Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Nothing to Sneeze About


I was checking out our local newspaper's web site recently when I caught something that made me stop and go "huh?" On the weather page, there is a spot that lists the pollen count. Everyone knows everything is bigger in Texas and that also includes allergies. Poor Jerry thought he escaped the cotton back in California only to meet nose first with cedar, pollen, mold and pigweed. Yes, you read correctly. Pigweed.

That's what made me stop and go "huh?" I had never before heard of Pigweed. Mountain Cedar was the first thing I heard about when we moved to San Antonio. People suffer immensely when it's in season. Eyes running, nose dripping and their bodies aching all day--its complete misery.

With Pigweed, it's more of a breathing challenge. Wheezing, red eyes, itching, sneezing, itchy throat and asthma-like symptoms make it a miracle to get through the day without collapsing under your desk. Luckily for me, I'm normally pretty good when it comes to allergies. It has to be really, really bad for me to have sneezing fits and a running nose. What I have to watch is my ears plugging up. Once that happens, watch out. Vertigo attacks happen and that's not fun in any way imaginable. (Especially behind the wheel of a car on the freeway at 65 miles per hour).

I've heard of every pill/treatment under the sun to approach these allergies--over the counter and homeopathic. I think every person is different, and people should find what works for them. What works for you?

Be forewarned if visiting Texas, we do have stuff that will make you sneeze. I'll hand you some Kleenex if you need some.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Friend of A Friend


It didn't matter if you looked left or right, you couldn't escape it. From the floor to the ceiling it was in your face. It was unapologetic, direct, sizzling hot and it made me smile.

I knew the first moment I walked into the Cooks N' More I was a goner. My pulse raced and I think I finally understood how Imelda Marcos felt about shoes--but for me it was Le Creuset cookware and bundt pans shaped like castles. There was no saving me now. I had never been in a store before, heck; I had never been shopping for anything before that made me as happy I was when I walked into the renovated store that was a church in its former life.

Faded Texas limestone walls still retained their holy elegance. It wasn't until you walked into the store that the sexy hotness smacked you in the face and took your breath away.

"Ah, another victim." The man who spoke those words smiled from behind the register. He closed the cookbook he had been reading, carefully marking his spot with a wooden spoon. "Welcome to Cooks 'N More. It's not much, but I call it home."

"I really love your home." I slowly replied, not taking my eyes off the multitude of kitchen goodies that filled every shelf, display case and even dangled from light fixtures. Gleaming pans hung over my head--a display that would even make Julia Child stop and stare.

"Tell me I haven't died and gone to gourmet heaven." My unfettered laughter was that of a child. I found myself mentally processing all the recipes I could make if I only had the Ebelskiver Filled-Pancake Pan or the Miyabi 7000 pro knife that I knew would fit my hand perfectly.

"You haven't died, but this is my take on heaven," the man said. "The name is Warren and this place is my baby. It's always great to convert another soul to the goodness that is cooking."

"Hello, Warren. My name is Dicey and I am very happy I decided to stop and check out your place."

I couldn't help myself; I walked over to a display and started browsing the copper cookie cutters hanging from a wooden peg display. All shapes and sizes glimmered in the diffused sunlight. Bells, stars, gingerbread men and the traditional candy cane shapes were mixed with off-the-wall designs--from dinosaurs to presidents of the United States and even one in the shape of the great state of Texas.

"These are so cool."

"If you don't see anything you want, let me know. I can order practically anything you want and I know a lady who can custom make any cookie cutter you'd need." He brushed his hand through his straight brown hair and contently looked around his store.

The inside of the store was mainly one big room with the register near the front. Looking toward the back of the store on the right, bookshelves lined the walls.

"Cookbooks?" I whispered reverently.

"Cookbooks," he replied with pride. "New or used. I also have a sharing library where you can bring in books to swap. Sometimes people buy books they later don't use. So they bring them here, and find another one they like and leave the one they don't. I also have a reference cookbook library people can access if they need."


Oversized chairs were scattered near the area and a few were filled with customers reading while others sat a large wooden table, copying recipes onto notepads.

"I have cooking demonstrations every Wednesday night in the demo area. I also offer cooking classes." He pointed to the back of the store to the left. A small kitchen opened into the room with a large island that could easily sit 10 people.

"This place is amazing."

"Thanks. It's nice to know I'm not the only person who thinks so," Warren said, with a chuckle.

They walked toward the back of the store. A display table held an assortment of books stacked in-between kitchen accessories. "Catering to Nobody," sat next to potholders, while "Fatally Flaky" tipped out of a KitchenAid food processor.

"Diane Mott Davidson is one of my favorites." My hand reached out to pick up a copy of "Cereal Murders." "I love her recipes. I've actually made a few of them. Mysteries and cooking--you can't go wrong there."

"Have you read Joanne Fluke's series? Her cookie recipes are to die for." He said with a wicked grin.

"I've read them all. I'm a readaholic." I shrugged my shoulders as if I should apologize for my love of reading.

"Nothing wrong with that. It could be worse; at least you aren't an alcoholic."

"True. Sometimes it's just as addicting. But it is one vice that does increase my vocabulary."

"If you like reading cozy mysteries about cooking, you should check out our book club. We meet once a month and discuss the latest culinary mystery and we make recipes from the books. It's called, "Dying to Cook."

.... To be continued