More Cheese, Please

January 18, 2009

First of all, I’d like to thank everyone for the encouraging words (in my comments section and via email) over the potentially catastrophic job situation. Fortunately, I belong to a union, and our contract says that, in the event of a layoff, the last ones hired are the first ones to go.  Still, I have cause to worry because I think there are only around sixty Teaching Assistants in the district, and they are talking about eliminating fifty-one of those positions.  There’s a very good chance that nine people have seniority over me.

LeAnn raised a point that I want to address.  Unfortunately, there wouldn’t be any severance pay, and the measly unemployment benefits I’d receive wouldn’t be enough to keep us afloat.  So, if I lose my job, we will be in serious trouble immediately.

In happier news, I had a chance to see the beautiful (inside and out) GBW and her stunning daughter, A, yesterday.  When I heard that GBW was going to be selling her wares at a winter farmer’s market at a college not far from my house, I made plans to stop by and say hello.  We haven’t seen each other in a very long time.  I mentioned to GBW that it’s also been way too long since I last saw LA.   I really miss her.

Another thing GBW and I talked about is how LA isn’t a big fan of cheese, but she sure can sell it.  Daniel doesn’t like cheese, either.  In fact, he hates the mere thought of it.  That goes for all dairy products except butter.  He has said that one of his biggest fears is that, when he is on his deathbed, I will lean in and whisper, “You know that dish you liked so much?  Well, it had cheese in it.”

GBW remarked that she can’t imagine life without cheese, and neither can I.  I have yet to try the Chevre logs sampler, (plain, garlic herb and herbs de Provence), but if it tastes as delectable as it looks, it’s sure to be absolutely delicious.  I did try the feta, and it’s the best I’ve ever tasted.  Word is bond.

Now I’m heading upstairs to take a shower so I can use GBW’s yummy Oatmeal & Honey all natural goat milk soap.   Then I’ll light a fire, read, knit, listen to music and alternate looking at the flames and looking out my window at the pretty wintry scene, courtesy of the freshly fallen snow.

Thank goodness for simple pleasures.

Song of the Day:  Mice Eat Cheese by Modest Mouse

Make the Yuletide Gay

December 25, 2008

First of all, I’d like to thank everyone for the good mojo. Leigh’s ultrasound revealed a cluster of cysts, but they look benign. She’ll know more when she goes for her follow-up visit in two weeks.

Secondly, I’d like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Including me, there will be twenty-three people crammed into my small house. I set up three tables, but there’s still only room for 20. My brother’s two young daughters will have to find someplace else to eat, and so will I, if I get a chance to eat, that is. Hostessing duties will keep me pretty busy throughout the long, hard day I have ahead of me.

Today’s menu for 23 people:

Appetizers:

Crabbies (The recipe can be found in this entry.)

Mexican Chili Cheese Dip:

Spread softened cream cheese (8 oz) on bottom of a pie plate or quiche dish. Add contents of 15 oz. can of chili. (I use Bush’s or Hormel.) Spread contents of small jar of salsa over the chili. Top with shredded cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 degrees until bubbly, approximately 20 minutes. Serve with Tostitos Scoops.

First course:
6 lbs stuffed shells
meatballs (I “only” made 50, so people will have to be considerate.)

Second course:

18 lb glazed spiral ham

Corn casserole (I have to double the recipe):

Melt one stick of butter. Beat 2 eggs. Drain 1 can whole kernel corn and put in bowl with one can of creamed corn. Add 8 oz. sour cream and 1 box Jiffy corn bread mix.   Mix all the ingredients together. Bake in a 2-quart, buttered casserole dish with a lid in a 350-degree oven for one hour. Remove lid for last five minutes so the top gets golden brown.

Crunchy Cole Slaw (Everybody loves this, so I have to triple the recipe.)

Dressing
1 cup oil
½ cup sugar
½ cup whie vinegar
2 packets beef flavor (comes with Ramen noodles; the block kind, not the noodles in a cup)

Slaw
1 lb. cole slaw
2 packages of Ramen noodles. Break them up and cook them according to package directions, although they should be slightly undercooked for this recipe.
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup slivered almonds
1 bunch green onions, sliced
2 carrots cut into strips

**Prepare dressing 2 hours early and do not add to slaw until ready to serve.

Dinner rolls

Dessert

I made fudge, and Mike’s girlfriend is making cookies. My mother and brother, Frank, are also bringing desserts. Michele and Patti are providing the wine. I think I’m going to need it to get through this holiday.

Click here for an interactive Christmas message.

