Category Archives: gluten free

Florida in Fours

The trip to Florida was another test of our gluten free sleuthing. It’s so exhausting that sometimes I wonder why we bother traveling. But our hotel room was more like a time-share, so we had a kitchen. That helped a lot as we ate breakfast and occasionally lunch (when we ate lunch) in our room. There was one big surprise in Sarasota.

 

Look at the sign on that restaurant: GREAT GLUTEN FREE MENU. What was nice is that Beckham’s on the Trail has a dedicated fryer and makes fish and chips gluten free. Please tell me why a huge city like Phoenix (far bigger than Tampa/St. Petersburg) doesn’t have more dedicated fryers!!! If you’re not familiar with that type of fryer it simply means one which only fries gluten free food. It’s not contaminated by gluten.

Although I didn’t see a lot of art while we were in Florida, we were greeted in the Tampa airport by this beauty. I love this gigantic multi-colored net that hangs on the wall over the escalator. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time or free hands to stop and take a good shot.

When I went through my photos from the trip, I discovered a fascination with four items. Four is challenging. Anybody who “decorates” knows that it’s easier to work with groups of three than with four. But four has its own special meanings. It’s the four seasons and four functions in math (add, subtract, multiply, divide). Once you start to think about it, I bet you can think of more fours than I can.

 

These chairs were so pretty, I couldn’t take my eyes off them.

Someone had left these shells lying here for others to enjoy. The gardener kept bringing me little shells he found, but the ones left on the wall were larger and nobody had taken them, which was amazing in itself.

These guys fascinated me. One of them had been trying to pull a plastic bag of (presumably) abandoned food out of a trash can, and I shooed him away because I couldn’t bear the thought of him eating the plastic and styrofoam. But he didn’t fly far–just to the ledge of the walkway at our hotel to join his friends. These guys are trying to pull a poem out of me.

I keep wondering why I saw fours in Florida.

Try writing about fours. I’d love to see what you come up with. Fours in a poem, a blog post, a story. What comes in four? How does four make us feel? Is there anything intrinsic or essential about four?

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Filed under #AmWriting, #amwriting, #writerlife, Art and Music, gluten free, gluten free restaurant, gluten free travel, groups of four, Inspiration, Nonfiction, Sightseeing & Travel, Tampa airport, travel, Writing, writing prompt

Screws and Recipes

Last week wasn’t great. There were several reasons, but the problem with my car can summarize the whole week. Presumably somebody  spilled a huge case of big screws out of their truck at a major intersection that I drove through at noon–when it was super busy. By the time I got my car to Discount Tire, it was the 31st one that day with tires studded with the same screws (just at that one store so imagine how many cars were truly damaged!). Yup, all four of my tires had to be replaced. Luckily, we had bought them in 2008 from Discount Tire, and they provide a lifetime warranty. So the cost was well under my deductible.

Speaking of deductibles, I discovered that my insurance doesn’t cover “road hazards.” What the heck is that about? If a car stalls right in front me, and I can’t possibly stop in time, is that a road hazard? What if a big chunk of concrete comes down from the overpass onto my car, is that a road hazard? I don’t like sneaky loopholes, and that is what it sounds like to me.

I plan to call the police department to see if they have a camera and can see who littered the road and caused all this damage to so many cars. My reasoning is that somebody who doesn’t fasten down a case of screws doesn’t fasten that ladder either–you know, the one that falls off on the freeway, causing a fatal accident.

On a more positive note, I went through my recipe box. I don’t use it anymore. Instead, I keep my recipes in two binders. So the recipes in the box date back a bit. I’m on a path of very very gradually cleaning up some of the old stuff that litters my life. I want to get rid of junk recipes that I’ll never use again–and that serve no historical purpose. I won’t get rid of my grandmother’s recipes although they are mainly breads and cakes that I can’t make for the gardener because of his celiac disease.

I found several recipes that are impossible to make because a key ingredient is no longer sold. But I found three I wanted to make. One is a corned beef cream cheese ball, but when I got to the grocery store, I discovered that they don’t sell those packages of flaked corned beef any more, and if I get some from the deli it’s probably too expensive and the wrong consistency anyway. I don’t remember noticing when they stopped selling processed corned beef in those little packages. If we think about it, we could probably make a really long list of foods that are no longer available that we used to count on.

That left two recipes, and I did make them. One was an ice cream pumpkin pie. This recipe dates back to junior high, which brings back a lot of memories. I had typed the recipe after I got it from two girls in my class. It was a favorite since I always loved both pumpkin pie and vanilla ice cream.

