28 June 2009

Life Update

1. Got e-mail from my CRNP at Vanderbilt yesterday. My new bone marrow biopsy is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon at 1:00. Everything else is still on schedule as listed in my last blog post.

2. The Vanderbilt social worker is supposed to call me tomorrow to let us know apartment status. If she says we can get the key Wednesday, we may go ahead and take some things up then.

3. Currently I am set up to get platelets Monday, Tuesday and Thursday of this week. I saw my doc and will see him again Thursday. Have to get platelets Thursday because everything is closed Friday for the holiday weekend. Because all blood products that I am now getting are irradiated, I haven't been having any adverse reactions. The good thing about that is that I don't have to take the IV benadryl, so I'm not sleepy all the time.

4. Abbey and Donnie took Picard home with them yesterday evening. My nephew came over and he cleaned out the cage and washed it down out on the deck. Pico was inside on his boing whilst all that was happening. This morning for the first time in 12 years I woke up at home without a bird talking to me. It is strangely quiet here. Not to mention there is a gaping hole in my office where Pico's cage has been ever since we moved into this house in 1998. I think I will get our housekeeper to do some rearranging of the room Tuesday.

5. This is my last week at home for the next few months. All of sudden there seem to be a zillion things I think I should do before I leave. Isn't that always how it is? LOL. I actually feel better than I have since I got home from Italy last summer and started chemo treatments. On Friday afternoon my neutrophils were a whopping 1.5. I am so hoping they will be just a little higher on Monday as 1.56 is considered normal. Mine haven't been normal in over two years! It would be nice to have them up going into the transplant.

6. My diet has to change fairly significantly. Ever since we met with the Vanderbilt transplant dietician on 19 May I have had to eat animal protein every day. This is supposed to help a lot post-transplant with recovery. I realise to some people it might seem strange that this is hard, but I often go a long time without eating animal protein. So I've been eating pork, chicken and such as I haven't done in years. Eggs for breakfast most mornings.

Once I start the transplant chemo I have to stay away from any deli counter food, raw foods outside our home, bulk items from the grocery and things like that. Many raw things will have to be avoided in home, too. No fresh basil. No black pepper. No fresh cheese or soft cheese or bleu cheese. The dietician says the canned aisle in the grocery store is our friend. Also can't use any of the veggie washes as those have grapefruit in them and I can't have anything with grapefruit post-transplant. Ah well. It won't be forever. But it will be strange to be eating canned veggies.

7. Yesterday while my nephew was here he wanted to cook with me. A friend had shared her family recipe for Italian Potato Pie, so to use up things before I go to Nashville we mixed up a big bowl of that. Divided it between three Fiesta square bakers and sent it home with people to cook for dinner. We kept one here to have tonight. My nephew called earlier to tell me how delicious it was and how surprised he was you could make something so good with so few ingredients. I will try to get pics ready and post them after we bake ours for dinner tonight.

One of the ingredients in the potato pie was ham. Based on recommendations from some of my foodie friends, I ordered a Vermont cob smoked ham from Dakin Farms. That's the ham we used in the pie. The bone is now being used to make Red Beans and Rice for dinner tomorrow night. The beans cook in the crockpot, so I will post about them later, also.

DD#2 is on her way home from International Thespians in Lincoln, NE. We're under a severe thunderstorm watch, so I hope her flight path is in a different line than the storm.

9. Back before I realised I couldn't garden this year, I ordered about a dozen different heirloom tomato plants. Thankfully Sally, my sister, planted them at her house. Yesterday she brought me the first of the harvest: Black Krim, Cherokee Purple, Sun Golds and a couple of others that I don't remember. We're going to have them with dinner tonight!

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24 June 2009

Third time's a charm

So....... yesterday I got THE CALL. Donor #3 has been contacted, done his info stuff and is scheduled for a physical on Friday. As in day after tomorrow Friday. Apparently this 22yo male is anxious to donate for me. His collection date is set for 16 July and if needed, the 17th. (That's in case they don't get enough the first day.) I am so very grateful to this young man. Now I have a schedule! This is contingent on them not finding any physical reason why he can't donate. The people at Vanderbilt seem to think that is unlikely and have been scheduling my appointments. And one of the nice features of Vanderbilt is that they have everything online. You can log in to your account to see results of all your tests, your previous appointments, your pending appointments, your bill, etc. Pretty handy!

