Monday, November 30, 2015

Don't Say You Weren't Warned.



There's a post up for meatless Monday on the diet blog but I have to share something that was whipped up in the kitchen the other morning for breakfast in just a few minutes for my hungry husband who can eat about a zillion carbs a day and not gain weight.

I bow before you, oh great waffle iron, creator of square Frisbees of goodness.

This one is about as easy as it gets.  Cinnamon Roll Waffles.  Get a tube of  Pillsbury Grands Cinnamon Rolls, Separate and pop each one into a  hot waffle iron for 3 minutes.  Add a splash of milk and vanilla to the "icing" as syrup.
My blood sugar just jumped off the roof looking at the photos but they were really tasty.

Barkley on Helping the Blind

The holiday weekend has drawn to a close.  It was a quiet one, spent at home while Abby Lab mostly napped.  My Dad spends Thanksgiving with my cousin, who is like a daughter to him, her losing her own Dad at a young age.   So he will get some good food and company until I can go out to see him closer to Christmas and New Years.

We had a great time Saturday but I woke up Sunday with a head cold in full swing -  so the day sort of dragged.  But there was one bit of awesome news.

There is an organization in Kansas called  the Kansas Audio-Reader Network at the University of Kansas.  They are a reading and information service for blind, visually impaired and print disabled individuals in Kansas and Western Missouri.  According to their website "We read daily newspapers, magazines, and best-selling books on the air and on the Internet, 24 hours a day and we offer automated newspaper readings by telephone."

This  non-profit service has brought a lot of joy to those in the area that are blind, or otherwise have physical limitations that prevent them from enjoying books and printed material.  The readers are all volunteers and they have great support of not just the university they are part of, but Kansas and Missouri Lions Club.

So why am I sharing this?

The Book of Barkley was selected as one of the best sellers they would be reading for the visually impaired.  I will be receiving a copy of the reading as well, which I can't wait to hear.

Their website is: http://reader.ku.edu

It's a wonderful thing they are doing, not for profit, but simply to help their community.

I've not mentioned this, but this is something close to my heart.  I have a still young family member that has lost much of their vision due to a hereditary issue that results in retinal detachment, with little that can be done, so it's a subject close to my heart.

Barkley, for one, would be very happy to be part of this effort and we both give our support and thanks to the organization.
Well I CAN'T lay on my bed,  someone stepped all over it with their paws and it's not poofy any more.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Black and White Sunday - Our Own Little Miracles.

"Everything worth meaning is made up of so many small parts, its moments, its words, its acts, the skin and bone and the nucleus within us that contains its own fire, somewhere deep inside. We're our own walking fate, and we're our own little miracles, the atoms from which we're made; not so different from the atoms of the earth, the air, the water, all of us formed from that blazing nucleus of the stars--Heaven, binding us together." -  The Book of Barkley - LB Johnson

Thanks to our hosts Nola and Sugar for the Blog Hop.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Paw-ty!

Every year, between Thanksgiving and Christmas  - Mom and Dad have a bunch of Dad's friends from his college days (U of I Engineering School) over for snackies. Mom is almost always on call on Thanksgiving so one of the junior probies with small children and a large doesn't have to be.  She and Dad will make a small turkey breast and/or pork roast with some sides from the deli for a quick, simple meal, having visited their parents a previous weekend for an early Thanksgiving gathering.

But then, they'll have a get together after Turkey Day with lots of fun snacky foods for their friends.

This is my SECOND holiday season in my furever home and I'm loving it.   I'll probably have to be baby gated in Mom's office again while the food is out, but I have a nice comfy bed in there and Mom said she'd bring me snackies while people can give me pets over the baby gate.
On party day, baking starts at first light, and cooking continues on until the first of the guests will arrive. Mom and Dad keep busy, talking shop and other things while things baked, simmered and seared. Mom has friends that don't don't  meat so she always makes things they can enjoy as well.

Mom gets the buffet cleared off a bit so there's room for the glasses for the adult beverages while I patrol to make sure she didn't drop any crumbs.




