Here’s a few foodie (and non foodie) gift ideas I’m using with my friends and family that are worth sharing.]]>
That means a couple of days on the northern neck helping my parents transform their house into a winter wonderland of their own making.
I made 22 trips up and down two flights of stairs to bring down box after box of wreaths, ornaments, decorations, lights and ephemera, the better to clutter up their house in seasonal mode.
Outside, I held the Christmas tree while my Dad sawed and chopped the bottom off and my Mom watched anxiously from the back porch, sure there would be a tragic accident with the axe.
She’s the worrier, not me.
After six hours of decorating and wrapping gifts, with only one break to eat lunch and cut the last of the pink rosebuds still miraculously on the bush three weeks before Christmas, Dad and I made a break for it.
We had talked about going out to one of their favorite local places, the Oaks, for dinner but Mom didn’t feel like getting cleaned up, so we compromised by ordering our food to go.
That meant Dad and I were going to head out to pick it up.
But because they live in the sticks, you never go out for solely one reason, so he decided to load up the truck (according to him, if you live in the country, one of your vehicles must be a truck) and we’d make a stop at the recycler before the restaurant.
So there we were in the late afternoon, tooling along back roads (my father will never take the direct route when a back road can be meandered) and talking about Virginia politics.
He told me to keep an eye out for deer as it got toward dusk.
By the time we’d dropped off the recycling, it was too late to take the branches he’d brought to the wood yard, a place I’d never even heard of but would have been curious to see.
But we’d finished our chores early, so he suggested taking the scenic route to the restaurant, until a better idea occurred to him.
“Or we could go and I’ll have a beer and you can have some wine while we wait for the food.”
The apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree.
There were a half dozen people at the bar when we got to the Oaks where the music was blaring and the owner’s wife Nancy recognized Dad and greeted him like the regular he is.
According to the chalkboard, tonight’s specials were blackened prime rib and coconut shrimp.
As we sipped our bevvies, the Temptations were singing one of my favorite Motown classics, “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me,” and a couple of locals were talking about how you needed to allow extra time to get home in the evenings these days because of all the deer in the roads
Nancy came back and asked if she could tempt me with dessert (duh) and we added a magnificent slice of coconut cake to the order after I told her that I was the only one of my parents’ six daughters who, like them, loves coconut cake.
Once the food came out, we walked outside with our dinner and Dad pointed out the new moon, insisting that I move around a stand of trees to better see it.
Starting back on yet another back road home, we hadn’t gone two miles when a couple of deer appeared on the side of the road and Dad neatly swerved around them in his 27-year old truck.
I don’t know that I’ve ever cruised the countryside with my Dad in his truck before. What a distinct pleasure I’ve missed.
Back at the house, Mom had the Christmas music on and had set the table with (what else?) her holiday plates and we heaped the Oaks’ home-style cooking on them.
It had been way too long since I’d had a good hamburger steak smothered in gravy and onions and finished with coconut cake.
Sometimes it’s both delicious and delightful being the dutiful daughter.]]>
Last weekend Isaac totally caught me off guard by giving me Shaun T’s Focus T25 DVD kit as one of my Chanukah gifts. T25 was on my holiday wish list, but for some reason I didn’t think that I was going to get it. Surprise, surprise–Isaac’s sneakier than I thought!
Even though it’s the holiday season and I could have waited until January to start the T25 challenge, I figured I should go ahead and get started. Why wait? Plus the workouts are only 25 minutes a day, which is actually perfect since December is so busy. I started the Alpha phase, which is initial 5 week foundation phase, on Monday so I’m three days in and LOVING it so far. The workouts leave me sweaty and tired but they’re still manageable, which is encouraging.
I have the calendar up in my office so I can check off my workouts each day and everything. Exciting!
I’ve also been following the little nutrition guide this week. It’s pretty similar to how I normally eat–all real foods, 3 meals and 2 snacks a day and watching portion sizes, drinking lots of water, etc. Nothing too different than a normal clean eating plan but I think it’s helped me shake up my routine with a few quick and easy meal ideas, especially for lunches and dinners.
I’ve found that while I like to cook and bake, when it comes time to make dinner I’m usually starving and I like something super quick that I can throw together in less than 20 minutes. One of the meals that I was inspired to make from the T25 plan called for cooked lentils and cooked brown rice. I prepped ahead and made a big batch of both on Sunday and have had a brown rice and lentil bowl for dinner two nights this week. So easy!
I modified the recipe a bit based on what ingredients I have on hand and was pretty happy with the outcome = natural flavors from the lentils and brown rice combined with fresh veggies and a little citrus. Pretty simple ingredients but still flavorful and satisfying.
I just realized the colors are kind of Christmasy–how appropriate.
PS- Have you seen this tea from Trader Joe’s? I found out about it last year and fell in love. It’s the best and I highly recommend picking a package if you like peppermint.
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And now I’ve started having it for breakfast.
