Holiday Countdown Panic

Today I am in a bit of a panic. Christmas is only 10 days away and the countdown to all the holiday parties and gift giving is underway. This weekend is dedicated to decorating the Christmas tree with my sister Wendy and her two wonderful kids, and then going back to her house and decorating her tree, too.

We found a great place to buy our fresh Christmas trees – at one of the high schools that are letting the Boy Scouts sell trees in their parking lot. The trees are reasonably priced and they even flock them for you if you like the white trees instead of the natural green. Wendy and I both like the green, so flocking is not an issue for us, but evidently it is a big deal to a lot of people around here.

After we get the trees up, we will be exhausted, so we will probably order a pizza and just chill out in Wendy’s living room and watch some Christmas movies with the kids.

Next weekend is our company Christmas party. We will be having a sit down dinner and dance with a live band at the country club in Brentwood. I can’t wait to go and have a nice evening with everyone from work. But that means next weekend will be busy with the party and no time for any other shopping or baking or anything. So I have to get everything done this weekend and next week. After all, Christmas is only 10 days away!


Cooking with Sausage

Fall and winter means that hams and sausage are plentiful and less expensive than beef. This is a great time to stock your freezer with rolls of fresh sausage, sliced and cubed ham, and bacon. There are country cured hams, Honeybaked hams and smoked hams. Other pork products include spareribs, pork chops, pork tenderloin and Boston butt.

Tonight i will be cooking a big batch of spaghetti sauce, made from scratch and using sausage instead of my normal ground beef. I like the extra flavor that sausage brings to the sauce, and it goes well with a thicker, denser noodle like ziti or lasagna.

One of the local farmers opens a store just in November and December to sell the pork products from his own hogs. He has wonderful whole smoked hams that are 3 years old, 4 years old and even 5 years old. Of course, the 5 year old hams are the most expensive but they are so worth it! Just a few thin slices of any of his hams are enough to properly season a big pot of white beans or a kettle of greens.

Today I drove by his store to see what hours he will be open. There used to be a time when he was only open on weekends through the fall, but this year it seems he is open 7 days a week, from 9 in the morning until 6 at night. That will make it really convenient for me to go back next week and buy my ham!


Vacation Plans for San Francisco

This year I want to take a vacation that will be totally different and new to me. I used to go to Florida every chance, because I have so many family and friends there and I love the beaches. Florida has both Atlantic Ocean beaches and Gulf of Mexico beaches, but this year I realized that I have never been to any beaches on the Pacific Ocean. So this year, I want to go out to California and I think the beaches near San Francisco are a good place to start.

Besides all the regular tourist spots in San Francisco, there are many things within an hour’s drive, too. I want to see the Redwood trees and some vineyards. And I will make sure to have dim sun in China Town.

Don’t think I am strange for this interest, but I have never felt an actual earthquake and I think it would be very cool to experience a mild earthquake. I certainly don’t want to be there during a big earthquake with lots of damage and people getting hurt. But if I could just feel the shaking under my feet for a few seconds, I really want to know what an earthquake feels like. From looking at the earthquake maps online, there is a town that has 3-4 minor earthquakes every day. So I am going to try to drive up to that town and have lunch in a local restaurant. I bet if I spend at least 3-4 hours there that I will feel at least one of the minor quakes while there and I can cross that off my bucket list.

I Will Always Be Fond of Selena

Some names will always bring forth memories of a person, even if the person you are talking to is someone that you’ve just met for the first time. This morning I met a young lady at the dry cleaner’s and her name tag said, Selena. She was young and pretty and very good at fetching my shirts and coat from the racks of cleaned clothes. But her name, Selena, means a lot more to me than that.

Selena is the name of my first good friend in childhood. The first friend who I chose from a class of about 2 dozen other kids in the fourth grade. She was new to the school and so was I, and we lived about 3 blocks away from each other. That was close enough for our parents to let us walk to each other’s house to play after school until dark.

We were besties until the eleventh grade, when her father’s job required the family to move to California. Selena and I were devastated – we had thought we would be friends forever. There was nothing we could do but say good bye with lots of tears and hugs. I never saw here again after they moved. She never came back to my neighborhood and when she graduated from high school in San Francisco, I don’t know if she went to college or got married or what.

I wish we had stayed in touch but kids stay busy with silly things in their own lives and people who are not close by don’t get the attention they need to stay involved. Maybe one day we will have a reunion. I would really like that – to see her again and find out what she has been doing all these years since they moved away. And in the meantime, any time I see someone named Selena, I think of my bestie and all the fun we had growing up together.

Kendall Sue and Ladybug

Stumbled across a darling blog today, written by a lady named Kendall Sue. She has a daughter who she calls, Ladybug, and her blog is about being a single mom with a three year old little girl. I think that the name Ladybug is so precious!

Kendall Sue is the same name as a good friend of mine from back in the school days. It’s not the same Kendall Sue, sadly. I was actually trying to find my friend Kendall Sue when I came across this blog instead. She sounds like such a nice and creative lady who loves her daughter very much. I’m not sure what happened in her life to be single with such a young daughter, but maybe if I read some of the older posts on her blog I will find out what happened.


Can You Trust a Skinny Cook?

A free meal is always nice, but if the invitation to dinner is from someone like Rachel Greenlief, I wonder if she is a good cook or not. My dad used to say to never trust a skinny cook, and Rachel is a gorgeous woman. She is so thin that I wonder if she eats anything at all? But she tells me she is a good cook, so I think I will take my chances on the one dinner and test out my dad’s theory. Let’s all hope he is wrong in this case.

