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Breakfast and sad news

Breakfast and sad news

Good afternoon, Dear Readers:

Are you warm? If you’re snowed in, I envy you. But that’s just me, OK?

Neighbor K knocked on my door Sunday and handed me a little plastic container and said, “you have got to try this!” She found a breakfast, um, casserole (I hate that word) that had all kinds of things in it, and the crust is chopped up cauliflower. She put some mushrooms and chopped bell pepper in it, and it was pretty darn good.

K and I have been going walking very early for the better part of 2 months now. I say better part because we’ve missed a few days–me a week when I was ill, and later, she was hurt and didn’t walk for about ten days. I myself missed two days this week, but I’ll tell you why in a minute.

I still have my habit of cooking for a week, and K got the idea to do the same, since after we walk, she takes out Daft Pug for a walk, gets cleaned up and goes to work. So, this weekend she hit on a really tasty breakfast. Of course it’s good! From the page Low Carbing With Friends on Facebook, the Cauli-Hashbrown Breakfast Casserole is full of good things, low carb, gluten free, and just delish.

You make a crust of the chopped cauliflower and butter, bake that for 30 minutes, and while that bakes, prep the other stuff. It does call for coconut milk, although I’m not sure why. It takes a while to make, but on a Sunday, bake one of these up and you’ll have it all week and not have to fuss. (As long as you’re single, that is.) If you’re part of a family. . .make two.

The deep freeze that gripped Houston last week has eased, and I once again have the patio doors open and the doorstops in place and a nice breeze blowing through the HeatCageKitchen headquarters. I burned fire logs for three days and nights last week, and set up my computer in front of it. Actually, it was just me and the Jezebel the Step Kitty, parked on the futon with my feet up and my little laptop running. I made cappuccino, then made regular decaf and put it in that tall black pipe of a travel mug and camped out there for three days.

I asked the GER recently about when he was planning to take Jezebel home, but he felt like she was bonded with me and maybe taking her home might not be a good idea. I enjoyed having her, even if she did get on my nerves once in a while, and always figured she would go back to live with the GER. (I’ve jokingly told people that we were “cat co-parents.”)

Not everything I have is hot wings, but she didn’t care, she wanted some.

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I didn’t close the fireplace damper a couple of times, because the embers were still bright red, and I was afraid of not having any oxygen in the middle of the night.

Now, Sunday morning, the weather eased a bit, and I hadn’t lit the fireplace in a couple of days. What I didn’t know is during that cold snap, we got a visitor. He apparently arrived during the night when I left the damper open, and he found his way down the chimney. But he didn’t get far.

Jezebel the Step-Kitty was on the prowl. I was watching TV and doing something else when I looked over and saw she was hanging onto something small and grey that looked like a piece of fabric that I tossed aside. (I do that and throw them all away at once.) Irony: I actually WAS cutting grey fabric, no kidding, so I didn’t realize that it wasn’t fabric. She was acting a bit funny, so I got a little closer and realized. . .fabric scraps don’t have tails. This did.

EEEEEEEEEK!! A MOUSE!!!!!

Yes, Jezebel earned her keep that day, and became my little mouser. I don’t know how Neighbor K didn’t hear me scream and kvetch at the top of my lungs.

I had to chase Jezebel away from the mouse, because she looked like she was going to take it and head under the bed. She gave me a look that said, “Hey–this is mine, go get your own!” When I finally caught my breath (read: quit yelling), I got a small whisk broom and dustpan and put the thing in a bag and set it outside. I did apologize to the mouse for the way his visit went, but I don’t want any mouse visitors, either. K took it out to the dumpster when she walked the Daft Pug.

I was so proud of that cat! The GER said she chased a dog out of his house once, too. Good kitty!

Our good news didn’t last for long. Jezebel also had problems keeping food down. She was eating, but it wasn’t sticking with her, and in addition to cleaning up the carpet, I noticed she was getting bony besides the big belly on her. I knew she was fixed, so pregnancy wasn’t an option, so off to the vet we went. It was a beautiful day, we hopped in my ride and drove to a great vet clinic in Pearland. I told her that they were going to take care of that super-duper hairball she had, and it was all going to be OK.

Well. . .she was carrying something–a “huge mass” on her left side that was pushing her organs over to the right. The vet mentioned “lymphoma,” and it took up her entire left side. The vet showed me the X-rays, and could not believe what I was seeing. That’s why she couldn’t hold food down, and she was actually starving. Frantic calls to the GER voice mail went unanswered, until finally, he called back, and drove to Pearland to meet me at the clinic.

The prognosis was not good, and on that day, (11/17/2014) our little mouser went to the Rainbow Bridge. The GER and I said goodbye to a fussy, independent little tabby cat that suddenly was the only cat in the world. And for the first time in 21 years, I am living alone, without a cat.

She was gone, just like that.

And that’s why I didn’t sleep for two nights and skipped walking for two days. (K understood.)

We will have cats again one day, but both me and the GER are heartbroken right now and are grieving. No more cats for a while (and please don’t bring us any.) He took her home, and she’s buried in his backyard with three other beloved felines that already went to the Rainbow Bridge, along with Catmandu and Kismet (who are cremated and in little boxes in my living room.)

I feel bad that I didn’t give her more roast chicken, turkey and little bowls of milk. She got to be a little bit pushy after the hot wings, and I figured she was just being a chow hound. No. . .she wasn’t well. I thought she was just pudgy with a big hairball.

Goodbye, Jezebel. See you again at the Rainbow Bridge. Don’t worry, there’s plenty of delicious food there for you, too. Your Cat Daddy and I miss you very, very much. We know you are out of pain, and happy with new friends there.

