Beauty

So much beauty in the world: scene from the film American Beauty

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I feel really beautiful today. My friend Tanna from My Kitchen in Half Cups told me I am beautiful and gave me an award to prove it. When Tanna received this award, she was modest and said she was not beautiful. She lied. She is gorgeous! If you don’t believe me, just go take a look at her blog and you can tell. She is smart, she is caring, she bakes a mean loaf of bread and she is beautiful to the core!

In order to accept this award, I have to tell you seven things about myself. Pull up a chair, get a snack, because I think this might get a little long:

I love red wine, I like the movie Sideways, I hate what the movie did to Santa Barbara’s wine country. Let me explain: I have been drinking local wine and following the local wine scene since the 80’s. In the old days, wine tasting was free. You tasted a good sample of what was available and they poured enough so you could really experience each wine (you needed a designated driver for this sort of experience). Later on as people began to discover wine tasting, the wineries began to charge a small fee for a souvenir glass. The small fee got up to about $5 or so. An outrage at the time, that was justified because the small handful of wineries were probably struggling to make a profit. In the beginning, they tried growing Pinot Noir. Except for a few pockets of acreage, it didn’t generally do well here. I remember at some point being told that it was being abandoned in favor of Syrah and Merlot. Fine with me, I love Syrah and Merlot.

Fast forward to 2004. The movie Sideways comes out. It’s like a bomb went off. Suddenly everyone wants to come here and recreate what they saw in the movie for themselves. My favorite winemaker who since the 80’s has made some of the most amazing red and white wines and an absolute stunning Port is featured heavily in the movie. We belong to the wine club and feel like we need an appointment to get in to our winery. The quality of the wines goes down, we cancel our membership. Nobody wants to sell Merlot, everyone wants to sell Pinot Noir (due to the main character in the movie commenting that Merlot was bad and Pinot Noir is good). Wineries seem to pop up like weeds. Everyone charges a minimum of $10 to wine taste, some ask up to $25.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am happy for the wine industry here. They are finally turning a profit and some amazing wine is being made here, but when I go wine tasting now… I can’t help but abuse the staff at the winery. I love to mention something controversial about the movie and watch the person pouring wine squirm. Why do they squirm? I suspect the real opinion about “the movie” is that they hate what has happened to the area too, but the politically correct answer is that the Sideways effect was wonderful. So, I am a sadist and I enjoy it… a lot. Especially when I have to pay $15 to try precisely 1 oz. tastes of a flight of insipid Pinot Noirs at a new winery who is growing nothing but Pinot Noir and they are growing it in the wrong place.

Side note: I thought I remembered the Pinot Noir thing wrong but was vindicated by the January issue of Sunset magazine: “There’s the rub: A wine is “discovered” by fans, gets planted in spades to chase demand, and loses credibility because it really shouldn’t have been planted in all those places”. They also interviewed Jeff Smith from Hourglass Blueline Vineyard in Napa Valley who had this to say: “Of course the true irony is that Miles’s Holy Grail wine (the bottle he chugs with a burger at the movie’s end) is Cheval Blanc, a Merlot-inspired Bordeaux! The fact that most people missed the irony highlights that we have a lot of educating to do.”

I have crazy hair and it’s not from drinking wine, it’s due to heredity. My hair has a life of it’s own. I have to buy gallons of conditioner just to make it look almost normal. It is five times as thick as a normal head of hair. It is curly. It used to be brunette, but it is starting to go gray which makes it look crazy because now that I don’t work, I’ve neglected to get it dyed back to it’s former color. It is long. The last time I saw my hairdresser, she shook her head and said, “I don’t know what I would do if I had hair like yours… I.. really…don’t.” Uh. Thanks. Just wait till she sees me now, lol! I’ll get her!

I have perfect teeth. I hadn’t been to a dentist in a long time. My new dentist was amazed by my teeth. He thinks they are the most beautiful teeth he has seen. I had a hereditary problem that caused issues with my gums. He sent me to an oral surgeon, the oral surgeon, loves my teeth and says they are perfect. Both dentists were amazed that there was not an orthodontist involved in their perfection.

