Which Cup is Your Favorite?

 Vector coffee cup and coffee beans, Mug, Vector Coffee Cup, Cartoon Mug PNG and Vector

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.

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Early Morning Pleasures

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.

Making memories is important! Go out and make some!

 

 

 

 

 

Erosion

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.

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Mr. Brown Pelican waiting for a handout at the fish market

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.

Erosion has consequences. The erosion of norms may mean the ultimate demise of democracy and perhaps serious damage to our planet. The unrelenting attack on the media by tRump and now the spread of Sinclair Broadcast Group in gobbling up small media outlets throughout America is disturbing. This company has pre-written propaganda promoting their extreme right conservative agenda attacking legitimate news media outlets and over this past weekend we were witness to a prime example of this at this link: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/sinclair-broadcast-group-slammed-video-montage-local-anchors-reading-anti-media-script-1098838.

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.

Happy Birthday Daddy!!!!

 

 

Saggy, Baggy Starfish

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.

Plein Air Paint Box
Unusual art objects
An enlightening moment! Very creative, one-of-a-kind lamps

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.

The Butter Dish

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!

Happy Hunting!!!

Mr. Lock

CD Shelter

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.

1950s duck and cover - Like this would really help.
Duck and cover in the 1950’s

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.

Never Again!!!

 

Who’s Watching?

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.

orwell hundred to use

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”…

 

 

 

Epic Failure and a Small Success

Multigrain Bagel with poppy seeds, flax seeds and kosher salt toppings

Win some and lose some. Last night I took “Boris” out of the fridge and combined the sponge for making sour dough bread this morning. The best use for these sour dough bread loaves would be as bludgeons for a murdering spree! I don’t have a clue what happened…starter (AKA Boris) losing his super power??? I just don’t know what went wrong so all 3 loaves hit the trash bin. What all was right? Nothing… weighed a ton, hard as a rock, still doughy crumb after an hour in the oven, less sour taste than previous loaf. I could not find one redeeming quality. I hate to fail!!!! Not in my wheelhouse so I’ll try again another day.

Epic Failure. Only good for use as a baseball bat!!!

Moving on to what I thought might be successful, I turned my attention to making bagels for the first time in my life. The recipe I followed came from my Bread Alone book by Daniel Leader and Judith Blahnik. I followed the recipe exactly except for one small deviation (maybe this is where I always shoot myself in the foot!!) and added a scant cup of my multigrain cereal mix to make them have a multigrain quality. Everything seemed to go well but the end result was neither super great nor abysmal. They had a great taste, nice crumb and looked OK but my personal preference is for the bagel to be a little larger than what these were. I didn’t get the oven spring I wanted (cereal multigrain mix???), but the overall result wasn’t horrible. On the plus side, smaller equals fewer calories, they weren’t dense and chewy as most bagels are and they had a chewy texture and pleasant taste.

Perfect crumb, moist and chewy
Divided into 2.5 ounce balls of dough
Shaped and awaiting water bath
Out of water bath and sprinkled with toppings….poppy seeds, flax seeds, kosher salt and one with rehydrated shallots

Each baking adventure is a learning process and I am gaining in knowledge with each failure and success. Most importantly, I am having fun in the process so I will keep….

Baking and bageling on!!!!

Technologically Challenged

Last Monday morning, Google Fiber arrived at my condo. I had finally reached my financial breaking point with Time Warner Cable or Spectrum (appropriately, that name makes me think of a James Bond villain) because fees for their services had become ridiculously high. How can anyone on a fixed income afford huge internet and cable TV charges for hundreds of channels that either were duplicates or have content that in no earthly way has any appeal for me.

So this week I had to learn a new TV system at home. New channel numbers for my favorites, change my internet user name and password and the list goes on and on. A trip to Spectrum to return all of their boxes, recorders, cable wires and remotes and hopefully my ties to this behemoth company will be over. However, I never say never because the judge and jury for this new system is still out and the installation process was far more difficult than it should have been.

Initially I was told that I could have internet services through Google Fiber for a reasonable $50.00 a month and that I could get the channels I most watched through you-tube for $35.00 a month. Sounds great yes??? I was reassured that I would be able to record programs, and that the installer would go over all devices, remotes etc during installation. So I expected no surprises, no problems, easy peasey right? WRONG!!!

Internet installation with Google Fiber was easy but there were no recording boxes or remotes for You-Tube TV. I had an apple tv box on one of my television sets, but the one in my bedroom is greater than 12 years old and not a “smart” tv so for me to have You-Tube television in my bedroom either required me to buy a new “smart” TV or another apple tv device or similar product. Ultimately, I blew off You-Tube television and elected to go with the google fiber internet and TV package at a greater cost, but still saving myself $100.00 a month. The young man installing it all told me he doesn’t have anything except internet and watches all his programs via You-Tube, Sling TV, Netflicks, Hulu, and a host of others. Ah, to be young again and unintimidated by all the wireless devices available.

This senior citizen can only handle so many changes so having a remote control makes me feel a little more in charge of my world. So for now, I will keep plowing forward in my constant attempt to keep up in our ever-changing, fast-moving technological world.

Give me that remote!

 

 

In Search of…

Today after work, I visited the Goodwill Store next to my office in search of a “cloche” bread baker. This particular bread baking item can be quite pricey so in hopes of finding one that had been discarded when its previous owner had lost interest, I hit the aisles.  Fortune did not shine on me for there were no cloches or baking stones in this particular store. Not to be defeated, I tried another Goodwill store on my way home but once again no luck. The price for finding your treasure at a cheap cost means many trips to the stores hoping that eventually you’ll be rewarded.

