Losers and Suckers.

I would like to say that I read the article in The Atlantic with horror and disbelief (click the link for the full article). However, the current administration continues to raise the bar on “can you believe this shit?” so often that honestly nothing surprises me any more.

To serve in the military carries with it one of the highest responsibilities in this country: to defend and protect our freedoms. What they deserve in return is a country and a leader who believes in them, who supports them, and who honors their commitment and their sacrifice.

What they currently have is a Commander-in-Chief who mocks and belittles them, who is incapable of understanding—let alone honoring—their service and sacrifice, who looks the other way when he learns Russia has bounties out on their heads, and yet who threatens to use them at his discretion for his self-serving purposes.

Where are all the flag waving patriots loudly proclaiming that anyone who disparages against the Constitution and Military is Un-American? When are they going to start holding the President accountable for his disrespect and unpatriotic rhetoric that he loves to spew forth while pretending to care about the country?

Freedom is not free. But that price is not meant to be paid for just by our soldiers. All citizens have to contribute—by voting, by speaking out, by letting your elected officials know where you stand on the issues, by staying informed.

There is a price we pay for our complacency: we elect a sycophant and watch as he completely destroys our democratic ideals, mocks that which we hold dear, and publicly yearns to be an autocrat.

Our continued complacency begets a bigger price: we allow him to slide towards autocratic rule while watching other elected officials kowtow to him just to keep themselves in his good graces and the Department of Justice sweep the entire Constitution under the rug at the President’s convenience.

Make no mistake, we are at a tipping point in our country’s history where our democracy hangs in the balance. Our complacency for not ousting a corrupt government will lead to the biggest price to be paid: a diminishing democracy that hurdles us straight towards a dictatorship.

If that happens, every single soldier who served, who lost a limb, who still struggles with PTSD, who gave their lives in the pursuit of our freedoms will have done so in vain.

If you think that’s not possible—or can’t happen here—please look around to what is happening around the country. Constant threats of using the military on American citizens on American soil. Peaceful protesters being attacked and taken away in unmarked vans. Photo ops with the President clearing out a peaceful protest and walking through the area with what looked like a full military escort.

Rather than uniting the country—as any competent President would do—Trump has played off our fears. The biggest one? The fear of losing our liberties. What he doesn’t want you to notice is that while you’re so busy accusing the other side of wanting to take away all your liberties and freedoms, he is quietly positioning himself to stay in a position of power so that he can continue to use the country for his own personal—PERSONAL—gains and couldn’t actually give a flying flip about you or your liberties.

But who is out there still fighting to defend the Constitution and your freedoms? Those so-called by President as “losers” and “suckers.” They know what true patriotism looks and feels like. They swore an oath to the Constitution and the American people, to serve and protect without sway for either political party, and, if necessary, to die doing so.

When you vote this November, please remember them. Remember the ones who served. The ones who died. The ones who lost a part of themselves because they ran towards the bullets instead of away from them. Remember that they deserve a president who knows what that sacrifice means. Remember that they do not deserve to be called losers or suckers. Remember that they do not deserve being belittled or held in disgust for losing a limb in battle.

I know there are so many reasons to pick the person you vote for President, but I’m asking you to stop and truly consider how important it is for our country to have a President who can defend, honor, and protect our troops the way they defend, honor, and protect all of us.

Pearl Beer.

Pearl beer always reminds me of my Granny. It was her drink of choice. Well, Pearl Light. Since tomorrow is her birthday—and if she were still with us, she’d be 100!—I thought I would share some news about her favorite beer.

Unless you’re a Texan, you probably have never even heard of Pearl or Pearl Light. It was founded in San Antonio in 1883. I remember well the iconic Pearl Brewery standing tall as a welcome to downtown San Antonio.

Sadly, Pearl Brewing closed the doors to its brewery in 2001–although thankfully the buildings still remain and were converted into (according to the Historic Pearl website):

…a unique experience as a top culinary and cultural destination. The mixed-use space features retail, dining, picturesque green spaces, a riverside amphitheater, and the third campus of The Culinary Institute of America. As a former brewery operating from 1883 to 2001, Pearl reflects a vivid past while embracing the future with environmentally sustainable buildings mixed with historic architecture.

https://atpearl.com/about

Additionally, that’s not the end of the story for the beer side of things either. In May 2020, Pabst announced that Pearl beer would be making a comeback when they released their new Pearl lager. You can read more about it here.

Granny always complained to me THE WORST thing about getting older was that her meds kept her from drinking her beloved Pearl Light except on very special occasions. What better way to celebrate her 100th birthday than with some Pearl? Sadly, you can’t find it in NYC—but you better believe that the next time I’m home, I will be trying the new Pearl…in honor, of course, of Granny.

33 Cookbooks

I love cookbooks. I never go into a bookstore without visiting the cooking section—and usually have to talk myself out of buying one or two or ten. As such, over the years I have collected quite a few. Thirty-three to be exact. And by 33, I mean that’s the bare-minimum-absolutely-must-have number.

The problem is that—in addition to the amount of precious space they take up—I rarely use the majority of them. And by majority, I mean all but 5 books—and for 4 of those, I only open to one recipe.

