Spring is Here: Grilled Asparagus and Salmon

It’s a gorgeous spring-came-early evening here in southeast Texas and the Grill-Meister and I are celebrating it by making dinner in the outdoor kitchen. Nothing fancy, just dishes that remind us of spring that we’ve made dozens of times and have already been captured here in the Glover Gardens Cookbook.

Our spring dinner is below – click the links if you’d like the recipes:

The birds are chirping, wind chimes are chiming and flowers are blooming.  Simple pleasures…life is good.

 

 

In the Moment with a Friend at the Bakery

Now that I’ve had my rant about smartphones at the table, I’m ready to wax poetic about the marvelous time I had this morning with a cherished friend at a local bakery.  The food was great, the atmosphere was laid-back and welcoming, and the conversation swirled and flowed.

We sailed back and forth between remembering old times, solving the world’s problems, reinforcing each other’s strengths, and astonishing moments of self-awareness and clarity brought on by the complete acceptance you only get from very close friends or loved ones.

Our smartphones were not invited, except for my irresistible urge to photograph the food so I could share it with you, Dear Reader.

Jane and John Dough Breakfast
The Atlas breakfast sandwich at Jane and John Dough in Tomball, TX; click  here to find them on Facebook

A shared meal is all about the fellowship.  I left that mid-morning breakfast on this rare weekday off of work feeling both invigorated and thoughtful.  And full and happy, too.

What a great way to start a weekend.

What’s UP with the Smartphone Use at the Table?

I’m a fan of technology, and my job is partly centered around the use of technology to connect people.

But I am also increasingly aware of the pervasive presence of technology, sometimes in places and at times where it shouldn’t have a seat at the table.  Like – at the table, literally.

I was with my son at a “fast-casual” eatery one recent Saturday and noticed while we were waiting for our food and chatting that at almost every other table with multiple patrons, those multiple patrons were focused on multiple cell phones rather than each other.

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These aren’t the folks we saw, but the vibe is exactly the same.

It was a little scary.

richardmatheson_fullsize_story1I felt for a minute like I was in one of those old Twilight Zone episodes where the protagonist finds himself in an unfathomable and bizarre situation and is the only one who notices anything is wrong.  (Remember the episode with William Shatner where he saw the gremlin and no one else did?  Shudder.  It’s called Nightmare at 20,000 Feet and is a classic.)

The phone fascination and people-ignoring was definitely not limited to the younger set.  The generational demographic in that restaurant was very diverse that Saturday noon.  The oldest person staring at the tiny screen was probably in his 70s, the youngest, about 10.  There were couples, a multi-generational family (mom/teenage son/grandma) and several groups that might’ve been co-workers or friends.  I was reminded of an NPR story I heard a couple of years ago in which one kid called his dad’s smart phone a “stupid phone”; the piece was called For the Children’s Sake, Put Down That Smartphone.

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Photo by Katherine Streeter for NPR; click here to read the story

What’s up with this?  Doesn’t anyone believe in fellowship over a meal any more? Doesn’t anyone appreciate the value of being with others and being in the moment with them? Is the smartphone really more interesting than our companion(s)?

911 Call for a Hot Toddy: Introducing the Myra

Saturday on the Patio

It’s a lovely, warm, bright-blue-sky Saturday afternoon and I’m sitting on the patio digging up photos from my computer for my son’s Eagle Scout Court of Honor slide show.  I’m nominally being useful, but mostly, I’m enjoying the vitamin D-building sunshine.

Jingle-Jangle Disruption

Ring, Ring! My cell phone jumps, startling me and the cardinal in the bird feeder behind me.

Drowsy, I grab the cell phone and greet my bestie, who has an urgent need for a hot toddy recipe.

(Aside, in loud stage whisper: I have never used the word “bestie” before, and I feel almost naughty and hipsterish.)

Myra Needs a Hot Toddy!

Bestie, calling from the Texas Hill Country, says that her friend Myra is suffering from strep and as the caretaker, she wants to provide a hot toddy to complement the homemade chicken soup she has prepared.  Myra has some Woodford Reserve Bourbon, a need for relief, and a willing and able bartender in Noemi.  I’ve met Myra before; she has a very precocious son and a super-kind heart.  And she loves my bestie, so of course I love her.

Hot toddy, hot toddy!? I have never made one, but was so flattered to get the call and be expected to know all about it.  So of course I put on my “fake it ’til you make” it attitude and gave stellar advice! My in-the-moment counsel was to make some hot tea, add honey, then lemon and 2 oz of bourbon and put it in a mug with a sugared rim.

