Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘food

Isolated Festively

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Over a holiday weekend that historically would have us venturing sixty-some miles to the west three times in two days to mingle and nosh with Cyndie’s relations, the Christmas of 2020 in all its pandemic isolation reduced our travels to one time to exchange gifts at her mom’s house. Distanced, masked, and without risking a shared meal, our children met us at Marie’s house in Edina on Christmas eve day for the briefest of gift exchanges.

Little did we realize before setting out in the moments after our township road had finally been plowed around 11:00 a.m., we were in for some of the riskiest driving we’d experienced in recent memory. From local roads to the interstate highways, the surface was frozen and slippery. Almost every mile, sometimes more frequently, we spotted vehicles buried in the ditch.

Approaching a speed that would require the use of brakes in order to slow down was taking chances that threatened an unwelcome hell of post-storm autobody appointments, not to mention bumps and bruises, or worse.

Every overhead message board flashed warnings of crash delays ahead. As we waited in one backup, a full-size fire engine forced its way ahead and crossed all lanes to block the two left-most. We crawled ahead to where the sight of a big rig was perched on the cement barrier dividing east and westbound traffic, front tires high off the ground.

Later, another backup wrapped around a helpless pickup in a center lane, lacking enough traction to make any progress up the slight incline.

Cyndie’s expertly cautious driving got us there and back without incident.

Back home with presents in hand, we settled in for three days of isolation that Cyndie masterfully enhanced with wonderfully festive meals and activities, while simultaneously continuing to practice post-surgery regiments for her knee.

We ate like royalty and dined on some of her family holiday classics. Beef tenderloin with horseradish sauce, marinated carrots, out-of-this-world skin-on mashed red potatoes, and dessert of unparalleled greatness, cranberry cake with butter-caramel sauce.

We sat around the fireplace and worked on a new jigsaw puzzle from Marie that depicted chickens that looked just like ours. Cyndie poured herself into new books and I spent renewed time in my world-wide online community, catching up on reading and writing there.

A text-chain of family members helped us to stay connected, but there was no getting around the fact we were home alone together at one of the most family-gathering times of the year.

Somehow, maybe due to an urge to make it feel anything but just another day at home, Cyndie took interest in assembling the jigsaw puzzle with me, something in which she usually finds no pleasure. I chose to match her change in routine by deciding to skip building the outer border first, a step that moved me entirely out of my otherwise rigid norm.

We had a blast with the task, each finding great pleasure in the shared experience.

Quite simply, it helped to make the entire weekend feel downright festive, isolation be damned.

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Here Goes

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‘Tis the season. The aromas and the flavors of November have arrived inside our house. My ongoing challenge to control gastronomic excess for the good of my hemoglobin A1c and my waistline love-handles intensifies significantly as my childhood favorites show up in amazing succession.

Chex mix and pecan pie appeared this week to start the month with intensity.

I’ve noticed these hold a much greater draw for my cravings than all the scones and hand-pies Cyndie has been baking for the Berry Farm lately. As delicious a treat as those are, I wasn’t exposed to them growing up. That seems to be the key difference in the intensity of the attraction.

Oh, those childhood flavor memories.

Mmm mm good.

Yesterday, at sunset, I was tasked with tending the chickens into the coop because Cyndie wasn’t going to be home from errands until after dark. That’s not usually a big deal, except this time we have the ailing Australorp who had vanished on me.

Earlier in the afternoon, when I looked in on the brood, I found all the young ones romping in the vicinity of the barn. As I cooed at them and chirped my falsetto chicken-dad love-speak, I heard chicken feet running through the leaves in our woods. It was two of the adult hens coming to make sure they weren’t missing out on treats.

Only two hens.

Where was the Australorp? I searched and searched but found no sight of her. Uh oh.

Of course, I assumed the worst. When she didn’t return to the coop at sunset with all the others, I called Cyndie, in case she would know any other places to look. After begrudgingly closing up the coop for the night, I headed up toward the house. Since this was the direction the two hens had come running from earlier, I decided to detour behind the shop garage for one last look.

In the low light of dusk, the black silhouette of our Australorp stood out distinctly against the lighter background or our neighbor’s harvested soybean field. She was standing out in the open all by herself, poor little thing.