1 July - Bone Marrow Biopsy @ Vanderbilt

Independence Day Weekend (ish) - Move to Nashville

7 July: Pre-Admit Labs
8 July: Hickman Line Placement (7:00am)
9 July: Start chemo treatment to ablate my bone marrow
17 July: Last dose of chemo
18 July: DAY ZERO

If all goes well, I should be back home by Halloween.

After all the waiting I'm kind of in a state of shock. LOL. I've got a call in to the social worker to talk to her about exactly when an apartment will be ready for us. It would be nice to be able to move and get settled in over the holiday weekend. The apartment complex is right across the street from the Vanderbilt Clinic.
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20 June 2009

90 things - have you done them?

Saturday Meme
Just bold the items you have done. If you haven't done the item, just leave it alone.

1. Bought everyone in the pub/bar a drink
2. Climbed a mountain - Not like Everest, but hiked in the Rocky & Smokey Mountains.
3. Held a tarantula
4. Taken a morning shower with your love
5. Been in love
6. Broken someone’s heart
7. Had your heart broken
8. Done a striptease
9. Bungee jumped
10. Watched a lightning storm at sea
11. Stayed up all night long, and watched the sun rise
12. Seen the Northern Lights
13. Gone to a huge sports game
14. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
15. Slept under the stars
16. Changed a baby’s diaper
17. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon - No, but I want to!
18. Watched a meteor shower
19. Gotten drunk on champagne - Well, I'd have to say tipsy.
20. Given money to charity
21. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
22. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
23. Had a food fight
24. Bet on a winning horse
25. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
26. Had a snowball fight
27. Photocopied your butt or any other intimate body part
28. Held a lamb
29. Gone skinny dipping
30. Taken an ice cold shower
31. Seen a total eclipse
32. Ridden a roller coaster
33. Hit a home run
34. Been arrested
35. Visited all 50 states - Only 49 - I still need Hawaii.
36. Taken care of someone who was drunk
37. Stolen a street/highway sign
38. Backpacked in Europe
39. Taken a road trip
40. Taken a midnight walk on the beach
41. Gone sky diving
42. Milked a cow
43. Alphabetized your records - I took this to mean record albums. :-)
44. Sung karaoke
45. Lounged around in bed all day
46. Gone scuba diving
47. Danced in the rain
48. Gone to a drive-in theater
49. Started a business
50. Gotten married
51. Been in a movie
52. Crashed a party
53. Gotten divorced
54. Been questioned by the police in a foreign country - Does being questioned by security after setting off alarms at the airport in Rome count?
55. Made cookies from scratch
56. Gotten a tattoo
57. Been on television
58. Fallen asleep while driving
59. Got so drunk you don’t remember anything
60. Recorded music
61. Had too much to drink at a party
62. Bought a house
63. Accidentally put super glue where it it didn't belong
64. Been on a cruise ship
65. Spoken more than one language fluently
66. Bounced a cheque
67. Called or written your Congress person
68. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
69. Sang loudly by yourself in the car - all the time. That's part of what a convertible is for!
70. Wrote articles for a publication
71. Piloted an airplane
72. Helped an animal give birth
73. Been fired or laid off from a job
74. Won money on a T.V. game show
75. Broken a bone
76. Ridden a motorcycle
77. Had a body part of yours below the neck pierced
78. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
79. Ridden a horse
80. Had major surgery
81. Ridden on a train
82. Slept through an entire flight: takeoff, flight, and landing
83. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states - 49 states, 15 other countries
84. Visited all 7 continents
85. Eaten sushi
86. Had your picture in the newspaper
87. Para sailed
88. Changed your name
89. Dyed your hair
90. Been a DJ
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19 June 2009

Five Things

Meme I got from Joy Eliz. Feel free to pick it up.

5 Things I was doing 10 years ago:

1. Being a room mother for DD#2.
2. Homeschooling Abbey.
3. We were in the middle of a massive remodel of the "new" house we bought.
4. Looking for a new Jeep as my red one had rolled over.
5. Volunteered a lot at DD#2's school.

