Archive for August, 2019

Yet Another Summer Salad

garlic and zest cracked wheat salad

Mediterranean Cracked Wheat Salad from http://www.garlicandzest.com

The weather is definitely cooling. It’s still summer, but we hear and sense Fall approaching. I know this because my husband and I are both back in the kitchen cooking. 🙂 He wokked two meals last week and I made another summer salad. Once the humidity dropped last week I felt energized sufficiently to tackle a new recipe. I decided to make the Mediterranean Cracked Wheat Salad. I’ve made tabouli before, usually from a box mix. I’ve also bought it pre-made from the store. I’ve never done anything fancy with it. As I mentioned in my Wheatberry Salad post, I have always shied away from “things” in my food. I also mentioned that I seem to be overcoming that attitude, thank goodness!

This cracked wheat salad is the last of the recipes I saved at the start of the summer, when I was searching for tasty, healthy food that wouldn’t require heating up the kitchen. This recipe called for boiling some water, but that was it for ‘cooking’. The rest was chopping and combining. I wasn’t able to pull anything from my garden for this salad. I’d already snacked on all of the grape tomatoes and I discovered that caterpillars were embedded in my parsley. Given all my support for butterflies, I abandoned my parsley to the caterpillars and used dried parsley. (If I identified the caterpillar correctly, it will be a black swallowtail, which makes sense.)

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Black Swallowtail caterpillars are welcome to my parsley


I had to substitute on the peppers as well, since I did not find pepperoncini peppers at the farmers’ market. I used jalapeno peppers. I’d like to try again with the pepperoncinis because jalapeno is still a bit hot for my taste. My husband, however, loved it. My other change was to ditch the olives. I don’t like olives. I knew I’d just pick them out of the salad, I wouldn’t eat them, and if I didn’t tell my husband that they were missing he’d never know. 🙂 No olives. I loved the taste and look of the julienned radishes. That’s something that would have never occurred to me. See – learning new things. I followed the instructions to only pour some of the dressing on the wheat/vegetable mixture. When I decided it need more dressing, rather than pouring or spooning it on, I used a fork. That way I was getting mostly the ingredients in the dressing and not much of the oil and lemon juice. That kept the mixture from becoming soggy yet it all got some of the dressing. Next time I will probably reduce the olive oil and juice.

This passed our taste test! We are both enjoying it, it’s going fast. It was easy to make, very clear directions which anticipated things such as liquid remaining after the wheat had been absorbing the directed amount. Definitely another keeper for the kitchen files!

Thanks again to Lisa at Garlic & Zest for sharing the recipe!

Beach Escape

ahh ocean

Ahhhh. Ocean.

I FINALLY made it to the beach!!! Complete and utter thanks to my friend Pam. She called Sunday night and said that her schedule had cleared completely (and unexpectedly) and did I want to go to the beach on Monday? I looked at MY empty schedule and looked at the forecast: in the 70s, partly sunny. That wasn’t exactly beach weather but it sure was a beach schedule. I told her to count me in! We agreed that we’d aim to leave around 10am, which is what I’d normally consider a late start. Ask my family. They’ll tell you that when the kids were little, and we’d head down on a hot summer day, I’d be trying to get them out the door before 8:30 am. There’s a lot to plan for a “beach attack”: beat the traffic, close parking spot to the beach access, perfect spot on the sand, staking out the perimeter of OUR spot to keep others from getting sand on us. If *I* didn’t worry about these things, who would??? Exactly!

Given the weather forecast, given that it was a Monday (a slow beach day), and given that the last week in August either has children back in school or away on family vacations or shopping for school shoes and clothes, I didn’t think a planned attack would be required. I didn’t need to pack much food or drink. I’ve learned that I don’t really eat much when I’m on the beach, and I definitely don’t drink a lot because I hate the trek back to the rest rooms. It wasn’t going to be a hot sun so I didn’t need my beach umbrella. All in all for me it was ‘beach light’. I offered to drive and went to pick up Pam. Of course I was in the convertible and of course the top was down. Is there another way to go down the shore? No. We posed in the car so her husband could snap pictures of us. If there is no photo, it didn’t happen. I guess for ME, if there is no blog post, it didn’t happen. *grin*

View to NYC skyline

View north to NYC skyline. Too hazy for a clear picture.

