Sunday, September 14, 2014

French Toast with Apple Cider Syrup

OK. So it's French Toast. Everyone has had French Toast. It's kind of a brunch favorite. But the real star here is the Apple Cider Syrup.
September is the season of the apple. The farmer's markets and grocery stores are overflowing with a thousand different varieties. How many different ways  can you use an apple?
Challenge accepted.
Serve with bacon. Because, you know. Bacon!


The French toast is just a basic. And while I don't technically use a recipe, per se, here's a good rule to follow.
1 loaf French Bread, cut into 1" slices
6 eggs
1 1/2 Cups Milk
1/3 Cup Sugar
2 tsp. Vanilla
Cinnamon

Beat the eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla in a shallow dish like a pie plate. Sprinkle with cinnamon.( sprinkle cinnamon onto egg mixture before each addition of bread) Add two slices of bread, turning to coat each side. Allow to soak in egg mixture for a couple of minutes. Add to a med-high heat skillet. Cover with lid. Flip slices after two minutes. Cook until center of bread is set. Place on cookie sheet in the oven to keep warm while the rest of the toast cooks.

Apple Cider Syrup
1 Cup Apple Cider
1/2 stick butter
1/2 Cup Honey
Cinnamon

Place Cider in small sauce pan over high heat until boiling. Reduce heat to med-high and allow to boil gently until reduced to about 1/4-1/3 Cup of liquid. Reduce heat to medium. Add Butter, Cinnamon to taste, and Honey. Continue heating until butter and honey have melted and all ingredients are combined. Remove from heat. Refrigerate any leftovers, re-heating before serving.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Fourth Quarter - A True Account of Being Married to a Towboater

No, this is not a football story. It's a towboatin' story. Or more accurately, a towboater's wife story. You see The Captain is,well a captain. On a towboat. Not a tugboat. Don't make that mistake, for Pete's sake. It's a towboat. And a pretty large one at that. It pushes barges of petroleum products up and down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and their tributaries. At times he travels from Pittsburgh to New Orleans and all the stops in between.  All that up and down the river business takes time. A lot of time. The Captain is on the boat for 28 days at a time, after which somebody else's husband takes over for another 28 days and it all starts over again.

There are lots of different schedules on the river. Some companies work 28/28 which means that they work 28 days and are off 28 days. Some work 28/14 or 14/14, but it really doesn't matter what the particular schedule is. For the wives and families it's always the same. Your towboater is home and then he's gone. He's home for Thanksgiving but is gone for Christmas. He is home for your birthday but has to spend his own on the river. He's here for the school play but misses the doctor's appointments. And one thing never changes - He's never ever home when the heat pump goes out. Or the water heater, or the refrigerator, or when the truck needs repairs. But boat wives are used to it and we can be pretty resourceful. I've hacked through brush with garden clippers to save our cat, Gravy, who was stuck up a tree. I've learned how to do minor toilet repairs - don't ask. And I've learned how to ask for help when I've got one kid that needs to be on the east end of the county and one who needs to be on the west.
And then, like clockwork, your towboater comes home and it's like he never left. When you've been on this schedule for a while it really is that normal. Your towboater gets home on Thursday and on Friday everything is back to the way it's supposed to be. There are two drivers  to split the family taxi service. And two adults to say things like, 'Do your homework.' and 'Pick up your socks.' and 'If you don't eat your meat you can't have any pudding.' Oh, and my vehicle is clean. The Captain does love a clean vehicle and since I don't clean vehicles (unless the drive thru car wash at the gas station counts) well, it works out pretty good.
Sometimes when your towboater is home he will have other work-related obligations that he has to take care of. Things like Captain's Meetings and various safety-related trainings. And when this happens you will feel great resentment towards 'The Office' because how dare they intrude on 'your time'. They get him for all those birthdays and holidays and family emergencies and we don't say a word because that is what we signed up for. That is the life of a towboater and his wife. And even though you recognize that there are times when the boundaries of his 28/28 schedule gets a little lopsided and you have to give over some of your time to boat time, you grit your teeth and go with it. Yes, it's part of the job, but no, you don't have to like it.
Over time there are little tricks you do to make the time seem to go by faster while your towboater is on the boat. None of them work, but you do them anyway. We call the halfway mark Hump Day. Our Hump Day falls on a Thursday so I'm pretty sure my facebook friends think I'm perpetually a day late and a dollar short when I post 'Humpday!!!!' on Thursday morning. Since The Captain is on a 28/28 schedule, which breaks down into four weeks, we always break the trip up into quarters like a football game. Made it through the first quarter. Third quarter's almost up, and so on. Right now we're in the middle of the fourth quarter. And it has been a loooong game.
Pretty soon he will be home and I will be very thankful for another safe trip. But some other woman will be starting her away schedule. Trying to figure out how to get her kids all the places they need to be, and go to the grocery store, and take the dog to the vet, and take the kids to get new shoes for whatever sport they happen to be playing, and try to find a couple of minutes for herself. But she'll do it. And she won't complain to her towboater. Much. Because that's what we do, so that they can do what they do. Until they come home again.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Is Kentucky Southern?

