Saturday, November 29, 2008

Things that make me happy TODAY!

I am home, in my own house, sitting on my own couch, watching my own TV and snuggled up in my own Dallas Stars blanket.

While I do like to get away, to me, the best part of vacations will always be the coming home part.

So, in no particular order, and making no particular sense, these are a few things that are making me happy RIGHT NOW, at 4:18 PM on November 29, 2008.

  • I am home. HOME! In Arlington, Texas.
  • Starbucks Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate.
  • Genie Jean who snuggled with me all night while I was sick.
  • The nice cold weather and the brisk breeze - my windows wide open and sleeping under an electric blanket. That is BLISS, I tell you.
  • The dishes are done.
  • There is no leftover turkey, green bean casserole or yams in my fridge. I DO miss the leftover stuffing and gravy though.
  • I got a nice check in the mail. SCORE!
  • Microwave popcorn.
  • All my pups are happy and healthy. Lorrie took excellent care of them all. Plus I think Molly gained five pounds.
  • Whatever sickness I had yesterday is just about over. Thank God.
  • It's the parent's ACTUAL 50th Wedding Anniversary. No fighting today please. Try smacking each other on the butt.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Family Fantasy vs. Reality - What's the Score?

I am in Branson, MO on a family vacation. With my family. All of my family. This means my sisters and my brother (and their kids) along with my parents. It's day three, and there have already been fights, put-downs, threats to leave, and insults galore. It's been interesting, to say the least.

I have always wanted to have one of those great TV families. You know, like the Brady's or the Walton's or even the Camden's. But I am stuck with the Franckowiak's (try to sound it out - you'll still massacre it), and all that entails.

The reason for our gathering is our parent's 50th wedding anniversary. And while I can respect the good Catholic theology of staying together for the sake of the children, sometimes I wonder if my parents wouldn't be happier if they were not married. Not to mention that the youngest of the children is now in their early 40's and we have all seen the angst and in-fighting in their relationship and we've all wondered... why? Why stay together when there is such animosity?

All this angst has me, for lack of a better and more descriptive word, constipated. I am trying to be the peacemaker, my familial role, and it stresses me out. But I only have until Saturday, then I can head back to my own house and my own bed, hang with my own friends and hug my own dogs.

I realize this post may seem a little negative, but I honestly DO love my family. But there are times when I don't LIKE them very much. :-/

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

Today is Veteran's Day.

Interestingly, a LOT of people think that Veteran's Day is an excuse for blow-out sales and half-price dinners at local restaurants. And since I was in retail for the longest time, I helped perpetuate that fraud. And I am sorry about that.

Veteran's Day is actually about the VETERAN. That's the guy or gal that took a couple years (or longer) out of their lives to serve our Country.

Some of them were fortunate. They travelled the world and guarded our countries while on foreign soil, but never had to see an actual war.

Then there are those, like my brother, who have been in the trenches. Jimmy was involved in the FIRST Iraq war. I remember watching it on television and being absolutely petrified for his young life.

My family has a lot of veterans in it. My Dad and my sweet husband were both in the Air Force. My brother was in the Army. My brother-in-law is a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel. My uncle Tom was in the Navy (that's where he got his tattoo). My nephew Bryan is right now on a Navy submarine somewhere only God knows. My other nephew, Brad, is in the Reserves, and knows his time to deploy is coming soon.

The men in my family have always believed in service. Not just for the educational and financial benefit, but to actually SERVE our country. It's not pounded into them - we are not a one-branch-of-the-service family. It's just a way of thanking the United States of America for all the good gifts we have received.

So today, Tuesday November 11, instead of going out and hitting the sales, maybe take a drive by your National Cemetery and plant some flags or watch the service. Or drop by the local VFW and buy a cup of coffee for the guy wearing the "I Served" cap. Or say a little prayer for all the active military personnel still serving around the world. Or just look at the American Flag and say a little "thank you" in your heart.

And remember, freedom is never free, and it's our Veterans (and their families) who paid the price for it. Amen.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

My attempt to be a better person - FOR ONE DAY ONLY!!

OK - this is the dealio.

For one day only, tomorrow, Monday, November 10, 2008, I am ONLY GOING TO SPEAK NICE THINGS ABOUT PEOPLE.

This is my attempt at being a better person - even if it's only for one day. If you hear me say or see me type something bad or nasty about someone, you have permission to slap me. Not too hard though, because I am delicate.

Thanks, Rinila, for the article and the idea. Maybe we should all read it and try it for just one day. Maybe we can all make it a habit.


