Thursday, June 30, 2011

Road Blog-a-logue Begins (with apologies for the delay. The google ate my blog controls)

What a cold psychobitch.

In my line of work I have come across parents who have been diagnosed with antisocial personality and they are not nice people. There is a total lack of basic human empathy which is discomforting to most people in their presence. APDs are also very charming and personable, which is why they generally enter a life of crime or politics.

I have never seen one as openly pathological as Casey Anthony, though. I wish I could be a fly on the wall when the jury begins to deliberate. And from now until the day I die, when I lapse into self-pity over the dysfunction I experienced growing up with my grandparents and brother, I will think about the Anthony family and realize it could have been a lot worse.

Having been separated from my kitchen for ten days, there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to have to cook something, anything tonight. By adapting a recipe from Guy Fieri, I came up with a good way to utilize pork chops. I got to chop onions, and that is always relaxing. Weird, I know.

Vacation and travel blog posts and pictures will be going up over the next few days. There are a lot of pictures of food, and you may have to restrain yourself from licking the screen. And check the recipe blog for pork chops with drunken sausage gravy.

And now, from the "Old friends are the best friends" department:
Happy 37th anniversary, Mark and Sandy.  Let's thank Tony Robinson for bringing us all together, so to speak.  Although for a while, I thought Sandy and I were going to be stranded in the Shawangunks for all eternity and never make it to freshman English.

Let the Road Blog-a-logue begin:

June 16, 2011
Hard to believe I'm leaving for Arkansas day after tomorrow. Somehow that trip snuck up on me, but in a nice way. Never mind that I've had to run around like a whirling Tazmanian Devil, getting my cases lined up to be handled by my coworkers. And in the middle of all that, I found myself making a much needed side trip to the Kissimmee Police Department to finally file the police report of the identity theft. I have to say something nice about the officer who handled my case. Both times I spoke with her, she was incredibly helpful and pleasant. UPDATE: Hard to believe I never finished that blog post, and here it is Saturday, June 18, and we are gassing up in Valdosta, having picked up some much-needed caffeine at Starbucks. We've been stopping at this Starbucks for a number of years, and this is the first time one of the baristas was less than pleasing. Boy, if you are reading this, you are bound for a very short career. Starbucks has standards, and you do not even come close.

I have been knitting the Antimony shawl since leaving home. It was a pain to start the center piece, but not as difficult as I anticipated the start would have been if I had gone straight to the Vortex shawl. Now that I am past the center and working on my size 8 rosewood circular needles that I picked up at like 75% off at Joann's, all is well in the world of knitting. Will I finish it before our return home? Only if I stop blogging and start knitting . . .

Today's ear worms brought to you courtesy of Queen, ABBA, and Johnny Hates Hollywood. My head is a mess from all this unsolicited musical claptrap.

I am at the point that the Antimony shawl is resembling the Antimony floppy beret, if there was such a thing. Which means I cannot put the knitting on the bed. The bad luck hat fairies may not realize that it is a very young shawl-in-training and all hat-hell may break loose. I'm sure you can see why I can't take a chance. You can, can't you?

An Ode to Mandy
Mandy is my GPS, and today she more than earned her keep. If you have ever driven to Atlanta, you've likely gotten stuck in traffic along Interstate 75. This time, we got stuck in a traffic jam that was backed up all the way to Macon. Mandy, recognizing that we were delayed, asked if we wanted to try an alternate route. What a Smartgirl! Following her lead, we got out of the mess and made it to our hotel area with time to spare, which meant getting to Thompson Brothers before they closed.

That barbecue was soooooo good, I would have kissed the Brother in charge, if we hadn't taken the food out. I ordered some ribs, Rob ordered the Whole Nine Yards, and we had a small feast back in our room. I personally think the Brothers do the best job of smoking of all the 'cue places we frequent.

June 19, 2011
On the road to Sevierville, Tennessee. Such a beautiful state, I can understand Al Gore growing up to be an unabashed tree hugger.

I made considerable progress on Antimony yesterday. Will eventually post pictures.

Our hotel in Sevierville is next to the largest Bass Pro Shop I have ever seen. So big that it has a casual restaurant in it, and that is where we stopped for lunch. Not bad . . . When the waitress brought out their version of BBQ chicken nachos, served over fresh thick cut potato chips, I thought we were going to have to ask for a separate zip code in which to place the platter. Huge doesn't adequately describe it. Maybe that's why the word ginormous was created. It was ginormous.
The traveling has caught up to us both. There will be leftovers for dinner as we collapse on the bed, barely keeping our eyes open long enough to watch the Next Food Network Star.

Shark jumping the diners at Bass Pro Shop, and ginormous food

Okay, Allison will not be the Next Food Network Star. The one time she didn't cry on camera. Weepy thing was getting on my nerves. Now they need to get rid of Penny and Chris. Are these people told to act obnoxious?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Billboard Birds and other natural wonders

Driving home Friday on Orange Blossom Trail, I could not miss that big, honking billboard of Dan Newlin's ginormous forehead, on which were perched four perfectly stil, evenly spacedl birds.

Attorneys go head-to-head with billboard advertising.

Dan recently got some dental work done, or at least his billboard did, and now he's got a different, toothier smile that I'm guessing he thinks gives him a friendlier, more sincere look, since this one looks like he is sneering at all the drivers on the road.  I would have to say that of all the attorneys advertising on television, he irritates me the most with his smarmy "I'd be proud to represent you" crap.  I have never been a fan of television advertising for lawyers, because it cheapens a profession that takes enough pot shots as is.  And as to that "former sheriff's detective" thing he likes to flaunt? Can someone tell me what the hell that has to do with his present occupation as ambulance chaser personal injury attorney?

