Thursday, August 29, 2013

Dinner with a Movie: A League of Their Own

You can not go wrong with dinner and a movie. It is the perfect date night in, whether it is with that special someone, the whole family, the girls, the kids, or just by oneself.

Tonight's recipe inspiration is from A League of Their Own. Staring Tom Hanks, Gina Davis, Madonna, and a handful of other well know actors. This WWII era movie explains the history behind the world of woman's baseball. While their men are at war women keep the American baseball dream alive . Two sisters join the first female professional baseball league and struggle to help it succeed amidst their own growing rivalry.

First on the Menu is Roquefort Peach Salad. A little sweet, a little savory, and packs a curveball. Best served with a glass of Riesling. A few of my favorite brands are Schmitt Söhne, Chateau Ste Michelle, and Moselland Black Cat. It pairs up beautifully with the Roquefort blue cheese.

Roquefort Peach Salad

Makes 4 Servings

2 Peaches
4 Cups Spinach
1/3 Cup Blue Cheese Crumbles
1/4 Cup Blue Cheese Dressing
1/2 Cup Glazed Pecans (My homemade recipe coming soon)

Dice Peaches. In serving dish combine all ingredients by layering. Starting with spinach, peaches, dressing, blue cheese, and pecans or equally separate ingredients on four salad plates.

The night would not be complete with out Betty's Spaghetti. My kids raved about the meatballs the size of baseballs. I literally got compliments for a week. As simple as this dish is it was a home run.

Betty's Spaghetti

1 lb Lean Ground Beef
1 lb Ground Sweet Italian Sausage
1/2 Cup Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs
1/4 Cup Milk
2 Eggs
1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste

1 lb of Your Favorite Pasta
1 Jar of Your Favorite Sauce

Pre heat over 400°F.
Start boiling water for pasta.
In large bowl (I use my kitchen aid to mix this batch up.) combine meats, bread crumbs, milk, eggs, cheese, salt and pepper. Mix until well combined. Shape meat balls just smaller than your palm, and place in deep baking dish. Bake in oven for 30-35 minutes.
Boil pasta, and heat sauce in a pan.

(If you have any left overs after dinner, which I generally do because this recipe makes more than enough to feed my family of four, I place a little sauce in the bottom a baking dish. Dump in the remaining noodles, place the remaining meat balls on top, and cover with remaining sauce. Then I store it in the fridge as another meal. Before I heat it up I add some mozzarella and parmesan to the top. To reheat: Place in 400°F over for 20 minutes, or until cheese is nice bubbly and golden.)


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Life Without Together

As we sit in the gastroenterology office today waiting on Chris' appointment, an old lady wheeled up her little scooter next to me. Huffing away at her oxygen bottle, she struck up a conversation with me about how she needed some fresh air since she was falling asleep. I always listen to my elders no matter how small the conversation. After all one never knows what piece of advice they may have to offer.

She informed me it may be a while since they have been running behind all day. Her husband was in for a procedure. Patiently she had been waiting for him. The conversation had moved to why we were there, as I explained it was for my husband. At first she had assumed it was for me. I guess I didn't look to good with my anticipation on what Chris' diagnosis was going to be. ( I know gastroenterology all to well with my own set of troubles many years back. ) We then exchanged a few qualms about husbands, and how she has been married for 56 years. Her husband is at the beginning stages of dementia. One could see the frustration and pain that is starting to eat at her. Him not remembering the simplest of things, constantly reminding him, and his worries eating him whole as his mind clings to one thought at a time. I joke that even when they are a pain in our ass we still love them (Pun totally intended). Then lovingly she said she could not imagine life without him. He was one of the last Navy Seals to leave Vietnam, she stated. As the thoughts of our years of marriage and our deployments through war times flooded my emotions, Chris was called. I stopped my thoughts, and told her to keep keeping on.

I tried to stop those thoughts. Tuck them away in their compartment. One should never let those thoughts surface, because they make you vulnerable to the weakness of tears. I have come across many veterans in my travels, and always when I least expect it. Their stories stick with me, and sometimes haunt me. Even though there are so many years apart we share a common bond. The Military Life. These stories have given me goose bumps. Especially, when I have been in a similar situations and can empathize with them. Put myself in their shoes. I try not too, but sometimes it can not be helped. My own military life story gives me chills when I actually stop to think about it, and sometimes I can not help but wonder how the hell I got through it. Then I look at my husband and think no matter how bad it has ever been we have made it through. Together, and have become stronger because of it. I could not imagine life without him. Even when he is a pain in my ass.