But, of course, I can’t bear to part with any of them. Thus I have decided to make it a point to dust these babies off and use them more often! What better way to help me stay on task than to rope you in as well by chronicling my navigation through all of them?

First up, I decided to start with quick breads…because, why not? Okay, so the idea wasn’t completely my own: awhile back Becca texted me that I should write about quick breads—and since I love them, it seemed like a logical place to start!

Quick breads are those which do not use yeast, but rather use other ingredients, like baking soda or baking powder, to leaven them. When I hear “quick breads,” the first thing that comes to mind is banana bread (or zucchini or pumpkin), but quick breads also include muffins, biscuits, scones, beer breads, and pancakes/waffles.

I mean, who doesn’t like at least something on that list? Or in my case, everything on that list! But I’m going to start with the one I make the most: banana bread. Actually, that’s a lie—I make pancakes and waffles the most, but I’m just rolling with it because my brain has already committed to banana bread.

For the record, I’m not being lazy when I say banana bread rather than Banana Nut Bread because I’m weird and I generally don’t like nuts in my baked goods. So if you’re not weird and do like nuts, then go ahead and add a cup of chopped nuts. Perhaps it’s the Texan in me, but I think if you are going to add nuts, pecans are the way to go.

This recipe comes from the Fredericksburg Home Kitchen Cook Book, 13th Edition. Or as it’s commonly called in my family “The Light Blue One”. My mother has the 12th Edition aka “The Yellow One.” Ironically you can find “The Yellow One” on Amazon, however, we (aka The Family) have always gotten our books—usually gifts for special life events, like moving into your own place—from Der Kutchen Laden (unless one of my aunts texts me after reading this to tell me otherwise!), which is a great little kitchen store on Main Street in Fredericksburg.

As you might have guessed from the picture, it is easily my most used cookbook (and yes, that’s coffee at the top and no amount of scrubbing will get it off). The original Banana Loaf Bread recipe was written by Mrs. Robert F. Heiden and debuted in the 9th Edition (I’m not sure what color that was)—so it should be in all subsequent editions.

A couple of things about the original recipe: it calls for shortening but since that isn’t always the easiest thing to find depending on your geography (like when I was living in Australia), I switched it for butter and never looked back. But if shortening is your jam, by all means, use that. Also, I upped the mashed bananas by ½ cup because I like that it keeps the bread it very moist (FYI dried-out banana bread is considered a tragedy in my house).

Banana Bread

  • ½ cup of butter, softened
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2.5 cups of mashed bananas (about 3-4 bananas)
  • 2.5 cups of flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a loaf pan (or set of mini loaf pans). Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one. Add bananas and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Add flour and baking soda and mix they are fully incorporated. Pour into pan(s) and bake for 40-45 minutes (less for mini loaf pans) or until golden brown and inserted toothpick is clean. Flip onto a cooling rack and remove pan to allow to cool completely.

Or don’t because warm banana bread with a little butter slathered on top is divine. 😋

Yo Ho Ho Ho…

Happy National Rum Day!

I think one of the best parts about rum is that either you’re enjoying it while someplace tropical or, when you can’t be some place tropical, one sip will transport you there.

Rum has a very dark and stormy past—and I’m not just talking about the drink! It is believed to have been created in Barbados in 1600s. As more slaves and sugarcane plantations popped up throughout the Caribbean, the rum distilleries followed. Apparently, it was initially referred to as “kill devil” (because that bodes well for something you’re about to consume!). Often times, alcohol was used to purchase slaves and rum allowed slave owners something potent and—with all the sugarcane in production—cheaper and easier to access than other forms of alcohol.

It was the American colonists drink of choice and was often supplied by politicians (ummm…hello…why did that stop?!?). In fact, in during one election for the Virginia House of Burgesses, George Washington handed out 28 gallons of rum and 50 gallons of rum punch! It wasn’t until after the American Revolution and access to rum was disrupted that we, as a country, slowly made the switch to whisky as our liquor of choice.

If you want to read more about it—and I highly recommend it, since it’s fascinating and I just glossed over 98% of it—you can find the articles I read here and here.

And now, back to the drinks! What better time than a pandemic to try out a few new drinks? Not sure what there is out there other than rum and coke? Esquire kindly created a list of 12 rum drinks to help you dive in and be transported to a tropical state of mind. Click here for the full article and recipes.

Piña Colada—rum, coconut cream, and pineapple. If I could be at a beach bar in Kailua-Kona—like in the picture below—then this would be my favorite way to enjoy rum.

Huggo’s on the Rocks in Kailua-Kona

Daiquiri—this is probably one of the most popular ways to enjoy rum. However, the blended fruit drink that just popped into your head is not the classic daiquiri. The classic daiquiri is just rum, sugar, and a baby bit of lime. To me, much more appealing!

Hot Buttered Rum—I mean, it’s hot rum with butter and sugar. What better way to keep you warm on a cold winter night? I haven’t yet researched the history of who decided this would be a great idea. But adding butter—why the hell not?

Dark and Stormy—rum, ginger beer, and lime. It’s delicious and less sweet that a lot of rum drinks. If you like Moscow Mules, definitely give this a try!

