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Monthly Archives: November 2010

Happy Non-turkey Day!

“What do vegetarians eat on Thanksgiving?” I am often asked.  There are actually a number of options, including Tofurkey (I don’t recommend that; it’s a bit rubbery).  But the dish I always make is Quorn’s Turk’y Roast.  Made out of mushroom, the roast is made to taste similar to turkey.  How close is it?  I can’t tell you for sure, as it’s been 12 years since I’ve had the real thing.  But several of my meat-eater friends have tried it and liked it.  I’m sure it’s not exact but it’s still pretty damn good.

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2010 in About me, Food

 

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Patience is a virtue…I’ve been told

Instant gratification is not just a catchy slogan Nick-at-Nite used during all-night marathons of classic shows.  It is my way of life.  As a general rule, if I see it and I want it, then I get it.  Rest assured, my parents did not install this lifestyle in me.  They are good about shopping around, looking for the best price possible.  If it takes them a few days or a few weeks or even a few months to find the right priced item, then they’ll wait.  Fred is the same way (more so, if that’s possible).  He not only shops around, he also reads consumer reviews online.  I don’t know how they do it.  Perhaps they don’t get that overwhelming urge that I get when I see something I like.  Or maybe they’ve just learned how to push it down and ignore it.

The same concept applies for gift giving.  This time of the year is torture for me.  I’ve already done most of my holiday shopping and have the gifts wrapped and ready for giving.  But there’s one little problem: it’s still November.  I have four more weeks to wait before I can hand out the gifts.  I want to see the surprise and happiness on people’s faces now. I don’t want to wait.  A few weeks ago I broke down and gave Fred his birthday present early because I didn’t want to wait any longer (we’re talking only a few days, too).

I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember.  I have a December birthday and when I was younger, I started planning my party in June.  I’d excitedly tell Mom my ideas as she pruned the bushes, winter the farthest thing at that moment.  Every Thanksgiving I would impatiently beg to put up the Christmas tree just minutes after dinner was finished.  Despite cooking all day, Mom agreed to decorating the tree as soon as the dishes were washed.  Of course, this seemed to take a long time so I generally occupied myself with selecting the music we would listen to while erecting the fake pine.  Once the dishes were finally done, Mom hauled the tree from the basement while I carried the lighter boxes of ornaments.  Generally, I started off helping but then got wrapped up in the Christmas books (that silly Amelia Bedelia!  Date cakes aren’t made from a calendar!) while Mom did the grunt of the work.  To cook all day, do all the cleaning, and then the grunt of the work for something I wanted took, I imagine, an abundance of patience.*

*This is one of the reasons why I don’t want to have kids.  I can tolerate other people’s kids long enough but my patience wears thin quickly and I don’t think I could handle it 24/7.

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2010 in About me

 

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I went to Virginia and all I got was drunk – Part II

Halloween morning the other girls slept in but my body is used to waking up between 7 and 8 and sure enough I was awake by 8.  So I spent the quiet time working on Fred’s birthday present (more on that in a later post).  Once I popped the crème brulee French toast in the oven, though, the girls started to stir.

After the delicious breakfast, we headed out to our first winery for the day, Jefferson Vineyards.  It rests just south of Monticello on land that was originally Jefferson’s.  He had something like 5,000 acres of land and part of it was for growing grapes for wine.  The vineyard isn’t that big now, of course, but it rests on his land, ergo the namesake.  The tasting room was busy, but there were plenty of people to pour wine and still take the time to chat with us.  They asked for the tasting fee up front (some wineries wait until after the tasting and if you buy a bottle, will comp the fee).  However, the glasses we used were for us to keep.  They were nice, too, with the vineyard’s name etched in them.

