Archive for June, 2010

Dear Readers,

Recently flew from Raleigh to Louisville and while I was at the airport a couple of random thoughts bounced around in my brain.  I’d like to share them with you.

Saw a young man wearing a red shirt that read “I put ketchup on my ketchup!”  That immediately reminded me of my father who absolutely loved ketchup.  He would splash ketchup on anything – eggs, hash brown potatoes, cottage cheese and crackers.  He even let it flow into New England clam chowder.  Of course, he could have ordered Manhattan clam chowder but it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun as making ketchup smiley faces on a bowl of New England clam chowder!

Every airport restroom in America has faucets that turn off and on with a hand sensor.  Many times the sensor is broken and I feel like such a fool waving my soapy hands and no water comes out.  I noticed that the paper towel holders are now using sensors.  I experience even more frustration shaking my wet hands trying to dislodge a paper towel.  Don’t even get me started talking about the sensors used to flush toilets.  That’s another whole story too long to tell!  All I can say is that it’s best to

Keep smilin’!

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A Very Good Chicken Salad

Dear Readers,

This chicken salad is a little different because it contains pineapple and mandarin oranges.  It is a refreshing salad to serve in hot weather.  It’s also good for a “ladies’ luncheon”.  The recipe was submitted to Better Homes and Garden magazine by Mrs. Edna Graham of Portland, Oregon.  I’ve had the recipe for at least 25 years and it is always a family favorite.

Fruited Chicken Salad

4 cups diced cooked chicken

1 – 15 oz. can pineapple chunks, drained

1 cup chopped celery

1 – 11 oz. can mandarin orange sections, drained

1/2 cup sliced pitted ripe olives

1/2 cup chopped green pepper

2 tablespoons grated onion

1 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing

1 tablespoon prepared mustard

1 – 5 oz. can chow mein noodles

Lettuce leaves

In a large bowl combine cooked chicken, pineapple, celery, oranges, olives, green pepper, and onion.  Blend mayonnaise or salad dressing and mustard; toss gently with chicken mixture.  Cover and chill several hours.  Just before serving, mix in chow mein noodles; turn salad into a lettuce-lined serving bowl.  Makes 8 servings.

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

It’s summer and nothing is more pleasurable than going on a picnic.  In my opinion, there are two important elements in the art of picnicking – food and location.

But before I delve into these elements, let’s review the word itself.  For me, just uttering the word “picnic” evokes lightheartedness and fun.  It rolls off the tongue in a joyous cascade of sound.  I looked up the meaning of picnic in the dictionary – it is a meal eaten outdoors as on an excursion.  It’s derived from the French “pique-nique”.  Pique comes from “piquer” meaning “to pick”.  The word was rarely used in the English language before the 1800’s.  Even the French “pique-nique” conjures up thoughts of pleasurable recreation.

Let’s analyze the first element – food.  Any type of foodstuffs can be served at a picnic.  PB&J sandwiches, potato salad, cold cans of baked beans, bananas and pretzels are easy to pack.  So are fried chicken, watermelon and brownies.  At outdoor music concerts, there are the gourmet picnickers who feast on fancy cheeses, sturdy sausages, delicate crackers along with bowls of fresh raspberries.  I plead guilty to “picnic envy” as I observe them carefully unfolding this banquet onto fancy plates and pouring their chilled wine into elegant wineglasses.  I’m tempted to hide my pathetic paper cup of Hi-C fruit punch under my flimsy paper plate!

Let’s talk about what really makes or breaks the picnic – location.  It can be held anywhere that has a shade tree and a large patch of grass.  If there’s a picnic table nearby, that’s a bonus.  Even a park bench strategically placed in an interesting and scenic area is ideal for a picnic.

My family loves picnics.  When my children were young, we went on a lot of them.  Sometimes we would meet their Dad for lunch at a beautiful county park on Evansburg Road near his office.  The small park was full of big, leafy shade trees with a small stream running through the edge of it.  My husband reluctantly returned to work after these relaxing picnics.  Our home had a large covered deck off the kitchen.  It was there that we ate dinner every summer night on a large wooden picnic table, rain or shine.  It was sad when the evenings started to get too cool to eat out.

We also picnicked on vacations.  One June we spent two weeks in Paris and one of the highlights of the trip was a picnic at the Jardin du Luxomburg, a beautiful large public park.  My son urged us to plan one and we did – loading cheese, French bread, butter and wonderful strawberry preserve into a tote bag and riding the subway to the park.  On another occasion, my daughter, sister and niece were visiting us in California, where we decided to drive to Joshua Tree National Park for a picnic.  What a delightful place to enjoy lunch and then a hike.  I still  remember the styrofoam cooler the girls purchased at the local grocery store to keep our provisions cold.

As you can see, picnics are a big part of our family’s entertainment.  Maybe this will be the summer Papa and I introduce our three year old granddaughter to the “art of picnicking”!

Keep smilin’!

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Cool Summertime Salad

Dear Readers,

When the weather is hot, a cool summertime salad hits the spot.  This pasta salad is a great choice for a cookout, picnic or neighborhood party.  It’s a little different from the typical pasta salads.  Try it and wait for the compliments!

Pasta Salad with Almonds

1/4 cup minced green onions

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups cooked rotini (corkscrew pasta) about 4 ounces uncooked

1/2 cup (2 oz.) shredded or cubed monterey jack cheese

2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted

2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

1 – 15 oz. can black beans rinsed and drained

Combine first 8 ingredients, stir well with a whisk.  Add pasta and remaining ingredients.  Toss, cover and chill thoroughly.  Makes 4 – 1 cup servings.

If you are doubling the recipe, triple the ingredients for the dressing so the salad is not too dry.

Thanks to Marge Mellody, my tennis buddy, for this recipe.

