She’s Home!!

What a fantastic 4 days! Our baby girl got to come home and what a joy that was.

So the back story is, long ago in 1989 Derek and I…fast forward to November and it’s a girl! And what a beautiful and smart girl she was and still is. We decided to raise her to be strong, independent, compassionate and we kick ourselves everyday because of it. (I am joking of course…or at least some).

When it came time for college she moved to San Francisco, 590 miles away! AWAY! We thought our hearts would break. But, they didn’t and lucky for us we got see her 4 times a year so it was great. The third year of college she decides to study abroad, in Spain. This time she’s over 5,800 miles AWAY! I’m sensing something, but not sure yet… She meets a young man and falls in love. She comes home a year later and finishes up her studies and graduates with honors galore and is still in love with Joakim. Guess what?!?! No she didn’t get married, or bring a bambino home. She decides to study for her Master’s Degree. Awesome yes? Yes…but she goes away. To Sweden! (stupid boys – sorry Joakim I do adore you) So for the next 4 years our baby girl will be working, studying and living in Sweden. The good news is she’s 800 miles closer than when she was in Spain.

But last week she and Joakim came back to the states for a whirlwind trip. They stayed with my folks for a week so she could see her family and friends down in California. Then went to San Francisco to see friends there and drove up to Oregon to finally see where we moved to. So we took them around all over and showed them a small slice of our neck of the woods. Below are just a few pictures we all took. Click an image to make it bigger and read the description. Those of you with lives, carry on.

#McMenamins #Oregon #Beer

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So…what scares you?

It’s October! One of the best months ever! Not only are the trees changing, the temperatures cooling, but it’s Halloween!!!!

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

So I must ask – what are your favorite scary stories or movies that make you scream?

The best story I ever heard was told by my dad. Edgar Allen Poe’s A Tell-Tale Heart. OMG this story was just dripping with everything I love about scary stories – intrigue, suspense and at the end the splattering of gore.

Master of Horror!

Master of Horror!

My favorite movie that embraces the Halloween macabre is The Exorcist. I adore this movie and watch it any time it comes on 🙂 Yes I am one sick gal lol!

Hello Reagan or should I say - Satan!

Hello Reagan or should I say – Satan!

So now you…what makes your heart race, the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end, or hands cold and clammy?

1 Pill, 2 Pills, Red Pills, Blue Pills

So while 2013 is going to be the year of The Burger Project, it also the year I eat a bit better and put healthier stuff in my gullet.

Which brings me to my trip to a vitamin store recently.  First if you’ve never been into one of these and you’re going there to pick up one small item, find an employee and fast; tell them what you need. Otherwise you will wander around with the doe in the headlight look for long agonizing minutes.

I’m suppose to be taking all of these –

Hers

Hers

Good lord this is a small meal when you take into consideration all the liquid I’m going to need to get them down! I shudder to think how many times I’ll be trotting off to the tinkler because of all the liquid needed to slurp these down.

Guys you’re going for this little appetizer –

His

His

OoOoo look at all the blue ones! And no you can’t use beer to wash them down.

There are pills, powders and liquids to pump you up, trim you down, speed up your metabolism, brighten your day, keep you focused, increase your memory, remove nausea (though I think taking all these might give me nausea). There are jars of liquid grass. GRASS! Freshly mowed and organic I’m sure. You can get bottles of chlorophyll. This is the stuff that makes plants green. At the vitamin shop it states “…called the ‘building block of life’. Without chlorophyll there is no life…” If you’re a PLANT!  Eat a salad instead.

All kidding aside this is crazy. Vitamins are a billion dollar industry. If I took as many pills as they recommend I would have to give up a meal along with a heft cut of my income due to the expense. And did they go to vitamin school? Cause the girl that helped me couldn’t have been more than 19 years old. I mean if I want to teach nutrition or be a dietician I have to go to 4 years of school. So if Casey really wants to tell me what vitamins I should take, she should really be asking me a few pertinent medical questions don’t cha think?

So not counting synthetic vitamins, where do all these “natural” vitamins get their ingredients from? **whispers** Food.

What what? Food you say? Well let’s see –

Calcium from bone and dairy. (which also covers Vitamin D)

Vitamin C from Citrus
Omega 3 from Fish

Vitamin B’s (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12) Turkey, liver, tuna, chili peppers, lentils, bananas, potatoes just to name a few.