Thursday, November 6, 2008


There are a lot of different herbs and spices that make life tasty and delicious. In my spice cupboard, there are lots of bottles and cans with mixes and blends that are used for specific things. There are blends like Sunshine, Cajun spice blend, Mesquite BBQ rub, Lemon Dill rub for fish, Montreal chicken and steak seasonings, lemon pepper and the like.

There are herbs, of course. Rosemary is my favorite - I use it a lot. Basil, thyme, sage, tarragon, chervil, parsley, marjoram (another fave) and coriander.

Spices like cinnamon, allspice, saffron (yikes on the cost of THAT!) are in there too.

And then there are the salts. There's regular old Morton's Iodized Salt (Dad still gets his for free), there's kosher salt, smoked salt, grey salt, sea salt, flaked salt, popcorn salt, gos sel, brining salt and pink salt in my cupboard. Yes, all these salts are there and yes, they all get used.

We can't physically live without salt, which is a good thing because it tastes so darn... salty and delicious.

Until I became an 'interested' chef, I never really gave a thought to salt. When I watched a program on salt, I became more intrigued and have been experimenting with all kinds of salts.

  • Black Salt, Kala Namak, Sanchal - Significant for its strong sulfur odor (India) this salt is a pearly pink gray. It is used in Indian cooking. I have not tried this salt, but i have seen it and smelled it. The smell sorta turned me off, but some might like it. Maybe I'm just not as adventurous as I think I am!

  • Grey salt, Celtic salt, Sel Gris – Harvested from the light film of salt which forms during the evaporation process. The gray or light purple color comes from the clay in the region of France where it is harvested. Collected using traditional Celtic hand methods. This is a really great, light tasting salt. Perfect on fish, chicken or other lighter meats.

  • Hawaiian sea salt – Has a distinctive pink hue from the Alaea added to it. The Alaea is volcanic red clay with a high content of iron oxide. This salt is used in many traditional Hawaiian dishes like Kahlua Pig and Hawaiian Jerky. I haven't tried this yet because it's kinda expensive.

  • Gos Sel, Gale Grosso – Is a larger grain salt which resists moisture and is intended to be ground. Uses include flavoring for soups and salt crusts on meats. I use this in my chicken soup because it really gives it a great flavor.

  • Flake salt – Shaped like snowflakes, the brine is made using the sun and wind for evaporation. Then the brine is slowly heated to create the flakes. I brine my turkeys and chicken in this. Yummo.

  • Fleur de Sel, Flower of Salt, Flor De Sal – Skimmed from the top of salt ponds early in the process of evaporation, this is considered a great condiment salt; also good on grilled meats, in salads and on vegetables. The flavor, like wines, varies depending on the region it is harvested from. Typically it is from France though some is produced in Portugal. An expensive salt, I've got a little jar of it and use it sparingly.

  • French Sea Salt – Processed less than American salt, retains more of the mineral content gained from the Atlantic seawater it is harvested from. This usually includes natural iodine. A coarse salt, this is good for salads, vegetables and grilled meats.

  • Italian Sea Salt, Sicilian Sea Salt, Sale Marino – Harvested from the lower Mediterranean sea by hand using traditional methods of natural evaporation, this salt is high in iodine, fluorine, magnesium and potassium. A delicate salt which is good on salads and in sauces.

  • Smoked Sea Salt - One other derivative of sea salt is a smoked sea salt. The salt is smoked over real wood fires to add the flavor to the crystals. These can be used in soups, salads, pasta and also in grilling foods like salmon. I bought some of this from Michael Chiraello's store Napa Style - expensive and worth every penny.
So I totally encourage you to step out of your iodized salt habit and give some of these others a try. You just might find a new taste that you can't live without.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Depression Cooking

No, this isn't a post about cooking when you are depressed, although I DO do a lot of that. This is actually a post about a little video series I ran across that totally reminded me of my Gramma Stella.

Gramma Stella was my father's mother. She was born in 1903 and died in 2005 - yes, she was 102 years old when she passed. Gramma Stella was a vibrant woman, as big around as she was tall (well, to be honest she was kinda short). She had four children, all of them born during the Depression. Like my Gramma, my dad still has depression sensibilities, i.e., thrift, frugality, making do with what you have, saving, saving, saving, etc. She taught him very well.

Gramma watched us kids a lot when we were little, because my parents worked. Both of them worked afternoon shifts - my dad at the paper mill or the salt plant, and my mom at the hospital. So from about 2:00 until midnight everyday, Gramma watched us.