I had to make a couple of changes, though. The gardener can’t eat ice cream anymore because of the lactose, so I used vanilla almond frozen dessert for the “crust.” And I substituted Cool Whip for the Dream Whip (which I haven’t used in decades). I thought it was pretty good, but not as I remembered it. The gardener loves it (and he’s not even a pumpkin person), but since he can’t eat many desserts, he isn’t much of a judge of sweets.

The other recipe was for Coney Island sauce. When we were young, both the gardener and I loved to get Coney Dogs at the Coney Island restaurant in Kalamazoo. While we were in college, we worked at different retail stores downtown, and it was fun to meet at restaurants like this one and share our break. It looks like Coney Island is still in business. If you click the link, you can see the photos of the inside of the place, looking as it did when my grandfather and my mother and I were all kids!

I no longer eat beef (for the sauce) or regular hot dogs,  but thought the gardener would enjoy this blast from the past. The first thing I noticed is that the ground beef I buy is shredded into long tubes, rather than being the ground beef that crumbles in the frying pan. That meant I literally needed to chop the ground beef. Geesh. Then I tried to make it in my slow cooker because it requires 3-4 hours of simmering, and I can’t leave the flame on with cats all over the kitchen. I still simmered it on the stove near the end, but then the gardener told me I should have left some of the juice in. I don’t remember juice in the Coney dogs we ate as kids. He loved the flavor. The bun isn’t as good since it’s a dry gluten free bun and not one of those squishy cheap buns that are part of the fun.

Does it work to go back and try to relive the past by making old recipes? Sort of, but not completely, as you can see.

Even with all the screw damage and other stuff falling apart and causing trouble last week, I completed my writing resolution for the first week of 2018. I wrote every single day, at least 30 minutes. I will never be somebody who writes 4-8 hours per day, and I’m ok with that. But if I can write a minimum of 3.5 hours per week (excluding blog posts), I find that acceptable.

What about you? Did you have any resolutions or goals for the year? Have you made a good start on them?

 

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, #writerslife, Food & Drink, gluten free, gluten free travel, History, Memoir, Vintage American culture, Writing

Checking Out A Silver Lining

Before my father passed away, he and my mother wanted to get rid of their vacation club membership, but they couldn’t figure out how to do it and started to get all stressed out about it. They asked if we would take it, so the gardener said, “Sure.” Later, I told him I wasn’t very happy about that :). I didn’t like the idea of planning a vacation based on where I could stay for free that I had been paying for monthly all along, if that makes any sense.

It didn’t to me.

But it made them happy and, as it turned out, sometimes it’s very useful because the units always come with a kitchen, which is important for dealing with the celiac disease issue. That is what we did in New Orleans last year, and it worked out perfectly. You should see us moving into a regular hotel room with two coolers and four bags of gluten free foods. Not to mention, the air purifier and humidifier the gardener uses to deal with symptoms of his auto-immune troubles. No fear that I might be able to travel light, which is my dream.

We wanted to go on a vacation this year because we visited mom for her surgery this summer instead of taking a vacation, so we decided to use our “points” and visit somewhere on the vacation club map. We settled on Reno and Lake Tahoe in The Silver State (Nevada). The Reno portion was mainly to acclimate to altitude before reaching Tahoe because before the gardener was diagnosed and still eating gluten, he would get very sick at altitudes like Salt Lake City, which is only 4,226 ft!

We spent a few days in Reno, traveling to see Carson City (the capitol of Nevada) and Virginia City. We also had dinner with my cousin (who lives in Carson City and works for the State of Nevada) and his wife at a Persian restaurant. I’ve mentioned before that Persian is usually safe for celiacs, if they avoid the bread and the desserts. This restaurant turned out to be a bit “nouveau” in its cuisine, and while I thought the food was particularly delicious, the gardener was sick overnight. There was probably cross-contamination.

Carson City has a darling Capitol Building. They allow visitors to walk through, looking into the offices of the Governor and other dignitaries. I won’t share the photos I took past the entryway because it seems unsafe to me. But, gosh, it was so nice to be able to take a look at all that beautiful history on our own.

Sorry if one or two of those are a little crooked (@#%^&). The statue when you enter the building is of Sarah Winnemucca who wrote the first autobiography by a Native American woman (Northern Paiute), so I found that pretty meaningful.

I was shocked that Reno is such a casino-driven city. Maybe you knew that, but I didn’t. I don’t like casinos or cities with lots of casinos, but it was interesting to watch the motel outside our window. It was directly across the street and had a reputation for stabbings, shootings, drugs, and prostitution. The new managers were supposedly trying to clean up the property, but it was still a sad and fascinating site for me to observe.