Jezebel the Step Kitty. Independent, but wanted attention on her own terms. And, whatever you're having, please.

Jezebel the Step Kitty. Independent, but wanted attention on her own terms. And, whatever you’re having, please.

I’ve washed up her food dishes and put them away, but I just don’t have the heart to get rid of her litterbox or kitty bed, nor that little scratch pad on the floor on the left of that picture. I took down the little tin sign outside that says “Mind the Cat.”  I’ve also gathered up as many pictures as I could find of her and put them in a DropBox file to share with the GER. I’ll go look for more this weekend, but I fear I’ve lost more because I didn’t realize my photos weren’t being backed up to my iCloud. I’m hoping GER has some at home that I sent him previously. We’ll get some prints made soon, too.

Please remember to be nice to your pets, and always, always bring them in when it’s cold. They’re our pets, they love us and trust us, and they can’t help themselves.

Thank you.

 

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The Cappuccino Conundrum

The Cappuccino Conundrum

Happy Friday, Dear Readers!

Do you like coffee? How about cappuccino? You know, with the frothy milk and all that. This one’s for you.

I have officially been blogging for two years now. No kidding, October 29th was when I set this site up. Woo hoo!! I’ll drink to that. Wine would be nice, but more likely coffee.

Houston and much of the south is COLD this week–no kidding, we’ve had a freeze warning. VERY unusual to be this cold this early in the season, but I’m happy. I think the cat’s happy, but I’m not sure.

What a great time to make some coffee, tea, or hot chocolate! Let’s concentrate on coffee this time.

Last year my decade-old cappuccino machine finally died, and I bought another one. As I mentioned in a recent post, I went through the process of finding replacement parts for an old Bialetti stovetop espresso maker the GER gave me many years ago when we were dating. However, Nick Usborne at Coffee Detective talking about how to make it quickly and easily on top the stove with a Bialetti. I just never knew it was this easy, so. . .I’m doing it.

Anybody want a Krups cappuccino maker? Hardly used, a year old. . . .

Nick also talks about something that many of my copywriter friends are hooked on, Bulletproof Coffee. I’ve also seen it called “Butter Coffee.” While I’m not a doctor, nurse or other scientific/medical professional, I don’t believe you will be able to repel bullets like Superman when you drink it. Just a thought. Friend of the blog AK (who made my recent birthday quite happy) swears by it, talking about brain power and amazing feats of thinking. I think it’s the caffeine, to be honest, but she’s a terrific lady, so I don’t say nothin’. You can read more about it on Facebook, and their official site is here.

No, I’m not interested. Sounds really weird, even for me. Fortunately, Nick The Coffee Detective has tried it too. He wasn’t exactly tap-dancing, either. Maybe another day. That Octane stuff is more expensive than butter.

Speaking of coffee, I also got my Bialetti issues straightened out. The one with blue roses is a 6-cupper, and I’ve returned all the spare parts to their sellers. Done. I’ve used it as well as a very small one now that I have sources for decaf espresso. Can you believe it? Starbucks and HEB. No kidding, get it anytime. DUH.

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Starbucks, as I’ve mentioned, offers a free treat on your birthday with a registered Starbucks card (and app, if you want.)  Also offered was 15% off (I think) on anything ordered from the Starbucks store. So. . .I took advantage of it. While they have a wide range of great drinkware, that 16-ounce travel tumbler was also on sale, and I’m really glad I got it–I’ve put both coffee and tea in it this week and it stays warm a few hours. Not bad, and would work great on a long commute. . .I’m sure someone already figured that one out.

This is what I use for everyday coffee, since discovering the French Press many years ago. (I have five because I used to have a boyfriend who did not drink decaf.)

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You can put these in the dishwasher, but the glass can break. However, you can re-order the beakers at Bodum’s website.

Yes, I know, more spare parts.

Now, I like cappuccino better–who wouldn’t?–but it’s more expensive to buy and a bit more trouble to make. But since reading Nick’s article, well, I wanted to, so I did. However, I had two of those ubiquitous Bialettis in my possession–a cute little red one cup and the retrofitted antique six cup. Armed with a coupon, I made my way to Bed Bad, & Beyond and got a 3-cup model.

Disassembled, this is what it looks like out of the box:

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No kidding, made in Italy:

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Now, like everything else, I’ve got multiples. Any wonder why I need a bigger place?

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The little red one was just so cute. Also purchased with the 3-cup pot is a butter warmer to heat the milk. Just like Nick!

I haven’t made much cappuccino because of the issue of getting the decaf stuff. Now that I’ve found it hiding right under my nose, I can have it anytime I want. (Which is daily, with whole milk steamed and frothed.)

So I now I do it in my own kitchen, just like Nick! Ready to do this on your own?

As you’ve seen, it unscrews into two halves, and a funnel that fits exactly into the bottom chamber. The bottom chamber is filled with fresh water to just under the little nozzle. Add the funnel, and fill it with the fine-ground espresso:

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Screw the top back on and turn on the heat.

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Now, if you’re going to heat milk like this, be aware that if it boils over, your coffee will be cold by the time you finish cleaning that up. No kidding. Don’t go talking on the phone and turn your back. Boiled-over milk or cream is a huge mess you do not want on your hands. (Yes, I have, thanks for asking.)

How do you know it’s hot enough? Stick your (clean) finger in it periodically. When it’s hot enough, you’ll know. But get it off the stove quick and start the frothing action. The pot I have has a heavy bottom, so it will hold the heat (and double as a projectile or blunt object in an emergency.)

Then start frothing with a little $3 tool from Cost Plus World Market:

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Now, while this is going on, the espresso is still bubbling up through the funnel:
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My suggestion is to have a cork trivet or some other place to put hot pots down in between stages.