I have no idea if she didn’t return because she couldn’t or because she didn’t want to, but she obviously still isn’t well.

She didn’t warm up to my approach, but she didn’t run away, either. As I slowly talked my way closer and closer, she moved enough that I thought maybe I could walk with her back to our land. She got a few feet into the woods before I decided to just pick her up and carry her.

We’ve given her electrolytes with the hydration but didn’t have any antibiotics. Cyndie is heading to the feed store this morning to see what she can find there. We would like to offer our precious hens whatever support we can.

This morning, Cyndie pointed out the fact that this was the bird that survived an encounter with a fox a few months ago. We don’t know what internal injuries she may have dealt with at the time that might compromise her ultimate longevity.

My inclination this morning is that I might take some Chex mix down to share. She won’t have childhood memories of it, but still, it tastes like an elixir of love and life.

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Written by johnwhays

November 7, 2020 at 10:15 am

Still Ely

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Having a day off in the middle of our week of riding is a nice change of pace. Unfortunately, it wreaks havoc on the organization system I had established for keeping track of things in my duffel bag.

Yesterday was a chance to sleep in, pick our own restaurants for meals, and shop Ely.

After an early hike to get coffee with Laura, which scored me a chai, a larger gang formed for breakfast at Insula restaurant.

Breakfast salad was my choice and I was not disappointed. Poached eggs and smoked salmon! Mmm. It was delicious and just what I wanted.

Look at that morsel of blue sky!

We shopped the main drag and I got to visit my two favorite outdoor gear retailers: Wintergreen and Steger Mukluks.

One of our riders from California, Bob Murin, paints watercolors and I came upon him mid-picture.

In the afternoon, we visited the International Wolf Center and were lucky to spot the four males that made an appearance right before we left, three of whom are visible sprawled out in the image I captured.

It was all good, but paled in comparison to the social-hour surprise we got in the park where we tented.

An Ely cake baker, Susan Laine, showed up with a treat she baked to welcome us!

That is love, I tell ya.

 

 

Written by johnwhays

June 19, 2019 at 6:00 am

No Question

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We have raved many times over how amazing our free range eggs are. Cyndie coined the term, “home-made” to refer to the ones we collect from our hens.

Just in case you aren’t sure why we are always going on about how much better our eggs are, as compared to local “cage free organic” eggs from the grocery store, Cyndie took a picture for reference.

Can you see the difference we are talking about?

Trust me, they taste as good as they look.

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Written by johnwhays

January 11, 2019 at 7:00 am

Festivities Continue

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This time, the party moved to our house. All of Cyndie’s brothers came over, bringing some of their kids, along with the Fisknes family from Norway. When our kids learned of everyone’s plans, they decided to make the trip, too. We all had a great time hanging around the fireplace, eating an impressive lunch buffet Cyndie set out, walking the labyrinth, feeding the horses and chickens, and playing card games.

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Eventually, the American contingents all headed back to the Twin Cities, but the Norwegians stayed for a sleep-over at the ranch. That was always in the plan, but we rearranged the days a little to avoid the rain we are expecting today.

We decided weather like that was more fitting for shopping at the Mall of America.

The main highlight of their visit (among many), was seeing the girls succeed wonderfully for their first attempt at making pasta from scratch.

The fresh pasta turned out great and made for a scrumptious dinner. I even got in on the kitchen activity, (an uncharacteristic place for me) sautéing vegetables while the actual family cook was busy with the more important task of teaching the art of home-made pasta.

It was a perfect way to fend off the onset of the wet weather we are expecting to face today and tomorrow.

It all felt downright festive, if I do say so myself.

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Written by johnwhays

December 27, 2018 at 7:00 am

Kitchen Aromas

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Honestly, I don’t feel worthy of the aromas that greeted me from Cyndie’s kitchen when I walked in the door after work yesterday. She pulled me all the way into some of my fondest November memories with a robust batch of fresh Chex mix roasting in the oven.

Threw me back to Thanksgiving day parades, afternoon football games, and my dear ol’ mom.

I don’t know which came first. Did my love of cereal lead to an overwhelming attachment to Chex mix, or did my fondness for Chex mix lead to my mind-boggling passion for cereal?

