Breakfast Out

Sunday evening, my husband and I realized that we didn’t have to be anywhere on Monday. That realization brought big smiles to our faces. “You want to go out for breakfast?” he asked me.

“Definitely!” I responded.

There’s a little breakfast/lunch place that we love to visit. Some would refer to it as “a hole in the wall” kind of place. Weekends are crazy busy there. People wait for an hour to get in and have a bit of comfort breakfast food.

On Monday there is no wait, we have our choice in seating. I chose the booth (wrong choice for me, read on for reason). We settle in, coffee comes quickly. I notice my usual choice is the special today, $1 off. I am tempted by the cinnamon swirled French toast, but stay with my usual. Two eggs over easy, sausage links, hash browns, plus a biscuit smothered in white sausage gravy will fill me up until dinnertime.

As we wait, sipping coffee, I notice there is a cold draft blowing on my right leg. I reach down to check if it is true or am I imagining. Yes, there is a definite draft blowing. I tell my husband about this cold air, he feels nothing. Maybe it is a draft from the windows at the booth behind me. Must be, I figure. This is an old building.

My food arrives, eating distracts me from the uncomfortable feeling from the cold draft. Once I finish, I am again noticing this cold air. I move over on the booth seat. It’s a little better. Wait, the air is following me. I move over more, if I move again I will be sitting on the floor.

My husband looks under the table. There is a vent on the floor, next to the wall. Someone has placed a magazine over the vent to block the air flow. It has been shifted, allowing air to escape. Apparently they did not like the arctic blast blowing against their leg either. With my toe, I readjust the magazine. The polar blast subsided. I sure wish I’d figured this out earlier. Next time I won’t select this booth, but if there is cold air blowing, I will look for the source rather than endure it.

photo 2 (6)

Gailey’s, where we love to go for breakfast.

Rueben

One day, when I was in high school, my father came home and told my mother about the most delicious sandwich he’d ever tasted. He described the ingredients Thousand Island dressing, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and corned beef on grilled bread. It sounded horrendous. Thousand Island dressing on a sandwich with sauerkraut? Really?

He was insistent that my mother recreate this concoction. She did and I fell in love with Rueben. The tang of the sauerkraut intermingling with the melted cheese, and the creaminess of the dressing created mouthfuls of deliciousness. The love affair with this sandwich didn’t even begin with real corned beef.

This is the type of corned beef we used. That can was deadly to open. I sliced my thumb several times on the edges.

This is the type of corned beef we used. That can was deadly to open. I sliced my thumb several times on the edges.

We were using the canned variety (we were ignorant when it came to the ways of corned beef in those days). Also, we used wheat bread, not rye. I guess my dad didn’t like rye.

Now, I am a bit of a Rueben snob. When I see it on a menu, I want to order it, but only after a few essential questions are answered. Do you use Thousand Island dressing (not mustard)? Is this grilled or on toasted bread? If it is toasted, I will not waste my time or calories.

It is unfortunate that there are waitresses out in the world telling people their Rueben is grilled, when in fact it was toasted. I was not a happy customer when my sandwich arrived.

However, I have found a place where the cook knows how to make a Rueben extraordinaire. Shane of Shane’s Joint creates a masterpiece of a sandwich. He not only grills the bread, but he also grills the corned beef. Watch out! The filling of this sandwich is hot! Swiss cheese melts down the mound of sauerkraut and corned beef like cheesy lava. The Thousand Island dressing slides on bringing all the ingredients to a perfect blending. The bread is grilled to crisp perfection.

The added bonus to this crispy, melty mess is a side of homemade potato chips, crunchy and warm. Handy to scoop up a bit of sauerkraut that escaped from the bread. Mmmmm!

Before

Before

After

After

One Soup, Three Flavors

Check out more slices at Two Writing Teachers

Check out more slices at Two Writing Teachers

The first snow brought temperatures that don’t even belong in the deep freezer. The only way to combat the chilly outside is to have something warm to put inside oneself. Soup to the rescue!

recipe book

I have a cookbook of 1,000 soup recipes. After I purchased the book, I read over each recipe and left flag markers on pages of recipes that sparked my interest. These flags have been hanging in there for years. I must confess, I have not been faithful to this cookbook. Finding recipes are so easy on-line, plus you often have the added bonus of a photo.