Follow this link to see another special greeting from me to you.

Song of the Day: We Wish You a Merry Christmas

The Christmas edition of “Getting to know you.” (My Friend sent this to me via email.)

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Both.  Bags are easier, but unwrapping presents is part of the fun, so I always make sure to wrap some gifts.

2. Real tree or Artificial?
Real.  This year, we have a gorgeous Fraser Fir.

3. When do you put up the tree?
The first or second weekend in December.

4. When do you take the tree down? The first weekend of the New Year.

5. Do you like eggnog? It’s okay…

6. Favorite gift received as a child? A Mary Poppins doll.

7. Hardest person to buy for?
Daniel.

8. Easiest person to buy for? My brother, Mike.  (A gift certificate to Outback.) Even though my siblings and I have agreed not to exchange gifts this year (and that includes the kids), I wanted to get something for Mike because of all he’s been through.  He owes $60,000 in medical bills, and can’t afford to eat out anymore, so I thought this would be a nice thing to do for him and his girlfriend.

9. Do you have a nativity scene?
Yes, but I haven’t put it out in years because there’s no place to set it up.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Snail mail.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?
I don’t think I ever received a gift for which I wasn’t grateful.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? Nightmare Before Christmas

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? The day after Christmas (for the next year, obviously)

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
I can’t remember ever doing that.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Crabbies!

16A. Lights on the tree?
Yes, multi-colored.

16B. Lights outside? No; we don’t have an outdoor outlet.

17. Favorite Christmas song? Oh holy night.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?
I’ll be home for Christmas.

19. Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer? Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder (or Donner) Blitzen and Rudolph.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? A star made out of grapevine.

21. Open presents on Christmas Eve or morning?
Christmas morning

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?
Having to be super frugal.

23. Favorite Ornament theme or color? I’m not into themes.  Since red is my favorite color, I guess that’s what I’ll go with.

24. Favorite food for Christmas dinner?
We typically have a pasta dish (this Christmas, I’m making stuffed shells) and some kind of meat.  I usually make a turkey, but wanted to do something easier this year, so I’ll be making a spiral ham.  Personally, I hate ham, but most of my family members like it.  Maybe I’ll make a turkey on New Year’s Day, just for us.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year?
SHOW ME THE MONEY.

26. Who is most likely to respond to this?
Frosty the snowman.

26. Who is least likely to respond to this?
The Grinch.

Song of the Day:  Getting to Know You from The King and I

Before I get to today’s Holidailies prompt, I’m going to do the Letter meme that’s going around.  I first saw it at LA’s place.  These are the instructions:

You leave a comment on this post, and I’ll assign you a letter. You write about ten things you love that begin with your assigned letter, and post it at your place. When people comment on your list, you give them a letter, and the chain continues on and on. (Don’t worry, you can leave comments without fear of commitment.  I’ll only give out letters to people who ask for one.)

I have been assigned the letter “R.”

1. Rebecca, my firstborn daughter, has a sunny disposition and a big heart. She has brains as well as beauty.  I’m very proud of her.  Here she is with her boyfriend, Matt.

2. Rachmaninov (or the variation, Rachmaninoff ) – I fell in love with the music of this Russian composer/pianist when I saw the movie “Shine.”  In this Youtube clip you can hear Rachmaninov play his Piano Concerto 3.

3. Radiohead – I love Thom Yorke’s voice and “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” is one of my all-time favorite songs.

4.  Raspberries – When they are in season, there are not many fruits that I like more than raspberries.  Eating them is a tactile pleasure as much as it is a gustatory one.  There’s something velvety about the feel of a raspberry on my tongue.  I also love raspberry sauce.

5. Red – My favorite color.  I love red autumn leaves, red barns, red nail polish, red lipstick (even though I can’t wear it), red tomatoes and red cherries, cardinals and red-breasted robins, the red flesh of a ripe watermelon, painting the town red, walking the red carpet, Red Rover, etc.

Photo from hi5layouts

6. Reading – It’s no secret that I’m an avid reader  – always have been, and I suspect I always will be.

7. Repose – I love to sleep.  After a draining day of trying to carry on in spite of constant pain and fatigue, it feels so good to tuck myself in and drift off to the Land of Nod.

8. Repast – I really like to eat.    Stuffed sole, penne a la vodka, Buffalo chicken wings, calimari fra diavoo, pad thai , homemade pizza, pastichio,  falafel, chicken francese, filet mignon, lobster, peanut sesame noodles, ziti al forno, king crab legs, crabbies (see below), etc.  The only food I’m not crazy about is ham.

