Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Possibly Our Last Remodeling Project

When we purchased this house a little over three years ago, we gutted the kitchen, pulled up brand new carpet in living and dining areas and put in hardwood floors.  We designed and created a kitchen
that I am just mad about!  I truly spend most of my time there!  I would not change one thing!  It is perfect for me.

The third bedroom-loft area was designated as a television room.  While it was small, it really fit the bill.  The living room, being open, was neat and tidy since no television was there.  No glasses, papers, books....stuff all strewn about.

However, we had talked about creating a family room in the basement when we moved in but became involved in all the other projects.  Then BOB in his infinite wisdom decided we really didn't need another area.  After a meeting of the minds, we are currently embarked on the re-do!  (It will be a great place for the grandchildren plus the sports-loving sons-in-law the few times they are all here together!)

I wanted to install a gas linear fireplace.....they are so cool!  However it was getting expensive,
complicated and we only have our  creative construction crew for a limited time before they start
a really big project so we decided to shelve that idea for now.  We can always install one at a later
time as they made sure all electrical, etc. is in place.

I want to put cabinets and counter at the base of the steps to have a "craft, wrapping center, buffet,
etc." area.  We had a similar set up at our former home.  Picked out lovely cabinets, they are being
ordered and delivered this week!

Bob thought it would be a good idea to utilize the brand new carpeting from the first floor that we had pulled up for the family room.  However, he wanted to be sure we had a sub-floor over the concrete.  He chose a rubber type that is like tiles that interlock and has a vapor barrier.  We will get a good padding and then should be all set!

The dry wall is up and electrical all in place and we are moving along!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Wretched Cold

I have been down and out recently with a wretched cold.  I usually get one really bad cold per year and it settles right into my chest.  Hopefully, this was my yearly malady.

We all talk about how progressive we are technically and men on the moon and all that.  Yet, here we
are, each of us, at some time suffering with a cold virus.  The runny nose, fever, chills, stuffy head and that awful coughing!!!  I swear I bruised a rib this time with the coughing.  I can pretty much go
all day cough-free but the minute the sun goes down and it is time for bed, I start with the hacking.

When they came out with Nyquil, I thought it was the magic elixir.  I would take a dose of the Nyquil
and sleep and not cough, at least not so much.

Then a funny thing happened.....Nyquil stopped working on me.  Instead of lulling me to sleep and
getting my much needed rest, it enervated me to the point that I could not close my eyes!!  I also
continued to cough so much that, not only did I get no sleep, but neither did anyone within hearing!!!

Then I happened upon a cough syrup with codeine.  It was the magic of all cough syrups!  A couple
of doses and I slept like a baby and it suppressed my coughing.  I was better and over my cold in a matter of days.   However, that apparently became a street-drug "gold" and the government clamped down on all prescriptions for this cough syrup.  Where in the past the pharmacy would fill the prescription and it was a large bottle, now you get a few doses in a teeny, tiny bottle.

With this last cold, I had the same thing happen with the magic syrup that had occurred with the Nyquil!  It did not quiet my cough like before.  So, I had to resort to the original, old fashioned
remedy......the Hot Toddy:

One cup hot tea, 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 1 Tablespoon Honey and One Shot Whiskey.

I was skeptical, but so desperate!  However, lo and behold, it worked!!!!

I was scheduled to go to New York to see the Grands and I think there might have been a wee bit
of mind over matter??.....nevertheless, in just a couple of days I was cough free and able to go about
my business.

So, the old wives' tale overcomes, once again!!!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Blasts from the Past

Remember all of those cassaroles from the 1950's.  Most of them were awful!  To this
day I cannot abide canned mushroom soup!  That was in almost everything back then.

A dear childhood friend, Rhea Waugaman Clagett, made a cassarole over 40 years ago when
faced with feeding a crowd.  We were in her home in Annapolis, Maryland and since we
were all just married, we did not have a lot of money.

She put on the loveliest buffet and the cassarole she made was Johnny Marzetti.  I just remember
it had ground beef, green olives, lots of cheese and was yummy.

I am in the process of organizing recipe binders and found many I had used in catering for
"1950's retro" themed meals.  I started thinking of this cassarole and searched the internet for the recipe.