Uh oh, busted trying to table surf for goodies.

Before the sun was even up, Mom put up the 60's retro aluminum Christmas tree  that goes up in the front room with a original, rotating color wheel (come on, some of you remember having one of these as a kid).
Then the bed will be made cleared off so there's a place to put coats and a few antique chairs will come up from the basement so there's room for everyone to sit in the living room.

Here's some items from this years menu as well as a few photos of some things from last year.

Cream Cheese topped with  Jalapeno Jelly (a dip combination you have to try) with crackers and veggies.

Mom's famous Hot Sweet Onion Dip, for which the recipe was requested by everyone, served with wedges of fresh Pita bread and paw-tato chips.

2 cups chopped sweet onion
3/4 cup 2% sharp cheddar
1 teaspoon hot smoked Hungarian Paprika
1/2 teaspoon Heavy Metal Hot hot sauce (from Scoville Brothers in Indiana)
1 cup mayo (not non-fat)
dash of pepper

Mix and top with 1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan and a dash of more smoked, hot paprika

Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes until bubbling.

The humans usually lick the bowl clean of this stuff.

The crock pot will get set up for Mom's party meatballs. These are vegetarian ones that EVERYONE loves.  Start with 3 packages of Gardein veggie meat balls and prepare as directed. Then in a pan, over medium heat, mix the following ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes, adding a couple Tablespoons of water in if you like a thinner sauce. Pour over cooked meatballs and keep warm in the crockpot with toothpicks to spear them. Double the recipe if you're going to have a crowd. (makes 3 dozen meatballs).

2 cups tomato sauce
1 and 1/2 cup honey (substitute 2 cups of brown sugar if your guests are vegans)
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons plus two teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup finely grated shallot
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon jarred minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
A pinch of crushed red pepper
1 and 3/4  teaspoon Jane's Crazy Mixed up Salt (a low sodium herb blend), or 1 and 1/4 teaspoon regular salt)
Dad's homemade yeast rolls, cut in half and topped with:

(1) goat cheese and sauteed veggies and herbs, then broiled
(2) steak marinated in vermouth then rubbed with espresso salt and chipotle and seared, on top of pepper jack, also broiled

Plus herb encrusted pork with garlic mayo and Gruyere served on sourdough toasts
Finger sandwiches with turkey, cranberry and cream cheese, or veggies and cream cheese..
.
Bacon wrapped dates ready to go in the oven to bake.

Chips, fresh veggies and sliced fruit.  MMM.  There's Dad's caramel apple dip.





There will be eggnog again,  with the bar readied with some things for cocktails, plus red wine, mead and . . . Liquid Wrench? That got a few smiles last time before it was set aside and drinks mixed.


Of course there were toys, you can't have a house full of geeks without toys. Radio Controlled helicopters, board games and of course, the stuff in the shop. The hosts and designated drivers got to play with the lathe in the Bat Cave. (I think the camera crew for this one got some spiked eggnog but you get the somewhat blurry idea).
 
. . . . while guests more loosened up with Liquid Wrench had the option to play with Mr. Blick, International Bean of Mystery (much safer).
I'm looking forward to this years event, like in previous years,  the food will go quickly, the conversation lively.  With Dad's friends starting their own families now, it's getting harder and harder to get together so this is always a good gathering.

It's was a fun time, even as the food disappeared, no limbs were lost in the Bat Cave and there was only one or two near mid airs with the RC helicopters. Time to open the White Elephant Gifts, which some of the group brought to share last year.
There was an assortment of the deliberately useless and tacky, including the Billy Mays Slider Maker (because just making 5 small burgers is SO hard but wait there's more act now and get the special slider flipper for only $19.95 shipping and handling.) Another fun one was the small children's story books, hard bound. Or shall I say 10 for $10 BADLY edited children's story books. "Jack and her Brother Jill went up the hill" (??) and a little Red Riding Hood where the editor just couldn't handle the historical ending of Red Riding Hood which did NOT end happily ever after, instead, substituting a vague, "we're not sure what happened to Red Riding Hood, no animals were harmed in the making of this book. THE END."

