Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Umm, umm Good Pecan Pie

So, you saw the photo. Here is the recipe:

Southern Pecan Bourbon Pie

For pastry:

3/4 c. butter-flavored vegetable shortening
1/4 c. boiling water
1 tbsp. milk
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. flour

For filling:

3 eggs
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 c. dark corn syrup
3 tbsp. bourbon (or 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract)
2 tbsp. melted butter
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. pecan halves
5 additional pecan halves, for decorating

To prepare the pastry, use a fork to stir together shortening and boiling water (the water will not incorporate into the shortening). Add milk, salt, and flour. Toss briefly with fork until flour absorbs wet ingredients (dough will not come together, but remains dry, crumbly and appears under-mixed).

Overlap two sheets of waxed paper on work surface to form an area about 20 inches square. Turn pastry dough out onto waxed paper, cover with two more sheets of waxed paper and roll into a 12-inch circle. Loosen, but do not remove, top sheets of waxed paper, then flip waxed-paper-covered pastry over and remove other two sheets (and if anyone is able to do this without losing a fair portion of the dough all over their shirt, please write me with the secret - Phaedrous).

Place 9-inch glass pie plate upside down in middle of pastry circle and invert pastry into plate (see comment above re. shirt). Remove waxed paper, trim and edge pastry (haw). With fluted pastry wheel or sharp knife, cut five 4-by-2-inch leaves from pastry scraps. With tip of knife, trace shallow lines into surface of leaves to resemble veins. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To prepare filling, whisk together eggs and brown sugar until blended. Beat in corn syrup, bourbon, butter and salt. Stir in 1 cup of pecans and pour filling into prepared pastry shell. Bake pie at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Remove pie from oven and arrange leaves on surface of pie to resemble petals of a flower, with tips of leaves meeting near the center of pie. Return pie to oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until leaves are golden and filling is set (if necessary, cover pastry edge to prevent over-browning).

Garnish the center of pie where leaves meet with five pecan halves. Additional dabs of corn syrup can be used as "glue" to hold the pecans in place. Cool pie before serving.

Additional thoughts from Phaedrous:

I would think that this luscious pie might be even better served with a little french vanilla or cinnamon ice cream. Even without, it is a mighty nice treat. Enjoy.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

You Can't Make This Up

Every Wednesday, there is a special "local" section in my morning paper that is devoted to just the northern suburbs of this metro area. One of the high points of my week is reading the Police Reports for the area to see if I can identify the nocturnal and unusual activities of any of my neighbors. Today's batch was outstanding and I just have to share. You can't make this shit up.

First, from the "you can't be too dumb" section:

Fraud. A caller in the 1xxxx block of NW. Gxxxxxxxx Street reported that her 93-year-old mother had gotten a phone call informing her that she'd won $5.5 million in a sweepstakes, but that she'd need to wire $250 to somebody in Kingston, Jamaica before the check could be sent. The caller wired the money on her mother's behalf. Later, when the check didn't arrive, the daughter called back and was told to wire $300 more. She sent the money, but still the check did not come. She called again and was told to send $2,000. At that point, she suspected fraud and called police, who told her to contact the Minnesota Attorney General's Office.

Theft. A woman forgot her coin purse, which contained credit cards, at Olive Garden, 1xx NW. Coon Rapids Blvd. By the time she returned to the restaurant to look for it the next morning, it was gone and somebody had already used her ATM card to withdraw $500. The woman explained to police that she'd forgotten her PIN number, so she'd written it on a sticker on the back of the card.

Econ 101:

Shoplifting. At a gas station in the 2xx block of 57th Avenue, a woman said she wanted to pre-pay for gas and gave the clerk a $10 bill. Then, a woman who'd come into the store with her grabbed two quarts of motor oil and put them in her purse. The women ran out of the store and left without getting gas. The motor oil was valued at $6.

From the "we trust our neighbors" catagory:

Burglary. Somebody stole $10,000 worth of property from an unlocked townhouse in the sub-100 block of Round Lake Trail.

From the "fugitive" files:

Theft. Hunting clothes and one hunting boot were taken from a vehicle in the 5400 block of Erickson Road. (police are on the lookout for a one-legged armed man in blaze orange)

And finally, a new kind of exchange program:

Theft. A vehicle was stolen from White Bear Dodge, 3xx Hwy. xx, and another stolen vehicle was left behind.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Making the Pie

It is the day before we travel north to celebrate Thanksgiving with my side of the family. That means that I must bake at least one pie and if it is to be one, let it be a bourbon pecan pie. This year was the first year I had to make the crust by myself. That was always C's special job and she had it down pat. This year, I attempted a new technique that was included in the pie recipe (clipped out of a newspaper at some point and filed under "Deserts/Pies" in C's color coded recipe folder system. We not only have a wall of cookbooks in our kitchen (a subject for a later picture and post since I can't figure out how to put up more than one picture at a time on Blubber), we also have a series of color coded pocket folders containing all of the magazine and newspaper recipes that C collected over time.