Iron – Bran flakes (also makes a nice coating for chicken), oatmeal, cream of wheat, steamed clams.

It all comes down to eating right. Well balanced food, fresh food, seasonal food.

Now the question…why was I there? Yep I went for supplements.  I wanted pure cranberry juice. Not that “cocktail” that you get in grocery stores which is mainly sugar and calcium, as I do not eat much dairy at all due to lactose intolerance.

Granted there are times when supplements are needed, but before you spend $100’s in the quick fix, take a look at your diet. Wouldn’t you rather have a great meal than a fist full of pills? I know I would!

Burger Project a New Appreciation

So I always thought that a great burger had to be grilled over hot coals to have the savory and juicy goodness when we think of an awesome hamburger.

Oh lordy was I wrong! Folks please never put limits on yourself as I did. But allow me to back up about 30 years.

Mom, Dad…if you are reading this, please go play solitaire or check your Facebook page for the next 10 minutes. Thanks…
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Ok….so when I was a kid growing up we had burgers on the grill now and then, but mainly they were fried in a stainless steel pan until..well…they were D O N E. Seasoning, funny enough, was mainly salt and pepper. My folks didn’t get fancy with the garlic powder and onion powder till much later. And when when I say cooked till done, I mean they were done in the pan for at least 5 minutes, which means as they sat for 10 minutes while we all got our buns ready and, yes you know what that means…way over done. Of course I never realized this until much later. Resting times were never addressed in the 60’s and 70’s. (No my age is not up for discussion)
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So while my folks didn’t know it, but when frying burgers salt and pepper are the only seasonings you should use. I had no idea my folks were so avant garde.

Let’s get to the awesomeness of the burger for the night. First off we have so many fresh, out of the garden ingredients going on here. The hamburger itself is from the side of beef we bought. Next up we have 3 cucumbers I cut up and pickled for the night in cider vinegar, pickling spice, salt and fresh dill I grew along with homegrown lettuce for our burgers. Next to our dinner is fresh picked cherry tomatoes and a ball squash.

I started by making my pickles so they’d be ready for dinner.

1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup water, plus more, if needed
2 teaspoons each: kosher salt, pickling spice
1 large pickling cucumber, cut into 1/8-inch slices

1 Combine cider vinegar with 1/2-cup of water, salt and pickling spice in a small saucepan. Heat to a boil.

2 Place cucumber in a clean, dry glass container just large enough to hold all the slices. Pour boiling brine over cucumber slices to cover completely. If all cucumbers are not submerged, add cold water to cover. Cover; refrigerate at least 1 hour. Pickles will keep for about 10 days.

I chilled these for 2 hours before we put them on the burgers. They  had an ever so slight sweetness to them but the crunch and pickle flavor was such a superior flavor than any store bought pickle.

For our dish you will need one ball squash, about 1/2 cup of small cherry tomatoes and 2 cloves of garlic. Take a ball squash (they look a lot like a zucchini but they are round and about 5-6″) Slice into slices about 1/4 inch thick. Take about a tsp of kosher salt and salt one side. Let these sit for 10 minutes. You will see a lot of moisture build up. This is a good thing as it’s drawing the moisture out so they will crisp up. After the 10 minutes, use a paper towel and wipe them off to remove the moisture. Let sit again until the burgers are done. Wash and dry tomatoes and slice the garlic in thin slices.

The hamburgers were the most basic of burgers. But the offered an enormous amount of flavor.

1 lb of hamburger (15% fat)
1-2 tsp Salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper

Sorry no more ingredients are needed. Put the meat in a bowl, add salt and pepper and mix thoroughly with your hands. Then simply form 4 patties no more than 4 ounces each. The patties should be pretty thin, they will be about 6″ diameter but will shrink to 4″ when cooked.

Get your iron skillet heated up to just below the smoking point. Add your patties and cook on high for about a minute. They will get nice and brown. Now flip those tasty meat patties over and cook them for another 5 minutes on med-high heat. Pull them and cover them for the next 8 minutes while you make the squash/tomato side dish.

In the same pan as the hamburgers were cooked, use a paper towel and absorb all but about a tablespoon of the pan drippings. Add your squash and brown for about 2 minutes. Turn squash over, put the garlic and tomatoes in and add some fresh cracked pepper and about 1/4 cup water. (keep your stove fan on at least medium as there will  smoke and steam). Let the tomatoes cook for about 2 minutes or until they just start to burst. Turn the heat off.