There was no trouble getting down to Sandy Hook (Gateway National Recreation Area). There is a fee per car to get in, but I had packed my AARP card in case that would get me a discount. My husband has the National Parks card, but he wasn’t with us and it is not transferable. Pam has one too, but she didn’t bring it. When I asked the gate guard if AARP got me a discount he sadly informed us that it did not. But, he said, given that it’s the last week of the season, and given that I bend the rules sometimes, I’ll let you in for the discounted price. Yes!!! Lucky again! We thanked him, paid up, and headed up the hook. As you may have noticed about me, I have my “usual routine” of things I do and places I go. 🙂 We ALWAYS park at parking lot E. The parking lot entrances were a little different than I recalled, which tends to happen every season. There is sand and dunes on both sides of the road. Winter storms move the landscape regularly. We got down to E and – IT WAS CLOSED!!!! That was unexpected. We discussed turning around to go back to D or heading onward towards the North Beach and Fort Hancock. Northward it was!

I’ve been to the North Beach once, a few years ago, with my niece. It didn’t work for me. It was too far from the parking lot and the beach was too narrow. Look, a bad day at the beach is better than a good day most anywhere else, so if all there is is the North Beach, go. This will sound foolish but we couldn’t find the parking lot for the North Beach. I think, in hindsight, I know where it was, but given my lackluster view of that beach anyway, and the fact that we were having fun simply driving on the hook, we kept going to Fort Hancock.

more ocean

You can never have too much ocean gazing

Fort Hancock is a decommissioned army base. Stealing from the Wikipedia entry I can tell you that:

The Sandy Hook area was first fortified as part of the third system of US fortifications. Construction on the Fort at Sandy Hook began in 1857 and ceased in 1867, with the fort serviceable though largely incomplete.

The initial design of the fort was by then-Captain Robert E. Lee of the Army Corps of Engineers.

The lighthouse at Sandy Hook is the oldest working lighthouse in the United States. It was originally 500 feet from the water, but given shifting sands over time, it’s now about 1.5 miles from the tip.

Many years ago my husband (who is a structural engineer) was working on a project that involved rehabilitating the old army barracks and buildings for commercial use. I don’t think anything came of that particular project but as Pam and I cruised through Fort Hancock, we saw a renovated building listed for rent. It was a home, not a commercial building. I would LOVE to get inside there and see what they have done. It would be so cool to live there – during the day. I’d be creeped out completely at night, to be there all alone. The Marine Academy of Science and Technology is there, but it’s not a boarding school. If you click through on the Gateway National link above, you can see that they are now accepting Requests for Proposals “to lease multiple historic buildings for any compatible use of historic buildings, (such as residential, lodging, or business use related to residential or lodging use),commercial use, or nonprofit within Fort Hancock”. How fantastic would that BE, to live/work at Sandy Hook? Oh, if I only had money to invest and an idea to propose.

New beach blanket, traditional red bag

Brand new beach blanket; years old traditional red bag; hidden tag alongs

I do actually have an idea to propose. Many years ago I invented something that every beach goer needs. Pam reminded me of this after we went back to Parking Lot D, trudged to OUR spot on the shore, and set up our chairs, blanket and her umbrella. This year I’ve been hearing a lot on the news about a NJ congressman who wants to propose some legislation or law or something to protect beach goers from fly-away beach umbrellas. I believe it was last year a woman was impaled and died from a fly-away umbrella, so this is a real issue. I don’t believe, however, that passing laws will address the situation. I “invented” my own umbrella anchoring system using just what I found in my car one windy, beach-going day. I had plastic bags and rope. I combined that with the plentiful beach sand and MY beach umbrellas do NOT fly away. Pam and I amused ourselves by designing the retail version of my system. *grin* Anyone out there with an entrepreneurial spirit want to help me copyright my system???

