Save the lawsuit- use a an author release form


Out of the blue, I was contacted by a former sports star who is writing about about the travails of bad money management, for lack of a better phrase. The story is the same: elite athlete rises to fame, makes loads of dough (American slang for money, dear Russian readers, who come to this site in droves) for a period of time and then poof. It’s gone. The mysteries of why athletes go broke tend to be the same: blown on wine, women and song (well, exotic cars and way too many babies with different wives (the most famous being 9 babies by 9 woman. whoa. that’s a lot of action), but I digress).

It’s not just America. It’s everywhere. Athletic and entertainment money managers don’t do much good if they are ignored or fired or never hired in the first place. So after a career, the athlete inevitably bemoans that reality of poor money management and repossessed cars. The stats are harsh. 78 percent of NFL players go broke within a few TWO years of retirement, and 60 percent on NBA players w/in 6 yrs. But it’s not just athletes. Entertainers follow the same trent.

When I was told of the story, the athlete also indicated he’d lined up lots athletes so speak on the record, as well as coaches and those in the entourage. His own advisor recommended she have those going on record to sign an author release form, ensuring that she does not get sued by a broke athlete or money manager for a share of the profits of the book, should she be so lucky.

Thus, it was my pleasure to contact my own editor, who used this release form for many of her own projects. These are a little hard to come by (most internet searches produce nada), so if you are going to be writing a book, interviewing folks and don’t want to share a piece of the profits (even to Grandma Nila), then use this author release form. And I must give a plug to the filefactory. It’s fast and free. Two things I appreciate.

Smoke salmon & Cheese

Yesterday Rog did his annual Salmon fishing derby, thereby saving us nearly $300 (at $18/pound, fresh, wild caught salmon is shhhbendy).

As I smoked it and had friends over, the question is always, every year “what’s the cheese you are serving?” followed by some complimentary phrase along the lines of.. “I’ve never tasted salmon so good.”

Hint: it’s not the salmon. Granted, it’s good. Don’t get me wrong, but it really is the cheese.

Use Premium Premium Aged Gouda– the kind I use is Premier and it’s aged 26 months. (tried to find a link-couldn’t) It’s healthy (ingredients- cows milk, salt, cheese culture, rennet & annato). It’s imported from Holland (I still have my wooden clogs from my trip hanging in my house), and only $11. Very worth it.

Serving tips-
You can spear it on a toothpick for bites, or slice it up or even use some crumbles if you want a more casual atmosphere.

If your local grocery/deli doesn’t carry Premier, other premium brands will work-just look for the ingredients and the aged.

Steelhead Trout Northwest style w/dill sauce

Decapitating the trout

Rog brought home two ginormous trout last month, just in time for me to cook it for a couple out of town executives he told me we were entertaining (with 1 hour notice).

In that kind of time, there is only one choice, which, all things considered, works perfectly well for a party of 8-10, and requires limited prep. I highly recommend this simple, amazing, Sarah-created, recipe, along with the simple sides for a super meal.

Heat the oven to 325 degrees.

You will need:

  • Tinfoil
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 medium to large onion
  • Coconut oil (natural, unrefined if you have it)
  • Lemon salt
  • The trout
Open the trout (I had to cut the head off myself. Ugh. Good thing I have a big butcher knife). My ovens are the largest one can buy outside a commercial kitchen. This bad boy was so long, I had to tuck the tail under.
Directions

  1. Fillet the trout (mine came filleted and gutted).
  2. Lay out the tinfoil on the baking sheet (I used one with curled edges to prevent run-off)
  3. Lay the trout inside
  4. Open it up and using a spoon, knife or spatula, spread a nice layer of the coconut oil on the inside. Follow this with a sprinkle of the lemon salt/pepper mix, followed by the sliced up onions and lemons.
  5. Close the trout, and repeat the process above. Even though you won’t eat the skin, I’m convinced the flavours seep in to the fish.
Cook for approximately 2.5 hours, until the fish is just flakey. This is important. If it’s truly flakey, like a croissant, it will in reality, be dry once the fish has a chance to rest.
Remove from the oven and let it rest for about 10-15 minutes. This is also key, as the fish needs time to come back together (e.g. firm up) before you start slicing it apart.
Serve with your choice of rice, asparagus or other salad and you are ready to go!

Now for the Dill Sauce.

I must say, I was a bit offended. The discriminating fishers who attended this feast liked the dill sauce as much, or more, than the fish itself (and this is saying something. The two guests, both in their late 50’s, hovered by the oven, looking/poking, and have fished since they were boys. I was under pressure).

Dill Sauce

                  1/3 cup sour cream
                  1/3 cup mayonnaise
                  1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
                  1 teaspoon lemon juice
                  1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
                  3/4 teaspoon dill weed
                  1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
              Pepper to taste

Discarding food storage

A sunny day in Seattle is to be cherished. Adored like a bright, glimmering object that, like Cinderella in a bubble, will suddenly burst and leave us with a dirty floor and clouds. It is not a time to be squandered, indulgently spent indoors, downstairs, in the food storage room.

Yet today it was.

rotten tomatoes Old food: A fact of food storage life
Old food stinks in any form

There is a backstory. With me, there always is. I’ve recently been asked to visit a woman who has been through some trying times. She and her husband, both accountants, are preparing to send their only daughter off to college, live in a lovely home and in their late forties/early fifties. Over warm banana bread, she revealed that her husband recently landed a job after being unemployed for three years. Through savings and a lot of food storage, they had made it through the first year and a half, relatively unscathed. After that, they had no money for food.

“When you are choosing between the mortgage and food, you choose the mortgage.”

Their church welfare system helped out, making up the difference in food supplies. Her income afforded the basic necessities of utilities gas etc. Beyond the fact that I’d lived in complete oblivion of her situation (from the outside, I’d never have guessed, unless she’d confided in me), I was amazed she had stored away enough food for a solid year and a half. Enough for two adults, one child, two pets, and relatives that had come to stay at her home due to dire circumstances of their own.

Today after church, as Rog took the chitlens to the park, I passed on the gratiutous suntanning on the lawn an opted for the task of taking an accounting of my own food storage. I’d been preening to my mother about having a full six months of wet food (can soups and the like) and a year of dry goods (flour, oatmeal, dried eggs and milk etc).

“And what to my wondering eyes did appear, a whole lot of bad, near-exploding flood, instead of eight, shiny reindeer.”

I was mortified to learn that the majority of my cans had not been rotated in a VERY long time (some dated back to 2003). While lots of vegies, fruits and soups were in the last year, a couple of gems were near to exploding, the metal siding pushing out like Santa after a post-Christmas gorge-fest.