Before I headed to the store to stock up before the weather arrived, I checked my cookbook. I made my list and purchased my groceries. I was ready for soup making!

Once home I studied my list of soups and my ingredients. Easy Tortilla soup would be first. I had some cilantro that needed to be used. As I looked over the ingredients I decided it needed to be supplemented. So I added chopped chicken and corn to the pot. Soup was served and enjoyed. It wasn’t until after dinner I realized I forgot to put the cilantro in. Whoops!

The next day I grabbed the leafy greens from the fridge so I could chop some cilantro up and add it to the soup. I figured heating it in the microwave would be comparable to five minutes on the stove. As I ate the soup, I couldn’t really taste the unique flavor of the cilantro. It was more bitter. That left me puzzled.

It must have been weighing on my mind because later in the evening I knew why it tasted bitter. I didn’t put cilantro in, I chopped up some Italian parsley that I had purchased for another soup. Whoops again!

There was just enough soup left for a small bowl for lunch. I was determined to get that cilantro into the soup. This time I grabbed the right bundle of leafy greens, chopped them, and put them into the soup to cook for five minutes on the stove. Yup, there was the cilantro taste I’d been looking for.

The lesson from this is to reread the recipe when you think you are finished just to make sure you really are finished adding all the ingredients.

Celebrations

Has your week been a flurry of activity? Have you been elbow deep into food preparation? Or perhaps you were one of the weary travelers on the road to spend Thanksgiving with family or friends who live afar. Celebrations can be lost in all the hubbub of activity. This week I tried to imprint on my brain what I needed to celebrate today. (I know it would be easier if I’d take a moment to jot them down, but I didn’t. Maybe next week I’ll try that out.)

At one time, I had a fleeting thought that I’d love to hop in the car and head to California to spend Thanksgiving with my son and his family. But sanity reigned me in. My heart was consoled by the thought that they will be here for Christmas, so just wait. I celebrate that decision because we would have been caught in the terrible weather that passed through Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. Who knows what disaster may have fallen upon our vehicle.

I celebrate that I don’t have to worry with cleaning the house. My husband put the house in order while I prepared food for our Thanksgiving feast. I tried a new pie this year. If you get Southern Living magazine, you will recognize this pie from the cover. It is a chocolate-caramel pecan pie. When I brought it out, my niece squealed with delight. She had seen it on the cover and wanted to try it, but had not. It was incredibly decadent. Here is a link to the recipe: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/caramel-chocolate-pecan-pie-50400000131247/.

This was taken before the caramel sauce was added to the pie.

This was taken before the caramel sauce was added to the pie.

(Side note: I did not make the salted caramel topping, but heated an ice cream caramel topping and drizzled it over the top before serving.)

I celebrate being able to spend time with family. They all live fairly close, but rarely do we ever seem to have time to meet up. Thanksgiving Day we were able to sit back and enjoy one another’s company while sharing great food.

The lights have been put up on the house and we celebrate the man who will come to do this for us since we do not like heights anymore.

Inside the house we begin to bring out the decorations of Christmas to celebrate this season. At one time, this was the biggest celebration in our house. Now, often we are not home for the holidays so we decorate minimally. This year, the tree is up and bits of Christmas can be found in each room. As we put up ornaments on the tree many memories of our life came flooding back. As Pete the Cat would say, “It’s all good!”

I hope you have been able to rest during this break and find the moments of celebration each day.

 

 

Another Week of Celebrations

Have you noticed all the celebrations that seem to pop up in your day? Moments that would be mentally acknowledged with a smile in your mind, now become a small hug to yourself as you revisit them again and share with the world what you celebrated this week. Here is how I celebrated this week:

Monday: I met up with my girlfriends to share a burger and beverage. There is a fine dining restaurant (entrees are $30 and that does not include salad) that has its bar in the basement and they serve great burgers for cheap during their happy hour. The first time I visited this place was on my birthday this year. That’s when I knew I’d be returning with my best buds. Of course it was a celebration just to be with my friends, but there was an added bonus. On this night the bar was implementing a new menu of burgers and they were only . . . are you ready? . . . an unbelievable price . . . $1.00! Yes, you read that right! One measly dollar for a rather large burger, any burger on their menu. I jumped on the one with blue cheese (my favorite!). The burgers came plain but there was a fixings bar set up so you could dress it any way you wanted. Let me say YUM!