Anyway, the crust experiment was interesting, especially the part where I had to roll it out between sheets of waxed paper and flip it. Needless to say, my black turtleneck still bears the signature of that little maneuver. But, all said and done, the pie looks pretty good and will probably taste pretty good as well. Not that it will matter much after we bloat out on a 25 pound genetically modified Jane Mansfield Special turkey with all the fixins, seven or eight side dishes, half dozen bottles of wine, and whatever else is included in the feast. How anyone has room for desert, I will never know.

I left the chocolate out this year as my number one chocolate fanatic is off exploring the universe, and I have always thought that it made it too sweet (sorry, love). So, this year, we have returned to the purist's version of pecan pie.

As long as I was turning the kitchen into a first class disaster area, I went on then to try a roast apple and squash soup, which I am much more doubtful about. I put the squash, onions, and apples into the oven to roast for an hour at 400 deg. and after watching it do nothing for about a half an hour, decided to skip downstairs for a second to look over emails and blogs. Well, you know what happened next. By the time I got back upstairs the onions were black and the apples had melted into sugar slag. Shit, I knew that would happen and I did it anyway.

Well, I went ahead at that point. What did I have to loose? So now, I have about 50 gallons of questionable yellow/orange liquid that I am going to throw in a cooler tomorrow, haul it 150 miles north, and hope that I can hide it in some relative's refrigerator before returning home. It is a family trait, what can I say.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Little Treasures

This is a duplicate of the post I just put up on Caring Bridge so apologies to those who read both.

I am frequently asked if I am working now, and I always hesitate before saying that “I think I’m retired.” I watch the expression that people get upon hearing this and it is always one of slight puzzlement, followed by one of questionable jealousy. Then there is always the unasked question of “Well, what do you DO all day?” It is never voiced, but clearly there.

I usually make something up because the truth is too shameful. It would be nice to say that I have taken up flying lessons, or am busy learning to Samba, or am writing my first novel, but the truth is actually that I wander around the house looking for things that I have misplaced. Sometimes I vary that by looking for things that C misplaced (or placed in places that I would not think to look). This is an entertaining pastime and occupies an amazing amount of time.

For instance, today I am looking for insurance information – both of the health variety and the home/auto kind. I know that C had a place where she kept these packets, both current and historical, but I am not sure exactly where. There are the fifty file boxes in the storage room full of old maps, canceled checks, phone numbers of people we don’t know anymore, but no folders entitled insurance.

One of the more interesting aspects of this current line of work is that there are many little diversions to be had as I come across bits and pieces of our family’s history as collected and filed by our favorite archivist. There are old expired tickets issued by museums whenever we bought family memberships, letters written, received, and filed, now yellow and brittle with age (who writes on paper any more?). Just today, I found my social security card filed under Miscellaneous in the pantry.

But the best thing I found this morning (right after the SS card) was a copy of “Application for Permission to Date My Daughter” as a two-page, stapled set that had with "Ten Simple Rules for Dating My Daughter” on the back. These pages were printed up and presented to K several years back and provoked an entirely foreseeable though equally humorous (from a father’s point of view) response. I suppose that I have only myself to blame now when she does her best to NOT invite any dates into the house and avoids all chances for introductions.

That is why I have to refer to the few men in her life as Mr. X (I, II, and III). As I sat in the kitchen rereading this document for the first time in several years, I relived a moment that occurred during a time when things were different for us. It still makes me laugh, but then again, I do have a slightly twisted sense of humor, and a perverse one according to my lovely daughter.

So, here for your viewing pleasure is a copy of the application and the ten rules. Since these are available in multiple variations on the internet, I don’t think I am violating any copy write laws by presenting them here.

NOTE: This application will be incomplete and rejected unless accompanied by a complete financial statement, job history, driving record, lineage, and current certified medical report (including drug tests) from your doctor.

