of water - guess who gets double the DDP tomorrow?) if she would choose the crab cakes with roasted pepper mayonnaise, the hot brown with a Havarti and Gouda morney sauce, or the mango and current pork chop. Guess which one was selected.

I'll tell you at the end.
I am in Louisville for the Kentucky Library Association Conference and, while my dinner dilemma is included in the list, it is not really of utmost concern tonight. Below are my random musings about the past couple of days...

1) I enjoy Louisville so much more than Lexington. I like the downtown architecture. I enjoy having a view of the river and the bridges. The traffic seems to flow better and just make more sense. In my opinion, Louisville doesn't seem to have an air about it the way Lexington does.

2) Money, smummy. I'm at a library conference. I should be buying books, right? The cookbook is by Albert Schmid, the Kentucky author, chef, and restaurateur who will be speaking at the Cumberland County Public Library on November 19. The horse racing book is a recently published historical narrative written by a fellow UK graduate student, Maryjean Wall. The young adult novel, Eli the Good, was penned by my new crush, Silas House. The final one is just something I found at Borders today that I thought seemed interesting. I'll report back after I've read a bit.

3) I love both the cookbook's dedication and the first paragraph of the introduction:
"To my father, the Rev. Dr. Thomas Schmid, because you love bourbon and my mother. To my mother, Elizabeth Schmid, because you love fine cuisine and my father."

"I love food and I love bourbon. My first exposure to fine cuisine and bourbon occurred when I was a student at the McDonogh 15 elementary school. There, as I began learning the three Rs, I also began studying food and gastronomy. Although I didn't know it at the time, it was one of the best places in the world for such study - the French Quarter in New Orleans. My father and mother moved to 'the Big Easy' so my father could become pastor of the Eastminster Presbyterian Church in New Orleans East. Every day my parents would drive me across town to my school in the French Quarter. On the way I took in the culture and the smells of New Orleans. Some mornings we would stop at Cafe du Monde, across from Jackson Square, for beignets and cafe au lait (I always had chocolate milk) before we reached my school, which was on St. Phillips Street between Royal and bourbon. I was not the only student who attended class with confectioners' sugar on his shirt."

4)I so enjoyed Silas House's talk today about his recently published book, Eli the Good. Here are a few reasons why (these statements are slightly paraphrased):
-"They didn't have the canvas I had." (In reference to his own children's inability to roam the neighborhood, to play outside all day, to create a community playground). I just really like the way he uses canvas here.
-"All good art should remind us, at least in some way, of personal responsibility."
-"Good protest comes out of education and it bears responsibility."
-"The only agenda I ever have in my writing is to show rural people as smart, as readers, as individuals with complexity."
-"If you want to understand someone better, give them a camera; have them go out and take pictures of anything they find interesting; upon their return, take the time to really look."

5) The next time you are staying in the Downtown area, skip the 4th Street Live area and opt instead for the Bristol Bar & Grill (Main St., about 3 blocks west of the Galt House). Order the mango and current pork chop.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

To Get Anything Called "Possum Trot" for $20 Is A Steal

The first sentence of these things is always the hardest for me to write...especially when I know that the dead horse beating is about to commence. Convincing myself that some reasonably clever hook will craftily disguise the fact that what follows is basically "I like thoughtful presents and gestures," I put a lot of pressure on myself to come up with some moderately interesting angle and/or random tid-bit of nonsense that might spark interest. I know what you're thinking. I AM incredibly sneaky.

Today's hook: Cliches are cliches because most of us understand them, use them, and maybe even do them. I would love for someone to explain to me "beating a dead horse."
Today's advice: If you know someone has to move, even someone who is neither relative nor long-time friend, call and offer to help. Bring a trailer if you have one. Chalk up the vagabond's outfit and hair-do to moving day rather than bad taste. And do all of this with no ulterior motive.
Thank you so much Terry and Tommy Staley.