5 things on my 'to do' list:

1. Get transfusions of red cells and platelets.
2. Go to Fresh Market.
3. Get ready to go to Nashville for Photoshop class Monday
4. Load Photoshop CS4 on my laptop.
5. Remember to take my Exjade.

5 Things I've done today:

1. Drank a lot of water
2. Worked on sorting out my Thunderbird inbox
3. Posted on my blog
4. Looked through this week's veggie box
5. Meditated

5 Snacks I enjoy:

1. popcorn
2. sesame sticks
3. petit fours
4. bbq potato chips - about twice a year
5. coke - about twice a year

5 things I would do if I were a billionaire:

1. travel more
2. hire a full-time live-in housekeeper
3. set up scholarships at some particular schools
4. set up trust funds for family members
5. buy a Porsche 911 convertible - hot pink with white interior

5 places I've lived:

1. Baton Rouge, LA
2. Tallulah, LA
3. Coushatta, LA
4. Dallas, TX
5. AL/TN
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Salad Plate Dinner for a hot summer evening

The temperature was 98° here on Thursday! And it was still in the 90s after 9:00pm. I was thinking of grilling salmon for dinner, but with my red cells being low I didn't have a lot of energy. Instead I opted for a mixed salad plate dinner.

The Menu:
Louisiana Stuffed Eggs
Simple Chicken Salad
Crunchy Pea Salad
Coined Potatoes
Carr's Table Water Crackers
Non-Alcoholic St. Pauli Girl pretend beer that must be labelled as malt beverage

Cool salads were just the thing for a summer evening meal. I served them on sunflower Fiesta with a vintage tablecloth and Depression Glass tumblers.
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Crunchy Pea Salad

Wednesday I was looking in the freezer and noticed there were two bags of peas. Obviously I needed to use one of them, so I mentally filed that away. Then that night I was looking online for recipes and ran across this recipe for Crunchy Pea Salad. I saw it first on Tastespotting, but it's from Wondertime Magazine. The publication is owned by Disney and it appears to be a parenting magazine. Not one I've actually seen in print, though.

This recipe appealed to me, though I did change it up a bit. Tonight the pea salad was being served along with a simple chicken salad and I made the changes so the two would complement each other. Mike and I had very divergent opinions about this recipe. Now that I've tasted it, I would leave out the bacon. Just my personal preference. He thought the bacon really added to the taste of the dish and felt it would be a mistake to make the salad without it. Both of us agreed it was a very good salad and I will make it again. I've only got a photo of the finished product, as I didn't have the energy to do the whole process.

ETA: I think this salad definitely benefits from being made the day before serving.

Crunchy Pea Salad

4 slices bacon
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1 tsp sugar
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
10 oz frozen peas, thawed and drained
1/2 red onion, diced fine
3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Cook bacon. Drain, crumble and set aside. Whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, and pepper to combine. Gently stir in the bacon, peas, onion and pecans. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

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Simple Chicken Salad

There are probably as many recipes for chicken salad as there are cooks. Or perhaps more. I know I don't make chicken salad the same way every time.

It's summer and it's hot. Still in the 90s after 9:00pm. As I decided to make a salad plate for dinner Thursday night, I didn't want the chicken salad to be to complicated. And I didn't make photos of the whole process as I'm short on energy due to lack of red cells. This is a nice, simple recipe that can be dressed up by serving in lettuce cups. The celery gives it a bit of crunch and the grapes add a nice sweetness.

Simple Chicken Salad

2 whole boneless chicken breasts, poached and chopped
1 1/2 cups halved seedless red grapes
2 ribs celery, diced fine
good mayonnaise

Mix together the chicken, grapes and celery. Stir in enough mayonnaise to bind it together. Just use the amount you like to get the texture you prefer. Refrigerate until serving time.

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18 June 2009

Louisiana Stuffed Eggs

Stuffed eggs or devilled eggs? I always call them stuffed eggs, as evidenced in the title of my post. Humans have been making stuffed eggs for a long time. They have their roots in ancient Rome, with the first known published recipes for stuffed, boiled eggs coming from Europe in the Middle Ages.

