Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Weathering the Storm

Wednesday Morning
Still no power this morning, but I had to return to work.  I guess that's not too bad a thing, at least work has power and internet.  Getting work-ready in the mostly dark this morning was interesting.  I didn't turn out half bad though my hair looks a hot mess right now.  I decided to get a hair cut this afternoon, because at least that blow out can last a day or two and I won't have to worry about washing my hair!!  Still no Dominion truck sighting in my neighborhood... not even a city truck.
Okay, off to do some actual work... maybe.

This is from yesterday when the power was out and no internet access anywhere, so I couldn't post, but I thought you'd want to know my nonsense thoughts of the day...

Tuesday Morning

Still no work today, the two schools I work at had no power when I drove by yesterday, so who knows when we’ll be back.  Yesterday, the whole neighborhood got a call from Dominion around 3 saying our power was restored… oh the lies they tell!  No only was our power still out, but the trees and the power lines were all still on the ground, and no Dominion truck had even showed face in my neighborhood.  Oh well, here’s to hoping we get it some time this week.  They said by Friday everyone in this area should have their power back.  Well, it’s only Tuesday and Friday feels like a lifetime from now!

All that aside, I consider this my personal challenge in self-sufficiency.  Last night I fired up the grill and had a small feast (no I didn’t eat it all, I shared).  2 Omaha steaks, about 2 dozen shrimp, and some fresh tomatoes.  Paula Dean would be proud of me, I even melted a little butter for my shrimp in a can on the grill!  That was the last of my cold food that I couldn’t bring myself to throw away, so grill it I must!  Now I’m left with chips and salsa, cereal, and power bars.  Thank you jebus that the shopping center a few blocks away has power, an open Starbucks, and a fully stocked grocery story.  Looks like I’ll be making some trips up to the store this week!

I decided to venture up to Starbucks (after dropping my car off for some repairs next door) to get a little Java Chip Frapp, charge my electronics, and people watch.  And what good people watching it is! So far I’ve seen The Grandtastic Billy Hupp, a teacher from work, my neighbor, and made a new friend.  Unfortunately that new friend happens to be an old lady and no some hot young hipster dude.  Never the less, Starbucks friends always make for randomly good conversation.  Then enter the douche in the seersucker suit. PIC.  I’m all for seersucker, how classic southern, but to me, a full seersucker suit is for weddings and dressier occasions, not a Tuesday at the office (or Starbucks with your kids).  Jim Duncan (one of our local weather men) was here just now.  I wanted to go up to him and demand to know why they made this storm out to be NBD… but then I realized it’s not his fault the weather does what it does, so I let the other patrons accost him instead. 

I’m so bored, I feel like I have nothing and everything to write about today!  Since there’s no internet access anywhere, this is still being written in a word document to be posted later!  As I’m writing I keep thinking about that Office ep when Ryan sets Creed up with a “blog” that’s really just a word document on their server.  My thoughts aren’t as shocking as Creed’s, but they are equally irrelevant to life.

Okay, I’ve been sitting here for an hour, time to sign off!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

I can't stand the rain...

How do you know Missy Elliot is from coastal Virginia?  Her first song, "I Can't Stand the Rain," is clearly about this dang hurricane!  Well, maybe not, but I sure can't stand the rain!  Oh Irene, what are you going to do to us?

All this hurricane bid-ness got me thinking about storm essential kits.  The last time we had a significant hurricane in Richmond, I was living with some friends in the West End and I think we just got hammered and partied and didn’t realize we might need to get some essentials.  Well, being the forgetful person that I am, it didn’t occur to me that I should get some extra batteries for my flashlights, extra candles, or water until yesterday.  Well, I went to 5 stores and either none had any at all or were so crowded I couldn’t even get in.  Oh well, hopefully the batteries currently in my flashlight will last if need be and I guess I’ll just light all of my small scented candles and my house will smell like a Yankee Candle store.  Luckily I have a case of bottled waters that I bought a while ago and never really touched and plenty of non-perisable easy to eat foods.  So to hell with a proper storm kit… here’s an Anne’s Storm Kit:

