Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Day, 2009--My Loved Ones, My Nuclear Family in Portland, and My Christmas Cooking Saga

I took this photo after we'd been together for a few hours, enjoying good company and good food. The kids and Ginger were about to go when I remembered that I hadn't taken a photo of everyone. You can tell from this photo that Mama's not back to her pre-heart-attack-self. Even with the continuous oxygen, her strength and stamina are not what they were. We're going to see the lung doctor on New Year's Eve. I hope that woman can give her some help.
Back row, Kailey, Ginger, Leland.
Front row, Mama, Duncan, Lamont.

Now for the Christmas Cooking Saga--I had me some F-U-N!.

I started on Christmas Eve night. I called Lamont, and asked, "Would it be OK for me to chop my onion and peppers and squash tonight, put them into plastic bags, and then the frig? I want to saute them in the canola, olive oil mixture tomorrow." He said, "Sure. That'll work." So I stood at the counter for almost an hour, chopping a whole sweet onion, a whole yellow bell pepper, a whole orange bell pepper, two small zucchini and one small yellow, crookneck squash, putting each vegetable into a separate little lidded, plastic container. Next I scrubbed five sweet potatoes, dried them with paper towel, wrapped them in foil and baked them in the oven until soft. About 10 p.m., I began baking two packages of Toll House Cookies, those ones that have the little chunks you break apart. I had a good time making them, even if I didn't do scratch Toll House cookies like my darling husband LeRoy used to do. I set the timer every time I put the cookie sheet in the oven and sat down to watch some more of "Meet Me in St. Louis," one of my all time favorite movies; it went off at midnight, right after I finished baking cookies.

Christmas morning, bright and early, I made some biscuits from scratch. Dismal failures they were, too, in the area of rising--they didn't--though they tasted pretty good. "Oh, well, I'll have to try this again," I thought. I thoroughly enjoyed eating those flat but flaky biscuits with Steen's 100% Pure Cane Syrup which our friends Milton and Kay got for us down in Mississippi and then mailed to us. It was at Talladega that I rediscovered the smooth, unique taste of this good-memory-evoking breakfast favorite of my Daddy and me--more about how the discovery came about when I get to that day in the never-ending tale of vacation, promise.
That's some Tyson bacon that I fried and ate with the biscuits--I didn't eat all of the bacon or the biscuits--I saved some for Mama. I have to report that I don't like Tyson bacon as much as I do Oscar Mayer bacon, nope, Tyson's doesn't get as crispy as Oscar Mayer, in my estimation.

Once fueled with syrupy biscuits and so-so bacon, I began to cook in earnest, starting with browning the beef roast in the aluminum Dutch oven. I sprinkled some sea salt on both sides of the roast, added a bit of water to the Dutch oven, turned the heat up to get the roast good and hot all the way through, put the lid on, then turned it down to slowly cook on top of the stove. I scrubbed and cut into chunks five good-sized white potatoes and three medium-sized carrots, then put them aside for a while. I didn't want to put them into the Dutch oven too early and have them turn into mush. Later on I turned the roast over so that both sides could get nice and brown and put the carrots and potatoes in, sprinkling a bit of sea salt on them, then putting the lid back on the Dutch oven.

I opened the box and unrolled the Pillsbury pie crusts, putting one into the bottom of a 13-inch square glass baking dish--I don't have a round one--filling it with a can of apples, then topping it with the second crust. I put that into the oven to bake, according to the recipe on the can. Later on I got it out and and set it on the table to cool. I wasn't too sure about how it looked, but I figured it was worth the try.

I poured the tea we had in the pitcher that we use to make tea into a different pitcher and put it back into the frig. I made another pitcher of tea and set it into the frig, too.

I prepared six Brussels sprouts by washing them, trimming the stems shorter, and making an X in each one. I put them in a boiler filled with cold water, set it onto the burner and put the knob on high. In a little while the water rolled, and I set the timer to 4 minutes. When it went off, I put them into a bowl of ice water, then drained them on a paper towel.

I boiled six eggs, let them cool, peeled the shells off and made deviled eggs with mayo and sweet pickle relish, set them into the plastic deviled egg container and then frig to chill.

I washed and trimmed seven broccoli crowns, making sure they would fit into the steamer sections that I got out of the cabinet. I figured if I had left over steamed broccoli all week, more the better.