We finished up in the office, and stopped by the lab for some fallow up blood work. It was pretty empty, only a handful of people for a change. After Chris walked in back to be sucked dry by the vampires, I tried to take a deep breath and just be. About that time the little old lady in her scooter came down the hall. Her husband in tow, one hand on her seat hanging on like a crutch. She got their ticket for line, and their number was called promptly. He couldn't find his wallet, and she panicked that he may have misplaced it but found it in her basket. The clerk helped them, and sent him to the back for his labs. She wheeled her chair back as he walked up to the door. Once at the door he turned around, looking lost he couldn't remember why he was there. She kindly reminded him of the next step. When he did that step, her hands braced her face as she took a deep breath. The frustration of a long day was beginning to set in. I watched silently and was trying to bring my words to the surface when Chris walked out. She noticed him and asked how he was with a perk in her voice. Like she had seen a familiar face that she hadn't seen in a long time. As I stood to meet him she noticed me, and Chris replied with a little small talk as he headed toward the hall. Her face went a little pale as she looked at me, and said "They found cancer".  Instantly I felt her pain. Knowing how anxious she was in the waiting room at the clinic, and then to hear her fear had come to light. I was struggling for the right words. I gave her a hug, and told her to keep being strong. I caught up with Chris, and tried to hold back the tears that welled up in my eyes without him seeing. I failed.

To think enduring such great challenges throughout life with someone for 56 years, and then to start losing them slowly. It struck a cord with me today. I do not want to waste any more time on senseless bull shit. Life is much to short to not forgive mistakes and move forward. This journey is about learning, and making it through the tough stuff together. Even thought we can be a pain in each others asses, I could not imagine life with out Chris.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Swap Meet Finds: Type Writer, Decanter, & Lap Table, Oh My!

Yesterday was a dangerous day at the swap meet for me. There were so many cool finds, but not enough cash in my pockets. That and the upcoming move to South Korea impeding upon my judgment of getting larger pieces for the home. I have not been buying things but mostly purging things of late. However yesterday was an exception. I have been looking for some select things for a while and keep them filed in a list in my head. Hoping that one day I will just stumble upon them as they are meant to be. Yesterday was that day.

I saw this sitting on a table being used as a nice display, then I saw the price tag and noticed it was for sale. Danika thought it was neat, so I asked her if she new what it was used for (I love playing "what is it's intended use?" game with the kids. They give some of the goofiest answers sometimes). She did get it right that it was a table, but was perplexed when I said it was a lap table. After striking up a conversation with the vendor I found out it folds! Completely flat! Which is great because then I can justify it fitting in small spaces. I was going to originally pass on the buy, but from the corner of my eye the booth lit up with that golden beam on that one item that I had been searching for. A portable type writer. I have been waiting to find one with a price I could justify. A typewriter is not only inspirational to writing, but it is also a tool that my children are not familiar with. One that they can use that has so many creative possibilities, and a good one can take a pounding from little fists. Not to mention the fact that they can understand the old technology better. A reminder of how life use to be.

After our conversations with the vendor got more entertaining with the kids finding more items that they have never seen before, and exchanging contacts for other vending opportunities I managed to bundle the set for $40. I can remember banging away on my Mom's typewriter. Although I'm sure she did not appreciate it since it was a top of the line electric at the time. I also remember using lap tables to do all our coloring on the floor. Granted this lap table will only used for my coloring.

I tend to have a soft spot for anything Washington State related. Since moving around as a military family it is always nice to have a piece of home with you. At first glance I had seen a Decanter that was from the 1972 Seattle Seafair. After looking at the other few I noticed this little gem...