Before heading home, with everyone getting leftovers to take, there was dessert.

Dad will make  trifle with butter rum pound cake, whipping cream and berries. Mom will make several chocolate rolled cakes with fluffy cream cheese frosting and freeze them in the weeks prior to the party.  She will then thaw them and serve with some homemade peppermint bark. Mom makes up a little plate of the leftover sweets and takes them to the older next door neighbors who just LOVE that each year, especially the leftover cake.

There was no big screen TV, no fuss other than food, just lots of conversation and laughter, card games and quips, and remembrances of parties past when Barkley was still with them (one year there were marshmallow guns). As always, there's big fun watching Dad with a butane torch, finishing off the classic touch to the evening, fresh creme brule' to go with a cup of coffee before everyone heads home.

And of course - even though everyone is stuffed, Mom puts out a plate of her deep fried rosettes, dusted with powdered sugar and some little plastic containers so everyone can take a few home.



Dad looked so handsome in his bow tie and it was good to see so many friends we'd not seen all year.
I think I hear someone at the door! Mom Mom, it's time to PAW-TY!


Friday, November 27, 2015

Love is an Exploding Cigar


Love is an Exploding Cigar We Willingly Smoke.
 -Lynda Barry
The picture above pretty much sums up when my husband and I met and anyone married to a redhead will relate.
Here he is trying to look serious (and yes, he has blue eyes to match the shirt).

Tonight - since it's been an very busy week in squirrel land, just some general silliness for those of you in a relationship, or navigating the minefields of dating.
Love is an Exploding Cigar We Willingly Smoke -

Lynda Barry

Like Dancing with the Stars, if you ask some women, romance and marriage have their own point system.

Frankly I don't keep track, it's like that whole Weight Watchers thing. My heart goes "kaboop", there's the smell of chocolate or gunpowder in the air and I don't think about points.

However, I am also told that having been raised in a very testosterone laden household (all, including Mom were/are LEO, military, defense or special ops), I don't "think like a girl" .

For example, my husband and I were recently on the couch discussing a book set deep back in history where women pretty much gave birth, toiled in the house and died too young. I said "I just don't think I would have fit in back then" to which he replied "LB., back then you would have been burned at the stake as a witch". 

That actually made me smile.

But today at work some male buddies were talking about the female "point system", totally in the dark as to why some things they did made their spouses go from all happy and warm and "look my clothes fell off" to a a "fine" and a door slam. "Just what is this whole keeping points thing", they asked?


So, in another installment of  romance tips here is the point system as we know it.

HOUSEHOLD CHORES

You make the bed (+1)

You make the bed, but forget the matching useless pillow shams (-1)

You cover the rumpled sheets with that nice tarp you brought Bambi home after deer hunting so the blood stains will dry out (-100)

SHOPPING

You make a special trip to the store when she's not feeling well and buy her something she needs (+1)

It's a girly product such as nail polish (+2)

It's raining (+10)

You return without the item but with this month's issue of Big Racks. (-10)

It's not a magazine about hunting (-300)


HOME PROTECTION

You check out a suspicious noise at night (+1)

You check out a suspicious noise, and its the wind (0)

You check out a suspicious noise and it is something (+5)

You fling your shoe at it - hitting it soundly (+10)

It's her cat (-50)

THE LIFE OF THE PARTY

You stay by her side the entire party (0)

You stay by her side for a while, then leave to chat with another friend (-2)

Named Trixi (-10)

Trixi is a professional stripper (-50)

Trixi is showing off her new implants (-200)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

You take her out to dinner (+2)

You take her out to dinner and it's not the flaming chicken wing place or a sports bar (+3)

Okay, it involves flaming chicken wings(-2)

and sports (-3)

And it's all you can eat night (-3)

