Sunday, December 30, 2007


What is it about birthdays with most people? Many perfectly normal people just do not have enough fun on their birthdays, or don't even want to mention their birth date, or current age, or even thank their mothers and fathers for the whole shebang of life. Bah humbug!
Not me. I'm completely agog with Happy Birthdayitis. I adore the fun of birthdays and presents and a full day of pampering moi.

In the summer of 2007, I instituted a practice of "presents every day." Even though I waxed and waned with the consistency and fundamentals of the "presents every day plan," in general, I enjoyed discovering little presents that I could sneak into view for some unsuspecting someone (just about anyone would do) -- usually cheap starchy filler or tiny cards (even homemade), but especially silly, frivolous and fun gifts. The joy of giving can't be beat -- face lighting up, laughter, shy smiles, "oh, gee, for me?" My heart flip flops, waiting for the sheer indulgence of the other's reaction!

I also enjoy receiving gifts. I guiltily admit that I love opening a present. Touching the gift, rotating a box in my hands, feeling the slick, rough, or speckled paper, cutting or untying the curly ribbon, peeling back the layers of tissue to reveal the new item -- a book, a towel, a potato peeler -- doesn't really matter -- it's truly the thought that counts. I'm not kidding. I am thankful to be considered worthy to receive a present that someone devoted some precious moments of life to deciding, wrapping, and sending -- to me! Wow... that's a great deal of care, don't you think? I do. Thanks to everyone who thought of me this year... I appreciate YOU!

Another part of birthdays is... "whoa! oops! we're older." (and I suppose another step closer to the other side?) Well, as they say, the alternative sucks. I love being alive, and I really don't mind (so far) getting older. Some of the little aches and pains and nuances of age are surprising, but in general I find I'm more patient (undoubtedly relative depending on when you've known me), aware, compassionate and mellow. I relish the days and don't feel pressured to amount to anything. Even a slant of light can set me for the day. I love my work and find I'm improving with age... I hope like fine wine. I'm not going to kvetch here about wrinkles and weight and other minuses of getting older. Life is too short to be caught up in eventualities. I'm planning to work harder to be more thankful and happy and positive this year and all the rest. In 2008, I would like to travel more and write more. It's all up to me, isn't it? So, here's me saying to myself... get off your fanny and add some excitement to your life this year. Even if Casou has to travel along -- I'm sure we can figure a way to explore this world with gusto!

Hello 56!

Friday, December 28, 2007

I'm stealing this New Year's Meme from.....

This meme which can be done in two different ways. Either you can do all eight categories and list two answers for every category (get it? It's 2008, so I'm playing on the two numbers: 2 and 8) OR you can choose two of the categories and list eight answers.

The categories:
  1. Things you learned this year
  2. People you met
  3. Things you don't want to take with you into 2008
  4. Things you want to hold close as you pass into 2008
  5. Things you're looking forward to in 2008
  6. Things that were life changing in 2007
  7. Things you hope to accomplish by the end of 2008
  8. Last impressions of 2007

(see--those are the eight categories. Now you can either give two answers for each category OR you can choose two from that list and give eight answers)

1. Two things I learned this year.
• life is too short
• I love teaching literature...and I'm good at this gig!

2. Two people I met
• reconnected with an old boyfriend and a former student (I think this counts)
• met writers who inspire me to keep writing, especially Ron Powers

3. Two things I do not want to take with me into 2008
• the 30 lbs which has re-attached itself to my body (oy! back to WW!!!)
• too many bad habits -- such as wasting time and losing focus and being cranky

4. Two things I want to hold close as I pass into 2008
• my sweet, amazing, resilient husband
• my love of life -- exhilaration, imagination, creativity

5. Two things I'm looking forward to in 2008
• travel -- hopefully to new and wondrous places (like Ireland, Scotland, and a secluded beach)
• experiencing the joy of my son's raving success!!!

6. Two things that were life-changing in 2007
• death of Carolyn, who was way too young to die (remember: life is short -- LIVE!)
• Steve's fall (I love him more and more... he reminds me to love more and worry less)

7. Things I hope to accomplish by the end of 2008
• finish writing at least ONE of the damn novels (oy!)
• losing the 30 lbs, plus getting in shape while I do that

8. Two last impressions of 2008
• We're getting older, and I hope better, and I don't know about the future, and I pray for PEACE.
• Driving across the country -- small towns, rolling hills, buffalo, and friendly fellow Americans

Now... how do I tag YOU?
Oh, just go DO IT!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Character Names

Having trouble creating exciting or compelling names for a wide variety of fictional characters? Tired of the same old Heather, Madison, Jonathan, and Franklin monikers that surface in every romance and thriller written these days? Planning to change your identity and move to Brazil? Have I got a deal for you!

I've listed a few completely random choices made on the websites noted here. I don't know if I'll ever use these names, but the process certainly has evolved from printing possibilities on scraps of paper, tossing into an old mayonnaise jar, blindfolding myself, and pulling the winner. I'm sure you will find even more fantastic, real, or crazy names when you give any number of "name generator" websites a whirl.

1-3 generated via this website:

*Wanna write the next elf epic? Channeling Tolkien? Or playing D&D around the world and back again? These names are more in line with fantasy. Remember... I just pushed the button.

1. Zanendithas Arborshate (Male Elf Monk)
Also known as...
Zanendithas the Monk
Zanendithas Arborshate the Monk
Zanendithas Arborshate the Forgotten Foe
Zanendithas Arborshate the Swordsmith

2. Elgretor Alerteyes (Male Halfling Sorcerer)
Also known as...
Elgretor the Sorcerer
Lord Elgretor
Lord Alerteyes
Lord Elgretor Alerteyes the Sorcerer
Elgretor Alerteyes the Teamster/Driver

3.Nerisuvial Chorster (Female Human Bard)
Also known as...
Nerisuvial the Bard
Lady Nerisuvial
Lady Chorster
Lady Nerisuvial Chorster the Bard
Lady Nerisuvial Chorster the Much-Sung
Nerisuvial Chorster the Weaver

4-8 generated via this website:

* I fancy using a couple of these in a medieval historical I'm mulling....

4. Durward Brendan
5. Bernard Knut Skyler
6. Lexy Brigit Deana
7. Janae Beileag
8. Avelina Ulla

9-13 generated via this website:

*Mmmm...this site is way more insidious than the fantasy/gamer name sites. This one creates fake names, addresses, email, visa card #'s and even social security #'s

Whoa, baby! Tres scary, don't you think?
But... fun

9. James L. Watson
896 Gnatty Creek Road
Floral Park, NY 11001

Email Address:

Phone: 516-352-5252
Mother's maiden name: Osborne
Birthday: January 7, 1961

Visa: 4485 1950 7456 2996
Expires: 5/2010

SSN: 098-78-3830

10. Rita L. Martin
4183 Charmaine Lane
Quitaque, TX 79255

Email Address:

Phone: 806-455-2066
Mother's maiden name: Kessler
Birthday: November 21, 1948

MasterCard: 5258 0356 7793 0301
Expires: 2/2008

SSN: 465-22-9499

11. Freya A. Franklin
185 O Conner Street
Pascagoula, MS 39567

Email Address:

Phone: 228-994-0100
Mother's maiden name: Carter
Birthday: June 27, 1972

MasterCard: 5374 0703 4029 6680
Expires: 8/2008

SSN: 427-60-0761

12. Gaston Monrency
2254 Ventura Drive
Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Email Address:

Phone: 831-420-5299
Mother's maiden name: Beaujolie
Birthday: January 14, 1979

Visa: 4532 5030 3683 8367
Expires: 7/2009

SSN: 624-24-9686

13. Arrigo Baresi
1598 Lincoln Street
Camden, NJ 08102

Email Address:

Phone: 609-454-7349
Mother's maiden name: Sagese
Birthday: November 17, 1975

Visa: 4556 8349 7768 7179
Expires: 12/2009

SSN: 136-24-6127

Monday, December 17, 2007

Dan Fogelberg -- Rest Easy

This song always makes me cry. I remember my father -- leader of the band. The band of Ashworth -- chugging down the highway, raucous and roughshod in a V-Dub Bus, or waving from the back of a pickup truck or Model A. We were the rag-tag band and he was the leader.

