Pizza

Could I ever get too much pizza? I don’t think so. I love pizza…in fact, I just sent the little man to Dominos to pick up the one I ordered online. I like the tracker on the website. What kind of pizza do I realllllly like? I will eat just about anything, but I am not a fan of pepperoni. The nice part is that I can pick it off without ruining the pizza. But, I will eat almost any pizza, though I am not keen on frozen, cardboard crust versions.

I had some really good pizza last month at Dewey’s. My friend and I ordered half and half, so we could try two flavors. One was called Wild Mushroom with olive oil, minced garlic, mozzarella-fontina blend, mushrooms, Portobello mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, shitake mushrooms, capers, roasted red peppers and the other was the Caprice with olive oil, minced garlic, light mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, green peppers, and fresh tomatoes. Both were good, but the addition of the goat cheese on the Caprice really added a tasty edge. The pizzas there were interesting and there were lots of options for more than your typical pizza joint offerings.

I love going to places that do wood-fired pizzas, generally because they have yummy combinations of toppings and thin crusts. I like thick crusts and even deep dish, but the wood-fired pizzas have a more distinctive flavor than pan pizzas. In Rochester, my former neighbor’s restaurant, Benucci’s, always has great pizzas like Artichoke and Pear and Gorgonzola. If you’re in Chicago, you can barely walk a block without seeing a pizza place. My current haunt is Reno Chicago with their Butternut (more butternut, please) and T. O. with chicken and peanut salsa.

Pizza I miss is from Balistreri’s in the Milwaukee area. It’s without a doubt my favorite pizza, from the cracker crust to the marinara sauce. Plus, it’s loaded with veggies, but they aren’t overwhelming in flavor.  If you are in that area, you need to try the pizza and the deep-fried eggplant! It’s a must whenever I head back to Wisconsin.

Pizza’s here and my thin crust, marinara sauce, peppers, mushrooms, onions, diced tomatoes, and black olives is really good!

March 1, 2015 at 5:29 pm Leave a comment

Jackets

In addition to loving shoes and purses…I LOVE jackets! I have too many to count and that hasn’t gone unnoticed by my other half. That said, I did buy a new one a few weeks ago that he hasn’t commented on. He has seen me wear it, but perhaps he thinks it old. He did say that the Eddie Bauer bill seemed higher than normal. Ooops.

Why do I love jackets? Well, like shoes and purses, you do need different jackets for different occasions. I have always loved peacoats. I got my first one when I was in high school. Back then, it was about the style and having lived in the frigid north, it would have been nicer to have a down jacket, but they weren’t really sold back then. I wore a wool peacoat that did have a quilted lining, but it was never really warm. No Thinsulate back then either (Wouldn’t down, Thinsulate, and Sorel boots have saved the Donner party?). And, because I cared about how I looked, I didn’t wear a hat. Stupid me. To this day, the tops of my ears hurt when it’s cold or windy outside, even in the spring. But, it was all about the look. Zero degrees, standing outside for long periods of time wearing a light wool jacket, no hat, and thin gloves. No wonder I was cold all the time.

Soooo, as a result, I buy jackets to keep me warm. My favorites are:

  • a bronze colored down jacket I got about three years ago from Eddie Bauer. I love it because it has a fleece-lined inner collar and fleece-lined pockets. Why don’t all down jackets have that? No more chill on the neck and when you don’t quite need gloves, it’s so nice to warm up the fingers in pockets that aren’t just slick polyester. The cut is flattering and not like typical puffy coats. I did look for this jacket in black at the end of the season and should have bought one, but I was thinking of the little man’s “Just because it’s on sale and it’s an extra 50% off, it’s still money out of my pocket” comments.
  • a navy wool peacoat. I don’t wear this as much, but I still love it. Peacoats just stay in style. I am on my third one. They hold up a long time, but my current one only has a thin lining. It’s not often frigid where I live, but I really appreciate the down jacket when it is.
  • a black down jacket – yes, it’s the one I just bought from Eddie Bauer. It’s great, because it’s not overly heavy, but because it has windproof fabric, it keeps me warm. I like that it has a detachable hood and fake fur collar. Sometimes, when it is windy and snowy, it’s really nice to have a hood. I still don’t wear hats. I do have headbands, gaiters, and ear pops. I have learned my lesson over the years.
  • a navy sweatshirt jacket from Eddie Bauer that is a bit longer and has a cinched in back with a tie. I like it for in between seasons. It’s perfect with jeans and a bit dressier than a typical zip-front sweatshirt.
  • a brown corduroy quilted jacket from Eddie Bauer. I bet you’re seeing a store trend here. Most of my wardrobe comes from EB. I love this jacket for fall. It’s great with jeans or khakis and has cute detailing. The sad part is that my purse strap is wearing away some of the cord rips over time. I often wish Bauer would bring back some of my favorite items. This would be one.
  • a navy rain jacket from Eddie Bauer. I normally don’t buy rain jackets, because I rarely need them, but I was going to England in the spring and figured it would be a wise purchase. I love it for here, but next time I go there, I’m getting a rain jacket with a hood.
  • a silver light-weight quilted down jacket from Landsend. It’s perfect for days when it’s cold, but not too cold. It’s packable right into the pocket and you can still buy this one in other colors.

Other jackets I have on hand are a brown wool peacoat, a black wool jacket, a tan spring jacket (rarely need this), a black quilted jacket (great fall weight), a black rain jacket (hand-me-down from my daughter), a denim Levi jacket (hand-me-down from my son), a brown corduroy jacket (often forget I have it), a black leather motorcycle jacket (don’t wear it, but can’t toss it), a royal blue spring jacket (should toss this), an olive green suede jacket (probably should ditch this), and a few more hanging in the closet. I have tossed many over the years, but keep on buying more. Unless you live in an area that is really warm all the time, you do need them – no matter what the little man says.

February 1, 2015 at 1:36 pm Leave a comment

Eggnog

I’m rather sad that Christmas is over and that means no more eggnog until next year. I love eggnog! I know, I know…for some of you, this drink ranks right up there with your dislike for fruitcake, but perhaps it’s because you’ve never had good eggnog or you’ve tried some eggnog treat that really didn’t even resemble the real thing (though I like Ghirardelli chocolate, their eggnog candy doesn’t take like eggnog to me). And, there are plenty of not-so-good products out there.

Which do I prefer? Well, generally, I like Trauth, the local dairy version, but couldn’t get any this year, because I didn’t know it was now marketed under the Reiter brand. As a result, I bought Kroger. It’s o-kay. Then, while I was at Whole Foods, I picked up their 365 brand and found it better than Kroger’s. I don’t like trumped up eggnog, in other words, I wish manufacturers wouldn’t add a bunch of nutmeg or spices to a bottled product, because it’s generally overdone. I prefer to add more spices on my own. And usually, it’s not necessary.

As a kid, I liked my mom’s homemade eggnog (yes, the eggs are raw, but hey, I ate cookie dough growing up and I’m still here) or Tom and Jerry’s (eggs are heated, thus safer and the addition of brandy is tasty). I still like my mom’s, but since I’m not at her house during the holidays, I don’t have that option. Yes, I could make my own, but I don’t take the time. Too much else to do. In the past, I have even indulged in the Borden eggnog in a can. It’s an acquired taste, but as a kid, I liked it. Don’t know that I would now. I did see Kroger had it on the shelf. But, I wanted something fresher. I forgot to look at Trader Joe’s when I was there, because they may have had their own variety. The eggnog from the dairy section is already chilled and ready to pour and serve.

One of my favorite holiday traditions is to write out my Christmas cards while sipping eggnog with a splash of Captain Morgan’s rum or brandy. Yum! It’s sooo rich and creamy. And, I’m getting the health benefits of calcium and protein! I managed to slug down a carton of eggnog, some of it straight up, so I could share sips with my grandsons, who are also big fans. Hmmm, is that why I came down with the flu? And by that time, I was out of eggnog. :(  Farewell thee eggs and cream! Let’s see, 11 months to wait. It’s like waiting for Beekman 1802 fruitcake (won’t be available until November).