As I pulled and dumped the offending items, I wondered what in the world to do with them. Local food banks? Nope. They won’t accept food past the expiration date. Save for the worst-case scenario. “If you have no food and you are starving, you’ll eat anything.” So said my mother, who returned my call while on her vacation to speak to me like a true Swedish mother.

I looked on line for a few resources, that reiterated what we know about old food storage (losing taste etc, inability to cook right etc), but not what to do with the pounds and pounds of out of date food.

“Chuck it,” said Rog.

I did the only thing a green-minded person can do. I forced myself to open each one, rinse and clean, then separate the cans and glass to be recycled. Let me tell you. Do NOT do this without either holding your breath or wearing a gas mask. Safety first. When I talk to mom next, I’ll tell her my thoughts. I’m not going to eat something I can’t stand the smell of, human food included. I’d rather starve.

Flat cookie culprit

Embarrassment and shame comes in simple forms. Flat cookies being one of them.

When we went to the end of the year teacher celebration at a local family farm, I covered my plate of chocolate chip cookies with a towel, slipped them on table of desserts and skeddadled before I could be associated with the offending items that resembled wilted, flat potato chips with little black mounds. At the end of the event, after goat petting, kitten chasing, pig-humping extravaganza (yes, it’s true. It was a sign), I returned to the table, and, when I thought no one was looking, lifted my plate.

Click to enlarge babygoatnursing-600.jpg
I would have given you a pic
of the flat cookies, but all I
found was a pic of the feeing

“Were those yours?” comes a question from behind me. Ugh. The voice of a friend who happens to be a bonified chef. She is with her husband.

“I’m so sorry they turned out terrible,”  said, cutting off the eventual badness that was going to be next.

“They were great!” her husband said. “What’d you do?”

“I made them flat,” was my response.

“That was how I knew they were homemade,” said the chef.

It was true. The two plates I brought had a smattering of crumbs. The other store-purchased cupcakes, brownies and other items in boxes.

I bemowned the flatness.

“It’s the soda,” said the chef. “It’s probably old.”

Did you know that? Went home, bought some new soda, and walla! no more flat cookies.

**Update- the following morning, 3:42 AM.
I get this text.

‘Sarah. it could be butter. Cut the butter by half and replace with lard or shortening. makes all the difference’

So texts mom.

I was up, sleeping restlessly. I text back:

‘mom. thx. we are bats. go to bed.’

Preventing varicose veins

Back in Sept of 2010 when I wrote about remedies for reducing and eliminating ugly varicose veins, I should have written a section about prevention. Silly me. In my defense, I was trying to keep to She’s comment about the 5 paragraph blog which is the bane of my existence. I’m more writer than blogger, and not so good at that, but I digress on what my readers already know.

I had the uncommon good fortune to have a friend whose family was in the circus. Literally. Three generations of performing with Barnum & Bailey’s traveling circus. What, might you ask, does this have to do with vericose veins? Everything, for it was my friend’s mom bit-o-wisdom that I largely credit with keeping the snake-like demons of ugliness off my legs.

One afternoon, while we were inside their round house, which resembled a four-story high hobbit home (as in, hand-constructed and earthy, more like a mountain than a residence for humanoids, we were having a chat. I was watching my friend’s brother flying around in the trapeze in the center of the room, their practice space. The father was in his wheelchair (he fell without a net) years before I met the family, and my friend was harnessing the belts on her waist. As usual, I was in awe of the graceful, lithe bodies that swirled above me, commenting on keeping a beautiful physique. Somehow, the conversation turned to legs, the mom’s in particular.

“Just don’t cross your legs,” she said, something my mother had also told me. “It’s the most important thing you can do.” She went on to point out that men who cross their legs always have a lot of red marks and bumps above their knees. “And do you notice the women? They have red marks on the top of their thighs from the hours and days of weight on their legs.” She then lifted her calf to show where the pressure on the lower leg creates spider veins.

As a teenager, I took her words to heart, never, ever, crossing my legs. It was hard to sit sideways, knees touching, as the others looked far more compely, sitting with their gams crossing, ankles touching delicately in perfect posture form. As an adult, I struggled to look refined as men and women in business meetings crossed and uncrossed, as much to make a statement as to be comfortable. Not I. I kept the faith, just as I did for not wrinkling my nose, raising my eyebrows or raising my forehead in order to stave off deep lines (that worked!).

Years later, as women of my age started getting saline solution injections or having their veins removed, I have been fortunate to do neither, but have used the horse chestnut oil I mentioned in the earlier blog.

Is it the floors?

Quite a few women I now hang with are firm believes that the floors they stand on have assisted in the maturation of veins. Hard floors, particularly in the kitchen (slate, tile etc) are considered the culprit by many. I can’t say either way, since I have slate and have been standing on that for a dozen years now. Several women have ripped up their floors and put installed bamboo floors or cork. The bamboo is supposed to be quite soft, and the cork feels bouncy in a weird sort of way. It’s an interesting look (not for me) but works well in the right setting.

Teenagers reading this….don’t cross your legs, exercise, and adults, give your feet a rest and keep the horse chestnut oil handy.

PS the last time I saw my friend, she was getting shot out of a canon as I watched in Entertainment Weekly. Yes. people do live that life.

Thick & Rich Pork Chops & Gravy

My cooking zone, complete with two science projects in front
of the cookbook

Pork chops don’t have to be hard, dry or tasteless. After years of failed attempts, I found a great recipe that has been my go-to for all things pork chops for years. It’s easy to make, provided the you do things in the right order, and above all, use good ingredients, starting with the pork chop. I made the (mostly American mistake) of choosing meat that’s overly lean. Had I listened to my dad’s admonitions to “keep in the fat! It gives it flavor!” my results probably would have been much better. 

One of my most often-made vegies. String beans cooked in
organic vegetable or chicken broth. Quick, easy and flavorful

First off, the pork chops. Pick out nice, thick chops, not thin. You will waste your time.  My preferred cut is a 1.5-1.3/4 inch cut of pork chop. I typically make 4 at a time, since the chops I get are so huge, I typically share with someone else in the family. (Surprisingly, Costco has a great selection of thick chops, (for beefy American’s no doubt) but they aren’t organic or natural. When I go to the butcher, I have to request the thickness.