And I miss him more than I can ever express. Especially this time of year, when memories flood back with every whiff of pine, fruitcake, and eggnog.

I only wish nothing had been left unsaid when he passed away. So much, too much was left unsaid. But I hope, I hope, hope, hope... that my dad knows we think of him every day. With love.

Here... take a moment... please listen to this:

Saturday, December 15, 2007

EEEEK! Another Christmas Tag Questionnaire
--- is this THE ONE???

I hope so.

1. Eggnog or hot chocolate?
Lately hot cocoa -- 'cuz I can do it justice w/little or no sugar/fat.
But Egg Nog -- the original real stuff -- whoa baby! talk about apply to hips...
I do have a bottle of Da Vinci Sugar Free Egg Nog syrup. Goes great in coffee for that holiday latte, and I have added some to milk for a hot toddy.
But nothin' will compare to that old time thick rich egg nog... which is why I do not cross the line any more.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just put them under the tree? WRAP!
Well, maybe not a bike. My mom used to love to leave a few unwrapped, but I guess I never got that bug. I love to plan matching paper and tags and bows. EEEk, I'm a Craft Freak all year long!

3. Colored or white lights on tree/house? Jewel tones! Little ones. Oh, outside, white lights in the garlands and wreaths on the wrap-around porch banister.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? I hang just about everything else. Ha! I do have two homemade "kissing balls" hanging from the hooks (where baskets of flowers hang in the summer) on the front porch. But I didn't find any fake mistletoe for them. Maybe I should? So I can complete the whole fake mystique, eh?

5. When do you put your decorations up? When school is out, I feel free and ready to do frivolous nothings. BUT... I bend that a bit if I simply NEED to get myself into the holiday swing/spirit.

6. What is your holiday dish? I'm mostly the Thanksgiving cook. When it comes to Christmas... mmm. Long ago when we were younger and asked to parties, I'd take a crock pot of Whiskey Weenies -- that's hot doggies, cut in bite-sized pieces and cooked in brown sugar, catsup, and whiskey. Sort of the protein equivalent of rum balls? For dessert -- I do a great PeterPaulMounds Cheesecake. But I have no real recipe... just wing it. I know what's in it. I get requests, but rarely do it any more.

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child. All my fond memories are of Christmas Eve at my grandparent's house. I still yearn for all those who are no longer with us. I see them in my mind's eye, I hear the songs and laughter, I smell my grandfather's skin. I wish I could hug him once more. I miss my dad more than I miss the California beaches. Okay, no more crying. Of course, the Christmas I found out about Santa Claus -- a bummer, but my parents let me wrap and be "an adult." Okay, nice compromise. Maybe they were not so bad, huh?

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? My mom goofed up the skates. She put the wrong tags on the packages. And I just "got it."

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? When I was merely a "lapsed" Catholic, we would go to midnight mass (which they would have at 10pm so nobody was out driving too late). Then we would come home and my son would jump up and down until we relented. Now I'm far away and I can make up the rules. But I love opening in the morning with the whole family -- lots of tradition, like a Tequila Sunrise break about 10 a.m., and awesome coffee cake from Wedekings Bakery, the last bakery in America to use Real Butter. So, to answer, I am in favor of the morning. And a great cup of coffee and lots of laughter and carols playing in the background. And a good roaring fire, if you have a fireplace, which we don't now, darm.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? Jewel tone lights, bulbs, and beads. I started over completely when I got divorced. I don't have as many decorations, but they all sparkle and tell me I'm OK. I left my heirloom decorations to Geoff. He doesn't really know that they come from 75 years or more of my grandmother's Christmases, but he would have inherited them anyway, so he has them now, while I'm still alive to know he's enjoying them. I do have a new character decorations: Maleficent and Hello Kitty. I used to have a set of the three fairies from Sleeping Beauty, but I think they, too, are with the decorations Geoff has inherited. I hope so!!

11. Snow! Love it or dread it? Love the snow. Hate the ice. I'm content inside looking out!

12. Can you ice skate? Never even tried. As a girl growing up in CA, never even thought about it. Now I'm in snow country and I'm too old to do anything that silly and dangerous.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? I still have her. My Shirley Temple doll. I also remember my bike. Loved it. Other gifty memories flit about, but those two are good, warm yummy feelings.

14. What's the most important thing about the holidays for you? I'd say being with family, but those days are gone for a time. I think it's all the feeling of wrapping up another year and being clever about what others need. I like to find the most unique gifts, or at least surprise somebody else. And maybe even surprise myself?

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? Mmmm.... I'm not that much of a dessert person. I like my sister's English toffee -- she makes it every year. And we used to really get into those cookie bars -- you know... the ones made on a graham cracker crust, with chocolate chips, coconut, walnuts, and sweetened condensed milk? I can't remember the name. OH, and plain ol' fudge -- made with chocolate chips, butter, sugar, and a jar of marshmallow creme. Yep. I used to think my mother was a genius for making that fudge!

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Probably just decorating the house -- unpacking all the goodies and setting up everything. When we were kids we had traditions like that, too. Exactly where we placed the special bowls and statues and wreaths.

17. What tops your tree? a star

18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving? Giving. I love to figure out the perfect gift for each person. I'm really picky and I love it when I get the exactly right gift. Something just hums.... like a beautiful chord. I just know. And my awareness smile lights up my heart. I love that.

19. What is your favorite Christmas song? Oooh, I need more than one. First off, We Need a Little Christmas. Then, Andy Williams sings It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year. And if Aunt Alice was still with us, I'd want her to lead a few verses of We Wish You A Merry Christmas... just so I can giggle at the thought of "figgy pudding."

20. Candy canes. Nope.

21. Favorite Christmas movie? A Christmas Story. But in second, third, fourth position: Love Actually, Home Alone (1 & 2), A Christmas Carol (George C. Scott), and While You Were Sleeping, as well as Elf, White Christmas, and It's a Wonderful Life.

22. What do you leave for Santa? Hmmm, long time since... but cookies and milk were the key items, with carrots as an after thought. I hear my grandkids leave reindeer dust. Doncha just love marketing?

(is this the right list?? I hope so...)

1. What is your favorite Christmas romance to re-read each year?

Honestly, I don't think I read Christmas romances much. I listen to A Christmas Carol, read by Jim Dale, every year while zipping from one errand to another. I've attempted to snuggle into my cozy chair and read just about anything, but each time I realize I'm neglecting another task. That wiggle of doubt builds to a whoosh and before I've read a chapter I'm ejected from said cozy chair into another pressing activity... like baking or wrapping or sewing or shopping on the internet for that "last present."

Wouldn't a lovely quiet read mellow my holiday? YES! I'm up for suggestions, since no favorite, besides The Grinch, seems to be popping into my head.

