1. 1.
    traveling from place to place, especially working or based in various places for relatively short periods.
    "the peripatetic nature of military life"
    synonyms:nomadic, itinerant, traveling, wandering, roving, roaming, migrant,migratory, unsettled
    "I could never get used to her peripatetic lifestyle"
  2. 2.
  1. 1.
    a person who travels from place to place.
  2. 2.
    an Aristotelian philosopher.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Recipe Roundup from the Heart of a 4-H-er

Daughter's heart-healthy Christmas gift basket, emptied of its goodies

After some discussion with my sister and many requests by Daughter to put favorite family recipes online, I will begin to do just that. I mention my sister because I wanted to check with her first in case she had any objections. She has been wanting to get a family cookbook published for some time now with entries from all members--at least the adult ones--but we, as a family, can't seem to get our act together and comply with her wishes. Daughter wants her favorite recipes in one place where she can find them with a few keystrokes rather than searching through a wooden box filled with worn-out, food-stained index cards. Some of them get misplaced too, stuck in between pages of cookbooks to mark some other recipe.

Two of my all-time favorites--most often prepared--are for piecrust and sweet roll dough. Both of them are versatile. The piecrust recipe can be used for dessert pies or main dishes (quiche, for instance). The sweet roll dough can be prepared as dinner rolls or filled with fruit and sugar/spice mixtures for breakfast or dessert. I've been preparing this recipe since my stint in 4-H when I was a teenager. I won a trip to the Illinois State Fair as a prize for winning third place in the Jackson County food demonstration. Whoop-de-do! As I recall, "heart" is one of the H's in 4-H. Does anyone remember what the other three stand for?

As you can probably tell from the ingredients, these recipes would probably not qualify as being "heart-healthy," but if comfort and joy have any value for keeping the old pump working then maybe they shouldn't be entirely eliminated from a diet. Everything in moderation is my motto. It works well with just about anything, including cooking:

Water-Whip Double Piecrust

3/4 cup vegetable shortening (I use Crisco)
1/4 cup boiling water
1 Tablespoon milk
2 cups all-purpose (unbleached) flour
1 teaspoon salt

Measure the shortening in a medium bowl. Add boiling water and milk and whip with a fork until mixture resembles sour cream. Stir in flour and salt until mixture "rounds up" into a ball. Divide in half and place one-half between two pieces of wax paper. Wipe counter top with a wet dishrag and place paper on the moist (not wet) surface. Roll out dough with rolling pin until piece will fit into a 9-inch pie plate and overlap it slightly. Dough will probably be about 1/4-inch thick. Peel off top paper and invert dough onto pie plate, letting it settle in, and then carefully remove other paper. Roll out the other half similarly. It may be used as a top crust or as the base for another pie. Trim and crimp edge as desired. Fill and bake as directed by recipes calling for empty pie shells or double crusts. This recipe is fairly "forgiving" (doesn't usually get tough), but it shouldn't be over-whipped or rolled out repeatedly. You don't want to develop the gluten (glue-like stuff made of proteins in the flour) like you would in the next recipe:

Sweet Roll Dough

Two packets of active dry yeast (not rapid-rise)
1/2 cup of hot water (not boiling but more than lukewarm)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups milk, heated to more than lukewarm
2 large eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour (may use half whole-wheat)
2 teaspoons salt

Dissolve yeast in water. Set aside. Combine sugar, shortening, and heated milk in a large bowl. Stir vigorously for a couple of minutes. Add eggs and beat them into the mixture. Add dissolved yeast and about half of the flour and all of the salt. Stir until mixture is thick. Add almost all of the remaining flour and stir until mixture "rounds up" in the bowl. Put some of the remaining flour on counter and turn dough out of bowl. Begin kneading, adding flour as necessary to keep dough from being too sticky but don't be extravagant with it. Depending on the humidity level in the kitchen and type of flour used, you may need a little more or less than 4 cups of flour. Whole-wheat flour makes the dough a little drier, so less is better. More economical, you might say. My dad once told me that peasants used to console themselves with the thought that their dark bread was healthier than what their "betters" were eating. The whiter their bread, the quicker they're dead was a little rhyme from childhood that still comes to mind today when I make food choices. Continue kneading until dough is smooth and not sticky. Wash mixing bowl and dry. Add a little olive oil to the bowl and place dough in it, turning it over until oil covers the dough. This will keep it from sticking to the bowl. Cover dough lightly with plastic wrap and then a dish towel. Place in warm, dry location to rise for about one and a half hours, until dough doubles in size. Lightly punch the dough down and let rise again for about one-half hour. Divide dough into about four pieces and roll out as desired. I usually make crescent rolls by rolling out each piece into a circle, buttering it, and cutting small wedge shapes which are then rolled up, beginning from the wide end. Place rolls on ungreased baking sheets and cover with paper towels and then dish towels. Let rise until double (about 30 minutes) in a warm, dry location. Bake in a preheated 400-degree (Fahrenheit) oven for about 8-10 minutes. Remove immediately from baking sheets, cool on rack for storage (they freeze well), or enjoy them hot from the oven, slathered in butter! 

