It’s good to be home. Last week I joined a couple of buddies on a fishing and camping trip. My dad and his two best friends from high school have been making the same trip the same week for 29 years now, and the last few years I’ve been trying to bring along a few guys to continue the tradition.
We fished a bit, talked a lot, and drank too much. Oh, and we always had a fire. The perfect camping trip.
Well, it’s officially grilling season. What’s that mean? Burger night.
We don’t mess around when it comes to burgers. Here’s how we get started:
1 lb ground beef
1⁄2 cup diced bell peppers (green, red, yellow–dealer’s choice)
1⁄2 cup diced onion
3 tbsp Worcestershire
salt & pepper
Now for the build:
English muffin (Toasted, of course, we aren’t animals.)
Cheese of your choice (She went blue, I went pepper jack)
A good, strong mustard
Fried green tomato
That’s right, it’s not finished without a fried green tomato. Hannah’s recipe will be following soon.
Roasted sweet potato chips and maybe an extra fried green tomato; you are ready to go.
Long before the sun came up Saturday morning the birds started singing. It had finally warmed enough for us to sleep with the windows open. When the birds woke me at 6:45 (much earlier than my normal Saturday wake-up call), it was a welcome entrance to the ‘real’ spring–the spring when we can drink our morning coffee on the front porch, when the lightning bugs entertain us in the early evening, and when the finest of culinary events finally starts: homegrown tomatoes.
I hopped out of bed and let Hannah snooze a bit longer, went downstairs to make coffee and enjoy a little reading time on the front porch.
After a lazy morning, we headed out to Knoxville to enjoy a bit of the Rossini Festival. You may think (as we did) that this would be a grand cultural and arts experience. In fact, it was mainly a street fair that showed some of the uglier side of Knoxville. In Hannah’s words, “OMG, we found the ‘people of Walmart’ on Gay Street.” We ducked into a craft beer bar and made our own afternoon.
Sunday was church, a quick donut stop, and up to the river to celebrate my step-dad’s birthday.
Overall, quite a lovely weekend.
We both love to cook, and we both definitely have our own strengths when it comes to the kitchen. Versatility, however, is not one of mine. Since I’ve been doing more of the cooking the past couple of months, we’ve been a bit in a rut. Enter Blue Apron, a company that delivers the fixins for meals right to our doorstep. We looked at it a while back, and then when a friend recommended it (and sent us a referral), we gave it a shot.
What do we think so far? Mixed reviews.
Some of the meals are totally new (to us): We’ve cooked a lot of things, but new cuisines are hard to dive into. With this company all the ingredients are perfectly measured and ready to go. Easy, and fun to try.
Some of the meals are, well, not so new (to us): Chicken quesadillas? Don’t get me wrong, they were tasty, as was the paired salad, but I don’t want to send off for a special box of food only to make a quesadilla.
Only some of the products are organic: Okay, that’s fine. We buy organic when we can and don’t when we can’t just like anybody.
None of the products are local: There’s the (primary) rub. Last year we did a CSA. We’ve always been big farmer’s market folks, and we like supporting the local economy. We also grow much of our own produce. It’s nice to be able to get our hands on ingredients that might be hard to source in this area, but as soon as the farmer’s market gets up and running and our garden comes into its own, we’ll be putting the deliveries on hold until next winter.
So, what about you? Would you ever use a service like Blue Apron?
Sometimes we all need a reminder to be bold. Reach for a taste of the new, even if it is unknown. When we were first approached by a casting company last fall we didn’t know what we were getting into, but we decided to go for it. The fact that it didn’t work out (conflicts of interest and all) didn’t matter, the trying was rewarding enough on its own.
Recently an “internet friend” (a very limiting term that feels like it shouldn’t apply, we have just yet to meet in person) saw a magazine’s Facebook post, and instead of sitting back with his coffee and doing nothing as many of us would do on a normal Monday morning, he jumped in to action. He seized the moment. He reached out. And then he got to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Now go do something bold.
Some things are important to a family, and some things are important because of family. My family has always been a car family–my father and grandfather worked for General Motors. Because of this, I’ve always been a little attached to cars. One car, however, has a longer history than most in the family.
When my mom was 15 and getting ready to start driving she and her father came across a slightly used car on the local lot that my mom fell in love with. A 1970 Chevrolet Camaro.
The Camaro, or Rhonda as she became affectionately known, stuck with her. She threw us boys in the car and off we’d go. There was a brief stint with a van (shudder), and then back to the Camaro. Finally, Mom got herself a real-life soccer mom SUV, and the Camaro became a special occasion car. Until…
My brother turned 16 and needed a car to drive. Brother drove it through high school, and then around graduation gave it a new paint job.
At some point, it went from a tasteful 307 to the most monstrous 350 you’ve ever seen.
This car is fast. And fun.