1 Bottle Firefly vodka
1 package powdered lemonade mix
A few bottles of water (for mixing the lemonade, duh!)
Large Tervis tumbler

Charged iPod and laptop and collection of funny movies
A good book

Jar of peanut butter
1 Package chocolate chips
Chips & salsa

A good pair of wellies (bought the last pair from Target on Thursday)

I might be stuck in the dark or whatever meager light my flashlight can put out, but I’ll be entertained, fed, and drunk!  It’s 11:30 and the wind has started to pick up, the lights have flickered a few times, we’re completed soaked, and the eye of Irene isn’t even supposed to get close to Richmond/VA areas until late this evening.  I woke up thinking this was no big deal, but I’m a tad nervous for what the day might bring.  Oh well, at least if the power goes out, I’ve got several friends within walking distance from my house!

Stay safe everyone!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Go DJ, cuz that my DJ...

 So this morning I arrive at work and go through my usual motions: pray for the caffeine to kick in soon, check some emails and try to come up with a coherent and semi-intelligent response, and figure out what else I’m going to do for the day.  I’m not quite ready to settle into the “doing” for the day, plus it’s Friday and who actually works on Friday?  I decided blogging would be a more effective use of my time at the moment.

I am blessed to have an office right behind one of the bosses and one chatty secretary.  My iPod and earphones are a necessity when I’m working out of our office instead of one of my schools.  If not, I’ll end up in some convo with the secretary about her elation and my disdain for Sarah Palin, school board politics, or her grandson’s latest finger painting.  So, I plop down in my windowless office I share with 2 other social workers and fire up the tunes.  It got me thinking (I know, watch out!) about my love for music.

If I could have any job in the world, I would want to be the person who makes soundtracks for movies.  I just love music and I love making play lists.  I like to think I make the best play lists and mixed cds (tapes back in the day) and I’d be really good at putting a soundtrack together.  My other choice of dream job would be to be Chelsea Handler’s sidekick (step off Chuy!).  Maybe one day….  In the meantime, I thought I’d give the world a list of some of my favorites and current obsessions.  For your viewing and listening pleasure:

The Best of the Best:
The Detroit Spinners- I’ll Be Around (my all time favorite)
Guns N Roses- November Rain (a very close second)
Al Green- I’m Still in Love with You
Barry White- Can’t Get Enough of Your Love

The Songs that remind me of the Super ’77 Crew and Growing up:
Average White Band- Pick up the Pieces
Boz Skaggs- Ledo & Georgia (controversial song, but Boz is so underrated, he’s da man!)
Bruce Hornsby- Mandolin Rain & That’s Just the Way It Is (good ol’ Virginia boy makes me wish I’d not dropped out of piano lessons)
Carol King- It’s Too Late (I remember listening to my mom’s old record as a kid)
Chairman of the Board- Give Me Just a Little More Time
Four Tops- Baby I Need Your Lovin
Freda Payne- Band of Gold (who knew a song about divorce could be so peppy)
Gladys Knight & The Pips- Midnight Train to Georgia
Isley Brothers- This Old Heart of Mine
Jacki Wilson- Baby Work Out
Elvis- Kentucky Rain
The Temptations- Ain’t Too Proud to Beg, Na na na na Hey hey hey Goodbye
Van Morrison- Mama said There’d be Days Like This, Bright Side of the Road, Domino

Beatles- Come Together (the only Beatles song I like, everything else is overrated crap)
Peter Gabriel- In Your Eyes (yes, I’m still waiting on my Lloyd Dobbler moment)
Doobie Brothers- Black Water (I love that pseudo-swampy sound)
Eagles- Hotel California
Foo Fighters- Best of You (because Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins are just hot!)
Janis Joplin- Take Another Little Piece of My Heart
Kenny Loggins- St. Elmo’s Fire
Live- I Alone
Red Hot Chili Peppers- Under the Bridge
Rolling Stones- Angie
Stone Temple Pilots- Interstate Love Song

