Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Home Cooking

Yesterday, I made meatballs with extra lean ground beef and they came out pretty good.  I based it on a Food Network recipe.  Robert always likes my meatballs, but he also makes really delicious ones, and we have differing opinions as to ingredients and methods.  So I like to make them when I'm by myself; I can be creative with no interference! 
Above image belongs to

I also made vanilla ice cream, using the cooked custard base method with Lactaid (easier to digest) milk and a really good quality vanilla bean that my favorite spice mail order source, Spice Sage, gave me as a freebie.  I had ordered a few pounds of citric acid, which I use to tackle cleaning problems caused by the combination of hard water and the "new" phosphate-free detergents.  (The citric acid is food-grade and can also be used as a lemony flavorant and preservative)  With that order, they sent me EIGHT, fresh, plump, moist, Madagascar vanilla bean pods for free!  Those would have cost $10 EACH at the local grocer and they would have been all dried out and old, because obviously, no one buys them at that price, when you could simply use extract instead.  I took the scraped and partially "spent" pod and stuck it in a clean amber spice bottle and filled the container with rum.  Probably won't be as strong as regular commercial extract, but after a few days or weeks, I should have some vanilla essence and will have made the most of my spicy windfall. 
Made a loaf of white bread from scratch today - hand kneaded (I used disposable gloves) - no bread machine or mixer.  I don't have a dough hook for my 50 year old Hamilton Beech stand mixer, and I thought, I shouldn't need a $300 Kitchenaid to make a loaf of bread.  Bonus, there's enough dough left over for a second loaf in the freezer.  Even though I used some "premium" ingredients to make it tastier and healthier, it was very inexpensive to make.  Not as much work as I thought, though like all baking, the clean up is the worst job.  Here's the recipe:
White bread recipe

Photo from the
Why white bread?  For something for Robert's lunches without having to pay $3+ for a loaf full of corn syrup and chemicals.  I pack him lunch and supper, as he works during both of those mealtimes - ten to twelve hours.  Sometimes he gets fast food or takes a frozen dinner instead, but I try to pack something homemade whenever possible. 

Tonight or tomorrow, I will make Alton Brown's dough for pocket pies.  Not sure what I will put in the pies, but the dough works for savory or sweet things.  Any sort of fruit puree, jam or jelly, or leftover stew or chili would work.  Again, I think this will be a good take-to-work item, a sort of homemade fast food.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


I just learned that our friend Daniel Smith (a/k/a Zaph) passed away in December.  His mom, Millie (Carmela Smith of Dunedin) called Robert to let him know.  The Memorial Service will be at 10:30 a.m., Monday, February 6, 2012 at Our Lady of Lourdes in Dunedin.

Zaph was a good friend that we both met through the UPCS singles group.  He was the DJ at several of our dances and cooked and helped in any way he could at events.  He was the one who encouraged Robert to call me for a date, about a month after Robert had joined the group. So, he was there with Robert and me from the very beginning of our relationship and even was the DJ for our wedding.  He treated us and other friends to his excellent gourmet cooking at his home several times.   He was a good friend to Robert and me and will be greatly missed.

We tried to keep in touch, but when we moved to Pasco and he became ill,  we didn’t see each other that much.  Zaph and Millie came to Dad Groening’s memorial service in November, even though it was quite a struggle for him as he was battling cancer.  Who knew that his funeral would be so soon after?

A caring and talented person, Daniel leaves us too soon. 

Zaph once told me that his favorite prayer was the Memorare.

“Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.

Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother; to thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful.

O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.”

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Talking about the weather

Went to the grocery store today.  It's a store near my home and the workers there are very friendly.  A cute-as-a-button young lady offered to take my groceries out to the car.  In the past, I rarely accepted, but now, I usually do.  It's a bit easier for me - I'm going to have to lug the bags at home and put everything away - plus I figure the employees probably don't mind the stroll in the Florida sunshine.

So, we talked about the weather. It was cold this morning; I'd say in the 40's and we had the heat on in the house.  By ten, it was a perfect morning of bright blue sky, light breeze with a temperature around 65.  So, we got to talking about how very cold and snowy much of the North was right at that moment.  The girl said, yes, I know, my boyfriend's from Montana.  "Have you visited his family there?" I asked.  "No, but..." she replied. 

Seems her boyfriend found a job in Montana, and she is moving there with him next month!  No marriage plans -- yet -- but she does plan to go to college and get a job there.  She's going to miss Florida, especially her job for one of the better grocery stores for five years - the company doesn't have any stores in that part of the country.  She sounded excited and I wished her the best, but inside my maternal instincts, and memories of my own adventures and mistakes, were kicking into high gear.

The petite lady looked like a high school freshman, maybe a hundred pounds, wore her hair in braids and had braces on her teeth.  But by the way she spoke and carried herself, and after learning of her years of work experience, I knew she had to be closer to twenty. So really not too young to leave the nest.  But a Florida girl  - in Montana?  She's never seen snow before!  Is there even a city in the whole state as big as Tampa or Clearwater?  To be with a boy?  Who hasn't proposed? 