So for our burgers I believe simple buns are the best. If you need fancy buns your meat is not the star. I toasted ours for about a minute and then added a mayo mixture of – 1/2 cup Mayo, 2 Tbs worcestershire sauce, 2 tsp mustard, salt and pepper. A bit of ketchup, homegrown lettuce, red onion and homemade pickles.

Wow what a meal! The squash dish was so magnificently seasoned from the pan drippings the hamburger meat provided and the tomatoes brought such a nice sweetness to the dish.

Another incredible dish for  Burger Project 2013

Another incredible dish for Burger Project 2013

Folks I must challenge you. Summer is not over! Get your burger project started post haste!  You will not be disappointed.

Mother’s Day

Many of us are so fortunate to have children. I have one daughter, she’s 23, grown and living in Sweden at the moment. I am so incredibly proud of all that she’s accomplished in her life thus far.

We always wonder what our children think of us. We know they roll their eyes and we often hear “I know mom!” Well today my daughter did a posting on what she thought. I wanted to share it with the world. (Although I think I am practically perfect in every way)

From my daughter Laura Rose Fennell

This Mother’s Day I saw many (MANY) friends of mine declaring to the world that their mother was “the best mom ever.” This being largely credited to various forms of social networking, of course. But I have always heard this specific phrase and I’ve always just had to smile at it. I’m guilty of uttering those words as well. But I’m here to make a confession:

My mom is not perfect. Perhaps even a bit far from it. A few examples of this would be my enormous sailor’s mouth (which I did not inherit from my Pops), the endless “stubborn matches” she and I have had over the last ten years (with no real end in sight), her temper (which, as Joakim has sadly discovered, I may have acquired as well), she wasn’t able to join many field trips when I was a kid, and she has the WORST eyesight (another trait which my genes chose not to forgo).

And over the years, she and I have got into some pretty bad arguments that were at an octave I deem too high to admit. Despite these momentary disagreements and copious eye rolling (perhaps on both our parts), no one has the ability to calm me down enough to actually have a conversation when all I want to do is scream (or sob).

She’s always on her toes, ready to hop in the car for a 9-hour drive up the coast or even a plane across the world to see me if I even remotely need her. She’s offered to drive me out to a field of orange groves on a school night so I could just scream and feel ALLOWED to be angry and frustrated for a minute in all my 16 years.

After a a full day of work and a full evening of culinary school in downtown Los Angeles, she would come home at 1:00 a.m., sneak into my room, sit on the edge of my bed, and pet my shoulder. Despite working, attending school, and commuting 2.5 hours every day of the week, she would stay up to make sure I was okay because she hadn’t received a response to her text messages that day. And it was in these moments that I realized she didn’t join many field trips (maybe one total?) when I was young because she had always worked full time to make sure I had absolutely everything I needed to be the student I could be.

She not only wanted me to be a committed student, but a free thinker. When I was 15-years-old, I discovered my first grade report card in her closet. I had always been a straight A (or nearly straight A) student but was miffed to find a D- on that ancient report card. I had failed Bible Class. For those of you who don’t know, I attended private school all my life because my parents wanted me to have the best education possible (in our very unsafe home city) despite their complete lack of religious affiliation. When I confronted my mom to ask why I got a D-, she said, “They required the parents to participate in the Bible homework as well. They required that I force you to memorize my favorite verses. I’m certainly not going to be forced to believe something that I just don’t, and I won’t lie to my child and let her think I believe it or she must believe it herself. I let you choose. You chose not to.”

This is the same mom who called my preschool in a blind rage because they sent me home in tears flashing those 8×11″ laminated images from the Old Testament, one including people burning and melting in hell, held high so all the 4-year-olds could revel in it. My mom might be on to something.

So when I complain about her temper, I know I could have it a lot worse–I could have a passive mom who lets me “win” to avoid conflict. My mom is passionate and stands her ground and wants me to do the same. And yeah, swearing is a side effect of that. (Dammit, Mom!)

Occasionally, my mom has been a subject of frustration in my journals over the years. But I don’t tell her enough how much I love her and how her unique, incredibly strong and beautiful being inspires me to be a better woman every day.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I sure love you.