2. What is your favorite Christmas movie/show?
When my son was younger, we always watched A Christmas Story while we decked the tree. I suppose that's still number one on the hit parade. But I love movies, so if you were to walk into my house at any time during the holidays (the last two weeks for sure) you'd find either a background movie playing or music. We do not have t.v. (thank the gods).

My favs (in no order): Love Actually, The Santa Claus (only the first one); A Christmas Carol (w/George C. Scott, although I do love Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol); Elf; Home Alone (1 and 2); The Holiday; Little Women; Serendipity; Mame; One Magic Christmas; While You Were Sleeping; and I often have the Harry Potter Film Festival (since Christmas is featured in just about every Harry book).

I'm in seriously mulling over doing a digital download of White Christmas since I don't have the DVD and I really don't wanna get out of my jammies to drive into town and buy it. Decisions! Decisions!

3. What is your favorite Christmas cookie?
Just plain ol' sugar cookies, decorated of course.
And I love fruitcake -- the one I make with LOTS of pecans and dried fruit (especially red cherries) (oh yeah, they make green cherries, but tell me... what is the point?) generously soaked in brandy. The recipe is in one of the Silver Pallette cookbooks -- the batter being light and less in volume than the fruit/nut mix -- so as to only connect the goodies. YUM! I think I'll have to make some (although all that dried fruit and nuts is $$).

And... I'm thinking Roast Beef (Yorksire pudding, mashed potatoes, green beans) for Christmas dinner? whatcha think? A bit much? Haven't done beef for ages....

4. When do you start Christmas shopping?
I shop mostly online (we have nearly NO "popular" stores in VT!). But sometimes, along about August, when I'm roaming through TJMaxx or local village boutiques, I will see something and whisper "Ah! Ha!" and know it is the perfect gift for so-and-so. I am nuts about the gift "fitting" the person -- it's a thing with me. And, if I do say so myself, I'm reallllllly good at gift-giving. Really. But I'm totally inconsistent. Ever since we grew up and don't "have to" give gifts, I've been a bit odd. One year I'll find something for person X (even if I haven't seen person X for years... I think of him or her and vi-ola!) I buy the gift, find the address, and send it. I may never hear from the person (usually I do?). But the next year I don't necessarily find anything for that person. I skip around on my list. I don't sweat it. I shop on whims. Except for my younger nieces and nephews -- I still send them books. Maybe until high school? Or until I'm dottery and forget altogether? I do miss that family Christmas morning opening gifts time. Yep.

5. Do you re-gift? I'd say "abso-F-ing-loot-ly not" but I think I did it once or twice with stuff given to us by my husband's former wife. Oops! So, sue me.

And long ago, my sister and I had one of those re-gift contests -- keep giving the same thing back and forth. It was a "used" hairbrush, complete with bits of hair. For the life of me, I have no idea why we did this. But at the time, I think we thought we were hilarious.

6. What is your favorite Christmas song?
Oy! Pick ONE? Okay, I love the Andy Williams Christmas Album, (red cover) so whenever I hear that first song, It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year... I get all... Yipppppeeee, It's Christmas! I guess that would do it, huh? I'm also a sucker for White Christmas, by Bing; and Chestnuts Roasting etc, by Nat King Cole. And for pop favs, I like the Beach Boys Little St. Nick (gets me dancing every time) and the Ronettes, but I can't find the song. I have two playlists on my iPod dedicated to holiday music -- one for singing along and one for background, no lyrics, mostly classical or soundtrack. Writing music.

7. When do you get your Christmas tree?
I used to wait until about two weeks before Christmas, say the 12-15th. Since I've taught or attended school my entire life, those dates would coincide with the end of the semester and that would mean I'd be on vacation -- a lovely feeling of freedom. I'd be in the mood for decorating and Christmas in general.

But these days, living in VT, we've started a little earlier. This year we noticed that our neighbors decked their houses even before Thanksgiving. We wondered why, until we began to put up the lights about Dec 8th and the temperature had dropped to a balmy 20 degrees. Smart pants neighbors put up their lights when it was still 50 degrees. Trust me, your fingers know the difference. So, we've been getting our tree earlier, too. Even though the lovely tramping-through-the-snow-to-cut-the-tree pictures look great, it's hard on the hands and feet to be out in the deep freeze. I think by Dec 1st, we've cut the tree, but we may wait a few days to decorate. Depends on the number of really bad freshman end-of-term essays I'm reading.

8. Wrapping presents: Love it or hate it?
Love it! Any activity that involves paper, ribbon, and tape... I'm UP for it! It's ART! And I adore making the tags.

9. Who is the hardest person to buy for?
Me, of course. I have no idea how people do it. I think it would be easy. They could watch what I give and follow suit, but do they? No. I give books by the oodles, but do I ever get books? Or even $ cards for Amazon or Barnes & Noble or ???? Nope. I get the most silly things from people who have no clue what I like or who I am. My guess is.... I'm a total enigma, especially to my family. I cannot remember too many gifts that really ever meant anything to me or connected with me in a way I think perhaps a gift should, or at least should have the potential to connect -- even if for a joke or a lark. I suppose this is one way of saying nobody much knows me. Is that a bit sad, or what?

10. Christmas tree: Real or artificial?
Hellllllloooooooo..... REAL! I always have to laugh. And you can take this or leave it. But... really... bringing a tree into your house and putting lights on it. How pagan can you get? And yet we have all these rah, rah Christians running around getting all huffy and puffy about Merry Christmas. Read my lips: it's a PAGAN holiday. Winter solstice, evergreen trees, elves, old men with beards, festival of lights, gift exchange. Can you say Druids? Celts? Pagans? I truly love the whole idea. Real, green, lovely aroma tree!!!! Here we go a wassailing!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

What does Zee want?
Remember, I googled this post... Which means, I went to google and typed in the words: "What Zee Wants" then hit the send button... AND here are the first thirteen "intelligent" responses to the query.... (oooh, that's a stretch -- how about "semi-intelligent?" or "passed a driving test once"??) ....
According to Google, ZEE WANTS.....

1. To prove that she has the crowd for the match, Zee wants loud music played while the commentary is going on.... OH Yeah, baby. I love the competition between guys in the play-by-play booth and the guys in the band... ROCK ON! Can you hear me? I said, Rock On! No, not " all done"... ROCK ON... Read my lips... rock on. Huh? You like the loud music? Bring a friend... cuz Zee wants a crowd. What'd you say?......

2. To purchase a 20,000-square-foot structure (Google's spelling). Hey! I guess I want some room -- what? to house a small country?

3. To calculate. Apparently, calculating the number of elapsed days isn't enough! Zee wants to express that interval in the form of X years, Y months, Z days...
Obviously, on Google, I'm soooo much better at math than in real life.

4. To sue Star! Well, of course I do! What decent, tabloid-headline-scanning human being wouldn't want to sue Star!? I am appalled! Appalled I say! Whenever I have to read those headlines while I'm waiting in the check out line at my local market. I am so forced to read Star! Enough Brittney already. How about some balance? I'd like Shakespeare for two hundred, Alex.

5. To communicate to Christians who ask serious questions while standing in the pulpit, around the font, or at the table.... HUGE GIGGLE!!! Yes, I seriously want to communicate with those Christians who hang out at the font. I want to ask... Why the hell are you hanging out at the font? Waiting for a baby to come by so you can splash some water on his or her head? Or... Is somebody siphoning off the holy water and selling it on the side? Big business in healing these days? Washing away sins? Or just a nice place to meet like-minded souls? Okay, Christians, come clean! (font=water=clean... ha ha ha). At least... communicate already. Oy.

