Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Cheese: Respecting the Wedge

Leave it to me...



Here I thought I was well read about the basics, and yes my mother really did teach me table etiquette and proper place settings. Hey  - - I even traveled a few miles in my life out of the continent and sat at some fine dining tables, but when it came time to "respecting the wedge," man did I screw up. 

Picture this. Me - a guest - sitting at a dining room table. My delightful hosts pass around the cheese plate after dinner. Now mind you, both of the hosts were born and raised in France. The cheese plate arrives to me first. As I slowly start to cut into a wedge, all of a sudden I hear from both of my hosts, "No! No! Stop! Respect the wedge!"

After it was all said and done, and long story short; I am now permanently and emotionally scarred by the "wedge."   


The best way to explain my future with cheese is when you're sitting at a formal dinner party and you look through the corner of your eye to see what utensil your dining partners are reaching for first among the sea of knives, forks, and spoons at their place settings. 

Nowadays, when I see a new wedge of cheese in a social setting, I avoid it and watch everyone else cut into it - - first. If someone before me does not "respect the wedge," and I follow their "dissing" of the wedge, my defense is "Don't look at me. They started it."

To help you avoid the embarrassment of being a social pariah, just follow the incisions. Cheers to cheese.


Semi-Soft Wedge
Cut the wedge cross-wise, then cut vertically along the rind. 

Cheeses: Fontina, Gruyère, Gouda, Swiss

Soft Pyramid
Slice the cheese into wedges from the top center. 
Cheeses: Soft goat or cow cheeses from England or France often coated in vegetable ash.

Soft Wedge
Section the cheese into long, narrow wedges from the point outward 
Cheeses: Brie, 
double and triple-cream cheese
Log
Slice across the log into coins. 
Cheeses: Usually goat, fresh or aged


Soft Wheel
Cut it into even wedges, from the center outward. 
Cheeses: Camembert, aged goat cheeses

Veined Wedge
Slice it into points from the bottom center of the thin edge. 
Cheeses: Blue cheese, Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Stilton
Images from Martha Stewart Living


Friday, July 21, 2017

Wander and Ponder: A Quiet Week

After a few busy weeks and weekends in a row, it's rather nice to have several days of solitude. Through most of my adult life, "solitude" has been a rare thing for me - - and after almost forty years of working in occupations (funeral homes, domestic violence shelter, and law firms - civil and defense) where you see people at the worst point of their lives, it's a blessing to have the solitude. Now the only noise I  hear, and by choice, is two little yapping dogs and Pandora

Pandora: is a free, personalized internet radio that plays the style of your favorite music, starting with your favorite artist, song or composer. There are various "stations" to choose from, and you can stream it to your television, your computer, or if you own Echo; ask Alexa to play it for you.

My choice of music with my morning coffee is "Andrea Bocelli Radio." If you don't know this already, the basic app is free. The station isn't all Bocelli, but music that is similar in some ways such as: Josh Groban, Enya, various symphonies  - - easy background music that doesn't interfere with writing. 



Cravings: Can't explain it, but every so often I get a craving for various things. This week it's a cuppa Earl Grey tea, and preferably with a large warm Danish topped with a pat of melted butter. I think Earl Grey is the perfect tea to enjoy with sweet pastries.


Kitchen Tools: A few months ago I looked at my drawer full of kitchen tools and found it depressing, so I started a campaign to replace some of the old ones I've had since... well, a long time. Replaced a potato peeler, masher, pastry brush, tongs, wooden spoons, spatulas... and still replacing. I think the cheese grater is next. After all, a girl likes pretty new things. 



Pretty Things: Now for something pretty - - the detail of the stitches and beading makes me want to grab a needle and thread. 



If it's your choice, I hope your weekend is quiet for you to take the time to enjoy a few "pretty things."




Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Summer Reading: Pretty Magazines

Finding leisurely time to curl up during a quiet afternoon or late evening with a favorite beverage is one of those events in life that is on the list of "nothing better than..."

If you are an avid reader like I am, sometimes you just want to read something interesting without getting involved in a book - - and sometimes you just, not only want to read, but look at pretty photos for inspiration. That is where a magazine is perfect. 

There was a time I use to subscribe to several country living and Victorian style type of magazines for decorating and recipe ideas - - eventually these magazines became thinner with less good content and more advertising. Hey, I get the advertising part of it. In my early years of adult-hood, I use to moonlight in the evening designing display ads for a small newspaper. Advertising helps keep a magazine afloat, and sometimes keeps the subscription prices down - - but there really needs to be a ratio between good content and photos versus advertising. 

Recently, I have noticed a couple of new magazines to hit the news stands in the last 10 months, so I did some research...