Cryptothecia rubrocincta, Christmas lichen, seen at Leon Sinks Geological Area

Mushrooms, maybe Lepista irina, seen at Leon Sinks Geological Area
If my recipes aren't heart-healthy, at least Mother Nature comes through with spectacular results. According to this site, HeartHealthyOnline, researchers have discovered that mushrooms of all things have heart-protective ingredients in them. For starters, there is ergothioneine (isn't that a mouthful?), an antioxidant. Yes, it's true: we start oxidizing or "rusting" inside as we get older. No wonder I creak so much when I move. Then chitin, which is a cholesterol-lowering carbohydrate, helps out. And let's not forget beta-glutan (a chemical associated with healthy hearts), high-quality proteins, vitamins, and unsaturated fatty acids. Selenium is another "ingredient" that protects against cancer.

Mushrooms have never been high on SAM's list of favorite foods. I usually have to sneak them into my quiches and other main dish pies. He doesn't complain too much as long as I don't get carried away. The sweet roll dough, though, is definitely not mushroom territory, unless I use it to make calzone. Now there's a thought!

The writer of this blog does not assume any liability whatsoever for readers' overindulgence and possible weight gain. She's too busy trying to control her own voracious appetite. Please eat responsibly.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Heavy Metal Holidays--All I Want for Christmas is a Little Irony

Plumbago auriculata, suffering from the effects of cold weather and subsequent iron deficiency
"When the mercury drops to record lows in Florida, plants like my Plumbago auriculata (Cape leadwort) start to lose their luster." Did you notice all of the various heavy metals mentioned in that statement? Leadwort got its name from some enterprising herbalist who thought it would prove useful for chelation. There's even some gold (auri-) in them thar plants. No, not really, but a few ounces right about now sure would come in handy. The one metal that's obviously missing from this picture is iron. According to the Floridata site, yellowing of the leaves may indicate a manganese deficiency, but for once I know better. Or at least I think I do. The recent cold snap we've endured has compromised the plant's normal iron uptake, and the youngest leaves are exhibiting classic signs of interveinal chlorosis. Note the distinct fishbone appearance of the leaves' veins. Without enough iron, the plant has trouble making chlorophyll and carrying on all of its other normal functions. The plant's location near a brick wall, which has kept it warm enough to hold onto its leaves and keep blooming through December, is nevertheless even further limiting its iron uptake because of the higher pH level there. About the only thing I can do for the poor thing is to prune it back now so it will conserve what energy it still has. That way, since it blooms on new growth, it will--according to Floridata--"smile" for me again next year. I'm sure as heck not going to move it. It likes it where it is and so do I. Remember, I only know better once in a while.
 I get help from Peanut when it's time to do some trimming in the flower beds. She offers moral support and gives me an idea of where my boundaries are. I've been thinking about changing the header photo since it's now officially winter and something wintry would be more appropriate. Something strange about the picture, though, keeps me from performing the necessary operation. The camera captured something in the woods, behind the blurry looking leaves, that's eerily focused and catlike. Can you see it? No? Someone with soft eyes--or maybe it's just me with the soft spot still on my head--should notice it almost immediately. This site, Seeing Anew, has given me some new insight into why I think and write the way I do. Of course, it could be the result of strabismus I had or the eye surgery I underwent as a five-year-old kid to correct it. Was it something about seeing an anesthesia mask about to cover my face and having to be restrained on the operating table that affected my perception or worldview? I'm pretty sure that experience and others like it have tempered my resistance to people who claim expertise or superior knowledge of something and then expect unswerving devotion to their Weltanschauung. "Don't ask questions, just obey and accept" doesn't set well with me. I enjoy observing a little irony now and then, thank you very much.
 Like: how do you reconcile a three-year-old cat's normal, youthful vigor with what you see in this picture, an all-too-familiar sight that greets me whenever I return home for a visit?
I've put the recycled tire feeder up outside the apartment, not at home, so maybe a lack of visual stimulus is to blame. I wouldn't want the cat to get too excited.