The gardener dragged me to the casino three times, but MEH. I don’t like the cigarette (and cigar!) smoke, the glazed looks on the faces of people who might be ruining their own lives and the lives of their families, or the unnatural outfits those poor servers have to squeeze into.

Judgmental, moi? OK, I am judgmental about gambling, but not about the gamblers. I’ve seen the harm it causes, and I don’t like it. At least the gardener didn’t lose much because he didn’t fall into the trap.

What I did enjoy was the Zombie Crawl one night we were in Reno. The parade of costumes in the streets and inside the casinos was a lot of fun. And Reno has the best gluten free bakery I’ve ever experienced. Wherever we go, we look for gluten free bakeries; many cities have them now. But this one had baked goods and other foods that were the most like what I grew up with. Their frosted sugar cookies were like those of the bakeries of my childhood. All gluten free though! If you’re in Reno, stop by Haven on Earth at 10855 Double R Blvd., Suite A. Here’s their website: www.havenonearthbakery.com. They even have lasagna and chicken pot pies in a freezer case.

To make up for the casinos, I dragged the gardener to a lovely performance of the national tour of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. We saw it at this cool-looking theater.

Nearby is the Riverwalk.

And a gorgeous old building. I looked it up and now I can’t remember the name of it.

We were happy to move on to Tahoe when we did. What we found there was gorgeous. And October was a wonderful time for visiting because there weren’t the crowds they see in the summer months and during ski season.

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Lake Tahoe is the purest body of water in the world, and it looks it. Just stunning. I could have walked on the beach in my sweatshirt every morning for the rest of my life. The gardener, on the other hand, thought it a bit chilly. He’s more the Caribbean type. While I prefer more deciduous trees in my dreamscape, I couldn’t get over the beauty of this national treasure.

And they had a great burger place that doesn’t get a celiac sick! They have a “dedicated fryer,” which means only gluten free foods go into that fryer. That is important if you want fries with your gluten free burger. I loved their veggie burger, too. CALIFORNIA BURGER COMPANY. Remember that if you go to Tahoe.  They feature live music and art on the walls. And gourmet casual food. Yum!

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BETA READER SHARING? On another note, I have been tinkering with the ole memoir a bit. It’s gone through a lot of versions already and may still have a lot of versions to go through. But it would be helpful to have 2 beta readers look at the dang thing as it stands now as I have too many versions in my head and can’t really “see” what is here any longer.

Do you feel that you have the time, inclination, and a bit or a lot of experience with a full-length manuscript (I think a novel would be fine, as well as memoir)? I’ll warn you that it’s approximately 280 pages.  I am happy to trade manuscripts with you and give yours the same careful reading with comments.  I am only interested in reading complete manuscripts in draft, though. No manuscript where you are sure you are done and just want confirmation. No manuscript that doesn’t have an ending yet. If you are interested, please email me at luanne.castle[at]gmail.com. If I get more than two offers, I’ll choose the two that seem the best fit, but will save names for the next version haha. If I get no takers, I’ll try to find readers through some other channels. Thanks for listening!

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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, #writerslife, Flora, Garden, and Landscape, Food & Drink, gluten free, gluten free travel, History, Inspiration, Nonfiction, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing

Perry and Mom Visit the Doctor

Just a brief update on Perry’s health. I took him to a veterinary internist yesterday, and he determined that Perry isn’t in an urgent situation. He either has this fast breathing response to stress or he might have a polyp which could probably be seen on a CT scan. Mind you, a CT scan is super expensive. (Of course it is). Yes, that was sarcasm.

I am hoping it is a reaction to stress and not an actual anatomical problem. Maybe it is stress that causes the tachypnea since he has shown a weird reaction to stress in the past. Remember that he was so stressed in the shelter that staff and volunteers thought he was feral because he was frozen in place (wouldn’t move) and when anybody tried to touch him he became hysterical and tried to climb the walls. So we will wait and watch for now. If symptoms get worse or any new symptoms appear I will bring him to the internist for the CT, credit card in hand. (Ugh).

By the way, Sarah, the tech who works for this internist, was absolutely amazing. She was so slow and gentle with Perry that he allowed himself to be examined with no sedation and no muzzle/mask. WOW!

We just got back from a trip to Lake Tahoe and the Reno area. I plan to blog about the trip eventually–both the sites and the gluten free travel (ugh and oy on this one), but right now I have piles of work.

Thought you might enjoy this very short ADORABLE video of my catdog Perry to start off your weekend right.