Image from the Library of Congress. They certainly consider us Southern!
Recently this very question has been posed in several articles that have crossed my various news feeds. Is Kentucky southern? The knee-jerk reaction is to say 'Yes! Of course Kentucky is in the South! How could it be otherwise?' Surprisingly, though, there seems to be as many opinions on the subject as ingredients in The Colonel's secret recipe.
In reviewing the many articles and studies on the subject I found that while almost all Kentuckians perceive themselves as Southern there are those in the south who may feel otherwise. It would appear that there exists a Southern Hierarchy, if you will. Where one lives in the south can affect their very southern-ness. Predictably those in the Deep South (Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi) consider themselves to be the most Southern and therefore (based on comments on the interwebz) qualified to judge the relative southern-ness of those in surrounding states. Most people who commented from these states tended to view Kentucky as Mid-Western, at best. Sometimes even going so far as to describe us as -gasp- Northern.  Which is odd to me because The Captain and I have several friends and family members in Michigan and Wisconsin who would most definitely say that Kentucky is firmly in The South.
Commenters from Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina (who are un-arguably Southern) seemed to mostly consider Kentucky to be in the South. There seemed to exist a kind of kinship that people from these states feel. A sort of Southern, but not Dirty South, mentality. Kentuckians are undeniably connected to people from these states due to our shared Southern Appalachian heritage.
Those who took the time to comment from Louisiana seemed to, when presented with the question of Kentucky's Southern-ness, not care overmuch. The sentiment from the bayou seemed to be the more the merrier. Laissez les bon temps rouler indeed! You see, Louisianians in general, and New Orleaneans in particular, seemed to grasp the concept that the South is a large and varied place. And while there are undeniably things that bind us together, there are also things that define the various regions of the south.
A musician on Bourbon Street is just as Southern as a bourbon distiller in Bardstown. A cotton farmer in Eastern Georgia is every bit as Southern as a tobacco farmer in Eastern Kentucky. And a guy who operates a trolley in Charleston is just as Southern as a horse trainer from Lexington.
So while Kentucky is most-definitely in the Deep-South or the Low Country or the Bayou we are most definitely in The South. And while we may be geographically the most northern of the southern states that just makes our position all the more important, in my opinion. Kentucky could be considered the guardians of The South. The last bulwark of Southern-ness whose very borders are a demarcation between that which is Southern and that which is not. Driving south over the Ohio River Kentucky is a welcome sigh of relief, a feeling of home and all that is right with the world.
We have sweet tea and fried chicken.
We  have Bourbon. Bourbon!
We have the whole horse culture thing going on. Betting money and drinking icy drinks while wearing bow ties and big hats is pretty dang Southern.
And speaking of clothing, the 'Colonel Sanders' is officially a look. And it doesn't say 'I'm from north of the Mason-Dixon line.'
We make cornbread in cast iron skillets. And pretty much everything else, too.
All of our mamaw's make a mean biscuit. And a pound cake. And a go-to jello salad that they take to a funeral.
We say things like 'Bless your heart' when we mean 'Go to hell.' And 'How's your mama and 'em' when we really mean 'Hi, how are you?' And 'Fixin' to go over yonder, I reckon.' when we really mean 'I think I'm going to go over there.'
We are the home of Bluegrass Music.
We're in the SEC for cryin' out loud! It don't get much more Southern than that.
So there you go. Kentucky is definitively, without question, historically and forevermore Southern.
And that's all I've got to say 'bout that.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Today Is the Day That My Future Therapist Will Say Started It All

