Goin’ to a Bar-Be-Que!

I have the opportunity to watch a bar-be-que competition this weekend, in which my friends, Steve and Christin (DiFranco) Caputo, representing Sasquatch BBQ, will be taking part. My mouth has always watered when looking at the various photos of their offerings to the judges, via Facebook, and I’m excited to sample these wares!

When the word barbeque is said, the first thing that comes to my mind is ribs, followed by chicken. A little research online led me in various directions on the history of barbeque, and from watching plenty of food and travel shows on TV, the mere definition of the word “barbeque” varies, largely by region. Some are all about the dry rub and some are about wet sauces slathered over the meat while it cooks. Some of the sauces are very different as well – sweet, smoky, even spicy.

Smoked meats – cooked low and slow for hours – are also considered to be barbeque, though I don’t know that I agree with that. I love smoked turkey, but it’s called smoked turkey, not turkey barbeque. Smoked beef brisket isn’t called barbequed beef brisket. Nonetheless, they all have their place in these competitions.

My friends will be turning in sausage, chicken, pork ribs, pork and brisket throughout the competition. (My mouth just watered again!). I will be there to sample each and every delight from what is left after the judges’ entrees are made. I’m most looking forward to the pork ribs, as it’s one of my favorite when it’s fall-off-the-bone delicious.

It will be nice to surprise Christin and Steve (they don’t know I’m planning on being there) and hang out with my friends, the DiFrancos to visit a little. I wanted to visit with them when I went to Strasburg two weeks ago, but the sinus issue made that impossible.

My natural inquisitiveness has me thinking about all of the questions I want to ask. From their passion for these competitions to which spices, rubs and sauces they use as well, to how to select a good cut of meat and how to trim a cut of meat. However, I don’t want to distract them from their objective. They have yet to win a competition, but they’ve placed well. Maybe I’ll bring them a little luck?

Sasquatch BBQ barbequed chicken offering
Sasquatch BBQ brisket offering

If not, I know my taste buds are in for a treat! It will be nice to see the platters of samplings in real life instead of just looking at photos! I also want to tour their new barbeque truck in real life instead of through video!

And the weather is supposed to be very accommodating!

Do I sound excited????

The Woman on the Beach

She stood alone as the dawn slowly made its way in the eastern sky. The sand, slightly damp from the tide now ebbing, tickled at her toes, but she was seemingly unaware. Eyes focused only on the brilliant orb peering up on the horizon. The wind was still, the moments interrupted only by the callings of a few early-riser seagulls. She heard them but they did not break her spell of watching the sun.

Later, after families and children started to crowd the beach, she stood there still, eyes fastened on the horizon. Birds flew and dove with wild abandon. Children played and shouted as the waves cascaded and caressed the sandy shore. She heard the noises as if she was in a vacuum – distant sounds that did not distract her from her thoughts.

She let her mind wander aimlessly, never losing sight of the horizon miles out in the ocean. The sun beat down brightly but she didn’t notice the heat.

All afternoon, she stood routed in that spot. She was not conscious of time except for the sun changing positions, having moved over her head and now slightly behind her shoulders. Families were beginning to pack up, heading home for dinner after a day romping in the sand and water. She sensed them leaving without attention to the movements.

After a bit, she could see the sky beginning to darken, feel the solitude of the area once dense with beach-goers and birds whose energy, now spent, had gone. And still she stood.

Finally, as the moon began to reach towards the now dark sky, highlighting the clouds around it, she broke her reverie. She looked down and was surprised to see her feet in water. She immediately wondered if the water lapping at her feet was the tide or a puddle of her tears.

Not turning, she took a few steps backwards. Glancing at the horizon, she took a deep, shaky breath, knowing that the time had come for her to leave it behind and move on. One the exhale of that shaky breath, she made the first sound she had made all day. She simply looked once more and, before turning, said one word…

Under the Weather

As a long-time sufferer of chronic sinusitis, you will seldom see me without a tissue in my hand or very nearby. Clothing with pockets has those pockets also stuffed with tissues, sometimes in various shades of use. Boxes of tissues are one of those things I keep in stock, purchasing more when the count gets down to four or less boxes.

Usually, it’s a runny nose, an inconvenience more than anything. A variety of over-the-counter products and nasal sprays, plus ibuprofen, keep it in check as needed. It’s one of those things I deal with, like a trick knee that sometimes goes out.