Put your sugar/sweetener/flavorings in the bottom of the cup first. Using a big spoon to hold back the froth, pour the liquid milk into the cup first, then the espresso, then dump the froth on top. Since I only have two hands, I can’t show you that part!

When it’s all done, this is what you end up with:

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Yes, this is what you pay upwards of $5 a cup for in coffee shops like Starbucks. Look, there’s labor involved, plus it costs money to set up those great locations, so understand that part. But if you really, really like the frothy milk and all that, or the smooth tastes of lattes, it’s nice to be able to do it at home and enjoy it whenever you want.

Let me reiterate that decaf coffee is great in the modern age. If you’re being told to cut down the caffeine, or you realize you have a problem, don’t think your future is with Sanka. Lots of great decaf is there for the sampling, so go find your favorites. Mine are Sumatra, Kenya AA, and. . .anything with chocolate and raspberry in it.

So get brewing, and bake something delicious to go with your cappuccino or latte while it’s cold enough to put on the oven, too.

Happy Dining!

 

 

 

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Late again

Good evening, Dear Readers:

I’m finishing up my Sunday and realized that I still hadn’t been able to post! My apologies; I’ll try to catch up this week.

My birthday was last Sunday, and a week before I received an amazing present. I MUST shoot some pictures, and maybe even video.

The day after my birthday I got SICK! Only I didn’t know I was sick. A trip to the Redi-Clinic in Friendswood told me what I already knew: strep throat. Bad as I felt, even with fever, it could be a lot worse. I’ll finish the antibiotics Friday.

Talk to you soon. Have some good food this week!!

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

The Karma of Spare Parts

Good evening, Dear Readers:

I have a few minutes, so I thought I’d tell you a little more about the search for spare parts that’s been going on in my life. Specifically, something I neglected to mention in my last post.

See, I hate something that’s broken, doesn’t work, or is just sitting there collecting dust for the “one day” that I’ll get around to it. Since I’ve been home most of the time, I notice them, and in the last month or so, I’ve been fixing them, too. The last time I was home all the time, I figured out how to clean out the peephole in my door so that I could see out of it. The manual doorbell doesn’t ring anymore, but I can indeed see who’s there. Then I went to Neighbor R’s place and did the same for her, so now she can see outside too.

I do have a sewing machine that needs fixing, but I’ll get to that later. Ditto for the leaky bathtub faucet, which numerous YouTube videos are dedicated. I’m getting ahead of myself.

My Dad was a “fix-it guy,” and often me and my brothers were conscripted to be “helpers.” When I was about 7 or 8, I bragged to someone or other that my dad could fix the air conditioning and everything else; fortunately, he was not “volunteered” for anything from my commentary. We weren’t that much help, but eventually I started picking up a few things. I’m no flame-haired “Tim the Tool Man Taylor,” but from time to time I’ve learned to fix small things and didn’t have to call out for repair (from either the former landlord or a service company.) Mike Rowe, the “Dirty Jobs” guy, might even be a bit impressed. Neighbor K turned me on to looking it up on YouTube, since she’s fixed a few of her own things that way. Why didn’t I think of YouTube before?

So let me tell you how this all got started. . . .

Some time ago, my air conditioner started draining water inside. The new landlord couldn’t be bothered, and this went on for many months, nearly flooding the place at one point. I started putting towels in that space below the unit, and because the water stunk, this required the towels to be washed. That was fine until. . . .

The washer stopped spinning. That means that everything had to be wrung out by hand. This started a repetitive motion injury that my left elbow is still healing from, but it’s getting better. Laundry took a long time.

Months of stress later, I decided, stuff it, I’m going to fix the problems myself. I chanted to have them done by a certain time frame (2 weeks, I think) and hot dawg, it was! I did it!

First, the AC. After some research on YouTube, I went to Wal-Mart and purchased a little wet-dry Shop Vac that worked perfectly and sucked all the gunk out of not only the drain pipe but the drip tray, which was also clogged. I poured a hot bleach/water mixture into the pipe, and then beyond the coils into the drip tray. That was over a month ago. . .how dry I am!!

At no time did the prior landlord ever suggest putting bleach and water down there twice a year. I would have been happy to take care of it, and it would have saved a lot of money and aggravation. But it’s done, and I hope to never have that happen again.

Then through some correspondence on our local Nextdoor.com, I not only got the name of a reliable and honest appliance guy, but also a YouTube video on how to replace the motor coupling in the washing machine. I did, but still ended up calling the guy, who showed me that I’d failed to reconnect the wire between the carburetor and the motor. Once he did that, I was back in business. He did charge me $40 for the call, but that was just fine–total cost was under $100. And I’m washing all my clothes happily again.

In my last post, I mentioned the replaced glass plate and rotating ring assembly in my 11 year old Sunbeam microwave that had long ago gone by the wayside. With the model number from the back, and a few online clicks (on the iPhone, no less) I had it in about 10 days. Sometimes I just look into the microwave and gaze at it. . .I’m so happy to see it looking and working perfectly normal again.

Next was finding the the replacement part for a discontinued but functional coffee grinder on eBay.

Additionally, when the former landlord installed a new dishwasher, some external plastic parts (like the handle across the top of the door) were badly cracked. Eventually they fell off, and I’m sure that when I move out of this place, the new landlord would call that “damage,” and charge me for it. Nope–I have the replacement part for that too, I just have to talk to the GER about how to un-install the dishwasher, or call my appliance guy again. I’ll get on YouTube and research it. I can’t cut the power to the whole place, then I can’t see what I’m doing!