9. Respect – Find out what it means to me.  Seriously, the lack of respect these days is alarming, and I’m not just talking about young people.

10. Retirement – I love the thought of not having to go to work anymore.

Okay, here’s today’s Holidailies Prompt:  Share a favorite recipe that you like to make (or persuade someone to make for you) at this time of year.

This appetizer has become a family favorite at Christmas.

Crabbies:

2 (6 pkg.) English muffins
2 sticks butter, softened
4 tbsp. mayonnaise
2 jars Old English cheese spread
2 cans crabmeat
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp salt

Beat all ingredients except crabmeat together. After ingredients are smooth, fold in crabmeat and spread over the English muffins. Bake at 400 degrees until bubbly.  Cut into quarters. Note: They may be kept frozen for weeks before baking.

By the way, it’s becoming too much of a chore to try to come up with an entry every day.  The holiday  season is hectic enough without putting any more pressure on myself, so I’m calling it quits with Holidailies.

Song of the Day: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Thanksgiving 2008

November 27, 2008

Today I am thankful for the usual things – the love of my husband, family and friends, the joy of pets, having a job that provides health insurance (including dental and optical), a roof over my head and food on my table.  I am also grateful for the kindness of my readers.  The friendship and support you have shown me over the years has helped me get through some really hard times.

I am also very appreciative of the nice comments about my “sharves.”   Some of you suggested that I try to sell them.  I did consider etsy, but I’ve heard that other knitters, far more experienced and skilled than I am, have had disappointing results with their etsy endeavors.

One of my co-workers has expressed an interest in buying a sharf, but I don’t know how much to charge.  Depending on the yarn, the materials expense is only $10 to $15.  The big thing is the amount of work involved.  Creating a sharf is labor intensive – it takes me about a month to knit one.  Any suggestions on pricing would be most welcome.

Sasha, you asked about surplus stock. I have lots of yarn left over (I’m pretty sure I have enough for any of the sharves featured in my last entry) , and I would be happy to knit whatever you want according to your color specifications.   This is just a sampling of my supply of sharf yarn.

Now for Thanksgiving dinner…  For the past several years, I’ve been alternating hosting holiday gatherings with my sister, Michele.  It’s her turn to do Thanksgiving but she didn’t want to invite The Ex and his mother.  Ex MIL  has Alzheimer’s, but that’s not why people don’t enjoy her company.  The truth of the matter is that she’s rude.   What’s worse, she’ll make an insulting remark and then repeat it over and over because she doesn’t remember that the cruel words were already uttered.

Anyway, we always include The Ex and his mother in our holiday plans.   Otherwise, they’d be alone, and I’d feel terrible.  Consequently, we won’t be going to Michele’s this year.  Since I’ll be hosting Christmas, I didn’t want to do Thanksgiving, too.  Therefore, I told The Ex he should do it and he agreed.

So, that’s where we’re going this afternoon.  I’m bringing pumpkin pies (recipe courtesy of Mary), brownies, and a Mexican chili cheese dip that I’d better go prepare before any more time slips away from me.

I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Song of the Day:  My Thanksgiving by Don Henley

My mother was discharged on Friday and is doing well. She calls me every day to tell me how much she is enjoying the food I sent her home with (flounder, sausage & peppers, lasagna, meatloaf, chicken cutlets and apple pie).  She also has chicken soup from Michele, so she doesn’t have to worry about cooking for a while.

Mike, on the other hand, is not doing so well.  He is in terrible pain after his surgery on Friday.  His doctor said it was the worst case of hemorrhoids he has ever seen.

The poor guy is really suffering according to my father, who is pretty shook up about seeing Michael in so much pain.  He can’t bear it, especially after what happened to Mike’s twin, Mark.

As for me, I am still very lightheaded and weak.  This is getting old real quick.  Although I won’t be going back to work until Thursday, I do have to go out a couple of times before then, and don’t know how I’m going to manage it in this dizzy state.

Tomorrow, I have an appointment with the pain management doctor as follow-up for the sacroiliac injections.  I have experienced some relief as far as the buttock discomfort goes, but lower back pain still wakes me up every single day around 3:00 am.

Wednesday morning, I go back to see Dr. What Do You Want Me To Do.  In the afternoon, I have an appointment with a doctor at the request of the School District, in relation to the comp injury.  I don’t really understand the point of that appointment, considering that I’ve been back to work for over a year.  It would make more sense if the appointment was at the request of the Comp carrier, but why the District?  Oh well, whatever floats their boat.

