The pull to visit the beach is always present in my life. If money were no object, I would probably have a small cottage on a beach where I could while away my retirement years in total contentment walking the beach, watching the birds, listening to the surf, and enjoying the breeze. But since money is an object, I must content myself with regular visits to Galveston, Corpus, Port A, Matagorda and any other beach on our planet to satisfy my need of ocean solace.
This past weekend, BFF Kathleen and I traveled to Bolivar to stay at the Saltwater Inn so we could explore Bolivar beaches. It just so happens that our visit this Spring coincided with Galveston’s Featherfest Birding Festival which I have attended in the past with BFF Linda. The benefit of attending birding festivals is you have a guide who takes you to hot spots and helps you cue in on unusual bird visitors that might otherwise be missed. But having grown up visiting Galveston my entire life, I have more knowledge than a casual visitor of those hot spots. So, in addition to actual beach combing time, we visited The Rookery on High Island and also many of my favorite birding haunts on Galveston Island….East Jetty, Lafitte’s Cove, Sportsman’s Road to name a few.
Here are a few photos of some of our bird encounters this past weekend.
Springtime in Texas is synonymous with great birding, so get out there and do some bird searching!!!
Recently while lunching with a family member, he remarked on the size of his coffee cup. As usual, my mind took off exploring the many preferences that various people have for certain types of mugs, cups or other vessels that hold their precious morning java.
One of my sisters refuses to drink coffee from any cup that has a dark interior. A good friend prefers cups that are round and stout and her cup of joe must be incredibly hot. Another of my sisters always has a china cup for me when I visit her home. And in my own coffee cup kitchen cupboard I have an assortment of mugs and cups, each of which carries memories of places visited or adventures with friends or family. There are thick, chunky “black dog” mugs that are reminiscent of happy summers spent with my sisters at Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. A close friend gave me a white china cup with a plump Santa that I enjoy year round with my evening red zinger tea. And my day off or weekend favorite is a tall white Starbucks mug that holds ample amounts of brewed coffee that accompanies me to a cushion of pillows on my bed where, with newspaper in hand, I lounge through the enjoyment of early morning pleasures. Another favorite is my Obama mug reminiscent of a happier political climate. A grandson gifted me one with his incredible art work on it. The thing about coffee cups is that each time you reach into a cupboard a memory accompanies that container and for a split second the warmth inside that mug isn’t from the coffee but from the loved ones who surround us throughout our lives.
At work, in an effort to reduce the use of styrofoam cups, employees were encouraged to submit a photo of themselves with their ugliest coffee mug and participants were rewarded with a free “ugly mug”. What is your favorite drink vessel? What emotions cause it to be your favorite? What memories does it evoke? Why is it so difficult to part with coffee mugs? I think it is emotionally difficult because, with the trashing of a cup, in essence we are tossing memories and memories are what keep us moving forward in our lives when we are old. One of my favorite embroidered samplers reads…”God gave us memories so we could have roses in December”.
The family member that spurred my brain to ask questions about coffee mugs is on his 86th trip around the sun this year. I don’t know how many more cups of coffee we will share together, but his simple statement inspired this blog post and will forever be a memory of his presence on our planet and in my life.
Erosion. A “bigly” negative word, a word of destruction. As defined by Webster…”the process of eroding or being worn down by wind, water, or other natural agents; the gradual destruction or diminution of something”.
Erosion throughout the millennium is a formidable force. It may take eons but eventually erosion wins. Time doesn’t matter to erosion. It continues to work using wind and water as a battering ram, slowly but surely eroding the foundation of rock, soil, and mountains turn into dust. A hurricane is a prime example of an eroding force that leaves death and destruction in its wake. For many years my BFF Linda had access to a beachfront home in Pirate’s Beach and we have wonderful memories of fun times spent there. Then one hot end-of-summer day, one of those pesky hurricanes ripped through that home. The ocean charged in to undermine the foundation piers and reclaimed that piece of sand as its own.
Back in the 70’s, the erosion of soil treated with pesticides led to a serious reduction in the number of pelicans in our world. DDT was an effective pesticide for ridding crops of unwanted insects. Unfortunately when the rains came and the residue from this chemical washed into our streams, then into rivers, and ultimately into our oceans, and pelicans ate the fish that had ingested some of those pesticides, then and only then did the end result become known. Each Spring the pelicans laid their eggs but DDT caused a defect in the shell-making ability of the pelican. They laid their eggs but when the incubation period began, the weight of the parent bird caused the egg-shell to break. With the banning of DDT in the United States back in 1972, pelicans rebounded and can once again be seen patrolling the beach shoreline.
