Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I'm Getting Vewy Vewy Excited!

"Why Lu?"

"Why are you getting excited," you may ask?

Well let me tell you.

Because of this...



and this...



No not really.

But definitely this...



It's berry time!

These lovely white blooms are the precursors, the torch bearers,
the beginnings of the most lovely, luscious, sweet and tangy berries around.

Dewberries, sometimes called wild blackberries are what I'm excited about.

Berry picking is a tradition, a requirement for Spring.

It must be done.

A Berry Pie must be made.

And eaten.

I will wait anxiously until "the day" in early May when the berries are at their peak.

I will grab my special Berry Pickin' Bucket



that I will shape from a gallon plastic container using my formerly very sharp serrated bread knife.

And look,

I know that some of you have likened my bucket to  "a large portable urinal",

but I most adamantly assure you that it IS NOT.

So  please stop saying it.

Anyway, it will be the hottest  and most dangerously sunny day of the year so far,
and the humidity will be the highest we've had in the last several years,

no, the highest in the last century,

and I will forget that I have never had a suntan in my entire life,
and that my name actually appears in The Guiness Book of World Records several times under "The World's Most Severe Sunburns",

and I won't put on any sunscreen,

and I will run out the door with my bucket

and The Chief will look after me and shake his head,

and I will begin to pick berries,
and I will bleed from all the scratches on my hands and arms,
and I will sweat
copiously,
and I will turn bright red from the sun,
and I will swell from the wasp, ant, and caterpillar stings

and I will be so very, very

Happy.

I'm just simple like that.

And then, after the antihistimines, the salves, balms, and aloe vera...

OK, and sometimes after the bail posting (I'm sorry but sometimes one has to do a teensy bit of trespassing to get to the best berries)

I'll make a Berry Pie.

And we'll eat it with Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla,

and we will taste

Heaven.

And then soon thereafter you will be forced to read a blog post from me full of wailing, gnashing of teeth, and lamentations about

the gargantuan size of my hips and thighs,

And all will

once again

be right with the world.

Can I get an Amen?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

It Happens Every Time

Really.
It happens every time.
Always when I am innocently, unobtrusively minding my own business, it happens.
This time I was peacefully photographing and reflecting on the miracle that is The Old Pear Tree.

And then from across the pasture I hear The Chief's Voice... 

"Lu, get in the Big Tractor and drive it over here.  I need to use it to lift up the Little Tractor to take off the tires."

Yep.  That's what The Chief's Voice said.

Drat.

Now don't misunderstand.  I've driven the Big Tractor quite a few times.
You see, it's just that each time I drive the Big Tractor and then step out of it I completely forget every bit of information I need in order to be able to drive it AGAIN.

Apparently, The Chief's Voice was under the impression that just perhaps the last (and approximately the 27th) time he instructed me on driving the Big Tractor was the lesson that stuck.

Yep.  He's hopeful like that.

Trying to avoid embarrassment, humiliation, disaster, and potential bodily harm ( not only to humans, but also to bovines and canine as there were cows and The Weege in the general vicinity) I yell back "I don't think I remember how!"

"Sure you do" The Chief's Voice calls back.  "Just get in, turn the key, put it in gear and go!"

Drat.

That's The Chief's "I'm Depending On You" Voice. His "You Can Do It!" Voice.

So I have to.

I'm dependable like that.

So, I put the camera away, take a deep breath and

slink over to...



The Big Tractor.

In order to better understand the next sequence of events you'll want to take note of the Front End Loader attached to (of course) the front.


Much to The Chief's mechanical and technical dismay I refer to the Front End Loader as
"The Scooper".

It's just better for me that way.

Anyhoo, you'll also want to take note of all the "Beware" and "Warning" signs that one is confronted with upon entering The Big Tractor.

They're everywhere.



You can hit a power line, or have the tractor turn over on you...



You can accidentally drop something on yourself using the Scooper...





You can damage the PTO. 
Parent Teacher Organization?  I didn't realize they were involved in farm doin's.


More warnings about roll-over. 

I find the stark drawings of the anonymous "stick farmer" quite ominous.


Some of the warnings are really long.


I'm just guessing here, but it's possible that not everyone reads these all the way through.


Oh my goodness.


And crushing.
Lot's of warnings about crushing.

So, you get the picture.

I finally navigate my way past all the warning signs and settle into the driver's seat.

This is what you see when you look down and try to remember which pedal does what.



Drat all the pedals.

And Drat all the unidentifible levers.



And double Drat.



Here's basically what happened. 
I was surprised and happy to find that I still remembered the technique for turning it on.

After all, you just

turn the key.

I even successfully shifted into reverse (as there was a highly stubborn cow standing directly in my path), and backed up a few feet.