In the 17th century stuffing was a common way to prepare eggs, but they were not referred to as devilled until the 18th century in England. In the culinary sense, devilled means a highly seasoned, chopped, ground, or whole mixture that is served hot or cold. Numerous foods, including eggs, are served devilled. Originally the term was associated with kidneys and other meats, rather than eggs.

Medieval recipes commonly called for adding cheese and raisins to the stuffing and were not written in the same form we use now.

from Liber de Couina (Medieval Kitchen #118)
Eggs: to prepare for stuffing. To make stuffed eggs, cut each one in half when it has been well cooked and thus hard. Then remove the yolk and take marjoram, saffron, and cloves and mix with the yolks of those eggs; and mash it thoroughly, adding a little cheese. For each eight eggs, add one raw egg. This done, fill the egg whites with this mixture. And fry in good pork fat, and eat with verjuice.

Not only are the recipes written down differently, the above does not bear much resemblance to the stuffed eggs most of us know and love. Stuffed eggs as we know them gained in popularity in the first half of the 20th century. By the 1940s they were quite common with meals at home and at parties. Often stuffed eggs are served as an appetizer. And I've never been to a potluck where at least one person didn't provide stuffed eggs.

There are thousands of recipes for stuffed eggs. Families have their own favourite "handed down" recipes and new ones continue to evolve. The filling can be as plain as adding some salt, pepper and mayonnaise to more elaborate concoctions that add such things as tuna, sun-dried tomatoes or caviar. I don't think I ever met a stuffed egg I didn't like. One of the best things about stuffed eggs is that they are a wonderful canvas for experimentation. Play with different additions that YOU like.

All stuffed eggs start with hard cooked eggs. There is an art to properly preparing hard cooked eggs. First of all, the eggs should be at least a week old. Fresh eggs will not peel nicely at all. Overcooked eggs will have a green ring around the yolk. Not attractive. I've detailed the method to prevent that in my recipe. And of course I use the organic free range eggs that come in our veggie box.

My standard recipe for stuffed eggs is a variation of my both my grandmothers' and my Mom's recipes for stuffed eggs. My maternal grandmother cut her eggs in half lengthwise, while my paternal grandmother cut hers crosswise. We always have them at family gatherings, cookouts, etc. And they are often served with salads as I did Thursday night.

Louisiana Stuffed Eggs

12 large eggs - at least a week old
6 Tbsp good mayonnaise
3 Tbsp pickle relish
2 tsp mustard
1/2 small sweet onion (about 2" diameter)
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
Tabasco Sauce

Place the eggs in a pan of cold water. Cook over high heat until the water just comes to a boil. Cover, remove from heat and set aside for 20 minutes. Pour off the water, crack the eggshells and fill the pan with cold water (and some ice, if desired). Let sit until the eggs are cool. Peel the eggs and slice in half, putting the yolks in a bowl and the whites on an egg tray.

Mash the yolks. Add the mayonnaise, pickle relish and mustard. Grate the onion with a small grater into the yolks and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place a couple of drops of Tabasco sauce in each egg white and fill with the yolk mixture. Refrigerate until time to serve. Be sure to sprinkle paprika on top before serving.
1. I like to grate the onion with the microplane that's made for hard cheeses.
2. Pickle relish - I use 2 Tbsp of sweet relish and 1 Tbsp dill relish.
3. We like Dijon mustard, but plain French's gives a brighter yellow colour.
4. Any kind of sweet onion will do. I use Vidalias whenever they are in season, but Texas Sweet and Walla Walla are also good.
5. I try to make these several hours ahead of serving so that the flavours have time to meld and the eggs to chill.
6. My paternal grandmother preferred not to use paprika. She would place small strips of pimiento criss-cross over the egg yolk filling before serving. I do that sometimes, too.
7. Sometimes when I have fresh dill, I will garnish with that.

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17 June 2009

Vin de Pamplemousse

Since we went to Italy last summer and I learned to make Limoncello, I have become enamoured of making my own interesting libations, including those served as apéritifs. Limoncello is usually drunk after a meal to aid in digestion while an apéritif is taken before a meal to stimulate the appetite. Apéritifs are popular throughout the Mediterranean and I am embracing my French roots. The most common apéritif we had on our trip was a mixture of Prosecco and Campari, but there are all kinds of other exciting possibilities to try.