Tuesday: A kindergarten teacher sent me a request for a poem that I had used with them. She could not find her copy, could I please send this to her. Poem sent. Moments later a new email appeared in my inbox.

email

Sometimes you just need to read this.

Wednesday: I spent the morning with a fifth grade teacher and got to model Kylene Beers’s strategy of Tea Party using Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds. If you don’t know Tea Party, check it out here. The fifth graders loved it! As they read their strips, they were to figure out who the characters were and what seems to be the problem. None of the strips had any of the characters named on them but they did have clues. Who do you think might be a “bad kitty,” or a “husky fish with a healthy appetite.”

Side note to the name of this strategy. A seventh grade teacher mentioned that the name of this strategy did not set well with her kids, so they renamed it Strip Tease. Yup, middle school and high school could definitely get behind an activity with that name. :-)

The rest of the day was spent with  teachers of grades 4-8 exploring close reading and the first writing standard. The good news is I was prepared to discuss all the standards, so most of my work for January is ready! Celebrate that! because January is going to be a crazy month for me. (Praying there are no snow days!)

Thursday: I had the opportunity to watch the musical “Cats” put on by the high school kids of my school district I retired from. As I perused the cast list, I discovered one of my former Reading Recovery students was Mr. Mistoffelees. What a fabulous job these kids did! It makes you proud to see how they have grown from first grade.

Friday: I went to a new food truck lot where I had a taste of England. It was a pasty (pass-tee), a meat and potato handheld pie. It was tasty and I know I will return to this truck, but maybe on a little warmer day. However, I also celebrate that my friend was able to attend a conference on this day and hear Georgia Heard speak. I know I will also get to learn from Georgia Heard through my friend. So I celebrate the new thinking in nonfiction writing that will be coming my way.

Saturday: The day is young, I wonder, what celebrations lie in store for me today?

What have you celebrated this week?

Time to Celebrate

What can you celebrate? Share your celebrations with the world at Ruth Ayres Writes.

What can you celebrate? Share your celebrations with the world at Ruth Ayres Writes.

Another day, another challenge to share a bit of my life through writing. This time the focus is to revisit moments of celebration from the past week. I look forward to sharing these moments with you. Today I have three moments of celebration to share.

This past week I’ve been observing teachers in their shared reading block. It has been a joy to watch students tackling some challenging texts with no hesitancy. Their voices strong as they chime in reading with their teacher.

While away from home, I love to try new restaurants. The Blue Duck recently opened so my father-in-law and I went to check it out. It was a lovely late afternoon so we opted for the patio. We had a view of the Missouri River flowing by and marveled how the trees were still so green. He ordered a Merlot, I ordered Trivento Torrentes, a white wine similar to a Pinot Grigio (so the waitress said), but when she reappeared she was carrying two reds. “If you don’t like this we will get you something else,” she said. “I don’t know if the bartender poured the wrong glass or if I put it in wrong.” The next thing I knew, she was bringing another glass of white wine to the table, my original order. A celebration of a free glass of wine was shared.

The red is a Malbec, quite tasty! Really enjoyed the price today. :-)

The red is a Malbec, quite tasty! Really enjoyed the price today. :-)

The final celebration was meeting up with my best gal pals for coffee this morning. We don’t get to spend a lot of time together, so we treasure the chances we have to get together and savor each other’s company. One pal had just completed a 10K and she got first place in her age group. Truly a reason to celebrate this morning!

Two friends I can count on for any and every thing.

Two friends I can count on for any and every thing.

What have you celebrated this week?

Mentoring Asparagus

Last spring my husband announced that he had bought a box of asparagus to plant in my mini raised herb/tomato bed in our backyard. Sounded like a good idea to me, since we both love asparagus and it is rather pricey in the grocery store.

