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.

The Hard Goodbye.

Happy National Dog Mom Day to all of you dog moms out there!

Now seems as good of a day as any to jump back in to blogging, as I should have already updated you on what’s happening in my dog life. Truth be told, I have been dreading writing about it. Mainly because I’m terrified I’m not going to do it the justice it deserves. If you follow me on all the regular social media outlets, you might have known that in the last 14 months, I said hello to a rescue whom we named Luna and had to say goodbye to my darling princess pupcicle, Addy, which was one of the worst days of my life. I think I handled it fairly well. And by fairly well, I mean, I laid in bed or on the couch hugging Beanie (Ann’s dog, who pretended to hate Addy but I think ended up missing her more than all of us). I certainly handled it much better than I thought I would: which was to drink heavily and completely fall apart. There was a bit of falling apart, but mostly compartmentalizing based on the rationale that I was doing what was best for her.

I 100% stand by that rationale. Addy was approaching 13 years old, which for a Labrador was well beyond the 10 year life expectancy. She was walking slower, never went upstairs, and spent most of her days sleeping. She was on several medications for arthritis and pain and it was becoming clear they were no longer working as well as they should.

But when I looked in her eyes, there was—as always—love and happiness. And so I told myself that it wasn’t time to say goodbye—although I made both Ann and the vet promise that if they thought it was time, they would let me know and even harassed April on her last visit about her thoughts. Probably not fair to put that on any of them (other than the vet), but sometimes you need to hear it from someone you love that it’s okay to say that it’s time.

Enter Luna. On a cold and snowy March morning, I’m downstairs enjoying my coffee in the quiet still of the morning when I hear Ann yell from upstairs “Uh, Sherry, COME HERE!” My first thought: oh shit what did Toulouse (aka The Evil Kitty) do? And from the moment of standing up and setting my coffee on the table to walking up the stairs, I envisioned numerous scenarios of things Toulouse destroyed or puked on or god only knows what else.

But no, Ann was looking out the window into our backyard and pointing at one of the dilapidated sheds. “What is that? Is that a dog? I think it’s a dog.” I squint towards the shed and all I can see is a fluffy, dingy head popping up and down and up and down and up and down. Ann asked “Is that Rocky?” (the dog from down the street) and immediately we hoofed it down the stairs and ran out to the shed. We peeked in one of the windows and breathed a sigh of relief. It was not Rocky. But it was below freezing and this fluffy bucket was a mangled mess, freezing, and probably starving and thirsty. The only problem was the door was iced shut and the windows too tall to climb into. We knew we absolutely had to get her out. We had no clue how to do it.

After about 30 minutes of prying on the door, we finally managed to open it enough for me to squeeze through. At first, Luna shied away from me but saw the towel in my hand and I think her survival skills overrode her fear and she jumped into my arms. I say “she” but that was only a guess and being used to having girl dogs. Her hair was so matted that we couldn’t tell what gender she was just by looking.

We took her in to the vet, who was visibly angry at the state in which we found her. He said said she looked healthy, but he honestly couldn’t do a proper exam unless they shaved her. I agreed and several hours later, he called back to say it took two people over 2 hours to get her shaved and she was severely emaciated, but thankfully did not show any signs of long term damage because of this. She lost two pounds of hair and was down to a very tiny eight pounds (a far cry from the 80 pound Labrador waiting at home!). However, the most concerning thing he found was that the limp Luna had when we found her was not because of the massive mats under her paws but rather because every single bone in her paw had been broken. EVERY SINGLE BONE.

Even worse than that? Her bones had already started to heal crookedly, so that her paw was at a right angle to her leg. She needed a cast to give her a better chance of it healing somewhat straight, however, to get a cast on required rebreaking all the bones and straightening them back into place. Poor baby girl. We scheduled the surgery for the following day and brought her home, wrapped in a blankie that she still loves to lay on.

As I mentioned earlier, Addy was no longer going up the stairs, but I didn’t want her to feel left out with this new puppy in the house, so Luna and I slept downstairs with her for the first couple of weeks. Slowly Luna got healthier, started gaining weight, and trusting us. Not-so-slowly Addy’s decline seem to be in a free fall and between the two of them, we were at or on the phone with the vet sometimes up to three times a week.