... Mount St. Helens. I was excited, but rushed at the same time since my entourage was hungry for lunch. I did a quick look over and noticed the Jim Beam label was pristine, and for the price of $10 I decided I needed this piece of home from 1980. It was not until I got home that I noticed it had much more beauty. The decanter is all glazed except for the topper that is still that ruff and gritty ceramic, much like the ash of the mountain. Then I turned it over to read the label, which is always filled with history. Thereupon I saw it. The little arrow pointing to the side stating "Actual Mt. St. Helens Ash."
 I think I let out a little gasp of excitement and startled Chris as I was standing next to him. It was also amazing that the ash was all still there, and not clumped or dumped out. This bottle brings back memories of the family trips we used to take as kids up to visit the mountain, and museums. My brother, Jeremy, always talked about the terrible disaster even though we both were not born yet. The epic scientific lessons that are behind an event such as this is enough to make me want to have a drink for the survivors.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Lychee Champagne Cocktail

It was Friday night, and I felt the need to put the long week behind me. In no mood to leave the house, I went on a pantry raid! (Not to be confused with a panty raid, but by the time you finish this cocktail you might find yourself in the middle of one.) I happened to have a bottle of champagne chilling away in the fridge. (It was given to me as a gift for all my volunteer efforts during a certain Christmas party by some pretty prestigious higher ups.) I was saving it for a celebration, and what better way to celebrate then Friday night after a long week!

Now champagne is good by itself, but why not take it a bit further? In the pantry I found a can of Lychees that I had forgotten I had. What is a Lychee?! Well, they are a fruit with white flesh, that looks pretty gnarly. Do not let it fool you though. The texture of the flesh is something like a grape, but sweet and florally in a flavor all it's own. 

When I was in Singapore, there was a lychee tree right out our window. I would watch the wild monkeys in the tree take one bite out of a not ripe lychee and then throw it at the ground, or each other. It was even more interesting to watch them argue over the ripe ones. The monkeys look cute and cuddly, but those wild monkeys are evil! Not something you would want to come across, alone, on an early morning run... They will chase you!

Lychee Champagne Cocktail

1 Bottle Champagne
1 Can Lychees in syrup

Drain Lychees in sieve over a pitcher. Drop 2 Lychee berries into champagne flute. Pour in one part Lychee syrup to two parts champagne.



Sunday, August 4, 2013

Fresh Paint: Danika's Doll Bed

Often on our junk shopping adventures we find items to refinish. During the kid's summer break we happened upon this little doll bed. It was in ok condition considering it was part of a bunk bed set, I think, and for $2 I thought it to be a steal.
When doing projects like this, I want the kids to help as much as possible as well as having all the patience in the world at the same time. It can become challenging, but well worth the way they light up when the job is finished. To keep Darius involved without "messing up" his big sisters project, I managed to find him a paint your own car kit for cheap. He was just as busy at his project. I turned her loose with some medium grit sand paper and let her prep it (I was actually refinishing a little bookshelf while we did this project as well, so I was not hovering over her). When she put in a bunch of effort I do a "Mommy Check", and scuff up some places she missed (which is actually my OCD way of keeping control of the project to make sure it still comes out right, but Shhh! They haven't caught on to that yet). After the sand prep, she wiped it down with a dry rag, and I taped it off for her.
I happened to have paint left over from one of my other projects that she loved (win/win). To give her a lesson on how this kind of painting works I started the bottom for her. After that I turned her loose with it. (The husbands old uniform shirts make great painting smocks.)
After a while though she was asking for help, so I jumped in and helped where I could touching up the hard to reach places. We ended up doing 2 coats. After the bed dried for 3 days, I sat down with it and decided to embellish it (to give it my personal touch, that little extra, I love you). I let her know in advance that I was going to do something special, but she had no idea what. I did lock her outside to play (keeping her in suspense) until I was done with the designs. When she came in the look was priceless, she was very happy with the outcome. I was going to rub some wood stain over it to give it that vintage look, but we both decided we liked the boldness of the color as is.
With the painting part done we went to the sewing studio, and whipped up a mattress pad from some left over foam and a pillow. A quilt and other bedding will fallow in the coming weeks, once she figure out what print she wants.
Now if you look closely you see the holes at the tops of the posts (this is the part that makes me think it was a bunk bed), we are not going to leave them open for long. We are discussing whether she likes it as a simple day bed, or if we should make it a canopy day bed. Either way the colors and the vintage inspired tole painting remind me so much of the little doll beds I have seen as a child, and I hope she cherishes it for always. You can not put a price on doing this project with your child, because you get so much more out of it than just a doll bed.