Saturday, January 23, 2016

New foods and ancient mummies

Dinner guests at the Leonardo

Tea, anyone?

When it comes to trying new foods I am a total wimp.
Just ask my husband.
I've always been better at hiding the food I don't eat (under a leaf of lettuce or in the mashed potatoes) than tasting something I can't identify as something friendly.
cous cous
That said, I have to give the folks at The Leonardo credit for coming up and presenting a menu for their "Feast of Ancient Worlds" that was both adventurous and novel.
It tied to the areas where the mummies in the gallery's current exhibit were found. We sampled foods from Egypt, Peru, Hungary, Algeria and the Vanuatu Islands.
The dishes used spices that most cooks in the area recognize: fennel, cloves, garlic, cinnamon, anise, mustard seed and ginger. None of the dishes were everyday fare.
We started with a Chai (tea) that was so aromatic and challenging that I reconsidered my decision to sign on for this media event. Apparently, this tea is a staple in most European households and, in fact, if you aren't offered this drink, your host is considered to be terribly rude.
I found it very strong and to have a lingering after taste.
But I was determined to give this event a fair try so when I was presented with hummus pounded from chick peas and goat cheese with a fig, olive oil and flat bread, I ate my flat bread right away. I even scooped up a little hummus and goat cheese. The goat cheese got three stars. The fig I sent away much to my husband's dismay. The hummus was sharp for me but brought raves from my seatmates.
Next was a stuffed potato with sweet potato, corn, quinoa and avocado. I enjoyed my potato and corn once I moved the avocado stuffing and quinoa aside.
I was on a roll, to a stuffed cabbage roll, to be precise. It was quite good and the Hungarian paprika sauce inviting. I ignored my portion of black pudding.
After-dinner favor?
From Algeria came cous cous with lamb sausage, grilled fennel, roasted eggplant, oven-roasted tomato and dried fruit. The adventure came from being asked to share something with our neighbor on the right AND use our fingers.
We were provided with little finger towels so we could start with clean hands.
For me, that was the most challenging exercise. I am somewhat of a germ-a-phobe and really find it hard to share food.
Fortunately, almost everyone at our table chose to share a piece of the sausage so it kind of became a moot issue. One share of sausage went pretty much all around the horn.
Lastly, we were served a roasted banana tart with toasted coconut and three fruit sauces.
my sweet potatoes
It was not as scary to me as some of the rest of the meal and I was nearly home free.
Marc liked the whole thing.
So did the others at the table. One lady was asking the chef for the recipes. Another woman was tweeting good things about the event all night.
I considered the evening a success especially since the chef — who sat next to me for the dessert course — didn't say anything about the food I wasted or barely tasted.
The Leonardo has two more of these events planned, one tonight and one on the 30th.
"Mummies of the World" will be on display through March 6, 2016. For more information, visit or
For a small price, you too can be a food adventurer.
Bon Appetite!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

No Christmas and no toys

My precocious 4-year-old granddaughter and I were shopping at the store for Rolos to go in the Family Home Evening cookies.
We had the candy and I remembered promising her I would get her new batteries for her little iPod-like toy.
I had even opened up the back and written down what number of battery we would need.
So we crossed over from the main cashier stations to the electronics department. The nice man herded us to the back to the watch battery area.
That's when I noticed Mia had a pink bubble gum tape dispenser in her hand.
"Oh, no!, I told her, "We're not buying that today. You have to go put that back."
She didn't fight me on it but headed out toward the bank of cashier stations.
I tried to keep an eye on her so she wouldn't get lost and in a few minutes she came back, sort of.
She was heading the wrong way when I caught her eye.
"Here, Mia! I'm here," I said and she happily joined up with me.
It wasn't until we got home that she produced the bubble gum from her pocket and started to busily unwrap it.
She does love a treat.
"Mia," I said, "We didn't pay for that. We have to take it back!"
She smiled and shook her head.
Her mother was mildly alarmed.
She knelt down and looked Mia in the eye. "Mia, you can't take things from the store without paying for them. This is wrong."
Mia nodded without understanding and kept chewing, not really recognizing what she'd done.
Later on, I went by the store and found another bubble gum tape and paid $1.29 for it, explaining the crime.
The employees were not shocked. In fact, they said it happens about twice a day.
Later on, Mia told me her mother took her to the store again and made her confess and pay for the gum in pennies, nickels and dimes.
Mia said she was happy now that she wouldn't be arrested.
She didn't want to go to prison, she said, looking at me with her big blue eyes.
"In prison, there's no Christmas and no toys!" she solemnly told me. "I wouldn't like it there!"