Unlike cocktail hour in the United States, l'apéritif includes a light drink and some small delicious bites that really are an appetizer. Today I wanted to make a batch of Vin de Pamplemousse, a lovely citrus apertif. There are many recipes available, but the one I like best is a variation the one in Alice Water's Chez Panisse Fruit book. I combined that with some others, making adjustments for the available citrus fruits. It takes a little over a month to make before bottling.

Citrus fruits sliced and in large jar with sugar

Wine and vodka added

Now it has to sit until 27 July.

Vin de Pamplemousse
makes about 5 quarts

3 white grapefruit
3 Ruby Red grapefruit
2 Meyer lemons
2 blood or Valencia oranges
2" piece of vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 (750 ml bottles) crisp white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
3 cups 80-proof vodka
1 3/4 cup sugar

Wash fruit and slice 1/2" thick. Mix all ingredients in a large container. Stir to dissolve sugar completely. Seal up and store in a cool place or refrigerator for at least 30 days, but not more than 40. For the first week, stir the vin de pamplemousse once a day. Then, about once a week, check how it's developing and give a stir. Taste periodically. If is too sweet, add more fruit and wine. If too bitter, add more sugar.

When done infusing, strain and toss out fruit. Allow to sit and settle (covered) untouched for a few days. Using several layers of cheesecloth, gently strain but stop pouring before you get to the cloudy part at the bottom. Repeat straining until very clear or you're satisfied. Place in clean wine bottles and close tightly with a cork. Will keep several months at cellar temperatures or longer in the refrigerator.

Notes: You can also use vanilla extract instead of whole beans with no adverse effects.

À votre santé

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Coined Potatoes

Mezza Luna is a great restaurant! The owner/chefs trained under Frank Stitt in Birmingham and put their own creative touch to food in Huntsville. Beginning in May, they started a once a month cooking class. It's a demo style class where everyone sits around the bar and watches. And of course anyone is free to get up and go behind the bar to look if they can't see well from where they're sitting. Most of us seem to be a lazy bunch. We just sit and have some drinks while we watch. LOL. Once all the food is prepared, the attendees have dinner. I have loved both classes so far.

Classes are normally to be held on the 3rd Sunday of the month. In May, one of the dishes was Coined Potatoes. These are both simple and elegant. Served at room temperature with a vinaigrette dressing, I consider them a salad. Our veggie box had quite a few new potatoes and spring onions, so I decided to make a batch of these today. They're a wonderful recipe for "eating local". And I used the mandoline for slicing. I figured it was safer than a knife as it has a guard.


Let's start with the onions and new potatoes.

The mandoline does a fabulous job of slicing things very thinly. Check out the onions.

Mandoline in action (guard removed for photo, only. ALWAYS use the guard when slicing veggies with the mandoline!)

And perfectly sliced potatoes

Potato slices in the pot with salted water


Potatoes and onion vinaigrette

And our lovely plate of coined potatoes

Here is my slightly adapted recipe.

Coined Potatoes

3 spring onions
6 Tbsp pinot grigo vinegar or other white wine vinegar or champagne vinegar
1 tsp of sugar
kosher salt
12 red new potatoes
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Peel and slice shallots very thin. A mandolin is good for this. Combine sliced shallot rings, vinegar, sugar, 1/2 tsp of kosher salt. Mix together and allow mixture to sit for about 10 minutes.

While the mixture is resting, slice potatoes 1/8” thick. Put the coined potatoes in a pot of cold water. Salt the water with 3 to 4 Tbsp of kosher salt and bring to a boil. The water should be about the same salinity as the sea. Strain and place potatoes in large bowl. Pour the shallot and vinegar mixture over the top of potatoes and toss with extra virgin olive oil. Spread the potatoes on a sheet tray and let cool to room temperature to serve.

Now how easy was that?
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Donor update and other news

Update on my donor status. The original donor was supposed to go in for his info session last Thursday. This is when he would have set up appointments for a physical and bone marrow biopsy. Late Thursday Vanderbilt found out that he had not come in, but his donor centre was hoping he would come on Friday. No word on that yet.