It's a flaming chicken wing place, it's all you can eat night, your face is painted the colors of your favorite team and the gift you got her is a "We're No. 1" giant foam finger (-200)


DATE NIGHT

You take her to a movie (+1)

You take her to a movie she likes (+3)

You take her to a movie you hate (+6)

You take her to a movie you like (-2)

It's called 'Mutant Zombie Hookers" (-8)

You lied and said it was about kittens and starred Julia Roberts (-25)

THE BIG QUESTION

She asks, "Does this make me look fat?" (-5)
Sorry guys - You lose points just by playing

You hesitate in responding (-10)

You reply "Not as much as what you wore to work today?" (-35)

Any other response (-20)

COMMUNICATION

When she's had a bad day at work, you listen, pour her a glass of wine and give her a hug. (+4)

You listen, through two glasses of wine and a little whining. (+50)

All while you are missing Top Gear. (+200)

Which you are able to watch if you turn your head just so and pretend to focus on her face as you look past her into the living room, until she catches you. (-200)

So now you know what the point system is. But trust me gentlemen if you find the right woman you won't have to worry so much about that. For in a truly good relationship it's not about points.
Unless animals are involved.  If you love and care for animals -  it's serious bonus points.



Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Glasses half full - days of our youth.


I met a friend for lunch recently and we got to discussing really crappy jobs we had when we were young. She's a bit older than I, but many of the jobs available to teens and college students didn't change much from when we were both young. Her most disastrous job was at was a popular fast food restaurant at $1.69 an hour. Turned out she was allergic to one of the food ingredients and not only bloated up terribly but ended up covered in little spots. I said "did you look like one of those sesame seed buns" and she started choking on her drink (she knows better than to tell me these stories when we're eating).

Me?

I worked as an elf.

And got fired.  Yes, that's on my author's bio for The Book of Barkley, but is not a tale I've told most of you.

You see, in college there was a company that hired students and homemakers looking for part time work to do "product demos". You know, those annoying smiling people who try and assault you with a spray of Calvin Klein "Narcissist" as you walk through the cosmetics section at Macy's. Or those friendly people with food at grocery stores. "Sure I'll try your hickory smoked bacon but be advised I'm shopping with my identical twin so she'll probably be by for some too."

The pay was much better than minimum wage so it was a popular job and not everyone got hired. I applied. The choices though, for my first job assignment weren't great. A Mr. Peanut Costume, handing out nuts (oh please please please dear god no), more of the perfume thing (I LIKE rejection) or wait, this is perfect! An elf at Santa's Workshop at the fancy department store! All I had to do was wear the elf costume and help keep the kiddies organized while they lined up to sit on Santa's lap for a photo. I got picked for one reason only. Flaming red hair and bright green eyes. Elf material if there ever was one. Plus it was double minimum wage. Woo Hoo!!

The problem was the costume. Scooped neck Elf Dress, Elf shoes, plastic Elf Ears. All too small, especially the dress. We found bigger shoes, probably boy elf ones, but I was stuck with the dress. They usually hired petite students to be the elves, but there were a sucker for the hair and eyes, overlooking the fact that I'm tall, with a generous bustline.  But I squeezed into it. Some parts didn't exactly squeeze into it well and were sort of on display and being tall, the skirt was rather short.

Don't picture a female Herbie the elf.

Picture a green hooters waitress with really pointy shoes.

Yup.

But I really needed the extra cash for college and flight lessons. So off I went, having fun with the kids, chatting with Santa (who was VERY jolly that day). It was all kinds of fun, and I collected enough money to pay for more education.

Until I got fired.

For you see, I was called to come in the next morning and canned as an elf, with an abject apology "It just wasn't suited for you, we've got an even BETTER position for the rest of the week, we're so sorry, here's your apron".

Apparently some of the Mom's complained that
(1) I was distracting Santa
(2) (and I quote) Elves do NOT have bosoms!!

So much for my elfin career.