The rest of the ingredients are straightforward, though as usual, I recommend sweet, salted butter and sweet, Walla Walla onions.
Overview
The recipe essentially comes from The New Best Recipe, though I have made some changes as usual. It’s called Smothered Porkchops, for indeed, it is smothered, but this is what keeps it moist and flavorful. What you’ll be doing is flash-frying the pork chops in a butter/onion base while making the thick and rich gravy. You re-add the porkchops back into the main pan, cover and cook for a bit. You have the most divine pork chops and gravy to hit the planet. While this is cooking, you roast the red potatoes and make the string beans. 
Pre and Cook time- @1hr 10 min

Ingredients
3 oz (abt 3 slices) bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

I used a cast iron press to speed up the bacon and
even out the cooking

2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I split this with butter)
ground black pepper
2 medium size sweet onions, sliced thin (I make mine very small)
Salt
2 tablespoons water
2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves (dried is ok)
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon parsley (fresh or dried)

**note: I’ve actually cut down the cook time about 5-10 min by doing a few of things slightly out of order. The gravy is supposed to be made after the pork chops are done, but I make the gravy first, thereby smothering the pork chops in true southern fashion.

Directions
1. Fry the bacon over medium heat and brightly, rendering the fat, about 8-10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel and reserve, leaving the fat in the pan (you should have about 2 tablespoons. Add vegetable oil if you don’t).
2. Reduce the heat to medium low and gradually whisk the flour into the fat until smooth. Cook, whisking frequently, until the mixture is light brown, about the color of peanut butter, about 5 minutes.
3. Which in the chicken broth in a slow, steady stream; increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cover and remove from the heat; set aside.
4. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 12 inch skillet over high heat until smoking. Meanwhile, sprinkle the pork chops with 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Brown the chops in a single layer until deep golden on the first side, about 3 minutes. Flip the chops and cook until browned on the second side, about 3 minutes. Transfer the chops to a large plate and set aside.
5. Reduce the heat to a medium and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, the onions, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the water to the now-empty skillet. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up the browned bits on the pan bottom; cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are softened and browned around the edges, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Return the chops to the skillet in a single layer and cover them with the onions.  Pour in the reserved sauce and any juices released by the pork chops; add the bay leaves. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the pork is tender, about 30 minutes.
6. Transfer the chops to a warmed serving platter and increase the heat to a medium-high and simmer the sauce rapidly, stirring frequently, until thickened, like a gravy.

Red potatoes
Ingredients
Potatoes
Olive oil
Salt and rosemary

Directions
1. Dice the potatoes in quarters, drizzle oil, add salt and rosemary. Toss and place in a convection oven at 400 degrees. Cook for approximately 5-8 minutes then remove, scrape and move the potatoes. Return to the oven for another 5-8 minutes.
2. Remove and serve warm or cool.

The caramel color of the flour

Dry Ear Remedies

One of the fringe benefits of taking up martial arts was the youngish, hot-looking instructor on staff during the times I found most convenient. I was married of course, he single, and about a decade and a half too young even if I had been of the four-legged, mountain-dwelling type of feline, but still the motivation of impressing the young man increased my determination to complete a V-sit up, learn to flawlessly execute rolling knuckle push-ups and stand in a lung poster longer than I thought humanly possible.

The impossible dream of him ever glancing my way for a comment other than to push in my hips or keep my elbow up higher when lifting a sword during a down thrust was dashed when, during a break, he asked if I’d been out in the sun. I responded that no, it was Seattle in the winter. Of course not. Why do you ask?

“Your ears are really dry.” With that, I slunk out of the studio as fast as decorum would allow, cursing my Swedish roots to the edge of the land from which we came. Why me? Why my dry ears?

It’s not like I hadn’t known about my dry ears for oh, say, twenty years already, since I’d hit puberty, nor had I used every method, tip, trick or remedy to rid myself of this evil malady. But no. It’s with me, like my long legs, thick hair and fat, cow milking hands, the progeny of my generations of Scottish cow farmers I’m sure (Vikings conjures a more flattering image, but I lack the prerequisite red hair).

Thankfully, I’d forgotten this ego-reducing incident until I had my hair back in a baseball cap and my 6 year old brought it up. “Mom, why do you have dry ears?” Off goes the cap, down falls the hair, covering my offensive, though perfectly shaped ears and I wonder…why can’t we all be perfect? Would it have been so hard for God to have extended his love from the outer edge of my ear to include the inside? It couldn’t have required more than a nudge fingertip to give my inner lob the moisture it needed.

Until this unanswered question of the universe is answered, I must rely on man to solve the problem. First, why?

Dry Skin on the Ear CanalSome common reasons include…bad hygene. People who don’t bathe more than a few times a week get the dry, crusty film. Over bathing can cause a similar result, since the oils on the skin get washed away and the surface becomes like the scalp–dry and flaky. The Mayo Clinic cites actinic keratosis which are lesions on the skin. I’ve never seen nor suffered from that. From all my research, ‘itchy’ is a common side effect, but I’ve never had a single ear ‘itch.’ This is attributed to Swimmers Ear or an ear infection and so on. All kinds of remedies are available for this, none of which apply to me.

Here’s what I’ve had and tried…(it comes and goes, like Vivaldi’s Four Seasons). During the spring and summer, my ears are mostly fine. Enough moisture, enough sun, the proper balance of both. Fall and winter, not so much. My mother hypothesized it was in line with the amount of water I consumed….

Natural remedy #1….more water and liquids. This certainly has helped, perhaps more than anything else. My scalp and skin produce similar results, why not my ears?

Natural Remedy #2… less moisture…in other words, when I shower, I must pull my hair back and get ALL the moisture off every surface of my ears. Just like my scalp, when the moisture isn’t 100% gone, my scalp goes berzerk.

Natural Remedy #3…the weekly ‘scrape.’ It sounds more disgusting than it is. We scrape our teeth two times a day (brush) we scrape our scalp by combing, we scrape our legs, faces (men) and armpits with blades, why not scrape our inner ear.

Here’s what you do. Take the end of a tweezer (mine is round and thin but not sharp) and gently run the flat edge along every area that is dry. This gets off the old, invigorates the new.

Natural Remedy #4….Along with the water, start taking Vitamin E or daily Omega 3 gelcaps. This is a long term solution–it won’t take effect for a few weeks. When I take one or both daily, my ears are nearly perfect on the inside, plus my hair is glossier and skin/nails much improved.

Natural Remedy #5 (quick fix-see tip)….Borage Oil.

Things that DON’T work. Lotions are terrible. It just turns the dry skin in to the ears version of pancake mix without the benefit. Oils are worse. The oils plus dry skin is a mushy goo, that still then needs to be scraped off. gross. The last thing that doesn’t work are Q-tips, or the soft removes. The marketing folks would have us believe pushing dry skin around is the same as getting rid of it or improving circulation. Not so.

