Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Trip

You know what? I have always wanted to go to Prague. You know what else? Mike made it possible. With a jaunt to Munich and Venice to boot!

We both have big birthdays coming up in November, and I suppose in a pre-mid-life-crisis move, I craved a big blast. One last hoo-rah, throw-down, wake up not knowing where (or who) you are, caution thrown to the wind, why not we're still young, watch-out-there's-the-Carabinieri time.

So we did. We lived. In the words of Auntie Mame, "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death." But we pulled right up to the buffet and ate 'till we couldn't stand it. We ate 'till it hurt. And then we took a deep breath, dove back in, and ate some more.

And then we had dessert.
And you know what? We're full. And it is so nice.

We learned about and experienced even more about each other and the world around us. I can't recommend highly enough to young married couples to have an early second honeymoon. The first honeymoon is too new. You're so worn out from the wedding, the marriage is still a novel idea, and you're just getting to know each other. You're still being polite and not sure if you can laugh hysterically at bathroom noises.

But three years into it, I know how Mike likes his sandwiches made every day. He knows my impatience (I've earned the nickname "Imp."). We know each other's quirks, likes, and dislikes, and we revelled in experiencing new things together. Before leaving, we never really called this trip a honeymoon: everyone we met just assumed we were newlyweds because of how we treat each other. That was nice. We couldn't wait to show the other what was around the next bend.

I know it's mushy, but damn, it was good.

The first stop was Prague.

It suprised us in its beauty. It suprised us in its changes in altitude. This Mississippi flatlander never imagined a place with such steep slopes. There are two directions in Prague: up the hill and down the hill. A right corner on the streets is nonexistent, as the roads were built up on the natural paths taken by peolple living there centuries and millenia ago. So when we asked someone for directions, the locals would point either up or down, and that was enough: the streets intertwine in such a way that you'll get where you're going without becoming easily lost.

Relatively speaking, the Czech Republic was only recently opened to the world for tourism, so people working in the tourist industry are very friendly and accommodating. The exchange rate is good - the Czech Republic is part of the EU, but they don't use the Euro as currency - they use the kouran, or kc.

But the beauty. Wow.


My dear, patient readers.

We have returned from a lovely trip abroad! I promise to write about it, just as soon as I find my toothbrush.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Dames and Dancing

What a huge weekend so far, and it's only going to get bigger from here. I recently attended a meeting of the Colonial Dames of the Seventeenth Century, where my friend Susan suggested Mike and I attend a class or two of ballroom dancing at Mississippi's Dance Studio. I danced years ago and have always loved it, but Mike's profession as an engineer does not lend himself to this sort of activity.

So armed with rum and the knowledge that Coke would be available, we went. And it was SO MUCH FUN.

I wore what Linda calls my "swingy skirt," and woah, did it swing when Mike twirled me. It felt so good to get out there and shake what my momma gave me. Am glad I thought to wear matching panties: though I never really flashed anyone, Mike said it was close a time or two. I probably showed more leg than I had planned, but oh well. If I can't show leg at this age, when can I?

It was a pretty big ego boost for me too, as some other male patrons wanted to dance with me during a step that Mike didn't know. It made me really appreciate Mike as a partner. You can easily compare dancing with other life lessons, and I have learned that Mike is definitely the partner with whom I am most comfortable. On the dance floor and in life. Moral of the story? We're just going to have to get out there and learn some more steps to do together.

Now.... if we could only find a salsa club in Venice...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Uncle Forrest's Memorial Service

Mike, Mom, and I made a long day trip to Pensacola, Florida, yesterday to attend the memorial service for my great uncle Forrest. He was such a neat guy. Very much a romantic: rumor has it he was engaged 13 times - 7 to Aunt Elizabeth - before finally settling down with her before the war. Uncle Forrest never talked to me about the war, but I always knew he had an important part in it. Until yesterday I didn't know quite how important his part was.

The memorial was beautiful. I've heard that Uncle Forrest's mother, Leila, loved funerals because you had a chance to see everybody. The same held true yesteray: it was so nice to see everybody again. Memories and anecdotes were shared. He believed in hard work and solid education. "Live within your means," "give people credit," "save money each month," and "love someone a lot," were just a few of his "Forrestisms" He was one of only two out of forty-four men of his type in the Air Force to return from the war.

Uncle Forrest had a full Air Force Honor Guard. After they folded the flag, the Guardsman presented it to Forrest's daughters, reciting, "On behalf of the President of the United States, the Department of the Air Force, and a grateful nation, we offer this flag for the faithful and dedicated service of Forrest Dee Nixon." I know that the Guardsman included Uncle Forrest's rank, but I couldn't hear it: I could only hear parts of what he so solemnly said, so I had to look that last part up.

Then there was the 21-gun salute. I knew what to expect, but I still jumped out of my skin and almost hit the dirt as the first volley resounded off the granite mausoleum walls. I noticed everybody else jumped too. I was able to hold it together until the lone Honor Guard played Taps. Then the tears really flowed.