We have a very descriptive word for the erosion of buildings or infrastructure. It is called entropy. Defined as “a lack of order or predictability; a gradual decline into disorder or the degree of disorder or randomness in the system”. In other words…the tendency of something to return to its natural state if nothing is done to prevent it from crumbling. Examples of this would be interstate highways left without maintenance will eventually develop potholes and breaks in the concrete integrity, roofs left unrepaired allow water to seep in causing even more damage to a home’s interior and even an abandoned home starts to sag and has a clear unmistakable facade of despair. Weeds sprout up, paint begins to peel, a capricious wind rips a gutter or roof tile away.
The telling of lies and yelling “fake news” has led to an erosion of trust within our nation. The rapidity of these falsehoods is staggering and tracking down their veracity is exhausting and may result in resigned acceptance through sheer lack of energy to ferret out the truth.
If you aren’t alarmed at what is swirling in the political atmosphere encompassing America right now, then you just aren’t paying attention. Now is the time to throw away the labels of Republican, Democrat or Independent and stand up as Americans to defend, protect and ensure that our democracy and the Rule of Law will remain intact for future generations. Americans first, country before party.
This past weekend I headed back to the Round Top Antique Festival which is a semi-annual event in my world. My friend Kathleen drives up from Houston and we invade my sister’s house as our home base before we venture out to begin trekking through miles of antiques, treasured vintage items and eclectic art objects.
I am at a point in my life when I really don’t “need” anything but this year I was in search of a butter dish that was wide and tall enough to house a large block of butter rather than just one stick. The Kerry Gold butter needed a house!
On my treasure-seeking journey, the artist in me is drawn to the expertise exhibited by so many vendors in their marketing skills. I am entranced with the vignettes they create and they inspire me to want to cleanse the entire palette of my condo and begin again anew.
So I found my butter dish…check! But there is always one something that I believe I can’t live without and for me this trip it was the saggy, baggy starfish. It was love at first sight and the beach bum in me could envision him ensconced with my huge basket of scavenged sea shells surrounded by sponges, feathers and other nature objects de arte that I have collected over decades of beach trips.
No trip to Burton is complete without visiting one of my favorite stores called Leftovers. The store owners are nothing short of genius in their merchandising artistry and no trip can end without strolling through and absorbing all the beauty created with old, new and found objects. My every visit purchase here is their goat’s milk soap that comes embedded in a soft sea sponge and both my daughter and I are addicted to this soap. A visit to their store is similar to taking a designing course from a world-renowned interior decorator.
So here are some Leftover displays that caught my eye on Saturday.
The Antique Weekend runs through April 7th. I highly recommend a visit if you like a good treasure hunt!
Last night I made a poolish from my sour dough starter Boris! My last sour dough bread attempt resulted in baseball bat bread loaves so I was ready for a success story. And Boris delivered today! Just to be on the safe side…I padded my success by adding a teaspoon of yeast to my poolish when I added the rest of the ingredients. I left this huge dough ball in a large bowl, covered with a clear shower cap, to rise while I went to have lunch with my sister.
When I returned, the dough ball was straining the confines of the shower cap and had risen far above the rim of my large bowl. I punched it down and turned it onto my Boos block with a little bench flour and began kneading it. The dough was silky smooth and elastic and I could tell by the feel of the dough that this was going to be a successful baking adventure.
I wasn’t wrong…the crustiest crust that crackled when I cut a slice and the interior crumb was moist, chewy and had a decided sour bite. For my palette it was perfect!!! I couldn’t resist smearing some sweet cream butter onto a piece and tasting the rewards of my efforts. Two beautiful loaves of sour dough bread…check!!
I then mixed up the dough for my go-to-daily bread the Multigrain Dakota. This is truly a never fail recipe and I wanted to take a loaf to my sister in Burton tomorrow.