Of course as with almost all foods, there are many variations on this dish.  I never did find the
exact one Rhea made (must ask her for the recipe soon) but forged ahead and made one for
dinner tonight.....it's grey, chilly with a snow storm warning in effect so I thought a comfort-
food type meal was called for this evening.  However, where this was mostly noodles with a
little bit of hamburger in the past (a wonderful "stretcher"), I only made about 2 cups of noodles
and had almost 2 lbs. of ground beef! I  also put a combination of mozzarella and muenster on top,
nice and gooey! (The BOB did look at me a bit funny when I served him his plate as this is not
our style of eating).  I thought it very tasty and it brought back great memories!

Johnny Marzetti Recipe

1-1/2 lbs. ground beef (85%)
1/2 c. sliced green olives (optional)
1 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped green pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
2 c. cooked noodles (elbow macaroni, penne, egg noodles)
25 oz. tomato sauce, jarred or homemade
salt and pepper
dash red pepper flakes
olive oil
4 oz. mozzarella, grated
4 oz. muenster, grated

1.  Heat saute pan and then drizzle with oil.  Saute onions, add green pepper and then garlic,
stirring for about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
2.   Remove to warm plate and add the ground beef, breaking into small pieces and turning til no red remains.  Add the onion mixture, the olives and tomato sauce.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Add dash red pepper flakes, stirring to incorporate.
3.   Boil noodles til al dente and drain.  Place noodles in cassarole dish and mix with 1/4 of the beef mixture. Then top with the remaining beef mixture.
4.   Add cheeses on top of the beef and bake at 350* in oven for 30 minutes.

Another fun, fun food item from the old days was tomato aspic!  In the 14th century, aspic recipes
were found in  Le Viandier, a recipe collection.    Cooks went wild for the next several centuries, encasing anything they could think of in aspic.  Eggs in aspic (not my favorite!), meats, including tongue, in aspic. I resurrected  the tomato aspic several times for catering events, much to everyone's delight.  My Mother used to make this, served on fresh greens as a salad.  She would be quite creative and innovative with our salads.  One of my favorites was pear halves (I think they were canned bartletts) with cream cheese in the center.....yum!

Tomato Aspic

3 envelopes Knox unflavored gelatin
3 c. cold tomato juice (I used V-8 juice)
2 c. cold tomato juice (V-8), heated to boiling
1/4 c. lemon juice, strained
2 T. sugar
1-1/2 t. Worcestershire sauce
4-6 dashes Tobasco

1.  In large bowl, sprinkle gelatin over 1 c. cold juice and let stand 1 minute.

2.  Add hot juice and stir til gelatin is completely dissolved, about 5 minutes.

3.  Stir in remaining 2 c. cold juice, lemon juice, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and Tobasco.

4.  Pour into 5-1/2 c. ring mold or bowl and chill til firm, about 4 hours.

5.  To serve, unmold onto bed of greens and garnish with fresh vegetables, or serve as side
with Chicken Salad.

A really nifty take on the aspic was in a Gourmet Magazine many, many years ago incorporating
Prosecco........boy, did I have trouble obtaining that!  Here in Pennsylvania the liquor stores did
not carry Prosecco then!  I made mine in individual small rounded, sloped bowls and it was the
best presentation ever! The berries "floated" in the clear gelatin.   (I probably have a photo somewhere!)  Here is a variation on that recipe, using a terrine.  This is a fabulous dessert to
offer in Summer.

Prosecco and Summer Fruit Terrine

4 c. mixed fruit such as berries, halved seedless grapes and/or peeled and thinly sliced peacahes
2-3/4 t. Knox unflavored gelatin
2 c. Prosecco (Italian sparkling white wine)
1/2 c. sugar
2 t. fresh lemon juice, strained

1.  Arrange fruit in a 1-1/2 quart glass, ceramic or nonstick terrine or loaf pan.

2.  Sprinkle gelatin over 1/4 c. Prosecco in a small bowl and let stand 1 minute to soften.  Bring
1 c. Prosecco to a boil with sugar, stirring til sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat and add gelatin mixture, stirring til dissolved.  Stir in remaining 3/4 c. Prosecco and lemon juice.  Transfer to a metal
bowl set inside a larger bowl of ice and cold water.  Cool mixture, stirring occasionally, just to
room temperature.