Because this was causing a delay, Vandy decided to activate my second donor. Then on Monday, they found out he will not be available for an info session until 7 July. And they don't know if he will be fully available then or not. The transplant doctor looked at my #3 donor and decided to activate him instead. #2 will stay on hold as a backup. The doc says he is good with transplanting me with stem cells from any of these three guys. They are all extremely similar and are exact matches for me. Donor #1 who used to be 22yo is now 23yo. #2 and #3 are both 22yo. Vanderbilt says we will use stem cells from whichever donor can get them to me first. I am so incredibly lucky to have several people who match me!

Originally when they activated my first donor 2 weeks ago, they were shooting for a Day 0 between 25 June and 9 July. All the donor centres have been told it is urgent. However, since apparently little has been accomplished, Day 0 must be moved out and I don't know what dates they are anticipating now. I know I have to have 10 days of chemo before Day 0, and it's a balancing act to coordinate everything. I also know Vandy's transplant coordinator will call me as soon as she hears anything. She's very good about that. For now I am in a holding pattern.

On Monday the 22nd, there is a Photoshop class in Nashville in which my sister, Sally, and I have enrolled. It's from 10:00a-5:00p. And we have reservations to spend Monday night in Nashville. I'm fairly certain I will be getting platelets on Friday of this week. That means I will likely need them again on Monday. I have a call in to my CRNP at Vanderbilt to see if I can come over there after the class and get platelets and am waiting to hear back from her. Sally and I will be spending the night and the hematology clinic is open 24/7.

I am hoping that will work out. Mike is not at all enamoured of me going to this class. But I feel that I can't just stay in bed and do nothing when I am feeling a bit better. As long as I take the necessary precautions there really isn't any reason I shouldn't go to the class. But he worries.

The 22nd is the day that DD#2 leaves to go to International Thespians. She has to be at the airport by 5:15a. We're planning on taking her there and then Mike dropping me off at Sally's for us to head to Nashville. Sally likes to drive my car, too. I am hoping my daughters will get my car over to Sally's on Sunday afternoon so that we can go in it on Monday.

In the meanwhile, I am feeling a bit better and got platelets yesterday, so am going to go cook something. I think I'll make Coined Potatoes from the first Mezza Luna class. And maybe some sort of roasted chicken thighs to go with them. Not sure about a green veggie. Perhaps a salad.

Thank you once again to everyone who donates blood and platelets. You really are heroes as you save lives every day!

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16 June 2009

Scotch Whisky

First of all WHISKY vs WHISKEY. If it is from Scotland, there is no "e" in the word. Other whiskeys can have an "e", but not Scotch.

They tell me Scotch is an acquired taste. In all my adult years, I have yet to develop that taste. Mike, however, prefers Scotch over any other drink. Most of the time he drinks The Glenlivet. When I went to Scotland a few years ago I brought him back a lovely bottle of The Macallan (another single malt Scotch) that was 21 years old. Twenty one years old means the whisky aged in fine oak barrels for 21 years. In Scotland. Since I brought him that bottle, he switches between the two now. The Macallan (like The Glenlivet) is from Speyside, one of the five malt districts in Scotland.

There are other good Scotches. Depending on which areas they are from, they will have a number of different undertones and flavour notes - just like fine wines. So I am told. Haven't been able to determine them myself. Adding a little water to the drink is supposed to make it easier to distinguish the different flavours that the burn typically masks. Don't, however, add ice to Scotch. By cooling the whisky, the aroma and flavours are dulled.

Anyway, single malt whisky can be drunk from an old fashioned glass or standard tumbler, but for the connoisseur a more specialised glass is preferred. Typically it is a tumbler that is tulip shaped. The glass has a larger bowl, gets narrower toward the mouth and often flairs out again toward the rim. The narrowing concentrates the aromas at the neck of the glass and allows the whisky to be swirled easily without spilling it. Most single malt tumblers that I have seen are traditionally shaped. We prefer more modern designs in glassware. Searching the internet, I found these two glasses.

The one on the left is Dartington lead crystal from the UK. It is a high quality crystal and many pieces can be found for sale in the US. Unfortunately, this does not appear to be one of them. (And I searched on google for several days.) To get two of them and have them shipped to the US was going to cost somewhere over $150. Hmmmm. I didn't really want to spend $75 on a glass I hadn't seen in person, held in my hand, and might have to ship back overseas if someone didn't like it.