The next day I was standing in a grocery store handing out hot dogs wearing an apron that said on it, in big letters "Have I Got a Wiener for YOU !"
Today, I have Dr. in front of my name and a paycheck that is more than my needs.  It took a lot of years, of sweat and blood to get there.  But when I'm out and about and see some kid dressed like
(1) The Statue of Liberty
(2) A Slice of Pizza or
(3) An Egg (yes, last weekend at a local new restaurant)

standing by a business in the cold, dancing or holding a sign. .

I give them a friendly wave, a kind word, or if I can, go inside and give that place my business, AFTER I tell them what a great job their employee was doing out there, wishing they were anything but a dancing egg, but while they had to be - they were going to be the best dancing egg on the planet.

Because that's what becoming an adult is all about, doing the job that needs to get done for you or your family.

Still, I wish I had the Weiner apron now.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Danger Will Robinson Danger.

Abby the Lab here.  Mom teleworked last Friday and ran some errands on her lunch break.  She stopped at a deli and butcher that's not too far away (please tell me you got their homemade sausage) got the truck vacuumed (we have lots of Spruce trees lining our driveway and the needles get everywhere), then headed on back towards home.
With the sun out, a storm pending and Thanksgiving coming up -  "it was crazy out there", she exclaimed and said she was tempted to just park the bat truck and "assume the position".

But no, she needed to hurry on home so she could . . . . wait for another train.

She finished her work and it  wasn't long until the clouds were bunching up and the temperature had dropped to the low 30's and it was starting to seriously SNOW.   It was a good night for comfort food especially in that Dad had to go out of town for the weekend, and she wanted him to have a nice meal before he left.  So for one night "low fat, no high fat dairy" was tossed out the window and replaced by a 13 x 9 pan of awesomeness. 
Southern Style Family Mac and Cheese.
Normally this is made with Velveeta, but Dad and Mom prefer it with American cheese, sliced thin and fresh at the deli counter.

This is a little different than the ultra creamy mac and cheese many of you know and love.  Made with either a milk custard with eggs, and made with a mild mixture of American and Cheddar, it bakes into a creamy casserole you cut into squares.

Of course, the ones from childhood weren't covered in bacon, but hey, it's OUR kitchen

8 ounces macaroni
8 ounces American cheese
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablepoons plus 2 teaspoon flour
1 1/2 teaspoon Janes Krazy Mixed up Salt (a reduced sodium salt/herb blend)
1/4 heaping teaspoon crushed garlic
1 and 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon plus 1 pinch nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 large eggs, beaten
2/3 cup  sour cream (not the "lite" version)
3 cups half and half 
half of a small onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cups grated cheddar (grate your own, the pre-shredded stuff has fillers and stabilizers that do change how good it turns out.)
8 slices bacon.
4 sprigs of green onion chopped

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Mix all of the spices and the garlic and set aside.

In a cast iron skillet, melt the butter over medium high heat. Whisk in the flour, stirring to so it doesn't brown too much. Stir in half and half and cook, whisking briskly to incorporate the flour, making sure it doesn't come to a boil, ;for 6-7 minutes. Remove from heat and add inAmerican cheese, stirring until cheese is melted.

Let cool while you cook the  macaroni for 4-5 minutes ONLY (do not cook it all the way) and drain, fry the bacon, and chop the sweet and green onion.

Into the cooled milk mixture, whisk in the eggs (that you've already whisked in a bowl) and the spices,sweet;onion, and Worcestershire sauce.

Put the macaroni in a buttered 13 x 9 pan, pour the milk mixture over the top.  Give it a stir then top with 2 cups of the grated sharp cheddar, bacon and green onions.  Bake uncovered  for 30-35 minutes.  The edges should be firm and starting to brown, with the center still a big jiggly (it will finish cooking as you let it sit 10 minutes).

Cut into squares and serve.

And there WILL be dessert.  We've already blown the diet - we might as well add dessert.
(Use a Wilton 1M cake decorating tip to make the whipped cream all fancy)
Mini pistachio cream pies