Pretzel Rolls For Russ

Russ, who always works incredibly hard has had a tough couple of weeks and has to do more than his share without much appreciation. Well, I know all that he does, and I appreciate his work ethic and dedication. He does not do it for fanfare, but it would be nice to get some recognition.

I always ask him If there is anything I can do to help him and usually there is nothing he would ever think to ask for. So today I decided to bake him a pan of pretzel rolls to say thank you for all that he does.

I had bought a giant bag of yeast at Costco, more yeast than I can ever use. (If you need some, come on by and I’ll give you a baggie). So with this embarrassment of yeast I got to baking. Since Russ grew up in Philly he is a big fan of soft pretzels. Not those Aunt Annies kind, but the real chewy kind that you buy at a stop light from a guy on Street Road. (Yes, in Philly that is the name of a major thoroughfare.)

I could have made him pretzels, but pretzel rolls are a little more useful and slightly lighter. I used a recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction. It was very easy and used baking soda in water, rather than lye to beget the pretzel flavor. I appreciated that since I have misplaced my lye.

So happy noshing Russ Lange. You deserve a parade for all you do, but I suspect you’d rather have a simple thank you and a pretzel. You may not get all the thanks from all the people, but I can get you the pretzel.

College Football, Not A Life or Death Matter

College football, the big money maker, big ego feeder, big group gathering, tailgate inducing sport does not fit into our pandemic world. No matter how badly star quarterbacks want to play, there is no way to social distance in football, even if they promise only to throw the ball and not run it.

If singing is considered a super spreader of virus imagine what playing football would be. I don’t know any athlete who can play at even 50% of their capacity who does not need to breathe hard while doing it.

College athletes can’t be treated like NBA players and locked in a bubble. They go to classes, live in dorms, eat in cafeterias, go to parties and to practice. If you have ever looked at the sidelines of a college football games there are hundreds of people. Offensive, defensive and special teams players, coaches, trainers, equipment managers. Too many people to keep safe.

Then there is the traveling and all the interactions that entails.

Yes, these star quarterbacks want to play. They are young and feel invincible, but it should not be up to them. The experience will not be the same anyway. Playing without fans cheering or the band playing is not the same experience.

One real reason to cancel the season is so as not to encourage football watching parties and celebrations. Keeping an entire student body off the street after a big win is next to impossible. College students are not known for restraint, don’t give them more temptations than they already have to stay away from.

Yes, this year stinks for all students everywhere. Yes, people miss sports. Yes, it makes schools a lot of money. But this year is about life and death. Let’s not blow it on football.

And Now This

I am going to have to stop wondering what else can go wrong in 2020. Today we woke up in North Carolina to 5.1 magnitude earthquake. This at the end of a week that started with a hurricane and tornadoes in the state. North Carolina has not had an earthquake like this since the 1920’s. The earthquake was centered in Sparta which is the town right next to Camp Cheerio, Carter’s childhood summer home.

I slept through the quake, but I checked in on my friends in the mountains and they felt it. Kathi said it was the scariest thing she ever experienced. I am thankful everyone is safe, but am hoping this is the strongest quake we will have, but it is 2020 and … The news says there have been seven quakes in NC in the last 24 hours, but the others were just a 2 or a 3.

I am not sure how many more signs I can take that we are not taking care of the world and our fellow creatures. I don’t want to speculate on what else can go wrong.

Green Rice

One of the things I miss about having Carter home is the diversity in ideas about what to have for dinner. She often thought of things I never would have thought of. One thing she made was Arroz Verde, or green rice. The one time she made it I thought it was so satisfying that I didn’t need anything else for dinner.

Now that she is back in Boston I am back to thinking up dinner ideas. Not that Russ doesn’t send me at least three recipes a week from the New York Times, but they are often full of weird ingredients I don’t want to have hanging around.

Not the case for Green rice. It is made with all things you probably have on hand or can easily pick up.