And then it happened. I gave Addy a treat and she choked on it. After I cleared her throat, I looked at her. Really looked at her and I knew. I knew it was time. I could see it in her eyes. She was tired, she was in pain, and I knew at that moment I had to let her go. A life without treats for Addy was not a life at all. I didn’t know how, but I knew that it was time to say goodbye.

I made the appointment, but her vet wouldn’t be back in the office for a couple of days. I took this opportunity to spoil the shit out her every waking moment and gave her all the human foods that she loved to eat: strawberries, cheese, bread, spaghetti, steak, cake, and one final bacon cheeseburger with fries. From the moment I made the decision and booked the appointment, I knew somewhere in my breaking heart that it was the right one. I worried that Addy would think I was replacing her with Luna, but in the car ride home from the vet while hugging Addy’s collar I realized that it was Luna who allowed Addy to be set free because Addy didn’t have to hide the pain anymore, pretending to be okay for my sake. Addy knew that she could go because now Luna was there and Addy wouldn’t be leaving me alone. My only hope is that Addy knew how much of a Labrador-sized hole she would leave in my heart when she laid her head in my lap for the very last time.

The Best Vinegar I Ever Drank

I guess it’s no surprise that today is National Champagne Day. According to WalletHub and International Business Times, an average of 360 million glasses of bubbly is drunk today and 25% of all champagne/sparkling wines are sold between Christmas and New Years (sidenote: these numbers are from the early 2010s but research is very scarce on the subject).

And why not? It’s fun, it’s fancy, and seems to hold the promise of better things ahead.

Like Bordeaux, Burgundy–and scotch and bourbon for that matter–there are some very clear cut guidelines as to which wines may legally call themselves champagne*. Namely, they have to be made in the Champagne region of France–just northwest of Paris, if you’re wondering. Additionally, there are only a handful of grapes that can be used Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunièr are the three most used grapes, but Arbane, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris may also be used, as well as specific methods of fermentation. Visit Comíte Champagne if you wanna read all about it.

*there are a few notable exceptions that were grandfathered in before the rules went into effect, like Korbel, Andre, and Cook’s from California.

And while I’m over all not a big wine snob, I do have to admit that I am a bit of a champagne snob. Not that I don’t like a good Cava or Prosecco. But they’re not champagne. There is just something smooth, comforting, and decadent about the real stuff. And I 100% acknowledge that it is all in my head–and in a blind tasting I couldn’t tell the real stuff from a really good sparkling wine. I like to pretend I could, but I certainly wouldn’t put any money on that!

That being said there is something extra special about Dom Pérignon and over the years I have had the good fortune to try several vintages. So this Christmas when my boss gave me bottle of 1985 I was over the moon and so excited to try it.

We discovered it last summer, hidden away in the far reaches of her parents’ wine bar and no one seemed to know how it got there (to be fair, her parents are in their mid-90s and I have trouble remembering what I ate yesterday let alone what was happening 30 years ago, so no judgements here!)–thus when it was bequeathed to me it was with the caveat that it could be good or not.

It was Dom. I was willing to take that chance! I knew it was either going to be the best thing I ever drank or a goddamn tragedy!

While it was chilling I pulled out my Dom glasses–because what else would you drink Dom out of?!?

I tried not get too excited as I peeled back the foil ever-so-gently. The cork looked good, there wasn’t any leakage, and I felt a tingling of excitement stirring like champagne soaked butterflies in my stomach. I slowly untwist the wire from the cork and my heart sank. Rather than a tight cork or one slowly pushing its way out of the bottle, it just jiggled.

I lifted it out, morbidly admiring the shrunken dark cork and trying hard not to cry. I peered down into the bottle looking at the sediment accumulated along the side of the bottle. I pulled the bottle to my nose, sniffing tentatively. Vinegar.

Dammit. Dammit. Dammit.

Out of sheer curiosity, I poured a half glass (I mean, I pulled down the Dom glasses–it would be a shame not to use them at all!). It was a very rich dark yellow color with the tiniest bubbles in the bottom of the glass. I figured what the hell and took a sip.