January 4, 2015 at 3:01 pm Leave a comment

Games

I love playing games with family and friends and I don’t mean THOSE kinds of games, I mean card and board games. I do enjoy a few apps on my phone, but I’m really not much into video games, much to my eldest grandson’s chagrin.

When was the last time you pulled out a board game or tried your hand at Rummy? If it’s been a while, the holidays are almost here and you can even treat yourself to a game you used to enjoy playing. In my house, we have about 100 games; everything from five versions of Monopoly to Michigan Rummy. I have been playing games my whole life and I have my favorites…generally the ones that don’t take that long.

  • Yahtzee – can’t go wrong with this game that works for most of the family. It’s quick, easy, doesn’t require much strategy.
  • Connect Four – I can play this with my 7-year-old grandson and even beat him. I do not always let kids win. I think everyone needs to learn to be a graceful loser.
  • Pictionary – one of my all-time favorites, even though I am not a great drawer. We use markers and an easel size pad. Yes, it can be an advantage to the other team, but easier to see when playing with a group.
  • Trivial Pursuit – I like the original version. The little man and I play this with our Wisconsin friends, girls against the guys. Who do you think wins 98% of the time? If you guessed the girls, you are correct. Gary Cooper, Gary Cooper (inside joke).
  • Othello – a bit of a thinking game, similar to checkers.
  • Rummikub – like playing rummy. We had this game for a long time and never played it. Now, it’s a family favorite.
  • Mille Borne – this is another family favorite. It’s a card game. It’s a bit cut-throat, but comes out every time we get together.
  • Scattergories – a somewhat quiet game that involves thinking outside the box. Sometimes, a common choice will do, but mostly, if your answer matches anyone else’s, it’s scratched. There will be a bit of arguing in this game, because not everyone will agree to an answer
  • Password – this was on old TV show and most people don’t recall it and hence don’t want to play the game with me. It’s like of like Pyramid on TV.
  • Outburst – this one is loud. Teams shout out as many words as they can and hope to get the most correct.
  • Shut the Box – a fairly quick game that helps with math skills. I saw a catalog that featured a board that allowed four to play together.
  • Pit – we play this loud or silent, if young ones are sleeping. It’s a commodities game that just requires getting a group of like cards.
  • Rack-o – a bit of strategy, but mostly luck. Four people can play.
  • Trouble – this is a simple game to play with kids. The popping of the die might be annoying, but it goes fairly fast.
  • Enchanted Forest – this family game helps with memory.
  • Casino - my favorite card game that I play at lunch a few times a week.

Some of the games that get played every now and then are old standbys like Clue, Stratego, Checkers, Monopoly (we bend the rules with this one by bargaining by giving someone amnesty when they land on a property they sold, and all fines and fees go into the middle to be picked up when landing on Free Parking), and Hat’s Off (a bowling game where you try to knock the clown’s hats off).

When playing games, it’s best to keep it friendly and remember that it’s just a game. No lives are being lost. That said, games can liven up a family event, bring laughter, and make memories. So, get out a game at your next party or family event! Have fun!

December 14, 2014 at 6:15 pm Leave a comment

Bernie Rhodenbarr

Haven’t heard of Bernie? He’s a fictional character created by Lawrence Block. I LOVE Bernie! He’s witty, creative, owns a bookstore, and in his spare time, he picks locks. He makes me laugh. I know it’s wrong to be a crook, but he’s such a likeable character. And after reading his books, you’ll be looking for a Poulard lock.

Don’t really like to read? Try this series of books that began in 1977 and every now and then, another one appears. I actually met Mr. Block when he came to the library where I work, back when he was on tour promoting The Burglar on the Prowl.

1. Burglars Can’t Be Choosers (1977)
2. The Burglar in the Closet (1978)
3. The Burglar Who Liked to Quote Kipling (1979)
4. The Burglar Who Studied Spinoza (1980)
5. The Burglar Who Painted Like Mondrian (1983)
6. The Burglar Who Traded Ted Williams (1994)
7. The Burglar Who Thought He Was Bogart (1995)
8. The Burglar in the Library (1997)
9. The Burglar in the Rye (1999)
10. The Burglar on the Prowl (2004)
11. The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons (2013)

Besides Bernie, there’s a colorful cast of characters like Carolyn Kaiser, his best pal and sometimes helpmate in his crimes, Ray Kirschmann, a somewhat bumbling detective (think Joe Pesci), and his pet cat Raffles, who doesn’t really say anything, but has an attitude just the same.