On my quick trip to the HEB today I spotted a muffin tin that had larger cups and decided I must have it. The one I have has the standard size cups but I wanted to be able to make a muffin that rivaled bakery muffins. So it now awaits another batch of bran muffins. But, there is always a wrinkle it seems. The HEB I was in didn’t have any wheat bran so I had to substitute oat bran. So, fingers crossed that they taste as good as the first batch but look a whole lot prettier.
Who is Mr. Lock? Mr. Lock is a term used by school personnel to warn and set into motion defensive measures to thwart a shooter coming into a school. A simple name designed to start a drill without frightening young children. How sad that our society has dissolved to such depths that school children are being taught life skills for survival.
When I was a young child in grade school it was the height of the cold war and there were two types of “drills” that we learned in school. The first was the innocuous standard regularly scheduled fire drill and viewed as a lucky diversion from our ordinary school routines. The other “drill” was much more ominous. We each had to take a defensive position under our desks putting one hand behind our neck and hiding our eyes into the other folded arm. How silly these doomsday drills were for how could this position under a wooden desk possible protect us from a nuclear blast or radiation fallout. But we were required to practice these on a regular basis. We were too young to understand the ineptitude of this drill and too uninterested to question the why of it all.
Unfortunately for todays’ children, they are all too aware, and experience on a regular basis, all kinds of survival drills. They go by different names though…intruder drills, lock down drills or for the very young children…hide and seek or the silent game. Other survivalist ideas are to shelter in place and the video I recently had to watch at work was titled Run, Hide, Fight. The running part is obvious as is the hiding part but fight? What am I suppose to use to fight? A stethoscope, a syringe? What is a second grader to use…pencils, crayons, erasers? No innocent schoolhouse tool can stop an intruder armed with a semi-automatic AR15 from mowing through humans like a threshing machine through a field of wheat. Carnage is certain.
It is time to stop the killing. Time to pass reasonable gun laws that allow the gun people to have their handguns and rifles but removes killing machines from the hands of would be assassins. No one’s second amendment rights outweigh the life of one human being. No way, no how, on any planet is that right. On Saturday, March 24th hundreds of thousands of like-minded Americans will be marching. Marching for life. Fueled by young adults whose lives have forever been changed when they ran, hid and died trying to escape a flurry of gunfire that killed seventeen of their fellow classmates and forever traumatized and changed the course of their young lives. They have harnessed their grief and anger launching it into a nation wide movement seeking to turn the tide on senseless loss of human life. If you are moved by their fervor, walk with them. It will make you feel so whole, so hopeful, so “right”. Just walk.
One of my favorite movies is Conspiracy Theory with Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts. In this movie Mel Gibson, AKA Jerry Fletcher, is portrayed as a crazy person because of his perverted view of the world. Another favorite of mine is Will Smith and Gene Hackman in Enemy of the State. In this movie Gene Hackman is savvy to government surveillance and Will Smith is trying to survive being murdered. And in one of my favorite television series, Better Call Saul,the main character’s brother believes his body is bombarded with energy waves from any and all electronic devices including electricity and lives within his beautiful home with only kerosene lamps and igloo coolers, all windows blocked from sunlight, never leaving to go out because he experiences real physical pain if he does. No spoiler alert needed here. A well constructed movie is easy to enjoy multiple times. But perhaps it is the subject matter that intrigues me.
Recently a friend and I were discussing the appearance of ads on our social media feeds or in our email. After talking about a certain product, an ad for said product miraculously appears in her mail. She hadn’t googled it so that explanation for its appearance didn’t fly. Last Christmas one of my daughters gifted me with “Alexa”. She sits on my kitchen bar counter silently surveiling, awaiting my voice commanding her to wake up. After our discussion, my mind took the leap to “what if she is always listening” and through her, my every move and conversations are being monitored. And then I jumped to George Orwell’s 1984 book where Big Brother IS always watching, the Thought Police exist and truth is what Big Brother says it is. That book was published as science fiction in 1949 imagining a world unknown at that time and certainly a world that has now become a reality.
In the movies, conspiracy theorist personalities are fervent in their beliefs that Big Brother is listening at all times. And different methods of interrupting Big Brother’s ability to monitor us are numerous…from tin foil hats to electro magnetic body scanners to devices worn around one’s neck to interrupt electronic signals. Assassination conspiracy theories from JFK’s assassination to UFO’s and space aliens hidden away in Roswell New Mexico or “Area 51”, to the most current version today known as the Deep State will always exist. It lends itself to excitement, espionage and an escape from everyday doldrums of ordinary lives.