No sooner does the mix come out of the oven and Cyndie puts in a pizza crust to pre-bake.

Not one to avoid a challenge, she was working her magic on an untested recipe for an adventurous fresh cranberry balsamic white pizza.

I can sincerely say that this did not bring back a single memory or aroma from my past. I can take, or leave, an arugula salad on my pizza, but ricotta cheese in place of a good salty tomato sauce left this experiment lacking.

It looked tantalizing, though.

Just needed more sauce and maybe a heaping crown of mozzarella cheese for my tastes. And bacon.

What?

That was Cyndie’s idea. We read somewhere that the most common ingredient in contest-winning recipes happens to be bacon flavor in some shape or form.

We both got a chuckle out of that.

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Written by johnwhays

November 14, 2018 at 7:00 am

Feeling Happy

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Woke up this morning and looked out at the sun coming up over Round Lake in Hayward, Wisconsin and realized we weren’t at home. Then, I remembered the wonderful dinner we had at the Lake Magnor Lighthouse restaurant attached to the convenience store gas station on Hwy 63 in Clayton on the way up.

Servers were fully present and projecting great energy, which enlivened the whole place. We seated ourselves in a booth with a view across the road to Lake Magnor and soaked up the atmosphere. It wasn’t our second honeymoon, but it was feeling a lot like the first one.

This was the first weekend we had coverage to be away since the occasion of our 37th anniversary, so the two of us have dashed up to a solo weekend at the lake. Easily reminiscent of our visit this month back in 1981.

When dinner was delivered, the “bottomless” real fresh-cut potato fries on Cyndie’s plate won me over instantly. This was after I had already visited the salad bar and discovered a spring mix of greens in place of the usual iceberg lettuce, plus every topping I ever wanted. More characteristic of a trendy urban restaurant than this perfectly kitschy rural diner.

Good food, great service, and two oldsters reliving their lifetime of being in love provided all the ingredients necessary for a memorable moment that lasts.

The fact that we’d cluelessly driven past the place so many times before on our travels to the lake enhanced our delight over the serendipity of finally discovering it this time.

I won’t deny that my mindset was already primed with happiness over an achievement earlier in the day that I have been waiting far too long to resolve. We got our home back-up generator serviced!

It has been over five years since installation and I have neglected it ever since, despite repeated mailings urging us to purchase an extended warranty and service contract. There was a constant mental conflict over thinking I was being negligent and they were being overly persistent.

Eventually, I contacted the installer to inquire about a preventive maintenance inspection. They no longer provide support to this product. I tried another place they referred me to, but it only offered long term warranty programs like the one the manufacturer keeps mailing to us.

I mulled over trying to figure things out on my own and changing the oil myself. That never seemed to lead to any action.

Finally, I found a new company that could service it without a long contract and would come from Minnesota to do it. However, they charged me immediately on the day I scheduled the service, and then postponed the appointment twice, both times without warning me in advance.

I was thrilled yesterday afternoon when the tech called to say he was fifteen minutes away. The firmware is updated, oil, spark plugs, and air filters changed, and specs calibrated.

With that completed, I was more than happy when we set off for this lovely weekend celebrating September in the north woods. No wonder the food tasted so good.

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Improvement Movement

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In my grand scheme of a continuous improvement movement toward optimal health, I have recently added new attention to not cleaning my plate. It’s an old habit, but eating everything served has long contributed to my consuming more food than my body needs at a sitting. I’ve decided to take another crack at altering that pattern.

It’s a project I tried off and on in the past, just like my attempts to stop snacking directly out of the bag, or trying to get a full 8-hours of sleep a night. I have not accomplished everything I set out to achieve.

I’m hoping to springboard on the success I have been experiencing with my daily regimen of planking and stretching exercises.

Actually, it parallels well with my recent decluttering effort. The latest accomplishments have inspired me to keep going to the next level of clutter out in the shop.

My planking success –started about 6-months ago and still making daily progress, well beyond the initial 30-days-in-a-row goal– seems to be inspiring me to take the next step toward better (and consistent) attention to portion size.

This whole portion control thing rides on top of my earlier focus to kick a sugar addiction and rein in the percentage of my daily sugar consumption in my diet.

