Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Just a little pretty I saw while I was out and about today. -->

I don't know why, but none of my violas came up this year. Unless they're buried under piles of leaves out there and I just haven't noticed. I'm afraid we killed a lot of things in our garden last year by overwatering. And what didn't get killed that way got taken out by the sun and heat. I just can't seem to get it right!

I am beat tonight, and my arm hurts...I am off to bed early with a good book. That's my favorite thing about winter nights--getting to go to bed early with a book and my down comforter!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Happy birthday...

...to my sweetie-pie, my best friend, my husband extraordinaire! You are a special guy in so many ways. I hope you know how very much you are loved by all of us who are lucky enough to have you in our lives. Smooches!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A chicken in every crockpot.

Was it Herbert Hoover that promised a chicken in every pot when he was running for President? Maybe it was Coolidge...

Anyway, maybe that's something today's candidates should get behind. Or maybe not. Because chickens are gross.

I don't cook a whole bird very often, but I just wrestled one out of its skin-tight plastic and into the crockpot. And it was soooo grooooosss! Jamming my hand down in to get the little gizzard packet (shudder) and rinsing its slippery little body off and then cramming lemons, onions and celery up its butt, and then dusting it with spices. It's like handling a dead baby. (shudder again.)

I feel bad about being ooked out by poultry, since I am merely one hop on the family tree away from people who butchered, scalded, plucked and cleaned their own poultry routinely--my mom and her parents, my dad and his parents. Seems like I'm not far away enough, genetically, to have developed the aversion so soon.

But come to think of it, my dad avoided eating chicken for years and years because he claimed he could smell the chicken yard stink even on a cooked bird, so maybe my aversion isn't that irrational.

Todd says that a dead chicken carcass is nowhere near as disgusting as a freshly killed rabbit carcass, and that when the intestines are pulled out of a dead rabbit, you can see all the little rabbit poop pellets inside them. Ulp. That sort of makes the unlaid eggs I once saw inside a freshly butchered chicken seem almost sweet and wholesome.

I know there's a lot to be said for knowing where your meat comes from, especially in light of all these tainted meat scares and nasty corporate farming practices. But there's a lot to be said for neat, cut-up bits of meat from the grocery store, too.

Anyway, we're having chicken tonight--want to come over??? There should be plenty, because I think I lost my appetite!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Eyyyye, matey.

My friend Cheryl brought this over today...she and her son Matthew got a load of my freak eye yesterday and thought this little kit might come in handy:

Inside, all the necessary accessories:

It's so nice to know that no matter how hideously disfigured I become, I have friends who will not only supply what I need, but present it in a decorated tin! Thanks, guys!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Hey Jeremy, I did it.

My brother showed me his Facebook page while I was visiting him this past weekend, and I'm sort of convinced it might be a fun thing. I think I need more of a tutorial, though--he has all kinds of things on his profile page that I don't know how to put there.

Anyhoo, if you're on Facebook, add me to your friends list, won't you?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Lots o' stuff.

We had a nice Valentine's evening...the shrimp scampi and crab cakes both came out quite nicely, and then we had sugar-snap peas on the side, and chocolate-chip cookies for dessert.

The crab cake recipe is from a book called
Lean Beach Cuisine that I picked up on a trip to the Outer Banks five or six years ago. The recipe called for coriander, which I didn't have on hand, so I put in a sprinkle of Old Bay instead. I made half the recipe, and that made 4 ample-sized cakes, of which we only managed to eat 1 1/2. Since even medium-quality crabmeat is pricey, it's nice to know you don't have to use a whole pound, unless you're feeding a real crowd.

Chesapeake Coconut Crab Cakes

1 pound fresh lump crabmeat
1/4 cup egg substitute or egg whites (I just tossed in a whole egg)
1/2 cup finely crushed fat-free potato chips
2 tablespoons shredded coconut, toasted
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried coriander

Pick over the crab meat to make sure all the shell fragments have been removed. Gently combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl, and shape into 8 patties about 1/2" thick. Place crab cakes on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. (I just used Reynolds Release foil, and they came right off.) Broil about 6 inches under the heat until the top browns. (This took five minutes for me.) Turn and brown the other side. (Another five minutes.) Serve immediately.