Rob and I hit the road again today, first stop Atlanta, then on to eastern Tennessee.  This might be a good time to invest in Kleenex, as Vickie and I are planning a good cry when we see each other.

This past week has been a whirlwind of readying my cases for my absence - feels like deja vu all other again.  The Antimony shawl is on the needles and is the designated project for this road trip.  Let's see if I can finish it by the time we return to Florida.  Just in case, I'll be shlepping a few other projects with me.  Hey, it doesn't hurt to be prepared.

Mandy has been updated with all the latest maps, after spending several hours plugged in to Rob's computer.  Knowing her delicate nature, I only hope she isn't constipated from the experience.  She can get awfully cranky when she's not feeling up to par ...

If any of you are acquainted with Master Fidel Casco, don't forget to send him your good wishes for his successful testing in Little Rock.  Seventh degree black belt, Sir!  And of course, some of those good wishes for Rob, who is competing for World Champion on Friday, and in his regular group on Sunday.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Knit Happens

If I was a less experienced knitter, I would be tearing my hair out right about now.  But a lesson well-learned over the past almost 50 years is that "knit happens."

Now I'm no mathematical genius, but I do know that a hexagon has six points, like the Star of David, and six sides.  Therefore, if the object I am knitting is designed to be a hexagon, but instead resembles an air shot of the headquarters for the United States Department of Defense, then I can only conclude that "knit happened", and I am going to have to frog the whole darn thing.

The good news is, nobody died and it gives me something to blog about.  The bad news is ... well, there is no bad news.  I am a process knitter, so having to frog and start over is just part of the process.  I had only gotten as far as round seven, just enough to consider it practice rather than failure.  UPDATE:  I frogged it (rip it, rip it), and started over.  Looking good, if I say so myself.

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch, but there sure is such a thing as a free book.  Me lurves Kindle.  Yes, some of the books are overpriced, especially when they are just released, but I can wait for those prices to come down out of the stratosphere while I am reading stuff I got for free or darn close to free.  Who knew there were so many good mystery writers out there?  It is an embarrassment of riches is what it is.  So many great books, so little time.

I will have a little more time to read as we are off on our road trip starting this Saturday morning.  Next time I schedule two vacations that close together, someone smack me upside the head.  Having said that, I am looking forward to Worlds as I always do.  I love the road trip and love the time we spend in Arkansas.  I am excited about seeing Vickie and Family this trip, and exploring parts of her home state I'd not seen before.

But right now I've got to move it along and get to the office.  Miles to go before I sleep ...

Monday, June 13, 2011

The bigger they are, the harder they fall

Living in Florida, I was hardly the only person to root for Dallas instead of Miami in the NBA Playoffs.  You might think that once my beloved Magic fell on their asses faces in the early rounds, I would turn to the Miami Heat.  You know, Go Florida?  Ha ha ha, no way.

So I was extremely pleased when the Dallas Mavericks won the finals, 4 - 2, embarrassing the crap out of Lebron James.  His ego is going to need major surgery after tonight.  Lebron, Dwyane - while you were mocking Dirk Nowitzki, he and his team were cleaning your clocks.  You boys could use a little humility and a little common sense. 

Speaking of common sense, I don't have any.

The pattern is "Antimony" by Brigitte Eaton, available for free at Ravelry.  She says she combined the "Vortex Shawl" pattern with the "Sagrantino Shawl" pattern to create "Antimony".  I've already got it on the circular needle.  I'm blaming my lapse in judgment on the Yarn Harlot, and her post called "Matching".  If you read it, you'll understand why I feel the need to start this to accompany me on my annual journey.  I already had the perfect (I hope!) yarn, just needed one more skein and I found it, same dye lot and all, at Joann's.

It's not like I'm going to leave for Little Rock with just one project in my knitting bag ... that would be tempting fate, and I could end up like I did in Korea, leaving fuzzy red yarn in three different cities.  Long story.

I made Jewish sweet and sour meatballs tonight.  Tasty!

Harold Camping, who has rescheduled Armageddon for October 21, 2011, has apparently suffered a stroke.  From the news article I read, it did not seem to have been crippling, which is fortunate at his age.  I'm sure he would not want to miss the End of the World.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

This is the way the cruise ends, not with a whimper, but with a blast

I am deeply immersed in planning our road trip to Arkansas.  Surely, in another life I was a travel agent.  This is something I do every year, and thanks to the internet, I have built a nice database of hotels, restaurants and things to do in cities along the way.  Although Mandy will be accompanying us as always, I still map out the entire route ahead of time using Mapquest or Google Maps.  That way I know how long each leg of the trip will take, and what time we can expect to arrive.  It also lets me plan for meals, on the road (can't miss the Varsity in Atlanta or the Jack in the Box in Nashville) and near the hotels.  And then, thanks to Open Table, I can make reservations for dinner without having to pick up the telephone.  You know how I hate to talk on the telephone.