Stuff like that can be found online at Easy Appliance Parts. A week later, they were here. Just haven’t replaced them yet.

So, I went to the Woodlands on Monday, and had to go back today (although I headed home after a bite at Starbucks.)  When I go to Sur la Table, I like to buzz through and just look at stuff. New linens. Pure white dishes (Williams-Sonoma has their own line, too.) Spatulas of all kinds in huge crocks. And then there’s the coffee area, with Bodum French press pots and Bialetti stove-top espresso pots in different sizes and styles. This time, something caught my eye.

Replacement parts.

Now, I’ve bought replacement glass beakers for the Bodum pots that I have (especially the 2 cup, which I have broken twice), so I knew I could either get them there or order them online from Bodum (along with filter assembly parts as well.) But I never thought about Bialetti.

What makes Amy think of Bialetti, you might be thinking. . .take a look a this:

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Because the bed is where I have the most space to take these pictures.

Where in the world would I get something like this? Where else?

The GER.

While the GER currently looks for specific things to sell on eBay, at one time he and his late wife used to do all kinds of antique stuff. He found this at a work site and it was being thrown out. I think we’d been dating about six months when he gave it to me. I LOVED it, and still do, but this is why I did not use it:

That gasket used to be white.

That gasket used to be white.

It sat on a shelf with some pictures and other antique-y things, until I realized on Monday. . .I could get replacement parts!

Who knew?

Who knew?

Carpentry expert Norm Abrams wrote a book called Measure Twice, Cut Once. That’s also a catch phrase with carpenters (another thing my dad used to do; I sew like he used to do carpentry.) Hint: not just for carpenters, OK?

Unfortunately, I didn’t take any measurements, and just presumed that what I bought would fit. And it didn’t. . .this one turns out to be a 4-cup, not a 3-cup. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I found out when I started to remove the filter plate and pick out the dry-rotted rubber:

Ewww. . . .

Ewww. . . .

Eventually, I got all of it out and removed the old filter plate:

I always wondered what was in there. Now I know.

I always wondered what was in there. Now I know.

And that’s when I discovered that not only did the new filter plate not fit, the gaskets wouldn’t be coaxed into place, either. So I did what I frequently do in these situations: pulled out a Brillo and started cleaning the heck out of it.

For all the years I’ve had this pot, I never noticed that it had a name on it:

Ever seen one of these before?

Ever seen one of these before?

I’ve looked in a few place but haven’t found any history on the Flory Express, but I did find a similar model listed on eBay. For nearly $55. Not bad for an old Italian coffee pot, is it?

Pretty nice!

Pretty nice, and in good condition.

Someone else has one just like it for sale from Australia for $65. Makes me think about it. . .but it would be interesting to see who buys one of them. I didn’t see any bids on either one.

In my little neck of the woods, though, I got on the Bialetti website, took measurements as instructed, and I’ll soon have a new funnel basket and two packs of the gasket and filter plate. I hope they fit. If they do, I’ll be makin’ me some stove top Cafe Americano. . .if not, I give up. I’ll add it to the eBay fray.

Of course, I have my receipt from Sur la Table, and will return the gasket packs when I go back to see Dr. Davis in the next few weeks after all the labs come in. They may only take back the unopened pack, but if they offer a store credit, I’ll be getting a bottle of olive oil and maybe a spatula or something.

I’ve scrubbed the metal parts as best I can, going through two Brillo pads. The Bialetti name is barely visible on mine, but it’s there, and also has some inscriptions on the bottom. When the parts arrive I’ll be boiling water and vinegar on the inside, and may check out some other cleaning options. I found a few here, but so far, it’s still grungy looking on the inside; I may be stuck with that. I did try pouring boiling vinegar water in it earlier, but nothing happened. The outside is still a bit funky, too, but since HRH Queen Elizabeth isn’t coming for coffee, nor Martha Stewart, I think I’ll be OK with it. I plan to boil water in it once or twice before I actually attempt using it for real coffee.

You can find these neat little pots at the Bialetti website, Amazon.com, Cost Plus World Market, Williams-Sonoma, Bed, Bath and Beyond, and many other retailers.

You can also read more about the history of the Bialetti stovetop espresso pot and company here. Wikipedia also has an entry with a little more info.

So, if you’ve always wanted to try one of these, they’re not difficult or terribly expensive, and I’ve known quite a few devotees to the Bialetti.

Me, I just wanted to fix something, so I’ll let you know what happens when I get the parts. Maybe I’ll make the GER some decaf espresso and bowl him over. Sometimes it doesn’t take much.

The GER is taking me on a “foodie adventure” next week, so I’ll let you know how that goes, too.

Enjoy!

 

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2014 in Repairs/spare parts, Starbucks

 

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Cupcakes and the Honey Bunny

Cupcakes and the Honey Bunny

Good evening, Dear Readers:

I’m sorry it’s been a week since I wrote. I haven’t forgotten you or Graze.com. I sent them a link to the last blog post, and the email I got back was that they’ve passed the link around so everyone could see it. Woo hoo!

I’ve been at it, and sent out a proposal for copywriting work, but it didn’t go anywhere. Another potential client I wrote a sample article for had to say no, they’d lost a big client the day before, but check back in December.

But in foodie news, it’s been a week of good stuff.

First, if you’ve ever broken the glass plate in your microwave, take heart. I did that about five years ago, and just figure that one day, I’d buy a new microwave. Not yet. When the plate broke, I had no idea where to go to get another one for a 2003 Sunbeam microwave. Well, I bought a Corelle dinner plate at Wal-Mart and that worked fine until a couple of months ago when one of the little wheels came off the rotating ring assembly that turns the plate. This was probably caused by the imbalance of weight on the dinner plate, and two weeks ago, I did something about it.