It wasn't till I started typing this in that I noticed the coconut needed to be toasted. This may have been why I couldn't taste it at all in the crab cakes! Other than that, they were good. I
especially liked that you could broil them and completely remove the need for frying in oil.

I'm home today doing laundry and getting some things ready for a short trip to my brother's house tomorrow, so I have a few minutes to post some more pictures.

So in mid-December, Todd had to go do some work at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland, and I went along so that we could leave from there to do our holiday traveling. We were in Aberdeen for five days.

Now, Aberdeen is a tiny town with not a lot to recommend it, so I spent my days about five minutes down the road at a slightly larger town called Havre de Grace.

From my one year of high school French, I assumed the town's name was pronounced "Hahv d' Grah." But knowing that we Americans usually butcher our foreign-language-named towns (Cairo, IL = "Cay-ro"; Versaillles, MO = "Ver-sayles"), I asked at the visitors center how to say the name. Sure enough, round those parts, it's pronounced "Hav-er de Grace."

And Americans wonder why the French look down their noses at us!

Lafayette himself named the town, which sits at the spot where the Susquehanna River flows into the Chesapeake Bay. The settlement grew up around the ferry service that took travelers
from Virginia and Maryland up to Philadelphia and New York, which means that every Colonial and Revolutionary War bigwig came through there. He stopped in and mentioned that the spot reminded him of Le Havre in France, so when the townspeople incorporated the town several years later, they named it Havre de Grace, or "harbor of grace."

I really enjoyed exploring this little town. It reminded me so much of several other small old river towns I've known in my life--specifically, Marietta, Ohio, where I went to college, and Hannibal, Missouri, where I was born and where my dad's family still lives. A little shabby, its days of glory and importance long since past, but still clinging to its history and community.

So every day that week I would head into Havre de Grace and stroll the streets. I quickly found
my daily lunch spot and my afternoon coffee spot.

This is where I sat and ate lunch every day that week. The restaurant is called MacGregor's Restaurant and Tavern, and it sits on a bluff looking over the railroad bridge across the Susquehanna. I can't begin to describe how oddly relaxing it was to sit there and watch the tiny commuter trains go back and forth over the bridge. The food was good, too. I didn't intend to eat there every single day, but there was just something about the place.

The town has a couple of used bookstores--Todd and I like to sniff out the used bookstores first thing when we go somewhere new. This one was fantastic, the Courtyard Bookshop.

It was this little nest of rooms crammed with books. Not so crammed that you couldn't browse, but the shelves were full. And I had just the best conversation with the owner, an older gentleman who's a real booklover (of course), a Vietnam veteran, a Democrat (we sniffed out each other's political leanings first thing), and just a terrifically articulate, smart gentleman.

We chatted for a while, and then I headed back into the nest of rooms, and just lost myself for a good hour and a half. When I surfaced with an armload of books to buy, it felt like I was coming up from a deep sea-dive or a very long nap. I had to try to remember where I was, what day it was, I'd been so lost in books. What a great feeling.

Here's me on a street corner:

Havre de Grace's downtown proper is about five blocks long and two blocks deep, so I came past this corner quite a few times as I tramped around over four days' time. I had this feeling that all the locals in the restaurants and coffee shops were saying, "Who's that woman in the red coat and how did she just suddenly appear here? And why am I seeing her everywhere I look?"

Because the locals all know each other quite well. Every store and shop I entered, there was a little knot of people chatting and gossiping and laughing. I've never lived in a small town, but that made me wish I did.

The town has built a wonderful boardwalk that runs from the marina to the lighthouse. Here's the spot where the river meets the bay:

This was the one sunny day we had that week, and it was so pretty by the river.

Looking back at the marina, where I was parked:

The walkway to the lighthouse:

Same spot, but looking right, toward the river:

Such a pretty, pretty day. I love that winter sunshine.

The Concord Point lighthouse is the absolute cutest thing I ever did see. I sent a postcard of it to my niece Kylie, and told her that if Santa had a lighthouse at the North Pole, this would be it, and the elves would be the lighthouse keepers.