We went on a short tour of the vineyard then.  Even though we’d already been to three wineries that weekend, this was our first tour.  After a brief history lesson, our guide took us around the outside of the facility.  He showed us the crates the grapes were placed in and then the two pieces of equipment used to extract the juice.  Which machine they used depended on if they were making white or red wine, which actually had nothing to do with the color of the grapes.  Who knew?  Red wine grapes start the fermenting process right away and their skins are left on to extract the color into the wine.  Then after fermenting for however long they need, they are squeezed.  White wine grapes are squeezed first and then fermented.

Inside the facility, we saw the steel fermenting containers and a room full of barrels of wine.  Each barrel holds approximately 300 bottles worth of wine.  The guide explained a process for getting the most flavor out of the oak barrels.  I can’t even describe everything that has to be done to the wine but let me just say that I never knew that so much work went into the aging process!  No wonder wine is so expensive.

After the tour, we bought a fair amount of wine and had the cashier open a bottle for us.  We took it, along with a cheddar cheese ball and crackers, outside.  The Monticello area is filled with trees and hills.  So we sat atop the vineyard hill and sipped and ate.  The sky was a bright blue, the trees were turning, and the sun was warm.  It was nice to sit and relax for awhile.

There were other vineyards on our list and other activities as well, but we didn’t want to rush around.  After our midday snack of wine and cheese, we went back to Jess’ house to get ready for the trick-or-treaters.  Jess dressed as a witch.  Missy was a rejected leprechaun (pretty much her outfit consisted of mis-matched green articles of clothing), I was a pathetic-looking Wonder Woman*, and Kate was a Southern Belle.  She had the whole she-bang.  See, Kate and Missy’s family participates in a lot of Civil War reenactments and Kate had her reenactment ball gown with her.  (She even sewed it herself.  I was very impressed!)  However, getting the costume on proved to be a challenge, a very hilarious challenge.  The bodice was a bit tight and Kate’s, er, womanly features had grown since she’d made the gown.  It started with Missy trying to get the bodice over Kate’s chest but it was not a one-man job.  So I stepped in.  We pushed and pulled but with no avail.  I called in Jess to help.  At that point, our faces were red from laughing so hard.  It took all three of us, pushing and pulling, to get that damn bodice onto Kate’s body.  In the end, though, she looked really good.

We sat outside to welcome the trick-or-treaters.  There were some really cute kids.  The most memorable ones were the young, charming boys.  One seven-year-old was dressed as a prince, with a gold crown and a red robe.  He walked up to us and proclaimed, “I’m a prince!”  So much for saying “Trick or treat”.  He thought Kate was a princess and she went along with it because who wants to explain a Civil War Southern Belle to a seven-year-old?  Before he left, I heard him say to Kate, “Prince and princesses belong together.”  Another charmer was a three-year-old dressed as a dinosaur.  He was rather shy but with a little push from Dad, he came up to us and held out his bag.  He didn’t say anything.  Kate asked him if he could roar so he gave out a meager “Rawr”.  We all acted impressed and scared so he roared again, this time louder.  Again, we pretended to be terrified.  A smile lit up his face as he watched our reactions.  He roared again, even louder.  Later, we could hear him roaring at the neighbors’ houses.

Before the night was over, Jess and I wanted to recreate one of our favorite Halloween pictures from our childhood.  The original:

I was the witch and Jess was Wonder Woman.  How cute are we?  Fast forward approximately 25 years and here we have…

 

Obviously, we’re not wearing the original costumes.

We cut the evening’s activities short because we had to be up early to head out on the road.  Missy had to work Monday evening and Fred had tickets to an NFL game for us (more on that later).  So, after a brief stint of sleep, we headed back on the road at 4am.  It’s not my favorite time of day, that’s for sure, but there was little traffic and overall, we ended up making great time.  Yes, it was a lot of driving for a 4-day weekend but it was worth it.  I love my sister and my cousins and being around them made it all worthwhile.