1 1/2 c. Long grain rice

1 1/2 c. Chicken broth

1 1/2c. Milk

2 big handfuls of spinach

1 big handful of cilantro (can be all stems if you want)

1 medium onion minced

2 cloves of garlic minced

1 T. Olive oil

2 T. Butter

Put the spinach, cilantro, chicken stock and milk in a blender and blend until the veg are pulverized.

In a sauce pan out the oil and butter and melt. Add the rice and toast it until brown, stirring often. Add the onions and garlic and continue cooking for another minute, stirring.

Add the green liquid from the blender and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to just as low as it can go. Cook the rice about 20 minutes without lifting the lid. Then stir it once, recover and cook another five minutes and then turn the heat off leaving the lid on the pot for ten more minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

As this is a classic Spanish dish I have no ownership to its creation, but sometimes I like to blog about a recipe that I don’t want to get lost in my memory.

The Birthdays That Don’t Count

Today is my friend Mary Lloyd’s birthday. Having a pandemic birthday means you don’t have the normal celebrations. Every other year this day would be celebrated with a fun girls lunch or afternoon tea out, laughing and telling stories. Now it is dangerous to laugh out loud and I am trying my hardest to tell stories quietly so as not to project air out into the world.

Rather than go out I did drop by Mary Lloyd’s house with flowers, balloons and cake, but it does not feel like enough. Like so many of my friends who have had birthdays since March they are not getting the attention they deserve.

My friend Lee is famous for her August birthday Pageant. There was a big sign in her yard announcing it, but I am afraid it will be a shadow of her normal pageant.

I think that if you have a pandemic birthday this year you get to skip counting it. This means that you don’t count this year in your age. I turned 59 this year, but as I am not counting this birthday as an official birthday I will turn 59 again next year. Seems only fair that we all will lose a year of our lives to just being on hold. Why should we count it. This is kind of like an intermission year.

Sadly, the year with Covid and and election drags on extra slowly making it feel like it is double as long. All the more reason just to wipe it out as a year in our lives.

So Happy Birthday to all my August birthday friends. I still celebrate you, but next year will be a double party.

There, But By The Grace Of God

As a southerner I have often heard people say, “There, but by the grace of God, go I,” when referring to someone else’s misfortune. For the record, I believe in God. I feel that I have God’s Grace because he is a loving and generous God and that I did nothing to earn it. I also believe that we ALL have God’s Grace. Not just people who believe or act a certain way, everyone.

I wonder if the people who say “by the Grace if God,” are thinking that God actually makes a choice, spare them, don’t spare someone else. This is not what I believe. Despite having Grace, we all have luck, good and bad. We also have free will and sometimes things are our own making.

Many things that happen in our life were decided for us. Who our parents are, where we were born, when we were born, which teacher we had in first grade, all things that go into making us who we are.

Then there are the decisions we made along the way, who was your best friend, who did you marry, what job did you do, how do you chose to spend your time. Change any one of these things and your whole story changes.

So God graces you, but so much of the path you take is of your own making, both good and bad. It is up to each of to work hard to make good decisions, do right by each other, offer a helping hand. You can’t depend on grace to protect you, just like you can’t blame God when bad things happen to you. Just remember, “it’s not all about you.”

If you dodge a bullet, it probably was luck. You might not always be so lucky so look out for yourself and for others. That is probably what God would like you to do, then you are displaying grace.

Less Than Perfect

If you have ever watched YouTube cooking demo or any other social media cooking the cookware used in the video looks practically brand new. It makes me wonder how good these cooks are who have perfectly clean frying pans with no baked on splatter on the outside. If I were to film myself demonstrating a recipe you would see my very old and well loved pots and pans with all the patina that comes from decades of cooking.

Now, I am not saying my pans are not clean. The insides are sparkling, just the outsides or bottoms might show a little age. They are in no way YouTube worthy.