Tip:

Now if you are completely desperate, getting ready to go out and you pull your hair back (or get your hair trimmed) and see the white dry skin, scrape it off (gently, so as to not make the skin red). Then apply a little bit of Borage oil from a gelcap. Borage is one of the beauty world’s best kept secrets. Years and years ago, I was told of a great concoction to use on my face: primrose oil, vitamin E and borage. You can find my recipe here). That’s fine for the face, but much too thick and heavy for the ears. Borage is light, and just the barest hint, when applied to the ears, will eliminate the dry and cracked look, allowing you to go out for hours and not worry about being embarrassed.

Starch-less Vanilla pudding in a pinch

7:32 PM and the husband and kids just left the building. Water park time after a day of skiing. I’ve got the excuse of my monthly gift from above that allows me to stay where it’s warm and dry, in front of the fireplace, an entire hour and fifteen minutes of peace. Wash my hair? Clean the condo? Nope.

I race to the kitchen, all the while considering my options for the fastest, creamiest, thicket desert possible, feeling like a convict imprisoned for making a cake with regular bread flour. I’m on the lam and in a rush. Flan? Creamy to be sure, but cold and takes too long. Rice pudding? Sounds divine but I don’t have my mom’s recipe, and even if I did, I don’t have the oranges or the rice. Pudding though hits a button. I flip open The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook, knowing I lack the cornstarch in my cupboard but hoping for options.

This once again proves my theory that most
American food is some combo of egg, sugar, flour and
butter w/a titch of vanilla extract and salt,
 though not necessary in that order

There it was, page 166. The Vanilla Pudding recipe (cook time 11 minutes), was right above the Banana Pudding recipe (35 minutes to cook). I combined the two (well, using the flour from the second recipe instead of the cornstarch from the first) and changed some of the measurements. In no time flat, I had a full cup full of creamy, vanilla pudding, appropriately hidden in my cup, disguised as warm milk, should my family arrive and catch me in the act.

Creamy Vanilla Pudding 

Ingredients
1/3 cup sugar (I used 1/2 cup)
2 tbs flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk (I used 2 cups whole milk plus 2 tbs whipping cream)
3 egg yolks (original recipe calls for 2, but since this is w/out the cornstarch, I bumped it up)
1 tbs butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

Process
1. Combine sugar, flour and salt in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat, gradually adding the milk, cooking approximately 6 minutes or until a boil (I used a timer and guess what…at exactly 5 min 55 seconds, it came to a boil).
2. Beat egg yolks 2 minutes or until thick and pale. Gradually stir in 1/4 of the hot mixture in to the egg bowl, stirring constantly. Take this mixture and add back in to the mixture on the stove, bringing to a boil and cook about 3 minutes.
4. Remove from heat; stir in butter and vanilla.

Pour in to small, unassuming little cup and use the smallest spoon possible to elongate the pleasure that will slide down your mouth.

Add bananas if you so desire, or toasted coconuts. Divine.

Sunday dinner– Roast and Pecan pie

During my childhood, mom had a routine on Sunday’s that included making easy yet impressive all-in-one meals that provided a great lunch but also lots of left-overs. Prepping for the afternoon meal meant she put a roast in the oven before we left for church, allowing it to cook to perfection as we sang to the heaven’s above. When we arrived home, the roast was ready, along with the vegies. All she had to do was make the buttermilk biscuits and gravy as we set the table (as we aged, she allowed us to take over the biscuits). Fifteen minutes later, we were sitting down to dine like we were at King Arthur’s Court.

Meal in one: The Perfect Roast

Mix of fingerling potatoes (my fav), carrots and onions

My favorite is my clay pot meat roaster. It’s divine for keeping the juices in the meat, capturing the gravy and circulating the air for the vegies. That said, I’ve made 2-sponge breads in it as well, because it turns out a perfectly formed loaf that is brown on the sides and spongy in the middle. The food is restaurant quality (serious).

Ingredients

  • Roast
  • Vegetables: sweet onion(s), carrots, potatoes (your preference) and any other vegies you’d like
  • Broth-your choice
  • Salt and pepper

Prior to the onions and additional vegies

Process
1. Heat oven to 500 degrees.
2. Brown all four sides of the roast, on all four sides. Salt and pepper to your hearts desire.
3. Cut one onion, lining the bottom of the roaster.
4. Place the meat in the roaster, covering with the onions.
5. Cut and place carrots and potatoes around the meat.
6. Add about 3/4-1 cp of vegetable, meat or chicken broth.

Once you have loaded up the claypot, place it in the oven and cook away.

Now I completely spaced to get the ‘after’ photos, so I’ll have to do it when I made the next one. Trust me, it comes out perfect. The serve..

6. Remove the vegies, place in a serving dish and keep warm (covered is best, in the warming oven).
7. Make the buttermilk biscuits (will add link).
8. Top off with pecan pie or chocolate mousse.

I recommend a lid with a handle that fits tightly.
This is enough to feed a family of four or 6, depending
on the ages of the kids.

7. Place in the oven at the appropriate temperature and timeframe based on the size of the meat. (6 min/pound at 500 degrees).

Perfect Pecan Pie

It’s a fallacy to think that pecan pie is only suitable for the holidays. Many restaurants in the states serve it year around, warmed, with a huge dollop of vanilla ice cream. It’s no wonder. It’s very inexpensive, requires only a handful of ingredients and is practically idiot proof.

The essentials. Use good ingredients. Don’t skimp on the butter. Use a quality brand, and make sure its salted and sweetened. Using unsweetened, unsalted butter results in a bland pie.

Pre-cooking

Another essential is the corn syrup. I’ll admit, I avoid corn syrup like the plague. The impact on my health is just not worth the stuff. My lone exception to this (and of course, my justification) is that it’s worth it for the pie. Why corn syrup? It is a good thickener, and recipes without it have a different texture (and tend to be runnier). The tip? If you want a slightly thicker pie, use more corn syrup–not much though. A little goes a long way (e.g. if you increase the amount from a 1/2 cup to a 1 cup, it will almost turn to candy. You’d have to cut it with a bit of butter).

Make my tried and true perfect pie crust ahead of time

Ingredients
1/2 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1/4 tsp salt
4 large eggs eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 to 1 1/5 cup pecans

Directions
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
2. On the stove top and low heat, melt the butter, add the sugar and the corn syrup. Heat until melted, stirring constantly.
3. Remove from the stove. Let cool (this means you can insert your finger w/out getting burned).
4. Mix the eggs and vanilla in a separate bowl.
5. Add egg mixture to the butter/sugar mixture. (hint: if your mixture is too warm, the eggs will cook, ruining it, and you will have to discard and start over).
6. Add pecans
7. Pour in to uncooked pie crust. Cook for 50-55 minutes.