Who doesn't watch HGTV's popular show Fixer Upper  with Chip and Joanna Gaines? If you haven't heard about these two - - where have you been? They are everywhere! This popular couple has recently started their own quarterly magazine, among other things such as mercantile, mail order, bakery, bed and breakfast, and soon a diner.  


Their premiere issue, The Magnolia Journal arrived during the Fall of 2016. The magazine is printed on heavy quality paper with limited advertising. It is filled with beautiful photos, DIY, gardening, seasonal ideas, their personal stories, recipes, and more. It's a very worthy read. 

There's another popular television host who just published her own magazine - Ree Drummond, or you may know her on the Food Network as The Pioneer Woman.  She is also known for her blog, cookbooks, children's author, cookware brand, and just recently she opened up her own brick and mortar/online shop, The Mercantile.

So far, she has just offered a premiere summer issue of her magazine, The Pioneer Woman. The down side of it, the premiere issue was only offered at Walmart. There was no way I was going to go to Walmart in hopes of finding that magazine - - so I patiently waited. The wait paid off as I was able to buy it directly through her online shop (note: the magazine is currently sold out, but it appears it may be made available at a later time). 


The order directly from the Mercantile had a nice personal touch, as the magazine was wrapped in a toile patterned bag and enclosed was a thank you note on a Mercantile postcard. How is the magazine? It's your typical magazine with the slick cover and pages. Sure, there is the usual advertising, but so far I liked the content. Lots of atractive photos, recipes, and interesting articles about her personal and family life - - and some of the cool stuff she sells in her brick and mortar/online store. 

If the Pioneer Woman decides to print future issues of her magazine, will I buy it? Yeah, I think I just might - - at least subscribe the first year. Hopefully for now it will be just quarterly. I don't want to be committed to it every month - - but hey, that's been my mind-set lately. No commitment to subscriptions or television series. 

If you discover these magazines for yourself, let me know what you think; and have you located any new magazines? 


Friday, July 14, 2017

Wander & Ponder: Birthdays and Roses

Where have I been?

Goofing off? Yes and no.

The truth of the matter is I have been writing - a lot - just not writing on the blog. Instead I have been writing a few magazine articles, and working on a few books. Fiction and non-fiction. 


I didn't mean to ignore the month of June, it's just I got swept away with selling antiques and collectibles at one of the local vintage markets, Love of Junk. To participate in a vintage market, and to do it well, is a lot of work. First of all, you have to hunt and pick the items you want to sell. One must inventory and price the items. Packing the items to the market is a lot of work, and then you unpack and display your items hoping to sell a lot so you will have less to pack home. A word of caution: it can be addictive. I am addicted to buying and selling collectibles. 


Also, in the month of June I had a birthday. As it did on the day I was born, or so I have been told, it thundered like crazy that day. Other than the noisy thunder, it was a quiet birthday - - but I find a lovely bouquet of roses at my door stoop.



What is it about roses? I have over 15 rose bushes, and even when the roses eventually dry in the vase, I still find it difficult to toss them. In their dried state, they are still beautiful to me. Yeah, I know the photo below isn't the best, but there was something about it I liked. Don't you? 


So, that's about it. This is where I have been. 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Wander and Ponder: Books, Burgers, and Memorial Day

There's been a few days I have neglected my Friday rants, but I have a good reason - - honest.

Books and Articles: During the last couple of weeks, my mornings and evenings have been spent writing - writing a lot of fiction. I am so use to writing professionally about "real stuff" like wine and history, I've discovered writing fiction is a whole different species. I am learning a lot. 


The good part of writing fiction, I am not spending as much time doing research, and instead creating stories and developing characters. It's really been a lot of fun and a pleasant change when I need to step away from research. I have procured a professional editor who is challenging me about the characters. Not only is the editor perusing the content for grammar, but reviews the story as the potential reader making sure we're not leaving any gaps in the mystery. 

If all goes accordingly to plan, not only will I have a new history book released by the end of the year, but a "cozy mystery" via Kindle, too!  The cozy will be the first of a series. Stay tuned... 



Burgers: There is something about sliders that intrigue me. Perhaps it's about their size. Much easier to eat than a regular burger and if serving a crowd, they are easy to prepare ahead of time. 

The family is getting together this Memorial Weekend for a BBQ giving me an opportunity to try this "pull-a-part" slider recipe from Slick Housewives.  It's so easy. The burger is cooked in the oven and who doesn't love those little Hawaiian Rolls? 



Memorial Day: is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Originally Memorial Day was May 30, and established back in 1868. In 1968 Congress passed and created Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees; the change went into effect in 1971. 

