My website

My website

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Christian Passover meal and generational sadness

Symbolic Passover foods

Last Sunday, Mike and I participated in a Christian Passover meal at our church.

I was moved to tears.

Why does the ritual move me so? I have an idea about that, but my notion might be hard for many people to believe.

Before I get to that, let me tell you about the ritual.

Whew! - A stay of execution on a big medical bill

A TV commercial features a group of grown men sitting in a doctor's waiting room. Man after man, in turn, stretches his mouth wide open in a wail - and you hear the bawling of an infant.

The punch line: Getting a colorectal screening isn't that bad.

I laughed when I saw the ad. Then I said to my husband, Mike, "Yeah, you won't cry like a baby until you see the bill."

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Naima Adedapo + Light Show + Beach Party, Yeah!!

Naima Adedapo at the Domes
in Milwaukee March 14, 2013
 Miriam Levle, Naima Adedapo, and Jah Dwayne Tafari of
R.A.S. Movement at another appearance
Up until last week, the only time I saw Naima Adedapo was on TV, when she was a contestant on "American Idol." On March 14 for the first time, I saw her in person. She was singing - and doing amazing African dancing - at Milwaukee's "Domes" botanical park.

What an incredible show. Leaping! Jumping! Kicking! Drumming! Naima is currently part of a band called R.A.S. Movement, where the other members are as energetic as Naima herself. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Eight cool styles...Don't think so....

Congrats, Germantown Warhawks.
The  newspaper was lying on the table sideways in front of me. I glanced at it and wondered why the front page would feature 1950s cheerleaders. Those hideous long skirts! How could the girls jump in those draggy things?

I looked again, and realized my error. It was a photo of the WIAA Division 1 Boys State basketball champion team, the Germantown Warhawks. Their ultra-long basketball shorts truly resemble cheerleader skirts of yore. Obviously, the boys can jump in those draggy things, but how? (I'm not advocating the tightie-whitie looking basketball shorts of the days of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but there must be a happy medium.)

This got me to thinking of other "stylish" things that are impractical or (in my opinion) ugly:

Friday, March 15, 2013

Five steps to hosting a soup exchange party

Soup party gang 2012: Pauline, Anna, Katie, Arleen, Rachl, AJ, Chris, Gail
I just hosted my second annual soup party. Wisconsin is so weird. Last year we had our soup exchange in March and we wound up spending a lot of time outside on the deck; the temp was in the 60s (or so). This year we met again in March...but there was hardly enough room for my friends to park their cars around the plowed-up piles of snow.

So it goes in our beloved state.

No whether the weather, I'm always ready for soup. I never get sick of it...probably because there are so many different kinds. If you're sick of brothy soup, you can make one thick enough to walk across and vice versa. If you're sick of vegetable soup, you can make meat soup and vice versa. If you're sick of creamy soup, you can make a brothy one and vice versa...on and on.

A friend told me about a Christmas cookie exchange she goes to every year. The participants are VERY strict about the rules. If you bring three dozen, you leave with three dozen. If you bring six dozen, you leave with six dozen. No variation.

My cooking friends are much more loosey-goosey in giving out their soup. As Chris says, "It's just SOUP."

Last year we had eight cooks who attended the gathering, with soups featured from nine cooks (one couldn't make it but sent her soup along). See the photo above. This year we had only six cooks, so we had less variety in soups. (Photo is at the end of this blog post.)

This year we had more variety in age: the youngest was 28 and the oldest was 78. Last year the youngest was 27 and the oldest was 64.

The age difference is part of the fun. I've noticed that young and old take turns shocking each other. There are a LOT of laughs.

I went to my first soup exchange in 2010, where we snacked on cheese and crackers, drank wine, and chatted before doing the exchange.

At the two  exchanges I hosted, I chose to serve a simple supper first: vegetarian chili and cornbread. We also had tea, coffee, strawberry shortcake, and some wine.

Someone suggested doing a "best soup" tasting and judging, but we can't quite figure out the logistics, with all the talking, laughing, eating and imbibing we have to do. I think my friends are a little too relaxed for a juried event.

Here's how we do the exchange:

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A kickin' broth base for soup

My son found a wonderful recipe from Bon Appétit for brined turkey and gravy. This dish has become the centerpiece for our family's Thanksgiving feast. One year I was lucky enough to inherit the leftover gravy and it tasted so good - and so unusual (the secret  is apple cider) - that I turned it into a soup.
I recommend these gravy ingredients to flavor broth for soup. Once you make the broth, you can add any flora or fauna you want to make the soup hearty.

How to make soup out of almost nothing

My son roasted a turkey. About a week later, my daughter-in-law gave me a jar of turkey broth that was left from the roasting. I opened the jar and took a whiff. The broth smelled heavenly.