The make or break aspect of pecan pie is not to overcook. The top should “bounce-back” to the touch (place your index finger on the top, in the center). If it’s hard, it’s overcooked and will be unedible. If it’s mushy, you need to cook it a bit longer.

When you remove the pie, place it on a cooling rack for at least 20 minutes. This will ensure it sets and doesn’t run. Serve warm with ice cream.

This is the butter, corn syrup and sugar.. ..nicely melted

As it’s melting (and in between stirring, chop the nuts)

Test the mixture for “done-ness” (my Don-kingism). The mixture should drop easily from the spoon

Take off the stove and cool slightly. Add the nuts
Now, you might exclaim “why nuts! those belong at the end”. I’ll tell you why.
you must wait for the mixture to cool, or else you will curdle and cook your eggs
(in other words, they will scramble). Since you have nothing better to do,
you might as well get busy and add the nuts, stirring it around.

When the mixture is sufficiently cooled, add the eggs

This is the final mixture–slightly brownish. NOW you may add to the empty sheel

Photos…

No-Fail Pie Crust

With nearly 70 cookbooks, you’d think I’d reuse the same pie recipe over and over. Until recently, the problem was I was making pies so infrequently that I’d forget the one I liked most. Then I’d buy a new cookbook, feel compelled to try a new recipe and start all over again.

Starting with the dry ingredients

Fortunately, Southern Living is a mainstay in my cookbook library, and it was what I reached for over the holidays. I made five pie crusts, each one turning out perfectly. The sixth one–not so much– I didn’t put in the exact amount of shortening. The entire batch had to be discarded. The lesson learned? Do not mess with a perfect pie crust recipe.

Perfect, no fail pie crust recipe

Ingredients
For a 9 inch pie crust
1 1/4 cup flour (unsifted)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar (this is my add. I like sweeter crusts)

Mix by hand

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons shortening (also my add. 2 tbs vs 1 makes the dough just perfect to hold together and roll)
3-4 tablespoons chilled water (put water in a glass of ice)

Process
1. Place flour, sugar, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl
2. Cut in the shortening
3. Hand-mix (I prefer this. It’s much better than a Cuisinart mixer as the dough is softer/flakier)
4. Add in the water. The dough will slightly moist and should hold together well.
5. Roll in to a flat ball, wrap with Saran wrap and chill for 1-3 hours or overnight. It will hold for several days.
6. Roll out when ready to use (follow directions for the pie you are making)

The dough should resemble peas in size

I doubled the batch, enough for a pie and a few mini-pies

Roll and fold in preparation for placing in the pie
Place crust in the pie dish

This is the mini-pies

Mold the edges of the crust
Add the filling–pecan


Pie filling-pumpkin

Spiritual Fitness

Today, whilst I was running on the treadmill, contemplating what topic to write about for ‘workout Wednesdays’ it struck me that I have thus far focused only on the physical aspect of health. That’s only half the equation, for what is the body without the spirit? (so said the Mrs. Steve Jobs in the bio I read over vaca). What indeed?

I’m no swami, but have a strong faith that serves to carry me forward through dark times, enlightens my mind and keeps me focused on family. I was taught at an early age that the spirit, and all aspects therein, must be exercised or else it grows weak, just like the flesh. Over the holiday, I read the Jobs bio on my Kindle (it was darn depressing, I tell you), yet it had a few redeeming qualities. One being the eternal search Jobs had on the Zen part of his existence, searching, striving, and seeking more. Of course, searching is not enough. One must apply what one learns. Through the school of hard knocks (e.g. choice and consequence), I’ve developed a few daily exercises or I grow weak spiritually–my energy ebbs, my outlook on life is grey rather than blue, I’m not listening (or receiving) promptings to help others etc.

1. daily prayer. Obvious, I know, but when I say daily, what I’m really saying is ‘meaningful’ in a way that requires me to verbalize my thoughts outloud. As a writer, I find it interesting that concocting words in my head is one thing. To say them outloud is another. Any good writer (and all books on becoming a better writer) council to speak the written word outloud. It’s requires thought. It carries meaning. The clarity quotient skyrockets.

Daily also means ‘whenever I want’, not just in the morning at night or at mealtimes. It means before a big meeting or presentation. I was seriously praying (silently however) backstage before I was to go on live TV with a movie producer from LA during the launch of my book last year. (I ramble, I get confused. I just asked for calm, peace and the ability the articulate my thoughts). My prayers were answered. My responses were short and concise (a miracle in itself). I smiled. I was calm.

2. Study-not just read-the scriptures. It’s strange. Sometimes I get nothing from reading the scriptures and other times I get a lot. Know the difference? Reading is just that–a straight through reading while on the treadmill or couch that I do. This is good (how can this activity ever be bad?), but not the best. About 2 years ago, I found my ability to truly learn and grow in the experience was found by following a 5-step process.
1) pray before hand that your mind will be enlightened while reading.
2) plan a specific time every day. Dedicate this time and have a routine.
3)have a pad of paper and pen to take notes, write down questions (therein is the studying part)
4) search/answer above questions. It doens’t have to be more than a verse (I used to set goals for reading–five chapters or 15 minutes type of a thing). Searching and answering can be much more or less.
5) pray upon completion that the words read (messages, meaning, understanding) can be remembered and applied.

Once I employed the above guidelines, I found the effort of scripture study much more enjoyable (and yes, it is still an effort), but interestingly enough, I began to look forward to it instead of dreading it like an obligation (like the treadmill).

3. Open your heart to being a help to another. This element of spiritual health brings benefits to others as well as yourself. Have you ever been inspired to call someone and done so, finding that the call was ‘just what was needed,’ to the person on the other end? What about writing a note of thanks for a job well done, then later learning your hand-written card (or email) was much appreciated? These little promptings are called ‘tender mercies,’ but also fall in the category of running God’s errands. Opening your heart to the prompting is the first step, but acting on the prompting is the fulfillment for both you and the recipient. I’ve found that the more I act on these promptings, the more I hear.

As with my own physical health, my spiritual workouts are stronger some days than other. The key is to keep moving forward, even if a bit at a time, to be as strong spiritually as one is physically. Ironically, the body will get weaker over time. The same cannot be said for the spirit.

Perfect Skin Secrets – Products & steps

Over the holiday, yet another layer of my rose-colored classes were scratched. I recently learned that many of the women in my circle have been using products for years, and I had no clue.