3.  Slowly pour mixture over fruit and chill, covered, at least 6 hours.

4.  To unmold, dip pan in a larger pan of hot water 3-5 seconds to loosen.  Invert serving plate
over terrine and invert terrine onto plate.

And then, of course, there was the 1970's rage:  fondue.  I had the requisite fondue pot with the forks
and was always on the hunt for emmentaler cheese.  In the late 1990's I served cheese fondue as
part of an hors d'oeuvres buffet and it was quite fun seeing people react to this for the very first time!


1/2 lb. Emmental cheese, grated
1/2 lb. Gruyere cheese, shredded
2 T. corn starch (cornflour)
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 c. dry white wine
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. Kirsch, cherry brandy
1/2 t. dry mustard
pinch nutmeg

1.  In small bowl, toss the cheeses with the corn starch and set aside.

2.  In the ceramic fondue pot, rub the inside with the garlic and then discard.

3.  Over medium heat, add the wine and lemon juice and bring to gentle simmer.  Gradually
stir in the cheeses.  Melting the cheeses slowly makes for a smooth fondue.  Once smooth, stir in
the Kirsch, mustard, and nutmeg.

4.  Serve with chunks of bread, apple chunks, blanched vegetables, spearing with fondue forks
or skewers and swirling in the fondue.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Switching Roles with Parents

At some point in our lives we already have, will in the future or currently are caring for
 an elderly parent in some fashion.

I am most fortunate to still have my Mother living, as most in my circle of friends and
acquaintances no longer have their parents.  Since my Mother, at 90,  is in excellent health,
can still drive a vehicle, prepares her own meals and does the crossword puzzle (in ink!),
 I am not yet a healthcare giver, but, rather, a companion and helper.

As I do not have a sibling who can assist me, the responsibilities remain mine alone.

I start each morning with a telephone call to my Mother, to make sure she is preparing for
the day.  We then discuss what errands she may like me to do with her, what needs fixed
or replaced around the house.  Sometimes we will make plans for a breakfast or luncheon,
although that is becoming more rare.  If I have something planned and cannot get over to
visit her, I make sure she knows what I am doing and where I will be.

All of her friends have passed on.  Almost all of the relatives (except her sister and brother in
law) also have passed on.  She has no peers.  At her age she has also seen the most dramatic changes
in our society.

She started first grade with President Roosevelt and he was still the President when she graduated!
She learned to type on an Underwood manual typewriter, made telephone calls through an operator, and went to the "talkies" for a nickel!!!!  (In this day of technology it is hard to fathom any of this!)

She lived in a small town in Chester County, Pennsylvania where every evening she went with her
girlfriend to the drugstore where they sat at the counter and had a soda or malted (milkshake).  Her
world was shaken when World War II began and all the young men she went to school with went
off to fight.  Several of these young boys did not return.  Her idyllic childhood came to an abrupt

Fast forward seventy-two years......

It gives me pause to think what it must be like for her to have outlived all those within her circle.

And while she still holds tight reins on her business matters and oversees the care of my dependent
brother, I find myself becoming the leader or guide now as she would lead and guide me so very many years ago.

I see a bit of a change-over in roles with my own daughters, as well.  Three brilliant, independent,
caring women who are kind and generous and adore each other!  (I am so blessed).  They do not
require guidance or counsel from me.  I do hope as I age, I can be gracious when I slow down and
am not so capable.  Most of my friends voice this same fervent wish.

This life cycle of our children picking up the mantle and carrying on while we begin to step aside is
both heartening and sad.  Particularly sad because most of us still feel quite young mentally!  I know
my Mother feels that way.  It is for this reason that I acquiesce many times in situations where she
is quite authoritative.

It can be frustrating and even exasperating at times when dealing with the elderly, especially when it comes to anything technical in our society!    However, I try to always keep in mind that one day that will be me trying to express myself, my wishes and possibly not understanding.

 Having a parent in a facility can be somewhat cost-prohibitive.  The custom of having the grandparents reside with the family has somewhat changed in this country in the last twenty-five years or so.

When my girls were young they used to say, "We have a place for you at Shady Oaks, Mommy!"
Unfortunately, I think "Shady Oaks" may be just too expensive now!

P.S. One of my daughters just telephoned me asking for my opinion!!  I am on Cloud 9!