Song of the Day:  Stop The World I Want To Get Off by Gorky Park

I had a fabulous time at Crane’s Lochaven Lodge in Canada. The road trip, however, was brutal.  We left at midnight and drove straight through the night.  I tried, but failed, to sleep in the car.  My father and brother, on the other hand, did fall asleep, but it was while they were driving. That was pretty scary.

Sue and Ed, the owners of the lodge, are wonderful hosts.  My father and brothers have been going for several years now, so our family is pretty well known there.  I was very moved to see this tribute to Mark hanging on a wall in the dining hall.

I was also moved by the beauty of the French River.

The weather could have been better (it was cold and wet), but we weren’t there to sunbathe.  We were there to catch fish.  And catch fish we did – small mouth bass, large mouth bass, rock bass, perch, catfish (which we gave to the owners for the Friday fish fry), sunnies, walleye and pike.  I was ecstatic when I caught this pike, even though it was too small to keep.

Then I caught this one – the “Trophy fish” of the season – an astounding 41 and 1/4 inch, 16 pound Northern pike.

Ed’s son demonstrated the proper way to hold a large fish for photographs.  You get a better idea of the pike’s size this way.

What a thrill!  Never in my wildest imaginings did I think I would catch a fish like that – on a worm, no less.  My father and brother were casting with heavy poles and expensive lures, and, after I caught the big pike, the guide suggested that they might want to see if they could get their money back for the lures.  Heh.

I had no interest in having the fish mounted, and was told that pike aren’t good eating (apparently, they’re gamey tasting).  I wish I had released the pike, but I wasn’t thinking clearly at the time.  I was in shock.

Anyway, Ed wanted it for advertising purposes, and offered to give me other fish fillets to bring home in exchange, so I let him keep it.  However, he neglected to follow through with his part of the bargain.  When I questioned him about it as we were leaving the island, he said he forgot, and promised to  make it up to me.  My father and brother are going back next month, so they’re going to remind him of his promise.

We visited the place where Mark’s ashes were scattered.  It was his favorite fishing spot.  After shedding some tears, I dropped my line and silently asked Mark to help me out.  Believe it or not, that’s when I caught the monster pike.

We had a guide for three of the days we were out on the river, and, most of the time, Jerry called my brother, Mike (Mark’s identical twin brother), by his correct name, but every once in a while, he called him Mark.  It was weird, especially considering that he knew nothing about our family.

Speaking of Jerry, he makes a mean “shore lunch.” A fire is built and the freshly caught fish are cooked up along with potatoes, baked beans and coffee made in a can.  Everything was delicious.

After Friday’s fish fry on the deck of the lodge, it has become a tradition for whichever guests and staff members feel so inclined to jump off the railing into the river.  There was no way in hell I was going to do that, despite everyone urging me to do so since I had caught the biggest fish, so one of my nephews volunteered to do it for me. He enjoyed it so much he did it again, and got one of his cousins to take the plunge with him.  We had so much fun.

Tomorrow morning, I leave for Rhode Island. I sure have spent a lot of time on the road this summer.   It’s been great.

I have loads of stuff to do, so I’ll catch you on the flip side.

Song of the Day: Proud Mary by Tina Turner

Bring Out Your Dead

July 13, 2008

I finally saw Spamalot!  A local community college offered a bus trip to NYC yesterday for the unbelievably low price of $11.  (The train costs $30.)  I went with my mother, my aunt, my cousin, Kathy, and her friend, Bob.  When we got to the city, we split up.  My mother, aunt and cousin had already seen Spamalot, so they went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Bob and I headed for the TKTS Discount booth, and, fortunately, Spamalot was among the listed shows.

Before the performance, we had lunch at Bistecca Fiorentina.  It was the best meal I’ve had in a long time. For an appetizer, Bob ordered grilled octopus and squid.  I had a mixed plate of roasted polenta with Gorgonzola cheese, a stuffed mushroom, zucchini with béchamel sauce, eggplant Parmesan, and a roasted, stuffed red pepper.  It was way too much food for me, so I shared with Bob.  Still, I barely had room for my lobster ravioli entrée.  Even with Bob’s help, I couldn’t finish it.

After we ate, we headed over to the Shubert Theatre.  I was very excited.  The play certainly lived up to my expectations.   It was so much fun!  This was my favorite number.  Hilarious!

At present, Stephen Collins (the father on 7th Heaven) is playing King Arthur, and Drew Lachey (former member of 98 Degrees, along with his brother, Nick, who was married to Jessica Simpson.  Drew was also a “Dancing With the Stars” winner.) plays Patsy.  Marin Mazzie is the Lady of the Lake.   What a voice!  I had such a good time.