She was a tough cookie too. Nothing got past her. But I (and my severely whipped-a-lot fanny) digress.

We ate a lot of what people today might find sorta disgusting. We ate a lot of things like liver sausage sandwiches (on dark rye bread), czarnina (a fruity soup cooked with pork shoulder and duck's blood), weird sausages, a lot of Polish foods. Things were always fresh because of the farm - lots of eggs, lots of fresh milk, pork and beef.

During the depression, when things weren't going so hot, Gramma learned to make do with whatever she had on hand. Her creativity in the kitchen resulted in meals that are still familiar to me today - things like kluskis and bacon, noodles and cabbage, and what was known as Poorman's Meal. She made us kids a lot of Poorman's Meals.

Poorman's Meal always started out with potatoes and onions fried together (usually in bacon fat - yummy) with some sort of meat added in toward the end. I remember eating this with hot dogs, ring bologna, kielbasa, smoked sausage and even leftover pork chops.

I found this cool video on YouTube - it's someone's Gramma cooking the Poorman's Meal! Her's is a little different (my Gramma didn't use any tomato sauce or water in hers) but the feeling and tone are the same. She even says potato the way Gramma did (puh-tay-duhs).

This was a fun little reminder for me of those days with Gramma Stella and enjoying her Poorman's Meal.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Getting Out (To) Vote

Well, here it is, Tuesday, November 4, 2008. Voting day.

I wrote down all my selections yesterday, put the paper on the kitchen table. It must have flown off or something because when I got up this morning, one of the dogs ripped it to shreds. So technically I DO have an excuse to not vote (the dog ate my list), but yet I will NOT let it keep me away from the polls.

The question I am posing to myself right now is this: Do I want to go back upstairs and figure out all of my choices again, thereby saving myself lots of time standing at the machine, or do I just go to the poll, nothing prepared, and stand there and think about which boxes I am going to check and hope - just hope - that my selections will pop back into my head?

Of course another option is to just crawl back into bed and take a nap until around noon. Then I could think about all this stuff again.

Why oh why didn't I vote early (and often)?

Monday, November 3, 2008

November is here... Where'd the year go?

I love this time of year.

The other day, I drove by a tree that is changing colors (what the...?) and stopped to take a photo. The problem is that I don't know how to download it from my Smart Phone That's Way Smarter Than Me Phone. Seriously, I barely know how to answer the darn thing.

I had to turn on the air conditioner because it's been averaging 88 degrees outside. Someone didn't get the memo about it being November.

The dogs have been digging craters again so they can be cool and comfortable when they are outside for more than 3 minutes at a time. Reminds me of the time I broke my coccyx...

Carl has worn shorts ALL weekend long. Not that this is really unusual because he wears shorts when it snows too. (I, on the other hand, wear flip-flops.)

This past Saturday, we had our annual Pyr Picnic in the Park. All the dogs were hot and tired after about an hour. All the dog owners were hot and tired after about 15 minutes.

Millie was in the Halloween Costume Contest at the Pyr Picnic and got a Participant ribbon. I am such a proud parent. Wait - maybe it's an Achiever ribbon. Honestly tho - does it matter?

Today is November 3. In just 16 short days, I will be 46 years old. I still act like a 12-year old, have skin like a 15-year old and the chin hairs of a 64 year-old. Something here is just not adding up.

Have been working on the parent's 50th wedding anniversary trip and family reunion. Friends and relatives have been sending cards and gifts and I just wanna open them all up because there's nothing I enjoy more than ripping the wrapping paper off a present.

Seriously, what do you get two people who already HAVE everything? I wonder if there are any toasters in this group. Or an electric can opener. Not that I need either one.

I also wonder how I am gonna get my suitcases in the car with all this other poop.

Have been working on a big freelance project for the last four weeks. Have not been paid yet. That is kinda frustrating as they owe me several thousand dollars right now. Still have not made the October mortgage payment. Have not yet freaked out, nor have I contemplated murder. Armed robbery, yes.

Since Halloween is also Carl's Birthday, I planned a weekend of fun for him and called it Carlukka. He enjoyed some presents from Lorrie and me, all his favorite activities, favorite foods and even a little golf and time with his doppelganger son. I think he totally enjoyed his 50th birthday. That was the goal. SCORE!

This post is pretty random, but that's just how I feel right now. Random.

Or maybe I am feeling with my fingers. I'll never tell.

Bring me some turkeys!!!