Seagull Lord of All It Sees

Lord of All It Sees

The other “problem” at the beach are the brazen seagulls. Like the deer in my hometown, which now roam the streets in gangs during the daylight hours, terrorizing the local gardeners and car parkers alike, the seagulls down the shore have no fear. They’d walk right up to our blanket. One of them pecked at my sandal. I guess birds don’t rely on smell, but only sight to determine what to eat. Two of them were pecking at my plastic bag filled with sand. As long as they keep their distance from me (and even clapping my hands at them was insufficient for some) and don’t defecate on me or my things, I do like to watch them swoop and soar and love the sound of their cries.

View of Causeway from mainland to Sandy Hook

View south to causeway, which you can see up close in the Moby’s pictures

We never made it into the water, although we saw many children playing in the waves. We walked down and stuck our toes in, and that was sufficient. 🙂 The sun had come out and we were perfectly comfortable with the breeze off the water. We were close enough that we’d get the occasional sea spray as well. I never even took off my shirt and shorts, finally remembering to apply sunscreen after we’d been sitting for perhaps an hour. My knee felt ‘warm’ and I thought ‘oh oops’. I’m okay. I definitely got color but I’m not burned. I spent nearly all my time in my chair. I got to “test” my new beach blanket when Pam took a walk along the water. A little before 5 pm the breeze picked up and the sun had lowered over the bay sufficiently that it was getting more cold than cool. We’d had a good 6 hours down there so we agreed that we could pack up and head home.

I took Pam for quick cruise of the restaurants on the other side of the river. She said that she and her husband would be up for trying out the restaurant my husband and I scoped out when we were down at Moby’s the other weekend. Yay!! Another dinner down the shore if we can get compatible schedules! In the meantime, I brought a little ocean to share with you.

I’m Adorable, Too

Siri 1

It was pointed out to me that I was NOT giving equal time to all my kitties. GC informed me that she needed more lap time AND she felt that she was not equally represented on my blog. We had a long discussion about this as she sat on my lap and allowed me to make amends by petting her and rubbing her ears. Yes, GC is VERY adorable and cuddly and agreeable. Like the other 2, a tad pushy at times, but she would probably claim that it was not being pushy, but merely claiming what is hers by right. 🙂
Siri 2

They Also Played Baseball

TD Bank ballpark

TD Bank Ballpark, Bridgewater, NJ

This past weekend we met up with a group of friends at one of the local semi-pro baseball teams – the Somerset Patriots, part of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. I LOVE going to watch the Patriots play baseball. It’s good baseball, a great venue, and oh what a spectacle! The Patriots aim to make the entire family happy. Between every inning there is some game or contest or event to amuse the crowd.

There were 10 of us. Seven of us have done this before – we’ve come for several years now, although we missed last year. This was the first time, however, for T & J and their son Greg, age 7. They didn’t know what to expect but we assured them that all 3 of them would have a good time.

the next generation

Indoctrinating the next generation

I wandered over to my neighbor’s to discuss coordination for getting and meeting there. We agreed that we were excited about the FOOD!!! One of the BEST parts of going to the game is that we allow ourselves to eat all the unhealthy food we usually avoid. Two of us mentioned the hot dogs, I wanted the peanuts, and someone else wanted the french fries. 🙂 It says a lot about us, doesn’t it, that we get so excited about such food.

The weather was perfect – it was in the mid-70s and clear. We’ve been there and been uncomfortably hot, we’ve been there and been cold. Had we ordered up the weather, it couldn’t have been better. Sometime after dark when a light breeze began, I did switch seats with my husband so that he was on the end of our arrangement and I was sheltered between him and our friend. Our seats were along the 3rd base line, close to home, and close to the field. We were sitting 5 and 5 to make it easier to chat. Although the seats were good, I like sitting on the 1st base line because that is the home team dugout, and all the silliness is aimed that way. Even so, because of the venue, our seats were good. I loved the opposing team’s uniforms! The Southern Maryland Blue Crabs have a real old-time look.

