The 57.

Version 2

When your birthday falls on a Saturday, what better way to celebrate than a good old fashioned house party with friends, music and a drink created just for the occasion.

 

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The 57. A Watermelon Martini:
Juice from half a lime
1 mint leaf
1/2 oz. of Monin Watermelon Syrup
Ice cubes
1-2 oz Hangar 1 Vodka
1-2 oz seltzer water
Mint leaf for garnish

Muddle the lime juice, mint leaf and watermelon syrup in the bottom of a shaker. Add ice cubes, vodka and seltzer water. Gently shake, then strain into Martini glass. Garnish with mint leaf.

Fun Times!

 

caramelized butter, cauliflower and tomato raisins.

brown butter.

I came across  a recipe for “brown butter” that was to be drizzled over mashed potatoes. Directions for the butter were simple; slowly heat butter in a pan, the butter will melt, then separate, creating a white “foam” on top.  The white foam will gradually fade and brown bits will appear at the bottom of the pan.

Once you see the brown bits, remove the pan from heat. The butter will have a hint of caramel to it’s scent as well as it’s taste.

This carmelized butter makes everything extra special. I use in the making of omelettes, on pancakes, veggies, pasta, meat, fish, etc. It makes me feel as though I’ve learned the secret to gourmet cooking.

 

cauliflower.

Something I started this year is substituting mashed cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes. I steam the cauliflower in chicken broth (beef broth or vegetable broth). Once tender, I mash it and add bits of sautéed garlic. For those who don’t mind the extra fat, I recommend adding a little cream. This tastes great with the caramelized butter drizzled on top.

 

tomato raisins.

A few articles ago, I wrote about slow roasting tomatoes. I’ve experimented a bit more  with the grape tomatoes by roasting them in an oven set at 200F degrees for 5 hours. The tomatoes will shrivel up looking like red raisins.

After removing them from the oven, the tomatoes can be salted, or sprinkled with parmesan cheese. They are filled with a burst tomato flavor and a the sweet tartness of sun dried tomatoes.

The batch of tomatoes shown in the photo are topped with garlic that was quickly fried in olive oil. This process, gives the garlic a chewy candy-like texture. The olive oil, flavored from the garlic, is poured over the tomatoes and refrigerated. I serve them cold or hot, tossed in pasta or in scrambled eggs or in a sandwich of tomatoes and cheddar cheese on sourdough. Yum!

 

 

Words of Wisdom from Walnut Creek.

rainydayThe owner of the really cool green linen jacket that hung in the lifeless cubicle, finally returned to the office. I noticed the jacket when I began working a few weeks earlier. It was simple in it’s design, however, it was the unique color that attracted my attention. I wondered why the jacket was left to collect dust all those weeks. Perhaps it was meant to be a decoy in case the “boss” walked by, giving illusion that this person was at work, but simply away from his desk?

Brian, the owner of the jacket was an engineer who had been working in Lisbon collecting data that was to be included on a map my department was creating.

While we listened to music from a portable CD player, Brian would list off the longitude and latitude points where cell sites were located. I would find the points on the big gigantic map and stick on little yellow dots to represent the cell sites. For hours that turned into days, I would place yellow dots on the big gigantic map. The map would later be photographed, reduced, and finally used in a presentation that offered cellular phone services to the country of Portugal.

Before moving to the Bay Area from Southern California, I went back to school to hone my  graphic design skills and learn the computer just so I could get a job where I stuck yellow dots on a gigantic map.

groceriesBrian worked for the international side of the company and would travel often, sometimes for weeks at a time. When he was in Rome (having his pocket picked while giving directions to Bocca della Verità), it was his birthday and his mother arranged to have a chocolate cake delivered to his hotel room. I remember thinking how nice it was to have care packages and such while on these assignments. Kinda like being away at summer camp or in the dorm at college and grandparents would write and send the occasional treat to make you feel special.

I agreed to collect Brian’s mail from his apartment and send it to him through the inter office transfer system while he was away. Along with the mail I would include a personal “greeting card” that was printed from the computer. I’d create an illustration with a simple phrase that said hello. My own little Hallmark ; I called them “Words of Wisdom from Walnut Creek”.
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I remember printing one of the illustrations. It still needed a little tweaking, so I left that first version on the desk of one of the assistants. The next morning, the assistant saw my illustration and asked if I could print another copy because she wanted to give it to a friend. No problem. From that point on, I began making multiple copies of my “Words of Wisdom” which were being pinned up in cubicles throughout the office. I printed them weekly and it became a cheery little way to wish everyone a happy day.