My text after we spoke, to confirm the instructions:

“Boil water, then steep the tea for 4 minutes, then remove the bag and add 2 tsp of honey. Stir it in so it can dissipate before adding the 2 oz of liquor, which will cool it down a little. Add a twist of lemon; rub the lemon all around the rim of the mug. You could even rub the lemon and then dip the rim in sugar before adding the liquids, like you do with a margarita. Yum. I’m going to call this drink the Myra.  Send me a picture for the blog!”

The picture is below.  Myra gave the toddy a thumbs-up.

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The inaugural instance of The Myra Hot Toddy, served alongside peppermint eucalyptus oil to clear the sinuses

What Does Wikipedia Say?

I checked Wikipedia after my “sage” advice to see if I was even in the ballpark about hot toddies, and is it turns out, my idea about the tea was “spot on”.  Hot toddies always have bourbon and can be made with water or tea; they are drunk before bedtime as a sleep aid, to provide a warming effect in cold or rainy weather, or for their assumed restorative powers.  Click here to see what else Wikipedia has to say about hot toddies.

Trying It Myself

I felt a little uncomfortable recommending something I had only conjured up in my mind and my virtual taste buds, so as soon as I was able, later on Saturday, I followed my own instructions and made the same drink, using the Grill-Meister’s Maker’s 46.  It was delicious.  And it made me sleepy.

The Myra Hot Toddy Recipe

Ingredients (makes 1)

  • 1 lemon-ginger tea bag, or other tea of your choice
  • 2 oz. of good bourbon (something you would drink neat, not a house / mixing bourbon)
  • 2 tsp. local honey
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • lemon wedges for 1-2 tsp. lemon and one for garnish

Instructions

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Gather all ingredients first

Gather all ingredients.  Boil two or three cups of water and pour over the tea bag in a small tea pot or pitcher. (You’ll want enough tea to make at least two hot toddies, right?)  Put a teaspoon of sugar on a small paper plate. Find a nice mug and rub the rim with one of the lemon wedges, the turn the mug upside down and dip it onto the sugar to coat the rim.

Let the tea steep for 4 minutes, then stir in the honey.  Add the bourbon, squeeze a couple of lemon wedges into the drink and stir, then garnish the mug with another lemon wedge and serve.

The Myra Hot Toddy - Version 2
The Myra Hot Toddy makes a soothing nightcap

 

 

 

My Blog’s 1-Year Anniversary: What I’ve Learned

I’ve been blogging for a year now.  It’s hard to believe.

Are Blogs Just “All About Me”?

I have to confess, sadly, that I sometimes suffer from condescension and hypocrisy, and it almost always comes back to bite me.  When blogs first emerged, I thought, “How self-absorbed bloggers are, with their ‘all about me’ posts.”

I wondered why anyone would want to read the musings of others and condemned blogging as self-important navel-gazing.  I was wrong.

Blogs Run the Gamut of Human Expression

shutterstock_350220227.jpgWhat I didn’t realize about blogs at first is that they are simply a channel for all types of writing and communications:  poetry, essays, travelogues, advice, memoirs, editorials, special interests and hobbies, and yes, “all about me” posts.  Topics covered by blogs run the gamut of human interests and passions, from religion and politics to cooking, photography, auto racing, parenting, travel, gardening, dance, sports, knitting, movies, green living, recovering from diseases like anorexia and alcoholism, humor, learning new languages, and everything in between.

The bottom line is that people blog to share what they know, express what they feel, and connect with others.  Here’s a nice quick summary of “why blog” by another blogger, and another that highlights the skills that blogging builds.

Blogging is Knowledge-Sharing

I also didn’t realize that blogging was similar to my day job in the field of knowledge management, which is all about “connecting and collecting”:  connecting people so they can share what they know, and collecting valuable knowledge and information in a reusable way.  My little Glover Gardens Cookbook blog is a way to share what I know – and am still learning – in the kitchen.  I’m documenting and sharing so that our family recipes can be repeated by our sons and future generations, and by my friends and colleagues and acquaintances and random people I meet who engage in food conversations with me and ask for recipes.

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My former colleague and friend made the Scotch Eggs and rekindled memories

It’s so cool!  The Grill-Meister wanted our grilled asparagus on Sandwich Wednesday (his night to cook) and was able to make it himself by looking up the recipe on his iPad.  A colleague at work has made the Sweet Potato Biscuits a couple of times from the recipe in the blog, and has her own variation to share (coming soon). A former colleague and friend was inspired to make the Scotch Eggs for her English mom, and rekindled a childhood memory.

This blogging thing is so much more fun than just handing over printed copies of a recipe or emailing them around – and it is a permanent and growing knowledge base and a basis for connecting with like-minded people, some who are already known to me, and some who are new cyber-friends.