But you know my favorite memory of Uncle Forrest? Yes, he believed in hard work and service to his country, but Uncle Forrest knew how to have a great time. He also loved to dance, and man, could he! He won all kinds of dance contests, and though we never had the chance to really boogie together, I sure wish we could have.

Forrest Dee Nixon, Jr., formerly of Pensacola, Fla., passed away on Aug. 7, 2009, in Crane, Texas. At his death, he was four days short of his 91st birthday. Born in Lineville, Ala., to Leila and Forrest Nixon; he was the oldest of three. During high school, he and his sweetheart, Elizabeth, were voted most in love.

He received a degree from Auburn University in Electrical Engineering and joined the armed forces, commanding a squadron of B-24s and he flew 17s and 25s. His plane was hit and he spent a year in Germany as a POW.

Having married Elizabeth before being sent overseas, they began a family while he acquired a second degree in Mechanical Engineering. They had two boys and two girls and were married for 52 years before she passed. He believed that the Lord selected Florence Fry as his second wife. She wasn’t so sure. They were married 11 wonderful years. Forrest always spoke of how much he loved both his wives and how lucky he had been in his life. Professionally, he was an engineer for Monsanto, ending his service in St. Louis involved in energy conservation.

His family and golf were his passions. He taught an adult Sunday School Class in East Hill Baptist Church for 42 years. He believed that the Lord had taken care of him throughout his life.

He is preceded in death by his loving wives, Elizabeth Bradford Nixon and Florence Fry Nixon; as well as his sister, Charlie Fay Flynn; his youngest son, Michael David; his son-in-law, Mike Braden; and his great-grandson, Beck Patterson. He is survived by his brother, Robert Avery Nixon; son, Forrest Nixon and his wife Pam; and daughters, Carol Sherman and Susan Braden. He was beloved by 13 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren.
Forrest Nixon lived a long life and made an impact on many he touched. Florence wrote: “Forrest – Living with you prevents the distraction of growing old.” He was loved and will be missed. The family plans to lay him to rest Labor Day weekend in Pensacola, Fla.

Photos courtesy of Jim Beckel Music, ehow, Air Force ISR Agency, idance and MadAboutSwing.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Fearless Prime Rib

I can't believe that we have still yet to see Julie & Julia. Linda, when the hell are we going? I suppose life just gets busier and busier, germs abound, and it's no fun going to a movie when we and everyone around us have the sniffles.

Nevertheless, a theme that I have gleaned from the movie trailers and the blog is fearlessness in the kitchen. I have had this ribeye roast in the freezer for months. Ever since I found whole ribeyes on sale at the Kroger and had my butcher Carl slice 3/4 of it into 1-inch thick steaks and leave the rest as a roast.

Why a roast? What in the world was I going to do with an expensive-even-though-I-found-it-on-sale ribeye roast?? But I knew that Mike likes prime rib, and I figured time would give me the confidence I needed for this roast. After all, a prime rib is only a ribeye with the ribs still attched. The bone marrow would add extra flavor to the meat, but I'm pretty good with flavors, so I bet I could figure out how to overcome the fact that this piece of meat was missing its bones. After all, I could freeze it and save for later: I just needed the ribeye steaks to serve for Easter dinner.

Time went on, and every time I opened the freezer, there was that cut of meat. Just looking at me. Too thick to comfortably chicken out and cut into 1-inch thick steaks on my own. I've butchered meat myself, and I hated the idea of, ah, literally BUTCHERING this pretty piece on my own with the electric knife. The perfect piece to save for a big party, if only I knew what the hell I was doing with it! Meanwhile, it was just sitting there, taking up space, running out of time in storage.

So last week I sucked it up and set it in the fridge to defrost. No backing out now. A Wednesday night with my husband was special enough for this piece of meat. And after all, I DID find it on sale, so it was worth a practice for later. But what to do with a piece of meat like this? If I was this ribeye, how would I like to be prepared?

Hey, I'd want to be marinated.

So I marinated it overnight in a combination of olive oil, pomegranate-infused red wine vinegar, some leftover pinot noir, black pepper, rock salt, freshly-chopped garlic, and a little soy sauce. It was an excercise in smelling: before pouring on top of the meat, I'd smell the mixture and then smell what I was about to add to it. If it made my mouth water, I'd dump it in.

The original plan was to cook this baby on the grill, but the next day was extremely hot outside. In hindsight, I'm glad this happened, as grilling would have dried out the meat more than the braising did.

Why did I braise it, you might ask? Better yet, what the heck is braising? Per Wikipedia, "Braising (from the French "braiser") is a combination cooking method using both moist and dry heat; typically the food is first seared at a high temperature and then finished in a covered pot with a variable amount of liquid, resulting in a particular flavour." The particular flavor for which I was looking was a piece of meat that still had its bones attached, but I thought perhaps having the marinade close by would compensate.

You know very well I didn't sear the meat. But that marinade smelled too good to dump out of the sink. So I fashioned a foil reservoir in the rack of my roasting pan to hold it close to the meat. I then covered the meat loosely with the foil to trap in the moisture and hopefully result in a jucier final product without being too tough.