I really enjoy the books and so does my other half. I just hope Mr. Block keeps turning them out! Grab a book and a glass of single malt Scotch whiskey and get ready to smile!

More on Lawrence Block, who also writes about a lot of other characters.

November 8, 2014 at 6:11 pm Leave a comment

Vegetarian Cookbooks

As I’m writing this, I’m eating Shepard’s Pie, a recipe I found in Mary McCartney’s cookbook Food: Vegetarian Home Cooking. The gravy for this is unbelievably flavorful and who doesn’t like cheddar mashed potatoes? I checked out the book at my library, because I don’t want to buy something that only has one or two recipes I might like. This is the second recipe I’ve tried and as I was perusing the rest of the book, I decided to buy it. Can’t wait to try her mom’s lemon loaf cake! Oh, yes, she’s THAT Mary McCartney…daughter of Paul and Linda. Mary’s recipes are easy to make and don’t require hard to find items, which I really appreciate. The little man is not a fan of veg recipes, but I heard him scraping his plate to get alllll the yummy gravy into his mouth. He’s now eating a second helping!

Am I a vegetarian? Not totally. The only meat I don’t eat is red. Sorry, cows. But, I believe that it is healthier to eat more veg than meat. And if I find a recipe, like the one above that has lots of vegetables and even veggie crumble, I’m more than satisfied with my meal. My favorite burger joint let’s me swap out the burger for a black bean burger in any of their interesting combinations. I really like that, too. Is the little man totally sold on the idea of going straight veg? No. He does like meat and sometimes comments that a recipe would be better with a little “chicken.”

What other vegetarian cookbooks do I like? I started out buying all the Moosewood cookbooks and they do have some good recipes. I’ve even eaten at the restaurant in Ithaca. My favorites are Quick-Fix Vegetarian: Healthy Home-cooked Meals in Thirty Minutes or Less and my favorite is Rachael Ray’s 30-Minute Veggie Meals. Note to Rachael…write another one! I do make a lot of other Rachael Ray recipes and just leave out the meat. She cooks the way I like to eat, quick and fresh.

Today, after buying Mary’s cookbook, I also bought Naked Kitchen’s Veggie Burger Book: Delicious Plant-Based Burgers, Fries, Sides, and More. There are even some good drink recipes like one with pineapple and coconut and one with watermelon.

If you have ever thought about trying out some vegetarian recipes, I’d recommend heading to your library or looking online. I read Vegetarian Times and Veg News, both of which have great seasonal recipes in their magazines and websites. But it’s also great to have some wonderful cookbooks on hand. If you have a favorite cookbook, please share in a comment!

October 26, 2014 at 5:34 pm Leave a comment

Pandora and Freegal Music

Pandora

I go through music phases where I listen a lot or listen a little. When I do feel like listening to something, I can use my iPhone or iPod, but I most often just use Pandora, the online radio. There are commercials, but not so many that I find it irritating. I do wish they’d turn down the volume on them, because they’re rather blaring! What’s the plus of using this online or app radio? You can create a station featuring music like your favorite artist or group and learn more about similar artists. I like the thumbs up/thumbs down option. If you like a song, clicking on the thumbs up button for that song will help Pandora zero in on other artists you may like. Don’t like a song? Click on thumbs down and it quits playing and moves to the next song in line. Sweet! If you could do that on a real radio station, I might listen to them. Pandora is free and you can access it at Pandora.com or download the app for your device. It has really helped me find lots of great music I would never have discovered on my own.

Freegal

Have a library card? Check your local library and see if they have access to Freegal. You download millions of songs for FREE! They are yours to keep and can be played on your computer or device. It’s another great way to get music without paying a cent. My library has a subscription and we get five songs per week. Popular music has tons of offerings, but you can find New Age, Country, and even children’s tunes. If you are looking for music and don’t want to spend a fortune, this is for you!

October 5, 2014 at 5:51 pm 1 comment

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