 

Anybody else a fan of the catdog cartoons? I used to love them. Yes, happiness can be very simple!

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Filed under #writerlife, Arizona, Cats and Other Animals, gluten free, gluten free travel, Writing

Time Warp

We’re back from a trip to Michigan. Mom had heart surgery in Grand Rapids at the heart center, and she did so well she was out of the hospital in 48 hours! So we were able to bring her back to Kalamazoo and get her set up at home. This was really a medical miracle because she had a 6th stent put in and a new heart valve without having to undergo open heart surgery. I am not impressed easily by modern medicine (though I probably should be), but this knocked my socks off.

While she was in the hospital, the gardener and I went for a drive one day and visited both Saugatuck and Holland. We really wanted to stare at Lake Michigan, so when we saw the sign in Saugatuck we started walking.

Walking without asking. Now, mind you, I have a reconstructed foot. This was a rare surgery done because of damage by a rare tumor. So even though I almost always wear my orthotic-adorned New Balances, I never know when the foot will start to hurt like crazy and I will have to stop walking.

Before we had gone too far I asked a woman who was passing by how long the trail was. “About a half mile,” she said. “But it’s very hilly.”

Yes, ma’am, it was very hilly. But it warn’t no half mile.

I looked it up afterward. 2.5 miles each way. HEH

I was lucky that my foot didn’t seem to mind and see where we ended up.

Worth it? MUCH.

A beach and a view with very few people.

After that we drove to Holland because the gardener had an antique store to check out, and I wanted to visit Windmill Island as I had as a kid.

Back to my Dutch roots ;).

These shoes would need some magical orthotics for me to wear them haha.

We found a restaurant the gardener could eat in without worry. Celiacs note: Persian restaurants are the next best thing to completely gluten free restaurants! Usually, only the bread, desserts, and a few appetizers have gluten.

Chicken koobideh and a rice dish with barberries.

My mother looked great after her surgery, and the only real hitch was when the discharge nurse told mom she can’t drive for a certain period of time. That made her really unhappy. Next day, she said she wanted blueberries from the blueberry farm. Which, of course, was way out in the country. And we had lots of errands and chores to get her settled in. She even pouted/whined a bit. “I can’t drive myself there.” Sniff sniff.

So we took her. When I walked inside, the smell of blueberries was overpowering. She bought 5 pounds and gave my brother and sister-in-law some of them.

The blueberries seem blurry, and I don’t know why. But we also walked around the farm a bit to give mom some exercise.

Yup, that’s me driving the tractor.

Last year we had Mom’s retirement community plant a plum tree in my father’s memory. We used to have a plum tree in our backyard growing up and Dad would take a pic every so often–as it grew and as we grew. So a plum tree seemed right.

The tree is on the outskirts of a woods that abuts the retirement community. The gardener drove us in Mom’s golf cart through the woods.

When we came out of the woods we saw the beautiful gardens planted by the residents of the community. Flowers and vegetables–so lovely.

It was also my birthday on the day we took my mother home from the hospital. My uncle, my dad’s twin, did what he did last year: called to sing “Happy Birthday” to me. That’s what my father used to do every year we were apart. I love that my uncle is carrying on the tradition.

The gardener and I checked out a few of our old houses, visited his parents’ graves (Dad’s is not in town and there wasn’t time), and appreciated the wild flowers (Queen Anne’s Lace, Chicory, Day Lilies, Ironweed). We left Kalamazoo 27 years ago, and at our last house, we noticed that they still have the same drapes in the living room. That was astonishing because those drapes were actually hung 32 years ago, and they are made of massive amounts of off-white sheers. I can’t imagine them lasting this long. But what I do remember is how much work I put into designing them and finding someone to make them–and how much I loved them! I wrote a poem about them and put it in the portfolio of poems I submitted to Western Michigan University for my application to the MFA program. The last stanza goes like this:

Through shadowed glass,

with guarded eyes,

my neighbors wait

for me to swoop my fingers

through the sheer

and clutch the volume

to my chest.

The poem is called “New Drapes,” though these are far from new, and none of the neighbors could still live there any more. Just one of the many time warp experiences I had.

And so it goes.

 

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Filed under #writerlife, Family history, Flora, Garden, and Landscape, Food & Drink, gluten free, gluten free travel, History, Liminality, Nonfiction, Sightseeing & Travel, Writing

A Tip O’ My Hats to 2017

A few years ago I made an avatar that showed me in my usual garb–tank top, yoga pants, baseball cap, and sunglasses.