The only downside was the physical pain.  I’m really hurting.  Sunshyn and Texas Peach are right.  I most definitely should not have done all that backbreaking gardening, and, yes, I am crazy.  The pain is worse than it was when I was out on disability.  I keep hoping it will get better, but it hasn’t.  I don’t know what I’m going to do…

To add insult to injury, I’m not sure the garden will flourish.  The layers of compost, etc., aren’t as deep as they should be, but it’s the best I could do.  Please keep your fingers crossed.  It would be devastating for the garden to fail after all the hard work I put into it.


Song of the Day:  Not Yet Dead from Monty Python’s Spamalot

A Jolly Holiday

May 26, 2008

First things first. I’m thrilled to report that I got the ink stain out of my jeans! The rubbing alcohol got rid of most of it, and hairspray took out the rest. Thanks for the great suggestions!

In other news, I’ve been having a really good Memorial Day weekend. It started on Friday with a trip to a thrift store with my cousin, Kathy. I got two pairs of paints, an L.L. Bean denim-colored linen jacket, an Eddie Bauer top, a hardcover book and the game, Pictionary (in like-new condition) all for the grand total of $11.50. Kathy and I topped the day off with a meal at a Middle Eastern restaurant.

The next evening, Daniel and I were invited to a lasagna dinner at my aunt’s house. (My mother cooked the lasagna, but her place is too small to host a gathering.) Somehow, the conversation turned to the Little Rascals, and then to Eddie Murphy’s SNL impersonation of Buckwheat. Too funny.

Yesterday, Kathy and I went to Rhinebeck to see the movie, Alexandra. We had lunch at our favorite Indian restaurant. Everything on the buffet is a gastronomical delight.

Today, we’re having a barbecue. Only a few people have been invited, and the food offerings will be simple – hamburgers, hot dogs, and my renowned potato salad. Tomorrow (I’ll be off work again, thanks to a give-back snow day), I’m hoping to relax. I’m also looking forward to a break from the itching, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen any time soon, even though the prednisone prescription runs out tomorrow.

Oh, I wanted to show you my new glasses. (They’re pretty similar to my old ones except that the new frames are black instead of brown.) This pic was taken on Friday, and I got my hair chopped off on Saturday (same style, but shorter in the back and on the sides), but I haven’t had a chance to take another photo, so this one will have to do for now.

I’d better get a move on. There’s a pile of mulch in my driveway that needs to be spread.

Song of the Day: Jolly Holiday from Mary Poppins

I went back to the Orthopedic Surgeon today to review the results of the EMG and Nerve Conduction Studies. As it turns out, I do have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, but it’s a relatively mild case, so, of course, there is – let’s all say it together – no treatment. Just more pain to bear without any relief in sight.

In reference to the god-awful pain in my right shoulder blade, Dr. Bones wants me to have an MRI. (This will be my 12th, I think.) He also mentioned pain management. We’ll re-open that discussion after the MRI.

Dr. Bones remarked that it’s a shame that there isn’t one doctor overseeing “the whole picture.” My primary care physician should be doing that, but:

1. He’s worthless.
2. He doesn’t get involved with Worker’s Comp cases, which means that my lower back problems are a taboo subject.

Anyway, Dr, Bones went on to speculate that, if one doctor was seeing me for all of my medical issues, more effective pain meds might be prescribed. Instead, I am seeing a variety of specialists, each one concentrating on a single area (without doing anything to actually treat any of the problems, I might add).

Not knowing what else to say, he advised me to listen to my body and limit my activities accordingly. He told me to avoid doing things that will exacerbate my pain, and try to get as much rest as possible.

That’s pretty much what I have been doing. Today, however, I followed the doctor’s advice by popping a Vicodin when I got home, and spending the next couple of hours in the kitchen cooking. I prepared three meals – a big pot of tomato sauce, Spanish chicken & rice, and kielbasa and cabbage. (I’ve given up on corned beef.)

Oh well, at least I won’t have to cook when I get home from work for a few days… I’m not going to cook on Easter, either. One holiday a year is more than enough for me.

We’re going to a restaurant, just like we did last year. (By the way, the student referenced in the latter part of that linked entry was sentenced today to 20 years to life in prison.)

I have a feeling this new tradition will continue in future years unless someone else offers to take over the hosting duties. I’m in too much pain to care one way or the other, as long as I don’t have to do it.

Song of the Day: Will It Go Round In Circles by Billy Preston