The problems began when I shifted into forward.

There was a terrible jerking.

Kind of like you had just tried to drive with your Parking Brake on, but worse.
Much worse.
Considerably worse.

I felt sure the problem was connected to my use or misuse of the clutch.

I try again.

Jerking.

Disturbingly bad jerking.
So, I practiced again in reverse.

Everything worked fine.

So what on Earth was causing the problem?

It was at this point that I noticed The Chief gesturing wildly and walking  striding quickly across the pasture.

Not his happy walk.

Not his encouraging walk.

Nor his happy and encouraging gesturing.

And I finally realized what the problem was!

I always work best under pressure.

The Scooper was down and digging into the ground when I tried to go forward!

The Chief didn't seem real impressed when I opened the tractor door to let him know I had solved the problem.

All by myself.

I think I heard him muttering something about thousands of dollars and destroying...

I'm sure though, as usual, he was just relieved and happy I was there to help out.








Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Feeling Spicy?



Here's what's gonna happen...

1. You're gonna make this Spicy Spaghetti Salad.

2. You're gonna LOVE IT!

3. You're gonna chase me down to give me a big bear hug!

4. I'm gonna run because being chased just freaks me out!

5. You'll catch me anyway 'cause, well, I'm pretty slow.



Seriously my devoted readers (all 3 of you!), you must make the following vow:

I will follow Lu's sage advice and make this salad in the next week.








I guarantee it will make you smarter, solve all of the world's social ills, close the hole in the ozone layer, and at the very, very least ...


taste really, really, good.









Here's the ingredients: The real lolapalooza follows!
























Spicy Spaghetti Salad

(Serves 4, but can be easily doubled or tripled!)

1/2 pound spaghetti, broken into pieces


1/4 c. diced red pepper


1/4 c. diced red onion


1/2 c. diced tomato


1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley


3/4 c. prepared Spicy Italian dressing (vinaigrette)


1 T. seasoned salt


2 tsp. sesame seeds (toasted)


1 tsp. paprika


1/2 tsp. garlic salt


1 T, grated Parmesan


1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper


1/4 tsp. cayenne



First, get your pasta water on to boil. Put in plenty of salt:




















As a general rule, your pasta water should taste like the ocean!


Break the spaghetti into 3-4 inch pieces.





















Anybody remember Pick-Up-Sticks????



Cook the spaghetti in the boiling salted water until al dente (to the tooth!)



Drain in a colander, rinse with cold water, and put in your FAVORITE TEXASWARE BOWL!

























Next, chop the tomato, onion, red pepper, and parsley...




















Add the chopped veggies to the pasta and stir...





















Yum.





















In your SECOND FAVORITE TEXASWARE BOWL, combine the Italian dressing, the seasoned salt, sesame seeds, paprika, garlic salt, Parmesan, black and cayenne peppers, and whisk until combined.
















































Add the dressing to the spaghetti and veggies and mix well...



















Serve at room temperature, or refrigerate for one hour...

LOVE IT!

I should probably start running from you right now...


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Note to Self: Try Following Directions







I have a habit.



It may or may not be bad.



No, it's bad.



I tend to err on the side of NOT following instructions.



Instructions, directions, suggestions, recommendations, whatever you want to call them.



Let's just say I prefer to blaze my own trail.



Yes, that's it.




I'm a trailblazer.



I travel my Own Path where I frolic barefoot while tossing flower petals in the spring air.



(And in my mind I'm young and thin while I'm frolicking...)


oh, and tan.



And I'm wearing a blue and white dotted swiss empire waist dress that ties in the back with a blue satin ribbon...




And at the end of this happy trail everything turns out great...



Or,




I suppose,



you could also say I wander a path upon which I Frequently Screw Things Up.


I just like the frolic and flower thing so much better.



This unfortunate malady may or may not be a lingering result of one of the following:


1. One time I hit my head so hard on the hitch of a trailer that it left a dent in my skull.



2. I ate an awful lot of SONIC ice in the eighties.


But whatever the cause, I've taken the first step.


I admit it.


I have a problem.



It tends to crop up alot when I cook.


There are all those pesky directions that come with recipes.


Those are for Other People.


Not for me.


I don't need Direction.



And it's really kind of funny, isn't it, that's why I'm writing this post.




It's possible, I suppose, that on occasion things might go better for me if I, LET'S SAY just TRIED to follow directions.



There.




I said it.


It's a good thing I'm sitting down.


The instructions for the muffins pictured at top clearly stated the following:







a. " This recipe makes 16 muffins, don't fill each one too full with batter."





b. " When adding the crumb topping, make sure you don't put so much that it falls outside the top of each cup- the muffins will stick to the pan and be hard to remove."




Well, as you can see I blazed my happy trail.