If I were diagnosed with Celiac disease tomorrow, I would commit suicide by the next day. I think you already know this due to what I like to write about on this blog. To me, every meal is better with wheat. If I could live on pancakes, muffins, bread, pizza and pasta, I would. And then, I would have cake or pie for dessert.

Due to some health issues we had money issues and my Dad sold our car when I was around eight years old. He didn’t buy another car for years. As a consequence, I did not drive or acquire my first car until I was twenty three years old. We walked or took public transportation everywhere until then. I am not comfortable driving cars although I have loved every car I’ve owned. I just love them from the passenger seat. This poses a problem to everyone I know since I will usually be the last person to volunteer to drive and the first person to ask someone to drive me somewhere.

If I had a time machine, I would go back to a time somewhere between 1973 and 1990. I liked it there a lot.

Although I love pickles and I get extremely excited when I see them especially if they are homemade. I don’t really like sour foods so I can only eat a bite or two of them before I am completely overwhelmed. My sister loves pickles and can eat a whole jar. When she left home my Dad forgot who liked pickles and kept buying them and then wondering why I stopped eating them.

If you got this far, you now know that I am beautiful like a succulent or a sea creature. Thank you for being my beautiful reader (you are beautiful too!)

Now I get to single out 7 beautiful bloggers. The first rule of the beautiful blogger award was to talk about me. The second rule is to pass the award on. As usual, If I’ve tagged you, I want to let you know that you are under no obligation to treat this like a chain letter. If you don’t want to do this, I won’t care, I just want to let you know I think you are wonderful.

To my readers: I encourage you to click on these links. These seven blogs are where I have been spending a lot of time lately. These people are witty, smart, artistic, compassionate and altogether beautiful:

Stacy at Little Blue Hen: Vegetables are so beautiful when Stacey sees them through the eye of her camera. Go here to see what she is cooking and baking. Stay to discuss food related topics.

Peter at Cookblog: An artist, an omnivore and a wonderful writer. What a great combination. You’ll be drooling over pictures of the restaurant quality food, he served his family for dinner last night.

Tia at Buttercream Barbie: I don’t bake as often as I want to, so this is where I go to dream. Tia bakes constantly and I’m always amazed at how tiny she looks in her pictures. I gain five pounds just by looking at all of the wonderful treats.

A girl whose name I don’t know at Fatty Dumpling: Go to her about page before you start reading. This girl is the funniest writer I have ever encountered on a blog. I hope she ends up with a long and happy career in television and movies.

Jacqui at So Good, So Tasty: This blog is just beautiful. Jacqui is a graphic designer as well as a talented cook. Her blog has feng shui. Something about the colors and the design just make me feel so happy when I go there.

Beth at One Hundred Eggs:  Does anyone remember the blog called a bread a day? Beth is the remarkable woman who baked 365 loaves of bread last year. Now she has this new blog and it’s just so pretty. Great writing, healthy food and she somehow makes it more than ok that she is practicing her photography skills on her lunch every couple of days because the results are stunning.

Amy at Ohiofarmgirl’s Adventures in the Goodland:   A woman gets laid off from her job and rejoices because now she can pursue her dream of running a farm! Pure chaos from another talented writer.

I’ll be gone for a few days visiting my parents while my Mom has surgery. Please forgive me if I don’t respond to comments until I get back. My parents have the last home in the U.S. that does not have internet!

An indulgence in autumn treats and a eulogy for an old friend

Today was a slightly emotional morning for me.  I took my car of seventeen years to be scrapped.  To be sure, the poor thing was an absolute beater.  It was dented.  It had peeling paint.  The driver’s side seat was wearing thin enough for holes to start to appear. Pieces were starting to fall off of the car both inside and out.  I had that car from the time when we were both shiny and new to when we were, both of us, used, creaky and cranky.  I loved that car.  It gave me freedom. It got pretty decent gas mileage.  My Mitsubishi Eclipse was shaped like a sports car even though it had a four-cylinder engine. It had a power button, which made me feel like James Bond.

