Spring Cleaning, We Couldn’t Stop Ourselves

Russ and I had no plans when we woke up this morning on this long awaited beautiful day, but somehow we both fell into some serious spring cleaning. Why, when we had the opportunity to do something fun, did we chose to clean? This leads me to wonder if spring cleaning is a gene that we can’t help.

Russ washed two cars, which was practically a waste because the pollen is starting in earnest. At least Russ was outside enjoying the warm, sunny day. I did many more random chores, like cleaning the hall chandelier, and rearranging books by color.

I also changed out my breakfast room placemats with a set I made from the scraps leftover from my last quilt.

Those chores were unusual ones, but I also scrubbed our bathroom, did laundry and did some cooking for a future event. I could have done those things any day, certainly not on this beautiful day. My only explanation is that I must be hard wired to deep clean something as soon as the weather turns warm. Maybe my caveman me know that once it gets hot I won’t want to do anything.

New Mah Jongg Card At Last

Every year I wait with great anticipation for the New Mah Jongg Card to arrive. April first is the official first day that all Mah Jongg players must give up their old card and start playing the new one.

Since Ruth, the long time president of the National Mah Jongg league, passed away two years ago new family members are in charge. They wrote in the newsletter that there were changes afoot. From my first glance at the new card there is not much improvement to report. Hands changed as they always do. For the past few years winds hands have been somewhat pitiful and sadly they have kept some of the worst of them in this card.

What I do see as changes, are that dragons are used in many more hands as well as flowers and the number 8 is the most valuable number this year. None of this means a hoot to you if you are not a player. For novice players I will be having a new card orientation game on April 12 at my house. All are welcome, just let me know you want to come play and learn so I have enough tables.

This week, as my last hurrah with the old card I had two excellent hands, a quints winner followed by a singles and pairs winner, both of which I drew myself to the dismay of my table. The best one was the singles and pairs one where I had to stop the Charleston after the first round because I only needed one tile to win. Thankfully I was East so I had a tile to discard.

If you want to learn to play this most fun game, let me know. I have some other people who are interested in a beginner’s class. To the players out there, may your year be filled with jokers.

Shay Demands Her Emotional Support Human

Russ went to the office today, like normal. I went to Raleigh for two meetings, not like normal. That meant that Shay was home alone for most of the day. She and I had a good walk before I left and she had some extra chicken with her kibble.

I got home first and she did not bother to leave our bed and come see me. I called to her, nothing. I went up to our room and she stood up on the bed and wagged her tail in a somewhat tepid way. I snuggled her and rubbed her belly and she seemed happy. I asked her to come down with me so I could give her “dinner and a walk,” two words she has shown recognition for in the past. Nada. She didn’t move.

“Come on Shay, come with me.” It took gentle prodding to get her to go downstairs with me. She got food and a visit to the yard. While we were in the kitchen I heard the garage door open. So did Shay. She ran to the stop of the stairs to the garage and wiggled her butt in excitement. The door opened, she stood on her hind legs and shook her whole self as if she was doing the hokey pokey and then turned her self around.

Russ cold barley get up the stairs before Shay had launched herself into his arms.

“How can you leave me all day?” She asked him with her eyes. “I think you should be required to take me everywhere because you are my emotional support human. It is for my mental health that you are always with me.”

It makes perfect sense. If humans can need emotional support animals, why can’t animals need emotional support humans? Shay can make a good case for it.

Want a New Job?

Have you ever wanted to work at the White House? Seems like you could have a crack at it this year if you just flatter the president. Today the Veterans Affairs secretary is out and his White House doctor who said about the president after his physical, “he has great genes, he can live to be 200,” is in.

Someone with good hyperbole skills and a certain amount of blindness about his potential boss could get a job at the White House. Since he took office the following people have been fired or resigned, Sally Yates, Micheal Flynn, Angella Reid, James Comey, Mike Dubke, Walter Shaun, Sean Spicer, Michael Short, Reince Priebus, Anthony Scaramucci, Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, Tom Price, Dina Powell, Omarosa Manigault Newman, Rob Porter, Josh Rafael, Hope Hicks, Gary Cohn, John McEntee, Rex Tillerson, Andrew McCabe, H.R. McMaster, and now Shulkin. These are just the important high level people. There have to be others who go unreported. That’s 24 major advisors or secretaries.

At this rate you have a chance to be hired, especially if you ever served a Trump in any way. Like the former caddie, Dan Scavino, who is Trump’s social media assistant now. I wonder if he does most of his work at three in the morning when those Trump tweets come out.

So if you ever served Trump a cup of coffee at a Howard Johnson’s, or pressed his shirts at a local laundry, or washed his car, there is a job for you at the White House. And not some job serving coffee. Don’t worry if you are not qualified, Betsy DeVos has proven that is not an issue.

