Now We’re Cookin’

I don’t know whether my favorite room in our new house is the bathroom, or the kitchen – well, put that way, the kitchen wins –  but it’s been such a pleasure to take a long warm shower in such a roomy space. A luxury that I often took for granted before our RV life!

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I’m spending a lot of time in the kitchen baking – I love to bake, (in the 70’s and 80’s I baked all of my own breads) and I love having my tools and a big oven again! I want to share this GF Carrot Muffin recipe with you, not because it’s inherently healthy, or even healthier, but because it’s a darn delicious recipe. And it had me scratching my head, then laughing at my dense-ness, over the directions!

But, before I get to that, I want to chip in my two cents about GF cooking and the fact that going gluten-free isn’t healthier than eating gluten. Gluten isn’t some evil poisonous thing that’s been added to our food. Gluten is a protein found in flour, nothing more. It is this protein that grants things made with flour their elasticity, texture, rise, and exquisite flakiness. 2D676278-6ADA-48B8-947D-63F91A2274D8

Only a small percentage (1-2%) of the population are truly gluten intolerant (celiac disease) while 6% are gluten-sensitive and, like me, plain old allergic to wheat. We must avoid it to be well and healthy.

Switching to GF substitutes made of white rice flour, brown rice flour, potato starch, sorghum flour, etc. isn’t going to help if you’re switching  hoping to lose weight: pizza, even a GF one, is still pizza.

A cold-weather cozy: if you have access to Netflix, I highly, highly, highly recommend watching Michael Pollan’s fascinating four-part series, COOKED. The section entitled AIR is my fave… about bread.

If you want to make a healthy change, try switching to organic breads, and using organic flour for your baking. I personally use King Arthur products (and, no, I’m not being given anything for saying that) and they have a wonderful website and a good GF flour blend. I’ve worked out, and adapted, some great GF recipes… for when I want a treat. I’m happy to have them, but they are no comparison to wheat flour…  That said, this Carrot Muffin  recipe from The Minimalist Baker (nothing minimal about this recipe, the ingredient list is a mile long, but worth it) is pretty darn close!

After these muffins are baked, they must cool in the pan for a bit, then the directions tell you to, “turn muffins on their side in the pan.” I swear… I was stumped!  Do what? How?  Then I realized that she meant turn each muffin sideways in it’s space so air could circulate around the bottom. Like this: 6E2A9BF2-4150-4D15-8DF4-373F9E76EB3F

I couldn’t wait to eat one, but they must cool completely or half the muffin sticks to the paper! And, GF tends to taste better after it’s cooled, honest.  I store them for a couple of days in a big ziploc, then refrigerate or freeze. Let me know what you think!

XO Donna

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Like Goldilocks

I realized after we moved in that I’d sold my set of modern black bookcases. Somehow, I remembered having kept one… just in case. 

Now, in order to set up my office and conquer the chaos, (I have six boxes of books waiting for a place to live) I need to buy a new bookcase… which is actually pretty exciting. 

I also realized that I have finally outgrown my “black phase,” which is pretty exciting, too. This all seems relatively simple and straightforward, right?  

What I want is a white bookcase. Or maybe a very light grey one. Under $200.00. With a little bit of trim, so it won’t look like dorm furniture.

Plan A:  Get online at IKEA, since there’s one nearby, and see if there’s one that fits the bill, then go get it. I’m always up for the challenge of assembling a piece of furniture. I quickly found exactly what I was looking for, and my sweetie and I headed off for a short field trip. 

We thought we knew the shortcuts through the maze at IKEA, but they have done some rearranging and we ended up totally missing the furniture section and display of bookcases. 

No matter, I went to the Information kiosk, looked up the product number and aisle location, and voila! There was just one problem: the box was more than six feet long and weighed almost 75 pounds! We couldn’t lift it. Well, he couldn’t do it alone, and I couldn’t help since my shoulder is still out of whack. This bookcase was just too big!

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I moved on to Plan B: Find someone who delivers… preferably for free. Amazon, Rooms to Go, and Home Depot (did you know they now sell really nice looking furniture online?) Nothing I liked on Amazon. Nor at RTG. I went to Home Depot’s website and found a beautiful bookcase, but it was shorter than I wanted; so maybe a pair might work. Alas, side-by-side they were five inches too wide for the space allotted. Dang it, this bookcase was too wide!

 Who knew that buying a bookcase could be such a challenge? 

I looked further, but I wasn’t finding what I had in mind. Staring at the floor, well actually, at my new rug, I realized I could probably find one at BirchLane.com the same place I bought the rug. As Gomer Pyle used to say, “Surprise… surprise, surprise!” 

They had so many nice ones that I had to enact another plan.  Plan C: pick out the first three white ones in my price range, write down their measurements, see which fits best and get ‘er done!

One of them was off-white, and another was rustic white; picturing them next to my modern white desk, I decided on the third one, which was white. At last, a bookcase that was just right! 

image from catalogue 

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I was expecting it Monday, but got an email this morning saying it would be delivered today. It just arrived, and it came with free shipping!