Eminem- My Name Is (I mean, he’s white and he raps, what’s not to like)
Naughty By Nature- OPP
Snoop Dogg- Ain’t Nothing But a G Thing (welcome to the world gangster rap, you’ve found an unlikely place in a preppy white girl’s heart)
Trey Songz- Say Aah (another VA boy)
J-Kwon- Tipsy (‘Erbody drunk out on the dance floor…)
504 Boys- Bling Bling (my first taste of Weezy, I fell in love)
50 Cent- In Da Club
Jay Z- Money Ain’t A Thang, My First Song, On To the Next One, 99 Problems
Weezy- On Fire, One Way Trip (say what you want, the man is an innovator and he’s a hell of a lot smart than most people think… plus, he’s got face tats, fierce!)

Country/ Bluegrass:
Hank Williams, Jr- The Blues Man
John Fogerty- Blue Moon of Kentucky
Johnny & June- Long-legged Guitar Pickin Man
Little Feet- Dixie Chicken (saw then in concert with Doobie, it was awesome)
Loretta Lynn- Honky Tonk Girl (her first and best!)
Lynard Skynard- Simple Man
Mark McGuinn- Mrs Steven Rudy (I remember blasting this song with my sister Courtney and I still love it)
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band- Fishin in the Dark
Ralph Stanley- Mountain Dew
Trace Adkins- Rough & Ready
Travis Tritt- Love of a Woman
Willie Nelson- Songbird
Zac Brown Band- Free (live remix)
The Band Perry- If I Die Young (very touching and sad song)
Jason Aldean- Dirt Road Anthem, Amarillo Sky
Alabama- Mountain Music (I love when that fiddle fires up!)
Allison Krauss- I’ll Fly Away (I’m not one for religious music, but I love her version)
Jack White- Wayfaring Stranger

The Best of the Rest:
Bob Marley- Could You Be Loved
EW&F- September (reminds me of my girl Les-a-leeeee
Michael Jackson- PYT
Oasis- Don’t Look Back in Anger
Adele- Someone Like You (love love love Adele!)
The Darkness- I Believe in a Thing Called Love (just gets you pumped up!)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Trauma and Trivia

Yesterday when I woke up, I thought the worst part of my week was going to be the hurricane that’s supposed to hit us on Saturday/Sunday.  Little did I know…  Earthquakes aren’t exactly unknown in VA.  At least once a year we get a little split second shake that feels like a big truck rumbling by.  It’s always over before you even realize something happened and you don’t realize it was an earthquake until you flip on the news and catch the 2-second sound bite.  Well, yesterday was a completely different experience. 

There I was, standing in the office talking to a secretary and a teacher and I felt something weird… I thought I had vertigo again for a second…. Then a noise came and I thought something was going on in the cafeteria below us…. Then the entire building started to shake and sway.  I didn’t have a clue what to do.  See, in VA we know what to do in a fire, a hurricane, even a tornado, but how in the world are we supposed to know what to do in an earthquake?? So there I was, yelling “I don’t know what to do!” and someone yelled to go outside… so I did.  According to reports, it’s the first earthquake of a sizable magnitude in Virginia since like 1897.  It was a very surreal experience.  Later I learned that you’re supposed to get in a doorway if an earthquake hits.  Well, if I’m still around in 114 years and it happens again, I now know what to do!

Thankfully, nothing much happened at school… I just had to pick my pen up off the floor when I got back to my office area.  At home everything was okay too.  Pictures on the wall were a little crooked and things were shifted out of place on side tables, but all and all, okay!  My heart goes out to those people in Louisa (about 40 minutes from me) who had more extensive damage.  It’s weird when something so scary happens so close to home. 

I was still a little frazzled all day from it, so I decided a post earthquake drink (or 4) was highly necessary.  A little vino with my gal Stephanie and then some Live Team Trivia with Steph, Zig, Lindsey, Greg, and Scott!  No, we didn’t win. No one ever listens to my “wager nothing on the final question unless you’re 100% certain you have the right answer” theory… if they had, we would have come in 3rd!  I watch Jeopardy, I know what I’m talking about!