The latter two items are because light, especially fluorescents!!!, is a nasty trigger for my complicated migraines (note: complicated migraines are a real thing, related to regular migraines, but not just complicated versions of the headaches). The other day I visited a fancy Whole Foods store in north Scottsdale and because the store was so big and the ceiling so covered with fluorescents within ten minutes large black shadow blobs floated in front of my vision and I got agitated. I’d forgotten my hat!

I forget my hat often enough that it’s led to a collection of emergency (and non emergency) hats. I’m trying to branch out from caps because the brims aren’t big enough and don’t block enough light.

In Bisbee, Arizona, I bought this crushable, foldable comfy hat in my favorite color, coral. I can travel with it. I usually pretend this hat matches whatever I’m wearing.

My soon-to-be DIL had a cat birthday party for my son. She ordered these caps with pix of both their cats. Look closely and you will see Lily Lane on top and Meesker on the bottom.

I fell in love with this Tucson style hat at an art fair. Look at the pretty trim.

This hat makes a specific statement that has something to do with fashion, and I don’t usually feel I can live up to it.

I found this straw cowboy hat at a rest stop between Arizona and California. It goes with my boots!

This men’s dress felt is a love. It’s too big, which is one thing that endears a hat to me.

 My family calls this my bird lady hat. As in the bird woman in Mary Poppins. This hat is important to me to watch TV on the couch. The lamp that is necessary to watch the screen at night, is behind my head, and I have to protect my head and face from the light, so I wear this hat while I’m in my nightgown, cuddling with the cats. The brim is merely fabric on a bendable wire, so I can lie back without ruining the hat.

The night the gardener and I went to the restaurant in New Orleans that has gluten free deep-fried seafood, I forgot my hat. What a mistake. That restaurant’s ceiling was populated by the harshest fluorescents I’ve ever seen. The employees were wearing ball caps! It was 9PM in the French Quarter. I was there because of the gardener’s celiac disease, but he saw how bad the lights were and went on a mission after we placed our food order. He ran blocks searching for an open store with a hat. I couldn’t do it because I can’t run or walk fast for medical reasons, so I sat there under the lights with my purse over my head (you can go ahead and laugh at that image–it won’t make me feel bad).

When the gardener got back, I couldn’t believe how well he did. He found a second hand store that was open. It sold a few new items, including this cool fishing hat! It looks a little worse for wear and needs a good brushing, but wow, it feels good and it looks good! The second I put it on my head, my body calmed down. (Fluorescents give me all kinds of unpleasant sensations that are probably part of migraine aura).

Ta da: the brim!

Gift shopping with my daughter led to us trying on hats at Dillard’s. They had an amazing Downton Abbey hat marked way down, and although I would NEVER wear it in real life, I thought it might be handy in case I had to attend a serious dress-up function under the LIGHTS.

At least it looks really great in my closet!

A huge welcome to 2017. Let’s move forward! Best way to do that is watch the Cotton Bowl TODAY and see my Western Michigan University Broncos kick some Badger butt!

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Filed under #AmWriting, #writerlife, gluten free, gluten free travel, Nonfiction

The Celiac’s Wife Talks Food in The Big Easy

Do you think it’s easy to find food for a celiac who can’t eat gluten, but is also lactose intolerant, fat intolerant, and can’t eat beans, chocolate, coconut, etc.?

OK, well, the fact is that it was sure easy for ME to find food ;). I parTOOK of gumbo, beignets, cafe au lait, deep-fried seafood, rich creole sauces, and more. But I had to do it in restaurants–for the most part–where I could drag the celiac.

Our first big meal was in a seafood restaurant in the French Quarter. They had lots of deep-fried this and that.

The celiac quickly learned that he needed to order the boiled seafood. First, he had to ask if anything else was boiled in that water. If they boiled anything with gluten, he had to opt out. But if they boiled potatoes, corn on the cob, and seafood, that was fine.

That left the deep-fried for me. And what did I order? Oysters every time. A few times I sample other fried seafood, but nothing can beat the oysters.

You see those onion rings? They were great, too. I didn’t eat the fries or too many of the hushpuppies buried underneath. After all, I’m not a . . . glutton. Eventually we did find a very casual restaurant where all the deepfried foods are gluten free. They were quite busy, probably because they are the only place a celiac can get gluten free fried seafood–and also because the prices were quite low. The food was so-so, but it was a relief that the gardener could try the fried shrimp and oysters without worry.

Because the vegetable selection was sparse in these seafood platters (cole slaw is NOT ubiquitous in NOLA), I ordered a Bloody Mary for a healthy balance.

The bean is pickled, and there are a cocktail onion and other veggies hidden from view.