This is why I enjoy talking to young people who are full of hopes and dreams.  I see myself and my friends in them.  I see my nieces and friends' children and get a taste of what their parents must be experiencing.  I'd say life is good for me in general, but some of the best moments in life have to be those when we were young and all the possiblities were ahead of us, waiting to unfold. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sunny Weather

Click here to see my mag <<It's a Dog's Life>>
We are enjoying beautiful bright blue skies and sunshine here in Florida today, but it is far from beach weather.  We are expected to have sustained freezing temperatures for most of tonight and tomorrow night.  Threw a sheet over our three-foot high orange tree, hoping we don't lose it.  Sent Robert to work with hot chocolate in his thermos and extra-warm clothing. 

We took our puppy Sunshine to the dog park yesterday.  She was very popular with the boys!  We can't figure out why the male dogs are so attracted to her - she is spayed, so she can't go into "heat" or produce the kind of scent that attracts mates.  I guess she is just so cute the guys find her irresistible!  I also think it's because she doesn't know how to defend herself from their advances - and they know that!  She's very submissive (with everyone except us); not a fighter. Fortunately, none of the dogs were aggressive or really "serious" about what they were trying to do - a word from their people or from us was enough to discourage them - at least for a few minutes and then they'd have to be reminded again.

A large boxer puppy must have mistaken me for "his" person, because he made a beeline for me, jumped right up and gave me a slurpy kiss on the face! Good thing I'm not afraid of dogs and he was a really nice pup.  Things are very relaxed at the park with all the pooches off-leash.  One assumes that people won't bring really aggressive or sick dogs there (rules have been established for their removal, just in case).

Sunshine is 42 pounds now and over 8 months old.  You can see the leash in this picture is getting frayed from her chewing and we are walking her on a harness to minimize pulling.  Bought her a rope-and-nylon flying disk, which she destroyed within minutes.  Fortunately, Pet Supplies Plus took it back and we exchanged it for a super-tough-rope-tug.

Friday, November 25, 2011


We went to the post office today, to submit an official notice of Robert's father's death and to have his mail forwarded to us.  As we were talking to the postal worker, another customer, who looked vaguely familiar, silently handed us the holy card shown here; the man gave one to everyone he passed. 

As you can see, the prayer is for souls of the deceased, attributed to St. Gertrude.  Coincidentally, Gertrude was Robert's paternal grandmother's name.  So, receiving this card today was in one sense a bit eerie, but in another way a blessing and a connection with the eternal.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Sunshine is getting into mischief again! She stole my eyeglasses right out of my lap and zoomed out the doggie door with them! After galloping and dancing about with them, she shook them hard enough to pop one of the lenses out. I found the lens right away, but then I couldn't find the rest of the glasses. With delight in her eyes for having fooled me, Sunshine jumped in the puppy pool and dried off in the cooled ashes of our fire pit.

I put Sunshine in her crate and searched through grass, sand and pine needles in my backyard for my glasses - on and off for a couple of hours! Periodically took her on a leash, made her sniff the lens and told her to go "FIND!" the glasses. She followed around scent trails like crazy, but I seriously doubt she knew what I really wanted her to do! She's only six months old and I don't even know how to properly teach a dog to search. Nor did she know why I was so mad and why I made her sit on the back porch alone while I prepared and ate lunch.

Finally, I did another sweep of the yard on my own and spotted the glasses. Undamaged for the most part and the errant lens popped in easily. Learned that searching for golden-wire-rimmed glasses in a pile of pine needles is pretty much identical to finding a needle in a haystack. I'm really grateful that I didn't find them crunching under my foot or lawnmower.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Downtown New Port Richey

This morning I took a little trip to downtown New Port Richey on job-search related business and it was quite an adventure. To prepare, I looked up the directions on Google Maps, to get a good idea of the location and best way to go. Instead of taking the printout, I entered the address in my Tom-Tom GPS device. Pretty much a straight shot to downtown with few turns and an estimated twenty-two minute drive.

What Google, Tom-Tom and I didn't realize is that part of Main Street is closed today due to road repairs - local friends, take note! Ignored the first sign that mentioned something about it, missed the detour, and ended up at a roadblock. I am finally, after four years in this town, getting used to the layout, and at least where I was headed was right near the library. So, after going around a different block, I got there, using up the extra time I had given myself just for these kinds of unexpected delays.

Pulled my car into a parallel parking space; thank goodness there were two empty spaces together so it was an hassle-free task. Then, I was very fortunate to meet (drum roll) "the biggest talent to live in this city since Gloria Swanson!" At least that the man sitting on the bus bench told me as I passed him. He had a guitar and was drinking an unknown beverage from a shiny aluminum can. He was speaking (shouting) to all passersby and was clearly a bit delusional or daft. At least he wasn't angry or mean, and he did know his history, because Gloria Swanson really did make her home in New Port Richey years ago.

Went to Connections, a local non-profit which helps people find jobs. I am returning Monday for an informational meeting. As I returned to my car, less than a block away, I encountered another colorful local. A man was riding a bike with his very friendly, curious and powerful pit-bull terrier mix - on a bungee cord instead of a normal leash or bike leash attachment. Boing! In his exuberance to meet me (he truly was not acting aggressive), he pulled his bicycling owner down on the ground!

After that bit of excitement, I was treated to a laugh on the way home. Drove by a pet grooming business called "Doggy Styles," and their sign which states the slogan, "We do cats, too!" When I got home, wondering if the double-entendre was intended or simply unfortunate, I looked them up online. Yet another slogan, "Do it Doggy Styles or don't do it all!" And they are located on -- Congress Street.