Archive for April, 2012

JELL-O!
April 26, 2012

an edible substance that comes in many flavors, and it giggles ~Urban Dictionary

J-E-L-L-O spells Jell-O, or so the jingle went. My mom used to make a lot of Jell-O for dessert for all us six kids. It was sweet and jiggly and we all scarfed it down. It was an easy and inexpensive way to satisfy our sweet teeth. Pudding did the trick, as well.

Fast forward a few decades, and Jell-O has never been on the menu at our house. It was only when I was in the hospital after surgery in 1985 that the first thing they let me eat was Jell-O. Boy, did it ever taste good! Oh my, when you haven’t had anything to eat in days, it was especially delicious and very much savored.

I don’t think I ever thought about Jell-O again until 2003 when Shannon and I flew up north so she could interview at her two selected college choices, Bard (NY) and Bates (Maine).

We flew into NYC, traveled up the Hudson River Valley to Bard, spent the night and then headed northeast to Lewiston, Maine where Bates College is located. After that, we drove down to Boston, left our rental car at the airport and checked into our hotel… which we discovered had no restaurant.

But there was a shuttle van that took you to three choice restaurants: Barbecue, Chinese or Italian. We picked Italian.

I have no recollection of the name of the place. It was crammed into a crowded street beneath an elevated train of some sort, not far from the hotel. We went in, and my initial impression was that this place was a throwback to another era. I wasn’t too far off base.

The hostess seated us at a very small table. I recall lots of red flocked wallpaper and upholstery. The menu featured old school dishes such as lasagna, pizza and scaloppini… comfort food for the masses. I had lasagna and some generic Chianti wine.

Then the waitress asked us about dessert. One of the items on the dessert menu was, you guessed it, JELL-O!!

I can’t think of any other restaurant in the world that would offer such an old fashioned dish, and I have to wonder how many people ever ordered it. I do know that cafeterias offer it (at least they used to; it’s been a long time since I have been to one).

By the way, we didn’t order any. But if I recall correctly, I think I did get some chocolate pudding (also not an item on avant garde restaurant menus!). I wonder if it was Jell-O pudding?

According to Wikipedia, “Gelatin, a protein produced from collagen extracted from the boiled bones, connective tissues, and intestines of animals, has been well-known and used for many years.”

Sounds icky! So who eats Jell-O anymore?

Well, as I mentioned above, patients in hospitals eat it after they’ve had surgery. It’s often the first “solid” food they are able to eat after a few days, and it really does taste good at that point.

So  why am I bringing this subject up? Well, it’s because I had a colonoscopy this week, and had to adhere to a liquid diet the day before. But it was ok to eat Jell-O, and so, by golly, I bought myself a box. Lime flavor. I made it on Monday and nibbled on it on Tuesday when I felt a need to chew on something.

Wait. All of a sudden I’m recalling that there is such a thing as Jell-O shots. OH!! So maybe that’s why Jell-O is still a viable product!

Gee, colonoscopy prep would have been so much more fun if I could have had some of those!

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Car Talk
April 20, 2012

Cartalk.com is a production of Dewey, Cheetham and Howe. ~ (psst… say that out loud to get the joke)

One of my favorite radio programs is “Car Talk”, which is aired on our PBS station in Houston on Saturday mornings. I love to listen to that show when I am out running weekend errands. It always cracks me up to hear the people describe their cars’ woes to “Click and Clack”, particularly if it involves making sounds to imitate the ones they are hearing their cars make. I often laugh out loud when I am listening in.

I drive a 10 year old Ford Explorer. His name is Donnie Ray. DR has been an overall excellent car, particularly in recent years. His odometer reads 111,000+, and he’s still in pretty darn good shape, in my humble opinion.

Except last Friday, he began to make a KLUNK as he shifted between second and third gears. DR has an automatic transmission, so I just counted the shifts to determine when the KLUNK sounded. All the way home, he would consistently KLUNK at that point.

It was time for an oil change; actually we were overdue for it, so I affirmed my resolve to take him in on Tuesday to do so and to check on this troublesome KLUNK. The dread of having to replace the transmission system was hovering in the back of my mind.

Happily, the next day, there was no KLUNK. Of course, I was relieved, but I still made note of the phenomenon to tell my favorite service rep, Ron. He has been helping me with car issues since 1996, and I trust him to take care of us (me and our Explorers, both DR and good old Bert, circa 1995).

As I said, DR has been a very faithful car, never giving me one moment of anxiety. Until the Monday after the Friday KLUNK… This new incident occurred after my doctor’s appointment down in the Medical Center. I had parked in the St. Luke’s Tower garage on the 5th floor, backing him into a spot with his front at a downward angle (did this have any bearing on what happened next? I don’t know).