Speaking of DeVos, with all the firings, how is she still holding on? Sarah Huckabee Saunders is doing a good job keeping her job, because she has mastered keeping a straight face when she speaks. My favorite meme I saw the other day was a picture of a distressed SHS with the line, “Why don’t you look at me the way you look at Stormy? I tell lies for you.”

Oh, the revolving door at the White House. Too bad the 45 is not taking a spin in it.

One note to those Trump lovers who read this blog. Forget messaging me with your sincere rebuttals. This is comedy, something you don’t usually get.

Leek and Sweet Potato Soup

I love Trader Joe’s. It isn’t that big a store so I can spend some time looking for ingredients I think are a good buy. This past week I was pursuing the frozen vegetable aisle. Frozen vegetables can be a great savings and you often get things frozen at their peak. I don’t bother to look at the medleys, or prepare foods, although they can be yummy. I just look for the one ingredient bags.

This week I found cleaned and chopped leeks for $1.99 for about three cups. Compared to fresh leaks at $4 for the same amount, which would need to be cleaned and chopped I opted for the frozen versions. Since leeks have to be cooked there was no reason not to try the frozen one which looked pristine in the clear plastic bag.

Now came the issue of what to make with my newly found treasure? I opted for a soup and rather than making a traditional leek and potato soup I went rouge and bought sweet potatoes and a can of reduced fat coconut milk. Sweet potatoes are much healthier for you so I thought I could make a soup that would satisfy all the dietary requirements of a meal. This ended up being vegan because I was out of chicken broth and if you leave off the bacon crumbles as a garnish.

1 large yellow onion chopped

2 shallots minced

2 bags of Trader Joe’s leeks- about 6 cups

1 T. Coconut oil or butter

4 med/large sweet potatoes

1 15 oz can of reduced fat coconut milk

2 T salt

1/2 t ground sage

1 t. Thyme

2 dried red chili peppers

1 t. Ginger

Fresh ground pepper

Bacon crumbles and fried onions for garnish and few grinds of fresh nutmeg.

Preheat oven to 400°.

Cover a cookie sheet with foil and put washed sweet potatoes on the foil and prick with a fork. Bake the potatoes for about 40 minutes. Set aside to cool enough for you to scoop the flesh out of the skins.

In a big stock pot put the oil or melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions, shallots and leeks and look for fifteen minutes. Stir every once in a while. Add the spices and about two cups of water and bring to a simmer. Add the flesh of the potatoes and cook for another ten minutes.

Add the coconut milk and purée the contents of the pot with a immersion blender. Take for spice and salt balance and add what Is needed.

Serve with garnishes of your choice. I used all of them.

For the Love of Monkeys

I blame Russ’ infatuation with monkey’s on Marcel on the TV show Friends. If he could have a monkey like a Ross Russ would. I don’t know if it is that they have such similar names and both love science, but Russ really loves monkeys.

When Carter was a wee infant Russ would do the monkey wave like Marcel, you know, holding his hand under his chin and waving. He did it very often to Carter and said, “Monkey,” and Carter would mimic back at him.

When Carter got old enough to pick out her own father’s day cards for Russ she always went with the monkey card. It was just their thing. A monkey and his daughter. So when Carter went to the Bonnaroo music Festival last June what did she come home with? No, not a real monkey, but an original print of a monkey. Who knew they sold art at music festivals?

Russ loved it. I promised I would get it framed and then I forgot. The Monkey got lost in my office until one day last month Russ found it. While she was home on spring break Carter took it to get framed and I picked it up for Russ today. The mad monkey professor is going to his office to hang behind his desk so when he is on video calls the monkey can watch over the callers. I just hope Russ won’t take to signing off of those calls with the monkey wave. It seems that it is something special just between himself and Carter.

Team Dinner Pork Carnitas

Russ invited his company teammates for dinner at our house tonight. When the date was picked we didn’t know that Duke would be playing basketball at the time of the dinner. I decided to have a taco bar for dinner so that it could keep until the game was over. In planning what to have I put on the bar I chose pork Carnitas. Although I have never eaten it anywhere else I liked what I read in various recipes.

As is the case in all my cooking, once I had read a few recipes I set them aside and went about ad-libing. I have no idea if they turned out very authentic, but then were yummy.

4 lb pork shoulder with plenty of fat (often called Boston butt) cut into 2 inch cubes

1 10 oz. bottle of mango juice

Juice and zest of an orange

Juice and zest of a lime

2 T. Ground cumin

2 T. Oregano

3 cups chicken stock

Salt and pepper

Put everything in a Dutch oven and set on a medium heat and bring the liquid to a simmer. Let the pot stay uncovered on the stove for three hours. If the liquid runs out before the time is up add some water.

At the three hour point the liquid should be gone and now the pork should start to brown in the fat that has rendered from it. You need to stir it every three to four minutes so it does not stick. Cook the pork about twenty more minutes, until brown.

Serve with warmed corn tortillas, creama, marinated cabbage, cilantro and any other fixings.