It came. The day I had been dreading all summer. The first day of school.
Now normally I would be ok with the whole first day of school thing. Well, maybe not ok exactly. But accepting. Yes, accepting is a good word. Accepting.
I do not accept today. Today is an abomination. Today my sweet Peanut started High School. HIGH SCHOOL! And my baby boy, my Bubbo, started Middle School. It's just not right, I tell you. Peanut should be picking her favorite color from the giant box of Crayolas instead of decided what eyeliner goes best with her outfit. And Bubbo should be building something with his massive Lego collection instead of learning how to work his combination lock.
And I should have taken somebody to the Elementary School today. But instead, for the first time in 10 years, I just drove on by. My mom wagon sort of wanted to turn into the Elementary parking lot of its own accord and I had to be like, 'No, no, truck. We don't go to this school anymore.' Yes, I talk to my SUV. That's what happens when your kids go to the Middle School and the High School. Ugh, the HIGH SCHOOL! Just saying it makes me want to throw up a little bit.
The only thing that is keeping me together right now is that I realize that this is the way it's supposed to be. My babies are growing up. That's what babies do. And Peanut and Bubbo are growing into well-mannered, funny, smart young people. So I guess I'm doing something right. Just, why does it have to feel so bad?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Boyd's Big Day

Saturday is a big day in our family. Boyd is getting married. Boyd, as many of you know, is my brother.
My baby brother.
He's getting married.
Sorry if I keep repeating myself but my baby brother is GETTING MARRIED!!!
Boyd wears Cartman T shirts. And he's not a big fan of grooming his facial hair. And he tends to leave dead animals soaking in salt water in your sink. And he found a girl who not only puts up with all this, she actually is pretty crazy about him. I know how much he loves her but because I can see how much she loves him I love her.
The only thing I wish was that she were a bit shorter. Actually if we're wishing for things, I wanna be taller. Either way I'm still the shortest in the family. Well except for Peanut and Bubbo - for now.

Boyd and I didn't have the easiest childhood. Our parents divorced when I was 5 and he was just a baby. Between them and their subsequent spouses we've lived all over central and eastern Kentucky. Sometimes it seems to me that we moved around more than Army brats. But no matter where we moved or who we were living with at the time Boyd and I always were together.
Yes, there's five years between us. And yes, there were fights. Plenty of fights! Lots of decapitated Barbie dolls and thrown-away Ninja Turtles - you know, the usual stuff.
I think though that because of all the moves, and all the different families and step-families, and split-up holidays, we maybe looked to each other a bit more than other siblings. Every holiday, every family emergency, every disorganized vacation, Boyd was there.
Even after The Captain and I got married, Boyd was at our house as often as not. We're kind of like the Appalachian Ross and Monica. Except instead of dinosaurs that I don't understand it's computer stuff that I don't understand. And instead of used to be fat it's more like used to be thin.
So now (sticking with this metaphor) Boyd has found his Rachel, who forever hereafter will be known here on the interwebz as Ginger. And because I love Boyd and Ginger, and love them even more together, you can find me on Saturday in a dress; which in and of itself is quite lovely but which on me resembles nothing so much as a parade float. But I was promised Bourbon. And cake. So you know. . . Cake. And Bourbon.
So here's to Boyd and Ginger! I wish them a long life of fighting over the toilet seat, the remote control, and the temperature on the thermostat. A lifetime of, 'what do you want for supper?', 'I don't care.', 'How about XYZ?', 'Ugh, no!'. A lifetime of having someone to put your cold feet on in the bed. And a lifetime of knowing that you wouldn't ever want anything else. Congratulations guys! I love you both!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Hushpuppies