Darn, it took moving the microwave out, snapping a picture of the model number on the back, and going online to do a search. Guess what? Appliance Factory Parts had exactly what I needed. The plate was back-ordered, so I called to ask if it was just temporary, or discontinued. The nice man said it was just back-ordered and should be in next week. They shipped it FedEx, and I even got updates as it made its way to my door. I met the FedEx guy out on the sidewalk. Fifteen minutes later my little microwave bought used in 2004 for $10 was good as new.

I also found a new replacement top thingy for a Braun coffee grinder on eBay. The coffee grinder is at least 4 years old, works perfectly and has been discontinued by Braun. The button on the original top is cracked, but without a replacement part, a new one was in order. But no, I got an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) part on eBay. Instead of tossing a perfectly good coffee grinder and buying a new one, my Braun looks new and works fine.

Repair parts: It’s a Good Thing.

Yesterday I had to trek up to The Woodlands, a place I like to go up to occasionally. One of these days I’m going to spend a weekend up there. But no, this time it was for yearly medical testing with the fine folks at Woodlands Wellness & Cosmetic Center, Dr. Sakina Davis and her terrific staff. And of course, I had to make a few stops while I was up there.

I should point out that I drove through some very heavy rains for over an hour to get there. You never know this kind of thing will happen when you make plans. (Ask anyone who’s planned an outdoor party or wedding.)  We had a big front come through, and dropped the temperature about 15 degrees. Mind you, this being Houston, I had sweat trickling down my back when I hopped in my ride to go on the freeway, and then after I got out of Sweet Tomatoes, I saw people in The Woodlands Mall by Barnes & Noble wearing long sleeves. It had not only dried out but the temperature dropped just a little. It actually got cool when I got home last night.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. . . .

First place I stopped when I got there was The Container Store for a couple of small things. I didn’t have time to do Sweet Tomatoes yet, but I hit the Starbucks across the street from Woodlands Wellness for a quick bite, because I was really hungry. I grabbed a Greek Yogurt Raspberry Lemon Parfait and ate it while I walked back across the street.

Turns out I should NOT have been eatin’ anything. I was supposed to be taking the starving blood tests, but I’ll be going back tomorrow after fasting all night to do the blood draw. I’ll take my laptop with me and head to Starbucks for some food and free WiFi so I can wait for the morning traffic to lighten up.

For a late lunch, I made it to Sweet Tomatoes, where I discovered some delicious gluten-free offerings and a new quinoa salad. After the late lunch, I went over to the mall to visit Karla & Anton Kharoufeh at Oil & Vinegar, but both were on the phone. However, Miss Kathy was free, and I talked to her for a few minutes. I really just wanted to say Hi, but I only got to talk to Kathy. Oh. . .bottles and jars of delicious things in there, so if you’re in The Woodlands, please go stop in and get something special and delicious. The Lemon EV Olive Oil mixed with the Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar is absolute heaven when you whiz it in the blender to emulsify it and pour it on a salad. Doesn’t take much, either.

When I left The Woodlands Mall, I headed out to Trader Joe’s, and shopped til I dropped. Neighbor R, who just turned 80, gave me $10 and asked me to get some of the $3 a bottle TJ’s wine, which she’s fond of. She likes the Chardonnay, but also asked about the Pinot Grigio. I brought back two of the Chardonnay and one Pinot Grigio, and she was very happy with that. I asked the very nice cashier to ring the wine up separately, because this was for a “little old lady in Clear Lake,” and she bagged up the receipt and change (about 27 cents, I think.)

I’m always extra-careful handling other people’s money, even if it’s 27 cents.

I bought extra of some things like toothpaste, cannellini beans, cocoa powder and olive oil. Never mind how much I spent on groceries–I’m stocked up on some non-perishables for a while.

Last stop: Frost Bake Shoppe. I actually got to talk to the owner, Terese Yates, and told her why I was buying so many gluten free. You KNOW that’s what I went for. This time, though, I brought some home to share.

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Deliciousness comes from this box.

Since the temperature dropped, and I had some refrigerated goods from Trader Joe’s in a bag with two frozen water bottles, I got four of the Blueberry Cheesecake cupcakes in gluten free, and carefully put the box in that zippered insulated bag on top. They made it all the way without a problem.

Yes, this really is gluten-free:

Blueberry Cheesecake Cupcake

Is this not the most one of the most beautiful cupcakes you’ve ever seen?

Oh, YEAH.

You can read more about Ms. Yates and Frost at this link.

At this point, the drive home begins. However, the weather was beautiful by this time, so it was only the traffic to deal with. And although it was very slow in a couple of spots, for the most part it wasn’t bad. Neighbor K generously fed Jezebel the step-kitty so I could go see the GER first. I didn’t tell her about the cupcakes until I brought her one.

First stop on was down to Galveston County to see the GER at the infamous, aptly named Funk House/Junk House. I called him on the way to make sure he was home, and I said, “I have something for you.” He said, “I have something for you, too! Some fresh fish and some home-grown grapefruits.” He’d been out fishing, as he usually does on Monday (and today, too.) Suddenly I felt bad–all I had was one cupcake for him! Well, I went. . .and I talked to him for a little while and explained that it was, indeed. gluten free, and he would thoroughly enjoy it. He did–and ate it in three bites. (I talked to him today and asked; he loved it!)

Then back to the homestead, and brought Neighbor K one of these delicious things. She said she would eat it in the morning after our early-morning walk. Unfortunately, I was so tired, there WAS no early morning walk. Just talked to Neighbor K, and she didn’t walk either, but did thoroughly enjoy that cupcake. At 5:30 this morning.