The inside is good

Today after I washed a medium sized non-stick frypan, that is probably a year old I noticed that the inside was perfect, but the outside looked like it should be thrown away. Well, I am not about to be that wasteful, even though I do change my nonstick frypans often. So I got out the dawn power wash and started scrubbing the pan. I sprayed the cleaner on and let it sit a while. I came back with a scouring pad and rubbed and rubbed. I did this process four times throughout the day. I barely made a dent.

The bottom after scrubbing, looks almost the same as before scrubbing

What I want to know is am I the only person whose cookware looks used or does everyone scour their pans after every use so that the outside looks as good as the inside? Or do you buy new cookware more often than once in a lifetime. I have to say that my Dansk Stock pot and sauce pans look pretty good. I considered them a major investment when I bought them in 1985. I can see that they will last me at least another thirty years. And my Le Creuset dutch ovens are equally usable despite less than perfect outsides.

The outside after scrubbing is better, not great.

Perhaps social media cooking is making me crazy. I just want to know from real people if you too have only YouTubable cookware? There is just something about perfect cookware that feels untrustworthy. Or maybe I needed to be quarantined two weeks every year for the last thirty five years just so I scrubbed my pots and pans better. It seems too late now.

Early in the quarantine I did a major cleaning of my half sheet pans. Since I have five of them that are 30 years old and still as good as the day I bought them, sans the baked on look, it took me a while to try and restore them to factory settings. I spent days and eventually gave up. Two of the five are close to being fair, the others are in the fail category.

Bread Bags

I’m looking for some silver Covid linings. I know it’s a stretch, but there have to be some good things to come out of this. One thing came to mind today, just stay with me while I try and connect this.

I am the oldest grandchild on both sides of my family. That meant that I often got to go and spend time with my grandparents alone. All my grandparents had lived through the depression and they all did little things thirty-five years later that were carry overs from living through those tough times.

My grandmother, Granettes, on my father’s side used to pack food into the empty bread bags. It made perfect sense. A plastic bag, was a plastic bag and none went to waste. I can remember her having a drawer full of them in her kitchen at the farm. If I had been visiting my grand parents and they drove me home from North Carolina to Ohio my grandmother would make cold fried chicken, and bread and butter sandwiches and put them each in different bread bags. Along the way we would pull the car over to a roadside picnic area and have lunch. She would carefully fold the bags backup and put them in the basket after we ate to reuse them again another day.

This conservation was something my parents never did. It was clearly a holdover from my grandmother living through the depression. Who knew she was green before being green was a thing.

My other grandmother, Mima, was equally frugal. One time she and I went to the mountains and stayed in a motor lodge, that’s what motels were called back then. We went to dinner at the little diner attached to the motor lodge. The waitress had brought us a basket of rolls at the start of the meal. After we finished dinner Mima told me to wrap the rolls up in the napkin in the basket and put them in my bag. I was horrified and begged her not to make me do that. She said, “They will just get thrown away if we don’t take them and that is a waste. We can eat them for breakfast.” I was hoping for pancakes I am sure, but I did as she asked and sure enough we ate cold, stale rolls for breakfast the next morning. If only we had a bread bag they might not have gotten so stale.

Here were two women who had learned to be frugal at a young age when the whole country was learning it at the same time. It lasted their whole lives. Nothing was ever to go to waste. Maybe this year of Covid and the hardship it has brought will make that kind of impact on us. Maybe people will learn that they don’t need to go shopping to be happy. Perhaps conservation and saving for a rainy day will become more common. Perhaps people will learn to live way beneath their means just in case something bad happens that they had no control over.

The depression is not something I wish on anyone, but lessons from those times can be embraced over and over again. Too bad I don’t buy bread in those kind of bags, but there is no reason not to reuse any bag, over and over.

What’s the Point?