He read the instructions on the box and went out to plant them. We were excited to see slender shoots of asparagus appear. They were thinner than yarn string. They were not to be harvested. We knew there was a growing period where we would not get any spears to eat. The one thing I did know about growing asparagus was you have to let the spears turn into ferns. Beyond that we are totally clueless on the care and feeding of asparagus.

Yes, I know I can google asparagus and have a mountain of information at my fingertips. I tried that route, but then became overwhelmed with terms and conflicting information. I clicked away from that option, but I had noticed a garden full of asparagus on my biking route. My plan is to watch that garden closely. Each day I ride by I am looking carefully to see if there are any changes with their asparagus ferns.

All summer they continue to grow. My mentor garden is lovely to look at, soft green fronds hang together to make a wall of ferns. My few plants fall over one another, as if they are pushy teenagers trying to get to the front of a line. I don’t know when, let alone if I will ever see enough asparagus to make a meal, but it’s fun trying.

There are two walls of ferns in this garden.

There are two walls of ferns in this garden.

My poor asparagus ferns who must fight for their position with tomato and basil plants.

My poor asparagus ferns who must fight for their position with tomato and basil plants.

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

Last Saturday I made a beeline to our farmer’s market hoping that there was still one last weekend with fresh orchard peaches. Yes! The peaches were there, but sadly I was informed that this was the very last day for peaches at the market. I quickly bought my box before they all disappeared.

I wandered down the row of vendors but nothing jumped out at me. All the usual items were there in mass quantity. Peppers in every shade were piled high. Tomatoes covered tables along with lettuces, green beans, zucchini, cantaloupe, and a plethora of squashes and pumpkins. Just the same old, same old.

On a whim I decided to check out a new farmer’s market a couple of miles away. This market was started last spring, but I had never been to check it out.

Right away I knew this was different. The line of cars slowly snaked through the parking lot. It was like finding a parking spot at the mall during Christmas rush. If you spotted someone leaving, you followed them to snatch that spot. Live music grew louder the closer you got to the market. Food trucks were parked along the entrance way enticing you with all sorts of smells. Once you arrived at the pavilion, the music disappeared in the noise of people chatting. A carnival/craft show atmosphere surrounded me. Yes, there were the usual veggies, but so many more.

The booths were not just produce. There was some locally produced wine, flavored pizza crusts, bakery products, wool, spices, totes, clothing, candy, and much more.

I  made a pass through just to see all the choices. Then I went back to several booths intrigued by the produce. I bought a bunch of rainbow Swiss chard and Asian spinach (later I learned it is called Malabar). Both vendors assured me that I could cook it just  like spinach. We love sauteed spinach, so I thought I’d give it a try. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Once home I googled ways to prepare the chard. I chose a recipe and prepared it. Not a favorite in this house. Disappointed with the chard, but we did not despair, I still had the Malabar.

Hope is high for this new vegetable. It's such a pretty green!

Hope is high for this new vegetable. It’s such a pretty green!

Once again Google to the rescue, but now I am reading some things that concern me. If you cook it too long, it becomes slimy like okra. Ewww! That does not sound good.

Dinner was all ready, I just needed to saute the Malabar. It did not wilt like spinach. I worried that it would go into the slime stage. I decided to call it done. I think I am too late, I see strings of slime as I lift it onto our plates. I choked down several bites, but I cannot finish it. I don’t really taste anything. Another bust! I think I will stick to spinach.

I'm getting a bad vibe about this!

I’m getting a bad vibe about this!

On a happy note, the neighbors’ tomato plants are over producing and they are bringing the extras to me. I am a happy person! I see BLTs, Caprese salad, hamburgers with sliced tomatoes, and who knows what else in my future, but definitely no Malabar!

Two of these came from my garden. I bet you can figure out which ones.

Two of these came from my garden. I bet you can figure out which ones.

Failed

I am a failure. I have failed for the last two years. It wasn’t always like that.  In the beginning I was successful. Neighbors eagerly awaited my treasures.  I joyfully shared. However, for the last two years I have had great difficulty producing quality tomatoes.