Last stop–Neighbor R, to bring her wine and the last of the cupcakes. (I’d already eaten mine, I couldn’t wait.)

So now, they know how delicious gluten-free cupcakes from Frost can be. That fish from the GER was broiled up last night and came out great.

The fish and produce were not the first foodie gifts I received since my last post, either.

Last week, I got a personal visit from the GER. No kidding. He emailed me last Monday, informing me that he’d received actual mail–and it looked legit–for me. Say what? He said it looked like real mail from a friend. Although it was a greeting card sent from Alaska, it had a piece of junk mail in it. I couldn’t seem to catch up to him to drop by the Funk House/Junk House to pick it up, so he ended up shipping it, and stopping by on Thursday. He also wanted to go to Vitamin Shoppe, which happens to be a mile away from me. It was much easier to let him drive us over there so he could see it, and I needed something anyway, so that’s what happened.

Shortly before the card arrived, he’d found himself with a beehive with lots of BEES. Yes, the kind that produce honey. He had to call professionals to come in and remove said beehive, and they gave him the honeycombs they removed from the shed he plans to eventually dismantle and replace.

So, I got him some gloves and set up a bowl with a strainer so we could filter out solid biological matter. (If you’ve never done this, well, don’t think too much about it, OK?)  While he was wringing out the honeycombs with some clean hair color gloves I gave him, we were chatting about different stuff. And, of course, I forgot to take pictures, darnit! But I can show you what we ended up with.

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I later filtered it out again, and then gave Neighbor K a jar and kept one for myself.

Incidentally, if you like those labels, you can find the template here on Martha Stewart’s website. However, they don’t stick well in the freezer. I just used one on this jar because I’d printed some once and they were just handy.

Now, a while back I kept a couple of pictures from Facebook of a couple of pictures of “cleanse” drinks. Then I had to clear out some of the photos (which is why I don’t have a pic of the bowl of honey before I bottled it, darnit.) I discovered that one, now that I have raw, organic honey, I can try.

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The honey is raw and organic because the GER didn’t know that hive was out there. It’s not certified organic, of course, just. . .he never did anything with it or to it.

Now, these things get passed around Facebook all the time; in fact, friend of the blog AK recently asked me for the Cranberry Cleanse, but that’s got a pear, an apple, a piece of celery and some other stuff I don’t have around on a daily basis.

But this one I decided to try. No, I haven’t lost any weight with it yet, but I have been mixing it up with very warm water to help the honey melt, then adding two packets of sweetener to cut the tartness. Then pour it over ice, because I’m sweaty and no way do I want something hot. I can’t say it’s harmful, but I’m drinking it after I get back in from the AM walks with Neighbor K.

Remember one of Amy’s cardinal rules: two packets of Sweet ‘N Low can kill the taste of anything. That’s helpful when you’re ingesting something awful that’s also medicinal. Been there, done that, tell you in another blog post later, maybe during flu season.

So, despite everything else, I’m still here, and still at it. We’ll be back on the walking trail first thing in the morning (yes, 4 am) and I’m off to The Woodlands soon as I get cleaned up and dressed. No eatin’ until they stick me, and I make appropriate comments about the peacocks in the office looking like poultry.

Happy Dining!

 

 

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Grazing, grazing. . . .

Grazing, grazing. . . .

Good evening, Dear Readers:

Well, I’ve had a busy day, not all of it good, and I don’t feel like doing anything else. And then I remembered that I hadn’t written a blog post in a while. Good heavens, more than two weeks! My apologies.

Now, did you make it to McDonald’s for a free coffee? Not bad, is it? I brought my own Sweet N’ Low, and nobody cared. They put the cream in the coffee FOR YOU, and I had my back turned when I added sweetener. Drank my happy coffee all the way home. Twice. It’s pretty good, just be aware of the sugar/Equal thing, and bring your own if you want different. The small coffee is regularly $1.39, and I think the larger is about 20 cents more; I didn’t look too close. But if you need a coffee, and there’s no Starbucks nearby, (or like my family, you hate Starbucks), it’s pretty good. I might have a coffee there more often, and as my late grandmother would tell you, “Don’t knock it.”

I’ve got a lot of things going on, so I’ll fill you in some of it. First, Neighbor K and I are getting up early and walking. When I say “early,” I do mean “early.” As in 4:00 am Central Daylight Time. I am not joking–we get up and go walking in the 4:00 am hour. And walk for 30 to 45 minutes. She takes out the Daft Pug for a quickie and then we start walking. We’ve seen some, shall we say, interesting things on our early morning treks, as well as had a really good early start to our day. She goes to work, but sometimes, I go back to sleep.

I’m working on not doing that anymore. But I have gotten lots done when I get up and stay up.

We started last Monday, and while I got up and went, she didn’t sleep well that night, so I was on my own. I didn’t waste the chance, though–I went back inside, did morning prayers and chanted for a while, then went out about 5:45 and walked. Last lap involved me dropping off my hand weights and going straight up the street to McDonald’s for a free decaf on the last day. (I’d walked there on Sunday too, but didn’t walk 2 or 3 miles beforehand.) Last Friday it rained when a cold front came through, so I did the same thing I did Monday, and the rain was over by 5:45 am.

Second: the New Orleans Saints won yesterday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I’m only a real football fan when the Saints are in the playoffs on the way to the Superbowl. I was, indeed, in shock when they went the last time, so I just wait for it to happen again. They’ll play the Houston Texans this week, I think, so we’ll see what happens.

Irony: a lot of folks who came to Houston after Katrina stayed after Katrina. I see a split loyalty at that game, and probably a lot of torn emotions. But I’m not a football aficionado, so I’m not so worried.