The Craft House in NYC

Air Mail—rum, honey, lime, and champagne. Yes, champagne. I feel like a complete FAILURE for not knowing that this existed. CHAMPAGNE!

Rum Runner—light and dark rums, banana liqueur, blackberry liqueur, orange juice, pineapple juice, grenadine. Pretty sure I had one of these in Key West. Maybe it was just a sip of Christi’s…either way, I don’t have a picture. But like most of the drinks on this list, it goes down really easily.

Mojito—rum, sugar, lime, and mint. It is my go-to summer drink, especially at our brunch spot around the corner.

The Craft House in NYC

Mai Tai—You can’t go to Hawaii and not have a Mai Tai, which is why I’ve written several posts about about and/or referencing Mai Tais. Like this one, that one, or this other one to share a few.

Duke’s in Honolulu

Painkiller—rum, pineapple, orange juice, and coconut cream. I can’t recall having one, but it sounds like they go down easily and the next morning isn’t going to be so fun.

Hurricane—rum, passion fruit syrup, lemon, orange slices, and maraschino cherries. Like Mai Tais in Hawaii, I don’t think you can go to New Orleans and not have a hurricane. For the record this was THE first drink I ever ordered…because well, we were in New Orleans (a destination picked because it wasn’t too far of a drive and had a lower drinking age!). Of course, way back then they didn’t even have cell phones—only car phones—and they certainly didn’t have cameras!

Bushwacker—rum, Kahlúa, crème de cacao, cream of coconut, and milk. I think Esquire sums it up nicely when they comment that it’s “basically a milkshake. An alcoholic milkshake.” And really, who doesn’t want to say “bushwacker” to the bartender or the dog (as in: “move out of the way, Luna, Momma’s gotta make a bushwacker!”

Zombie—ummm 4 types of rum, sugar, lime, pineapple, papaya, and the added flare of being on fire? This promises to be a drink you won’t forget. Although perhaps after having a few, you might want to hand the matches over to someone a bit more sober…

I don’t know about you, but I just learned that I drink a lot more rum than I realized. Did your favorite make the list? If not, please share! And regardless of how you drink it—enjoy!

Duke’s in Honolulu

Originally Alfredo

When one thinks of Italian food, several staples come to mind: spaghetti, lasagne, fettuccine alfredo, and, of course, tiramisu and espresso. This is a tale about all of these except spaghetti and lasagne.

In the lead up to our Italy trip, my boss’s father, Philip, casually mentioned that we had to go to Alfredo alla Scrofa. I knew we didn’t have a lot of time in Rome, so I told him we would try. Not satisfied with this answer, he explained “but you must. It’s where fettuccine alfredo originated.”

Mi scusi?

He smiled, knowing he had hooked me. “Yes,” he continued, “it’s where fettuccine alfredo originated and simply must go there. It’s what you do when you go to Rome—you go to Alfredo’s, you eat alfredo, and then maybe see a few historical things. Please promise me you’ll go.”

I triple promised and then checked with Ann & Cait to see if they were on board—and of course they were because hello! fettuccine alfredo!

On our first full day in Rome, we spent the morning exploring the Vatican and St. Paul’s cathedral. Realizing we were only about 20 minute walk from pasta bliss and looking for a late lunch, it seemed like the perfect solution. We wound our way down the cobbled streets along the Tiber, amongst the street vendors, and surrounded by the ancient grandeur that is the very essence of Rome. The good news: we found it! The bad news: they were finishing lunch and were in the process of closing until dinner. We felt disheartened, but conveyed to the gentleman at the door we came all the way there to try to alfredo and would definitely be back when they opened for dinner.

In true Italian hospitality or perhaps sensing we might burst into tears right then and there, the gentlemen ushered us inside. Since we were there for the alfredo, he was insistent that we stay for lunch. We thanked him profusely and asked if we might get some vino as well. He laughed, assured us vino was always available, and showed us to our table. He explained alfredo was served family size, which we told him was perfect and deferred to him about our wine selection.

He returned a few minutes later with chianti and promised us that food would be out shortly. True to his word, soon a huge platter of pasta came out. We watched the server expertly mix the sauce into the pasta, and then served us from the platter.

It was, quite simply, one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten. The fresh noodles were cooked to al dente perfection. The sauce was creamy, buttery, and silky, but had a lightness about it that I had never tasted in an alfredo.

Somehow—probably on a pasta high—as we were finishing the last of the pasta and trying not to lick the plate, we took the waiter up on his offer of tiramisu and espresso.

While the alfredo was definitely the star of the show, the tiramisu was heavenly as well. It was the right balance of layered coffee, chocolate, and cream. It paired oh-so-well with the espresso.

Alfredo. Plus wine. Plus tiramisu. Plus espresso. Plus amazing friends. Plus history of the restaurant. Plus ambiance of being in Rome. Easily, one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life.

Our only regret was that we didn’t make it back before departing Italy.

Therefore—if I can piggyback and expand onto Philip’s advice—when you go to Rome: go to Alfredo’s, eat the fettuccine alfredo and the tiramisu, maybe see some historical sites, and enjoy la dolce vita.