On one of our quick stops, I ordered a bowl of tasty New Orleans gumbo in a brown roux. What I really appreciate about the gumbos I ate or saw is that they had crab and shrimp, but didn’t stick in mussels or scallops. I am allergic to mussels and scallops, but not other shellfish. Before you think I’m imaging this, I found out a year or so ago that my mother has the exact same allergy!

One night we went to a fancy-schmancy restaurant called Mr. John’s. The gardener ordered a steak and mushrooms and salad, but I had a salad with, wait for it: crab bisque (with a spicy NOLA bite to it) and fried green tomatoes with a spicy creamy type sauce. Oh yeah.

One thing about the expensive restaurants like Galatoire’s, Antoine’s, and Arnaud’s–you need to make a reservation a long time ahead. If you just go to the Big Easy and expect that easy style will net you a table at a famous restaurant, you will see that you were sadly mistaken.  I suggest making a reservation long before you go, if you really want to go to one of these restaurants. Also, these places generally still require men to wear jackets. Mr. John’s requires a reservation, as well, but not so far in advance–and no jacket necessary.

New Orleans food is mainly comprised of either Cajun (spicy) or Creole (heavy cream sauces) foods, accessorized with a lot of deep-fried seafood and this-and-that. After awhile, as a way to avoid the Gaviscon, you want something lighter. We ate sushi twice, and it was spectacular. Check out Poseidon on St. Charles when you need a break from “traditional” NOLA food.

I hadn’t planned on eating sweets on this vacation, but our city tour took us to a stop where we were encouraged to try New Orleans beignets (square holeless French doughnuts) topped with confectioner’s sugar and cafe au lait. Cafe au lait in NOLA is apparently chicory coffee. This is what my buddy Wikipedia has to say about New Orleans cafe au lait (as opposed to the French style):

Café au lait is a popular drink in New Orleans, available at coffee shops like Café du Monde and Morning Call, where it is made with milk and coffee mixed with chicory, giving it a strong, bitter taste. Unlike the European café style, a New Orleans-style café au lait is made with scalded milk (milk warmed over heat to just below boiling), rather than with steamed milk. The use of roasted chicory root as an extender in coffee became common in Louisiana during the American Civil War, when Union navalblockades cut off the Port of New Orleans, forcing citizens to stretch out the coffee supply. In New Orleans, café au lait is traditionally drunk while eating beignetsdusted with powdered sugar, which offsets the bitterness of the chicory.

I hate to admit it, but I ate this in front of the gardener. The cafe had NADA (zilch, zero, nutten) for him to order. Even the cafe au lait wasn’t guaranteed to be gluten free and he could never tolerate all that dairy. He had black coffee. Yes, in answer to your question, I felt terrible. But this snack tasted great ;).

What’s next? Probably the graves. We also visited the only plantation that focuses on the lives of the enslaved, not the enslavers. I might write about that, too. But graves next.

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Filed under #writerlife, Art and Music, gluten free, gluten free travel, History, Nonfiction, Sightseeing & Travel

Another Glass of Chardonnay (or Sake)

Somehow I got conned tricked into an online wine club (by accident). I discovered they were putting $40 every billing cycle on my credit card. I like wine, but I sure can’t use $40 a month! So I placed an order for the wine I had coming to me and quickly cancelled the subscription.

One of the wines I ordered was Rumpus, both because it was advertised as a popular chardonnay and because the name reminded me of “Let the wild rumpus start!” from Where the Wild Things Are.

When I first opened the bottle, I liked that the wine had no bite, no aftertaste, and was very smooth and good tasting. But the next time the wine (from the previously opened bottle) was sharp to my tongue and a bit abrasive–like a typical cheap chardonnay. The third time I drank from the bottle, the sharpness had calmed down, but it tasted like a very average chardonnay.

Notice on the back the talk of “Angel funding.” That was my $40 per month. I’m an Angel, but when I cancelled I had to turn in my wings and halo. Now I’m just a wine parasite.

A long time ago, I promised you more chardonnay reviews.  The problem is that if I don’t take good notes and if that one glass turns into 1.5 or even 2, I forget all my very important observations.

Here are some wines I’ve tried since that review last December.

Qu is another wine club offering. It was adequate. Actually adequate is not bad because that means that it is a lot better than most house chardonnays in most restaurants, right?

Cloud Break is such a pretty name for a wine. Gosh, where are my notes? That means I have to buy it all over again some day, just to see what I thought.