XO Donna

(P.S. – I am not compensated in any way for any store I mention when I write. I wish! I have faves, and I like to share what I have good experiences with.)


A Kid at Heart

I blink and it’s a whole new year! So much has happened, and continues to happen so quickly, that it feels as if everything is happening at once… which according to Einstein, Feynman, and Hawking, it is. Which goes a long way toward explaining why I received an invitation to my 50th high school reunion this summer. That can’t be possible, I feel as if I just graduated a few years ago!

I’m pleased as punch (where did that expression come from?) to be writing this with a steady wi-fi connection in our new house. What a luxury! We closed on the 3rd, the movers arrived on the 4th, and the next day we pulled our RV to the curb and unloaded our belongings. What a sight… but our neighbors assured us it’s a common one around here! Then began the Herculean task of figuring out where the contents of all those stored boxes went.

I thought we had eliminated everything that didn’t spark joy, but was surprised to find boxes full of familial guilt. You know, the items you neither want or need, but have dutifully kept, and repeatedly moved, because they belonged to a deceased relative.

Another surprise was being reunited with things that I loved when they went into storage, and realizing that I’d lost that lovin’ feeling.

As a result of these awarenesses, we made a breakthrough decision to use my sweetie’s Grandmother’s exquisite etched glassware for cocktails, and not worry about whether it’s get broken. We realized we can’t take it with us, and our kids don’t want it.

If you also read my most recent article at 1010ParkPlace you already know that I injured my shoulder as a result of the move. I was lucky enough to see Dr. Barbara Bergin, a multi-talented woman and my new heroine! Do check out her blog Dr. Barbara Bergin because she’s a treasure trove of advice for women, delivered in a witty way, that will keep us feeling sexy way past 60! I am being mindful of my shoulder, moving it gently, and it’s healing. Slowly. Very slowly. Patience is still not one of my strong points… I can’t wait to get back to yoga and the gym.

I hope you were able to see the Blood Wolf Moon eclipse this past Sunday, the viewing conditions were ideal here, and it was out of this world! I wouldn’t have missed it for anything, but I’ve been moonstruck since I was a baby.

St. Louis, 1952

My parents always told me that I’d slap on the wall between our bedrooms at night calling them and yelling, “Moon, moon!” until one, or the other, of them appeared, bedraggled, and lifted me from my crib to carry me to the window. If it wasn’t visible, like a broken record, I kept asking “Where’d the moon go?” until they struck upon an answer that satisfied me for that night and I’d go back to sleep.

They finally moved my crib across the room, beside the window. Unused to not being wakened, they awoke the first few nights to check on me, and found me inside the curtains, nose pressed against the window, talking to the moon.
To this day, my father still affectionately calls me his Moonchild, and fifty-year reunion or not, I’m still that kid at heart!

XO Donna




The City of New Orleans

Life has been a whirlwind since my last post – we stopped in Austin for a couple days to handle some business, and it began to rain. (I’m sure you heard about the flooding here in Texas).

Lake Georgetown, TX

 

The lake we were camped beside rose dramatically overnight, and it was “colder than the dickens,” so we left and headed to Houston. Gratefully, they had space for us. It was warm, mostly sunny, and their pool was heated. It was fun, but we were so impatient to “laissez les bon temps rouler,” that we both woke at 5:00 a.m. the morning we left for New Orleans! 

 

 

 

The last time we drove through Louisiana, I-10 was in horrible condition. Looking for alternate routes, we followed the advice of another RVer, taking a road they said was better and more interesting. Ugh. It was even worse than I-10. But, it was more scenic!

We drove past endless fields of sugarcane, a crop neither of us had seen before. We drove over too many bridges to count, and sailed past a sea of cattails (another thing neither of us had ever seen).

 

 

French Quarter RV

 

Finally, we crossed the enormous Mississippi River, curved around the Superdome, made an incredibly narrow, and gut-wrenching, turn and arriving at our “securely fenced” RV park in the French Quarter – right beside the oldest cemeteries in New Orleans. I couldn’t wait to go explore!

 

 

 

Vessel NOLA

 

We were meeting friends for dinner that night at 7:00 pm, and I was tasked with finding a place. I chose a restaurant named Vessel, housed in a beautifully restored 1914 Lutheran church. The beams in the open-ceiling bring to mind an old ship, and bar reaches skyward in front of golden glass windows. The bottles residing on the  top shelves are reached via library-ladder. Classic cocktails are their specialty, with an emphasis on  the proper glass (vessel) and ice for each, and their food was delicious, fresh, beautifully presented, and affordably priced. Vessel lived up to all of our expectations!

 

 

Beignets (ben-yays) @ Cafe du Monde

Early the next morning I dragged my sweetie out into the streets to head to Café du Monde for beignets since he’d never had one. The walk was only 8 or 9 blocks, the sun was shining, and the St. Louis Cathedral Bells were chiming as we enjoyed our beignets and lattes. What a guilty pleasure!