What is a clouche? An ingenious bread baking container with a domed lid that captures the moisture coming off of the dough as the bread begins to bake. This moisture simulates the steam within a commercial oven which produces a crisp, chewy crust. I am salivating for one of these bread baking miracle pots

I find it interesting that deciding to bake my way through a bread book can lead to not only new knowledge but also a desire to reorganize my kitchen into a more “cook friendly” one. I have vacillated many times in my life between wanting the clean, uncluttered counter look in my kitchen to desiring kitchen utensils surrounding me in a wabi sabi manner. I always wind up back in a wabi sabi mode because I love the look, the feel of having familiar items surrounding me…an easy reach to my favorite wooden spoon, my salt-cellar I dragged all the way home from Italy, the Boos butcher block that has become a familiar friend, different shapes and sizes of glass containers filled with a variety of flours and grains and of course the mixing bowls…including one that belonged to my Mother and I can almost feel her hands performing the same mixing rituals.  A memory is attached to all of my kitchen utensils and equipment and with their help, I have produced many, many successful meals as well as some monstrous mistakes. It is a learning process and learning new things, experiencing new textures, flavors, sensual, visual or auditory sensations is exuberating. Isn’t life grand!!!

Sassafras Superstone™ La Cloche Round Bread Cloche

Happy treasure hunting!!

 

 

Today’s Efforts

Today was to be a day of rest before I head back to work tomorrow but I am finding it increasingly difficult to NOT go into my kitchen and begin another baking adventure. I did manage to resist going the yeast route since that is very time-consuming and limited myself to turning out a pot of my infamous beans and a Tassajara Bread Book Three Layer Corn Bread recipe. And I am so glad that I did!!

The beans are a no brainer…follow the recipe and it is a sure success story. I usually serve these beans with my grandmother’s cornbread recipe, but decided to give this recipe a try. As the recipe is described in the book…”the cornmeal settles, the bran rises, and in the middle is an egg-custardy layer”. Turns out this was a very accurate description of the inner crumb consistency of this cornbread. It was wonderful and combined with the beans a very filling and satisfying meal.

Three Layer Corn Bread

Then I took some of those left-over-slightly-too-brown-on-the-bottom-first-batch cinnamon rolls combined with some bread scraps from a few loaves and managed to crank out a fairly decent chocolate cranberry bread pudding for dessert. In hindsight I should have chopped the raw cranberries before adding them to the bread pudding base. The recipe actually called for sour cherries but I substituted cranberries since I didn’t have a can of sour cherries hanging out in my pantry.

All in all a satisfying, restful day that leaves my larder full of delicious food for the week. Happy Baking!!!

 

Another Go at Cinnamon Rolls

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The perfect cinnamon roll – sweet dough, soft crumb, adequate amounts of butter, brown sugar and that special cinnamon

No bread making for the past 3 days because I was working. I was frustrated by this because I was anxious to get back into my kitchen to experiment some more! Baking my way through this cookbook has turned into a passion for me, but I am not sure if my physician will agree with my choice of extracurricular activities.

I know I have the bread baking bug because I went to the King Arthur Flour Website and ordered more flour, yeast, storage bags, a Harvest Grain Seed mixture and some Vietnamese cinnamon. All of this arrived yesterday evening, so this morning I set about making my second batch of cinnamon rolls. I followed the Tassajara cinnamon roll instructions but was heavy-handed with the new cinnamon I just received. I was determined that this effort would be successful, not slightly overcooked like the first batch. I lowered the oven temperature to 350 degrees instead of the book recommended 375 and baked them for only 15 minutes. I checked them at 15 minutes and decided they were ready so I yanked them from the ovens thinking they would probably continue to cook a little once removed. I was right!!! This batch is melt in your mouth scrumptious. I know this because of course I had to taste test one, then two, then, just for good measure, three. I will give some of these away to friends and take a few to Burton tomorrow when I head out to visit my sister again.

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While the cinnamon roll dough was proofing and rising, I started another batch of Tassajara yeast bread. To this batch I added one cup of the King Arthur Harvest Grain mixture and used more whole wheat flour.

First step:

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 1/2+ Tbsp yeast
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup instant potato flakes
  • 3/4 cup King Arthur Harvest Grain Mixture
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour – Mix together and let rise for 50-60 minutes

Second step:

  • 4 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup stone ground cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • Fold ingredients into Sponge mixture, Dough will be stiff and heavy. Turn out of bowl onto floured surface and begin kneading the dough ball. The dough will eventually be smooth and somewhat shiny. Place into lightly oiled bowl and allow to rise for 50-60 minutes. It will double in size. Punch down with fist about 20 times, cover and allow to rise again for 40-50 minutes.
  • Preheat oven while shaping dough into loaves. Let rise for 20 minutes or so and then bake.

The first finishing yielded a very nice springy interesting dough chock full of different grains throughout. I also added 1 cup of stone ground cornmeal in place of one of the cups of flour. Hope springs eternal that this batch will rise appropriately and give me a couple of loaves to share with family and friends.

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These loaves of bread turned out spectacular. Great rise, excellent crust and a nice chewy, moist inner crumb. OMG bread baking is sooooo satisfying!!!

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I am ready to move on to another recipe in the Tassajara Bread book now. And…that bread pudding is still waiting to be made! And Pizza crust!!!

Happy Baking!!!