I washed the boiler and used it for the butter beans and okra. Some folks call them lima beans, remember, but we call them butter beans. Both the butter beans and the okra come frozen in bags at the Fred Meyer--the only problem, and it's a small one, is that the okra is sliced, not whole. I got them into the boiler, covered with water, and sprinkled in a bit of sea salt and a squirt of the oil combo. Once they started to boil, I turned them way down and set the lid on the boiler, at an angle so that the possibility of boiling over was negligible.

I got out the Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix box, followed the directions about what to add and greasing the baking dish, and started to make the rolls. What a good time I had kneading that dough, turning it towards me over onto itself, mashing it down with the heels of my hands, turning it a quarter turn, and doing it all over again! I know how much my whole family loves a good dinner roll, so making these meant a lot to me. Before I knew it, I had 15 balls of dough rising in a 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish. Whoopee!!

As the dough rose, I put the broccoli into the steamers, put both of them atop a big boiler full of water, set the lid on it and turned up the heat on the back burner.

I got one of my great big, heavy saute pans out of the cabinet, squirted in some of the oil combo, set the heat on high. From the frig I took my collection of little, lidded plastic containers and pulled the tops from each one. Once the oil was hot, I poured in the onion, stirred it around some, making sure all of it had oil on it. I let it sit for about a minute, then I poured in the two containers of peppers and the one container of squash, stirring it all together. While it heated, I cut the Brussel sprouts into quarters and tossed them into the mix. I then sprinkled some sea salt on the whole mixture and covered the skillet with its twin, turned upside down.

When the timer went off, I put the rolls into the oven, to bake according to the instructions on the box. After a while they smelled pretty good!

By the time the rolls were ready to come out of the oven, everything else was done. A major miracle, let me tell you. I don't even remember the last time I tried something like this. For some unknown reason, I had decided to go crazy, cooking all of this stuff, like I was trying to make up for lost time, not having cooked a holiday meal in three years. And I wanted my sons, who cook all of the time to have a total day off from cooking, to just help their plates and eat. Boy, did they ever do that! It was wonderful, fulfilling, just what I wanted. Mama, Kailey and I did our part, too, enjoying our family Christmas dinner.

The apple pie, the Toll House cookies, the deviled eggs, and a store-bought, Fred Meyer, pecan pie.

The rolls, Leland cutting the roast and putting a roll and some roast onto his plate.

The broccoli, the potatoes and carrots still in the Dutch oven.

My plate--the guys filled theirs much fuller, but I was too taken with watching them eat, watching them enjoy the food that I had prepared to even think about the camera. I guess you could just call me goofy!

Mama and I are thrilled to still be eating left overs. I'm throwing out the apple pie, though--it's awful, not even good heated up with a scoop of ice cream, pitiful pie.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Vacation, Day 4, 10/24/2009, Part 6

Once the Halloween Costume Contest concluded, rock'n'roll took over the stage, in the form(s) of Vince Vance and the Valiants. I hope you enjoy these photos that I took of this truly unique entertainment--I should have tried to get clearer shots to do them justice, but I stayed glued to my chair. (I found all of these facts, including the quote, at Vince Vance Dot Biz.)

Vince Vance & the Valiants with the lovely Valiantettes is the Number One Party Band… Worldwide! Vince Vance is the master entertainer and the Hardest working man in Show Business. From wild beginnings on Bourbon Street to 2 trips to the White House, their audience interactive shows have dazzled millions.



It’s Rock ‘n Roll… at it’s finest!

With Cool Costumes, Choreography and a 6 foot head of Vince himself, they have appeared in 13 countries and 34 states in the U.S.

Their song, “All I Want for Christmas is You” is the #1 most-requested seasonal hit for 16 years consecutively! The video was chosen by CMT the #6 All-Time Merriest Video!

You may laugh; you may cry. But one thing for sure… You’ll never forget that night you saw Vince Vance & the Valiants In-Concert! I know: I’ve dedicated my life to it. That’s how I know it’s a winner. –Vince Vance

Vince Vance and the Valiants, along with vivacious Valiantettes, is the premier show band on tour today. This high-energy musical revue has thrilled audiences of all ages from Coast-To-Coast with their unforgettable brand of music and comedy. Take a journey through Rock n' Roll history from the 50's to the 90's with the unparalleled Vince Vance as your tour guide. Be a part of the action as Vince hotrods you back to the Fabulous 50's then skyrockets you into the techno pop sounds of the 90's.