Now it’s T minus 3 days until Hurricane Irene makes her appearance in Virginia (I mean seriously, do we need another act of nature this week?!).  Richmond has an interesting history with hurricanes.  Sometimes they are harmless and sometimes they cause a lot of devastation.  Eight years ago (damn I’m getting old!) Isabel struck Virginia and hit Richmond really hard.  Our downtown flooded severely and lot of iconic Richmond businesses (Bottoms Up! and the River City Diner) were destroyed.  The floodwalls that were supposed to keep the James River from flooding downtown ended up holding in all of the runoff storm water.  It was a really sad day when you see cars floating through the streets past 2nd and 3rd story windows.  I guess you can’t fight Mother Nature though! We spend too much time and money over humanizing the earth and maybe it’s time to stop!  We can’t keep destroying the earth and being surprise when she starts to destroy us in return.  You get what you give, I guess.  So, off to the grocery store after work to stock up on bottled water, canned goods, and charcoal for the grill… because when you live in a 61 year old house in a 100 year old neighborhood, your power tends to go out with only a stiff breeze!

Oh, and for the regular followers of my white trash neighbor drama… they are officially psycho.  They have installed a security camera at their front door.  Like convenience store video recording security camera.  What the hell are you doing in your cozy, quite, family oriented, crime free neighborhood that you need a security camera?!  I think I’ll call the cops… just to piss them off.

Final thought!  I’ve been very sad for the past 6 months, but alas, my mecca is returning:

Hook me up to a vodka limeaid IV, stat!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Gluten leads to tootin!

Over share, smover share.  It’s been a little over 4 months now without gluten and I feel amazing!  However, the downside is my cookbooks have been collecting dust as I learn to make new recipes and adapt some of my favorites.  In some recipes, where flour isn’t the stand out component (like a sauce), I’ve found it easy to just substitute a little Gluten Free (GF) flour for the regular stuff.  I like Bob’s Red Mill and Gluten Free Pantry All Purpose brands the best. 

When it comes to baked goods, it’s a whole different ball game.  One day, I thought I’d make some cupcakes and figured that GF flour substitution would work.  WRONG!  I popped the tin in the oven, set the timer, and sat down with a magazine.  Before long, I smelled burning.  I figuring it was just some drippings that fell onto the coil, I didn’t expect it to be a problem, it would burn off in a few minutes.  Wrong again!  The smell turned to smoke and I went to see what the problem was.  When I opened the oven door (after turning it off of course) it was like a chocolate bombshell had gone off! There was gooey mess everywhere in there!  A few tears and a lot of clean up later, I decided I’d better consult the internets, surely Google would know what I do.  I stumbled upon several GF blogs and so far my favorite is  After a lot of reading from GF girl and others, I had gathered enough advise to help turn my gooey nightmare into proper cupcakes.  The draw back?  They were calling for all these crazy flours and measurements in grams.  I’m not that sophisticated in the kitchen, this wasn’t going to work for me.  I figured out how to convert the grams into cups and figured I’d start from there.  Making several small batches and playing with proportions I was finally able to come up with a basic cake recipe to build my baked goods from.

Basic GF Cake Recipe
1 ½ cups all purpose GF flour
1 ¼ cups sugar
½ teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon xanthan gum
4-5 tablespoons of canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup water

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Add all wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well by hand or with a mixer on low speed.
  4. Spoon into cake pan(s) or cupcake tin filling about ½ to ¾ of the cup.
  5. Bake 30-35 minutes for a cake or 20-25 minutes for cupcakes, adding time in 5 minute increments if needed
  6. Remove when toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  7. Cool completely on a wire rack and frost with your favorite icing!

The sugar seems like a lot, but the cake tends to be a little bitter without it.  Just go for it dude, that’s what sweet treats are for!  Now, like I said, this is a basic recipe.  You can add about a ½ cup of cocoa powder to make them chocolate or various treats in the batter to spruce it up.  My first batch was chocolate cupcakes with a chocolate, peanut butter, and Nutella frosting!  For the frosting I just followed a basic chocolate butter cream recipe and melted the peanut butter and Nutella with the chocolate.  AMAZING!  I wish I had taken a picture, but alas, I didn’t and now they are all gone.  These are just for inspiration:

Timing seems to be everything when it comes to GF baking.  No matter what recipe you’re following, I recommend checking about half way into the baking time and then checking again every 5-10 minutes so as not to over dry the finished product! 