In other news. . . .

You remember years ago there used to be the SAVE Club, where every month you’d get a box filled with new and different products for you to try? (I got them for a while in the early 80′s for a while, right after I got married–the first time.) They were about $10, if I remember correctly, and they sent coupons and new and interesting products like Simple Green cleaner and. . .ramen noodles. Yes, I’m not kidding. At the time, ramen noodles were a new gourmet item, and were at least $1 a packet. Hard to believe that they’re now about a quarter, (in health food stores they might be more but healthier ingredients) but times change. I can’t find any info about it on the web, but I’m sure it was called the SAVE club.

Then in in 2000, there came StartSampling.com, and getting curious, I discovered that I still have an account and can still earn points and stuff. I haven’t thought about that site in years, until just now. I donated a bunch of my points after 9/11. In fact, the account still had the GER’s house as the address; I’ve since updated that. Oh, dear. . . .

Now, in 2014, there are so many subscription boxes to choose from. Makeup. Jewelry. Dogs. Cats. Clothes. Handymen/Handywomen (tools and such.) “Favorites” picked by minor celebrities. (I got Cosmetique a few times, too.) Even a monthly box for. . .cyclic needs, if you know what I mean. I kid you not. Check out FindSubscriptionBoxes.com if you’re interested in seeing more of these. You can also find lots of info and pictures on these subscriptions on Pinterest.

I haven’t thought about this kind of thing in years, and had no idea it had expanded so much.

I know what you’re thinking: “Why are you bringing this up, Amy, and what does this have to do with all things foodie?” Well. . . .

You like to have delicious nibbles? Looking for something new? Then Graze.com is the place for you.

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No, I did not get paid for this. I’m just passing along info. But it’s great!! Neighbor K said she was considering giving them a try, since she got a flier at work for them. I told her to go for it.

My flier came from a magazine a week or two ago, and said that the first box was free. Woo hoo! You can cancel at anytime, and even speed up or slow down the delivery of the boxes, all online.

How could I resist? I sent for one. It arrived on Saturday. Oh, boy! (Oh, and they fit right in the mailbox.)

What's inside?

What’s inside?

Carefully I turned it over and popped open the package:

What you get when your package arrives.

My Graze treats are here!

Inside, you find:

Surprise!

Surprise! (Well, it’s always a surprise, that’s the fun of it)

Take a closer look:

Take a closer look.

Four delicious choices!

Graze.com wants to revitalize snacking with healthier choices like the ones you see here.  No GMO, no HFCS, no artificial flavors or colors, and no trans-fat, either. They were about a cup of each, I think, selected according to what I told them I prefer–gluten free, of course, and one or two other criteria. However, there are 90 different type of snacks, and you can “like,” “love,” or “trash” them. You tell them what you like and they send you healthier, portion-controlled snacks from what you would like and what you tell them. You can get a box weekly, bi-weekly, or more often, just go online and tell them, it’s simple.

You can read more about the people and the company here.

Graze says it’s not a good choice for folks with allergies, because they can’t guarantee everything to be allergy-free. Be forewarned if you’re allergic.

The packaging is all made from recycled materials, including the literature that comes with it. Don’t just toss it, recycle it all! However, for those of us who like to garden, take a look at what else you can do:

Portable planting! (With the empty plastic containers in it.)

Portable planting! (With the clean, empty plastic containers in it.) Start your seeds here.

All of these little snacks were great–because I nibbled them all day on Saturday. Yeah, yeah, I know–but I also cleaned up the HeatCageKitchen garden, and dug up some roots of the “houseplant gone wild” that me and Neighbor K battle occasionally, plus did housework and laundry. The maintenance guy cut most of that mess down and took it away, but I dug up as much of the root system as I could and took out another weed that was masquerading as a plant in the monkey grass. So, I was workin’ it, and nibbled off and on. See what I did?

And now, it's neat again.

And now, it’s neat again.

I lost the strawberry plant that was giving me those weird little frankenberries, and I will need to dig through those white buckets on the left to see if any garlic actually grew. Basil’s gone, but as you can see, there is a large Meyer lemon on the tree on the right starting to turn yellow, and I’ve got not only a new little bell pepper at the top of the pepper plant, but another little Hatch/Anaheim chile pepper on that plant. I trimmed the mint down, but with watering, it will be overgrowing again soon. (Closeups in an upcoming post.)

Yes, the snacks were very good. The Super Berry Detox was nice and sweet, and so was the Toffee Apple, although it had sugar in the small amount of toffee sauce. Never had that before, much as I like apples. I won’t be buying goji berries anytime soon, but if they send it again, no problem. The nuts, well, they were nuts, and I like just about everything but chestnuts, so no complaint there, either. The salt and vinegar taste is a little strong next to the unsalted ones, but I got used to that, too.

Once you try them, go back to the website and tell them that you “like,” “love” or “trash” them. They’ll send them occasionally, regularly, or not at all based on that little rating system and how often you elect to get a “nibblebox.”

Oh, yes, well. . .I went to cancel it, and the second shipment is already on its way. I’ll cancel it after that’s done. I’ve “snoozed” them so they don’t come for a while. Or, I could just keep snoozing it and get one occasionally if I want one. I’ll think about that for a while.

You’re probably wondering how my my little “nibblebox” cost, aren’t you? Well, the first one is free, and subsequent boxes are $6.99. That makes each snack about $1.75 each. If you work in an office, how much do you spend getting something from a vending machine? Is anything in that vending machine as healthy? Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. (With all due respect to folks who run and service said vending machines, some of us prefer healthier fare, we’re not judging you.) You can have the box sent to your office, or to your home, and the little sealed plastic packets fit nicely in a purse, lunch bag, briefcase or desk drawer. You can also gift a box to other people at any time from your online account–they get a box in the mail, there’s a gift card with it, it doesn’t cost extra, and they’ll be happy when they see that you sent it.