The glass on the right is made by Schott Zwiesel of Germany. They have patented a new type of crystal made with titanium instead of lead. And this glass is available in the US with considerably lower shipping charges. Mike's birthday was in May and I gave him a set of these glasses. The titanium crystal has a wonderful clarity. To go with them he got a bottle of The Macallan (18 year old). And for something fun to go along with these, there was an Albert Einstein action figure.

I wonder if Albert drank whisky.
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13 June 2009

Summertime and letting things go

Linking from friends' blogs, I found Jan at Creative Instigation. She posted something the other day that I really liked.

It's summertime, and the living should be easy. So, let it go. Let something go. Consider all the things on your "to do" list, and find a few that aren't really all that critical.

Then, reclaim summer. I spent an hour on Sunday sunbathing. Sure, I read a little bit while I was lounging. But, mostly, I just relaxed. Oddly enough, the world did not stop spinning when I stopped multi-tasking.

We all have time to relax. Let's take it.

Sometimes it seems we all get so caught up in daily life that we forget to take time to stop and smell the roses. I think I will try to take Jan's advice.
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Battle Hymn of the Baby Boomers

I'm a boomer and this video gave me a laugh. Not that the description fits ME! The rest of you will have to decide for yourselves.

Thanks to my friend, Sheryl, for pointing this in my direction.
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eBay, PayPal and living our lives online

The Internet makes life so much easier in so many ways. I look up things online. is just amazing. 30 seconds and you can find out almost anything. Amazon delivers in 48 hours. Can't beat that for shopping. All in the comfort in my own home. Blogging and message boards have introduced me to some of my closest friends and give me the opportunity to visit with people who are passionate about similar interests. And What can I say? The world's marketplace.

I love art deco. Our area of the country is not famous for a lot of art deco buildings or accoutrements. When we started remodelling our house I turned to eBay to find the things we needed to decorate in art deco. Waterfall theatre lights, deco chrome small appliances, Chase and Revere chrome accessories, European angled mirrors, Barcelona chairs, and deco ladies in every shape form and fashion. What could not be found here was readily available in the world's marketplace. I'm fond of telling people we furnished our house from eBay.

How to pay for all these things? PayPal. You sign up with PayPal and use them to transfer funds between buyer and seller. It worked great for me as a buyer. I didn't have to wait for cheques to clear before people would send me treasures. It worked great for me as a seller as I could accept funds from someone in Japan who wanted some California pottery to use as sushi dishes. Of course PayPal had to make money, so they charged a small fee for this service.

Then one day eBay bought PayPal. There was not necessarily anything wrong with this, but fees went up and a lot of people were worried there was conflict of interest. Then eBay made it mandatory for buyers and sellers to use PayPal for nearly all eBay transactions unless it was local pickup. This really made a lot of people mad.

But with all the negative things that have been said about PayPal, I have to say they have really come through for me this week. I don't sleep a lot at night now because of sleeping from Benadryl with transfusions. My days and nights are topsy turvy. A few nights ago in the wee hours I was watching Without A Trace and reading e-mail. Imagine my surprise when I saw two e-mails from PayPal saying my payment had been sent. Two e-mails with payments in large amounts being transferred to someone in China! YIKES! That wasn't me!!!!

I immediately got online with PayPal and filed an unauthorized dispute on each of the payments. I got an automated response thanking me for getting in touch with them and that they would investigate. In the meanwhile, the funds would be held by PayPal and unavailable to me. Grrrr. I understand their reasoning, but that didn't make it any more palatable.

On Thursday I got two e-mails telling me:
We've finished reviewing your unauthorized activity claim and you'll receive a refund for the transaction amount. It may take up to 5 business days for the funds to appear in your account.

It only took a few days for them to solve the problem and my money was back in my account within a few hours of me getting the above e-mails. So, thank you PayPal. I appreciate how quickly this was resolved.