6. To be in a LONG TERM least 2 years!! Hmmm, that Zee has lowered the bar just a tad. Two years = long term relationship? That's all Zee wants in life? Okay, line up guys. I don't think you'll have to cough up a major ring or even invest in health insurance or a trip to the airport on gossamer wings -- not if you are leaving before Christmas of 2009. Geez, sounds a lot like way safe sex, huh? Too needy? Or just not needy enough? I can't get over the two year limit... wow. Talk about arguing for your limitations.

7. To go with the flow, accept other lifestyle choices such as drinking and smoking and reading Salman Rushdie. Go with the flow, I get. And I can accept drinking. I can raise a toast to drinking, yessir! But I'm a little fuzzy on the smoking and Salman Rushdie. Unless I get to smoke dope and listen to his books on my iPod. Then, that last lifestyle part gets a nod.

8. To have whatever she wants. Zee is too cool. (I really really like this one). If I can have whatever I want, then I opt for a big ol' house on the beach (hey! 20,000 sq ft might work) and servants at my beck and call. Yeah, that would be nice. Don't worry, I'd invite all my friends. Cuz... I'm too cool.

9. To quit cricket and get into domestic football. Yeah, I know. Cricket is so last century. And let's face it, the uniforms suck. I'm all into shoulder pads and helmets now.

10. To replace HBO in its bouquet, possibly with Hollywood movie channel Cinemax. My entertainment bouquet is wilting, I guess? I must say that HBO has recently lost cache since the departure of the Sopranos, Deadwood, and Rome. Might the Wire be next? Horrors! Is nothing sacred (especially with the nudity/sex/violence crowd?) In my real universe I've replaced HBO, Cinemax and all those with Netflix. Happy happy, joy joy. That's one sweet smellin' bouquet, I'll tell you!

11. To expand after the Super Bowl. Mmm mmm, the visual: me, nachos, beer, and a vow. Au contraire, mes amis! After the Super Bowl, I'm soooo going on a diet!

12. Zee wants Jesse to end his outlaw days. Isn't that a Rick Springfield song?

13. Zee wants to wake his parents without making them angry. What’s a zebra to do? Bring them breakfast in bed, of course!

Zee could go on and on. What does Zee want for Christmas?
Would World Peace be too much to ask ??
Hmmm. Probably bigger than a 20,000 square foot structure, huh?
Seems iffy, until you remember... I get everything I want.
Cuz, we all know now -- I'm too cool.

Later dudettes.

I've been tagged by Vix. So, I'll be posting the answers to Christmas Questions this weekend.
Thanks, Vix. Thanks a lot!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Yesterday I gave the students in my Touchstones of Western Literature class an impromptu assignment: List 10 Opening Lines. From novels, not movies. I'm playing gander to their goose here, and adding three more into the bargain, plus a theme/boundary (the "from novels I have read" part). Here goes!

1. "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife." Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

2. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way -- in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. " (typed exactly, in ONE sentence, as per my copy of the novel). A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens

3. "When Augustus came out on the porch the blue pigs were eating a rattlesnake -- not a very big one. " Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry

4. "In the seventh year of his reign, two days before his sixty-fifth birthday, in the presence of a full consistory of Cardinals, Jean Marie Barette, Pope Gregory XVII, signed an instrument of abdication, took off the Fisherman's ring, handed his seal to the Cardinal Camerlengo and made a curt speech of farewell." Clowns of God, by Morris West

5. "If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth." Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

6. "Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem , a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream." Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck

7. "Where's Papa going with that ax?" said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast." Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White

8. "Scarlett O'Hara was not beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charm as the Tarleton twins were. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell

9. "Marley was dead: to begin with." A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

10. "When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow." To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

11. "It wasn't a very likely place for disappearances, at least at first glance." Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon

12. " Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin." Winnie the Pooh, by A. A. Milne

13. "Every Who down in Who-ville liked Christmas a lot...but the Grinch, who lived just north of Who-ville did NOT!" How the Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss

Not only have I read these books, but I own copies. The lines are in no particular order, but I do profess to love some of these more than others. Some are merely nostalgic. For example, Charlotte's Web, Pooh, and the Grinch. However, you must admit, that opening line from the Grinch heralds the season better than any bell ringer huddling over a red tin pot in front of the local Walmart.

Perhaps opening lines are not so important? What moves a reader into and through a novel? Are modern readers jaded? Do they have a short attention span? Must writers grab them by the lapels and chain their wrists to the book via car chases and hair-raising adventure in the first paragraph? Or might a writer develop a story in a methodical, deliberate manner? Or am I hopelessly Victorian -- a Vermonter without time constraints, who looks forward to long winter nights tucked into a good book and a warm blanket?

I'm not sure. Who wouldn't want a first line on a list of The Best? To write words that drip off the tongue like amber honey from a warm silver spoon? Yes, that would be divine. Certainly my idea of immortality.

I love how EB White begins with the ax and death. He ends in the same place, doesn't he? Or nearly so. Anyone desiring a course in writing -- read that book and learn.

Scarlett O'Hara. Number one heroine in all commercial literature? Memorable to say the least. That opening line gives her away in a twink: charming and deceitful.

Oh, and I have read Moby Dick. Three times, for three different classes. But "Call me Ishmael" was left on the cutting room floor. Top of everyone's list. Bother. Am I always going to be bucking tradition? Probably. Typing that first line from Catcher in the Rye made me laugh in fond remembrance and want to read the little rust red book again. I wonder if it holds the magic now that I'm no longer 17? Hell. I'll always be 17.

And my number one line? Jane can write, can't she? She sums up her entire satirical jaunt into society in that one simple, thoroughly memorable, opening line. Dripping with sarcasm, waiting for readers to fall into the net. Masterful. Which reminds me....
Pride and Prejudice is the current (and final) novel in my Touchstones of Western Literature class. My students are busy reading (ha ha ha) and so must I.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

13 Pumpkin Pie Variations on a Thanksgiving Motif
(and a partridge in a pear tree?)

HUNDREDS of pumpkin pie recipes linger on the web, just waiting for you to discover them. I closed my eyes and touched the screen and gave you the first 13 that popped into my view. This week, instead of using all that space posting the full recipe (see Turkey Madness below) I gave you the link. If the title piques your interest, go in search of pumpkin enlightenment. I especially like Chiffon Pie and didn't get to it on this list. But Thanksgiving is still a week away. Hmmm, is practicing (i.e., tasting, savoring, sneeking whole pies)... fair?