Santa's Gone Fishin' Near Lake Jackson
 Somebody I know who likes fishing will probably get excited when he sees this image. He's only three-and-a-half years old so I doubt that he will recognize the irony in it just yet.

I hope you have a Merry Christmas or whatever holiday you celebrate at this time of year!

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Man of His Word

Secret Aging Man on the road again in his Ford pickup truck sometime in the late 1970s

SAM's fluorite story card

Having finished Carolyn Haines' Greedy Bones over a week ago, I decided to write a little review before details started fading. If I get something wrong maybe SAM will point it out to me. He's reading the book at my request, though he's never been much of a fiction reader or writer, for that matter. That's not to say he doesn't know how to write. As you can plainly see above, he's pretty good at putting words together. Most of the writing he's done over the years has been work-related, technical stuff that's all in a day's work for a professional geologist. From oil prospects to environmental assessments, he has produced enough reports in the last 30 years to fill a small-town library. (I've edited quite a few of them.) Somewhere along the way, I guess about 15 years ago, he got the urge to break out of the mold and came up with some story cards to go along with rock kits he had assembled. One side of each card describes a mineral's physical and chemical attributes, and on the other side SAM applies what he has learned over the years. I think it's pretty amazing what he's learned.  

SAM on duty, after work, at his other job--as Daddy, 1982
While SAM has been reading Greedy Bones, I decided to take on Anna Quindlen's novel, Every Last One. Click on this link to a review of it in the New York Times. The two novels don't have much in common, except for a few details. For one thing, they're both written by women, probably middle-aged or at least with some experience under their belts. Then there's the fact that men are secondary characters in these novels. They're more like props than anything, definitely not prime movers, muscle bound though they may be. If you want to think in anatomical terms, they might even be considered antagonistic, resisting the female protagonists and throwing monkey wrenches into their lives--marriage, kids, and that sort of thing. I tend to do that--think anatomically, not throw monkey wrenches--when I'm dissecting a novel. It's probably a good thing I never became a surgeon. You would think that female protagonists in this day and age would be, though. Instead, they're amateur sleuths/actresses (Greedy Bones) or professional landscapers (Every Last One). Not that there's anything wrong with those occupational choices. It's just that according to what pundits from the last few decades would have you believe, they're a few bricks short of a full load of ambition, a half a bubble off the feministic ideal of a woman. But don't expect to find any air heads in these novels. Even the female villains/victims are canny.
SAM, the Prime Mover, behind the wheel of our once-upon-a-time, 15-passenger van. We bought it for transporting the church youth group in the mid 90s when gas was still cheap!
Holiday social event, December 2009
I don't know what to make of novels these days, especially those written by women. They're difficult to pigeonhole, even if you do manage to dissect them. I've tried, believe me. Is Haines' protag, Sarah Booth Delaney, today's version of Nancy Drew, now empowered by the sexual revolution and a hefty inheritance?  SAM's comment about her tendency to hop on a plane or jump into dangerous/awkward situations at the drop of a hat: Unrealistic. Okay, that's coming from a conservative businessman/bureaucrat's perspective. I shrugged it off as just another supernormal power that socialite heiresses enjoy, besides the ability to communicate with dead family members/friends. Calgon, take me away!

I'll admit that Quindlen's novel worked me over emotionally. Its subject matter is pretty intense from anyone's perspective--anyone that has a heart, that is. Besides the M&MM (murder and maternal mayhem that follows), I had the wind knocked out of me when I thought: what's really at stake here, literally and figuratively? Fatherhood/philosophy, sanctity of marriage, music, poetry--Glen; Glen/MaryBeth, et al; Max, Ruby. All of them on the chopping block at once. Scary!