Anyway, brother kept the car with him for years. Finally, without the time to take care of it or places to put it, he sends it to me for safekeeping. Hence the dollies. After some immediate triaging, the Camaro was up and running.
Until the transmission decided it didn’t need no stinking fluid.
Relegated to the garage until time and money to fix it, the Camaro sat. Longing to run the road and rumble the eardrums of those within a 10 mile radius.
As these things happen, it sat for a while. But brother and I (and wives of course) came up with a solution–the cousin. The biggest car guy I know, cousin jumped at the chance. So this week he came up, got the car, and took it straight to the transmission shop. I’m sad to see Rhonda go, but I can’t wait to see her running again.
And she’s still in the family. Always in the family.
Our house has one fantastic feature: a great big pantry. Whoever put the 1950 addition on the back of the house did one thing absolutely right. However, there is a plumbing vent going through the roof, which in the past has led to some pretty bad water damage on the plaster ceiling.
Step 1: new roof–done (goodbye $$)
Step 2: new ceiling–on it.
Our pantry has great built in shelving, so after cleaning up the remaining plaster ceiling (with a hammer), the only way to get a drywall ceiling in would have been to remove the shelves or put up several pieces and mud them together. I abhor joint compound and the sanding that comes with it. A. Bhor. Since the walls are knotty pine paneling (1950, remember?), I decided to just go with a white wood bead board ceiling. I wouldn’t need anything. Except this nail gun. And that’s all I need. Except for the compressor. And that’s all I need!
Anyway, a couple of furring strips and a lot of squeezing around shelves with a pneumatic nailer, and done!
Next, I put in a light. I ran electricity to the pantry a couple of years ago for the mini fridge, but it had always been a little dark. I added a big florescent light (awful, I know–but effective), and now we can see. Easy peasy.
Now that the ceiling wasn’t falling in piece by piece (“Is this powdered sugar on top of these potatoes?” “Nope, just a little plaster dust from the ceiling.”), it was time for the great pantry clean out of 2014. After a good cleaning, I got to work.
#1 Prioritize your space
We have a small kitchen with very little counter space. On this coveted space we have a rarely used, oversized appliance–the microwave. We moved this space hog into the pantry. Now it is out of sight and out of the way, and valuable space can be used in a more productive way.
#2 Kick the plastic habit
I’m not sure what I think about plastic tupperware. No, I take that back, I know what I think about it, I’m just not sure if there is science to back me up. I hate it, and I love glass. We ditched (almost) all of our plastic storage in favor of mason jars. Half gallon jars are the bee’s knees for storing all your dry goods. Sealed, protected, and visually appealing.
We have a big pantry, which is a blessing. But it also means it is easy to leave stuff we don’t need in there. As I pulled everything out, we went through it and decided what was necessary, what was desirable, and what could go. It’s amazing how much more space we came up with just by getting rid of the kitchen tools that we don’t use enough, or are just plain redundant.
Our pantry feels even bigger now, and we can see everything that is inside. Not gonna lie, Marge, this feels pretty good.
One might assume that those of us who actually reside in the South would not be able to see the humor in our chaotic reactions to seeing white stuff falling from the sky. They would be wrong. My friend Kelly sent this clip to me yesterday (as a second storm was hitting the South), and I have laughed my head off with each viewing of this SNL sketch starring Southern gentleman Buford Calloway.
I finally got deep enough in my reading list to get to Michael Hainey’s “After Visiting Friends”. Mr. Hainey writes about his journey to find the truth about his father’s death. A touching book, it jumps from the facts he uncovers to the scenarios he imagines to have occurred. Battling against misinformation and downright stonewalling, Mr. Hainey finally uncovers what so many have been trying to protect him from. This book is about relationships, those present and those obviously absent. I don’t know why I waited so long to read it.
We’ve been watching a ton of documentaries lately, but one stood out: “Beauty is Embassing”. It’s the story of Wayne White. From PeeWee’s Playhouse to the Smashing Pumpkins, you know his work. However, his views on the purpose of art may be new to you, and they are worth a listen.
It’s available on Netflix or you can click here to rent it on Amazon Instant. Watch the trailer…
We do celebration a little different in our home. Hannah’s birthday is more like birth-month, Christmas practically starts in July, and Fall itself is the biggest holiday of all. Valentine’s Day, however, we celebrate in a little different way. What started one year in response to a tight budget has become a favorite for us every year. Here’s what we do:
All month long:
Hannah made these little envelopes. Every February we put them out in the foyer, and all month long we write little notes to each other. A kind word can be so much more valuable than any other gift.
On Valentine’s Day:
Rather than paying for an overpriced Valentine’s Day menu at a restaurant, we cook a favorite meal at home. We take special nights out regularly, no need to overpay just because of the calendar.
As for gifts, we go to the dollar store together and each spend $5 on each other. It gives us the chance to buy each other thoughtful, yet inexpensive, gifts.
How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? Do you go all out, or do you keep it simple like us?