But before I put the roast in the oven, I topped it liberally with chopped fresh rosemary and freshly ground black pepper. Girding my loins and ritting my teeth against the possibility of a fantastic failure, I set the oven to 450 degrees and popped it in. After a while, it filled the house with a lovely aroma.

After a couple of hours, the meat thermometer went off. Well, would you look at that? It's edible.

Actually it wasn't edible. It was damn good! Next time I'll set the thermometer to a lower temperature so the meat is more rare. But the picture doesn't do it justice: the center was a really bright pink, and that was only the first slice. Once we delved deeper into it, it was full of delicious rare prime-riby goodness. But by then we were too busy eating said goodness to take a photo.

You know what? We should apply this fearlessness to our lives. What would we do, what could we accomplish, if we were not afraid?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cream Cheese Lime Poundcake

When someone mentions that they like something, do you sometimes find yourself thinking of them every time you see it? For instance, my BFFs think of me when they see peacock stuff. Mike mentioned ONCE that he likes key lime pie, so now every time I see a recipe that is even remotely related to key lime (yes, there's a difference between lime and key lime!), I find myself compelled to make it for him.

I'm a chocolate girl. He's a fruity guy.

Anyway, I stumbled upon this Williams-Sonoma recipe at the Food Librarian's blog. Well done, my dear. Well done. Thank you for the heads-up about the batter. It was HUGE, but probably some of the prettiest batter I've ever seen. I had to take a picture.

I stuck to the recipe this time, but next time? Next time I'm DEFINITELY adding some ground ginger.

For best results, all the ingredients for this Bundt® cake should be at room temperature (about 70°F); none should feel cool to the touch. This can take about 2 hours for refrigerated ingredients. To hasten the process, soften the butter and cream cheese separately in the microwave at 10-second intervals, and place the eggs in a bowl of warm water.


For the cake:
3 1/4 cups cake flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
18 Tbs. (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
8 oz. cream cheese
3 cups granulated sugar
6 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 Tbs. fresh lime juice
2 tsp. finely grated lime zest

For the glaze:
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Confectioners' sugar for dusting


- Have all the ingredients at room temperature.
- Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 325°F.
- Grease and flour a rose cake pan or a 10-cup Bundt® pan; tap out excess flour.
- To make the cake, over a sheet of waxed paper, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until creamy and smooth, about 30 seconds.
- Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Increase the speed to medium-high and add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the vanilla and lime juice.
- Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions.
- Beat each addition until just incorporated, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Using a rubber spatula, fold in the lime zest.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, spreading the batter so the sides are higher than the center.
- Bake until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 1/2 hours.
- Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool upright in the pan for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the glaze: In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice and granulated sugar until blended.Set the rack over a sheet of waxed paper, invert the pan onto the rack and lift off the pan.
- Using a pastry brush, brush the warm cake with the glaze.
- Let the cake cool completely before serving.
- Dust with confectioners' sugar just before serving.
- Serves 16.

Flo Braker, Author, Sweet Miniatures (Chronicle Books, 2000).

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Bobby's Rolled Catfish

Oh, how I love Mississippi. Where else would your local AT&T repair man grow up where you did, go to your high school's rival, and swap excellent service and a great catfish recipe for the jalapeno peppers growing in the backyard?

Did I mention he fixed the DSL too?

For those of you not from around here, the best catfish in the world is grown in farms on the Mississippi Delta, practically in our backyard. I remember passing them as a little girl in the pickup on the way to go duck hunting with my dad. Mike and I still pass some on the way to ski on Wolf Lake, and I love how the idea of farming catfish in huge square ponds amuses him. It doesn't seem odd to me in the least, but I guess I can see where it would seem rather alien.

I've never tried this recipe, but damn, it sounds good.

Bobby's Stuffed Rolled Catfish

4 catfish fillets
Fresh rosemary
Fresh garlic
One yellow bell pepper
One fresh jalapeno (remember: seeds equal spicy)
Small carton fresh mushrooms
1 8-ounce package lump crabmeat
8 shrimp (optional)
3-4 Tablespoons lime juice
8 ounces cream cheese
8 strips thin bacon
White wine for baking

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Chop together the rosemary, garlic, bell pepper, jalapeno, mushrooms, crabmeat, and shrimp.
  3. Sprinkle with lime juice and set aside.
  4. With the pretty, white meat side up, cover filets with about cream cheese to taste (about 1/8-1/4 inch).
  5. Spoon chopped mixture on top of cream cheese.
  6. Roll up.
  7. Tie together with thin bacon.
  8. Put about 1/2 inch white wine in the bottom of a Pyrex or similar non-reactive (glass, not metal) dish.
  9. Add catfish and bake for 15-20 minutes.
  10. The turn to broil to brown the bacon.
  11. Serve on top of angelhair pasta and top with hollandaise.

    Photos courtesy of NuWireInvestor and Wikimedia.


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