It seems that some authors are beginning to take Deleuze and Guattari to heart: Write a rhizome. Let it become more than the sum of its parts. We are working on it.

SAM's rock kit, disassembled, outside of the box.
"We are no longer ourselves. Each will know his own. We have been aided, inspired, multiplied." (Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus)

Monday, December 6, 2010

This Little Piggy Went to Market Days in Tallahassee

Every other weekend or so, now that the Bahia grass and other weeds lie dormant at home in Santa Rosa County, Secret Aging Man and I spend our time and other limited resources in and around Tallahassee. We found plenty of things to spend them on this weekend at Market Days, a major source of revenue for the Tallahassee Museum of History and Natural Science. The event also affords an opportunity for shoppers weary and wary of the mall and its collection of imported, cheap-yet-overpriced gifts to look for handmade holiday bargains. This little piggy went to Market Days with the rest of her piggies in tow. Now a resident of Florida, she doesn't drive anymore in all that ice and snow.

She loaded up on fresh produce like navel blood oranges, turnip greens, field peas, green beans, and potatoes. And let's not forget that item most important to her soul nutrition--fresh flowers to fill the planters, aka the apartment garden. Pansies aren't as wimpy as their name implies. They're hardy enough to withstand the occasional cold blasts of arctic air our neighbors up north are more than willing to share. You know who you are; bare your toes if you dare!

After going to market on Saturday, this little piggy stayed home the next day and cooked up a mess of fresh veggies to go along with SAM's grilled chicken. Somehow knowing there's a limit to too much of a good thing, this little piggy had roast beef (prime rib) Saturday night at Julie's Place, one of her favorite Tallahassee restaurants, and wanted something different to eat on Sunday. She had planned on preparing a cozy dinner for two at the apartment after shopping, but then she and SAM got stuck in traffic because of a Christmas parade downtown. Those two dollars a glass drinks of happy hour house wine (yes, please, Burgundy) washed down the beef and fixin's just fine.    
Besides the fresh stuff for sale at market, there were plenty of other things to buy, and some were even "green," like this used tire turned into a bird feeder/watering bowl. It's a clever, attractive way to re-purpose and keep at least some junk out of the landfill. Lauri Hall and her husband design and craft all kinds of things out of tires for their business, Tire Swings and Garden Things. One Florida blogger I know, Julie (not associated with the restaurant but also a fine cook as well as artist and creator of A Succulent Life), isn't afraid to use tires in her garden. Why not take advantage of stuff that's already used and give it new life? It's the sort of attitude that my grandparents and parents had, and it served them well, saving money and the planet from a lot of unnecessary waste.  

Mrs. Hall didn't mind posing with some of her waste-preventing handiwork. After reading The Florida Blogger's post regarding a St. John's River tour (offered free if he blogged about it), this little piggy had none of her usual shyness asking a favor from a stranger. Wanna be featured on my blog, Mrs. Hall? There really is no danger. (For that bird feeder I did pay and for another one, someone's gift for Christmas Day.) 
We might not have gone to Market Days if not for the invitation from one of SAM's co-workers. Her mom, owner of Simply Elegant by Michelle, LLC, was one of the many talented artists and craftspeople who took their wares to market. SAM hates to shop, but he does like to show support for friends and their families. I do too.

One thing I didn't buy on Saturday was a poinsettia. I'm not sure why, but I've lost my appetite for it as a holiday plant. Maybe it has something to do with learning about its association with the conquest of Mexico. Luckily, this vendor had other plants for sale. Remember the pansy? It's no shrinking violet, though it does share some characteristics and a genus name with Viola. Pansies in some form have been cultivated for hundreds of years but were given their common name not long after the 4th century by someone who spoke French. The word pensee means thought or remembrance. It's no wonder I like them so much, especially now that I've learned something about their history. After making our last Market Days' purchase from the flower vendor, as you might imagine, SAM was fed up with shopping. He asked me if I wanted to take a hike, and this little piggy went "Oui, Oui, Oui!" all the way home--after a short drive to Leon Sinks Geological Area, after the long wait in downtown traffic, and after a satisfying meal with wine. If ever you come to Tallahassee, I'll advise you on where to walk and dine: with me, of course, and mine.

Dry "swamp" at Leon Sinks Geological Area