The lighthouse is only 36 feet tall, and it was built in 1827. The man who became the first lighthouse keeper was John O'Neill, an Irish immigrant who was a hero of the War of 1812. He helped defend the town from British warships out in the bay until he was captured. His 15-year-old daughter rowed a boat out to the prisoner ship and pleaded with the captain to release her father. The captain did, and gave the daughter a gold snuffbox because he was so impressed with her bravery.

Hard to imagine this quiet little town full of booming artillery and flying cannonballs! Here are a few more pics I snapped just walking around.

I always tell myself that I'm going to start collecting pictures of those "ghost signs" on old brick buildings...they're just so neat.

So it was a relaxing way to start our holiday traveling, a real luxury to be able to take a few days and just explore. The last day, Todd was done with his work, and I was able to take him around and show him all the places I'd found, which was doubly enjoyable!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy V Day!

Here's Todd's Valentine's Day present...I think he'll be pleased. Chocolate-chip cookies are his all-time fave, and he's had several sub-par versions at various restaurants in the past few months. I don't know why I don't bake them more, but I did, just for him, today, because he's my sweetie-pie!

We got a little snow here last night, but it's mostly melted now. Just the stuff on the north side of the house where the sun never shines is still there. So pretty.

I'm still walking around looking like I'm half-zombie, with my one bloody eye. Call me Mrs. Sweeney Todd. [Neat movie, great music, but--um...rivers of blood just don't do it for me.] I keep forgetting about it, and then I look at someone and they do this little double-take at me, and then I remember and feel dumb. I am so not the kind of person who worries a lot about what I look like, but this thing is making me really self-conscious. I ran a couple of cookies out to the mail lady just now, and she did the double-take thing...I'm sure she was thinking, "Do I really want to take food from this person?" I'm kidding, of course, but I will be so happy when the red goes away!

In fact, I'm cooking dinner at home tonight partly so I don't have to go expose my freak eye to half of Newport News. I'm going to make shrimp scampi and crabcakes. People always say, "Oooh, shrimp scampi!" like it's this really complicated thing, but it's about the fastest, easiest thing you could ever cook. Way easier than, say, meatloaf!

Here's the recipe; I may have shared this here before. It takes longer to peel the shrimp than it does to cook them:

Monterey Shrimp Scampi

1 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and cleane
1/4 cup white wine
1 T. fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 T. flavored bread crumbs
2 T. Parmesan cheese

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add butter and olive oil. When butter melts and sizzles, add garlic and cook for one minute. Add shrimp and cook for two minutes; shrimp should only be partially cooked. Add wine, lemon juice, salt and pepper; cook about two minutes more until the shrimp are cooked through. (They will turn pink and the tails will curl.) Remove from heat and top with bread crumbs and chopped parsley. Place shrimp on serving plates, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, and serve immediately.

I serve this over linguine, by the way. Now, the crabcakes will be a new recipe for me, so if they're successful, I'll share it later. It's hard to tell how they'll come out; the recipe is a little...different.

Hope everyone's having a happy day today, love and hugs to you all. I appreciate everybody who drops in and reads my ramblings!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Yes, today is the day--the day of the Potomac Primaries, the Chesapeake Primaries, the Beltway Primaries, the...Crabcake Primaries?! I can't believe people get paid to come up with such silly names.

I went out and voted this morning...I've been looking forward to this for weeks! I don't remember ever voting in a presidential primary before..it seems like we've always lived in places that voted late enough that the candidate was already a done deal by the time it came around to us.

So this year is exciting. The race is exciting. I voted for Senator Obama, I guess I don't need to make a secret of that. I think he's got a better chance of a) winning the election, and b) being able to govern effectively, than Hillary does. I can't wait to see how it all turns out today and in the races to come!

In other news, I burst a blood vessel in my right eye somehow. I got up yesterday morning and looked in the mirror and yikes! The white of my eye was all bloody. I went straight to the eye doctor and he looked at it and said it wasn't serious, and the red should go away within two weeks.

Meanwhile, I'm walking around looking like something out of a particularly nasty freak show. It's gross. I went out to vote and get Valentine cards for the kiddies, and grab some lunch, and I was afraid to make eye contact with anyone lest they recoil in horror. I'm trying to figure out how to make a fetching eye patch out of scrapbook supplies!

More later, I still have a ton of pictures from December to post.