We strolled for a while before heading “home.” We were meeting Mike and Patricia for a late jazz brunch in the Garden District at Commander’s Palace, an elegant old mansion that’s been operating since 1880. I appreciated that there was a dress code: no jeans or shorts, men needed a jacket. What a pleasure… everyone looked great and “acted right!” I’ve been thinking about their Ramos Gin Fizz every day since!

 

 

The mansions there were so grand, that the next day we hopped onto the streetcar and rode all the way through the incredible Garden District. However, the return trip was so claustrophobic, that thinking we were closer, I insisted we get off and walk home.

Garden District

It turned out to be a 2.2 mile walk! We missed lunch, but grabbed some lattes-to-go and hustled in order to meet our friends on time for cocktails at The Roosevelt Hotel, they were both looking forward to having a Sazerac, since it was invented there. Afterward we strolled down Canal Street to the Palace Café for a light supper. 

The day before we planned to leave, we met Mike at the Southern Food & Beverage Museum, which includes the Museum of the American Cocktail. Leave it to Mike to find a place this interesting!  There was a lot to see, but not on an empty stomach. We enjoyed lunch, and a Prohibition Cocktail, in the adjacent restaurant, Toups South. (during Prohibition (1920 – 1933) bitters were created, and a “cocktail culture” was born in order to cover up the taste of wood alcohol and bathtub gin.)

 

SoFAB

After lunch we strolled the large open museum, seeing many items we remembered our parents, and grandparents using as we grew up.

There were also many items we knew nothing about. As we perused, we listened to a tour group in an open classroom. They came in for a private class on Absinthe, and every one had a glass of the pale green liquid in front of them… silver sugar-cube spoons (above) and all.

 

St. Louis 2

 

The day we were supposed to leave it was windy and raining hard in the morning, so we asked to stay an extra day. Luckily, the weather cleared, and we walked to Acme Oyster Bar for lunch (personally, I wouldn’t go again).

On the walk home we finally had both the time, and an unlocked gate, to stroll through the St. Louis 2 Cemetery. There are three Roman Catholic cemeteries, built in 1789, 1823, and 1854 respectively. The graves are above ground in New Orleans because of the high water table, and the fact that in places, New Orleans is below sea-level.

 

 

 

Many have nobody left to attend to them, and are in various stages  of disrepair, but a group is currently working to restore “abandoned tombs” in St. Louis 1 & 2.  It was beautiful, sad, and inspiring to think about the courage of these people who braved the journey, leaving so much behind them, to settle in a new territory so completely different and begin the process of that would create this unique and historical city. I loved New Orleans.

XO Donna


Got the Blues

Before we left Texas, I’d harvested a bunch of the red fruit (tunas) of prickly pear cactus where we were camping. I’d made prickly pear juice quite a learning curve, with quite a few sticky (ouch!) issues.  And I had another bag full of tunas thinking I’d do it again, using my new wisdom, and make thick syrup to give as gifts for swirls in Margaritas.

Passing through Santa Fe, we were invited to return for Mad-Stock, a Woodstock themed celebration of music, peace and love. I decided I’d make tie-dye shirts for the guys our of the prickly pear juice! Both said they didn’t mind wearing hot pink… what a washout!!!  After all my work; cooking them in the hot juice for an hour, then letting them sit overnight in plastic bags, when I untied them they were gorgeous. When I washed them, this color faded completely away.

Now, you know full well that if I spilled any on a good white blouse, it never would have come out!

I was even more determined now, and after looking through Pinterest, I decided to try again, this time using an old friend from the 70’s…  RIT dye in a lovely Indigo Blue.
I used some of my old tying techniques (I used to love doing tie-dyes in pretty patterns, but simple, beautiful colors) incorporating tying stones into the folds, simple pleat-and-band, and Japanese Shibori folding and resistance techniques.

I followed RIT’s instructions TO THE LETTER, and when I pulled them from the dye bath (done in a 3-gallon bucket in my kitchen sink) I was over-the-Moon thrilled! Indigo blue! Shibori folds! Gorgeous circles with marigold-like patterns within!

Still following instructions carefully, I washed and dried them, and what I pulled from the dryer 40 minutes later was a pale imitation of what I had put into the dryer.  My well-defined lines of indigo and white had become a soft cream and denim blue design. Sigh. I went to bed that night feeling like a failure…

Turns out the failure was in RIT’s isstructions, for when I looked online there were completely different guidelines than on the box. Had i known, I would have gladly taken all the extra time they were proposing. I hoped the guys would still wear them.

The next morning when I awoke, the first thing I saw on my FB feed was this post by a friend, Lynn – “Failure is an event, not a character flaw.”  That changed my mind, what I did failed, but now I know where to pick-up next time. This was entirely too much fun, too relaxing, and too fulfilling to quit. I’m not ready to take orders yet, but I see a lot of Blue in my future!

 

XO DONNA