But about 10 days ago, what seemingly started out as another simple runny nose ended up being not one, but two, sinus infections. I’d made plans for an overnight stay to see a concert in an area about 1-1/2 hours away. I got to the location where I was staying, but just didn’t feel up to going to the concert (it was free, which made the decision a little easier). I did stay overnight, and stopped to visit a friend the next morning, coughing from the drainage in between blowing my nose. I came home, suffered through the night, and got in to see the doctor the next day.

Since I moved here 2 years ago, this is the first time this medical practice has dealt with one of my respiratory distress problems. My previous doctor always prescribed 500 mg of Amoxocillin 3 times a day, and that always worked. The fact that I had a low-grade fever accompanying the infections made my doctor choose to put me on the same medication, but at 875 mg twice a day. I didn’t care. I just wanted relief.

To make a long story short, the higher dosage of antibiotic created some serious issues with nausea. This is a common side-effect, but one I’d never had at the lower dosage. For days, I suffered through the nausea, had no energy, no appetite, and could only doze on and off as the phlegm would quickly gather in my throat and tickle it with the need to cough. Sleeping upright in the recliner didn’t help much. I was constantly drinking water to try and quiet the tickle.

I finally figured out yesterday that I could cut the antibiotic pills in half, and have started taking 1/2 a pill four times a day. That’s helped a little. Meanwhile, the constant runny nose is much better, as is the drainage to my throat. However, my head still feels incredibly full and somewhat like a bowling ball stuck between my shoulders. I was going to make some homemade chicken noodle soup and got chicken out to thaw, then didn’t have the energy to made the soup so just plain-baked the chicken so it wouldn’t go bad. I now add chicken to the nibbling I do, which has been mostly crackers (open package and eat, no real energy involved).

This, my readers, is why I’ve been absent from my blog. Not only have I not had the energy to write, but except for occasionally walking down one flight of interior steps to check my mail, I haven’t left my place in seven days (today will be day eight). In fact, this is the longest I’ve sat at my computer in one setting!

So please forgive me if you don’t see much from me for a little while longer. This is the first time in six years I’ve had something respiratory take me “down for the count” so I guess I was due. I miss the exercise to my brain that writing a blog takes, but anything more than just sharing the status quo would be forced.

Rest assured, I have no plans to stop blogging any time soon…

A Day my Dad Should’ve Lost It!

To be fair, my dad didn’t often ‘lose it’. As a traveling salesman (road warrior is what the hotel industry calls them), he wasn’t home much during the week, and his second job took him away for much of the weekend when he was home. Our mom was the disciplinarian, a role she perfected teaching elementary school for over 25 years. I used to be just like my mom – quick to anger and quick to react in anger. For those who want to know, I cured myself of that the day I picked up a cherished one-of-a-kind item in the heat of an argument and smashed it onto the floor, breaking it to smithereens. Over the course of years, I began to understand the emotion of anger and what was the emotion beneath it when the feeling triggered. Okay, so sometimes I miss the days of ranting and raving wildly, thinking how good it would feel to just let it all out… but the thought of wasting what little energy this aging body has on something that has no purpose and offers no solution always wins.

Like I said, my dad didn’t often ‘lose it’. He seldom got angry – or at least seldom showed his anger. I can only vaguely remember my parents arguing, but I do remember that mom was the aggressor, and understand now that he just let her spew and didn’t add fuel to the fire by engaging it.

Things we did as kids that were really stupid, however, sometimes got the better of him. Things we did that were dangerous to others could rile him. Things that took money to ‘solve’ were his pet peeve! (And yes, Brad, that includes the time I let the car engine seize up because I didn’t understand that the add oil light on the dashboard meant NOW!)

For some reason I recently thought about an incident from when I was a child (I was 12 or 13) and, in retrospect, realize he should have lost his cool over it, but didn’t.

You see, my parents both worked hard in order to provide for our family. We were lucky enough to have a nice home, good meals and name brand clothing. My parents always invested in good furniture that would last a while. It was the same with their clothing. My dad, especially because of his career, always invested in nice suits, shirts, ties and shoes. He only owned three pair of dress shoes, but they were all Floresheim shoes. He had two pair in black and one in brown. He polished them weekly – all three pair – whether he’d worn them or not. One day, a Saturday when he was away at his part-time job (he gave flying lessons to future pilots of small-engine aircrafts), I decided to surprise him and polish his shoes for him. The shoes, and the polishing kit, were always kept in the coat closet near the front door. And so, I got out the shoes and the kit, sat down and took out all of the laces from the shoes, and proceeded to polish them. When I was finished, I put the laces back in the shoes and put them back in the closet with the polishing kit.

