Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cherry Crunch

Because night is showing up earlier and earlier every day, I've started thinking about comfort foods. The shortened days of Winter are not exactly welcomed by yours truly, but they do make me appreciate the long, hot days of Summer more.
With that out of the way, let me take you where you've never been before. To a world redolent with rich, buttery crispness and sweet/tangy goodness with a fragrance that will knock your socks off.
This is my take on an old family favorite, apple crisp, but using tart cherries rather than apples. When the apples come into season, I'll go with them, but for now, canned cherries are an excellent alternative. Oh, and trust me, these are not the kind of cherries you can eat straight out of the can. . . unless you like making sour faces.
Begin by heating your oven to 350. Pull out a 9" by 9" by 2" deep pan or something that equates to that. Measure a cup of juice from the cherries and pour it into the pan. Add 3 Tbs. of instant tapioca and let it soak for 15 minutes. While that's happening, melt a whole one stick of butter in a medium sauce pan. Once melted, remove from the heat and add the following: 1½ cups packed brown sugar, 1 cup quick cooking oatmeal, 1 cup all purpose flour, ¼ tsp. each salt, baking powder, baking soda [it will wait until you come back to it]. Now, back to the cherry juice/tapioca -- add ¼ tsp. almond extract and the drained cherries and gently mix together.
Now it's time to get down and dirty. With an impeccably clean hand, smoosh together the dry ingredients with the melted butter until it's crumbly. Loosely sprinkle it over the cherries and pop the pan into the oven for 30-35 minutes. It will be done when the topping is nicely browned and the aroma of the cherries and almond extract together make you weep with joyful anticipation. Spouse and I like it plain, but if you're one of those who must "gild the lily" you can top it off with iced or whipped cream.   [Note to Megan -- I triple-checked this recipe, so there are no mistakes in it . . . *sigh*]

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"The Island"

I've read several books during the summer, but none moved me as much as the above by Elin Hilderbrand. Truthfully, I've read it twice and am trying to will myself to avoid a third read at least for a few months.
Impulsiveness is a huge part of my character. For ONCE, it paid off when I grabbed this book while speed-shopping through Target. I knew nothing of the author. The cover photo had me at first glance.
Beaches have been and remain an important factor to my happiness. If you believe in astrology, this might seem odd. As an Aries, I'm a fire sign, but proximity to water is what feeds my soul.
The story is about four women: two sisters in their 50s and one is the mother of two daughters both in their 30s. Their relationships are complex yet interwoven in surprising ways.
Starting with an attempt by the mother to help and learn why one of her daughters abruptly cancelled her wedding and succumbed to an emotional breakdown, the story takes all four women to a rustic island off Nantucket. Great grandparents built a cottage on the island years before and it had been a family vacation spot since. The island is privately owned by its residents, has rudimentary plumbing, no electricity, no telephones, TV, internet access, etc. Very rustic, but gorgeous for those who love the sea, beach and peace.
Love interests complicate the lives of these women, causing envy, jealousy, hurt and surprises. Perhaps the most appealing thing about this story is that all the characters end up resolving their "issues" and uncover lives they never thought possible.
The Island is joining my permanent collection.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

CNN: Just Say No!

Until recently, I thought CNN was a reliable, less biased source of news and watched it exclusively every evening. Right now, however I want to shout at them to SHUT UP!! The coverage CNN has given that kook and so-called pastor from Florida who planned to ceremoniously burn copies of the Koran has given me a great big headache. The guy doesn't deserve 15 seconds much less 15 minutes of coverage for his hare-brained scheme. Important news has gone unreported because of this creep. CNN is questioning its coverage, on-air, which simply prolongs the agony of this boorish spectacle. They spend prime time trying to figure out the repercussions of this idiot crackpot's planned protest and their role in it. Enough, already! If this guy gets so much free publicity, what's to stop thousands more weirdos from trying the same thing? Where has judgement and common sense gone? Presenting this kind of reprehensible nonsense as news is unseemly at least and incendiary at worst. I am embarrassed that top American officials have been forced to point out the idiocy and dangers of this guy's idea. I refuse to believe that Americans "outside the Beltway" have so little understanding of the rest of the world and our country's place in it. It doesn't require a college degree to understand that insulting someone else's beliefs is just plain wrong and particularly contemptible coming from someone who claims to be a member of the clergy. Can he not see that his small-mindedness equals the mindset of those he is vilifying?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Is this a reasonable gripe?

We do a good bit of banking on-line. Just recently, a service fee of $2.00 was added to our statement. I didn't remember doing anything different or asking for some special service, so I checked it out (on-line) to make sure it wasn't an error. Turns out I was charged for clicking on a check I'd written to see a virtual image of it. Banks no longer return paid checks with your monthly statement, so this is the only way to make sure they end up where they belong. Cost me two bucks to click on a link to view a recently cashed check! Interest on our accounts is paultry at best and now we're being nickel-and-dimed (dollared?) for something as simple as clicking a link! Am I being unreasonable or is the bank?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Street Diplomacy

While history [hopefully] is being made across the street at the State Department, a bit of history was made in front of our building today. During forty years living in D.C. I've never seen Hasidic Jews in my neighborhood. A black van loaded with several men in side locks, black hats and long, black coats parked and its occupants ate their lunch. I admit little knowledge of this conservative, Jewish group. However, I do know they wear layers of traditional garments. The temperature today is in the 90s with equally high humidity and unrelenting, searing sunshine. Seeing these men standing in the sun and sitting in a sweltering black van, I felt really sorry for them. Even while they took a break for lunch, they tried interesting passersby in printed materials, I assume, regarding their mission in D.C. Nearly everyone walked by without even acknowledging them. They didn't show any sign of resentment or anger. Then this gracious young man stopped and struck up a conversation. He was polite and engaged and I was so proud of him.