Cookie A's "Eunice" socks, from her book Sock Innovations

At the back of my mind, always, is which knitting projects to bring.  Since finishing the baby hoodie and the cat's paw scarf on the cruise, I have been working on the spiral galaxy socks and designing a little blanket to go with the hoodie.  If I'm smart, I'll stick with those, and then move on to the other socks I've got started.  No reason why I shouldn't be able to finish the Eunice socks, since I am already on the second sock ... no reason at all, except that out of the corner of my eye I can see sitting at the top of the growing stack of travel documents, the pattern for this little beauty:

"Vortex Shawl" by Kristina McCurley, free pattern on Ravelry

The only thing that is stopping me from casting on is that I do not have 840 yards of fingering weight yarn in any one colorway.  Of course, that is easily correctible, and without my even having to leave this chair (God, I love the internet).  I keep debating the wisdom of such a move, however, although if I could possibly start and finish the project during the trip, that would be awesome.  Foolhardy, but awesome.  A single, beautiful project representing our journey to the Great Smokies and the Ozarks and back to the flatlands of Central Florida.  A "fractal inspired shawl" to remind us of our visit with very dear friends, of watching Master Casco test for seventh-degree blackbelt, and of Rob's participating at Worlds in the Top Ten competition.  A gloriously symbolic shawl. 

In the meantime, I have prepared a choucroute garnie which I recommend highly.  It feeds about 400 people, however, or maybe that's twelve; in any event, plan on serving it when you are throwing a party, or contributing to a potluck when you really really really like the people.

And now, our last day on the cruise - designated a "Fun Day at Sea" (everything on Carnival is about fun), and it was.  No, really, it was.  Keep reading.

June 3, 2011 - 10:39 am

The Last Breakfast

I haven't gushed yet about my iPad; that will come later. Here we are on the Lido Deck, in the casual dining room known as "The Gathering", watching the last breakfast feeding frenzy of the cruise. Today is designated as a Fun Day at Sea, as there are no planned port stops until our final destination of Port Canaveral. I really liked the schedule for this cruise, which both started and ended with a full sailing day.

In fact, there is very little that I did not like about this cruise. The Baked Alaska was a disappointment. And the selection of TV channels was sparse. At least half the adults have no freaking idea of how to dress, but I really can't complain, as that gives me a rich source of Fashion Police commentary. I would have liked some reasonable access to cellphone and Internet service, but there is a big part of me that is very glad I have been, in the words of my dear departed great-Aunt Ceil, incognito. It is true that I don't have easy access to my personal accounts, but that also means I have absolutely no access to my office accounts. The State of Florida BlackBerry is tucked away safely at home.

Such a pretty ship ...

I can go on and on about the good stuff, though, but that will come later as well. This morning we finished our onboard shopping, listened to Butch, Your Cruise Director's explanation of debarkation procedures, and planned our lunch at a different location, the Lanai for bar-b-que. I also would like to peek in at something called Tea Time at 3:00, and Rob has been wanting to check out the sushi at Wasabi. Good grief, it really is all about the food with us. Oh yeah, I bought two cookbooks.

Lunch at the Lanai on the Promenade deck

The Lanai had chicken quesadillas, soft pork tacos, hot dogs and sliders, and a nice place to sit out on the Promenade deck, away from the much noisier swimming pools. Rob had a rum and coke, and after lunch, a nice walk on the deck, and more photos of white caps, I got a moccachino at Carnival's version of Starbucks, and it is very good. According to the charts, the Carnival Dream is sailing at a pretty brisk pace heading northeast around the Florida Keys. We still have couple of meals to go before this truly lovely cruise ends.

Fashion Police reporting in to bitch about hair braiding. When the ship made it's last stop at Costa Maya, there were ladies waiting on land, and also a number of shops, offering hair braiding. Unfortunately, a number of white ladies have indulged in this particular hair styling with less than stellar results. Not because of the quality of the work, which has been rather good, but because it is, in my opinion, a look that simply doesn't work with Caucasian hair and scalps. It was especially unattractive on a frowsy, colorless white lady of indeterminate age who would have been better served by a visit to the ship's beauty salon for a good cut, color, and style which would have softened her looks. The braiding and beading created a harsh effect. Very high on the ick factor scale, accompanied as it was by a completely unfashionable granny type dress which had probably seen better days back in the sixties.

I am watching the afternoon proceeding of the Casey Anthony trial in real time, which is now serving as an uncomfortable reminder that I have two termination of parental rights trials starting this week. One of them is straightforward and rather sad, while the other is, for want of a better descriptive word, a doozy. And that's all I am going to say about that.

The Tea Cart

4:05 pm
From the "oh darn, why didn't I check that out sooner?" department: I have always wanted to go to an afternoon tea, but have yet to find a satisfactory venue. So I have been on this lovely ship for six days, and looked at the schedule every day, and noted that there is something called Tea Time from 3:00 to 4:00 pm. We finally did check it out and it was so pleasant and so relaxing I feel like a dummy for not looking into it sooner. Choice of teas, of course, and a rolling cart with six or seven sweet offerings and two savory. I had a scone which had been split and filled with a delicious cream and a cup of Darjeeling while Rob had the apple tart, the open faced smoked salmon sandwich, with a cup of Earl Grey. It was peaceful and delicious, a nice combination.

Afternoon tea, a lovely experience

More in this department - the daily sushi bar, open from about 5:30 to 8:15 pm. Now, are you sitting down? The sushi is FREE. I thought it was one of those extras you pay for, like the moccachino or liquor. Seemed reasonable to me anyway, since almost everything else is included, but we get down here and get on line, and these very cheerful men behind the counter are shoving plates filled with three different types of delicious sushi at each of the guests and no one is paying for anything.

6:49 pm
Well, we've got one more big meal to go - the last supper at 8:15 - and our vacation is over. We will debark around 8:45 am tomorrow. I will be avoiding the scale for a while.

It has been a blast.

Speaking of blasts, if anyone saw the season finale of "Doctor Who" last night on BBC America - were you blown away? 