Last night, I took a moment to calculate the number of grams of sugar in a serving of Trader Joe’s Chocolate Coconut Almonds that Cyndie brought home as a treat on our anniversary. It’s the coconut that sends these over the top. It calls out to me every time I walk past them.

Sixteen grams in a 1/3rd cup serving, which is a little under 1-gram per coated almond.

I have tried to satisfy myself with eating just 2 or 3 almonds at a time, but then the challenge I face is to honestly track how many little visits to the well I make in a day.

Craving is a powerful thing.

I’m happy that I have developed a bit of a craving to do my daily planking routine, and I struggle with the craving to sleep that washes over me at times of the day when I can’t.

Now, if I could just get myself to crave small portions of really delicious large servings of food on a plate in front of me, I’ll really be getting somewhere.

Here’s to continuous movement toward optimal health, one step at a time. Mind, body, and spirit.

Join me, won’t you?

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Berry Bounty

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‘Tis the time of year when raspberries suddenly appear in significant numbers, materializing magically against the dominant green backdrop in every direction we turn. Sometimes they surprise us by showing up in a cluster of growth that we didn’t even realize included raspberry canes.

Cyndie has tried pruning some of our wild berry patches in the past, hoping to make it a little easier to walk through for picking berries, but the vigorous bushes seem to grow themselves into a solid mass again as soon as we turn our backs.

Time to dig out the Ball jars with the two-piece metal lids in preparation of preserving the harvest.

As is clearly visible in the image, we are lucky to be getting Black Cap Raspberries. I am not clever enough to successfully describe the flavor distinction between a red raspberry and a black cap, but after developing a taste for the unique flavor of the black caps, I have truly become a snob about the black cap supremacy.

One of my absolute favorite treats is well-toasted New England Brown Bread spread with a layer of cream cheese and topped with Cyndie’s home-canned black cap jam. It’s an explosion of texture and unparalleled flavor that is pure culinary bliss.

The first year she canned berries here, we gave the majority of jars away to friends and family before we realized the distinct difference of the black cap flavor. It was a minor disaster when we discovered there were no more jars of the preferred black cap jam left in the house for us.

Now we know to hoard a secret stash of our own, separate from the stock that gets shared.

Honestly, of all the different ways we have considered monetizing our activities here, Cyndie’s black cap jam is probably the most valuable. Too bad we aren’t willing to part with enough of that black gold to make that idea worthwhile.

The yield looks bountiful this year. Something tells me I should be stocking up on loaves of brown bread, too.

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Written by johnwhays

June 27, 2018 at 6:00 am

Advance Warning

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*** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE FROM THE WINTERVALE DIET OBSERVATION ADMINISTRATION ***

The WDOA has issued the following High Level Alert:

 

000
WDOA26 WRLC 171120
WSWMQT

URGENT - DANGEROUS CONSUMPTION ADVISORY
Wintervale Alerts Service Beldenville WI
529 AM CST Tue Nov 21 2017

EAT001-004-160100-
/O.NEW.WRLC.WW.Y.0030.161008U3031Y-171119T0200Z/
Pierce-
Including the city of Beldenville
529 AM CST Tue Nov 21 2017

...DANGEROUS CONSUMPTION ADVISORY IN EFFECT UNTIL 9 PM CST JANUARY
3, 2018...

* WHAT...High calories occurring. Plan on incredible food conditions,
  including during the evening meals. Additional treat
  accumulations of 2 to 3 batches per hour are expected. Quantities will
  fluctuate with periods of heavy servings throughout the alert duration.

* WHERE...Pierce County, especially in the areas of Cyndie's kitchen.

* WHEN...Until 9 PM CST on January 3, 2018.

* ADDITIONAL DETAILS...The most delectable treats will appear whenever
  Cyndie is in the vicinity of her kitchen. Be prepared for irresistible
  aromas and disappearing room in stomachs at times of intense baking.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A Dangerous Consumption Advisory for seasonal foodstuffs means periods of 
high calorie appetizers, entrees, and desserts may lead to self-control difficulties.
Be prepared for off-the-charts satisfaction, and use caution while chewing.

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Written by johnwhays

November 21, 2017 at 7:00 am