I've changed my password, of course, but what I don't know is how they got access to my PayPal account in the first place. I'm guessing that will remain an unsolved mystery.
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11 June 2009

Herb Bouquet Tomato Bread

Homemade bread - there is nothing else like it. My great-grandmother, Louise, always made the most wonderful bread! One day a week she would spend the day baking. After sharing the fresh loaves with my grandmother, she would take the extra loaves to the general store and sell them to the owner for some pin money. Everyone loved Mrs. Louise's bread. Try as I might, even though I have the recipe and helped her many times, I have not been able to make that bread as lovely as hers. She had a magic touch that developed with over 60 years of baking. I can however, make good bread. And I have several different recipes that we really like.

I love to bake bread. When automatic breadmakers first came out I wanted one so badly. But they were so expensive! Nearly a thousand dollars and way out of our budget. But the price kept coming down and one year Mike bought me a breadmaker for Christmas. He thought the breadmaker might sit around collecting dust, but it is one of my most used appliances. And I am still using that very first Hitachi from the 1980s. We went for years and never ate store bought bread thanks to that machine. When the girls were little most of the time I baked the bread in the machine, but for years now, I just use the dough cycle. Then I can shape the bread however I like.

There are several recipes that make up my standard repertoire. Tomato Bread is one of them. It can be baked in regular loaf pans, in a boule, or as flatbread - very versatile! The original recipe came from the Best of Country Breads and was posted by my friend, Pam, on one of the foodie boards several years ago. She modified the recipe and I have done so further in order to make the dough in the bread machine.

One of the blogs I follow is Lucy's Kitchen Notebook. Several years ago she blogged about some Bouquet Breadsticks she had made. I've been intrigued with those ever since, but never got around to using the idea until now. Just recently some friends on another foodie board brought up herb decorated loaves of bread. Voilà, my Herb Bouquet Tomato Bread was born.

While today I baked it in a long thin loaf pan, I think these would be wonderful baked in little individual loaves, so that each person could have their own. The addition of the herb bouquet on top will WOW all your friends. For something that looks so impressive it is very easy to do.

For the yeast, I like

I keep a bag of this in my fridge all the time, along with a yeast measuring spoon. Yeast measuring spoon? YES. It is a wonderful little tool to have. I got two! One for the kitchen in town and the other to use at the farm. Available from King Arthur Flour, a yeast measuring spoon measures 2 1/4 tsp, the amount of yeast found in individual packets. As most bread recipes call for a packet of yeast, this measuring spoon makes it easy to use the larger bags or jars of yeast.

So I made the dough in the breadmaker last night and put it in a bag in the fridge overnight. Then I took it out and let it rest for about half an hour.

After resting, it's in the loaf pan.


Fresh herbs and egg wash. I just adore my OXO small salad spinner for drying the herbs after washing them.

Brushed with egg wash and decorated with herbs. I used Italian parsley, basil, nasturtium leaves and cilantro.

Baked and cooling on wire rack. Oh the temptation to cut it NOW!

Sliced and ready to eat. What a treat!

Herb Bouquet Tomato Bread

1 cup V8 juice
2 Tbsp catsup
1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
rounded 1/2 tsp herb mix* - Any Italian herb mix will do, or just use a combination of basil and oregano as called for in the original recipe.
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/4 cups unbleached flour
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast

1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp water
fresh herbs that complement the ones used in the bread

Starting with the V-8 juice, add all ingredients up through the yeast into the breadmaker in the order given. Set breadmaker to Dough Setting and start.

When dough is made, turn out and place in a greased loaf pan.** Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk. Should take about an hour. While dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375°F.

When dough has finished rising, paint the top of the unbaked loaf with the egg wash, lay the herbs on top, then brush again with egg wash. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool.

1. * I like to use the Savoury Soup blend from Calphalon. It has garlic, basil, bay leaf, black pepper, celery seed, parsley, sage, fennel, thyme oregano, marjoram, cayenne, rosemary and clove.
2. The original recipe called for tomato juice. Pam suggested V8. I normally use the spicy V8 as we typically have that on hand, but any of the three work just fine.
3. The pine nuts are my addition for this herb bouquet bread. I don't use them most of the time.
4. ** Once the dough is finished in the breadmaker, it can be put in a Ziploc bag in the refrigerator overnight. I do this sometimes when I want to bake the bread the next day. If refrigerated, let the dough rest at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before shaping into a loaf.

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