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Culture Vulture

Da cruise, da cruise!!

June 2, 2011
6:59 am - and the headlines include:

Fierce fighting in Sanaa, Yemen
Japan's Prime Minister Survives No Confidence Vote
The Dow fell 279 points
Shaquille O'Neal Announces Retirement

Well, Sanaa is burning, badly. The no confidence vote was just plain mean, as far as I am concerned. I am going to miss seeing Shaq on the court - any court - as the Big Guy has always remained my all-time favorite.

As far as the Dow is concerned, let us remember that on Black Thursday, 1929, it fell all of 75 points and THAT was the moment the stock market crashed and plunged this country into the Great Depression. Our government needs to stop pretending that all is well, or at least getting better. It's not, and it hasn't been and it's not going to.

I have an idea - let all the governments, foreign, federal, state, and local, declare General Day of Debt Amnesty. All debt, private and public, should be eliminated - wiped out. Every person and every entity starts with a clean slate. I am no economics genius, but my idea can't be any worse than what the real, self-proclaimed experts have been trying to do for the past few years.

Happy Anniversary to Me!
Eight years ago today I had my insides rearranged. It was worth it, although I still have some unpleasant side effects. The benefits outweigh the bad stuff, and knowing what I do now, I would still go forward with the surgery.

I really hated having to buy that suit, as I knew I would never wear it again

It's time to get culture.  Does that make us culture vultures?  Our last shore excursion takes place today, shortly after the ship docks at Costa Maya on the Yucatan peninsula.

2:31 pm
What a terrific port! And what a terrific day. I finally did find my very favorite perfume of all time, "First" by Van Cleef and Arpels. We went on a wonderful shore excursion, the "Mayan Culture Experience". First we headed to an impressive Mayan ruin right in the middle of town, then to a Mayan home where the owners were Mayan descendants and they prepared a traditional meal in which the delicious chicken had been cooked in a pit, and the Señora offered handmade tortillas which were unlike any other fresh tortillas I've ever tasted.

Yes, that's me.  Rob always cuts off my head in favor of a shot of my cleavage and/or the food

The tour guide was an absolute gem. His depth of knowledge was incredible and he kept it interesting.  Also, he let me speak fractured Spanish to him.  Now that's a nice guy!

This Mayan Ruin sits smack in the middle of town, on the side of the road

The family maintains a shrine to the Lady of Guadalupe

I did not buy any vanilla. I may regret it later, but I have a big bottle in the pantry, and there is limit to how much vanilla any one person can use. I do regret missing out on that rum cake when we were at Mahogany Bay, but as it is said, that should be the worst of my problems. Yesterday we picked up Kahlua and Myer's Dark Rum in the ship's duty free shop.  You know ... the good stuff.

I beg your pardon ... I never promised you an herb garden ...

La senora serves the chicken that el senor brought out from the underground "oven"

I miss my Boy. I am concerned that I did not leave him enough to eat. Rob scoffed at me, until I reminded him that his mother still worries about whether he is eating enough, and he is 65 years old. She will drop off sandwiches and cooked entrees at his office, in case he doesn't have a chance to leave to pick something up. I understand this completely, as it is a Mom Thing.

I also miss my furry babies. Today, the señor y señora tienen dos perros y un gato, un Siamese, en su casa. I spoke to them in Spanish, and it was a very satisfactory exchange. But I still miss talking to my own kids - two legs, four legs, fur covered, clean shaven. I know they can take care of themselves (or at least most of them can - not sure about Indiana, he's still just a big gawky baby), but . . . all together now . . . IT'S A MOM THING!

By now you may be wondering why we haven't taken disco lessons with Butch, Your Cruise Director, or tried out the two story pool slide, or played some serious bingo, or let a complete stranger named Sven place hot rocks on our naked backs. Well, let me reflect just a little bit on this vacation. There is so much to do on a cruise ship, and you can't do everything. Because we live in Florida and there's a pool at our house, pools and sunbathing aren't anything special, although I certainly understand how they would appeal to someone from up north. Rob isn't into water sports, and neither of us are crazy about sand. We don't gamble, because I have such an aversion that I won't even buy a lottery ticket. We like shows, but not enough to stay up late and breathe cigarette smoke. Shopping is nice if we want something specific, but otherwise just okay. I had a massage once when we sailed on NCL, and I found it to be a weird experience I did not care to repeat. We love going to the formal dining room and meeting new people, and to the casual dining and getting room service and ice cream at midnight. Yeah, it's all about the food. We love the shore excursions that take us around the town or island. We love learning new stuff about a new place. We love the onboard art auctions but right now we have a substantial collection and have run out of wall space.

Most of all we like to spend time together exclusive of the stresses of everyday work and life, and the cruise ship is the perfect environment for that kind of vacation. I may never try to snuba but I will always be able to snuggle.

I never realized how much fun it would be to take a cooking class with Rob until we took the class in Cozumel. Which just reinforces my desire to go on a celebrity chef cruise. Rob and I both agreed we would have loved to go on the cruise with Chef Anne Burrell last spring (I think it was last spring) but unfortunately it was WAY above our pay grade, in part because it involved two round trip air tickets to the Mediterranean. Just have to post that one on the bucket list and hope for better days.

Working diligently on the cat's paw scarf, reading a Janet Evanovich "between the numbers" Stephanie Plum novel, and still watching the Casey Anthony trial . . .