And in case you want to bring that delicious goodiness back home with you to eat any time, the restaurant offers cooking classes to make pizza, alfredo, and pastries. https://www.alfredoallascrofa.com/cooking-class

buon appetito!

50(ish) Questions.

I’ve spent the week waffling about what topic I should write about, but nothing has really been jumping out at me. In a last ditch effort (my favorite kind!) to get something posted this week, I realized it might be fun to share a few things about me. This is undoubtedly due in large part because April, in an attempt to keep me entertained during this pandemic, has been mailing me—yes, as in the old-fashioned-snail-mail-it-is-so-exciting-to-see-something-in-the-mailbox-other-than-bills-mail—her answers to various quizzes she found.

I did a bit of googling and found one written a few years ago called 101 Fun and Interesting Questions To Perk Up Boring Gatherings and thought it was a good starting point. Don’t worry, I won’t be answering all 101 questions, but if you’re interested in seeing the full list click here.

50-ish Fun and Interesting Questions To Perk Up Boring Gatherings Blog Posts

Tell me the 3 best things about you.

I’m funny. I’m loyal. I’ll try anything once.

What’s your favorite holiday?

Thanksgiving. Food, family, friends, and football. What could be better than that?

On a scale of 1-10, how strict are/were your parents?

Sometimes 10, sometimes 1, but most of the time in the 7-8-ish range.

Who was your worst teacher? Why?

My 10th grade English teacher (whose name is escaping me). She told me that she never understood how I got into her Honors English class because it was clear I wasn’t good at writing and I should focus my efforts elsewhere.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

Less procrastination

If you could be an Olympic athlete, in what sport would you compete?

Coffee drinking or perhaps marathon taco eating

What’s the most beautiful place you’ve ever been?

I think if you’re paying attention, every place is beautiful

Which historical figure would you like to be?

Queen Elizabeth I

What’s the right age to get married?

Whenever you meet the person in your life that you can’t live without (presuming, of course, you are of an age to legally get married).

If you could time travel, where would you go?

As long as I was guaranteed to come back: the 18th Century

What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?

Vanilla

Would you rather live for a week in the past or the future?

I think the past

If you could have dinner with anyone from history, who would it be?

Texas Governor Ann Richards

Do you feel like a leader or a follower?

Leader

What’s the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?

Picked up and moved across the world without knowing anyone. Three times.

Tell me 3 things you remember about kindergarten.

Coloring, recess, and naps

What’s your most embarrassing childhood memory?

I’m such a klutz, I don’t think I could pick just one…

What’s your favorite thing about one of your grandparents?

My grandpa had a way of making every single one of his grandchildren feel like she/he was the favorite.

If you could eat only 3 foods for the rest of your life, what would they be?

Tacos, bacon, cheese. Don’t tell my cardiologist.

Do you ever talk to yourself? When and what do you say?

All the time. I usually talk through all the shit I need to do and berate myself for the dumb shift I do or things I didn’t do.

When you’re having a bad day, what do you do to make yourself feel better?

Unplug, take a bath, drink some wine, and listen to music.

What’s your favorite smell in the whole world?

Coffee, the ocean, freshly cut grass

What do you think is the greatest invention of all time?

A coffee maker. Or any of the wonderful contraptions that help coffee reach me.

Would you rather win an Olympic medal, an Academy Award or the Nobel Peace prize?

Nobel Peace Prize

What’s your favorite time of day?

Early mornings, when everything is quiet and I can just sit with my coffee and not think about anything

What’s your favorite season?

Autumn

What’s the one food you could never bring yourself to eat?

Portobello mushrooms

What is the sound you love the most?

Children laughing, coffee percolating, rain

If you could pick a new first name, what would it be?

I rather like my name. Of course, my mother hates that I say “Sherry like the alcohol.” My dad wanted to name Truffeldina (my maternal great-grandmother’s name), so I learned from an early age to just appreciate the name you were given..

What is your favorite movie quote?

“Check out the big brains on Brad!” Oh…what? You thought it might be something profound? Definitely not.

What’s your pet peeve(s)?

People who don’t pick up their dog’s poop, people who are hypocrites, and people who are entitled assholes—especially to customer service workers

What’s your favorite kind of sandwich?

Ham & cheese on rustic white bread with pickles, mayo, and mustard.

Cake or pie?

Pie, but I definitely wouldn’t turn down cake…

Who is the kindest person you know?

My cousin, Teresa

What’s the best part about having siblings?

Having someone to perform my experiments on…

What is the scariest movie you’ve ever seen?

The Shining

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I want to travel to every single part of the world.

What is your favorite family tradition?

Driving around looking at Christmas lights and decorations

What are you good at?

Making coffee and being bossy

What trait do you like the most about yourself?

I always try to see the best in people

What fictional character do you wish you could meet?

Albus Dumbledore

What’s the first thing you do when you get home from a trip?

Walk in the door, drop my bags, and pick up my dog

If you could shop for free at one store, which one would you choose?

Amazon

What personal trait has gotten you in the most trouble?

Naturally, my smartass mouth

Which celebrity chef would you most like to fix you a meal?

Let’s just be real here, if any of them wanted to fix me a meal I am definitely available!