If you’re interested in reading more about the original motivation for the blog, click here to read about the About page.

Branching Out to Poetry, Haiku and Memoirs Takes Connecting with People to Another Level

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Reading and writing are part of the pulse of life here at Glover Gardens

While it wasn’t part of my original motivation to blog, I’ve found the Glover Gardens Cookbook a place to publish my random and awkward little musings, from the haiku I write to keep from getting frustrated while waiting in lines or when I can’t sleep, to the poetry I only seem to write when loved ones die, to a few little memoir-like essays.  The inspiration for my “writing voice” comes from Rick Bragg (Southern Living editorialist and non-fiction author/storyteller), Christopher Kimball (Cook’s Illustrated founder and author/editor of multiple cookbooks) and all of the marvelous storytellers from both sides of my family and the crazy place where I grew up, the Bolivar Peninsula in Southeast Texas.  Storytellers, you know who you are!

Kim and Steve Christmas Card
My brother and I had a perfect childhood

It amazes me when someone likes or is moved by something I’ve written; the fulfillment and gratification are tremendous.  When I try to capture memories and the bittersweet ache of loss and hear that loved ones near and far who feel the same loss are touched (like in this post about my brother and me), my heart is bigger and fuller because of it.  I find myself capturing childhood memories to share with my father, because he and I are the only two left from our nuclear family, and the experience has been extremely poignant and cathartic, an important step in the grieving process.

Sometimes folks I haven’t even met are comforted about their own losses.  This not only makes me walk taller feeling like I’ve made a tiny difference in the world, but also makes me feel more connected to others and the goodness and love in the universe, in people, in God.

A lot of the blogs that I’ve found and now follow as a part of this experience are very motivational and educational.  Complete strangers have moved me to tears, entertained me, inspired me and provided useful tips and insights for use in the kitchen and in life.

Why Not Share Travel, Too?

Travel Suitcases
I love to travel, and to write about it

Most recently, I realized that it would be fun to document travel experiences, info and tips.

I’ve just gotten into the travel blogosphere and haven’t done much yet, but it has already helped when I’ve been trying to remember restaurants in a foreign land to recommend.  What was the name of that terrific restaurant in Glasgow?  Oh yeah, it’s in the blog!

 

My Blogging Year, by the Numbers

Here’s a look back:

  • Total posts: 85
  • Total views: 1,975
  • Total visitors: 1,071
  • Followers: 49
  • Most views in a day: November 29 (my brother’s birthday, click for the poem), 85 views
  • Most popular post: How Far is Heaven, Remembering Kim-n-Steve, 166 views
  • Most popular day for views: Sunday, 29%
  • Most popular hour for views: 11:00 a.m., 13%
  • The intrinsic value from this wonderful year of posting and learning and connecting, and what I’ve gained from the experience: immeasurable

Mea Culpa

So, as I said earlier, I was wrong about blogs. I would recommend sharing via a blog to anyone, and if you read this post and have your own blog, please add a link in the comments so that I can follow you.

The Best Way to Hard Boil or Soft Boil Eggs. Really.

Photo from Epicurious. PHOTO BY ANDREW PURCELL, FOOD STYLING BY CARRIE PURCELL

 

What’s the Best Way to Boil an Egg?

That question has been a debate at Glover Gardens for years, until Epicurious sent me this article in their daily newsletter and changed our egg-boiling little lives.  This article answers the question: Is it better to boil an egg with a hot start or a cold start?  And following this method produces perfect eggs that are easy to peel, every time.  Really.

Click here: What’s the Best Way to Hard Boil or Soft Boil Eggs? | Epicurious.com

Simple Pleasures: Cheese Plate by the Fire

The Grill-Meister and I enjoyed our long weekend at Little House in the Rockies.  We’re getting pretty good at this Houston-Denver-Houston travel stuff, learning how to streamline and de-stress the backing-and-forthing.  I’ve already blogged about the no-cook travel day dinners (click here); a side benefit of this approach is that there are always yummy leftover cheeses and snacks to create a quick fireside appetizer plate.

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Sharp cheddar, smoked gouda and brie, with a scotch for him and a Pinot for me

Cheese, fruit and wine by the fire in the afternoon, with the crisp, cold and magnificent mountains surrounding us – a simple pleasure.

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I snapped this photo on a drive-about yesterday afternoon before our afternoon snack; it almost looks like a painting

Now we’re back home at Glover Gardens in Southeast Texas, and another simple pleasure is reuniting with our pets.

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Godfrey and Fiona know how to chill out

It’s the little things.