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

A couple of days before the Kentucky Derby, I called my sister in Louisville and asked what horse she was picking to win the race.  She quickly replied that “Icebox” was her choice.  I remarked that “Icebox” was a funny name for a race horse.

Just mentioning the name “Icebox” took my sister and I back many years ago to memories of our own icebox at our childhood home on Breckinridge Street.  Technically, it was not an icebox but an electric refrigerator manufactured by General Electric.  My parents purchased it in the early 1940’s and they referred to it as the “icebox”.

It sat in the corner of our dining room because our kitchen was too small to accommodate it.  It wasn’t very big but it did hold enough food for a family of five.  The freezer was so small that only 1/2 gallon of ice cream and two metal ice cube trays would fit in it.  When Mom purchased ice cream, we had to eat all of it the same day because it couldn’t  take up space normally reserved for small frozen packages of meat.  There was no ice maker – those two trays of cubes were all we had.  Mom would keep a big glass water bottle in the fridge so we didn’t have to use up the ice cubes.  I remember Mom placing a pan of hot water in the freezer compartment to manually defrost it.  There was a drip pan underneath to catch the melting water.  She had to defrost it about once a week.  We weren’t allowed to stand in front of the refrigerator with the door open for any length of time.  Mom was there in a minute making sure none of the cold air leaked out on a hot day.

Every evening while Mom was upstairs taking a bath, Dad would sneak into the icebox to see what delicious leftovers he could devour.  Mom would hear that door open and immediately call downstairs saying “Henry, are in that icebox?”  Dad would ignore her and happily keep on snacking away.  I guess he thought he was fooling Mom but maybe she was using reverse psychology to get rid of the leftovers!  The entire family, including grandchildren, knew of Pa’s nightly ritual of sneaking into the icebox.

In the 70’s, Mom purchased a bigger refrigerator with a large freezer on top.  My older sister took the old icebox to use in her basement for storing extra soft drinks and beer.  That old GE refrigerator lasted for a total of 68 years before the compressor finally bit the dust!  Memories of that old “icebox” are now a big part of our family history.

Oh, by the way, the horse named “Icebox” came in second in the Kentucky Derby.

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

I wish Mimi could take credit for these great tips but she can’t!  I found these tips to be very useful, even for a veteran homemaker.  Couldn’t wait to pass them on to you.  All the info in this post came from “The Dishwasher, Deconstructed” by Carolyn Forte in the July, 2010 issue of Good Housekeeping.

1.  Do not mix loads of silver and stainless dinnerware because if the metals touch, the silver pieces may become pitted.

2.  On the top rack:  nestle cups and glasses between, not over, the rack tines to secure them without allowing water to become trapped and leave spots.

3.  Unload the bottom rack first.  Tableware in the top rack may not be totally dry, and can drip water onto items below.

4.  On the bottom rack:  plates and bowls should face toward the center (where the spray arm is located), and pots and pans should be angled the same way or placed fully upside down.

5.  On the bottom rack:  slip platters and baking sheets along the sides, not across the front where they could keep the dispensers from opening or the detergent from mixing with the water.

6.  In the utensil caddy:  to keep flatware from nesting (so soap and water can reach all the surfaces), place forks with the tines up and knives with the blades down and alternate spoons – some up, some down.

7.  Store detergent in a cool, dry place (not under the sink!”).  Powders can clump when damp; gels can separate if keep in a too-warm spot, like near hot-water pipes.

8.  And this is the best tip of all:  before a cycle, run the kitchen sink until the water’s hot.  With heated water in the pipes, the dishwasher can clean from the get-go.

Hope you find these tips as helpful as Mimi has and remember to always

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

The following are random thoughts from Mimi on the three most familiar modes of transportation:  planes, trains and automobiles.

Every air traveler knows that since September 11, flying is not as simple or as easy as it was previously.  Thoughts of squeezing all my cosmetic and grooming aids into 3 ounce containers and then into a quart-size plastic bag is distressing.  The routine security check seems to change each time I fly.  Shoes are no longer placed in a bin but directly onto the x-ray conveyor belt.  My new lightweight sneakers barely missed getting jammed in the mechanism.  The flight check-in procedure is done by the travelers at self-service computers.  It can be intimidating for passengers not familiar with computers.  And what about all those hidden flight charges?  American Airlines sells pillows and blankets for $7 each and the price of a cold beer is $6.  (At least, I hope it is cold!)  My biggest gripe is forking over $3 for an airport terminal purchased bottle of water.  Talk about a captive audience!  A friend recently suggested packing an empty plastic bottle in a carry-on bag and filling the bottle at the water fountain.  I tried it and it works beautifully and I’m $3 richer!

Now let’s talk about trains.  I live in downtown Raleigh near the train station.  Every night at exactly 10:33 PM the train whistle blows as it rolls into the station.  The sound of the whistle conjures up thoughts of life on the rails and how hobos would sneak onto empty freight cars and ride from city to city during the Depression.  I wonder about the passengers on this present-day train; where do they come from and where are they headed.  And what about the conductor and train engineer?  How many more stops do they have before they can call it a day?  The familiar sound of the train whistle alerts me that it’s time to snuggle in the blankets and settle down to sleep.

My final observation is about my 1995 Nissan Altima.  My husband gave me this car for my 50th birthday.  He added all kinds of extra options:  custom-made leather seats, CD player and “moon roof”.  He presented it to me as part of a surprise birthday celebration.  I love that car!  I’m still driving it and with only 63,000 miles on it, I’ll drive it as long as I can.  My only regret is that it is no longer garaged during the harsh winter months.  But every May when we return from CA, my husband connects the battery and the engine faithfully starts.  Now that’s dependability!

Keep smilin’!

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