Monday, May 24, 2010
It's funny how as I plug away at work, daydreams tend to happen. I don't plan them, they just pop into my mind. The latest one haunting my thoughts is of a bookstore. It's not any bookstore I've ever been in before, but one I think I want to own.
I would love for it to strictly be a mystery bookstore. Something with a cool sounding name--like Dial M for Mystery or Murder Inc.
You have to remember, this is a dream bookstore where I don't worry about inventory and bills and employees calling in sick. This is a place where there are nothing but oversized chairs and ottomans to put your feet on. Soft music in the background would lull readers into a calm mood. The smell of coffee and cocoa would tweak the nose and homemade goodies tease and torment those on a diet.
Large side windows would overlook a view of a lush, green meadow. It would be a home away from home. No stress, no hassles or cell phones to interrupt. It would even sport a fireplace so in the winter, a crackling fire would greet visitors.
Hey, I said it was a dream. Maybe it should be a used book store. They are always more relaxing than the new stores. I like being around readers. People are just content to put their feet up, read a good book and relax.
Oh well, dreams are meant to be enjoyed. I know if someone came up with a really comfortable bookstore, with more than enough soft chairs, and an atmosphere of calm tranquility, I'd be there. Barnes and Noble are nice, but you are always fighting to get a comfy chair. Come on, they sport wooden chairs at B&N. Who wants to sit on a hard school-like chair to read? It's just not right for me. I buy and get out. I don't want to linger.
It's a good thing I have my own library at home. I have the comfy chairs and ottoman. I have the books that I love right at my finger tips. Soft music tickles my ears. The only thing I'm missing is the fireplace. Maybe one day.
Hey, a girl can dream.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
If you could point a finger to that one teacher in your life that made a difference, could you come up with a name? Did you have a person who opened your eyes to a subject that you never even knew you loved? That person for me was my high school history teacher, Mr. Fred Horlacher.
Even 30 years later, I can still close my eyes and remember what it was like to be in his classroom. I loved it. And I wasn't alone. I had him for Nevada History in 11th grade and it was my favorite class ever. He truly brought history to life for his students. He made us love history. He breathed it. He lived it. He was what history should be about.
Going to the gym to register for classes was always a challenge. But it was especially a challenge for Mr. Horlacher's classes. The line in front of his table was the longest by far. No other teacher compared. We fought to get into his room. Every chair was taken and students never cut or dropped out of his class. Ever. Students even scheduled doctor's appointments around his lectures. We just didn't want to miss them. They were that good.
For one thing, Mr. Horlacher never used a school book. All of his classes were lecture only. We had to take notes. He tested off his notes. He was the coolest teacher ever. You couldn't help but learn in his classes. He would walk into the room as the character he would lecture about. One day it might be a Civil War soldier. Another week, it would be a Native American. He would be fully decked out with an Indian headdress and clothing. He was that person from history. He gave us facts, dates, lives, loves, the good and the bad. History wasn't dusty, distant stories, but living, breathing people and the challenges they faced.
I hated when the bell rang and his class was over. His classes were never long enough. What was even cooler about Mr. Horlacher is he had a history club that he was the faculty advisor--Ghost Towners Nevada History Club. It was the most popular club to be a part of--it was only open to juniors and seniors.
I'm not sure, but I have a feeling that my school's history club was unique. I don't know of too many high schools that boasted a history club that had so many members. We not only had fun together as a group, but we learned so much about Nevada history.
Our initiation into the group was on Halloween night. We went up to Virginia City, Nevada to its cemetery. We walked through the cemetery at midnight. Mr. Horlacher had it booby trapped with tape recorders, senior students dressed up (glowing red eyes and all) and made sure we screamed a few times. After we walked through the cemetery, we sat among the graves in the dark and he told us about the spooky true history of Virginia City. It was absolutely one of the coolest things I've ever done.
And we had many wonderful adventures with Mr. Horlacher. We walked the actual trail that the Donner Party walked, at night, with only moonlight to show the way. We munched on beef jerky as he told the story of the Donner Party, painting the picture of the hardships they faced on their journey.
Not only were you learning about history, but we were on the same path, stood by the same trees that they camped under. It wasn't until he got to the part about the possible cannibalism, that the beef jerky sort of lost its flavor. That was Mr. Horlacher's warped sense of humor, which we high school students absolutely loved.
We went on so many field trips. One of them included camping by the reservoir and going "snipe" hunting. Some of us knew better, but we kept our mouths shut as other students took potato sacks and sticks and went to capture the snipes.