We sat at the bar like grown ups and had our usual - gin martini for Rob and a cosmo for moi. Yes, I was a trifle tipsy. Our missing couple showed up again tonight and Rob spent a good part of the dinner convincing the guy to try taekwando or at least tai chi, and explaining why any city, like Atlanta, that can contain an awesome barbecue restaurant like Thompson Brothers as well as the Holy Grail of Hot Dogs, The Varsity, can't be all bad. I remembered why I shouldn't have ordered the baked Alaska for dessert. Speaking of Alaska, Sarah Palin is taking a family vacation riding cross country in a very big bus that would make Buckaroo Banzai jealous, accompanied by most of her staff. But she's not running for President in 2012. There are big honking pictures of eagles and American flags on her tricked out bus, but she's not running for President in 2012. The Lady and her entourage landed in New Hampshire the same day Mitt Romney throws his hat in the ring and starts serving chili to registered voters, and Sarah Palin is still not running for President in 2012.

I can't wait to see who else isn't running for President in 2012. Maybe Mike Huckabee, eh?

The last little towel buddy.  I knew him well, Horatio.

When I got back to work after the cruise, I was telling my coworkers how I would be trying to speak Spanish to the folks in Mexico while they were trying to speak English to me.  It made for fun, as we were all trying to be friendly and respectful.  Then Brenda Paralegal and I started kidding about my limited Spanish - Brenda is one of my "tutors" - and Brenda was saying that she really speaks "Spanglish".  Well, so do I, except Brenda speaks more "Spang" while I speak more "Glish."  Actually Brenda was born in the US and speaks perfect English.  She had to learn Spanish in a hurry when her family moved to Puerto Rico while she was in elementary school.  She did a much better job of it than I did, since I've been trying to learn Spanish since seventh grade.  I love the language, I find it useful, and while I think it would be better for everyone who lives in the US to be able to speak English, I understand the reality of having to learn another language and I'm willing to make accommodations to communicate.  Working in Osceola County, which has the second-highest number of Spanish-speaking residents in Florida, I feel fortunate to have so many willing tutors available to me in my office.

Back to the real world.  I am leaning towards preparing a beef stew, but can't settle on what kind.  Wait.  What about a choucroute?  I know that's not any kind of beef stew, but it is big and bold and everyone in this house loves it.  Also, if there are leftovers, Cory will scarf them up during the week Rob and I are gone.  So do I make "my" choucroute or Emeril's choucroute?  I think mine is better, bwah ha ha.  No, really. 

One of my very favorite cookbooks of all time is Emeril's Potluck.  This is my kind of cooking, big dishes for a lot of people.  He offers a choucroute recipe which looks good, and if you've never tasted mine, will probably love madly.  His Kickin' Chili recipe is the only chili recipe I have ever made that my family likes almost as much as mine. 

Emeril's Potluck    Louisiana Real and Rustic
My two favorite Emeril cookbooks - and yeah, I have most of them

My choucroute garnie recipe was originally found in a cookbook "Great Dinners from Life" by Eleanor Graves.  I think it is seriously out of print, and my copy is literally falling apart at the seams, but I have gotten some very fine recipes from it over the years.  I had to tweak it a little to suit the availability of ingredients, and my son is crazy for it, which is a good enough reason to prepare it.  It's not difficult at all, by the way.  The biggest problem has always been what to serve with it.  I would like to offer potato dumplings, but damn if I can find a recipe that works for me.

So I went to Publix, and figured out what to do.  Tonight, Rob and I are going for sushi at Mikado.  Well, Rob is going to have sushi.  I am going to have a nice cold glass of plum wine.  Then tomorrow, I will cook up the choucroute and some sweet and sour meatballs for the rest of the week.  Tomorrow we're going to Kobe's for an early Father's Day dinner with Rob's parents.  Early because Rob and I won't be here on Father's Day.  God willing and the crick don't rise, we'll be leaving Atlanta and heading to Kodak, Tennessee.  Yes, we are going on yet another vacation.  Oy, I know.  After an extremely dry period for even taking mini-vacays, caused by the Omnipotent Tax Season, we fell into a scheduling conundrum of having to take too many.  Normally, we would never take time so close to our annual trek to Little Rock, but Rob's birthday and the availability of a great cruise all came together that last week in May.  Never mind that the ATA Worlds are always the third week in June.  This year, we enjoyed an abundance of riches in the travel department, and I don't regret one crazy minute.

I'm going to go with Vigo brand potato gnocchi.  One day when I have time, I'll try to perfect the potato dumpling.

From Kodak, which is near Gatlinburg, we'll be heading to Memphis, and then finally to Little Rock, where we will put down roots for 5 days.  I'm still hoping we can take one of our free days and head over to Hot Springs.  I have it on good authority that we've absolutely got to check out the barbecue at McClard's.

This trip is probably the best for sampling the best barbecue in the country.  There is Thompson Brothers in Atlanta, Interstate in Memphis, and Whole Hog in Little Rock.  Plus there are a whole bunch of barbecue joints, especially in Memphis, that we haven't even tried yet.

America the Beautiful, America the Delicious.

"Live, Love, Eat!" - Wolfgang Puck
"And then blog about it! - Me

Friday, June 10, 2011

He who controls the horse controls the horse

"He who controls the spice controls the universe!"

Geez Louise, who is controlling the spice gas these days, anyway? The price has been so terribly volatile this past year, and usually heading up at an accelerated pace, but lately the whole thing is weirding me out. The prices are going down and that's a good thing - except when they bounced back up by four cents, for just one day, then started to glide back down.

I have to pass four different 7-Elevens on my way to the office, and a fifth one when I drive to the courthouse, so I am something of an expert on the price of gas there.