The last time I dated a girl who bragged about her cooking, she told me that she grew up in the South and that she learned how to cook Southern Style. I had visions of crispy fried chicken, barbecue ribs, creamy macaroni and cheese, and coconut frosted layer cakes or pecan pie. I had visions of all the good things that Paula Deen cooks on her cable TV show. Maybe a little of the Neely’s – Memphis couple who have their own show on the Food Network cable TV show.

Well, she kept inviting me to dinner because she said that getting a babysitter was hard for her, and she promised the baby would be in bed before dinner so it would be just the two of us. I have to admit that I thought it a little strange for a baby to be in bed for the night at only 6:00 pm, but I took her word on it. Having a baby around wasn’t that big of an issue to me, unless it meant dealing with an angry and jealous baby daddy, but I decided to take my chances.

I showed up at six, sharp, and was greeted by her holding a crying baby who refused to go to sleep or play quietly the entire time I was there. Dinner was not until 7:30 because of the distraction of the crying baby plus she had to work that day. No good traditional southern food, either. We dined on Hamburger helper, canned peas and refrigerator biscuits. Now, I can cook all of that myself and it didn’t taste bad. But that is what I call great Southern cooking and I could not wait to make my escape after politely eating her dinner and getting home by eight thirty.

Let’s hope this dinner invitation is NOTHING like that other experience. And I will let you know if skinny cooks can be trusted.

At the Turkey Shoot with Julie

The Ruritans Club has luncheons and fund raising events that really bring the community together. I was invited by Julie Callaway to attend a Ruritans turkey shoot and had a lot of fun, competing in the shooting and also just meeting the guys and getting to know her neighbors. Julie has been volunteering at the turkey shoot for a couple of months. She sells the tickets and targets at a folding table, which is a great way to meet everyone and get to know their names.

It must be challenging to move from several states away to a new neighborhood and try to get settled, make new friends, and learn your way around. Julie bought the house and moved in with almost no help, and didn’t know a single person for miles around. She has done a great job creating a new life for herself.

I can’t imagine doing that myself. I have always known the people around me and how to get around town. The farthest I have ever moved was maybe 10 miles from the house where I grew up. The people I grew up with are still in the area or their parents are and they come back often for holidays and vacations. There is a great sense of security being in the same place where you grew up.


Wednesday Means Laundry Night

Here it is Wednesday and I know I’ll be facing a pile of dirty laundry when I get home. So I’m going to cook a nice spaghetti dinner and catch up on the week night comedy shows on TV while I deal with laundry.

Wednesday is not a bad night to do laundry. There are 30 minutes situation comedies on every channel, which works out nicely for timing the loads for each machine. I can wash a load in 30 minutes, while watching one of the shows.

Then, when the show is over, I dash downstairs and put that load into the dryer. Since the dryer takes an hour, I go back up to watch the next 30 minute show, and when that show is over I go back downstairs and put the next load in the washer. Thirty minutes later, the next show is over and I switch the clothes from the washer to the dryer.

It has a nice rhythm to it, every 30 minutes, and the night goes by pretty quick.


Nice Lunch With Alexa

Just got back from Logan’s Steakhouse where I had a nice lunch with Alexa. I haven’t seen Alexa in about six months and was feeling really guilty about so much time has gone by since the last time we met for lunch. We used to go out every week, but since she took her new job she works clear across town and its not as convenient anymore.

Not that convenience is a big factor – its more about logistics. If she is an hour away from our office, and we only have an hour for lunch, how do we work out the drive time and where to meet? If we meet in the middle, that’s 30 minutes to the restaurant and 30 minutes back – that shoots the whole hour without having time to even eat. Add an hour for eating and we each have to take a two hour lunch.

So as an alternate, if one of us drives the whole way, that means one person has to drive an hour each way and then we still need time to eat. That becomes a three hour lunch for one of us. That’s what we’ve done the last two times. I took the 3 hour lunch last time and drove to her side of town. We had a great lunch at Macaroni Grill.

This time she bit the bullet and took the 3 hour lunch. That’s the main reason it has been so long since we met for lunch – she has been so busy that a three hour lunch just wouldn’t fit into her work days. She picked Logan’s Steakhouse and we had a great time. I sure hope it’s not that long again before we meet again. I’ll do the driving this next time.

Does Anyone Just Drop In?

The doorbell rang this morning and got the dogs all excited – we thought someone special might have decided to drop in for a visit. We hardly ever have anyone ring the bell here – my friends know they can come in and make themselves at home. My family members all have a key to my front door, and I am hard pressed to remember the last time anyone actually rang the doorbell.

Turns out it was just the UPS guy, dropping off my order from Amazon. That was really fast – I just ordered it online Saturday night and here it is Monday. That new Amazon distribution center must really make a big difference in delivery times for people out here. I had no idea I would get my order in two days – it used to take a week!

There was a lot of uproar when Amazon started poking around here looking for a big warehouse to base their distribution operation for this region. Amazon wanted the State to waive the requirement to collect sales taxes on orders processed here. The Government usually grants a lot of concessions for new businesses bringing jobs to the state, but a lot of people were angry about the idea of waiving the taxes.

They worked it out and to be honest, I don’t remember hearing how they ended up working it out. Maybe I can find something on a back issue of the local newspaper.