I was so proud and so excited for him to see them! All I could think about was the extra time he could spend with us as a family because that weekly chore was done! When he finally got home (it felt like it was HOURS later!), I casually walked out of my bedroom and watched him head for the coat closet to put away his jacket. As he hung it up, I walked over to him, hugged him and told him to look down and see what I had done for him…

He looked and stood perfectly still – his face not changing – for at least a minute. Finally, he looked at me and said one word… “Why?” I explained my motivation and he paused for a moment, then said, “Thank you. But please don’t ever do that again.” With that, he closed the closet door and went about his business. Me? I went to my room and cried because he wasn’t as happy as I expected him to be!

After dinner, when I had done my share of chores to clear the dinner table, my dad went to the coat closet, pulled out his three pair of shoes and the polishing kit, and went back to the table. I lingered at the other end of the kitchen, watching him. He proceeded to get out small circles of paste wax and a cloth in preparation. I was intrigued, because he was set upon polishing his shoes in a very different way than I had..

You see, I had successfully polished his shoes to perfection… using liquid polish!

Nothing more was ever said on the subject. I retreated to my room, and never learned how long it took him to undo what I had done and return his shoes to their shiny splendor. If he were alive today, I’d definitely ask him if he remembered this incident. And I’d definitely thank him for not losing it!

I’m a girl

I’m a girl

Just a girl

Just an ordinary girl

(Or maybe not so ordinary).

Yes, I lead with my heart

As girls are known to do

Yes, I’m emotional, highly emotional

And yes, I like to feel pretty.

But I’ll wear my old jeans

And tee-shirts – go sans makeup

Because I don’t want to be

Pretty for you.

I’ll stick to my guns

Not let you rattle my beliefs

I’ll fight tooth and nail

For what matters to me.

I’ll strive to do better

Strive to be better

Not because you deserve it,

But because I do.

I’m a girl

Just a girl

Just an ordinary girl

(Or maybe not so ordinary)…

Move over, technology…

I thought that, after all of the trials and tribulations of multiple technology pieces to contend with, life would give me a reprieve. And it did, but not for very long!

My Keurig has officially bitten the dust. It’s been having odd little hiccups now and then for the past several weeks, and part of me knew that all I was doing was nursing it through until its final death. But then, it would fool me by acting its normal charming self for days at a time. And, because one of my ‘job’ titles is perfecting procrastination, I neglected to do anything. Each time it would hiccup, a little extra cleaning around the area where the coffee brews, and a few loving but meaningful taps along the top would solve the problem. If not, I would turn it off for at least 15 minutes, turn it back on, and I was provided with a lovely cup of coffee sans difficulty.

Not this time. I got two of my three customary cups of coffee without incident. But not the third! I tried every trick I’ve tried before, hoping that one of them would be the magic trick, but none worked. While my mind was thinking, “Just get a new one – they aren’t that expensive anymore”, another part of me doesn’t want to be a part of the generation that just tosses away stuff and replaces it because it’s easier. So I got online and searched for DIY ways to fix a non-working Keurig. I only found one helpful video, so I watched it and decided to try it. After all, it only involved a paper clip and allegedly a minute or two. So I got out a trusty paper clip and tried what the video showed. No success. Not wanting to give up hope, I tried brewing without a K-cup. Nope, not happening.

By this time, I really wanted that last cup of coffee, so I, inside my head, verbally patted myself on the back and reached up into the kitchen cabinet for a zippered bag that holds those single cup bags like tea bags are, except for coffee. You see, I used to travel for work, and being a coffeeholic, the little bit of coffee provided with a hotel room is never enough! I needed enough coffee in my system to be awake enough to go to the lobby/breakfast area and get more. And even then, I’d bring two cups back to the room and possibly still want more! And I’ve kept what I had, knowing that I might travel again (for pleasure, not work) and they would probably come in handy.

So I got my third cup of coffee – not as strong as I like it, but it’s coffee. I also got back online and ordered a new Keurig, which Amazon delivers with next day shipping. So it will be handy to have these individual coffee bags for tomorrow. Meanwhile, I’m still going to be working on the current machine to see if I can magically make it brew again!