Don't cry for me, Argentina...




Here was my thinking (as convoluted as it may seem).




a. "Big muffins are better than small muffins. I don't want to use another muffin pan, and I certainly don't want to use just a PORTION of another muffin pan!"




"I will make 12 Big Lovely muffins."




b. "A lot of crumb topping is better than a little, and I certainly don't want to have any crumb topping left unused.




"I would have to EAT the leftover crumb topping."




Which granted, would not have been a horrible chore, as I had already eaten a substantial amount of it during the preparation phase...




So let's fast forward.


Surprisingly, The Chief has suggested on more than one occasion that I fast forward when I'm telling a story...






This was how the first muffin looked after I used all of The Chief's heavy equipment including a chisel, jackhammer, air compressor, and forklift to remove it from the pan.







And this is the part of the muffin left in the pan.










And this is how I was forced to eat said muffin.



With a spoon.





And this is how the next one came out after I let the rest of them sit overnight.




Luckily I could take care of that one with just a fork.


So with you all as my witnesses,

I'm starting a "To Do" list.


Lord Help Me.


#1. Think about, consider, contemplate, "toss around" the idea of

Maybe following Directions.

Amen

Monday, March 1, 2010

Offshore Cookies







Before you start muttering under your breath, let me just say this...




Yes, I put my freshly baked cookies on newspaper to cool.




I'm sorry if this causes you psychological, physiological, or astrological stress, but that's what my Mom taught me to do.



The newspaper absorbs the excess grease, and doesn't make the cookies sweat.


No one wants a sweaty cookie.




I know, I know, it's possible that the newsprint isn't the best thing for food products, but honestly it's just one of those things (one of the FEW things I might add) that I have decided not to worry about.




What with all the time I spend worrying about the re-emergence of skinny-legged jeans on the fashion front, there's just not alot of worrying time left.




But let's stay on track... we're talking cookies here.



Early in our marriage, The Chief worked offshore quite a bit.



And in my loneliness, thus began my obsession with Sonic ice ...


No. No. No.

That is another story.




I learned early on that the only reason most men put up with the tough working conditions out there was because of the food.



Back in the heyday of the oil boom, companies hired pretty accomplished cooks to keep the workers well-fed and happy.




The Chief would always report to me what great dishes the cook was serving up.


Beside the requisite steaks, there was a plethora of cajun and seafood offerings.



A plethora, I tell you.



And desserts.



Oh my, were there desserts...



One time he came back waxing poetic about the most wonderful Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.








OK, maybe he wasn't waxing.



And I doubt seriously if it was poetic,



but you know what I mean.




I love a good challenge (especially if it involves The Chief and/or cooking) and felt sure that with a little practice I could replicate the recipe.



I even talked The Chief into asking for the recipe...




The man sabotaged me. The cook I mean. He left something out of the recipe.



Something important.



And lo and behold.



Where do you think the cook eventually ended up?



In a federal penitentiary, that's where.



Now I doubt this act of sabotage was the primary reason for his incarceration, but in my mind it was a crime...



So I was forced to spend the next 6-10 years of my life trying to come up with the perfect cookie.




I can be obsessive like that.




Well, except for exercise.


I'm not all that obsessive when it comes to exercise.




Anyhoo - I think I came up with a winner.



See important tips after recipe!!!!!!!!!!!!



Offshore Cookies



1 c. (2 sticks) butter (at room temp.)

1 c. sugar

1 c. light brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

2 c. flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (now I don't mean to sound snobbish, but just leave it out if you don't have the fresh stuff)



2 shakes of cinnamon (I really should measure this out someday - I'm guessing 1/8 tsp.)

3 c. quick oats

1 c. golden raisins (see note below)**

1 c. nuts (walnuts or pecans) *optional (I usually don't put them in)







**I don't like regular raisins. It all goes back to a disturbing incident involving The Chief, West Africa, his luggage, and flesh-eating flies. But I probably shouldn't mention all this when we're talking about food, so nevermind...



Preheat oven to 375.



Lightly grease some baking sheets. In a large bowl, cream the butter, and both sugars until light and fluffy. About 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla. In another bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Beat the flour mixture into the creamed mixture. Stir in oats, raisins, and nuts (if using). Drop by heaping tablespoons onto baking sheets.



Bake 10-12 minutes. (Do not overbake!!!)




Things you'll want to know...



I use a cookie scoop (2 tablespoon size) to measure out the cookies...







And the KEY to getting these cookies just right is to NOT OVERBAKE them. You want to take them out of the oven when they still look a little underdone.

Like this...





And as I've suggested before, please look away if the condition of my bakeware is offensive to you.

It's really clean and that's what counts.

And I like it.

Alot.

Hope you like the cookies!