But before you schedule an intervention, I’m happy to report that I’ve found the secret. And the secret is pretty simple: Homemade mango frozen yogurt. I know, that’s kind of a lame secret, but what I mean is, this stuff is delicious, and still healthy enough to count as breakfast. I’m seeing a lot of this in my future.
Ready? Toss everything in a blender, and blend until smooth! The sugar will depend on the type of yogurt you’re using. If it’s plain (like mine was) then you’ll want a little sugar or stevia in there. If you’re using a vanilla or a sweetened flavor, then you can probably leave it out. Play around with the taste until you get it just right. If you don’t have a great blender, then you may need to add a tad of almond milk to thin it out a bit. Mine was the perfect consistency to eat with a spoon, just the way I like it.
I ate this while wearing a giant sweater, leggings, and slippers, huddled under my covers. Breakfast in bed, mostly for the sake of staying warm. It was totally worth it.
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In my continuing pursuit of revisiting some classic feminist literature, I moved from the very liberated 1973 classic Fear of Flying, here, to an earlier book and time period documenting women’s quest to break out of constraining societal roles.
Back before feminism became a bad word with subsequent generations, truly a sad thing.
Diary of a Mad Housewife was written in 1967 and while a six-year difference may not sound like much, I found the life of heroine Bettina much more rooted in the Eisenhower years’ traditional roles for women than FoF’s Isadora.
But that’s because I discovered rereading this book that 1967 was the olden days. You know how different things were then?
Bettina’s building on Central Park West has an elevator man, yes, a man whose job it was to push the button for you.
In uniform, no less.
She calls for a Jamaican laundress to come do the dirty clothes brought back from vacation after her husband complains about their trunks still sitting around.
She and her husband sleep in separate beds, with him saying, “Hey, Teen, how about an ole roll in the hay?” when he wants to come to her bed for sex.
Ew, just ew.
She regularly cooks tongue and serves it for dinner with horseradish because her husband and daughters like it.
Striking for me was that it wasn’t unusual to still be cooking tongue for dinner in 1967.
There is a smoking room in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a store nurse at Lord & Taylor.
Before a party, she puts cigarettes in boxes and urns (?) for their guests.
Milk still comes in bottles and is delivered, with the empty bottles sitting on the back landing until the milkman comes again.
Their black housekeeper has to remind them that no cab driver will take her uptown at 8:30 at night.
The Yellow Pages didn’t list doctors by specialty.
A married woman did not have a checking account, instead getting a weekly allowance from her husband.
And, perhaps most unbelievably, bacon has a negative connotation. Her husband comes home and yells that the whole apartment smells of bacon.
“It’s perfectly respectable smell, ” she tells him calmly.
“It’s a smell that takes hours to go away. It’ll be just like the Bronx when our guests arrive,” he rages.
And god forbid it should smell like the Bronx.
Somehow, when I think of 1967, I think of the Beatles releasing “Sgt. Pepper” and mini-skirts and the musical Hair, but after reading Diary of a Mad Housewife, I realize that most women were not living that life.
Instead, like Bettina, they were catering to demanding husbands who sent them to therapists to get their “heads straight,” making sure dinner was on the table when hubby got home and sinking into depression (and self-medicating) to deal with such a stifling life.
This was so not the swinging ’60s.
When she puts on jeans to go walk the dog, her daughter tells her she can’t wear those pants downstairs.
Why not, you ask? “Ladies your age don’t wear jeans,” she’s told. For the record, she’s in her thirties.
No wonder the poor thing was having a crisis and felt the need to secretly scribble notes to herself about the unsatisfying life she was living and hide them away from the world.
Having just recently finished Diary of a Mad Housewife, I couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity to discuss it than the one that unexpectedly presented itself this afternoon.
I was interviewing a painter, a woman who had come of age in the ’60s, and told her of my re-reading of this classic piece of feminist writing.
Pointing out some of the surprisingly dated things I’d read, she nodded knowingly.
During her first marriage back in the ’60s, she got an allowance from her husband. Allowed him to tell her what to do and when, and then did it. Accepted the staus quo until she couldn’t anymore and then got the hell out.
Now she’s happily married to the same man for 30 years and they deliberately keep separate bank accounts.
He reminds her when she gets stressed to go back to doing what she loves, thus supporting her and allowing her to decide what makes her happiest.
We’ve come a long way, baby, in 46 years.
The lucky ones grew up after the Bettinas and Isadoras had blazed the trail so that the rest of us could do what we wanted…in relationships, in careers, in life.
Namely wear jeans (or not, in my case), manage our own money and cook as much smelly bacon as we damn well please.
Don’t kid yourselves, girls. That is feminism.]]>
The tour was more extensive and we saw the distillation process, a rickhouse, and a small-operation bottling line. Everyone was served a taste of the Woodford Reserve. No opportunity to taste anything else.
I was afforded numerous photo ops:
|Woodford Reserve and Cherry Bitters|
|Barrels on the Barrel Run|
|The fermentation takes place in cedar containers|
|Copper Pot Stills|
|Barrels in the Rickhouse|
|Opening a Barrel|