I never considered myself an illustrator, but creating these helped me develop a style by scanning my doodles and tracing them in Adobe Illustrator. I’d thought of starting a line of greeting cards, but… well…. uh….

I’d borrow phrases I read somewhere and create an illustration to go with it or I’d use my own wit and wisdom to come up with a something. Sometimes I’d take a quote from the Bible and the illustration would be used for the cover of our church bulletin.

On the top floor of our building, the Executive Offices, there was a rotating art gallery. It was run by a gallery owner in San Francisco that brought in works from artist sall over the world. At one point the employees were given opportunity to display their own work. I printed a couple of my “Words of Wisdom” in a large format and they were used in that exhibit.

Recently I rearranged furniture, got rid of some “junk” and moved things into what used to be my son’s room to create a nice working space for me and my many projects. In a box I found some old Zip Drives the copies of my “Words of Wisdom”. I decided to update the files and save them into a more current format. A walk down a digital memory lane.

These files are nearly 25 years old. Brian and I have been married 22 years years ago. Time flies.

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Insomnia and Butter.

 

Insomnia.

In the wee small hours of the morning I found myself watching a Jacques Pepin cooking show. He shared a memory of eating toast with homemade butter in his grandmother’s kitchen. Jacques’ own granddaughter, Shorey was on this particular episode helping him in the kitchen. He gave the granddaughter a small jelly jar filled halfway with cream. He put a lid on the jar and told her to shake it continuously. He then went on to show his television audience how to make butter using a food processor.

While demonstrating and giving culinary words of wisdom, he’d check on Shorey to make sure she was still shaking her jar. After about ten minutes, he asked the girl to remove the lid and show us her cream that had now become a small clump of butter sitting in a pool of buttermilk!

Butter.

I made butter! I have a food processor, but I chose the jelly jar method, and it worked. It took about the same amount of time it takes to prepare a pot of tea. I spread some of my homemade butter on a couple of pieces toast and topped it with marmalade. It was delicious! I look forward to sharing this process with my grandniece and nephew the next time they visit.

My dad used to drink buttermilk and as a little girl I’d turn up my nose watching him drink the stuff. I remembered it as tasting sour and yucky, but the by-product of this homemade butter (that I made) was slightly sweet and enjoyable. Who’d da thunk?

 

Directions:
•   Fill a small jar about half full of cream. Put a lid on it and shake continuously 10-15 minutes or until the contents separate.

•  Pour the “buttermilk” into a small glass and drink it, or use it for buttermilk pancakes.

•  Place the ball of butter on a cheese cloth, or paper towel and blot out the excess liquid.

•  Add salt if desired. Refrigerate.

 

 

Lost and Found.

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The Phone.

Hanging out with my sisters and our mother one Thanksgiving weekend, we walked into a casino. I threw $60 dollars at a slot machine, it caught it, and five minutes later, I was ready to go home.  My mom was seated at a machine dropping in nickels one at a time and getting a return in multiples with each push of the button. I hovered around her and grunted until she reached into her fanny pack, pulled out a twenty and said, “bring me back ten.” Okay!!! Somebody else’s money!

Two seconds later, with $400 in my hand, I found my mom again. “What time is it?” she asked. “We’ve been here 5 minutes and 2 seconds, I’m $330, dollars ahead, it’s time to go!” I reached for my phone intending to touch base with my sisters but couldn’t find it. It probably fell from my lap when I got up from that last slot machine! I retraced my steps but the phone wasn’t anywhere in sight.

The remainder of the day circled around the use of the ‘Find My iPhone‘ app. My husband joined us at the casino as the iPhone app was new to me, and it’s capabilities came across with conflicting results through tales from my sisters.

The adventure filled our hours. Like treasure hunters deciphering a map, we ended up at a convenience store near the casino where a grey bearded man dressed in a black Members Only knock-off was holding my beeping phone in his pocket. With noisy slot machines in the background, the police (who just happened to be there) and a mall cop swooped in and confiscated my property. After all was said and done, I heard one officer say, “That was cool, I’m gonna have to get that iPhone app!”

 

The Keys.

A couple of months ago, I unlocked the door, walked in the house, set the keys down, went to my easel and started painting. Less than 10 minutes later, my husband asked for the keys. “Aren’t they on the table? I just put them down.”

They vanished from sight.

I once read a book about the tiny little people that live in houses and borrow things when the big people aren’t looking. Things like keys, pencils, socks and sunglasses will mysteriously disappear. One minute they’re on the table, the next minute they’re gone.  I felt like my keys had been “borrowed” by the little people.