1. Pilgrim Pumpkin Pie topped with Honey Ginger Cream -- Your basic pumpkin pie recipe (see Libby's can?). However, to Make Honey Ginger Cream: In a large bowl combine whipping cream, 1/4 cup honey, and 1/2 teaspoon ginger. Whip until soft peaks form. Chill 1 hour before serving. Place a spoonful on top of each slice of pie. Link to the recipe

2. Maple Walnut Pumpkin Pie -- You know I'm all about maple (VT Rocks!) and this pie sounds wonderful... except in the fine print, use maple flavoring. Okay, it's probably cost effective? Link:

3. Pumpkin Orange Crunch Pie -- Not to worry. Just orange zest and the ever-popular walnut additions. Link:

4. Gingersnap Pumpkin Pie -- Use gingersnap cookie crumbs to make the crush, et vi-ola! Link:

5. Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie -- Secret ingredient, often given away in the title, is adding a cup of apple butter. Oh, and the crunch this time relies on pecans. Link:

6. Pumpkin Toffee Pie -- Ooooh, add those cool little toffee bits. You know, the ones you find in the aisle with the bags o' chocolate chips. Verrrrrry interesting! Link:

7. Dee's Spirited Pumpkin Pie -- Yep, you guessed it! Add booze, hence "spirited." This recipe calls for dark rum, but I'll bet you could add a favorite, as long as the spirits enhanced the pumpkin. Link:

8. Pumpkin Maple Pie Supreme -- I admit that the "supreme" sucked me right into the recipe, even though I already have a maple at #2. This one has... dare I say it... REAL maple syrup! Huzzah! To celebrate maple with even more gusto, add REAL maple syrup as you're whipping the cream. Cool, huh? Link:

9. Old Fashioned Paradise Pumpkin Pie -- The recipe blurb says, "This triple-decker pie has a cheesecake layer on the bottom, pumpkin custard in the middle, and a pecan streusel layer on top. Paradise!" Oy, da calories! Link:

10. Sugar Free Pumpkin Pie -- Every party has a pooper that's why we invited you... Here's the blurb on this one, (as if you're really gonna bake it...ha!) "A sugar-free alternative to traditional pumpkin pie. Aspartame sweetener is not heat stable so be sure to add the sweetener after the pie filling has cooled to 145 degrees F (62 degrees C)." Looks like I forgot the link, but I'm sure all you need to do is substitute Splenda for the sugar. In fact, you could cut the fat content by substituting EggBeaters for the eggs and using non-fat evaporated milk. If you can't handle going all the way to non-fat, try low fat. Same goes with cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk -- use the lower fat substitutes and do not skimp on the spices. Happy Holidays!

11. Gourmet Pumpkin Pie -- If they say so. Blurb: "A very different pie than the traditional pumpkin pie." Looks pretty basic to me. Adding pecans, sweetened condensed milk, brown sugar and cinnamon to the pumpkin base. Link:

12. Mincemeat and Pumpkin Layer Pie -- Two for one!! This might just cut some corners! "This is pumpkin pie with a twist, a layer of mincemeat topped with a layer of pumpkin. Just the thing to put the zing into traditional pumpkin pie! " Link:

13. Luscious Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie -- Oooh, baby, baby! I think we have a winner! All the major food groups are given a nod: maple syrup, vanilla ice cream, cookies for the crust, whipped cream, and chocolate curls. It. Could. Work. Link:

Well, that's it for me. Of course, to tell you the truth, I'm more an Apple Pie fan. Maybe we can conjure some great apple quotes from fine writing, or continue with the fine dining motif? Until next week then.... Happy eating and Adios Ye Olde T13 Amoebas!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Okay, I'm pulling this one outta my butt. Or rather, outta mostly Martha Stewart's butt. And other turkey minds on the internet. And OMG... trust me... if you wanna find a turkey recipe, the internet will supply gems. Gems, I tell you. Don't get me started on stuffing or pumpkin pie. Mmmmm.... Oh... that's rich. I've just stumbled upon the next two week's Thursday 13. Thank you, Martha et al.

We are mostly foregoing the basic roasted turkey, stuffed or unstuffed. I'll be listing assorted techniques and/or recipes. Hard to get a grip on exactly what that means since some of this involves secrets or ingredients or methods. Oh, who cares? For goodness' sake... it's TURKEY.

1. World's Best Turkey -- I figure we could start with the best and move down the list? Actually this is not my title. Somebody out there in the internet labeled this one, and I have not tried it. But I am tempted. Here goes:
A bottle of champagne is the secret to this moist turkey stuffed with apples and baked in an oven bag."
1 (12 pound) whole turkey,
neck and giblets removed
1/2 cup butter, cubed
2 apples, cored and halved
1 tablespoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
2/3 (750 milliliter) bottle
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. Rinse turkey, and pat dry. Gently loosen turkey breast skin, and insert pieces of butter between the skin and breast. Place apples inside the turkey's cavity. Sprinkle with garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Place turkey in a roasting bag, and pour champagne over the inside and outside of the bird. Close bag, and place turkey in a roasting pan.
3. Bake turkey 3 to 3 1/2 hours in the preheated oven, or until the internal temperature is 180 degrees F (85 degrees C) when measured in the meatiest part of the thigh. Remove turkey from bag, and let stand for at least 20 minutes before carving.

2. Maple Roasted -- Hey, I'm in Vermont, I've got syrup, and I have done this, but not used this particular internet recipe. I just basted with the pure Vermont maple syrup. You could try this:
Maple Roasted Turkey
2 cups apple cider
1/3 cup real maple syrup
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons dried marjoram
2 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
3/4 cup butter
Boil apple cider and maple syrup in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat and mix in 1/2 of the thyme and marjoram and all of the lemon zest. Add the butter or margarine and whisk until melted. Add salt and ground pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate until cold (syrup can be made up to 2 days ahead).

3. Cheesecloth Covered Turkey - This one via Martha Stewart's Turkey 101. Yes, I've done it and yes, the turkey is gorgeous. She mentions soaking the cheesecloth in wine and melted butter, but I couldn't find amounts. I figure you could judge that yourself. Soak some, drink some... you know the drill. Here:
The Basting Process
Cover the turkey with cheesecloth that has been soaking in butter and wine; the cloth should cover the breast and part of the leg area. Make sure the cheesecloth never dries out or comes into contact with the inside walls of the oven; in either situation, it may ignite.

Every 30 minutes, use a pastry brush (better than a bulb baster) to baste the cheesecloth and exposed area of the turkey with the butter-and-wine mixture. (The turkey pictured here is out of the oven, but basting should be done in the oven and as quickly as possible, so the oven temperature doesn't drop.) Watch the pan juices; if they are in danger of overflowing, spoon them out and reserve them for the gravy.

After the third hour of cooking, take the turkey out of the oven. Carefully remove the cheesecloth, which will have turned quite brown, and discard it. Baste the turkey with pan juices, taking care not to tear the skin, and return it to the oven.

4. Apricot Glazed Turkey-- oooooh, this sounds good. I used to make an Apricot Brandy stuffing. I might just share that next week, if I do the 13 Stuffings list... mmmm. Via the internets (I think a link might be in the text):

1 cup apricot nectar
1 cup apricot preserves
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger root
1 tablespoon honey
***Herb Butter**8
3/4 cup room temperature, unsalted butter
3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 onions, thinly sliced
6 ounces thinly sliced shallots
22 pounds whole turkey
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon chopped sage
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste

For Glaze: Combine apricot nectar, preserves, ginger, and honey in a heavy small saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until thickened and reduced to 1-1/4 cups, about 15 minutes.

For Herb Butter: Blend 3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature, 3 tablespoons chopped fresh sage, salt, and pepper in small bowl. Set aside.

For Onion Mixture: Melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and shallots: saute until very soft and light brown, about 20 minutes.

Glaze, herb butter, and onion mixture can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover separately and chill. Bring herb butter to room temperature before continuing.

Position rack in lowest third of oven. Preheat to 400F (205�C).

Pat turkey dry with paper towels. Season turkey cavity with salt and pepper. Place turkey on rack, and set in large roasting pan. Slide hand under skin of turkey breast to loosen skin. Spread half of herb butter over breast under skin. If stuffing turkey, spoon stuffing into main cavity. Place remaining herb butter in small saucepan. Stir over low heat until melted. Brush butter over outside of turkey. Tie legs together loosely to hold shape of turkey.