Southern Maryland Blue Crabs

Southern Maryland Blue Crabs

We all got food and drink as soon as we got into the stadium. 🙂 Once we were seated we made an attempt at taking selfies with all of us in view. We did get a few, but mostly we failed. *grin* Two women sitting next to us offered to help us out so we passed our phones to them and got our group shots. What would we do without our cell phones???? We ate, we laughed, we cheered (SOMERSET!!! Patrioooootttsss!!), we took photographs and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. It WOULD have been better had the home team WON but, alas, it was not to be. The Crabs had 5 runs on 10 hits and we had 1 run on 5 hits. It was just not happening.

inflated horses

Inflated horse race

The between inning silliness was great. I don’t know how they pick fans from the stands to participate, I assume you volunteer in advance and get picked somehow. There was a very young girl who was trying to “grill” chicken by tossing rubber chickens onto a grill, while she was cheered on by a cow. 🙂 There was a race between 2 men wearing inflatable rings, that were both donuts and ducks (the decoration on the yellow rings was definitely donuts but they had duck heads as well. I learned that race was backed by one of the sponsors, Duck Donuts. Well of course. There were some “cans’ that had some sort of contest to cleanup mess and put it in the recycle bins. I tuned into that one midway so all I really know is that there were 3 cans: Hair Spray, Shaving Cream and Insect Repellent. I believe Insect Repellent won.

racing cans

Recycling race

The other inflatable race had fans riding inflated horses. It’s apparently not as easy as you might think, as we witnessed a wipeout near the turn for home. 🙂

Dancing dinosaur

Dancing dinosaur

There was the traditional throw-rolled-up-tee-shirts-into-the crowd, accompanied by a dancing dinosaur, for reasons I know not.
We also watched the healthy foods race. 🙂 Blueberry won, which is NO surprise to me. Blueberry is my favorite out of the represented foods.
racing foods

There was the traditional race around the bases where the mascot Sparkee races a (very) young fan. In all the years I’ve been going to the games, I have NEVER seen Sparkee win a race. *grin* By the way, Sparkee is the mascot because the team’s first manager, and current manager emeritus, is Sparky Lyle.

Sparkee

Sparkee

The team has two mascots, Sparkee and Slider. I’m not sure why they added Slider but it could have been because there was way too much love for Sparkee to handle on his own. There used to be a third mascot, General Admission (yes, dressed in old-fashioned uniform), but I haven’t seen him in ages. I DO have a picture of him with my son, however, which is why I know he existed.

Slider

Slider

The Somerset Patriots host fireworks after many of the home games. They post the fireworks schedule on their website and it is a key factor in which games we go to see. I didn’t remember the fireworks as being anything very special in prior years, but this year was great. I don’t know if it’s me, or if fireworks have gotten better, or what, but there is no question that the fireworks I’ve been observing this summer have been much higher quality than my memories of prior shows. As usual, despite saying there’s no point in taking pictures of fireworks, I did it anyway. I took a video so you can enjoy the show too!

It’s NOT a Weed!!!!

false starwort with canna lily

Boltonia Asteroides False Starwort

It’s my Boltonia Asteroides – False Starwort! Apparently it blooms in August and September and can grow to 4-5 feet tall. YES!!! The article in Backyard Gardener.com goes on to say that “The Boltonias, because of their great height, are highly desirable in large perennial borders because the plants literally bear thousands of star-like flowers.” I’m so relieved. I KNEW I’d planted something there deliberately. I must have switched my markers when I was planting. Either that or I have been misremembering which plant grew tall. 🙂 I do like tall flowers.

false starwort

Flowering False Starwort

On the other hand, I’m fairly certain that I DO have a weed that has been trying to pass itself off as a cosmos. It is growing where I planted the cosmos. I thought it was a wonderfully healthy cosmos. Then I realized that it was too hairy and too thick to be a cosmos. I’ve seen this imposter before – it’s a weed. 🙂 It doesn’t flower. On the other hand, I rather like its hairy leaves. It gets to stay even though it has no flowers. But NEXT year I’ll pull it if I recognize it in time.

cosmos imposter

The Imposter – It’s NEVER going to flower! But it is hairy!