The next morning, I still couldn’t find the keys and things got complicated. I needed to get my daughter to school, but the locked Toyota was in the driveway directly behind the Volvo that was parked in the garage. I was frantically trying to squeeze the Volvo through the ridiculously tight space when a police car patrolling the neighborhood approached the house…. Officer Alan stopped and asked if I needed help. Much to my daughter’s disdain, she arrived to school in a police car. With a wink, he promised not to turn on the lights until he got close to the school.

Three weeks later, I noticed the water in the sink next to my easel was draining a bit slow.  I placed my hand in the garbage disposal, and found my keys.

 

The Purse.

Last Friday after my daughter and I finished shopping at the art store, I opened the rear door of the car and placed our new items inside. We got in and began our drive back to Walnut Creek for lunch.

Once inside the carpark, I realized I didn’t have the small clutch I’d been carrying. I called the art store to ask if I’d left it there. We checked inside the car several times, but we couldn’t find it. I then drove to the bank, cancelled and replaced my cards, and my daughter and I carried on with the rest of our day.

Irritated with myself as I realized I probably placed the purse on the top of my car and drove away. I also imagined I’d left it in the store where someone picked it up. There were several scenarios that could have taken place. I tried not to be upset as I knew things could have been worse. There wasn’t anything of much value in the purse. I’d replaced my bank cards. My phone and my keys were in my jacket pocket. The most annoying thing would be going to the DMV to replace my driver’s license.

My thoughts kept going to the person who picked up my purse and the disappointment I felt towards them. It happens all the time. It’s easy to walk away with something that doesn’t belong to you. Keep the twenty dollar bill. Maybe try to purchase something using the ATM card. As tempting as that might be, it’s just as easy to go up to the clerk and say, I found this in the parking lot. I know what I would do.

I remembered the man that picked up my phone a few years ago in the casino. I remembered him being near the slot machine when I went back to look for it. My sister spoke to him. Not too long after, once I figured out how to use the Find My iPhone app, the phone beeped for hours in his pocket.

I want to believe in good. I want to be good. I want to do good. Spread good. But life gets in the way. Doesn’t it?

Saturday morning, less than twenty four hours later, special delivery. My purse was returned.  There was a note inside.

Hello!

Found this on the road in Oakland today. Your lipstick was smashed by a passing car so I threw it away to avoid further mess. I hope calling American Express so they could let you know it had been found does not cause any complications. Have a nice day!

Dustin

Thank you Dustin. Your kindness brought me to tears.

Remnants.

Coffee and quiche.

Sunday coffee and quiche at a favorite eating place before checking in at the theatre.  A young family choses their late morning delicacy. I make googlie eyes with the little kid. He blushes then covers both ears so he can’t see me. Or maybe I’m not supposed to see him?

Crayons.

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There is something exciting about a brand new box of crayons. Colorful, bright, clean and smelling of wax. Then somebody borrows one, tears the paper, dulls the end and breaks it….

At Bible Study this past week, we were asked to illustrate our perception of Glory. I immediately thought of that new box of crayons. A perfectly, sharpened, orderly, smudgeless box of colorful glory!

I have a memory of a playmate showing up with the Crayola Crayon box of 96 colors with its built in crayon sharpener! I was impressed and thought this added feature sure way to keep those crayons looking fresh. Unfortunately you had to peel back the paper on the crayon in order to sharpen it. Also sharpening a crayon makes it smaller. I finally accepted that if you use the crayon, it will never look new. Kind of like having cake and eating it too.

I had to re-think my bible study illustration. Perhaps Glory doesn’t have anything to do with perfection.

My crayons, no longer perfect, live in a plastic shoebox. They are broken, the wrappers are torn, smudged, unreadable or missing. They are the crayons that were used to give life to masterpieces created by my children and their friends. Each dulled colored stick of wax had a story to tell.

I think, like the crayon, we start out perfect. As we live, we leave marks on our canvas gradually creating our own masterpiece.

Adam and Eve were hanging out in paradise with only one rule to follow, Leave the apple alone. Although their world seemed perfect, they were still given the gift choice. A decision was made, and consequence ensued.

If perfection was the only expectation, why weren’t Adam and Eve simply destroyed and a new set (of humans) created? Instead, they were given an opportunity to live, grow and recreate outside of paradise. They were given life outside of the perfect environment. One can only exist in the womb, it isn’t until we are outside of the womb that we live.

Perhaps it is all as it should be.

Outside of the crayon box.

I am like the crayon, spreading color, my sharp edges are gone, I am broken, my wrapper is torn. My story is the markings on the canvas.

Perhaps Glory is when I can look back and say, I’m happy with my masterpiece.