Monday, December 28, 2015

International Christmas shopping

Christmas is over and I'm still waiting for my presents from Honduras.
According to our bank statement Marc or somebody has been busily shopping out of the country for the holidays.
First, I got a call from our credit union fraud department asking me to verify the last five charges starting with something for about $300 in a women's department store.
The robo caller didn't specify what had been purchased or where it had been purchased but listed the one big-ticket buy and a bunch of smaller charges from $4 to $11.
I told them I didn't recognize any of the charges and they were very nice about telling me they would refuse the charges and freeze my card, again.
This is probably the 3rd or 4th time this has happened to me in the past few years.
And while I totally appreciate the credit union folks for both catching and refusing the bogus charges, I really hate resetting my pin for each new card.
I have to come up with something clever and then remember to use it.
There's always a lag time where I'm punching in my PIN and it won't take it until I remember I now have a different one.
I dutifully went down to the branch office though and got a new card, a green one this time so I would be prompted to remember that this required the new PIN.
Then I checked my statement.
A charge from Honduras in the amount of $308 from Karolina's Accessories on the same day I was getting the new card.
I told the credit union and they agreed to freeze the card one more time.
They also agreed to dispute this new charge even though somehow it had slipped through after the initial trouble.
It's a pain.
I spend part of the time wondering how someone got my information and how I can be more careful in the future. The rest of the time I promise myself to avoid using my credit/debit card at all.
My routines are pretty set, though, and I rarely deal with an unknown drug dealer or cheap watch salesman on the street.
I know most of my business contacts very well and I trust them. I keep thinking I'm safe here.
We did do some shopping in California over Thanksgiving so maybe somewhere along the way there we trusted someone we ought to have avoided.
But my husband was the prime suspect for a while. I knew he was out Christmas shopping for me and I appreciate that.
I called him in and grilled him about the possibility that he might have hopped on a plane for some last-minute buying.
I told him I love him and like that he goes the extra mile for me.
However, I think shopping sprees to Honduras are over the top!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Coffee, tea, Coca Cola?

I always thought I was simply obeying the Word of Wisdom, rules for good living (or more accurately advice we Mormons believe comes from God) when I refused a Coke.
In our church, we do not drink alcohol, coffee or tea and we do not smoke.
We just don't.
And we tell our bishops we don't and won't.
Some take it so far as to avoid caffeine as well.
I've always been one of those.
So when the nurse at the hospital told me I needed some caffeine to help kickstart my system after my knee scope, I resisted.
She said my oxygen level was too low and the caffeine intake was a simple way to bring it up.
The anesthesia was apparently depressing my breathing and I could either breathe really, really deeply, cough a lot or have some Coca-cola.
I had my choice of regular Coke, diet Coke, Cherry Coke, Coke Zero or Mountain Dew.
I was hesitant.
The Word of Wisdom allows for tea in the case of medicinal need. Coke was clearly a medicinal product in this case.
I guessed it was OK.
I chose Cherry Coke.
The nurse brought it in a paper cup with a straw.
I started to sip.
Turns out I'm not really an obedient lady just for the sake of obeying the scriptures.
And I won't have to work at avoiding this particular temptation.
I can quite easily continue to live the Word of Wisdom when it comes to caffeine.
Because, as it turns out, I don't like the taste.
In my opinion, it's awful. (But it did bring my oxygen levels up!)
Now when we get into the debate about whether there's caffeine in chocolate or enough to matter, I may be in trouble.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