I derive much pleasure from the movies such as the ones mentioned above and it does give me pause when something pops up on my social media feed that I was thinking about, talked about, or searched for on the internet, but not enough to invest in copious amounts of aluminum foil stock or to purchase products that might envelop me in a cocoon that repulses magnetic waves. I plan on keeping all of the high-tech devices that have made my world infinitely easier. I can’t imagine my life without a cell phone now if for no other reason but safety. And I can still remember the hard work of typing a document on an old-fashioned typewriter and using carbon paper in triplicate for copies before copying machines came into vogue. And if my microwave is spying on me so be it because I will not go back to reheating leftovers on top of the stove or in an oven.
There is a price to pay for convenience. Each of us must decide if we are willing to pay that price. Just as each of us must decide what is Fact and what is Fiction. “The truth is out there”…
One of the curses or perhaps benefits of experimental bread baking is the plethora of left over bread, the uneaten or slightly stale bread. No way can I possibly consume all of the bread that I am making right now. So the obvious ways to dispose of unwanted or surplus bread are to share with friends, which I am doing at my place of work, or transform it into an entirely new form. I always warn my coworkers that everything I am producing right now is trial and error and mistakes are sometimes made along the road of progress.
Breadcrumbs were made famous in a children’s fairy tale called Hansel and Gretel. These two children went walking in the forest and afraid they would get lost, they decided to drop bread crumbs as they went so they could later follow them back home. As an adult it is easy to foresee the folly of their plan but it made for a good story in a child’s mind.
A popular scene in many movies is someone feeding the pigeons from a park bench. Seeds, bread crumbs being fed to a flock of birds is a peaceful bucolic scene. There is a man who lives in my condo building who daily makes his way to feed the numerous pigeons that call our little piece of property their home. They flock around him eagerly awaiting the tiny morsels he brings them each day.
Bruschetta is another way to use stale bread. Slices of toasted bread topped with a multitude of savory spreads make for a delightful, satisfying appetizer accompanied by a nice bottle of wine. And a cousin of bruschetta would be crostini, a smaller size bread base with a variety of toppings. Both make excellent antipasta.
Homemade bread crumbs are probably the easiest way to use up old bread. Cubed, seasoned and tossed with a drizzle of quality olive oil and toasted in a slow oven begets some pretty crunchy, tasty croutons. Old bread shredded to crumbs in a food processor are easily stored in the freezer and used as bread crumbs for coating meat or as an additive to the best meatloaf recipe ever.
1/2 cup water to thin sauce if necessary (I never thin)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix together beef, bread crumbs, onion, egg, salt, pepper and 8 ounces of tomato sauce. Form into loaf and place in loaf pan. Stir together remaining tomato sauce, vinegar, sugar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce and pour this sauce over the meatloaf. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Baste frequently.
Panzanella Salad is another wonderful way to combine toasted stale bread croutons into a salad of fresh spring lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and purple onion making for a very tasty meal.
I think my favorite way to use up stale bread is making my favorite dessert…bread pudding! Not too many years ago, my BFF Kathleen and I went to NOLA for a few days. One of my most favorite cities in the United States, we of course enjoyed many wonderful culinary masterpieces in various restaurants throughout the Quarter. And at the end of each meal we indulged in one of many sumptuous deserts offered and at each place I was on a quest…to discover the restaurant that created the BEST bread pudding I had ever tasted. Bread pudding should be a melt in your mouth savory smooth filling bathed in a sauce that enhances the bread filling and makes it a sensual experience. I have already recycled some of my bread into a savory chocolate bread pudding that wasn’t half bad.
And this morning I cranked out some sourdough blueberry muffins to use a portion of my starter so I could feed it again. The recipe came from the King Arthur website and the muffins were tasty if not a little unconventional. The stone ground corn meal ingredient gave them a slight crunchy crumb and they weren’t super sweet which was a plus for me. My only wish was that I wanted them to be bigger in size. It seems that one thing leads to another…my muffin pan is standard size and if I want bigger, I either need to purchase a larger muffin tin or devise a way to make parchment paper cones that will house a larger amount of batter.
This baking journey is turning into a wonderful learning adventure! Happy Baking!!!