And, when you finish moving, start the first of two additional projects...
1) Design a card for someone based on something they've said or written, something that you know will resonate with and mean something to them, something that reminds them of the thoughtfulness and creativity that exist in the little world they are fortunate enough to share.

2) Take the time to write. Don't put pressure on yourself. Forget tailoring to a particular audience or to unnecessarily strict (and often self-inflicted) expectations. Have fun with it. And then, send it to someone who you know will appreciate it.
Thank you Fran Smith.
"Lying across the bed after a day of doing virtually nothing, my eyes drifted to a corner of the room I seldom view. Tucked in behind an antique dinner chair is one of my longtime possessions: a stuffed bear dubbed P.T. You see, I am a collector of ‘things’ (much to my husband’s and children’s chagrin) and teddy bears were probably the first items to seemingly multiply in our home.

I can’t exactly define when the bear phase began although it might be traced to my cousin Tommy, two years my senior. He lived in Chicago and made no effort to conceal his disdain for his ‘country’ cousin. He and his family only visited a couple of times annually but it was more than enough for us to end up in a tiff about anything and everything. His teddy bear accompanied him on one such trip and our time together was spent arguing, fighting, punching and tugging over that poor bear. Exasperated, his mother (my aunt) purchased an identical bear in Chicago and mailed it to me. For whatever reason, it was nearly six months before the bear, all of its limbs limply protruding from the tattered and much postmarked box from which it was mailed, made it to our mailbox. I am fairly certain it was love at first sight and Cub set up permanent residence in my bedroom then accompanied me to college, back home again and finally to my own home.

But back to P.T. . . . during my college days at Eastern KY University, I became friends with a classmate named Ginny. A married mother of two from out of state, she was infinitely more worldly (much more worldly!) than I could ever hope to be. Having gotten pregnant in high school, she had married her sweetheart, Les, had her children and settled wherever his job took them. Despite her family, Ginny was always restless, longing for the carefree days of being nothing more than a college coed intent on earning a degree along with a maximum amount of fun along the way. Perhaps it was that yearning for fun and freedom from responsibility which prompted her to begin an affair with a fraternity boy whose last name was Moore. A simple greeting of “How are you?” would prompt her standard reply of “Moore or Les,” referring to both her husband and the frat boy, followed by her characteristic laugh.

For reasons I never comprehended, Ginny liked me and we spent some time together outside of class and one evening I was invited to her home for dinner. I don’t recall what her house, children or husband looked like (oh yeah, it was a split level house) but I do have a vivid recollection of another dinner guest. Seated at the table, his nose buried in an empty dinner plate, was P.T. Ginny explained that her children thought it would be funny to include their bear in the dinnertime festivities. I learned P.T. stood for Possum Trot, the company which employed Ginny’s husband Les. Realizing how fond I was of the bear he offered to get me one at cost. And so in exchange for a $20 bill, I received my own P.T.

My older sister, never one for collecting or spending money on useless items, ridiculed my purchase the minute she saw P.T., claiming he was the ugliest stuffed animal she’d ever seen. P.T. continued to hide out in my bedroom, away from her cruel glances and comments. Then she began to think of way to torment me – and him. There was the day I made a mad dash out of my office at the newspaper to go to photograph a fire and there behind the wheel of my car sat P.T., his burly paws clutching the steering wheel as if he’d been waiting there all day to chauffeur me. Another time poor P.T. was nearly cut in two by the car’s window glass tightly rolled against his stuffed belly. Once he was suspended from the ceiling fan, a fake suicide note (I knew it had to be fake because even after four years of college P.T. still couldn’t hold a pencil!) pinned to his shoulder. What indignities my sister made that bear suffer!

Life is much more sedate for P.T. these days. He resides perched atop a Longaberger basket and looking rather festive in his own Hawaiian lei. He seems happy – except for my sister comes to visit. I won’t be surprised if those bear claws show themselves someday, despite his benign expression. He’s comfortable in his synthetic fur and resolved that neither sticks nor stones are going to break his absent bones."