What is the best piece of advice you’ve received?

“Men are like cars, you have to test drive them before you buy one” Thank you, Granny!

What do you like to do on a rainy day?

Watch it rain, read, and watch movies

What is your favorite thing about the beach?

The sound of the waves crashing

Which of the Seven Dwarfs is most like you?

Probably Doc

If someone made a movie of your life would it be a drama, a comedy, a romantic-comedy, action film, or science fiction?

Definitely a comedy

Name a product or service you love so much that you’d happily be that company’s spokesperson.

A handful of coffee companies and anyone with cool luggage and travel gadgets.

As a child, what did you wish to become when you grew up?

A doctor

What’s the worst thing you did as a kid?

If you ask my brother, it’s that I put him in the dryer and turned it on…but in fact, I talked him into getting into the dryer and I never turned it on—I just turned on the timer.

What is the best part of being a part of your family?

Everyone is loud and opinionated, but everyone would drop everything to help one another. They might bitch about it the entire time, but they would be there no questions asked.

What is your favorite day of the week?

Any day I can have tacos, coffee, and sunshine.

That’s probably more than you ever wanted or needed to know about me, which is basically I can be bribed/kidnapped with tacos and coffee. Before I go: since there’s a lot of stress and uncertainty in the world today, I thought I’d share a little cuteness of a rather spoiled puppy. 🙂

Never Bow To Customs Agents

DON’T WORRY…this is not another food post, I promise. What?!? We’re in the middle of a pandemic and nothing makes you realize how mundane and cyclical your diet is like staying at home and self-isolating for four months. This then leads to the realization that you need to spice up things with more bacon and chocolate (Quarantine-15 is real y’all!). Anyway, no food talk. Well, I mean, there’s food talk—but it’s not a recipe. It’s actually M&Ms and sorry to all of you out there who have heard this story ad nauseam. It’s probably better told in person, especially when I can demonstrate with aforementioned M&Ms, but, well, social distancing and all that jazz…

This is a great cautionary tale of traveling internationally. I’d like to tell you it’s my only cautionary tale of traveling internationally, but, well, that would be a lie, multiple times over.

Anyone who has ever flown into Australia knows how stringent their Customs process is. Anyone who has never flown into Australia quickly learns how stringent their Customs process is. Despite other airport events to suggest otherwise, I know that you cannot bring fruits and vegetables and general food items into most countries. In fact, you cannot bring fruits between Oregon and California either—in case you’re ever road tripping up and down the West Coast of the United States.

What I didn’t seem to grasp at the time is that this concept also includes snacks…unless they are unopened and hermetically sealed. Even if you purchased a ginormous bag of peanut M&Ms and opened them approximately 14 hours into a 16-hour flight from LAX to SYD and had only eaten a couple of handfuls. They are now considered tainted and must be disposed of before entering Australia. But hello! this is me and I wasn’t going to easily hand over my nearly full bag of M&M’s because some cute Customs agent with a cute Australian accent said so.

Turns out, I was wrong.

PLEASE NOTE: As a general rule of thumb you should NOT argue with Customs agents. That might be Rule #2 when traveling in airports (Rule #1: never mention the word gun at the airport). Not that I was arguing, mind you—I was pointedly asking the cute Customs agent with the cute Australian accent what the difference was in opening a bag of—let’s just pick a random snack, like, oh I don’t know, peanut M&Ms—on a plane flying to a country and opening them in my hotel room in said country.

Please note that this was my very first flight to Australia and my first ever flight over 10 hours. I also spent 15 hours prior to this flight hanging out at LAX. Additionally this was way back when I could never sleep on flights. Needless to say, I was a bit wired and perhaps a little jittery from chugging coffee for about 26 hours straight. Thus when the cute Customs agent with the cute Australian accent told me I had to dispose of my newly opened extra large bag of peanut M&Ms, I just laughed because thought he was kidding.

Rule #2.B: Don’t Laugh at Customs Agents.

When I realized that he was not kidding, I did what I deemed the only sensible thing that I could do: I started eating them. Rapidly. But I am not rude and I offered all the Customs agents some of my M&Ms. Apparently, this is considered a bribe.

Rule #2.C: Don’t Offer Bribes to Customs Agents.

None of them took me up on my bribe. Thankfully, they didn’t seem interested in detaining me—only pointing out that they could. So there I stood. In front of the Customs table, stuffing my face with peanut M&Ms, looking like a chipmunk, batting my eyes at the handful of agents who were very interested in this crazy Yank and her refusal to willingly hand over her chocolate. I knew there was no way I could actually eat the entire bag at one time and began offering them to fellow passengers as they walked by. A shockingly large number of people took some, blatantly ignoring a life long lecture from their parents never to take candy from strangers. Perhaps the clustered group of gawking Customs agents made them feel safer. Perhaps the lure of candy coated chocolate and peanuts was too much to deny. Perhaps it was jetlag and disorientation from being on a plane for 16+ hours. Perhaps they knew this wouldn’t end well for me and were just trying to show support.