More from the cruise:

June 1, 2011
"Be one with the horse . . . "

The last time I rode a horse was almost 50 years ago. I was a kid and it was what turned out to be my last summer at Camp Anawana in Monticello, New York. I always liked horseback riding, although I do not care for horse racing nor do I really like horses, and I think "playing the horses" is a really bad idea.

But today's shore excursion was pleasant, despite getting rained upon for a little while - we were walking in a rain forest after all. Shopping in Belize is nothing much (good rum cake sample) and I've given up hope of finding my "First" cologne by Van Cleef & Arpels. I'll just have to go back to Nassau. Funky Nassau.

We continue to follow the Casey Anthony trial. Oy Oy Oy . . .

I hate to say it, but this lovely vacation is more than half over. And I have 2 trials starting next week upon my return.
Reality bites.

June 9, 2011
I keep killing off Doctor Who and Amy, and it is starting to get to me. I rarely play video type games, but this was such a an interesting little app for the iPad and I am such a Fan of Who, I wanted to try it. Sorry to say that the Doctor has "died" so many times due to my careless fingers, that he has used up all of his lives and simply won't be regenerating any further.
I had been craving mushroom and barley soup for several days. I don't think I've made it in over 20 years, although I used to make it with some frequency when we were young and freezing. Now that we are old and toasty, soup didn't happen too often until just a few years ago. Anyway, it was mushroom and barley I was craving, and I made it, and it was grand. Of course I will post the recipe on the other blog. You will love it.

One trial down, one to go, before this wild, wild week is over.

June 10, 2011

"Sittin' here restin' my bones, and that loneliness won't leave me alone, two thousand miles I've roamed just to make this dock parking lot my home . . ."

Wait, that's not right - although I am sitting in the parking lot at my former (and Rob's present) office, under a tree, all the doors and windows in the car open in an attempt to capture whatever errant breeze wanders by. It is lunch time, and I am between witnesses in an all day trial. The UTI continues to plague me despite the liberal consumption of antibiotics, and is making me feel generally run down. I am hopeful that I will be able to head home at the conclusion of today's court hearing, and catch a nap. Or nap with a cat. In my house, it's all the same.

Gas prices were stable for 36 hours, which gave me hope that we might also achieve world peace by next Tuesday, but as I drove around this afternoon, I could see they were starting to destabilize once more. They are in fact still heading downwards, and that is good, but I also hate the feeling that we are being manipulated by Big Business, or the government, or the oil- producing Arab nations, or some combination of all of these, to react with a particular behavior as a result of these penny-per-gallon bones that are being thrown our way. In the meantime, the stock market is headed in the same direction as the gas prices, which is good for the gas prices but very bad for the market.

I am already far enough into my work that my lovely cruise is a distant memory. That's why I am enjoying the opportunity to relive it day-by-day on this blog.

Friday, 5:54 - I am sitting in my favorite spot on my couch; my feet are up and there is a nice cold Black Russian on the end table within easy reach. It was an all day trial and it was intense and it is not finished yet. I am beyond tired. My best boy cat is tucked against my side, and for a brief, inebriated moment, all is well with the world.  My wonderful husband brings me a cup of mushroom and barley soup, perfectly heated, and I savor the flavor.  Life is good.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Scene:  Transylvania, 1974.   The Voice:  Teri Garr as Inga, rushing in to the bedroom of Dr. Frederick "Fronkensteen", proclaiming "Doctor!  You were having a Nachtmare!"

Teri Garr

Yeah, tell me about it, Inga.  Last night was a double-feature doozy.  And while it certainly wasn't as bad as, say, the nachtmare experienced by Ebenezer Scrooge, it was bad enough.  I have had nightmares on and off my entire life, but I truly have not had one in years.  I can only guess I was making up for lost time.

In the news:  Well, turns out it really was Weiner's wiener.  Politicians, what can I say?

Politicians are among those who sometimes believe the rules don't apply to them, according to psychologists and sociologists who study behavior. They say the self-confidence politicians must exude to succeed can lead them to believe they are invincible, and ego can lead them astray.  (I lost the link, I think it was from the LA Times)

Just in case anyone has forgotten, Weiner's wife is a senior aide to Hillary Clinton, and has worked with Mrs. Clinton since 1996.

More from the cruise:

May 31, 2011
8:17 am

Watching the news on CNN leads me to wonder if there is any country in the eastern hemisphere that is not experiencing civil war. These are bad times, and it seems the entire world has destabilized. Yemen, Egypt, Syria, and FIFA, the world soccer organization. Meanwhile the Pentagon has declared that cyber attacks can constitute an act of war. No kidding. And Germany is in the throes of a serious E. Coli outbreak, which Germany claims has been traced back to produce from Spain. Apparently it is spreading to other countries in Europe. I would personally swear off salads for a while, but if you just gotta eat that cucumber, wash it well, wash it often. The blame in Spain falls mainly on the plain, which may be some premature fingerpointing and is wreaking havoc on the Spanish economy.

The economic news is just as grim, although today the various world markets are opening slightly up, after several weeks of abject depression.

12:44 pm
Mahogany Bay, Isla Roatan. Nothing to see or do except beachy type stuff, and neither of us is a sand person. So after a brief foray to the pier for some unsuccessful fragrance shopping - has Van Cleef & Arpels gone out of business? - we headed back to the ship for a restful day before our special dinner at the Chef's Art Steakhouse.

I am Lady Lobster, the newest rock star. And I am determined to finish this ?!#%! Cat's Paw scarf!