Sorry to do this-but you had to see the
skin results–no injections etc etc. a’course,
I’ve since gone back to blond, but the skin
remains the same…43 yrs old

 “No one reveals beauty secrets,” I was told by a female relative as she listened to my story, her voice including a bit of humor for my denseness. When I left San Fran for the netherlands of civilization, I didn’t have a need to apply facial products. Now that I’m older and have gotten a clue, that has all changed. A good moisturizer no longer suffices. From the articles on what men do for their faces, they’ve figured it out as well. Products help, especially those that get rid of the top layers of dead skin. Like every other non-sacred topic in my life, figure I might as well share what I’ve learned about facial products. Heck, I share everything else, so why hold back on the most important–or rather–most visible line of learning I’ve had??

Like other women, I paid a Dr a visit, got a slew of products, handed over my credit card, closed my eyes and followed this regimine precisely.

1.       Neova Herbal Wash, 8 oz. $24 w/out tax
2.       Neova Smooth Gel, (Glycolic 10%), 2 oz, $26.00
3.       Neova Complex HXplus, (Hydroquinone, 4%) Rx only, 2 oz $65.70 (includes tax)- this is the skin lightener for spots (the prescription version above can’t be had except from the Dr. This lower version is available on line).
4.       Neocutis Bio Crème, Bio restorative with PSP, Anti-aging. $109.00
5.       Neova TI-SILC GT SPF 60, 4 oz, $43.00
6.       Neova Retinol ME .30%, 1 fl oz, $49.00 (this is prescription only and I couldn’t find it on line)
7.       Vivite Replenishing Cream, 2 oz $79.00

For the 6 week regime, the routine was different than the one I am now on. During the 6 wk period, where I had dramatic results, I didn’t use the night cream (#7) nor did I use the Bio Crème at night (#4). The whole point of the intensive regime is to dramatically tighten and lift the skin, which it did. I noticed a huge difference after just 2 days. That’s because of the twice a day application of the smooth gel, and then retinol every 2nd evening. For my face now, I am on a maintenance program, and it’s a bit more laid back, and includes the moisturizer.

Here’s the starter program.

1.       Herbal wash (w/luke warm water), pat dry face
2.       Apply glycolic smoothing gel and leave on for 3 minutes
3.       Rinse off w/herbal wash. Apply the #3, skin lightener (if you have dark spots). Leave on.
4.       Apply #4 (restorative crème) then #5 (SPF 60).
5.       Put on make-up as desired.

For the evening:
1.       Herbal wash (w/luke warm water), pat dry face
2.       Apply glycolic smoothing gel and leave on for 3 minutes
3.       Rinse off with herbal wash.
4.       Apply retinol (avoiding the corner of the eyes and the corner of the mouth. It will burn and make wrinkles worse. Also, not on eyelids). Leave on overnight. Remember to rinse off first thing in the morning, as the skin will be ruined if the sun hits the skin and you have it on (burned red permanently).

When you are done w/the 6 wk routine, you modify by:
1.       Cutting back on the retinol to once a week (Saturday is best, since it leaves the skin a bit reddish). And replace with:
2.       #4 restorative lotion followed by
3.       Vivite night cream.

A few tips:

1.       when you use the smoothing gel, you also can put on the eyelids and around the eyes. It’s makes a huge difference.

2.       Go all the way down to mid-neck. If you limit it to just the jawline, it looks freaky. A smoother transition to the neckline is natural.

Traditional Swedish Sausage

Traditional Swedish potato sausage

My last note on potato sausage was a bit cryptic and apparently seriously irritating to my readers in Poland and Russia, who in a fit of internationalism, were going to try and replicate this recipe. Keep in mind that I’ve already written a post on this once-but I guess I had great pics on that but not-so-good direcions. This is round two. I’d recommend you read this first, then go to the other blog on 20 min sausages for the pics.

Warning to readers–it’s a nice, bland (non-spicy) recipe that is a perfect addition to any meal. It’s also incredibly easy. To show this, I’ve gone back and dug up a few older photos that show the process (I only took some of the ‘after’ during this last go around in November).

Ingredients
1.5 pounds nice meat (I used filet mignon this last time, only because it was in my freezer)
1.5 pounds port (use a thick cut of pork chop)
7-8 pounds pealed potatoes (about 10)
3 medium size onions
Casings (also called skeins) from the local butcher

For those non-Americans who can’t take the time to figure out the switch to metrics etc., just use equal parts of both meats and use double the amount of potatoes. Easy!

Process

  1. Using a grinder (I use a Kitchenaid attachment with the large holes), slice the meats in strips then run through the grinder. Alternatively, you can chop the meet extremely fine in little bits, though this will take an eternity. Better to use a blender or something, but it can’t be mush. You need to see the bits.
  2. Peel and slice the potatoes and onions using the same process.
  3. Put all the chopped ingredients in a big bowl and set aside (near the mixer).
  4. Place a clean bowl beneath the mixture. This is where the stuffed sausage will rest.
  5. Place a clean, water-filled pot with a bit of salt nearby. This is where the finished sausage will be placed  and then cooked when ready.
  6. Change the attachment on the Kitchenaid. For this, you must remove the blade/round hole (that chops the meat/vegies) and return the internal driver that rotates the food. You will then attach the nozzle.
  7. Place the casing end on the nozzle.
  8. Stuff the top of the Kitchenaide with food, turn on the speed to medium and the sausage will start spouting out.

Tip–you need to ‘squeeze the air’ out of the sausage about every four inches (about one finger length). Not all the way through-but mid-way through the stuff sausage. This also helps push the sausage down the length of the casing. If you stuff the sausage too full, it will break and tear, causing a mess and ruining the sausage. It’s better to have a bit of air than none at all.

Tip #2. Use strips of sausage about 18 inches. Anything shorter is hard to manage and any longer gets cumbersome. Think of the old gangster movies where sausages are dangling in a cold freezer next to the dead guy. That’s about the length you want. (I’m so ghetto).

West on West: a must read for type As

I don’t watch basketball. I don’t care about basketball. Yet, I found myself purchasing a book with basketball as its main theme last Saturday, and had completed the thing by Sunday before church. It is West by West, by Jerry West, a man I’d never heard of in my life (when I ask Rog what he thinks of Jerry West he says “one of the greatest hoop players of all time. The NBA logo is modeled after him.”) Indeed.

Reality is that I was getting my weekly dose of the publishing world by reading Publishers Weekly as I was sweating out the after effects of attending a new restuarant opening in Seattle the night before. Like all aspiring authors (aspiring denoted by the lack of a book that has reached any bestseller list), I read PW for hope and inspiration that one day, in my lifetime, I’ll see my name within it’s pages. In the front of the weekly, two sections capture my attention. The first is the deal section (who is getting paid how much for what), and the second is the review section.