During the Covid period I am trying everyday to do something that appears as if I am productive. As the days go on it is getting harder and harder. This weekend I dusted the whole house thoroughly and deep cleaned the kitchen, including cleaning out the refrigerator. The lack of excitement for these chores is beginning to wear on me.

With Carter gone the house stays cleaner longer giving me less and less to keep up with. As I have finished making my latest craft and I have scheduled all the zoom meetings i need to do for a Food Bank Project I am in charge of I awoke this morning with nothing on my plate.

Since the UNC students are moving in today I decided I needed to go to Trader Joe’s very early in the morning before all those potentially germ ridden college students go in and stock up. That took half an hour. Still with the whole day ahead of me I finally broke down and did a job I have been putting off through all of quarantine, I polished the silver.

This much hated job had little point to it since Russ could care less if things are shiny and bright, no one else is going to see it and it will just tarnish again before Christmas which might be the next time someone new is in my house.

I put on the rubber gloves and gathered everything to be polished. I rubbed and rubbed and worked for two straight hours as if I was a royal footman preparing for a state dinner. After putting all the shinny silver back in it’s rightful spots I felt a twinge of pain in my neck and back.

I ignored it at first and went off the the post office to mail Carter two Cookbooks my friend Carol gave me for her. While standing in a very long line, an old man in compression socks took much too long to decided which kind of stamps he wanted, I recognized that my hurt neck was making me more irritable than normal. (Actually he never did decide as I had to call out from the line for the clerk to just give him the damn “nature stamps” and be done with the indecision. The other people in the line clapped for me.)

I came home and decided that I had been productive enough and took some pain killer and lay down to heal my back and neck. What in the world was the point of polishing that silver to the degree of bodily injury? No one knows if I am productive and no one cares. Damn Yankee work ethic is going to kill me.

Awaiting the Hurricane

Last week was stifling hot. We had a couple of days of rain storms that helped keep my zinnias alive. The last few days no rain and my flowers are suffering. If a hurricane weren’t coming I should have watered them. I hate wishing that the hurricane would just hurry up and get here, but I want my flowers to live. I know that the high winds and flooding are not good for people, but there is little we can do about Mother Nature.

I am tired of Mother Nature this year, as a pandemic is under her realm, but I am more exhausted by people’s response to it. I am tired of people not taking Mother Nature seriously. It seems to me that same people who refuse to wear masks are the ones who feel safe surfing during a hurricane or refusing to follow emergency orders.

Please let this Hurricane not do too much damage, kill anyone or have people who don’t heed warning and need to be saved. Please let people not be selfish as it puts first responders in harms way if they have to rescue idiots. Hurricanes may be good for zinnias, but not so good for humans and animals.

Almost Normal

For the first time in five months I went to my closet and out on a dress. Russ and I went out to the Teer farm to have a socially distant outdoor dinner with out friends Cynthia and Dave. It felt practically normal. No I take that back, it was utterly fantastic.

Chef Paris had offered up a perfect summer picnic menu of pork, fried chicken, corn salad, slaw and green beans. I shouldn’t forget Paris’ famous pretzel rolls and lemon pie. You ordered a take out dinner and we were lucky enough to get to picnic at the farm. Cynthia saw that I had replied on Facebook to Kristin’s posting about the offering and suggested we go in on the dinner together since it was for four. What a brilliant idea!

We arrived in our masks, but when we took them off to eat I soon forgot that this was a not our normal way. It was so fun to see friends and have new conversations and catch up. The Teer Farm was fantastic as the tables were miles apart. In fact I hardly noticed anyone else was even there.

It was nice to support Paris who told us he has not worked at all. The big bonus was also getting to see Kristin. Cynthia, Kristin and I all agreed we missed going to lunch with each other the most. I do miss being a lady who lunches.

Tonight was the highlight of the month, maybe two months. There is nothing else on the calendar. I am going to have to cherish the memories of eating dinner with friends, along with the lingering taste of Paris’ rolls. I can’t see that I need to wear a dress any time soon.