Mamma Mia, I want a pizza!
Anyone who knows me knows I love 2 things: pesto and pizza.  Combine the two and I’m in heaven!  No really, a little pesto, fresh mozzarella and feta, and some sliced tomatoes on top of a semi-thin crisp crust, I think I’ll die now!  Wait, if I eat that, I might die (figuratively of course).  What’s a girl to do?!  Well, I’ve tried I don’t even know how many GF pizza crust recipes.  Some from scratch, others from mixes bought at the store.  They just aren’t quite the same.  As I was about to give up on my dream of a homemade GF pizza I happened to glance at the bottom self of the GF section in the grocery stores.  Could it be? Bob’s Red Mill makes a pizza dough mix!!!  I’m not sure what my local grocer’s dysfunction is, why is this at the bottom of the section?? This should be in the middle surrounded by streamers and flashing lights!  So, I’m going to give this stuff a whirl…. And on my first go ‘round I was a little disappointed.  Now granted, I expected the GF stuff to taste different, but this didn’t even taste like a pizza crust to me.  Never to fear, I will fix this!  A dash of sugar (yes, just do it!) and some herbs (a little oregano, salt, and pepper…. Much improved!  The bitterness was gone.  Mixed it up, let it rise, set, and finally it’s time to flip and fly that dough in the air to make the perfect round (imagine Snooki in this season’s opening episode of JS).  I realized it would be a disaster, so I took the responsible route and just pressed out the dough into a pizza shape.  Topped it with some leftover shredded herbed chicken, fresh spinach, tomato slices, a little feta, and a little motza!  Baked and devoured!

Minny Jackson isn’t the only one to serve questionable pies…
I come from a long line of precious young gals… most of them before me are fiery redheads (mad love to my gingies!) however somehow my dark brown hair is the mark that breaks that mold!  One of my favorite stories about my great grandmother is her infamous mud pies.  Apparent this little girl could just “bake” up a storm.  Well one day (in like 1906) as her mother was hosting bridge club, little Hope Gravely was hard at work on her last mud pie creation.  Picking things out of the yard, carefully mixing her concoction and laying it out in the sun to dry, er um bake.  When it was finished and ready to serve, little Hope marched right on into her mother’s game and started to serve slices to the ladies.  Much like Minny’s surprise for Hilly, Hopie had a surprise for those bridge playing ladies too… thankfully hers was much more harmless and funny!

Well, I may not make mud pies, but just like baked goods and pizzas, I love some thing with a crust and a gooey filling!  What was I going to do now that gluten was out of the question?  Again, more websites with 10,000 different flours and weird measurements.  This wasn’t going to do and like the cake recipe, I’d have to figure out my own!  Behold:

GF Pie Crust
1 ½ cups all purpose GF flour
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed
½ cup ice cold water
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon sugar

Combine flour and butter, as you would to make any other crust, using a pastry cutter or forks until pea sizes pieces form.  Don’t over do it!  Mix in the water, salt, and sugar until just combined.  Form into a disk, wrap in plastic and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.  When ready to use, let rest on counter for 5 minutes and roll out carefully.  GF dough seems to fall apart more easily, so don’t over do it.  If you find that you can’t get it rolled out within breaking it, I suggest just “pressing” it out directly in the pan.

Well, here I go....

I feel like people are always asking me to “post this” and “post that.”  Some want an email, someone wanna see it on Facebook, some want a snazzy website link… well peeps, you’re getting a blog!  I don’t intend to be all fanciful with this here blog, but you’ll get a chance to read my rambling nonsense.  If you ever thought I lost my marbles, this will be proof positive that I have none left :o)

I really enjoy jewelry making (though I’ve really abandoned it lately), crafting, photography, and cooking!  I hope to use the blog to not only share my nonsense thoughts, but also some how to’s and pictures of my little projects.