11:19 pm
Let's talk about food. Because I refuse to blog about the BIG news that Brangelina may finally be getting married.

Carnival has in the last year or so, placed steakhouses on a number of their ships. There is a reasonable upcharge associated with a dinner there. The first time we ran across this concept was during our trip on Norwegian Cruise Lines. I think it was a French restaurant, and it was very good, but if memory serves me correctly, all the food on NCL was excellent.

Carnival's food is very good, sometimes excellent. The Chef's Art Steakhouse is a step above that, and well worth the additional charge. The service was splendid. Very unrushed, and we were actually encouraged to relax and linger. Lobster bisque was excellent, although the best lobster bisque I ever had was at Firefly in Panama City Beach. This was pretty darn close to that, and it was served with a crouton that seemed to have more lobster actually baked into it. Salads - I had the Caesar, Rob had the baby spinach. You will have to see the pictures to appreciate the presentations. The taste was marvelous; I only wish I could have eaten more of it. The dressing was prepared in the "traditional" manner and tossed with whole leaves of Romaine lettuce.

I had the broiled lobster tails (surprise!) and Rob ordered a Porterhouse steak the size of a certain Yorkie. Everything was prepared beautifully. One downside was that the steak was not aged. I admit we have gotten a little spoiled, as aging adds a certain depth of flavor, but Rob still enjoyed it immensely.

My husband actually ordered fruit for dessert while I stayed true to myself and ordered some sort of symphony of chocolate which was actually four different mini desserts - a tiramisu, a banana pannacotta topped with a sorbet, a flourless chocolate cake with one sort of ice cream, and another dessert whose name I cannot remember, but it was rich like fudge, was served on top of some berry coulis and accompanied by yet another kind of homemade ice cream. I tasted EVERYTHING and will dream about the experience during moments of stress.

The Tot Mom Follies
We always hear that the worst thing that can happen to a parent is to outlive their child, but I have finally realized there is one thing far worse - to have your grandchild murdered, and then to find out it was your own child who committed the murder. Now I usually find Nancy Grace to be overly dramatic, but her coverage of the Casey Anthony murder trial hasn't been half bad. The look on the accused's face as she listens to her own mother testify is priceless, and I do not mean that in a good way. And by the way, HLN hosts, can you PLEASE dump Leonard Padilla, that Dog the Bounty Hunter wannabe from your line up - he does the world's worst interview and contributes nothing to your story. He is one big sloppy dope, which explains why Dr. Drew seemed to be cringing as he spoke with him.

Tomorrow - horseback riding in Belize!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Back in the saddle

I think Google went a bit nutsy in my absence.  Checking the stats on the blog, it seems that on a single day last week there were 1,168 page views of one single blog post - "I have a dream" from May 11 - and all the readers were coming from Turkey.  I don't get Turkey.  I understand Norway and Australia and the UK, but I don't get Turkey.  I really think Google had a major hiccup, or Al Qaeda was trying to hack my blog because they didn't like my "Osama in Hell" series.  Either way, my numbers are freaking skewed now.   Aw, nuts.

We made it to Publix.  Sunday night dinner is going to be chicken with smokehouse maple seasoning and dijonnaise.  No idea how this will come out.  Also throwing together carrots, sweet potatoes, and bananas.  No idea about that either.  Sauteed chicken livers and onions.  Yum.  And if I still have the energy - and this may have to wait to tomorrow - my newest version of stuffed mushrooms.  I've made countless versions of stuffed mushrooms, from the basic garlicky bread crumbs to shrimp and marinated mozzarella.  What I've got in mind has a combination of flavors that always pleases.  UPDATE:  I cooked the following - The Devil is in the Chicken; Don't Make a Tsimmes Over It; and Chicken Livers Provencal.  My food critics approved.  Please check the recipe blog for the June 5th  entries, and I hope you enjoy them.

I was pretty news-starved while on the cruise, not having access to my online newspapers and such.  Now that I'm back online - wow, what a fertile source of blogging topics!  I don't even know where to begin.  Okay, you talked me into it:  Sarah Palin and Paul Revere.  I mean, you can't make up stuff like this.  And then Germany pointing the finger at Spain for E. Coli tainted cucumbers, which virtually destroyed the Spanish economy in about 2 days.  In the meantime, it is starting to look like it is  bean sprouts from Germany that are spreading the rather nasty bacteria.  When I was in high school, I happily studied bacteriology, and E. Coli was a favorite - to study, not eat.  E. Coli was probably the first recipient of my early cooking attempts, as I made a special brew of nutrient agar for it to feast upon.

Shaquille O'Neal is retiring.  A volcano erupted in Chile (are you watching the news, Harold?)  Food Network is starting the new season of The Next Food Network Star.  Happy to say that Howie, the guy whose lights I wanted to punch out, went home.  Next week I hope to see that Penny chick go home.  If she spouts "sexy!" one more time, I'm gonna heave.  The market is still heading south, and as I've said somewhere on this blog before, we are taking the rest of the world down with us.

food network star finalists
Penny the Purple People Eater ... next to go?

Something I forgot to mention - during the cruise, I did finish knitting the baby hoodie AND the cat's paw scarf.  For the first time in a long time, I feel like I am making progress in knitting.

More blogging from the cruise:

May 30, 2011
8:25 am - Memorial Day

Twang that magic twanger, froggie

Room Service
Why have I never thought to do this before? Coffee for me, juice and hot tea for Rob, and no need to put on a bra and leave the room in order to reach that state of caffeination which permits me to minimally function. Absolute genius. Later, when my eyes are open and my breathing is back on automatic, I will be sufficiently awake to do my eyebrows and brave the outside world.