It was by far the tastiest vinegar I had ever had, with notes of toasted almond and vanilla that to me suggests that had it not been corked, it would have been a stellar glass of champagne.

In the wise words of my boss’s father: c’est la mort! And a good reminder that you don’t always have to save the good stuff for “a special occasion in the future.” Sometimes it is so much better to have that special occasion just be a Tuesday.

Happy New Years, ya’ll and best wishes for a wonderful and prosperous 2020!

Battle of the BBQ

Inspiration for writing topics sometimes comes in the most unlikely of places…in this case, it was in the middle of nowhere in North Carolina. I was there for a wedding and because I’m a dumbass and didn’t actually google to see that the hotel was 2 hours from the airport, I booked a 7:30am flight back to NYC.

I am not–as you either know, guessed, or experienced–a morning person. And while I’m usually up early, it is usually to sit on the couch and drink coffee. Not to check out of the hotel at 3:45am. So while I handed back the room key, I was only half paying attention to the chatty night desk clerk by wondering if there was any hot coffee available at this hour…or cold coffee…or anything to help make the dark and rainy 2 hour drive back to Charlotte a bit more bearable.

And then I head him (alas, I didn’t catch his name because, well, 3:45am) ask: so…do you just travel around and eat food?

Slow blink, while raising an eyebrow.

He quickly continued: sorry, it’s really slow here at night and I was reading through your website…

Awkward pause.

Me: um…yes, [chuckle] I suppose I do just travel around and eat things.

And of course I should have seen the follow up question coming, but again, now 3:47am. So which BBQ do you prefer? Carolina or Texas.

Bigger awkward pause to give me time to think up a diplomatic answer.

Me: I enjoy both, but c’mon I will always, always pick Texas especially when it comes to BBQ, beer, football, and Willie.

But it did give me a good chuckle and the perfect excuse to share with you and start posting again, so thanks for that kind sir–even if I forgot to get your name and was just thinking about coffee and/or going back to bed and missing my fight!

In case you were wondering what the difference between the two styles are, I would say that Carolina BBQ is more saucy and usually pork–and don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy a nice tangy, saucy, pulled pork sandwich. But Texas BBQ is where it’s at–their BBQ is cooked usually (at least in the Hill Country) with a dry rub and low and slow. Sauce is on the side and brisket is king. If you wanted accurate descriptions and nuances of each, you’re probably better off just googling it.

To me, the best part of Texas BBQ is picking your meat off the grill and then sitting inside, eating off of butcher paper at a communal table, passing the bread, pickles, and napkins amongst everyone else sitting at the table and their BBQ stained fingers.

And if you find yourself traveling through the Texas Hill Country and happen upon either the town of Mason or Llano, go to Coopers and try just a little bit of everything–or better yet, go to both and try a bit more! Both restaurants now have different owners and are no longer affiliated, but thankfully–at least insofar as the last time I visited–both were still as delicious as they always have been. Although I fully expect every family member reading this to text me later and tell me which location they prefer–proving that the Battle of BBQ isn’t always about regions–sometimes it hits a lot closer to home.

Upping Your Ramen Game

Every spring my university (West Texas A&M–Go Buffs!) would hold a Ramen Contest. As I can recall (but granted, it’s been a few years), there were probably about 10 or so categories into which you could enter your recipes, such as appetizers, desserts, most creative, healthiest, cheapest, etc.

For kids living off the stuff, this contest was a great way to either show off one’s Ramen culinary skills and/or pick up new and exciting ways to enhance your hum drum Ramen life.

Fast forward a few years couple of decades and I now live in New York City, where I was introduced several years ago to proper Ramen. O-M-G. The freshness of the veggies, the rich broth, the creaminess of the soft boiled egg–it was heaven. But also a bit of a splurge, as I never even dreamt of making it at home.

Then something magical happened. Over New Years–when I was visiting C&T in Florida–Christi made this amazing chicken ramen. And like the stuff I get in The Village, it was truly wondrous and I may have had two bowls. Okay, so I had two bowls and seriously contemplated a third until more wine & dessert distracted me.