How cool is that? Don’t know what to get for a birthday or a special occasion? With a week’s lead time, you can send a tasty “nibblebox” and the recipient will know you care.

Oh, and the holidays, including Christmas, are coming, so keep Graze in mind, OK? They are soon planning something called the “Big Box,” consisting of 5 larger, resealable bags of different snacks; those are $25 a box. But you have to join the waiting list for that–but when they’re ready, that’s also a good thing for a holiday gift.

Now, if you’re interested in trying out Graze’s neat “nibbleboxes,” here’s what you do–go to the website and where it says in small print under the “Get Started Now” button, “have a special code? enter it here,” you put this code into the popup field: AMYO2RN7B. Why would you do that? That’s the code on my packing slip to give to friends to get your first and fifth box for free. No kidding–fifth box is free if you decide to keep going with it. Within a week, you could start nibbling!

Now I don’t expect that hundreds of people will try to use the code, but I figure a few might consider it, so I’m putting it here for anyone who might like to try a “nibblebox.” Not sure how many times it will work, either. I think I get points or something, but mostly I figure a few of my readers just might be interested, so why not?

Again, no commitment, and cancel anytime. But you just might like it, too. What would be wrong with that?

Well, it’s getting late, and the 4 am wake-up alarm happens before you know it.

I’ll try to write again real soon, so I can tell you about the delicious baked pear, and a few other things. Oh, and more gluten-free stuff, too.

Happy Snacking!

 

 

 

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Mmmmm, mmmm, GOOD!!

Mmmmm, mmmm, GOOD!!

Good evening, Dear Readers:

You know, sometimes we get ideas that seem like they’ll work, until we try them. Sometimes those ideas stay in our heads for years before we finally get around to trying them.

Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don’t. But you never know until you try, right?

Take my favorite coffee flavor, Chocolate Raspberry. I had the idea to make cappuccino and flavor it with chocolate and raspberry. It was gonna be great!

Well, I tried it this morning. . .it was OK. Nothing special. The espresso overpowers the flavors, at least, these two. It works out well with the hazelnut flavoring, though. Maybe I’ll give it some more thought.

Anyway. . . .

Well, I had to do it. Tonight I made some of that delicious Fall Broccoli Salad I told you about, via The Texas Pioneer Woman.

Since I live in a Houston suburb and not on a working farm (yet), I went to Target to get the ingredients. That’s OK, they had everything I didn’t.

Holy Shish Kebab.

Oh, yes, oh, yes, oh, yes!

Oh, yes, oh, yes, oh, yes!

Now, I hope Janette (aka The Texas Pioneer Woman) doesn’t mind, but I made it just slightly different. Partly because I forgot to put a little onion in it. But I’m getting tired, so I forgot. I was going to “do it later,” but you know how that goes.

The other thing I changed was the dressing. I did use the vegan egg-free mayo I wrote about last week, primarily because it tastes like the real thing. (I taste-tested it first with the end of a spoon, of course.) I just didn’t feel like making my own mayo, so I used the Just Mayo. Of course, it’s an 8 ounce bottle, and the dressing takes half a cup. I won’t use the rest of it quite so fast.

I also used Bragg’s apple cider vinegar instead of the white vinegar, (not quite as sharp) and instead of white sugar, you know I used. . .Somersweet.

Now I did have to cook up some bacon, so I did the easy way–in the toaster oven. On a cooling rack in a baking sheet, 400 degrees, and watch it, because it can burn pretty quickly and then you have to start over. I had to cook the bacon in two batches, though.

A side note: if you’re thinking about getting a countertop (aka toaster) oven, let me put this bug in your ear: 110v vs 220v. If you’re going to do what I do with it, make sure you get one that’s big enough to roast a chicken in and has a nice sized broiler pan. Don’t get one that doesn’t do more than toast bread and Pop-Tarts.

Anyway.

After I chopped all the broccoli and washed it, I left the colander in the sink to drain a bit more. I mixed up the sliced almonds and raisins in the big mixing bowl, then mixed the dressing. Once the bacon started crisping, I took it out, let it cool, then crumbled it all up in to the almonds and raisins. When the bacon was all done and crumbled in, I dumped that into the dressing bowl and mixed it up with a spatula. Then I shook out the broccoli one more time to get out as much water as I could, added it to the big bowl, then dumped the dressing mixture into the broccoli,, and started mixing some more.

I’ll try it once with the onion, maybe some green onions from the back patio, but I’m tellin’ ya, this was WAY TOO GOOD!!

I texted Neighbor K to see if she’d like some for lunch tomorrow, but she didn’t answer, so I’m guessing she’s already hit the sack. I packed it up in containers and stuck it in the fridge. When she reads this she will secretly be mad that she missed out on a healthy salad with bacon in it. But this weekend, Neighbor K will have the recipe to make it for that big, tall boyfriend of hers, and maybe even give a little to Daft Pug.

This weekend would be a good one to make this salad for family and friends, or if you’re like me, just yourself. But go try it, because it’s pretty easy and the flavor is well worth the bacon cooking.

I wonder if the Gomez Family Farm hosts vacationers and wanna-be cowboys. If I ever have the chance, I’m going to go on a vacation somewhere that I can do that. But don’t look for me to attend rodeos, OK? I’d rather go see Def Leppard or find myself at a jazz concert.

Make some of this salad this weekend for you and yours. It’s delish, whatever you sweeten it with.

Happy Dining!

 

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