First Anniversary Update by the Queen of All Things

For as long as I can remember when my sister gets mad at me she likes to call me controlling as if that is going to hurt my feelings. My only reply to that is a heartfelt “I know!” You’re going to have to work a lot harder than that to hurt my feelings, Missy. I’m sorry, but I really don’t think that that is such a bad thing.

We controlling types always have an answer for questions like “Where would you like to go for dinner?” or “What movie would you like to go see?” Where as those who have no control over their lives and never have an answer for anything, must quietly resent sitting in life’s backseat, having their lives ruled by the decisions of others. I don’t blame them, I’d hate that too. Maybe they ought to try blogging, what great therapy. This is my kingdom and I am queen of all things. All I can hope is that I am a good queen and that I often make my readers smile.

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Halloween, haggis and happy birthdays

I just got back from my annual trip to Nottingham. It started out as a real nail biter and ended as one as well thanks to the unpredictable winter weather in Denver. It is often humbling to realize that Mother Nature, not you, is often in control of your travel plans and if you don’t believe it just try and catch a plane during a snow storm. To make a very long story short, I made my connection in Houston by the skin of my teeth, flew on to Newark and in to Birmingham the next morning. The most surprising aspect of the whole trip was when my 2 bags, loaded with my UK hosts’ wish list of American products and my clean underwear, came rolling out on the conveyor. It is times like this that make you appreciate the simple things in life.

Nottingham hasn’t changed much since I first laid my eyes on it. Oh sure there are subtle changes, restaurants that have closed and reopened under new names, a new modern art museum on the edge of the Lace Market and the silencing of the little old man who played the xylophone in the market square by his death a few years ago. The one thing that I find most comforting in life, is knowing that 5,000 miles from my front door, the oldest pub in the world is still open for business in this city’s center with no sign of closing its doors anytime soon. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I love this place and to arrive feels like I’ve slipped on a well worn favorite pair of shoes.

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Thanksgiving turkeys and pumpkin rolls

Thanksgiving is in a couple of days and since we live a thousand miles from my family, I will be doing things my way again this year. I’ve always looked upon Thanksgiving as the middle holiday. Sandwiched in between Halloween and Christmas, it is the starter course to the main dish of Christmas. When I was a girl, even though there were no presents involved, Thanksgiving was still pretty special because it meant getting together with my mom’s family which was always an adventure. I would watch my mother begin the ritual a week in advance. Now I know that I’m no youngster but looking back these must have been near prehistoric times because my mother prepared a pterodactyl or a bird the size of one every year. Our refrigerator was totally dedicated to its thawing for what seemed like weeks. This giant fowl consumed the bottom shelf of our refrigerator for days, often leaking a watery pink liquid that was one of the only things that upon discovery could make my mother curse.

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There’s More Than One Way to Stuff a Turkey

As per my promise, I tried my Beer Can Turkey on Thanksgiving. Since I used a jar filled with white wine, my husband thought that maybe Mason Jar Turkey might be a bit more appropriate and I have to say I agree. I slept until I woke up (about 8 am), had my coffee, and got down to business. I set my oven for 325 degrees before I set about unwrapping and washing my 9-1/2 pound turkey. Ever since I watched a television show a few years ago about chicken processing and they showed thousands of them swimming in a “fecal soup” as they called it, I wash my poultry thoroughly. I know that the folks at Jennie-O thought that they were doing me a real favor by inserting a plastic truss inside, but since I was going to insert a glass jar up his rectum, I spent the better part of five minutes trying to remove it. Once the truss was removed, I rubbed the whole turkey down inside and out with a little olive oil, garlic, season salt and a good grinding of pepper. I then filled an empty 26 ounce (737g) glass pasta sauce jar about 2/3 of the way up with some chardonnay, then I added some lemon slices, garlic and salt. I then sat the jar in the middle of a glass 9×13” baking dish, gently sat the turkey down on top of it so that the jar propped it up. I then covered the neck opening with foil to prevent the moisture from escaping and popped it in the preheated oven where it cooked for 2-1/2 hours.

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Reindeer Games and Chocolate Cake

I hope that everyone had a happy Christmas and will have a happy new year. Christmas at our house was a great success as usual. The children received most all of the items on their wish lists, with the exception of my daughter’s Lexus SUV.  I feel her pain because I didn’t receive mine either.  Maybe next year.

My son is now the proud owner of a new guitar, an assortment of band t-shirts and a new thermometer for his fish tank. My husband and I exchanged smaller presents since we have agreed that we if we never bought anything else in our lives, we would still have too much stuff. My favorite gift was a huge assortment of mascaras. His favorite from what I can assess must be the small backpacker’s super absorbent towel that Santa delivered. Our dog Scruffy even had a month’s supply of beefy flavor treats and a toy bunny with a brand new squeaker stuffed in his stocking. We’re all pretty happy.

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Recession Cooking in the Deep Freeze 101

Brrrrr! Last week, after two days of cold and snow, we have finally started to warm up a bit. There was a huge storm blanketing the country and Colorado was smack, dab in the middle feeling the brunt of the intense cold. One night our temperature got down to -15 degrees.