Last year everyone said it was too dry. Tomatoes need lots of water. I watered. Puny tomatoes were all I got. This year they said it was too wet. Tomatoes need drier weather. I could not suck the water from the ground. Minuscule tomatoes were all I got.

It's hard to believe that this tomato is not much bigger than my cherry tomatoes.

It’s hard to believe that this tomato is not much bigger than my cherry tomatoes.

Summer is made for BLT sandwiches. They have the perfect combination of crunch, salty, and moisture. There is one element that makes or breaks a BLT – the tomato MUST be fresh from the garden. Hothouse tomatoes lack the pizzazz of a home-grown ripe tomato.

Every summer I purchase two tomato plants for my mini garden. I am always confused by all the varieties but I read the tags carefully. I am looking for a large, meaty, early ripening, tomato who will produce until the first frost. Is that asking for too much? I didn’t think so. This year I bought a Big Boy and a Red Beefsteak plus I added a cherry tomato plant.

Weekly I checked my plants. I staked them up when they grew. I watered, I fertilized with tomato plant food. I inspected them for the dreaded tomato worms. (Hmmm, what does it mean when tomato worms don’t invade your plants?) Slowly the blossoms turned into midget balls. The midget balls grew up to be ping pong ball size. This was not what I would call a Big Boy or a Beefsteak.

Finally a tomato of size appeared. I eagerly watched it get bigger and bigger. The color grew brighter and brighter. My excitement was mounting. My mouth was watering for that perfect BLT.

Isn't it lovely?

Isn’t it lovely?

The day had come to harvest this bit of delight. My hand reached down to test the firmness of the flesh when I saw it. A roly poly waddled out from an opening on the underside. Upon further inspection, there was evidence that a slug had chewed its way in and the gnats were enjoying a smorgasbord. Curses! My one tomato of size had been hijacked by nature.

My disappointment could be heard throughout the neighborhood when I discovered this.

My disappointment could be heard throughout the neighborhood when I discovered this.

Thankfully my neighbor is having better luck with his plants. He shared several tomatoes. BLT is back on the menu!

You should have no problem discerning which tomatoes I grew and which ones were gifted to me. :-)

You should have no problem discerning which tomatoes I grew and which ones were gifted to me. :-)

It’s Pickin’ Time!

It’s time! It’s time! My peaches are ripe and ready to be harvested.

I did not get one peach from my tree last year because I was away on a trip. My neighbors helped me out by gathering and enjoying every golden morsel. This year I planned my trip before they would be ripe. Fortunately all plants were late this year, so I was home in plenty of time.

After returning home from my vacation, I continued to check the fruit on my tree. There were lots of peaches, but they were small. I  removed some hoping that would give the remaining peaches extra nutrients. Day after day, I would tenderly caress the fuzzy ball hoping to feel a softer flesh, but they remained rock hard.

Then we were hit with rain and more rain. I longed for sunshine to change my peaches from pale yellow to a rosy golden orange. Between showers, I checked on the peaches, but still they were not ready. Would they ever be ready? Last year they were gone by the last week of July. We are now in August and I still  have not had one peach from my tree.

All that changed when the rain stopped and the sun returned. I went out to inspect my crop and discovered they were falling on the ground.

The fruit flies were feasting on these peaches.

The fruit flies were feasting on these peaches.

Quickly I began checking, yes, they were softer! They began to fall into my hands as I touched them. I ran into the house to get a bowl to collect them. Bowl after bowl was filled and emptied onto the counter. . My husband brought the ladder around so I could gather more. Higher and higher I went plucking peaches. Each peach stretched my smile a bit wider.

peachesI surveyed the counter and wondered what I was going to do with all these peaches. I have no desire to create jam or preserve them. So I began bagging them up and traveled to the neighbors delivering juicy sunshine.

They finally grew! Of course they weren't all this size.

They finally grew! Of course they weren’t all this size.

I eat peaches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day and I savor every bit of that sweet juicy fruit. There are still more on the tree, so I will be in peach heaven for a bit longer.

PS: As I was preparing this post my neighbor brought me some warm peach cobbler she made with my peaches. Can it get any better than this? Yum!