Except for Vince, none of the boys in Vince Vance & the Valiants have ever had a name that started with the letter “V”. Our long standing band line-up includes: Ed Doc Loftus, musical director on keys and vocals; Shane McCauley AKA “Tall McCall,” the tallest drummer in the world; Tommy Tucker who not only sings, but also plays bass for his supper; and, on lead guitar, Mike Boyd, Country Music’s Golden Throat. Vince features the greatest living saxophonist, Jimmy Vee, who simultaneously plays alto and tenor saxes... one upside-down.


Vince travels with 50 complete costume changes including a Christmas Tree costume that lights up, a case of hair spray and 3 hair dryers, 40 pairs of sunglasses, 15 bow ties, 12 cummerbunds, 10 scarves, 8 feather boas, 20 gold chain and necklaces, 14 pairs of shoes and 3 pairs of boots. Vince’s props are a BIG 6-foot Vince Head and his John Deere 5-wheel tricycle. Vince’s tallest hair day is 18.365 inches! Yes, that’s all his hair!

The girl singers, or Valiantettes, of Vince Vance & the Valiants, without exception, have always had names that begin with the letter “V.” Currently they are introduced as The Vivacious, Voluptuous Vixens of Rock n’ Roll, the Valuable, yet Vulnerable, Valiantettes …Vixie, Violet and Velicity! The first “t” is silent in the name Valiantette, so it is actually pronounced Val-yun-net.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Vacation, Day 4, 10/24/2009, Part 5

At the Renaissance at Colony Park, a local radio station held a Halloween Costume Contest for toddlers through teens. We found an unoccupied table for six and parked Mama there in a chair. I sat with her to help save the other seats while H and V and their friends walked around some more, taking in the rest of the vehicles and stopping by a restaurant for a cooling libation. They made it to the table just as the contest began. This little girl wore my favorite costume!


Mama found an excellent use for the fan she found on the table--that's some bright October Mississippi sunshine!

Come back tomorrow for the live entertainment.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Vacation, Day 4, 10/24/2009, Part 4

Yes, the Euro Fest Classic European Auto and Motorcycle Show still continues, for your enjoyment.

2008 Maserati QP Sport GTS



2006 Ford GT


1969 Ferrari 246 Dino

See the man in this Ferrari? He had that engine roaring! What a sound! 1990 Ferrari Spica SE 90

He cut it off and is about to get out of it--see the steering wheel in his hand?


More Ferraris


More roaring engine!

1967 Shelby Cobra 427 Replica


1970 Ferrari 365 GT 2+2

The sign in the window says that the owner is Linus Hall. The car is a 1961 Ferrari 250 P. F. Cabriolet. A SPECIAL AWARDS winner was a 1961 Ferrari Cabriolet, owned by Parker Hall. I don't know if this is that car.



Well, that's it for the luxury car photos. Next up, the sunny afternoon's live entertainment. Sorry I didn't get any other cars or a single motorcycle. I'm curious. Do you have a favorite car from among those I've posted over these three days? Mine is the 1949 MG TC-EXU, from Wednesday's post; it's the one with the mosquito hood ornament.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Vacation, Day 4, 10/24/2009, Part 3

Euro Fest Classic European Auto and Motorcycle Show continues, for your enjoyment.

1963 Austin Healey 3000 MKII

1967 Jaguar E-Type



1963 or 1969 Jaguar E Type (I can't read the sign in the windshield, and I forgot to take a separate photo of it! I'm leaning towards 1969--does anyone know?)


Another award winner, MOST ELEGANT OF MARQUE-CLOSED, 1966 Volvo 1800S, owner Bill Barnett.


And another award winner, BEST OF MARQUE-CLOSED, 1971 Volvo 1800E, owner Wayne Derrick. Guess what? I think I remember this right. We used to go to church with Wayne back in the day, down home in Mississippi! One time LeRoy and I went to a Sweetheart Banquet at Alta Woods Baptist Church, and Wayne was part of a barbershop quartet that entertained. Wonderful memories, brought on by the small world we do inhabit.

Yep, this one is a winner, too! MOST ELEGANT OF MARQUE-CLOSED, 1966 Aston Martin DB6, owners Howard and Marilyn Laramy.