They say that hushpuppies got their name from hunters frying up bits of dough and throwing it to the dogs to keep them quiet. I don't know about all of that. Anyone who's ever tried to train a dog will tell you that you don't reward troublesome barking with yummy treats. That's nothing but a good way to keep you constantly frying up little bits of dough. Just tell that hound to shut up and keep the hushpuppies to yourself.  Besides, a good dog would have earned a treat without having to bark for it.
Despite having a name of dubious origins, hushpuppies definitely seem to be a Southern Thing. Just think about it. What's a fish fry or a shrimp or crawdad boil without hushpuppies? A big ol' plate of fried catfish without hushpuppies - inconceivable!
In honor of the first day of summer we had our own crab boil up here in our house on the hill. Complete with corn, potatoes, and of course - hushpuppies. It was pretty ding-dang good, if I do say so myself.
Ahhh, summer! Crab legs, fresh corn on the cob, hushpuppies, and a cold one!


Hushpuppies

3 Cups yellow corn meal
1/3 Cup flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 Cup finely minced onion
2 Eggs
1 Can cream-style corn
Couple Dashes hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)
Milk

Measure meal, flour, salt, baking powder, and garlic powder into medium bowl. Stir to combine. Add onion, eggs, corn, and pepper sauce. Stir to loosely mix. Slowly add milk to make a stiff dough. (Depending on your cornmeal and the weather it usually takes about 1/2 Cup) Set aside for about 10 minutes.
Heat oil (vegetable or peanut) in heavy duty sauce pot or deep fryer to somewhere in between 350 and 375 degrees. Add dough by rounded tablespoonful carefully to hot oil, being careful not to crown the pan. I usually do about half a dozen at a time. Fry for about 2 minutes or until deep golden brown all the way around. Use a spider strainer or a slotted spoon to remove the hushpuppies to a heatproof dish lined with paper towels.
Allow to cool completely before eating.

Monday, June 16, 2014

My Life Monday: Extreme Makeover- Sibling Edition

So  my babies - yes, I still call them my babies -are getting older. And bigger. They are not little kids any more and their little kid rooms just aren't cutting it any more.
Not to mention the fact that Bubbo needs a bigger bed. He's all but grown out of his twin size and I can't imagine this is a trend that is likely to reverse itself. The bad news is that a bigger bed just really won't fit in his small little room. But he does boast a larger closet than his sister. And she, being in possession of a wardrobe to rival any teenage girl in America, decided that a slightly smaller room would not be the worst thing that ever happened to her.
So let the room switch begin. And if you're going to switch rooms, you might as well remodel. Which means you need new paint colors, and bedding, and accessories, and of course the aforementioned big ol' bed. We got all that. We managed to find bedding at Target which was deemed both cool enough for the teen/tween set and respectable enough to actually reside within my home. We've wagged lithographic prints home from Disney World and had them framed, stripped a high school gym floor for cool wall art, and scoured ebay for retro football photographs. We even managed to pick out paint colors.
And if you manage to live your whole life without having to pick out a single paint color then consider yourself lucky. Ever seen that commercial where the woman wants a paint that's purple but not puuuurrrrrple? Yeah, it's like that. But with a dusty turquoise color that was described to me by my 14-year-old as kind of blue, kind of green, but not too bright, kind of like that page in the Pottery Barn catalog - you know that one with that bed I liked - but not exactly like that. Seriously, that was an almost quote from her - kinda, but not exactly like that. I finally found the color at Sherwin Williams. It's called Aloe and I have to admit it's practically perfect in every way.
By the way, when asked what color he would like his room painted, Bubbo's reply was . . .wait for it . . . Blue. Not Navy, or Cadet, or Sky, or Royal, or any of the other million shades in between. Just blue. I made a judgement call at the paint store and went for a soft but intense blue/gray called Bracing Blue. He'll love it.
You see, we made all these preparations. Bought all the supplies. Arranged for all the furnishings and accessories that will be moving into the newly repainted rooms. But what we failed to realize was that everything would first have to be moved out of the old rooms. Our thinking was that we would just put it all in the playroom for the time being. And well, this is what happened. Updates to follow.
I swear we're not hoarders!