To my knowledge, the vineyards for this Jerome wine aren’t anywhere near Jerome, Arizona. I heard on TV the other day that there are over 30 wineries in Arizona now, but I kind of turned up my nose. I didn’t care for this Arizona wine. In fact, I thought it was pretty icky and suspect most of them are like this. (I apologize to my dear friend I gave a bottle of Arizona wine to yikes). Any Arizona wineries out there want to prove differently, email me for my shipping address. I accept free wine for review.

If I drink more than a glass or two of chardonnay a week, my stomach gets free-ranging acid. So I had to find a remedy. Most people would switch to red wine. Or vodka. Or stay away from alcohol (and chocolate).

My remedy was to switch to sake. It doesn’t seem to bother my stomach, and it’s never disappointing. I buy or order junmai sake because junmai means distilled alcohol has not been added. That assures that the wine is most likely gluten-free (the celiac has had good luck with junmais).

Fun sakes are Mura Mura: I’ve enjoyed four of its locations: river, canyon, mountain, and meadow. They are all quite different, but delicious. The most unusual is mountain: sweet, , full, rich,  and milky white. It fills the tongue beautifully.  Mountain is perfect for drinking by itself (without food). River feels and looks thinner, has a milder taste, and is pale yellow. Canyon and meadow are closer to river than they are to mountain.

Now Mura Mura makes a pear orchard sake, but I have yet to taste that delicacy.

Here are some other good tasting junmai sakes that are varying prices. Momo Kawa is intense and a bit dry. It’s very good, but not a favorite of mine. I suspect I like the sweeter sakes best. Ozeki is good, sweet, and I might add that it tastes slightly metallic–but even by putting that into words is exaggerating the characteristic.

The differences between junmai sakes are not that different from each other, according to my uneducated palate. I drink these sakes at room temperature or cold from the refrigerator. If you want warm sake, order the crap like Gekkeikan that you see in every supermarket.

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On another note, I finished the little free library memoir Monkey Mind and highly recommend it for anyone suffering from anxiety (unless you’re a kid and then it’s not appropriate!). The style is not chronological narrative as I am trying for my memoir (yes, I decided to put it–mostly–in order), but rather more thematically arranged and with a journalistic twist to it (research).

Kana’s selfie shows the best anxiety remedy: cat cuddling!

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, Book Review, Books, Cats and Other Animals, Food & Drink, gluten free, gluten free travel, Memoir, Memoir writing theory, Nonfiction, Writing

Pre-Measured Ingredients and a Glass of Wine: My Kind of Cooking

Meal planning and preparation (not to mention cleanup) has always felt like such a burden to me. When I get in the zone, I love to cook, especially if I have a glass of wine. But the thought of planning a menu and shopping for it sends me over the top. Actually doing it practically puts me prone on the couch.

So when I got a coupon for $30 off homechef.com, I thought I’d bite (sorry). I figured that if, for that first week, I could get 3 gourmet meals for 2 for $60 less $30, even if it wasn’t that good, it would be worth it. When I signed up, they even gave me another $10 off. I thought I probably wouldn’t go beyond that first week.

Have you heard of homechef.com? I guess it’s similar to blueapron.com, but from looking at the meals, I suspect that homechef is a little more “gourmet” in flavor. Not sure if they have these companies outside of the United States.

The weekly shipment comes in a padded box with six re-usable ice paks (if you don’t want to keep them, you can empty them out into the sink as the contents are harmless). Each meal’s ingredients are bagged together, with the meats separate in sealed packages. Enclosed is a 9×11 cardstock recipe with photos and other interesting info for each meal.

So far, we’ve had grilled salmon and vegetables, pork chop with honey mustard cream and fingerling potatoes, pesto shrimp and pecorino grits, chicken with green peppercorn sauce, white bean and butternut squash stew with baguette (whole thing except the baguette was gluten free, and the baguette was packaged separately), Thai red curry shrimp, and chicken in cherry red wine sauce (with artichoke gratin). Each meal is enough to eat, although the gardener likes a lot of rice, so I added a little more for two meals–and added mashed potatoes to whichever meal came with mashed carrots. But, boy,was I in for a surprise. Mashed carrots are delicious! I hate cooked carrots as a rule, but now I know that it’s easy to mash them and totally change the flavor and, of course, the texture.

My sauce was too thin because I drank too much wine, but it tasted great anyway

You can choose meals based on gluten-free, low fat, low carb, and so on. When I wanted to find out if the stew was gluten free without the baguette, I emailed them and got a reply very quickly from the chef. Different chefs design the various meals. Every week is different.

Best yet, I can skip any week I want with no penalty–or cancel whenever I want!