Eventually, I thought I got my point across (aka I gave up because I was actually starting to feel nauseated from too much candy). Plus I remembered that I had a connecting flight that I could not miss, despite my desire to best the cute Customs agent with the cute Australian accent who was completely unsympathetic to my chocolate plight. I reluctantly sighed, locked eyes with the cute Customs agent, and begrudgingly made a huge show out of throwing away my now 1⁄2 eaten large bag of recently opened peanut M&Ms. I really wanted to bow, but somehow—either knowing it was a bad idea or fearing I might puke—I refrained. Probably for the best.

Rule #2.D: Never Bow to Customs Agents.

My best advice to you when we can start traveling again is never bring anything ever into Australia. Except maybe clothes and shoes…

Bacon Makes Everything Better

BLTs are proof that bacon makes everything better because let me tell you I am not overly fond of lettuce and I hate tomatoes on my sandwiches.  They make it all soggy, but that is a rant for another day. 

However, add BACON and suddenly, I can tolerate both. Mainly, because I know what kind of strange looks one gets when one orders a BLT without lettuce and tomatoes. And yes, that “one” to whom I am referring is moi. What? Bread and bacon are part of my five food groups: coffee, tacos, cheese, bread, and bacon. Okay, okay….and fruits and veggies—but I’m just lumping them into one group. So six food groups. Eight if you count wine and beer.

But let’s not get sidetracked. BLTs. Heaven on earth (in my humble opinion) and if you want to make them better, make it a BALT (bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato) or if you wanna make it truly spectacular—don’t tell your cardiologist and make it a BA…because who doesn’t like bacon, bread, and avocado?

They’re super simple to make and yet, I usually only eat them out. Which is silly because right now we’re in a pandemic and there is no going out…except to the grocery store where you can magically buy all the fixins for a nice BLT. It’s a great summer dinner option, since tomatoes are in season and delicious, so you are (aka I am) more likely to overlook the sogginess factor and the only cooking you need to do is frying the bacon.

In my opinion (and I’m sure that’s totally why you’re here 😉), what truly makes a BLT great is the right bread—a thick sliced country style white bread—and thick cut bacon cooked until it’s nice and crispy. Then all you need to do is just layer everything and eat it quickly so as not to let the tomatoes make everything soggy. What’s easier than that?

If you plan on sharing, I’d quadruple the recipe. And if you have a ripe avocado handy, just add it—you’ll thank me for it later!

A Simple BLT

2 slices thick sliced bread (as I mentioned I prefer a country/homestyle white)
2 slices of thick bacon (if you add more, I certainly won’t judge!)
1 tomato
2-3 leaves of lettuce
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp pesto
1-2 dashes Sriracha sauce

Fry bacon in a skillet (or whatever your preferred bacon cooking method is) until crispy. While bacon is frying, in a small bowl mix together mayo, pesto, sriracha. Set aside and slice tomatoes. Once bacon is crisp, remove from skillet and wrap in paper towel to drain off grease. Toast slices of bread slightly and spread each slice with pesto mayo. Layer bacon, tomatoes, lettuce and dinner is served! Easy, peasy, delicious, and done!

Oh and if you’re wondering, BLTs pair nicely with most things, but I think crisp dry whites (think viognier, dry chenin blanc, and sauvignon blanc from New Zealand) pair especially well.

Mmmm…bacon!

Mmmmm…Chhhhocolate…

Holy shitballs y’all!

Last week while looking for a new dessert for Fourth of July, the following words caught my attention: Chocolate Angel Food Cake.

yeah…you read that correctly: CHOCOLATE ANGEL FOOD CAKE!

Did you know this existed? I had no clue! Which seems very negligent of me, since angel food cake is one of my favorites.

I’m sure Pinterest and Google can provide you 7 gazillion from-scratch recipes, but if you’re short on time or the wherewithal or you just don’t want to, then add ½ cup of cocoa powder to a box of angel food cake mix and follow the directions on the the box.

Below is my version of the trifle recipe I found using chocolate angel food cake. And by “I found,” I mean Ann found and sent to me with an enthusiastic suggestion that I make it. I think it’s a great summer dessert for special occasions. Or any time, really, since it’s so easy to throw together. And honestly, what pairs better than strawberries and angel food cake except strawberries and chocolate? I mean, AFTER strawberries and champagne, of course.

Okay, okay…one quick note if you hate strawberries: please do NOT let that stop you from trying this. I think any berry, particularly blueberries, would make a good substitute.

Chocolate Strawberry Trifle

• 1 Angel Food Cake Mix
• ½ cup cocoa powder
• 1 ¼ cup water (or amount listed on cake mix directions)
• 3 cups plain Greek yogurt
• ¼ cup honey
• 1 tablespoon vanilla
• 1 ½ cups frozen strawberries, thawed
• 5-6 cups sliced fresh strawberries

Preheat oven to 350F. Whisk together cake mix and cocoa powder. Add water and with a mixer, mix on low for 30 seconds, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, and then mix on medium for one minute. Do not over mix. Pour batter into an ungreased 10” tube pan and bake for 35-45 minutes or until cake looks dry and cracked on top. Allow to cool completely and then cut into large chunks. Try not to “sample” too many chunks.