After my appointment, I jumped into DR and headed down the ramp. But wait. As I drove off, there was a distinct THUMP coming from the front driver’s side wheel well. My initial thought was “BAD WORD! I have a flat tire!” I pulled out of the traffic lane and stopped to take a look. No flat tire. Hmmmm?

So I continued down the ramp. THUMP, THUMP. I could feel a jarring sensation. What on earth? I pulled off again and took another look. Was something caught underneath? I examined everything up and down, in and out. Not having a flashlight, I couldn’t see much, but I didn’t see ANYTHING that was amiss.

But I did find a penny with the Lincoln head up under DR. Was that good sign? Maybe so! I put it in my pocket.

So I got back inside DR and thought about what to do. Joel was out of town. I wondered what Click and Clack would have said. Here I was on the 5th floor of a parking garage in the Medical Center at 5 pm. Yes, I am a member of AAA, but what an awkward spot to be in at such an awful time in Houston! I decided to limp slowly down to the street level, hoping that I wasn’t totally destroying something vital in DR’s innards, or that his wheel wouldn’t fall off…

As we coasted downwards, there was no THUMP unless I would turn the wheel to the right and accelerate. So I coasted some more, probably frustrating the people behind me. They probably thought I was some little old lady driver, which I guess I now am, even though the AARP has somehow overlooked me (not that I care).

I kept thinking, PLEASE, just get me down to street level past the payment booth. If DR was still going THUMP beyond that point, I determined that I would stop and call AAA. For the first time in all the ten years I have driven this car, I was really anxious.

We made it down! No THUMP. I cautiously drove out onto Main Street, heading north to Sunset Blvd. on the other side of Rice. Very slowly. My hope was to get off that busy street onto a quiet street, where I would then call AAA if need be.

No THUMP. So I kept going. Here it was after 5:00 on a Monday afternoon, but I had a plan. Sunset to Wakeforest to Westpark to the Tollroad to Fondren to Memorial to Bunker Hill to Taylorcrest to home. If I experienced a THUMP between Sunset and the Tollroad, I wasn’t going to get on it. But I didn’t, and so I did. And I made it safely home!

I was SO grateful. There was a palpable sense of relief after the fact. I immediately made an appointment for DR to get a major diagnostic the next day. In the meantime, I drove my awesome niece’s car which she has left with us while she is over in Scotland playing pro soccer.

The THUMP diagnosis? My trusty mechanic Ron could not find anything major that could have caused it. They looked at everything. He said that the rotors were slightly warped and made noise and that the upper control arms may need replacing at some point, but were not there yet. I asked if rotating and balancing the tires would be a good idea, and he agreed. So… what the heck was it? We don’t know. But I’m glad it is not something terrible. Maybe picking up that lucky penny helped?

As for the KLUNK diagnosis, again, it was nothing major, it just needed a resetting of the computer.

What a relief! How grateful I am for good news and for my good old DR, who has been such a faithful and reliable vehicle. As I said to Ron, I have never had an anxious moment in him until this THUMP escapade.

I ran over to pick up DR this morning, and he performed like a champ today. Let all the people say, “AMEN!”

Dream, dream, dream…
April 13, 2012

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A dream is a wish your heart makes… ~ Cinderella 

Some people say they never have dreams, but I don’t think that’s true. They just don’t remember them. How sad to miss out on such an interesting phenomenon! Sometimes puzzling, sometimes amazing, often inspiring or even enlightening, dreams are a fascinating aspect of the human experience. 

I dream vividly. Sometimes they are weird and nonsensical, but other times they are powerful. Some are epic and last a long time, and others are but brief snatches of impressions that I can remember, but not put into context. Many are anxiety dreams that symbolize things that are bothering me. 

The only way I can remember them is to focus on them just as soon as I wake up. I ought to keep a journal by my bedside to capture them right away, but thus far, I have not done so. I really should, though; it would be interesting to flip through it and see if there are any of my dreams that may have been prophetic or if I can better interpret them in hindsight. 

This week, I had a doozy of a dream. 

In it, I was on a road trip in a car. Was I by myself? I think my mother was with me. And Tucker was in the car, too. He is a good car rider, and we plan to take him up to Wyoming in the future. 

In this dream, we were traveling somewhere on a journey. We were going to meet my dad at our destination. But first, we had to stop for gas? food? That part is fuzzy. 

But Dad was there at the rest stop! He appeared in his prime, vigorous and healthy, and he was so glad to see us! He invited us in to come have a meal, but I said that we couldn’t, because Tucker was with us, and they wouldn’t let him in. 

He distinctly said, “Well then, I’ll see you when you get there.” 

What does it mean? My thought is that life is a journey, and that we WILL see each other again when we “get there”. Maybe someone can help me better interpret it? 