No thank you

We didn't hear from the electrician who looked at our project for a really long time.
A lovely wall hanging
He had stopped by one day in the evening to see what we needed to do to put in a charger unit in our garage for our Nissan Leaf.
I walked him around the basement and the garage for a while explaining that we had bought an electric car (This is part 3 or 4 of my ongoing Leaf series.) and now that it was getting colder we wanted a charging unit that took less time to recharge.
We've been pulling power from a wall outlet using what's known as the trickle charge method. It's been fine but now that the temperatures are dropping, it takes 10-12 hours to fully charge and the power draw when we're out and about is heavier.
We've had a good run and we still love the car but we were ready to be a little more independent in our choices and resources.
We told this guy we wanted to run power from the breaker box downstairs through the ceiling and basement to the garage on the other side of the house.
He shook his head and talked about replacing breakers and punching holes in the sheetrock to find the wiring and repairs, etc. He didn't seem enthused about the whole plan.
After a few weeks I figured he was outta here for us so I called him.
He dropped off an estimate the next day. For $1300 he would put in an additional subpanel, run 2-guage wire through, up, around, and get us up and going. We would buy the actual charging unit and he would put in a 220 plug.
We told my son Steven about it. Steven told us the electrician's bid was pretty much a "No, thank you!" estimate.
Steven has been our go-to guy for years. He actually finished the basement for us and has since built a deck, put in a jacuzzi tub, a wall fireplace, replaced the entire kitchen, put in air conditioning, repaired a big hole in the roof, and basically redone, painted and/or fixed most everything in the house.
He shook his head at the estimate.
"I could do that," he said, "And it wouldn't be that much."
We jumped at the chance.
Not only is Steven's work cheaper. We trust him implicitly.
When we were in California he sent word that he had a weekend free when he would be in town.
So we ordered the charge unit from our hotel in California.
Two days later, it was on our porch when we got home.
Steven went to work and now we have a tidy, handy charger in our garage that is easy to operate, portable if we ever move, and one that charges our little cute car in about a third of the time.
Steven also pointed out that 2-guage wire would never have supported the car and likely would have burned up trying! He also ran the wire through the duct tunnel without making any holes. Cool!
We paid Steven for his supplies plus a little extra for being an angel and celebrated.
We are still dancing.
We are what you might call on a power trip!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Free tickets!

Leue and her friend Marvin
I've been invited to give away a couple of tickets to a puppet show.
I love puppet shows and often take a grandchild or two with me to see one.
The one coming right up is at the SCERA Center for the Arts featuring Coralie Leue and a few of her friends made of fabric and fun.
Leue is a professional puppeteer who tells inventive, original stories with characters she has created.
She'll be at the SCERA on Saturday, Nov. 21 at 11 a.m. with a brand new pair of stories: "Pumpkinella" and "Little Bear's Tail."
In "Pumpkinella" everyone is invited to the Harvest Ball by handsome Prince Broccoli including Stepmother Eggplant and Stepsisters Patty Potato and Mattie Mushroom. The Fairy Pineapple Mother helps Pumpkinella attend as well in a Cinderella tale with a veggie twist.
In "Little Bear's Tail," (based on a Native American story) Clever Fox is tired of hearing Mr. Bear boast about his long and beautiful tail. He devises a plan to get rid of bear's tail but first, he needs some crawdads...
Tickets are $3 for 3-up.
The performance is at the SCERA Center for the Arts at 745 S. State, Orem, and is part of the popular SCERA's Puppet Shop series.
The first person to contact me on this blog or by email gets the free tickets ( They'll be at will call that morning.
If you don't win you can just call the SCERA at 801-225-2569.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

She has to pay for that!

The girl is a sweet shoplifter, Mia is.
She had no idea the free candy she'd just taken from the table at the carnival wasn't free.
She just knew she was happy to find her favorites: a bag of Sour Patch Kids, a bag of Skittles and a roll of strawberry Mentos.
She came into the auditorium and showed me her stash.
"I got this!" she said, "and some for Hannah and some for Adell."
I looked at her, 4 years old and so proud.
I didn't understand what had just happened until a loud voice behind her announced, "She has to pay for that!"
I looked at the lady who was puffing up behind Mia from the carnival outside.
"How much? I asked as it became apparent right away that this woman would not be denied her due.
"$3!" she said with a hand on her hip.
"OK," I started digging in my purse but I hadn't come prepared for cash purchases.
I had two paper dollars and a bunch of coins.
I looked at them briefly and handed everything over.
I know I had three quarters and at least four nickels and a bunch of pennies so I figured that was close enough.
"Here, I think that covers it," I said.
The lady looked skeptical.
"All right. We'll call it good," she huffed and took off.
I looked at Mia who had no idea she'd done anything at all wrong.
After all, we were at a Halloween Carnival where almost everywhere she went she got a free cupcake, a free toy and free candy.
What was the difference?
I thought about giving her the standard lecture that comes with a child taking gum from the store but then I thought, why?
"Enjoy!" I said, "and thanks for thinking of your sisters!"