Roast turkey for 30 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325F (165C). Roast turkey 1 hour 30 minutes, basting occasionally with pan drippings. Tent turkey with heavy duty foil; roast 45 minutes longer. Add onion mixture, 1 can broth, thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh sage to pan. Roast 15 minutes. Brush 1/2 cup hot glaze over turkey. Continue to roast turkey uncovered until meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 180F, or until juices run clear when thickest part of thigh is pierced with skewer Brush occasionally with glaze, and add more broth to pan if liquid evaporates. Bake about 40 minutes longer for unstuffed turkey, and about 1 hour 10 minutes longer for stuffed turkey. Place turkey on platter, tent with foil. Let stand 30 minutes. Reserve mixture in pan for gravy.

Pour contents of roasting pan into strainer set over large bowl. Spoon fat from pan juices in bowl. Transfer onion mixture to blender. Add 1 cup pan juices to blender, and puree until smooth, adding more pan juices and chicken broth if necessary to thin sauce to desired consistency. Transfer sauce to heavy large saucepan, and bring to boil. Cook until color deepens, skimming off any foam, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Recipe Location:

5. Upside Down Turkey --- It. Could. Work.
Upside Down Turkey
This is a simple way to prepare a moist turkey without stuffing. The secret ingredient is butter -- it enhances the bird's natural flavor. When the turkey is done, the juices may be used to prepare a gravy by adding cornstarch 1 tablespoon at a time until the liquid begins to thicken.

* 13 pounds whole turkey
* 1/2 cup butter
* 1 cup water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. Rinse turkey and remove giblets. Place turkey upside (breast) down in a roasting pan. Insert 1/4 cup butter inside the turkey. Place remaining butter in several pieces around the turkey. Pour water into the pan.
3. Cook covered in the preheated oven 3 to 3 1/2 hours until the internal temperature of the thigh has reached 180 degrees F (80 degrees C).

6. 7 Up Turkey -- I'm just the messenger.
1 turkey (any size)
1 (2 liter) bottle 7 Up

Pour 1/4 of the 2 liter bottle on the turkey when preparing in the pan. Cover with tin foil and place in oven. Cook like normal and baste often. Baste with fresh 7-UP every 45 minutes to an hour. Remove tin foil for last 45 minutes of baking to make the skin crisp and brown. Baste one last time with fresh 7-UP for the last 45 minutes. Use drippings for making gravy, makes a sweet excellent gravy. Carve and enjoy!

7. Your Basic New Orleans (or any southern city basing its cuisine on frying) Deep Fried Turkey -- Yes, I know. Many, many people (men with heart conditions?) swear by this bird. Probably more a testament to how many women truly hate this holiday and will do anything to avoid responsibility for the fate of the day -- even foist the cooking of the bird to the males who gather just outside the garage for this deep frying ritual. I have not been a party to this one, and YES I have heard that the oil never touches one's lips. Mmmm. Here's one recipe I found:

New Orleans Fried Turkey

New Orleans fried turkey is just what the name implies, a whole deep fried turkey. This method is used with chicken or with small turkeys. An 8 to 10 pound turkey is stuffed with garlic, onions, peppers and various seasonings and the entire bird is lowered into a huge vat of hot oil and fried until crispy and golden brown.

8. Turkey in a Smoker -- Again, I think this move the responsibility to the male of the species, and that might not be a bad idea. I'm not sure I'm ready to give up control, but the temptation lingers outside the boundaries of my inner chef. Vi-ola:

* 1 (10 pound) whole turkey, neck and giblets removed
* 4 cloves garlic, crushed
* 2 tablespoons seasoned salt
* 1/2 cup butter
* 2 (12 fluid ounce) cans cola-flavored carbonated beverage
* 1 apple, quartered
* 1 onion, quartered
* 1 tablespoon garlic powder
* 1 tablespoon salt
* 1 tablespoon ground black pepper


1. Preheat smoker to 225 to 250 degrees F (110 to 120 degrees C).
2. Rinse turkey under cold water, and pat dry. Rub the crushed garlic over the outside of the bird, and sprinkle with seasoned salt. Place in a disposable roasting pan. Fill turkey cavity with butter, cola, apple, onion, garlic powder, salt, and ground black pepper. Cover loosely with foil.
3. Smoke at 225 to 250 degrees F (110 to 120 degrees C) for 10 hours, or until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees F (80 degrees C) when measured in the thickest part of the thigh. Baste the bird every 1 to 2 hours with the juices from the bottom of the roasting pan.

9. Braised Method -- Wins for most boring.
Braising is cooking the turkey in a small amount of water or stock in a covered roasting pan in a 325° to 350° oven. The roasting pan needs to be large enough to accommodate the turkey and the lid must fit snugly on the pan. Braising is a moist-heat method similar to the oven cooking bag method. The cavity of the turkey can be filled with onions, celery and other vegetables or with your favorite stuffing.

Insert a meat thermometer in the innermost part of the thigh and cook to 165°F or higher. Check the temperature in the thickest part of the breast and the wing as well. Temperature in all areas should be 165°F or higher. Pour off the wonderfully flavorful cooking liquid that accumulates in the bottom of the pan and use it for a side dish of dressing. The turkey will brown lightly during braising and this method creates a moist tender turkey.

10. Apple Cider Brined Turkey - You could go to all this trouble (see below for lots o' details) or you could do what I'm doing this year. I spent $16.00 and bought the brine from Williams Sonoma. Yeah, I know. Pricey. But I'm worth it. Maybe. If you want to know what WS says, go to their website. Actually, I bought the brine before I found this recipe. If you try it, let's do dueling turkeys?
Spiced Apple Cider Brined Turkey

* 4 cups water
* 1/2 cup kosher salt
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 3 whole cloves
* 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, cracked
* 2 bay leaves, broken into pieces
* 4 slices fresh ginger
* 1 teaspoon whole allspice, crushed
* 1/2 gallon unsweetened apple cider, chilled (8 cups)
* Turkey, 12 to 14 pounds, fresh or completely thawed
(With no injections or pre-basting)
* 2 turkey size oven-cooking bags or large plastic tub

1. Use a mortar and pestle or spice grinder to crush whole peppercorns and allspice. Do not grind to a powder; large pieces should remain. In a 4-quart saucepan combine water, kosher salt, sugar, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves and ginger. Stir as you bring the mixture to a boil over medium high heat. Boil gently for 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

2. Add chilled apple cider. Stir to combine. Refrigerate brine while preparing the turkey.

3. Remove turkey from wrapper. Remove giblets and neck from body cavity and neck area. Refrigerate these parts for stock for making gravy, later.

4. Rinse turkey inside and out under cold running water. Twist wing tips and tuck behind turkey. Place two plastic oven cooking, one inside the other. Set the bags in a large stockpot or roasting pan. Or use a large plastic tub, bags not needed. Roll top of bags over for ease in handling. Place the turkey, breast first, inside the double thickness of bags. Do not use trash bags or any bag that is not food-safe (chemicals from bag will leach into turkey).

5. Pour chilled brine into turkey cavity and around outside of turkey. Pour an additional two cups cold water around turkey. Secure bag with twist tie. If using a roasting pan, turn turkey breast down. Rotate turkey four times during brining so brine reaches all parts. If using a stockpot the brine should cover the turkey, rotation is not needed. Refrigerate turkey for 12-14 hours.

* 1 cup each chopped, celery, onions, carrots
* Zest of one lemon or orange
* Olive oil or butter

6. Remove turkey from brine. Rinse under cold running water. Rinse well inside and out. Pat skin dry with towels.

7. Place turkey on a platter and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. This will allow the skin to dry. The skin will be very crisp with this drying step, however this step can be omitted. Turkey skin will still brown, but it will be less crispy.