*Jess made me a crown out of construction paper.  At the right angle, it looked like the Pope’s hat.  Just look:

 
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Posted by on November 17, 2010 in About me, Food, Travel

 

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I went to Virginia and all I got was drunk – Part I

For Halloween weekend, my cousins, Missy and Kate, and I headed out on a road trip.  Our destination: Virginia and Jess for a fun-filled girls’ weekend.  After 11 non-exciting hours in the car (and standing behind the most indecisive person at Subway) we pulled up to Jess’ recently purchased townhouse.

As she gave us the grand tour, my mind filled with images of décor and paint.  I mentally spent the money Jess didn’t have to make the house over in her style.  We then made an alcohol and pizza run settled in for a night of food, drinking, and Euchre.

The next day we started out on the road again, this time to take in several vineyards and wineries of Virginia.  We did not lack choices; Virginia is riddled with them.  Jess and I are not wine connoisseurs (yet) but Kate and Missy know quite a bit, so we took their lead.  The first winery was up in the hills, through winding roads lined with orange and red leafed trees.  DuCard Vineyards is a small, organic winery.  We were the only ones there early in the morning.  Our host was a young man and when he spoke, I’m surprised the four of us didn’t swoon visibly.  A thick French accent came from his mouth, dimples on his cheek as he smiled at us.  None of us caught his name so we’ll just call him Pierre.

Pierre started to tell us about the first wine but then stopped in the middle of his speech.  “Can you understand my accent?” he asked.  It took me a second to figure out what he was asking, but once I did, I nodded and smiled.  It was a beautiful accent and I didn’t want him to stop.  I don’t think the other girls did, either.  We continued on and I watched Kate and Missy.  I swirled when they swirled, sipped when they sipped, ate a cracker when they ate a cracker.

Not surprisingly, I enjoyed the sweeter wines.  Kate assured me that when she started drinking wine, she started with the sweeter and went drier.  I still tried the dry wines because one never knows if something will strike her fancy.  I actually liked a few of the dry wines but not enough to actually buy them.  Kate also explained that red wines go well with red meat but I could try it with pasta and red sauce instead.  I will, too, but I wasn’t willing to spend twenty dollars on a bottle of red yet.

After the tasting, we bought our favorites and headed outside.  The first thing out of my mouth was, “He was cute!”  (Fred, if there were a cute French girl there, I wouldn’t have minded if you had looked.)

Pierre recommended Sharp Rock Vineyards and gave us directions from DuCard Vineyard.  It wasn’t too far so we went there next.  It was warming up outside and between the weather, the scenery, and the wine coursing through my body, I was in a great place and I was with my girls.  Who could ask for anything better?

Sharp Rock Vineyards rested by a creek in the hills.  The tasting room was in the attic of a converted barn.  We walked into the barn and the first floor had barrels of wine sanctioned off but there was no room to just stand and look.  We went upstairs and went to the counter.  There were other people tasting there but there were two people pouring the wine.  Because it was busy we didn’t have one-on-one service and the people couldn’t stop to chat about the wine as much.  Plus, they weren’t French or cute.  Still, I bought a bottle of wine, as did Kate, and we headed out again.

We had plans for 2pm but we still had some time to kill so we went to Prince Michel Vineyard.  They were busy as well, but they had more than enough staff to pour and talk about the wines.  They had a wide variety of wine glasses and accessories.  It was pleasant, except for the drunk woman by us, who was shouting at the lady helping us, “Why didn’t you ask for my ID?”

It was nearing two so we left for the Library of Congress (the audio/visual conservation branch) in Culpeper.  Every weekend they screen a movie and that day they were screening Young Frankenstein.  Despite my love for Mel Brooks, I had only seen the movie once before and this was a chance to see it on the big screen (for free, none-the-less!).  The Library of Congress did not disappoint.  The theater, which holds about 250 people, was practically full.  There were plush chairs, beautiful lights, and the ceiling was painted like the night sky.  Before the movie started, a guy gave an introduction for it, informing us of some trivia about the film, like how Mel Brooks appeared as a gargoyle.

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful, mostly consisting of more drinking and Euchre.

…To be concluded…

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2010 in About me, Food, Travel

 

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