Through the years American families have also celebrated the lives of all of their deceased loved ones, whether they died serving in the military or not - - and even including civilians. That's okay, especially if it brings families together to celebrate the weekend with our loved ones and friends; besides remembering everyone we have lost. 

Have a safe Holiday weekend. 








Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My Favorite Spring Sandwich: Grilled Cheese and Asparagus

Who doesn't love grilled cheese sandwiches? If you don't, then I don't think we can be friends - - kidding! Of course we can still be friends if you are a hater of grilled cheese. After all, that just means all the more for me!

It's my favorite time of the year when our local farmer's market and several farm stands are selling these fresh picked spears. This is just your basic grilled cheese sandwich, but add leftover grilled, roasted, blanched, or microwaved-cooked asparagus. These spears of green goodness are best in a sandwich if there is still a nice crunch - not soggy or overcooked.

Okay, so you know the routine. Here is what you need. Bread, cheese, butter, and of course the asparagus. 



When it comes to what type of cheese, do what I do - rummage through your cheese drawer and choose whatever cheese you have on hand. Select those cheeses that are best for melting, like I used Muenster. I also added shreds of cheddar, as shredded cheese will melt faster and more consistent, than just a slice of cheddar. 



Preheat skillet over medium heat. Generously spread softened REAL butter on one side of both slices of bread.  I chose a Brioche bread - an eggy butter-rich bread with a light yellow color and a sweeter taste than plain white. No softened butter handy and you don't wait around for the butter to soften? No problem. Spread the slices with a thin spread of mayonnaise. Yes. Mayonnaise. Don't question it. Just read this. Bon Appetit magazine says so, and so do I. 



Place bread butter-side-down onto skillet bottom and add slices of cheese. When building the sandwich, alternate the ends of the asparagus so you won't just get bites of ends in one half of the sandwich. Top with more cheese. Add second slice of buttered bread and place butter-side up. Grill until lightly browned and flip over. Sometimes the aid of a toothpick helps to anchor the spears. Continue grilling until all the cheese is melted. 



Ooey, gooey, melty, and cooked to pure golden toasty bliss with a nice semi-crunch of asparagus

Friday, May 12, 2017

Wander and Ponder: Elegance, Jelly Jars, and Cozies

This is the week where I have been drawn to politics like a moth to a flame. I-must-stop-and start writing about pleasant things... 

The other day I wrote about "An Elegant Life."  I pointed out ideas to add a touch of elegance to your life. A reader gave me some good things to ponder about "elegance." She suggested that "elegance is more than a collection of objects, but a state of mind, confidence, and a sense of peace... and how you interact with the world around you."

She is correct. I had thought earlier around the same lines while I was writing the original post. I had thought about "elegance" being a gentle spirit and always acting in kindness, and mindful of others and our surroundings.  What stopped me from continuing that chain of thought is I am an imperfect person. I have a lot of work to do with my own "spirit," before I start suggesting to others to get their "spirit" in check. Giving myself a break, I do think the older I get, I think I improve. To sum it up, as I wrote in the article, I think "elegance" is a state of mind. Be aware. Be conscious. Treat your own self with kindness, and I think it becomes easier to treat others the same. Also, don't forget to reach into the china cabinet that never gets open and take that beautiful French crystal wine glass Aunt Bessie gave you from its perch and use that beautiful glass to drink your morning juice from instead of that old Ninja Turtle jelly jar. And speaking of jelly jars...

Jelly Jars: Am I the only one who saves the jelly jars from Bonne Maman fruit preserves and jellies? I even save the caps just in case I want to seal the contents such as: whole spices, bouquets of posies, refrigerator pickles, candle holders, string or button storage, hard candies, and even use them for picnics to store food or use as glasses. Also the perfect wine glass for that Italian themed spaghetti dinner party. 





If David Lebovitz, author of dessert cookbooks and Parisian life can save his jelly and mustard jars, then so can I. 

Cozy Mysteries: So I have been reading this genre of books, downloading numerous on my Kindle, and even dabbled a few words to write my own; but it wasn't until this week at a writer's support group did I learn that what I have been reading has a name. 

Just in case you are behind like I am, what is a "Cozy Mystery?" It is also referred to as "cozies." They are a sub-genre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community. Typically the heroine of the crime fiction is not a detective nor any type of a law authoritative figure, but often an owner of a bakery, bed and breakfast, cupcake shop, antique shop, flower shop... any shop owned by a woman and especially in a small intimate community. Many cozies will also come in series. 



Why am I reading "cozies" of all things? They are fun, mindless, and quick. They are also affordable to download on Kindle, especially through book clubs like BookBub and Bargain Booksey. They are sweet forms of entertainment during a time when the news is depressing. It's a nice way to escape. 

Hope you escape somewhere this weekend, if only inside a book. 






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