I’m about to turn the page because I see what I instantly categorize as ‘yet another boring biography by a former athlete I’ve never heard of,’ when I read the snippet from PW. It’s beyond glowing. I think the reviewer nearly had a personal moment when writing the review. Since I rarely read reviews from PW infused with this type of love, I go to the amazon kindle store, see the hard cover price is nearly $30, and the kindle price is about half. Sold.

The book didn’t disappoint. The writing style is raw, like the man himself apparently is in real life. The subtitle includes the word tormented for a reason, for West was a product of an unemotional, abusive home full of children his parents could barely afford or properly love. Already sensitive and withdrawn, West becomes moreso when his older brother is killed in Vietnam. Turning inward, West devotes his attention to an object: in this case, a round ball, and it becomes his life and his means out of a home he wants to leave but then can’t stand to stay away (for long). His cracked psyche manifests itself in perfectionism, a man who can’t appreciate the good because it is foreever overshadowed by the bad. This hurts himself, his wife, even the women who he slept with outside his marriage, but as he himself writes, was unable to be okay with who he was.

This alone is not what makes the book interesting, (nor was it the basketball stories, though the ones he includes had a nice balance of factoids mixed with interesting human sidenotes. Even the men I didn’t know about came alive in the scenes described). I recommend this book because it gives light to the fragility of elite players at any level–high school, college, and the pros. Elite players– lets call them life competitors, share unique traits. To understand and nurture an individual blessed with the talent, drive and ego (or lack thereof) is hard a hard task to accomplish. As West graduated from player to basketball executive, his understanding of the personalities in this arena served him (and the LA Lakers well).

I recommend West by West as a cannon for anyone person who works with, for, is married to, or is in fact, in the category of a competitive, Type A personality. The ego, drive, insecurities and challenges don’t end with the clock. That’s just the beginning. West knows that now, five kids, two marriages, umpteen decades after he started his journey. Reading about it is worth the $15.

Healthy Party Appetizer-Scallops & Prosciutto skewers

Halloween in Cartegena, sans alligator

In my world, fall means I get to have fun for three solid months, commencing with the first leaf that hits to the ground to the moment the New Year’s Eve celebration ends. Halloween is the first milestone, and I’ve been off-line in pre-spooky, spooky and now post-spooky take down efforts. I did notice a spike in traffic from, of all places, Columbia, and I wondered…do our Columbian friends celebrate Halloween? Indeed. The first pic that came up was one from Cartegena, a city that will forever be embedded in my mind from Romancing the Stone…where the bad guys purrss….Carte..heeeeeennnnnaaaahhhh, before feeding a piece of meat to a pet alligator. (According to my  mother, this is going to be stuck in my brain long after I can’t remember my own name).

With that preamble, let me get to the gist of this blog, and the second major theme during the fall to NYE celebratory experience. Parties. Yes, all things that are good and delish are from, or at, parties. Not all food must be bad for the bod. This is one.

What I love….about this app is that it’s very fast, very easy, & has limited ingredients. (Furthermore, I think a certain mysticism surrounds crab and scallops when served at home–as in, people rave. I suspect it’s because both are generally overpriced at restaurants, so guests feel as though they are getting something very special when served at a dinner party).

Ingredients
Coconut oil*
1 pound scallops (or 2 pounds at Costco for $20-frozen/large).
1 box prosciutto
1 lemon
Toothpicks (or fun app stick)
Salt, Mrs. Dash seasoning or Hungarian paprika (or all of the above)

Preparation
Unthaw scallops, pat dry
Spread a bit of oil on the cookie sheet, sprinkle your favorite seasoning on top of the oil & lemon
Wrap a thin bit of prosciutto around the scallop
Slide on the metal skewer
Roll the finished skewers in the oil and seasoning mix (you can also shake on to the skewer–personal preference)
Place in convection oven for 2-5 minutes depending on the size of the scallop (you may want to turn once if you can)
Remove from the oven, cool slightly
Slide to serving tray, add toothpicks and serve

*Great served warm or even cold. I serve with a dash of wasabi sauce which is awesome.

*By now, you should have this as a part of your pantry. Pick up the stuff in a spray can and also the unrefined coconut oil at your local health food supermarket. It truly adds to the flavor of most dishes.

Preparing the cookie sheet
Thin slices of prosciutto
Wrapping the scallop


placing the scallop on the skewer–flat edge is easiest to prevent tearing

After I’ve rolled the scallops in the sauce on the sheet

On a standard dishware–my guests were already here-so I skipped the toothpick part since
they started grabbing them straight from this plate!! (Sheesh–the nerve!)

My favorite sauce for cooked seafood apps- Wasabi Finishing Sauce from Waterfront

NW Salmon Dinner

You may not live in the Northwest or even ever travel here but no matter. You can get a salmon, fix it up in 5 minutes (are you noticing a trend in my life w/this 5 min thing), and serve an impressive feast. The side dishes take @40 min to prepare, but the result is an authentic Northwest meal.

Side note: do you ever have dinner parties? Even when times are good and pockets flush, dining in has the benefit of no interuptions, getting to know another couple or two and being in a relaxed atmosphere. This presumes no kids of course, if it’s an adult thing, but now, more than ever, consider staying rather than going out. There is something really personal about opening our home to another couple–our way of saying…’we like you enough and are trusting you to come in to our home.’ Just consider it.

I took this in a hurry so sorry it’s not perfect.
The salmon is on top of the cilantro-rice (left) and asparagus/muschroom
risotto on right. Not that it’s not evenly placed. This is on purpose. Some women
were vegan, and don’t want the salmon part. By doing this, you can feed both
meat eaters but others can just take the risotto or the rice.

Last mo (on a Friday), I made 1 quarter of this for a veteran TV personality and her executive husband (a salmon afficionado) and the next day, made another quarter salmon for 12 women who came to the home for a spa day. This is the step by step….

  

The meal
King Salmon (a quarter will do)
Mushroom and asparagus risotto (both optional)
Fresh corn and cilantro rice
Asparagus
*I’ll post these other items separately so it will show on blog subject listings

This family recipe has passed down from forefathers long dead. It works on any salmon.