The grape tomatoes are coming in! I lost the first crop to some hungry predator a few weeks ago when I did not spray stinky repel-all quickly and abundantly. I was determined that *I* would get to eat THIS batch. And I did. And they were yummy. 🙂 I didn’t share at all.
grape tomatoes

I had a new butterfly today as well – the Common Buckeye. It was much less skittish than the Painted Lady the other day. I could step nearer while it was on the flowers and it didn’t dart away. The black swallowtail was back later in the afternoon as well. We’re all enjoying the not weeds. 🙂

common buckeye butterfly

Common Buckeye butterfly enjoying the flowering mint

If I’m In, I Want Out

thermometer

In the musical ‘Cats’, there is a song about the Rum Tum Tugger. The song is take from T. S. Elliot’s book, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (as are most of the songs in the musical).

The Rum Tum Tugger is a Curious Cat:[1]
If you offer him pheasant he would rather have grouse.
If you put him in a house he would much prefer a flat,
If you put him in a flat then he’d rather have a house.
If you set him on a mouse then he only wants a rat,
If you set him on a rat then he’d rather chase a mouse.

It has been another hot and humid week – real feels in the upper 90s. If you are not in air-conditioning, the humidity saps your energy. I worked from home earlier this week and nearly had to set up an IV for myself to drip iced coffee. Last night the rains came through and broke the heat wave. I woke this morning to temperatures in the 60s.  Ahhhh.

I’m working from home today. For the first time in forever (or so it seems) I am wearing jeans, not shorts. I brewed myself HOT coffee. (Although I really do like iced coffee in the hot weather, hot coffee far surpasses it for that first “make the world bearable” sip. 🙂

brewed coffee

Second cup. The one that is the luxurious savoring, as opposed to Wake Me Up

As I brewed a second cup for myself, I thought about how wonderfully cool and pleasant it was. I thought that despite loving the heat, there is nothing as refreshing as when the weather changes and you get those cool fall days. How good it feels not to be HOT! I took a look at the thermometer and saw that it had still not reached 70 (sorry for the poor angle on the thermometer, but it was that or glare).

As I looked at that 66 degree temperature, appreciating it, I thought – if this was the winter I’d be FREEZING at this point. 🙂  I push the thermostat up to 72-74 in the winter. If this was the fall or spring I’d be running my gas log fireplace to take the damp chill out of the air. *grin*

If it’s hot, I want cold. If it’s cold, I want hot. I’m a curious cat.

BC in my lap while I work

I’m a Comfortable Cat. I get to stay in her lap when it’s not too hot. Purr

Wheatberry Salad

Several weeks ago when it was too hot to cook and I was looking for cool salads, I saw a recipe for Wheat Berry Salad. Whole wheat, cracked wheat, bulgur wheat, tabouli, couscous – they are so similiar and it’s hard for me to figure out if they are the same thing or different. Wheat berries, on the other hand, triggered a pleasant memory. Many, many years ago our friend invited us to dinner in her sukkah. She’s an excellent cook. Her background is Iranian, and she often serves food that I would normally not eat if I were not a guest. *grin* My mother brought me up to be a well-behaved polite guest – you eat what you are served. 🙂 Our friend served a wheat berry salad. The reward for being a polite guest is that sometimes you learn to like something new, that you never thought you’d like. So when the wheat berry recipe popped up in my search, I decided to save it and try it.
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Following this recipe meant first I had to find wheat berries. After trying several local stores I ordered them (and some cracked wheat) online. (The cracked wheat is my next new venture – stay tuned.) The recipe also calls for things that in my past I would have told you I don’t eat, and would have been cause for tossing the recipe. That would include nuts and dried fruit. I don’t like “things” in my food. *grin* Or so I thought. Anyway, I made the linked recipe just as it stands. It is DELICIOUS. I love the texture and the flavors. I think it will work well in fall, too, because of its harvest colors. My husband and I both made large inroads into the bowl of wheat berry salad. Definitely a recipe to keep and repeat!

Thanks to:
Wheat Berry Salad, Recipe courtesy of Ellie Krieger, Posted on the Food Network website


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