8. Preheat oven to 350 F. Transfer turkey to a heavy roasting pan. Stuff the bird with chopped vegetables and zest. Position meat thermometer in thickest part of thigh. Tie legs together and tuck wings underneath the bird.

9. Cover the skin with softened butter or olive oil. Add 1-cup water to bottom of pan and place turkey in hot oven. Cooking time will vary depending on the size of the turkey. Check the wrapper and cook according to weight. Roast turkey until temperature in the innermost part of the thigh reaches 165°F or higher. A 12-pound turkey will take about 3 hours and 15 minutes to roast. Add 15 minutes for each additional pound.

11. The turkey is done when the thermometer reaches 165°F or higher. Using an instant read thermometer, check the temperature in the thickest part of the breast and the wing. The internal temperature for all areas should be 165°F or higher. Use of an instant read thermometer is the best method to check for doneness in all three areas of the turkey.

Other methods of testing: The thigh juices will run clear when pricked with a long tined fork and/or leg wiggles freely in the joint. You may want to cook your turkey to 170 or 180°F; personal preference, if you prefer a more tender texture. Poultry is safe to eat at 165°F. Allow the bird to rest 20 to 30 minutes before carving. This will allow the juices to redistribute evenly through the meat. Reserve pan juices for use in gravy, dressing, etc. Store leftover turkey in the refrigerator or freezer promptly after the meal.

11. Turkey on the Grill -- Another way to share the joy, because in my house, Steve loves to handle the BBQ, and that's fine with me (except when he overcooks my steak, but that's another list). Martha Steward magazine (in some zones) has a great picture of a salt and pepper encrusted grilled turkey on the cover. Looks great. Some basic tips for success:
Grilled turkey can be a wonderful variation from oven roasted turkey. Grilling a whole turkey or turkey breast requires indirect heat and a drip pan. Start by washing and seasoning a fully thawed bird. The covered kettle-style grill and medium hot coals are recommended for grilling. Arrange hot coals on either side of the drip pan and position the turkey, breast side down, on an oiled V-rack directly over the drip pan. Use a small 8 to 14 pound unstuffed turkey.

About midway through the cooking process, turn the bird breast up. Place about 10 briquettes on each pile of hot coals every 45 to 50 minutes to maintain medium heat. For good smoky flavor, dampened wood chips and/or chunks may be added as well.

Cover the wing tips with aluminum foil and tuck them underneath the bird to prevent burning. Insert a thermometer in the thickest innermost part of the thigh. A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the wing and the thickest part of the breast too. For reasons of personal preference, you may choose to cook the turkey to higher temperatures.

If the temperature under the hood is hot enough (325°F to 350°F), grilling a 12 to 14 pound turkey should take approximately 4 hours. If your grill does not have a thermometer, an oven thermometer can be used. Cooking time may vary depending on temperature of the fire, wind and outdoor air temperature.

Okay, here are 2 officially declared (by the internet) as Downright Unsafe Methods:

12. Brown Paper Bag -- hasn't everyone heard of this one? I thought it was a joke, but I guess people try it every year. So... one word for you... don't do it:
This method involves placing the turkey in a large brown paper bag, the type used in grocery stores, and cooking the bird at a very low temperature. Experts agree that brown paper bags were never intended for use as cooking utensils. The glue, ink, chemicals and other materials used in recycling grocery bags are unsanitary and some bags may even contain tiny metal shavings.

Make It Safe - To make this method safe, replace the brown bag with a turkey-size oven-cooking bag. Cooking turkey at temperatures below 325°F is unsafe, so increase the oven temperature to 350°F. Use a food thermometer. A whole turkey is safe when cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 165 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Check the internal temperature in the innermost part of the thigh and wing and the thickest part of the breast. For reasons of personal preference, you may choose to cook the turkey to higher temperatures. The temperature in all parts should read 165 °F or higher.

13. Turducken -- I thought this was a joke. But it's not. And if you realllllllly want to try it... they give you "safety" tips. Here goes:
A turducken is a partially boned turkey layered with a boned duck, then with a boned chicken and spread with layers of stuffing between each bird. The entire mass is rolled, tied and roasted at 190°F for 12 to 13 hours. According to the USDA Meat and Poultry hotline, this recipe has been circulating for a number of years.

Make It Safe - USDA Hotline representatives recommend keeping the birds chilled until ready to assemble. While boning each bird, keep the others refrigerated. After all three birds have been boned and the stuffing has been prepared, assemble the Turducken ingredients and quickly get it into a pre-heated 325°F oven. Use a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the bundle and cook the turducken to an internal temperature of 180°F or more. Check the temperature in several locations.

**One tip I gained from all this turkey research -- line the cavity with cheesecloth before you stuff, for easier removal of the dressing. Very cool. I think I'll be combining methods: apple cider brine, cheesecloth baste, and maple syrup.

Wish Bone Appetite!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Thursday, November 01, 2007

You're in a jam. You need some help.
Who ya gonna call?
Your patron saint, of course!!!
Everyone's covered!!
I did a little research. Here's an all-purpose (okay, ODD) assortment of Useful Saints. Yes, they are all real, honest-to-God (well, to the Catholic God) saints. Some were dropped off the official calendar in 1969, but that doesn't mean they aren't really saints. Those dropped off the list are just lying in wait for better times. I found all these and more on:
If you need a saint, a saint name (for baptism or confirmation), or just a good laugh, I heartily suggest taking a spin on that site.

I could have written their sad, sad stories, including a great deal of gore about their martyrdom, but I decided against piling on, with a couple exceptions. I listed what each is "for" and/or "against" but I'll tell you, that can be confusing. For example.... for: difficult children... or ... against? You be the judge!

In honor of All Saint's Day.... here goes:

1. St. Ursula - for writers, for a holy death, and for the British Virgin Islands (hey! the operative word here isn't "wtf?"... the operative word is "USEFUL" ...)

2. St. Expeditus - (I'm not kidding) - against procrastination, for merchants and navigators

3. St. K/Catherine of Alexandria - (very popular; has her own cultus which was outlawed by a pope) - she was tortured on the wheel, sooooo..... she's for craftsmen who work with a wheel, like potters and spinners, but also for knife grinders and knife sharpeners (and probably those knife thrower guys at the circus 'cuz that would combine spinning wheels and knives, right?); she's also for WRITERS (yippee!), scribes and teachers, AND... spinsters and old maids (well, maidens, too... go figure) ...and the saint for the University of Paris (rah! rah!)

4. St. Lucy - (not the one with the lights around her head; this is the Catholic list, the one who saved her mother from a hemorrhagic illness) - Lucy was sentenced to forced prostitution, but the guards sent to fetch her couldn't move her even when they hitched her to a team of oxen (Go Lucy!). So they tore out her eyes. Then, after trying to burn her at the stake (the fires wouldn't light) they stabbed her to death with a dagger in the throat. Wait! Wait... it all makes sense! For: the blind, sore throats, eye problems, the blind, and authors! Also for dysentery, hemorraghes, and stained glass workers.

5. St. Clothilde - for disappointing children; also for queens, widows, and parenthood. Honestly... I don't know if "disappointing" is a verb or an adjective in this sense. Either way... well, it's a mystery.

6. St. Monica - for alcoholics, difficult marriages, and victims of unfaithfulness, victims of verbal abuse, victims of adultery, wives, and mothers. I think she's our girl, ye Romance Writers!