The only troublesome part of the dream is that we couldn’t go into the rest stop because they wouldn’t let Tucker in. I’m not sure I like that part… 

I do know this: Dad LOVED dogs, and I know he would have loved Tucker, just as he loved the most perfect dog in the world, Shadow. Do all dogs go to heaven? I like to think so… and hope that there is a place for them there. 

I always love it when I dream about my dad or brother or grandparents or other loved ones who have crossed over. This dream really comforted me because Dad was so vital and convivial! He was just as I remember him at his best. 

Another morning dawned, and I had yet another epic dream this week. After being abruptly awakened in the middle of it, I found that I could not move my arms and legs at first because I had been so deeply asleep. Certainly I had no idea what day it was… but I did remember my dream! This one was about hiding Easter eggs at somebody else’s house and worrying that the neighbor kids were going to find them all before my grown daughter could. 

 I think I had this dream because I had sent Shannon and Kat some Easter eggs with money inside through the USPS. Happily, they arrived safely, so I’m not sure why I had that dream! I guess maybe my brain TiVo’ed my anxiety somehow. 

Whatever the case may be, I am so grateful to have such an active and interesting dream life. I do believe it helps me to process events in my life and work through certain situations. 

How about you? Try focusing your thoughts on your dreams right as you awaken and see if anything pops up. Write your impressions down first thing, or they will soon be forgotten. I predict that you will soon see a pattern and perhaps make some discoveries about yourself, albeit subconsciously. 

Good luck and sweet dreams!

The New Dish
April 6, 2012

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The cook was a good cook, as cooks go; and as good cooks go, she went. ~ Saki (H.H. Munro) 1904

After 32+ years of marriage, sometimes I find it hard to come up with something new and different to make for dinner. I know many people of our vintage don’t cook much anymore, but I do, and I enjoy it for the most part. I consider it part of my job, and I take pride in coming up with something healthful and yummy for Joel, even though it’s just we two eating dinner together now. 

Sure, there are our favorite old standbys, which I can just about make by heart, and honestly sometimes I get tired of making them. But they are favorites for a good reason, and it’s because we really like them! For instance, when I make a taco salad, it’s the best one I ever had. I seldom like the restaurant versions, so I never order it when we go out. 

When Shannon was still at home, her favorite dishes directed much of our cuisine. I can think of several that we would make weekly, particularly on orchestra rehearsal nights. Shrimp Tortellini was the most popular one. It was easy and quick and delish. 

Nowadays, many people surf the internet for recipes, but I have to admit, that’s not my style. I still have my good old recipe box with handwritten index cards of recipes that have stood the test of time, with some priceless family treasures in there. My sister Camille gave me that box as a wedding gift back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. 

You can tell which ones are the favorite recipes, because they are dog eared and stained, but that just indicates their esteemed status in the box. When I do try something new and it is a winner, well then, it gets a brand new bright and shiny index card. 

I know this system sounds rather quaint in the 21st century, but given that I’ve had it in place for over 30 years, I will just continue to use it. If it worked for my mother, then by golly, it works for me! 

Most of my new recipe ideas come from either the Southern Living or Good Housekeeping magazines. Knowing me as you do, you can be assured that I only read the magazine, and not their websites. I’m just a paper sort of person (as you can tell from my index card recipe system). 

So last night I tried a new one from Southern Living: Pecan Crusted Chicken and Tortellini with Herbed Butter Sauce. (note: store bought tortellini really is an excellent time saver. No way I would make it myself!). In the recent past, I would have turned the page, because I didn’t have a food processor. But a few years ago, we finally got one. I don’t use it much, but now when I see a recipe that looks good and requires a lot of chopping, well, I’m all for trying it. 

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(photo from the magazine)

The food processor did its thing with the pecans, and after coating the chicken cutlets with egg and finely chopped pecans, I sliced the garlic, chopped the basil and parsley. And then it was time to cook. 

Anytime I try a new recipe, it always seems to take a little longer than I think it should, because I’m not certain about the timing of it all. This one was no different, and I underestimated the cooking time of the cutlets. Note: what I bought were labeled “chicken cutlets”, but they were really just tenderloins. As a result, they required more cooking than the recipe indicated. 

Why did I pick this new recipe? Because I know that Joel loves the Pecan Crusted Red Snapper recipe that he used to enjoy at the State Grille, I thought I’d give this chicken version a try. Besides undercooking the chicken (which required an extra zapping in the microwave), this recipe was a keeper! 

After cooking the chicken in the skillet, then you sauté the garlic in butter, add fresh basil and parsley, toss it into the cooked tortellini and sprinkle it and the chicken with shredded parmesan. 

And as my favorite typo in the world exclaims, “VIOLA!”

There will soon be a new index card in my box…