Lots of pros to this for me–and mainly it’s the idea that I don’t have to find recipes, make shopping lists, or shop (which I detest). All I have to do is grab my glass of wine and cook for 25-45 minutes on any given night. I don’t have to buy more ingredients than I can use. How many times have you bought a jar of pesto only to use a small amount for a recipe, then figure you’ll use it up later, and it ends up going bad in the fridge? Or if not pesto, other things, right? All you are required to keep on hand is olive oil, salt, and pepper. The recipe cards even tell me how long the ingredients will last before cooking so there’s no guessing if the meat is safe to cook or not. Each meal  at full price (without the discount) is $9.95 per person which is not a bad price for a gourmet meal.

Any cons? Yes. I don’t eat pork, so I ate the other part of the meal, but the gardener said that the pork chops were not very good. He said it was hard to get good pork chops and suggested I not choose those again. With plenty of seafood, chicken, and veggie options, that won’t be a problem. They have beef, too, but I don’t eat that either. The produce is not the quality I like to buy. It’s adequate for the purpose, and it doesn’t affect the flavor of the dishes at all. But it’s not the sort of produce I would make a salad with. And the lime that came with the Thai shrimp was completely dry.

But the ease and the taste of this food is well worth it, to my mind. I’m not usually somebody who takes to “stuff like this,” but I’m enjoying the benefits to homechef.com.

If you want the $30 off discount, I can send you an invite (just let me know your email address). When you refer people they get $30 off–and so does the referring person (which would be me), so we would both benefit (hehehe, she chuckled).

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You can see from the slideshow that I completely forgot to take a pic of the gorgeous Thai shrimp because I was so excited to eat it. It was delicious. So was the stew which you can see in the slideshow.

Anyway, if you try it and hate it, maybe it isn’t right for you. But it works out perfectly for us–two people who don’t want a bunch of leftover ingredients cluttering the fridge. Every time I opened the fridge I used to hear them demanding to be used. Guilt guilt guilt.

What else is going on besides cooking? Work. Always plenty of that. Then, also,  I’ve been revising some short story drafts that have lingered on my computer. We’ll see how that goes. Kitties are well. Kana and Sloopy Anne like to play Hot Pursuit together.  Hot Pursuit is round and, when it’s turned on, has a stick with a toy attached that goes round and round. The cats like to lie on the stick and try to keep it from moving.

 

 

 

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Filed under #AmWriting, Cats and Other Animals, Fiction, Food & Drink, gluten free, gluten free travel

More Arizona Exploring

To get away from the record heat in Phoenix, we went south for a day. Tucson, at 2,589 ft,  is a higher altitude than Phoenix, which is 1,086. Plus, Tucson is protected from the sun by the mountains and thus has more cloud cover. But we didn’t stay there long. We went to the real mountains. To Bisbee, AZ, to be precise. 5,589 ft.

There are those darn lines again!

It was a lovely temperature for summer. I don’t know what temperature it was, but it felt perfect. There was even a drizzle part of the day.

See that B up there on top? Stands for Bisbee.  No kidding! The population is about the same as the altitude. About one person per foot of altitude.

Bisbee is a very charming looking town because in the downtown area there is very little new construction. It’s almost all “antique.”

The museum had a lovely garden.

And the shops were interesting to me. A honey shop. A custom hat shop. A dress shop where I bought a hat in my favorite color (coral called peony). And a shop with a window after my own heart.

Dolls, masks, old photos, and memento mori. What more could I want?

The only thing they had very little of: gluten free food. Yikes. OK, I won’t go into that rant again.

On the way back from Bisbee, we drove through Tombstone (yup, that Tombstone), where we’ve been before.

I had to take photos out of the car window . . . .

We also drove through St. David, a town founded by LDS pioneers. It’s still mainly Mormon, and it appears to be a farming community, but maybe the farming was in its past. I was glad to get home, though, to my 4+1 cats. Slupe is doing so well! She’s now been out with all the others cats, and I am hopeful that they can be one happy group (when Tiger watches her back so Kana doesn’t sneak up on her).

Slupe

Slupe

My new writing project is a play. I’ve been working on the play with my daughter. I find it fairly easy to write dialogue, but more difficult to conceptualize how it all works onstage. That is her expertise. As an actor, she has a good feel for the physical parts of the play. I expect it to move slowly because of being the work of two people.

Have you ever worked on a project, writing or otherwise, with someone else that you were used to doing by yourself?

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Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, Cats and Other Animals, gluten free, gluten free travel, History, Inspiration, playwriting, Sightseeing & Travel, Vintage American culture, Writing