1. NAME _______________________________ DATE OF BIRTH ________________

2. HEIGHT ______________ WEIGHT __________ I.Q _______ G.P.A.____________

3. SOCIAL SECURITY # _____________ DRIVERS LICENSE # __________________

4. BOY SCOUT RANK____________________________________________________

5. HOME ADDRESS _________________ CITY/STATE ___________ ZIP __________

6. Do you have one MALE and one FEMALE parent?______________________________
If No, EXPLAIN ______________________________________________________

7. Number of years your parents have been married ________________________________

8. Do you own a van? ______ A truck with oversized tires? ______ A waterbed? _________
Do you have an earring, nose ring, belly button ring, or a tattoo? _____________________
(If "yes" to any of #8, discontinue application and leave premises)

9. In 50 words or less, what does "LATE" mean to you?______________________________

10. In 50 words or less, what does "DON'T TOUCH MY DAUGHTER" mean to you?

11. In 50 words or less, what does "ABSTINENCE" mean to you? ______________________

12. Church you attend _____________ How often do you attend ______________________

13. When would be the best time to interview your father, mother and priest/rabbi/minister? ____

14. Answer by filling in the blank: please answer freely. ALL answers are confidential (That means I won't tell anyone-ever-I promise.)
a) If I were shot, the last place on my body I would want wounded is __________________
b) If I were beaten, the last bone I would want broken is my ________________________
c) A woman's place is in the _______________________________________________
d) The one thing I hope this application does not ask me about is _____________________
e) When I first meet a girl, the first thing I notice about her is _______________________
( NOTE: If your answer begins with "T" or "A", discontinue. Leave premises keeping your
head low. Running in a serpentine fashion is advised.)

15. What do you want to be IF you grow up? ____________________________________

Signature( That means sign your name)

Thank you for your interest. Please allow four to six years for processing. You will be notified in writing if you are approved. Please do not try to call or write. If you do attempt any communication before your application is approved, automatic disqualification will result.
If your application is rejected, you will be notified by
two gentlemen wearing white ties and carrying violin cases (You might want to watch your back).

Do you still want to date my daughter?:
_____ Yes, please accept my application
_____ I um, no, I uh, think I have the wrong house...

Ten Simple Rules for Dating My Daughter

Rule One:
If you pull into my driveway and honk you'd better be delivering a package, because you're sure not picking anything up.

Rule Two:
You do not touch my daughter in front of me. You may glance at her, so long as you do not peer at anything below her neck. If you cannot keep your eyes or hands off of my daughter's body, I will remove them.

Rule Three:
I am aware that it is considered fashionable for boys of your age to wear their trousers so loosely that they appear to be falling off their hips. Please don't take this as an insult, but you and all of your friends are complete idiots. Still, I want to be fair and open minded about this issue, so I propose his compromise: You may come to the door with your underwear showing and your pants ten sizes too big, and I will not object. However, in order to ensure that your clothes do not, in fact, come off during the course of your date with my daughter, I will take my electric nail gun and fasten your trousers securely in place to your waist.

Rule Four:
I'm sure you've been told that in today's world, sex without utilizing a "barrier method" of some kind can kill you. Let me elaborate, when it comes to sex, I am the barrier, and I will kill you.

Rule Five:
It is usually understood that in order for us to get to know each other, we should talk about sports, politics, and other issues of the day. Please do not do this. The only information I require from you is an indication of when you expect to have my daughter safely back at my house, and the only word I need from you on this subject is "early."

Rule Six:
I have no doubt you are a popular fellow, with many opportunities to date other girls. This is fine with me as long as it is okay with my daughter. Otherwise, once you have gone out with my little girl, you will continue to date no one but her until she is finished with you. If you make her cry, I will make you cry.

Rule Seven:
As you stand in my front hallway, waiting for my daughter to appear, and more than an hour goes by, do not sigh and fidget. If you want to be on time for the movie, you should not be dating. My daughter is putting on her makeup, a process that can take longer than painting the Golden Gate Bridge. Instead of just standing there, why don't you do something useful, like changing the oil in my car?

Rule Eight:
The following places are not appropriate for a date with my daughter: Places where there are beds, sofas, or anything softer than a wooden stool. Places where there are no parents, policemen, or nuns within eyesight. Places where there is darkness. Places where there is dancing, holding hands, or happiness. Places where the ambient temperature is warm enough to induce my daughter to wear shorts, tank tops, midriff T-shirts, or anything other than overalls, a sweater, and a goose down parka - zipped up to her throat. Movies with a strong romantic or sexual theme are to be avoided; movies which features chain saws are okay. Hockey games are okay. Old folks homes are better.

Rule Nine:
Do not lie to me. I may appear to be a potbellied, balding, middle-aged, dimwitted has-been. But on issues relating to my daughter, I am the all-knowing, merciless god of your universe. If I ask you where you are going and with whom, you have one chance to tell me the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I have a shotgun, a shovel, and five acres behind the house. Do not trifle with me.