7. St. Fiacre - for: taxi cabs, taxi drivers, tile makers and gardeners; against: hemorrhoids, sterility, syphilis, and venereal disease.

8. St. Martha - for dietitians and laundry workers, maids, and manservants. That covers me most days.

9. St. Ambrose of Milan - for: wax melters, bees, domestic animals, and learning

10. St. Angela of Foligno - for (or is that "against"???) sexual temptation (and why do they always throw "widows" into that mix?)

11. St. Draucinus - for invincible people and champions; against enemy plots

12. St. Hilary of Poitiers - against snakes, snake bites, and backward children (one must ask... who are these??)

13. St. Isidore of Seville - for computes and computer users and the internet; must therefore be against computer viruses, spam, and penis enlargment

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Got 30 Seconds?
I don't have the media skills to make a movie like the one you'll see if you hit the button.
I'm plain ol' piggybacking.
What do I stand for? I'm "in" for this 30 seconds. I'm "in" for my life.
Are you?

As of 10/30 ---> 3839 US Dead; 28,276 US Wounded; 71,259 Iraqi Dead
Are you part of the Problem? Or part of the Solution?
Where do you Stand?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

I've always loved Deborah Kerr, a class act. In her honor, this week's list. The picture, above, from An Affair to Remember, set me in motion. After all, who fails to sob at the end of that movie? ...Oh probably some cold-hearted guy who laughs aloud... to cover his tears?

1. An Affair to Remember --- "Don't cry darling. If I can write one of these Thursday 13 lists every week, you can remember to put down the seat on the toilet." [okay, add Sleepless in Seattle here, and maybe even The Dirty Dozen, for good measure]

2. Phenomenon - best sob line..... "No, I'll love you for the rest of my life." But you gotta watch the movie to understand.

3. Steel Magnolias -- So, you're sobbing along and then Olympia Dukakis pushes Shirley MacLaine in front of Sally Field and yelps, "Take a whack at Ouiza" (sp). Are you still crying or do you start laughing? Or both? See.... that's a great moment in good writing.

4. Price of Tides -- Obviously, the book far surpasses the movie, but for a good cry... "Lowenstein, Lowenstein." And I did whisper that as I drove over that bridge in Charleston. For my money, no better writer lives than Pat Conroy -- what he can do with a sentence...oooh, baby, baby.

5. Forest Gump --- Yeah, laugh if you want, but cry when Tom Hanks sees his son for the first time, asks Jenny if he's normal.... oooh, I'm gettin' goosepimples.

6. Saving Private Ryan -- I started crying at the opening. All those markers in that cemetery in France -- all those lives cut short by war. Supreme sacrifice always affects me -- I cry at just about every monument in Washington, D.C.

7. Schindler's List -- I let out an audible gasp in the dark of a theatre at the point in this movie when I realized they were all going to be saved. Not that I didn't know that going in, but somehow I got caught in the story and forgot the history. Amazing arc model in Schindler's character.

8. Love, Actually -- "Let's get the shit kicked out of us for love." Okay, pass out the hankies. Who doesn't cry when that little boy races through the airport and comes back waving one finger? Ahhhhhhhh!

9. Brian's Song -- My stouthearted (some call him just a jock) older (well, older of the brothers but not older than moi) brother used to say that everyone should watch this movie once a year to keep themselves humble. The screenplay used to be in the literature book I had to use to teach English. Soooo...once a year I had to watch this six times a day. Still, I cried the first round every semester. Opening line: "Every true story ends in death. This is a true story."

10. Old Yeller -- I've never been able to watch this again since I saw it the first time as a kid.

11. Field of Dreams -- I start crying from the time Doc steps over that line and can't go back. When Kevin Costner realizes the catcher is his dad and begins to talk about never having seen his dad at that age, I begin to sob. Have you ever thought of your parents as children or even teenagers with dreams and desires and hopes that you never even glimpsed? This movie led me to consider other dimensions to my mother, with whom I have always had a very tumultuous relationship. I worked at imagining her as a little girl -- fresh and ready to face the world, with all the dreams of a little girl and none of the burdens that being a mother to six children placed on her shoulders later. And I imagined my father, a youthful, vigorous twenty year old, facing the world with a clean slate and all possibilities. "Wanna have a catch, Dad?"

12. Charlotte's Web -- Again, probably the book more than the movie, since E.B. White is a MASTER . If you haven't read the book in a long time, you really should. His way with a sentence -- WOW! And reading the book as an adult will open your eyes to how adult the book really is. You'll be amazed. SOME PIG, indeed. RADIANT. TERRIFIC.

13. It's a Wonderful Life -- Having reached the iconic saturation point, I suppose nobody would dare to put this movie on any list, but I have a sneaky suspicion that many still whip it out while decorating the tree or cooking a turkey dinner or wrapping presents. Background noise. I can remember the first time I saw it, years and years ago. Sob, sob, sob. I have a book that includes the screenplay and pictures from the movie. The book also includes the original short story and a bit about how the author published -- first as a Christmas card for all his friends. No one wanted to publish the little story by author Philip Van Doren Stern, but he never lost faith. A lesson to all writers. Take heart.

Thanks for the memories, Deborah. Here are a few of her films for your future viewing:
Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison
The King and I
From Here to Eternity
Tea and Sympathy

Thursday, October 18, 2007

1. Brenda Starr and Basil St. John
2. Dagwood and Blondie
3. Mickey and Minnie (Donald and Daisy)
4. Wilma and Fred Flintstone (Barney and Betty) (Pebbles and BamBam)
5. Bert and Ernie
6. Yogi Bear and BooBoo
7. Little Nancy and Sluggo
8. Betty and Veronica (Archie and Jughead)
9. Marge and Homer Simpson
10. Lady and the Tramp
11. Beavis and Butthead
12. Judy and George Jetson
13. Superman and Lois Lane

The Sunday funnies provided me with a reason to read. Nothing could be finer than to spread newspaper all over the floor, to drink hot cocoa, to sit by a roaring fire, to read every comic in the latest edition. Or watch the Saturday morning cartoons the very first time that peacock spread her feathers for NBC, in living color. Wow. Cartoons were amazing -- all pinks and purples that had never been seen. Comic books? Banned at our house (tool of the devil? I have no idea what my parents were thinking). Relax and remember -- good times, with characters we loved, when we were kids.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

1. Ernest Borgnine & Ethel Merman -married for what, five minutes?
2. Frank Sinatra & Mia Farrow - the haircut did it
3. Jennifer Lopez & Ben Affleck - ruined both careers?
4. Paula Abdul & Emilio Estevez - he couldn't sing or dance, could she?
5. Marilyn Monroe & Arthur Miller - caused audible gasp
6. Liza Minnelli & David Gest - at least they could share make up
7. Michael Jackson & Lisa Marie - nothing to see here, move along
8. Julia Roberts & Lyle Lovett - love his music, her work, but together? no
9. Barbra Streisand & Elliot Gould - have a hard time picturing this now
10. Cameron Diaz & Justin Timberlake - nice fling, couldn't last, oh duh
11. Heather Locklear & David Spade - nope, I don't get it
12. Ted Danson & Whoopi Goldberg - both out of their minds at the time
13. Charles & Diana - at least he got nice looking kids out of it

More couples coming up in the next few weeks... I'm on a roll. Always thinking of characters for the next book. Isn't it fun to pair up, heap conflict, and manipulate the heck out of everyone from cabbies to secretaries via the sparks and problems that insue?