This ship has a forward camera which broadcasts in real time so we see where we are heading. Right now, for the first time since leaving Florida, we can see land on the horizon - Cozumel, Mexico. Once we dock, Rob and I will head out to our air-conditioned bus for a "scenic ride to Playa Mia Grand Beach Park" where we will "learn the art of cooking traditional Mexican cuisine from a prestigious Chef." We get to eat our creations accompanied by some Mexican wine, followed by an hour of beach time.

This is our second trip to Cozumel; first time was ten years ago on our first cruise on the Carnival Imagination. That trip was the brainchild of my dear friend Bethe. Up until that time, we had never cruised before. Rob, Cory and I opted for the shore excursion to see the Mayan Ruins of Tulum, and it was a wonderful experience. Our original plans for that Thanksgiving vacation were to repeat our 2000 trip to The Buccaneer resort in St. Croix - we had, in fact, booked the suite almost a year before - but then 9/11 happened, and no one in their right mind was flying anywhere for any reason.  Bethe's idea was that both families would cruise over the holiday - no cooking for either of us, and our boys, then 13 and 11, could share a stateroom, and we would stay out of airplanes until the horror lessened.  It was such a good idea, we cruised with them the next year on NCL to Nassau, and then came the trips to Italy and Greece ... but those are definitely a couple of other blog posts.

I was perusing today's issue of "Fun Times" and noticed there is going to be a Big Hair Contest tonight. Damn, and I just cut my hair! I coulda been a contender!

5:07 pm
Back from our shore excursion, and we are tired but what fun we had. The bus trip was comfortable and not too long. Our class was a total of eight people, four couples, and all of them good companions. Chef Luis was a terrific teacher, and did I mention that this class included prodigious amounts of booze? Margaritas, daiquiris, piña coladas, wine . . . we were still sober enough to prepare a three course meal. Mini "Huaraches", Veracruz Style Fish Filet, and Rice Pudding Tower for dessert. We also learned how to properly use a tortilla press, and how to make those really cool designs on the dessert plates using heavy cream and raspberry sauce. Awesome!

If you are a parent, then you know that from the minute your child comes into your world, life as you know it is over. We stopped being Rob and Cindy and became Cory's parents. Our activities, our interests, our choices for restaurants and vacations were all undertaken with his preferences in mind. And that becomes a happy habit, so much so that when he "aged out" we found ourselves missing his presence, and half of our conversations still are about Cory. Cory would like this, or love this, or enjoy this, we say, and there is always that regret that he is a little too old to tag along with Mom and Dad, and that he has a work and class schedule that requires his presence at home. But we know he would have been crazy about this particular ship, and all of the food including the 24 hour availability of pizza and ice cream. Cory and I are night owls, and long after Rob is sleeping peacefully, we are wandering around the house, snacking or, in Cory's case, eating a full dInner. Sure enough, when he has accompanied us on cruises, he and I can be found wandering the halls, ice cream or pizza or coffee in hand. Rob has pointed out more than once this trip that Cory would really enjoy the sight of lovely young ladies in evening gowns or (even better) itsy bitsy teeny weeny bikinis.

We saw some of these bikini-clad cuties on our shore excursion, after the cooking class was over and we had eaten the fruits of our labor. We had some time to kill and so we sat near the beach at Playa Mia. I knit the Cat's Paw scarf, Rob read science fiction, and we both people-watched. Gosh, we were brutal. Hee hee. But come on, folks, some blocky, bleached blonde in a bikini (so everyone could admire her tramp stamp) and a chubby dude with a beach ball for a belly, wearing a Speedo, for heaven's sakes, should be ashamed of themselves. Forget the fashion police, those two should have just turned themselves in.

6:38 pm
We are officially back at sea, headed for Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras. I thought there was some kind of political crisis going on in Honduras. Guess we'll find out tomorrow!

Which reminds me - if Harold Camping had half a brain, he could have looked like a bloody prophet by pointing out that terrible events like the earthquake and nuclear disaster in Japan, the flooding near New Orleans and Memphis, and the tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri were all tied to the End Times. Natural disasters have, at least in my perception, been increasing in frequency and degree of damage especially over the past decade. Haiti, Indonesia, Iceland - I remember viewing the streets of Kissimmee after the hurricanes of 2004 and thinking, "this is what streets look like after a nuclear explosion." Then there are the sudden, explosive political events cropping up worldwide, and economic meltdowns like what has happened in Greece. If I were a half-cracked scam artist like old Harold, I could have made even bigger bucks by tying all these events together in one neat prophetic package. A good preacher can take any event and use it to prove his point through Biblical writings. Harold is just not that good.

10:16 pm
Whoo hoo, this ship is rocking. Literally. I think this will rock me to sleep later tonight but during dinner it leant a weird tilt to the proceedings. Tonight some of the waitstaff was singing and dancing on the tables, which was great fun. Our newly acquired couple is among the missing, but our remaining table mates continue to be good company. One of the husbands has this great soothing voice, like Tom Bodet when he is assuring you he' ll leave a light on.

That's Desirta on the right, one of our waitstaff, practicing for her guest shot on "Dancing with the Stars."  Kirstie who?

Dinner was delicious. I even ordered dessert, which was a relief to our waitress who had been fussing over me like a mother hen because I had yet to order dessert.

And the relaxation goes on ...

Saw this on our way out of Playa Mia.  There was a girl in the cake, but she left before I could get the shot. 

"Animal House", anyone?