Rule Ten:
Be afraid. Be very afraid. It takes very little for me to mistake the sound of your car in the driveway for a chopper coming in over a rice paddy near Hanoi. When my Agent Orange starts acting up, the voices in my head frequently tell me to clean the guns as I wait for you to bring my daughter home. As soon as you pull into the driveway you should exit your car with both hands in plain sight. Speak the perimeter password, announce in a clear voice that you have brought my daughter home safely and early, then return to your car - there is no need for you to come inside. The camouflaged face at the window is mine.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Sorry for the long delay between postings. I have no compelling excuse other than to say I have been getting wrapped up in the mundane little pleasures of life and have decided to enjoy them rather than sit down and “put pen to paper” if you know what I mean.

Perhaps it is the time leading up to Thanksgiving that makes me think about what I am grateful for, because I have been pondering those things lately. Perhaps it is also the events of the past six months that sharpens the contrast of what I see around me on a daily basis. And perhaps it is this new person with which I share my life via the internet and the telephone lines.

It’s not that all is peaches and cream. I struggle daily in this new role as a single parent to two teenagers. I constantly hold myself up to the standards set by my late wife and consistently fall short. This is not healthy, but I am not sure how to change it from shear will power. I trust that over time, as my confidence grows and I find new skills, or awaken long dormant ones, I will not feel the need to “be” C, but rather to be myself, warts and all.

Part of this conundrum is that I am not the only one judging my performance as a parent. There are C’s sisters, her friends, my children, all of whom miss her terribly. I think that grief and sadness builds up in people like static electricity and when there is a sufficient charge and a path to ground, that energy leaps out, burning both the giver and the recipient. I have felt that burn from both ends over the past few months.

But, be that as it may, things are getting better I think. I “feel” better, stronger. Laughing comes a little easier and is a welcome thing. My children continue to do well in school and seem relatively well adjusted. I do worry though. I can’t believe they can go through the loss they have without some significant emotional scarring. When that will make itself known is a cipher to me now, but I watch and try to be sensitive to their moods and seasons.

My emotions are pretty close to the surface now. The death of my wife, the rift with her sisters, the appearance of a woman to whom I am drawn – all pull on my emotions like tidal forces on a planet with multiple, orbiting moons. And, adding to all of that, my parents are nearing the end of their time on this earth in a city two hours away from me.

My father, who throughout my lifetime has been a huge, strong, silent figure - loved and admired by those who lived and worked with him – is now reduced to a hunched over old man with teeth that sleep in a glass next to the bed, incontinent, and slipping into dementia.

My mother, who 12 months ago was the one we all feared was succumbing to Alzheimer’s rallied gallantly to pick up the pieces that were dropping one-by-one from my father’s helpless fingers. Trying to care for him in his increasing need has taken a physical toll on her however. Now, they exist in their home by grace, refusing to leave for the greater comfort and care offered by a senior’s facility. They prefer each others company in the familiar surroundings of their home.

My brothers, sisters, and in-laws who live in the same city have shouldered almost all of the extra duties that this situation presents. They have arranged for financial oversight, for cleaning help, and now, daily health aides to come in to assist with the day to day tasks that need doing. We all worry and wonder what the next day will bring.

So, with all of this swirling around me, I think about Thanksgiving and family gatherings, where at least one chair, perhaps more, will be empty. There will be tears shed and toasts raised. It will be an even greater emotional time for me than I experience every day now.

But I am thankful. I am thankful that I can feel them at all. I am thankful that I have family that I can gather with and share some of this. I am thankful that even though I am glad I don’t have to live with all of them, that we still gather periodically to share that indefinable thing called “family.” There are so many others out there who cannot do that.

I am thankful that my last chemo treatment appears to have worked. The disease is not gone. It is not exorcised by these medical onslaughts, but it is beaten back. It will return at some unforeseeable point, and when it does, we will try to beat it back again. For now though, I am grateful that I can go about my life looking, and feeling like a healthy person.

I am thankful that someone appeared in my life when I least expected it and most needed it. I am thankful that we have what we have even while we desire more. I am thankful that I am still able to feel this kind of emotion after the death of a woman I loved for more that twenty years carved a large hole in the center of my chest. That absence will never be gone completely, but as a wound, it will heal to some degree, until it is a scar that only I can see or feel. I am thankful for the healing that is going on.

I am also thankful for the opportunity to express these feelings and to put them up on this imaginary bulletin board with an imaginary thumb tack. And, I am thankful for you, dear reader, who takes the time to share this little bit of my life with me. I am thankful for all of you who have left me a comment or a word in some other form, who have become special friends who meet around a virtual water cooler to share these bits and pieces of our lives. You are important to me.

I will try to post more often, but I find myself getting sidetracked by some of these little pleasures.

Take care.