However, I watched Christi make it and, while it was hands down one of the best meals I’ve eaten, it took a long time and a lot of prep work to make the magic happen. So, I threw it into the “too hard so I’ll just let Christi make this for me” basket and went about my life.

Several weeks later and still thinking about it, I decided what the hell, I was going to give it a try, but hoping I could find an easier recipe that was just as delicious, but a whole lot faster. Enter Pinterest, where you can find tens of thousands of ramen recipes. They all looked amazing, but most were just as–if not more–complicated as Christi’s recipe. And then I found it: Easy Homemade Ramen Bowls.

Winner Winner Ramen Dinner!

I scanned down the list of ingredients, which were thankfully minimal and decided to go for it. As I’m shopping for a few things that I didn’t have on hand, like ramen noodles and sesame oil, I called Christi to tell her I was trying a new (and infinitely easier) ramen recipe, at which point she begged me “I know how you are with recipes and thinking you need to modify them, but please, please, please follow the instructions otherwise it’s going to be awful.” Thanking her for the vote of confidence, I finished my shopping and went home to start cooking.

With the exception of substituting bok choy for the carrots, adding a splash of chardonnay (I couldn’t help it!), and including jalapeños and fresh cilantro in my toppings, I followed Dana’s recipe to the letter (you can find her original recipe here!) and it was so delicious and so easy!

Truth be told, I enjoyed Christi’s chicken ramen more, but Dana’s allowed me to have a delicious and healthy dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes, so it’s now become a staple dinner in my household. It’s so easy to throw together and customize to your taste there are absolutely no excuses to not up your ramen game.

Killing Thyme’s Easy Homemade Ramen Bowl (as adapted by moi!)

  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 head of baby bok choy (or spinach, but personally I prefer crunch of bok choy), trimmed and cut into thick slices
  • 4 cups veggie broth (or chicken or even beef but DO NOT EVER EVER EVER make ramen without using broth)
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Very generous dash of white wine (I find chardonnay, viognier, and dry rielings pair well with ramen, especially if you like your ramen on the spicy side!) + more for drinking [you have to–it’s in the recipe! 😉 ]
  • 3 Tbsp (or more to taste) soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp (or more if you like it hot!) Sriracha
  • 2-3 bricks of Ramen (depending on how soupy you like it–personally, I prefer less broth, so I use more noodles. also, if you’re buying ramen with flavor packets, throw the packets out!)
  • Sliced scallions for topping
  • Sesame seeds for topping
  • Sliced jalapeños for topping
  • Roughly chopped cilantro for topping
  • Soft boiled eggs (I make 1 per person)
  1. In a small saucepan, fill with water and a dash of salt and bring to a boil. (NOTE: I usually start the water and then skip down to complete Steps 3-5 before actually adding the eggs to boil.)
  2. Once the water is boiling, carefully add eggs and boil for 5-7 minutes, depending on how soft you want your eggs (I like mine at 5 minutes, but that grosses most people out). When cooking time is up, place in an ice bath for a couple of minutes to stop the cooking process.
  3. In a medium dutch oven (or sauce pan), heat sesame oil and olive oil on medium heat. Add garlic and ginger, and simmer until fragrant. Do not brown the garlic otherwise (Dana advises) you’ll get a bitter flavor.
  4. Splash in the wine and then add mushrooms, simmering until mushrooms soften, about a minute, stirring frequently.
  5. Add broth, Sriracha, vinegar, and soy sauce. Stir and bring to a simmer. Let it simmer for about five minutes. Taste and adjust by adding more Sriracha and soy sauce if needed.
  6. Add the bok choy (or veggies of your choice) and cook for about 3-5 minutes. I don’t time it, I just look at how wilted the bok choy is getting.
  7. Carefully place the Ramen noodles into the pot of simmering broth and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes or until tender.
  8. Crack and peel your eggs and then slice them in half.
  9. Carefully transfer the soup and noodles to bowls, and add your toppings.
  10. Grab your bowl, your chopsticks, your wine, and, as Dana advises, fall into a state of bliss.