Two years ago, the car didn’t pass the California smog test.  The mechanic tweaked some things for me and got it to pass so I drove it around for another two years.  My car did not pass the smog check a second time because it needed a new engine.  The car would have been worth $100 dollars in trade in if I fixed it.  The science of economics trumped the emotional value, society found me foolish for keeping it as long as I did.  Friends and coworkers heckled me.  The car was termed a gross polluter.  It was time for it to go.  It easily qualified for a program the state of California has for people who can’t let go of their gross polluting cars. This program bribes people like me to take these gross polluters for dismantling.  We drove the gross polluter forty miles (which seemed ironic to me) to an approved dismantler.  They inspected my once pretty car, and wrote its fate all over its body.  My boyfriend said it was as if they put a toe tag on it before wheeling it to the morgue.  I got a little misty eyed as we watched it round the corner, never to be seen again.  I bought a shiny new car last month, but it doesn’t feel like it is mine the way my Eclipse felt like a part of me.  A chapter in my life is complete.

 

This afternoon, I decided to indulge myself to make myself feel better.  Tonight is “Lights out Santa Barbara”.  This event is a citywide conservation event where residents are asked to turn off their lights between 8pm-9pm for global warming awareness. We plan to light a couple of candles and play a board game tonight.  I thought it would be fun to have sweets while we play our game.  Making sweets always brightens my mood so I figured it would be positive in a couple of different ways.

 

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Baking and Books is a blog I love to go to.  Ariela is an avid reader and always has wonderful historical trivia to go with the foods she cooks.  She is a talented photographer, baker and writer, which makes it fun to stop by and see what she is up to.  Last week, she made Pumpkin currant cookies.  I was dreaming about these cookies all week!  These cookies already had all of the healthy goodie attributes that I like to have in my baked goods.  The only thing I did different was to use a full two cups of whole-wheat pastry flour instead of half white flour and since this is a no walnut household, I substituted pecans.  I will send you over to her blog for the recipe for the pumpkin currant cookies since I am lazy and they are perfect and you’ll enjoy her blog…. But wait!  Before you go…

 

I also made candy today.  I was ripping up old magazines the other day before recycling them and I came across a recipe I was dying to make but never got around to.  Being lazy, I did not want to go to the store even though I did not exactly have the right ingredients.  The candy turned out really good regardless.   This was a super easy recipe.  It was also a forgiving recipe.  I had evaporated cane juice but not enough for candy so I had to use brown sugar too.  I did not have mild molasses I had black strap molasses.  If you have kids, go ahead and make this for them.  Blackstrap molasses is loaded with minerals and vitamin B6 so this candy is a little better for them than commercial candy.

 

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Molasses Sponge Candy

Adapted from a recipe which appeared in the April, 2002 edition of Gourmet magazine

 

1 ¼ cups evaporated cane juice or granulated sugar

 

¼ cup dark brown sugar

 

1/3 cup water

 

3 tbsp unsalted butter

 

¼ tsp cream of tartar

 

½ cup blackstrap molasses

 

2 ½ tsp baking soda

 

Line bottom and sides of a 13- by 9-inch baking pan with foil, then butter or oil the foil.

 

Bring sugar, water, butter, and cream of tartar to a boil in a deep 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved, then wash down any sugar crystals with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Boil without stirring until syrup registers 265°F (hard-ball stage) on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes. Add molasses (don’t stir) and continue to boil undisturbed until syrup registers 295°F (hard-crack stage), 4 to 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat and sift baking soda over syrup, then whisk to incorporate. (Use caution: mixture will bubble vigorously.)

 

Immediately pour syrup into lined baking pan and cool completely. Lift candy in foil from pan, then discard foil and break candy into pieces.