In a medium bowl, mix together the yogurt, honey, and vanilla. Purée the thawed frozen strawberries, using a food processor, blender, immersion blender, or your preferred implement of destruction. Add to yogurt and mix thoroughly.

In a trifle (or large glass) bowl, place ½ of the cake chunks along the bottom. Layer with ½ of strawberry yogurt mixture, spread evenly (read: as evenly as you can). Top with a layer of strawberry slices. Repeat layers. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving (note: the longer it’s refrigerated, the mushier the cake will be. Not necessarily an issue, however, your layers will start to lose their shape but definitely not their deliciousness!).

bon appétit!

Melting Into Oblivion

I know I tend to keep the politics away from here, but it feels wrong not to say something. Not to say anything.

Today is July 4th, which should mean something more than just backyard BBQs, baseball, and fireworks. However, it seems odd to celebrate the birth of a nation when that nation is on fire and seems to be slowly melting into the oblivion of all former great empires.

We are watching the GOP—the Grand Old Party, the party of Lincoln, the party who loves to take the moral, god-fearing high road—literally destroy itself from within by refusing to rein in a man who couldn’t care less about the party and its platform any more than he cares about the American people and what they need. The only thing he cares about is himself. And if you think otherwise, you have not been paying attention.

Let me say that again: HE DOES NOT CARE ABOUT YOU. OR YOUR FAMILY.  OR YOUR BUSINESS.  OR YOUR HEALTH. OR YOUR DOG.  OR THE CONSTITUTION. OR THE BIBLE HE LIKES TO POSE SYMBOLICALLY WITH. None of it.  He only cares about what would bring him fame and fortune.

Oh, wait, I lied.  He also cares about tweeting and the Dow Jones Average.

Now, before you leave in a huff, I would like you to consider two things:

ONE My Granny always said everyone was entitled to their own wrong opinion. We live in America. We have freedom of speech. We are allowed free thought. If someone thinks differently than you, it’s OKAY! It is something I always try to remember when conversing with people (including friends and family), who have dramatically different opinions than me. That is getting harder, however, to continue with some people because of the lack of respect they give me in return.

It is possible some of this is due to the fact that I’m older and less likely to cajole them into talking. My internal conversation goes something like this: if you want to be an ignorant asshat, have a nice fucking day. My external conversation is to raise an eyebrow and stare at them blankly, blinking slowly. It’s not because I don’t want to hear what they have to say. However, there is this growing trend—not just in politics, but in a lot of different things—to not explain why you believe something. I know why I believe x. Why do you believe z? Instead of I believe z because [insert reason here], the response is more along the lines of: because I do and if you don’t agree, tough shit, you’re wrong.

I think a lot of it is laziness—and this is not directed at either party—it is rampant everywhere and I know that I’ve certainly done it. To clarify: by laziness, I mean that we the people like to believe whatever is spoon fed to us on the news, on social media, from the ladies we overhear at the bus stop. We tend to share information without checking sources or accuracy. It’s just so damn easy to click share or repost or retweet without thinking…click, click, click. It is equally as easy to believe what we hear on our favorite news station without bothering to check their facts or if the other stations are saying the same thing. And if they’re not, why not? It’s the news, it must be fair and impartial. Right? Right?

With the exception of the few on the very far left and very far right, we used to be able to talk about politics without hating the person who didn’t agree with us and I would really LOVE to bring that back. Desperately. I love hearing the other side. I love learning why people think the way they do. When you hear their why, you start to understand. When you start to understand, you can work together to fix things. If you disagree and tell me why I’m wrong, GREAT! But bring your reasons and let’s have an open and honest and respectful conversation.

TWO Please don’t think I’m saying in any way, shape, or form that the Democratic Party is perfect or even good. They’re not. There is a lot of in-fighting about what the party should look like and believe in. Honestly, it was very disappointing to see that the party that touts themselves as celebrating diversity nominate an old white man (sorry no offense, VP Biden) because they think it is the only way to beat Trump, since Hilary couldn’t beat him. Newsflash: it wasn’t that Hilary is woman that led to Trump’s win. It was that Hilary was Hilary and the DNC ran a very sloppy campaign because they seemed to be completely oblivious to the political climate that was desperately searching for change from the political dynasties of the Bushes and Clintons. The masses (at least the masses in a few key electoral college states) wanted something different and, quite frankly, the DNC refused to support that ideal. They felt they owed the nomination to Hilary and thus did everything in their power to help her get that nomination. Once that happened, they then sat back on their laurels and watched Trump promise the people the change they thought they wanted—to drain the swamp of corruption, stagnate elected officials, and pork barrel politics. And people who were sick of all it, went out en masse and voted for change.

I understand why people wanted change and I understand why they might think that Trump could bring it. I think everyone hoped he would walk around screaming vociferously at Congress and lobbyists and DC in general “You’re fired!” But alas, no.

What I truly do not understand is how no one seems to want to hold him accountable for anything (US Senators and Department of Justice, I’m looking at you). It is as if the Republican Party has completely checked-out and are just holding their breath until he is gone. You know, like you used to do when your mom served those nasty, over boiled, lifeless brussel sprouts and wouldn’t let you leave the table until you ate 6 of them? Actually, no. It’s worse than that. It’s an abusive relationship, where they tiptoe around him, fearful of his reaction, and accept the consequences of whatever he does because in their minds it’s easier than dealing with the aftermath of confronting him and the invariable Twitter barrage that follows. They’re just closing their eyes and praying it will be over quickly.