"It got lost in the back of the fridge," she explained. "You better use it today."

What do do with the broth? I didn't want to freeze it. Hmmm. I could use it to flavor a box of Zatarains gumbo or jambalaya. Or I could make my own soup. But I was tired and didn't have much time to cook.

I opened the door of my refrigerator. Other than condiments and juice, the fridge contained exactly:

(1) a container of veggies that I had stir-fried two days earlier (summer squash, zucchini, broccoli and onions);

(2) an almost-completely picked-over breast of chicken, also from two days earlier.

If only I had barley, I thought. I took a look in the pantry, and lo! there was a box of quick-barley. Fabulous.

Sounded like soup to me, especially because I knew that Charlie had made the turkey rich with flavors during roasting.

I threw all the ingredients into a pot. I wanted carrots but was too lazy to sauté them. It turned out to be one of the best concoctions I've ever tasted...from leftover rescue, or what I call "Clean out the fridge soup." I had been leery of adding the broccoli because I've read that the flavor can overtake all others, but it was fine and added nice texture.

In Sunday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel food section, a famous chef was interviewed and he said the art of cooking is working with what you have. Ta-da! A culinary expert has stamped approval on what home cooks have been doing from time immemorial.

Here's the recipe - of sorts....

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Seven reasons I'm a "Breaking Bad" addict

My name is Gail and I'm addicted to "Breaking Bad."

This addiction breaks my "only comedies" rule. The only show my husband Mike and I watch faithfully is "Modern Family."

Mike and I are movie watchers. We don't have cable. But my son and his wife recently gave us a Roku thingie for our old-time television. To get the Roku hooked up, it took Mike a few nights, a few calls to our son, and a few trips to Radio Shack for the proper cables. Eventually the contraption worked and enabled us to subscribe to Netflix. There I saw the icon for “Breaking Bad” and I was curious about it; you can’t miss a mention of this show in the media.

I clicked on the pilot episode.

It’s about a week later now, and I’m already into the third season. Yes, I confess. I watch episode after episode every evening I have free, until about midnight. No movies. No “Modern Family.”

“Breaking Bad” is like a very long, gripping movie. And I’m a fan.

Why? Let me count the ways:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Spring is trying, trying, trying

In Wisconsin, spring is on its way. But you have to pay attention.

About a month ago, the birds started kicking up a cacophony. Then we got slammed with snow...and rain...and more snow. Days went from sunny to grey. The birds quieted. During February, our shortest month, winter got LONG.

But my friend saw a crane last week. Now THAT is a sign of spring.
Usually by March 1, days are filled with the trill of redwing blackbirds. But here it is March 8 and I haven't heard a one of 'em. I'll have to listen harder.

The land is still covered with white, but the edges of the white are melting.

Spring is coming. One day soon, the earth will shrug off her white blanket like a lady flinging off her cape after an evening at the opera.

Then the miniscule spring peepers will shake off their winter sleep and seek mates. Their salacious mating chorus will fill our nights  with a harmony of sheer abandon: my favorite sound. I'll fling open my windows to their symphony and to the air carrying the scent of living earth.

Only a Northerner knows the ecstasy of spring.

a spring peeper - about the size of your thumb nail

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Reviews of "Dog Woman" and "Don't Worry Baby" from REAL people

I've been trying to get reviewers to look at my two recently-published novels, Dog Woman and Don't Worry Baby. This is a hard sell because reviewers tend to shy away from self-published books, even though well-respected authors have self-published (including Mark Twain, Beatrix Potter, Carl Sandberg, Virginia Wolff, and Edgar Allen Poe).

I recently had some reviews from real people that made my millenium....

For Dog Woman (a book for adults and proficient young readers):
"It was the second best book I ever read. It was sad, but good."       
- Sam, age 9 (I never found out what his first-favorite book was.)

"I'm legally blind so I get books on tape through a volunteer group that reads and records books for visually impaired people. I was listening to my recording of Dog Woman and at one point, the reader could hardly get through the words because she  was bawling so hard." 
- Kris, an adult reader of a certain age

"It's the best book I've ever read. I'm not done yet. I'm to the part where they knock down the dog woman's house."                              - Anna, age 10

For Don't Worry Baby (a book for adults) -

"I finished reading Don't Worry Baby yesterday. I never knew that your writing was so entertaining. I really enjoyed it, kinda like reading an Evanovich book, no really!!! Hope there's a sequel or two. I was pulled in from the start. Way to go!              - Danette, a reader from Illinois

"I keep reading parts to my daughter so she sees how we used to talk. Who's that on the cover? Pretty cool picture, man."                         
- Mary, a reader from Wisconsin

Here's to more reviews, from ordinary readers and professional reviewers alike!