We went into gold mines, restored pioneer grave headstones, and visited ghost towns. He made it all come to life for us. He taught for so many years at my high school, finally retiring. He is an outstanding historian who still educates young and old alike in the Reno/Sparks area with living history demonstrations.
Mr. Horlacher is one of the reasons one that one of my majors in college was history. He taught me that history is a living, breathing subject that is never meant to be forgotten.
He is and was an amazing teacher. He embodies what teachers should be about--honorable, memorable and kind. Kudos to you, Mr. Horlacher. You are the best!
If one could make alive again for other people some cobwebbed skein of old dead intrigues and breathe breath and character into dead names and stiff portraits. That is history to me! ~George Macaulay Trevelyan
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Donating blood is not for everyone. Personally, it doesn't bother me. In fact, one of the goals I wanted to achieve once I turned 18 was to donate blood. The other was to vote. Yeah, I know, I am a geek. I have been donating blood (and voting) off and on since I was 18--being turned down every now and then because I was underweight (How many times you can say that in your life? roflmao), because my iron was too low or I wasn't drinking enough water.
Drinking enough water is important in the donation process. Water helps the tech find your veins easier and it also makes the blood flow faster. Trust me; as much as I don't mind donating blood, I want the tech to find that vein as fast as they can. Needles don't bother me, but I do want a smooth and fast insertion. I'm not into pain, especially my own pain.
When I got the phone call asking if I'd donate platelets, I was a bit nervous. I had not done it before--I tried once before but, again, I wasn't drinking enough water so it would have been too hard to find a decent vein.
Platelet donations are important. Platelets help the body coagulate the blood. That way you won't bleed to death. Some people have a hard time creating platelets, especially those who are going through chemotherapy. Donations help build up their systems to fight the cancer.
I've seen the machines they use to remove platelets when I donated blood. They are intimidating machines with lots of doodads hanging off them. I will admit they scared me because of my ignorance about them.
I was taking the day off from work anyway for a doctor's appointment, so I agreed to donate. The process was going to take about two hours all together. That's way longer than just donating blood, but I learned there is a bit more involved with platelet donation than just donating blood.
With platelet donation, they take blood out of you, and separate it to collect the platelets, and then return the blood back into your body with an anticoagulant called sodium citrate. One of the side effects of the anticoagulant entering into my body was the "metallic ting" taste in my mouth. It was no big deal, they just gave me some Tums antacids and I chewed on them. The tingly taste when away quickly and didn't bother me anymore. I wasn't nauseated or dizzy.
You get to choose a movie to watch during the procedure (I watched Night at the Museum again). I was in the chair for about 90 minutes straight. You have to make sure you go to the bathroom first because once you are hooked up, you can't move. For me, that was the biggest psychological challenge. If you tell me I can't go to the bathroom, then all I want to do is go to the bathroom. But I surprised myself and did fine.
I had a single vein procedure. This means they use one needle/catheter in one arm to extract and return my blood. So it would draw for a certain time, then stop and return for a certain time. I did feel the pressure on my vein when the blood was being pumped back into my body. But after experiencing it a couple of times, I got used to it.
I wasn't the only person in there donating platelets. They had put the call out and many donors were kicking back in the chairs, watching movies and donating. The platelets don't have a long shelf life, so the donations are used within the week. We were helping people right away--our donation wasn't being stored away for a rainy day. It's needed right away. It's an awesome experience to know that what you are doing might save someone's life that same day or week.
I didn't know until they were done that I was a bonus donor. I had enough platelets in my body that my one donation would be able to help three patients or three treatments for one patient.
You can donate faster for platelets than just donating blood. Instead of waiting 56 days to donate blood again, you can donate platelets as quickly as three days later, if so needed. It's better for a person getting the donation to get platelets from the same donor to decrease problems. Some people who went through organ transplants or fighting leukemia might need multiple treatments to help them.
Personally, I might not donate again this week, but I will donate at least once a month. They offer appointments at the South Texas Blood Bank on Saturdays, so I don't have to take time off from work. The recovery time for me was nothing. I just had to make sure I drank liquids afterwards and take it easy for the rest of the day. No exercising (no complaints on that one, lol) and no heavy lifting. I felt fine afterwards.
Call your local blood bank if you are interested in donating platelets. It's a short break from your day that could help save someone's life. Go on, give a call and donate.
In south Texas, check out the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center. You can visit their headquarters in their donor pavilion, located at 6211 IH 10 W., First Park Ten Boulevard in San Antonio. Contact them at (210)731-5555.