Needless to say, this south Texas transplant only opened the door to let my dog out to do his business (poor thing). I didn’t go to the grocery store for four days which was a record for me. I usually go everyday or every other day at the most for something or other. This is the reason that a bottle of milk usually costs me $40.00 by the time I leave the store. It was really a test of skill and imagination around here to whip up something delicious and new without leaving the house for supplies. After this exercise, I now feel confident that I could not only win at “Ready Steady Cook!” but I wouldn’t need any professional help to do it. The following recipes are some that I made during my time while I was shut in. I’m passing these recipes on to you in paragraph form this time because I really didn’t use exact measurements for them. These are just guidlines for recipes that I hope you make your own by adding a bit more here or a bit less there or adding a few of your own favorite ingredients.

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Funeral for a Friend: Oatmeal Cake with Broiled Coconut Pecan Icing

I lost a dear friend the other day. Her life was quite dramatic but I loved her anyway. In the five years since I met her, we weathered her acrimonious divorce, crazy neighbors, jobs she didn’t like, kid problems, a couple of stupid boyfriends and one pretty good one. She helped me by listening to my constant ranting when my daughter was having trouble with some girls at school. She tasted my Pillsbury Bake-Off entries even when they consisted of deep fried crescent dough which no doubt clashed with the flavor of her martini and caused her to spend an extra hour on the treadmill.

We laughed so hard we cried and spoke for hours on the phone about nothing at all. She was even kind enough not to laugh too hard when she witnessed me backing into my daughter’s car on prom night. Always my cheerleader, you can find her smiling face under my “Followers” a.k.a. 5280GRL. My life will be so much lonelier without her.

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Just When You Thought You’d Seen It All

I freely admit that I am a very frugal person. I religiously clip coupons from the Sunday paper (which I normally forget in the car with my reusable shopping bags) to help fuel my foodie lifestyle. I love the bargain bin at my local grocery store which is thankfully located not far from the reduced meat section where I buy my market aged beef. Being a power bargain shopper, I am careful about what I buy in these areas, no dented cans, no expired items and only aged beef, no poultry, pork or fish. I am usually content to stay within the familiar confines of my local King Soopers, but like Tiger Woods, I sometimes get bored with the same old thing and occasionally stray. My husband will be glad to know that the extent of my infidelity is leaving my local market and heading over to the more exotic Whole Foods. There is no expectation of a bargain here. No red reduced labels anywhere to be found just pretty high prices on pretty much everything, but like the aforementioned celebrity golfer, the seduction is usually too much for me, I throw caution to the wind and grab a shopping cart. Since I have no willpower when it comes to this place, I have chosen to just stay away so I am not tempted to go crazy until the memories of all the spending I did during the holidays fade a bit.

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What I Know for Sure

I’m not shy about saying that I’m an Oprah Winfrey watcher. In fact, I used to watch religiously until she got so ethereal and started doing what seems like endless shows on “The Secret” and “A New Earth.” The final straw was when she recently featured a woman who had a long standing affair with her own father. I was so appalled at this one that I did something I never thought I’d do, I wrote in and scolded her. I find scandal just as entertaining as the next person, but this just went too far. Over the years, I have enjoyed watching makeovers of men, women, kitchens and bathrooms, sex changes, botched plastic surgeries, great weight loss stories and anything with Nate Burkus. My very favorite show of all time was when the winner of the 41st Pillsbury Bake-Off was featured and they showed my face and mentioned my recipe as one of the final four for the million dollars. For 1.2 seconds, I was the star of the Oprah Winfrey Show. Five years later I’m still trying to figure out how to word that on my CV. Now, with 18 months of shows left it seems like she’s coming around to my way of thinking, let’s entertain them instead of educating them. That’s my girl.

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Frizzy Hair and Margaritas

Ok, I know that it’s only February and winter in the Rockies has a long way to go, but I am done. I say this every year, but this year I mean it. I really have had enough. After four months of cold weather, my hair is like straw, my nose bleeds intermittently, and my heels and hands have crevasses so deep they look like the surface of the moon. I spend as much money on body lotion as I do on gasoline each month. The static electricity is so bad that sitting on our polyester sofa or walking across our nylon carpeting, can turn an activity as simple as answering the phone into an exercise in excruciating electrical pain. Even our dog gingerly taps his paw on the sofa before jumping up so he can just get the spark and shock over with. I had never seen a dog wince in pain before we moved here. Oh, the price we pay for straight hair.

My life wasn’t always so arid. Six years ago, I was living in the middle of the mold and mildew belt of south Texas. No kidding, the average humidity is 80 percent. My naturally curly hair kinked up so badly I’d have to get out the hair dryer and restyle it several times a day. I bet you thought that big hair was a style that Texas women want. I’m here to tell you, it’s a by product of the humidity. They’ve just found a way to work it. Even though I wore a bush on my head the whole time we lived there, my feet were soft and crackless. Sometimes you just can’t have it all.

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