Thursday, January 31, 2013

Challenge - Day 1: "Breakfast"

I'm starting a early on the February writing challenge described in my last post. Today's topic is "Breakfast."

I love breakfast food even though I don't always eat it at breakfast time. A weekday breakfast for me is typically Sugar Free Instant Breakfast mix (chocolate) with an extra scoop of protein powder or  Fage 0% Greek Yogurt split cup with cherries. But on weekends and sometimes even for dinner, I cook wonderful breakfast food. 

Eggs are my staple and I cook them many ways, but none pleases me better than a perfectly scrambled egg. I am very precise about the cooking method, not too soft, not too hard. Just call me the Goldilocks of scrambled eggs. A perfect weekend breakfast is eggs, bacon or sausage patties, fresh berries and oven-style (not toaster) whole wheat toast. I learned to love oven-style toast from my Grandmother. She didn't have an electric toaster for many years so she made white bread toast in the oven. Each slice had four dots of butter because the butter was in the refrigerator and too cold to spread. The oven would toast the bread all around the butter to a nice brown, but, if cooked just right, those little dots had a hint of crustiness but remained golden yellow and soft underneath. Our weekend breakfasts are wonderful but here's my guilty breakfast passion, one that I only let myself have once or twice a year - French Toast. I love, love, love French toast. 

The starting bread is important, preferably Challah or brioche, 1/2 inch slices that have been left on the counter overnight to get a little stale. Dip them in a mixture of eggs, half-and-half and warm honey and then fry in a little butter. This frying part is critical; it can't get too brown around the edges before the middle of the slice is done. "Done" means browned patches mixed with lighter spots that are crusty but still golden yellow, kind of like my Grandma's oven toast. The edges are uniformly brown with a few little strands of lacy egg mixture hanging off here and there. Cook both sides of the bread and then put the slice in a hot oven for about five minutes. This really sets the outer crispiness and leaves the inside soft and custard-like. Top with a little maple syrup but no powdered sugar. OK, a little cinnamon if you must. I serve it with bacon to get that heavenly salty/sweet combination going and also to insert some protein into this carb-laden feast.  I think if I were going to be executed, this would be my last meal.

Picture of Perfect French Toast Recipe 

Now I'm hungry. By the way, here's a link to the French Toast recipe I use, courtesy of Alton Brown. Let's hope Day 2's topic doesn't concern food or I may gain more than writing experience this month. Thanks for stopping by today; I'll talk to you tomorrow.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

My Challenge

This month two of the blogs I follow, one written by a very dear friend of mine, have been participating in a Photo-a-Day challenge. I have really looked forward to seeing their photos and commentary each day and will be sad to see January and the challenge end. In case you are interested, here is the link to my friend's blog.

As some of you know, I've been absent from this blog for quite a while and have been struggling with getting inspired to write more regularly. That's the best and only way to really hone your craft. So why not issue myself a writing challenge using the topics of the photo challenge? I think it will be a good method for me because, not only will it jump start my writing with a topic each day, but I don't plan on using a photo with the post. I hope to rely on words to create a scene or story for you in place of a photo. Maybe I will include a photo at the end of some of the posts so you can tell me how well I did. Will you do me a favor and give me that feedback?

The January photo challenge had thirty-one days, but since February only has twenty-eight, I'm going to knock off three of the topics they used. Days one and thirty-one were "You" and "You, again." Since I write about me all the time, those are going away. I'll determine the third one as I go along, probably dumping it on the fly if I get stuck. 

So thanks for stopping by today. I'll start the challenge February 1, maybe earlier. Just writing this blog has gotten me enthused about it so I may start tomorrow. Check back, OK?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Back in the Saddle . . . Maybe

Here I am, back, out of the blue. I've thought about doing it for weeks but got bogged down with wondering how I would explain why I haven't been posting, so I finally decided that I just wouldn't. Explain, that is. You'll just have to use your imaginations. I will say that nothing bad happened; I may have just needed a break.

Now the big question, what to write about. A lot has happened in the past few months, not just to me but to our nation. At some point I am going to write about how we are letting paranoia affect our lives, but right now, I'm going to write about something that recently happened to me. 

On a Sunday evening, about two weeks ago, our phone rang. Neither Scott or I recognized the caller ID, so we let it go to the answering machine. When the caller started talking, identifying herself, at first I was stunned. I mean, literally, mouth open, frozen in my tracks, stunned. I was holding my breath. Then my brain started to scream, "Answer the phone before she hangs up," and I did. The voice was one I had not heard in about 38 years -- my best friend from high school. She wasn't certain she had the right person; I'm babbling on the other end, "It's me, it's me." And then we laughed, and, when we laughed, I heard her. Gone were years of aging, hard times, disappointments and living with the consequences of the abuses and neglect we inflicted on ourselves. We were here in the photo, 1974-75, senior year as the Editor and Assistant Editor of the Gander Gazette, our high school newspaper. That's me, third from the right, and her, on my right, me wearing a trench coat and her a  hat, both chomping on cigars. This was our staff parody of hard-bitten newspaper men and women, although that guy on the far left looks more like a pimp. From what I remember, he acted more like a pimp (that coat was velvet,) but I digress.

That's our teacher on the far right end. It turns out that she was the reason my friend started looking for me. The teacher, Linda, had run into my friend's brother and asked about her. He gave Linda her contact information and she called. It turns out that she (Linda) left teaching and went to work for the State Department and has been with them for 30 years, living and working all over the world. During their conversation Linda asked about me and my friend told her we had lost touch right out of school. (Am I the only person who feels weird calling their teacher by her first name? I am trying to be adult about this.) That started my friend thinking and she went on a search for me, resulting in the phone call.

Now the reason I was so stunned by the call is that ever since I learned about Google, et al, I have repeatedly searched for her. I've kept up with one or two of my high school friends, but they had no news of her either, other than they thought she worked for Exxon after college. So when I heard that it was her on the phone, my old sentimental heart was bursting. I wanted to cry, but instead, I laughed. We both did. We laughed and talked, just like the years since we last did had not passed.

We talked about everything -- the obligatory "this is what has happened to me since I last saw you," politics, dogs, sex, the "old days" -- everything. We talked and laughed for over three hours, until our voices started giving out. Then we emailed and talked again this week. I'm planning to visit her in the next month or two so that we can reconnect even stronger. We hope to include the guy whose head is between the two of us in the photo. He was along for many of our adventures and was as excited as I was to hear that I had talked to her. 

I've thought about her every day since her first call. My internal soundtrack is running songs and movies from the 70's. She was a fabulous musician and her instrument was the flute. She was first chair, not only in our band, but in State competition. I can close my eyes and see her on stage. Scenes of other things we did keep flashing into memory. Our town opened its first Chinese restaurant while we were in school. I had never been to one before, but she had. We tried it out and she ordered egg rolls and because I didn't know anything on the menu, so did I.  In the years since then, every time I have eaten an egg roll, I have thought of her. We laughed about that, too. Turns out we both think Asian is our favorite ethnic food.

This whole experience has been so large for me that I had to just sit and think about it for a week or so before I could even begin to write about it. I had to wrap my head around narrowing it down to one blog; one that didn't sound like the ramblings of someone with dementia. I'm trying to keep my expectations about our future friendship in control, but it's hard. My head tells me, "Many years have passed. You are different people. Don't expect too much or you may be disappointed." But my heart knows that we were "friends of the bosom" in those days and I don't think that much has changed. 

I'll keep you posted on our progress and will also try to stay on the writing horse with other subjects. Either way, thanks for stopping by again.