Meanwhile, I’m a bit concerned about what kitchen appliance is headed to the graveyard next… because, in my life, things always happen in a series… Stay tuned!

Hacks from my Happy Place – VI

Okay, this isn’t exactly like my other “Hacks” posts where I share shortcuts and recipes from my kitchen. It’s about how to shop for all of those things you put in your fridge, freezer and pantry for making all of those yummy things in your own kitchen.

Generic vs. Brand Name: Do not be afraid to try generic options, especially when it comes to non-perishable items. Generic, or store-brand options, are often identical to what is branded by name, and priced lower only because they don’t have to tack onto the price to cover marketing, branding and advertising costs! I have only ever tried one store-brand product with which I was not satisfied, and that was for jarred peanut butter. Interestingly enough, the brand names – Jif, Skippy, etc. – all seem identical, so I buy whichever is the least price!

Fresh produce in season: Fresh produce is most often going to cost more than buying the canned item, and often when buying the frozen item as well. And you’ll have to do whatever necessary cleaning/prepping needed that is already done for the canned and frozen items. Having said that, when it comes to taste, fresh always wins! For example, I like canned pineapple well enough but I would gorge myself on fresh pineapple! They are NOT the same! Canned green beans are a staple in my pantry, but fresh green beans are always a more vibrant green after cooking and have a bit of a snap to the bite that canned can never duplicate! So buy fresh produce when it comes in season and save the other stuff for when you can’t get fresh!

Bakery items: Sure, that fresh donut in the bakery case is tempting, but the cookies and cupcakes are not only expensive, they are not as good as what you bake fresh. Convenient? Sure, but we seldom buy sweet treats for reasons of convenience. Save your money and treat yourself by baking from package or scratch and enjoy a freshly baked delight!

Grocery store circulars: The grocery store I usually shop at puts out a weekly circular, which lucky for me, comes in my mail, but is also available in the lobby of the store. Of course, it advertises name brand items on ‘special’. However, be aware of two things – one, not everything listed in the circular is actually on sale, and two, not every advertised price is actually the price at the store when you go to purchase it. I’ve looked at several items, thinking to stock up although I already had some, because they were in the circular only to find out the advertised item was the item’s usual price. Why? It’s one or two reasons. The item will be advertised if the store wants to lower its stock of that item (perhaps to make rotating stock in the warehouse in back easier) or else it’s simply “filler” to make the ad full. Be aware by looking at the shelf price. If it’s not a money-saving deal and you don’t need it, don’t buy it! Also, I now take my circular to the store with me, and have gotten the advertised price for items that are not marked on the shelves at the advertised price.

Expiration/sell by/best if used by: Certainly, none of us wants to buy food items that will go bad before we have time to use them! However, most non-perishable products are good well past these dates. Milk is always sold with a “sell by” date, but properly kept in the fridge, can last up to a week later. Oh, and milk can also be frozen! I always keep a quart of milk in my freezer over the winter months, in case the weather is too inclement for me to get to the store. Other things, like cheeses and lunchmeats can also be frozen before their expiration date.

Couponing: I’m all for coupons. However, coupons are only for name-brand products and often require a purchase of multiples in order to take advantage of the savings. Unless you are an extreme couponer or regularly donate to your local food bank/women’s shelter, don’t get sucked into using a coupon just because you have it! Again, compare savings of the name-brand product, with the coupon, to the cost of a generic or store-brand product and you’ll see that often you don’t save any money (and it often still costs you more!).

Loyalty programs: Many grocery stores now offer a loyalty program to do just that, keep you loyal to them instead of shopping at their competitors. Some programs make sense, and some do not! The other grocery store in my area has a loyalty program of earning 50 cents off your next purchase for every $50 worth of groceries. However, their prices are pennies to quarters more expensive than the store I usually shop at and the earning periods are short (usually a 4-week period). My store, in addition to points that allow me to get a discount on gasoline, also has different discount days – a senior discount day, a military discount day, etc. And these discounts are for their name brand products! So you can bet I go to the store on senior discount day and save 10% off the majority of their products I purchase (fresh produce, meat and dairy are not included).

I hope some of my grocery shopping experiences will help you save some money on your next grocery bill. If you have other great grocery shopping tips for saving money, please share them in the comment section!