Monday, May 3, 2010
As a kid, my first real cooking creation was homemade pudding. Mom never really bought snacks and after school I'd get the major munchies. I couldn't eat just anything from the cabinets as what she bought was for dinners and off limits. I had to be creative if I wanted to eat.
What Mom did have was staples in her pantry. Flour, sugar, salt, cocoa and other basics were lined up nice and neat. The only problem was Mom didn't have any cookbooks. She made everything from memory. And as this was pre-Internet, I couldn't just pop on the World Wide Web and check out a recipe to make a snack from scratch.
So I became creative. I love chocolate, so I pulled out the cocoa. I tried to visualize what was in pudding. I thought of milk, vanilla and sugar. I had no clue about measurements when it came to the ingredients. It took a lot of experimentation to creative anything that was edible. I truly believe that my early pudding recipes was where my love for dark chocolate began--using Hershey's cocoa made for some deep, dark pudding.
I'd make small batches and would spoon the dark, gelatinous goodness while hiding from my siblings in my room. I wasn't going to share. They wouldn't have shared with me. Lol
I know for a fact this is where my love of cooking began--especially cooking from scratch. I truly respect how hard it is to make something from nothing. I take great pride in the fact that I can bake and cook from scratch. Cakes, cinnamon rolls, ice cream, candy and cookies. I do not need a stinking box mix. Give me the staples and I will create you some goodies.
It could be why I also collect cookbooks. Mama never had them, but now I have hundreds of them. You think I jest? I have bookcases full of them. My cookbooks cover a wide range of subjects, tastes, countries and are old to more recent. My oldest is from the 1800s, the strangest might be the road kill collection. Among my favorite cookbooks are my Taste of Home cookbooks because it's real recipes by real cooks. I love my Paula Deen books (her banana pudding recipe is a holiday staple for us). I also have a signed cookbook by Emeril Lagasse.
I have a collection of recipe cards that belonged to my husband's late Granny and Mother. Granny made amazing candy from scratch. I loved the homemade rolls his mother and grandmother made. Amazing tasting and they made it look so easy when I know it's not. I miss them. Women like Granny, Gwen (Jerry's mother) and my mother made their gravy from scratch. It's an art that I find hard to master. I know it's a matter of letting the roux cook the flour, you can't be too quick or it won't taste right.
Cooking means love to me. I love my family, so I cook for them. It's probably the reason Jerry and I have gained the weight we have over the years. I love to cook and we also love to eat. Lol
Here are some of my favorite recipes.
This isn't my recipe from years ago, but it's pretty darn close.
Thick Chocolate Pudding Recipe
Prep: 15 min. + cooling
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup baking cocoa
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whipped topping, optional
In a 1-qt. microwave-safe bowl, combine the first four ingredients. Stir in milk until smooth. Microwave, uncovered, on high for 2 minutes; stir. Microwave 3-5 minutes longer or until thickened, stirring after each minute. Stir in vanilla. Pour into individual serving dishes; cool. Refrigerate. Garnish with whipped topping if desired. Yield: 4 servings.
Not Yo' Mama's Banana Pudding
2 bags Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies
6 to 8 bananas, sliced
2 cups milk
1 (5-ounce) box instant French vanilla pudding
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12-ounce) container frozen whipped topping thawed or equal amount sweetened whipped cream
Line the bottom of a 13-by-9-by-2-inch dish with one bag of cookies and layer bananas on top.
In a bowl, combine the milk and pudding mix and blend well using a handheld electric mixer. Using another bowl, combine the cream cheese and condensed milk together and mix until smooth. Fold the whipped topping into the cream cheese mixture. Add the cream cheese mixture to the pudding mixture and stir until well blended. Pour the mixture over the cookies and bananas and cover with the remaining cookies. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Recipe from Paula Deen, as seen in The Lady & Sons Just Desserts: More Than 120 Sweet Temptations from Savannah's Favorite Restaurant, (Simon & Shuster).
Bailey's No Bake Cookies
This was passed down to me right after I married Jerry from his mother Gwen. My family loves these delicious cookies. Be careful, if you eat too many of them in a short time you will get a sugar-rush headache!
2 cups sugar
1 cube butter
3 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups Minute Oatmeal
Mix the first four ingredients in a pan and let it reach boiling. Stir often. After it has reached the boiling point, let it boil a hard boil for about five minutes.
Add the peanut butter, and vanilla. Let it boil again for one minute.
Remove from stove and add the 3 cups of oatmeal. Stir well to coat everything together.
Drop by teaspoons onto wax paper. Let it set until hardened.
Enjoy with a cold glass of milk!