Except that it won’t be over quickly. And you’re sacrificing our country in the interim.

The Republican-led Senate had the opportunity to take back the train-wreck of their party with Trump at the helm and restore it to some semblance of normalcy to their ideals, but they didn’t take it. They said there was no solid proof. But how can there be if you’re not allowing witnesses and holding other people accountable for what they are claiming? Senator Graham announced at the beginning of the process that he would, of course, support the president because—even though he hasn’t heard all the evidence—he didn’t think that an actual crime had been committed. This is the same Senator Graham who railed on and on and on during the Clinton impeachment trial that an actual crime didn’t need to be committed; the only consideration for removing an impeached President from office is the President using his Office to hurt people. If that’s the case, we should have impeached Trump the moment he took office.

We the nation seem to have lost count of all the times that Trump has defiled the Office of the Presidency. On the record. For the whole world to view. Each more egregious than the last. Too many for me to fully list because honestly, I can’t remember them all.

I mean, you certainly have to give him credit: he never lets one story blow up too much before creating a new cycle of stories to tell. And the old stuff? Well, it’s just gets lost in the shuffle. So let me remind you of but a sampling of the things in my humble opinion that Trump has done in the last 3.5 years to, as Senator Graham said, hurt the people:

  1. It’s okay to assault women.
  2. It’s okay to separate children and babies from their parents and put them in cages on display until other countries expressed concerns about the cruel and unjust ways of our immigration system.
  3. It’s okay to practice nepotism.
  4. The KKK is A-OK!
  5. It’s okay to tell United States Citizens and members of Congress to go back to their own countries, never mind the fact that if you’re not 100% Native American, you’re from a lineage of immigrants.
  6. It’s okay to ask other countries for help in your reelection campaign (ohhhh…Nixon must be rolling in his grave).
  7. It’s okay to use the Department of Justice to give all your cronies a free pass for their felonies.
  8. It’s okay to politicize a pandemic and allow hundreds of thousands of people to die because you don’t know how to handle a crisis—or at the very least listen to people around you who DO know how handle a crisis.
  9. It’s okay to not wear a mask and potentially give a deadly disease to someone else.
  10. It’s okay to encourage your supporters to protest wearing masks and social distancing because it infringes on their person freedom, but discourage people from protesting the racial inequalities and police brutality that is systemic throughout the country.
  11. It’s okay to force people to chose between voting in person and their health, even though you vote by mail.
  12. It’s okay to use tear gas and flash bang grenades to clear out a peaceful protest for a photo op at a church, where it’s okay to pose with the Bible upside down.
  13. It’s okay to threaten to use the military on American citizens on US soil because they oppose you.
  14. It’s okay for your friends to put bounties on lives brave military men and women who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to defend our nation and it’s okay for you not to do anything about it.
  15. It’s okay to label anything you don’t like to be a hoax or fake news.

Colluding with other countries? Threatening to use the troops on Americans? And then not doing anything about reports that Russia is paying the Taliban to kill our troops? This is nothing NOTHING short of treason. If any other president—Democrat or Republican—would have done half these things, he would have been pressured to resign. And he would have done so out of respect for the country and the office of the Presidency (read up on Richard Nixon if you don’t think this is true).

Calling out your President does not make you a bad American. Holding the President accountable and at a higher standard does not make you a bad American. Channel your inner John McCain because, honestly, I can’t think of anyone who embodies the spirit of being a proud American and serving his country the way that he did.

The only reason to continue to support Trump is because you condone his behavior. This is not one single oh shit moment that he could walk back with some smooth talking and a bit of eating crow. We are way beyond that. The country is at a breaking point and instead of giving it a lifeline—which is what a good President would do—Trump is adding fuel to the fire and clapping while it burns. This is a shit show. This is deplorable. And this is treason.

Is all hope lost? No. Millions of people are fighting to change the system, to change what is acceptable, to change what it means to have justice and equality. True justice and true equality for every American, not just a select few.

Look, I’m not here to tell you how to vote. I’m just reminding you not to be a robot—you have a brain, you have a voice. Use them. You don’t have to cross party lines and vote for Biden. Hell, write in a vote for George W Bush and let him be President again. I did not agree with many of his policies, but never once—NOT ONE SINGLE SOLITARY TIME—did I ever question his loyalty to the citizens of The United States of America. I may not have liked what he did, but I knew that he did it because he truly believed that it was the best thing for America. That is what you do as President—you put the country and its citizens—ALL OF ITS CITIZENS, not just its rich, white, male citizens—first.

Our founding fathers were far from perfect. Their beautifully worded documents declaring that “all men are created equally” did not apply to women or people of color. But I believe the country they envisioned and wanted to create was one that was ever evolving into something better than the one they left behind. A country of the people, by the people, and for the people is going to be messy because people are messy. But we should never stop striving for equality, liberty, and justice—not for a select few—but for all.