Ingredients
2 lemons (more to garnish)
Dash (or mixed herbs)
1 large sweet onion
Dash seasoning
Raw coconut oil (not liquid. It’s solid, usually found in the speciality aisle. I use this alot so get it)

Process

  • Debone first then set aside.
  • Line a lipped cookie sheet with tinfoil (lipped= it has sides, not flat, in case the juices seep out)
  • Take 1 lemon, cut in half. Squeeze the juice from a half on the tinfoil
  • Thinly slice the onion, arrange half on the tinfoil as well
  • Take your Dash seasoning (a fast version of salt, lemon peel and other spices) and sprinkle on on the tinfoil
  • Scoop about 3 tablespoons of the coconut oil and spread on the backside of the salmon. Add a scattering of Dash on it.
  • Flip over (this is the side without the skin!) repeat (spread @3 tbls of coconut oil on the fish. Note-the oil is rather hard since its pressed. you may have to use the flat side of a knife. that’s ok. won’t hurt the fish). Add the Mrs. Dash
  • Thinly slice the remaining onion and spread on the salmon.
  • Slice the lemon and place on top of the onions (randomly. the goal is to have the natural juices from both onion and lemon seap in to the fish).
  • Give the entire thing a smattering of kosher salt. While you won’t eat the lemons once done, the onions have a lovely flavor.
  • Take a sheet of tinfoil and match to the edge of the existing tinfoil.
  • Wrap and fold all four sides allowing no air
  • Place in convection bake for @10-15 minutes. This totally depends on the size of the salmon. Don’t overcook. If that means you have to take it out after 10 min, do so, gently unwrapping the tinfoil (I can usually do this with my fingers. Tinfoil is nice that way).
    • A helpful hint…when the salmon “cracks” then it’s overdone. You want it to ‘lift’ or slightly spread but when it cracks, it’s like an overbaked brownie and is dry and hard.
Straight from the boat and Rog’s wet fishing outfit to home

This is a half of the 22.5 lb salmon. I cut in in quarters. For this recipe, I used a quarter salmon and it fed 12 women (with some leftover)

Preparing the sheet for the salmon

The white is a coconut oil. Looks gross but makes all the difference in the world. In fact, I repeated this meal a second
night for friends from out of town–the husband is a salmon freak. He said it was the best salmon he’d had in years–and wanted to know “the secret.” It’s the coconut oil. Trust me. It makes for a juicy, flavorful fish.
Adding the onions, lemons and seasoning

Fold down the tinfoil edges

All folded up and ready to go.
Again–I use 400 convection bake. You can use whatever you want–I just like the speed and even
cooking capabilities of my convection bake

For the finished product….

Let the salmon cool a bit–about 5 minutes


Forgot to note–I made the rice (on left) and mushroom asparagus risotton (right)
I placed it in front to transfer the salmon

Admittedly, my presentation was lame– (people were already eating when i snapped this)….

Last call for Halloween

It’s a Saturday night and I ain’t go nobody…oh wait. I’m definitely not a man stuck in a 1970’s doo-loop with Cat Stevens, but it sure feels like it. As ‘the man’ plays Gears of War, P-dog sleeps and I enter on my fourth hour of writing the sequel in my time-travel adventure, I’m burned out. So what do I do? I get spooky of course. And nothing says spooky like a….spooky halloween tree. Ever one to give advice for an party (kids or adults), here’s the 15 minute, $sub-$50 dollar decoration sure to get you compliments.

The raw material. Cowboy tree is
temporarily hitting the range.

Start with a tree. Any tree will do, real or fake. If you have a fake one in the garage (or 18, like my cousin who decorates all of them in different themes for Christmas–yes, she has a sickness), or modify a overgrown fica plant, don’t matter. Just get it. (I started w/the tree I’ve left up all year long in our dining room out of sheer laziness. I did however, try to remove most of the cowboy ornaments, since this is my designated ‘cowboy tree.’ yeah. go on. say it. I’ve lost my way).

Orange lights

Stream it with orange lights that can be had at Target for $3 bucks. I purchased 8 streams last year, this year, 3 were dead on arrival. 5 worked just fine. (side note: I thought I lost my mind in buying so many until I realized I streamed quite a few around the perimeter of my living room on the uplit section).

Gauze in grey and black–
wrapped another line on the bottom
after I took this shot

Get gauze from your party store, or, if you’re going to be totally cheap about it, get some netting, dye it grey or black, rip it up and then start placing it back and forth in random patterns.

I spent $8 bucks on the a scary stream of ornaments. This skeleton string was from the local party store. It featured all kinds of ghouls, but also less frightening things like pumpkins.

spooky ghouls

The time it took eased my mind, released the tension in my fingers and gave me a renewed sense of vigor to go write about the taking and giving of souls through divine intervention (sorry. I have to be vague or the movie studio will freak). In any case, ghoul on. All the while, sing…It’s a Saturday night, and I aint got nobody…and channel your inner Cat.

Trunk or Treats: the free, fun family activity

For the last few years, I’ve avoided bringing up the Trunk or Treat phenomena to Rog, he of the “I-won’t be-caught-dead-in-the-church-parking-lot,” until we drove by one last year. It happened to be on the right, in the lot of a new Baptist church that resembles a modern red barn, with big beams, metal siding and really cool downlight that shines on the empty space formerly occupied by berries. (I have no problem with Baptists btw. I just wish they could have left the blackberries, since a local family of bears–mamma and 2 cubs– feast roadside year after year).

In any case, the Trunk or Treat was packed. For those uninformed, it’s a kid-version of a tailgating party, where everyone gets dressed up, and the car, or “trunks” are decked out like a Macy’s Day Halloween party gone spooky. Seriously. Men in particular, go nuts putting in coffins with sounds, grey cloud-like mists billowing from half-cracked doors and twirling lights. The lighter versions feature graveyards or ghouls, all with candy in every direction.

“What’s that?” Rog asks. I reluctantly tell him, waiting for him to spew some evil on the notion of trick or treating at a church. “That looks great!” he says, wondering aloud why we weren’t going. Before I have a chance to kick myself, he then says, “too bad your church doesn’t do cool stuff like that. I’d actually go.”

Wha….??? I don’t know who I want to kill first. Him for saying such blasphemy, or me for being too chicken to ask him.

At that point, I take off my gloves and give him the low-down on Trunk-or-Treating parties, finishing with “all the churches have them. Even schools and non-profits!” Around here, nearly every high school, junior high school, church and sometimes even community centers have the things. It’s particularly popular when Halloween night falls on a school night, and the parents don’t want to be out late. Furthermore, the haul of candy one recieves is HUGE. Some of these fallafal-selling-big-box-churches have lots the size of the Seattle Seahawks stadium, and are probably more full to boot! Making a trip around the safe confines of a TorT, especially when you know the folks, is awesome.

This year, Halloween is once again on a school night, and I just got the invite for our TorT on Saturday, 10/29, 5:30-7:30 (family friendly times indeed, thereby leaving the rest of the evenings to be enjoyed by adults). I for one, am very excited. I’ve started mapping out the neighborhood TorT’s, determined to hit every station with the zeal and enthusiasm of hitting the high-density suburbs for the highest candy yield. No, wait….this is for the kids……the kids…