Bon appetit!

 

Highway Robbery

As I mentioned eons ago, last October I went to Italy.

When we started researching and telling everyone about going to Italy, it seemed the one overall theme was thievery. Horror stories about people being pickpocketed and overcharged and taken advantage of at every turn started popping up everywhere and by everyone we told about our upcoming trip.

We planned and re-planned and over planned about how to deal with this and even had back up plans if this would happen or that would happen. We obsessed over travelers insurance, which handbags to use, how to spread out our cash, where to keep our passports and credit cards, and fastidiously reminded ourselves not to leave anything in the rental car. In hindsight, I think know we (all of whom have lived in New York City at one point), spent way too much time overthinking it.

Not once in our 10 days were we pickpocketed or overcharged and never felt taken advantage of–except once. By our rental car company.

Yep. Our rental car company. Ironically, I decided to go with Avis because of all the car options we were presented with while booking, it is one that I use quite frequently here, so I thought it was the “safe” choice. They offered a great rate and when our reservation had to change literally 2 days before the trip they were very accommodating.

Once we were there, the overly friendly Avis front desk man explained to us that we needed additional insurance for the car to “cover accidents and theft.” I thought insurance was included in the quoted price but of course, it was in the middle of the night in the USA when we landed in Italy, so I couldn’t get a hold of anyone to confirm exactly what my reservation included. We opted for the additional insurance, partially because we were in a foreign country and partially because we were still in the throes of assuming everyone was out to get us (yes, I realize how ridiculous that sounds but trust me, the horror stories plus the jet lag plus the 9 hours of airplane coffee had us a little on edge!).

We pick up our tiny little car. TINY. TIIIIIIIIIINY. After a bit of finagling of luggage because only 2 suitcases fit in the “trunk,” we were off!

Thankfully our tiny baby car was perfect for navigating our way through Rome, where the driving style is best described as “just go, try not to hit anything, and hope for the best” (aka a chaotic clusterfuck). You think I’m kidding, but I am not. We encountered numerous intersections without any signage or lights and one lane exit ramps with five rows of cars across it.

Our tiny baby car, whom Cait named Luigi, wasn’t so great with the Tuscan hills. And by not great, I mean we couldn’t keep up with the locals taking the uphill curves at breakneck speeds. But we made it! Sometimes with a lot of encouragement for Luigi, that he could, in fact, make it to the top of whatever mountain summit we were trying to reach. And not without a fair bit of panicking and near-death experiences. Also, may I suggest not looking down the side of the mountain to see how far you’ll drop if the car suddenly careens off the road?

After 10 days of laughing, cursing the GPS, and a lot of u-turns, we safely returned Luigi back to Avis before boarding the plane back to New York and saying arrivederci to Italy.

And then? Then we got the finalized bill, which was nearly triple what we originally quoted. I called Avis to ask about all the additional charges, and discovered that the additional insurance was nearly double that of our actual rental charge. And was further informed that no, we didn’t actually need it, we had basic insurance that would have covered everything but the additional insurance just meant that we wouldn’t have a deductible. Since we agreed to the extra insurance at the counter there was nothing she could do to reverse the charges. I tried arguing that we were told that we didn’t have coverage and it was required. Had we been told it was just an upgrade from our already included insurance we would have declined, but she wasn’t budging.

Fine. We paid the additional insurance. Not that we had much of a choice, since it was already charged to the card. But we bitched about it at length and then chalked it up to a very steep learning curve.

Six short weeks later, I got another charge from Avis along with a letter in the mail stating that we received a traffic citation and [wait for it], Avis was charging us $50 in order to process the citation and they would kindly keep us abreast of how much the citation would be when it was processed.

JUST TO BE CLEAR, AVIS CHARGED $50 JUST TO PROCESS THE CITATION, NOT FOR THE CITATION ITSELF.

Yep. True story: you can’t make up this bullshit. Incidentally, we’re still waiting for the actual citation and fees associated with it. So after all the worrying about the thievery in Italy, the only time we came across it was with our American owned rental car company. Define irony.

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at least the views were spectacular…