Fabulous Friday!

Maybe the best collection of dance scenes… ever!

I’ll just leave this right here… maybe the best collection of famous dancers in the history of movies.

Happy Friday! ūüėÄ

A Piano in Heaven

We’ve lost a true treasure.

The water has been flowing freely in Texas over the past few days from the rain clouds, but today, the water is coming from the tears of many fellow West Texans¬†over the loss of one of our true treasures, pianist and composer¬†Doug Smith, who died in his sleep this week.¬† (A complete list of Doug’s albums can be found at the end of the linked¬†article.)

My family¬†heard Doug play in person on several occasions, usually at church, and I also heard him in concert on another occasion, too.¬† I’m not sure if any music has ever moved me so much as Doug’s music did over the years, and I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, especially today.

The news of his death also hit me yesterday as I remembered what a fan my mother was of Doug and his music.  I remember taking her to buy some of his CDs at a local store here a few years ago and remember how thrilled she was to have them and listened to them so often.  People young and old alike loved Doug and his music, it seems.

As an avid lover of both music and photography, I found his artistic collaboration with Texas State Photographer, Wyman Meinzer, to be a truly rare work of art that I probably won’t see again in my lifetime, and I think it will go down as one of the best representations of my West Texas home that will ever be created.¬† Any visitor to our area can benefit from first watching this magnificent video to try to first understand the soul of the area and its people that these two gentlemen managed to capture so beautifully.

Often, when we go camping, we listen to Doug’s music.¬† It is such a perfect fit when out in our beautiful Texas State Parks.¬† Many scenes in the “West Texas” video are from those state parks that we visit so often, too.¬† Today, I broke down in tears watching¬†the video¬†again and knowing that half of the artistic duo that created it is now gone from us.¬† That speaks to the impact Doug and his music had on so many of us.

Please take a few minutes today or sometime soon to watch the two videos below.¬† One is the video I spoke of above, the famous “West Texas” video, and the other is an eight minute documentary by Doug himself following his tragic car wreck in 2007 that paralyzed him and took away his ability to play the piano… temporarily.¬† It is an epic story of overcoming adversity and is one that I think you will remember going forward, too.

You will see the West Texas video in its best quality by watching it in full screen mode.

Wyman Meinzer’s West Texas from Wyman Meinzer on Vimeo.

I’m going to listen to Doug’s music this week as I go about my daily chores, and I will pray for his family and all that loved him.¬† They are legion, and some of us feel that we’ve lost part of ourselves in his passing.¬† We mourn both the man and his music today.

Today, it gives me comfort to know that the hands that Doug said he missed a few years ago are once again restored and that there is a piano in Heaven that is once again singing the tunes of the soul of West Texas at the hands of a master with a true gift from God who learned to play the piano by ear.¬† And for all the many, many hours of enjoyment Doug’s music has brought to me, and will continue to do in years to come, I wanted to offer my own little tribute today in gratitude.

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Turkey Talk

I follow Food Network on Facebook, and last Friday, they posted something that gave me a bit of concern, especially for younger cooks or even older cooks who are just now looking into the possibility of cooking the big bird for the first time.¬† I know that feeling all too well.¬† I’ve been there myself, and I suspect many of you have been there, too.¬† I just hate to see anyone stress for no reason over something like this, so I would like to share some helpful information about a particular point they attempted to make on Friday.

In what I believe was an honest attempt to help those who are looking to cook a turkey for the first time, or perhaps cook a better turkey for the first time, someone at Food Network posted a “top ten” list of things *not* to do.¬† Here is a quote of the first item on their list.

Turkey Taboos: 10 things NOT to do this Thanksgiving

1. Use a frozen turkey

While I understand that the taste of a fresh turkey is very likely a fabulous thing, the vast majority of people around this country do not have access to purchase a fresh turkey.¬† And even if they do have a turkey farm nearby, the cost is often quite expensive, sometimes close to $100 for a fresh bird of any size!¬† So, for item #1 on this list of things to not do in preparing a turkey, I think this needs to be considered in the real world where most of us live and certainly not list it as a “taboo.”¬† Good grief! “smh”¬† By the many comments on their post that basically said the same thing I’ve shared, I’m in the majority of folks that disagree with their take on item #1, too.

There is absolutely nothing wrong or bad in preparing a turkey that was first frozen.¬† Let’s let one of Food Network’s own explain this little fact further.

One of Food Network’s most popular, long-time personalities and one of their best chefs, in my opinion, is Alton Brown and his long-running show is Good Eats.¬† I have always enjoyed watching his show over the years because he often shares the science behind his preparation method in an entertaining way.¬† I have also shared here on a couple of occasions that I only use Alton Brown’s turkey preparation recipe when cooking our bird for the holidays because it produces the best turkey I’ve ever eaten.

Alton is on record in the following video (from about five years ago) about fresh vs. frozen turkeys, and I hope that by sharing his video, perhaps a few cooks this year will not waste their time and money in search of a fresh turkey.  Hubby and I fell into that trap ourselves a few years ago, and we ended up just purchasing a frozen bird anyway.

Perhaps Food Network should have consulted with one of their most popular chefs before posting item #1 on their list?

And while we’re talking turkey today, here is another great video by Alton that is both entertaining and informative.¬† This is the exact process that I use to prepare our bird.¬† The turkey sits in the brine overnight prior to cooking the next morning, and we put the bucket either in our spare refrigerator or outside with a cover over it on our patio table, as our overnight temperature is often pretty much perfect for this process in late November and December.¬† If the temperature outside is warmer where you live, you might just keep it in your refrigerator overnight in a brining bag or keep it in a brining bag in a well iced cooler overnight.¬† As Alton mentions in the video, the salt concentration will also help to keep bacteria formation down during the brining process, so don’t skimp on the salt that is listed in the recipe.¬† This is one of his classic videos and a spoof on Mystery (Food) Science Theater.

Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman, also follows this same basic procedure, too.¬† I watched a rerun of one of her earlier Thanksgiving shows on Saturday morning to see how similar her turkey preparation is to Alton Brown’s method, although she basted her turkey every 30 minutes while cooking.¬† My experience with Alton’s recipe is that basting really is not necessary because the bird is so moist without it.¬† No sense making this harder than it needs to be.

Ree’s holiday cookbook is absolutely fabulous, and her Thanksgiving recipes in the book are worth the price of the whole book.¬† Best. Mashed. Potatoes. Ever!¬† I received my cookbook as a thank-you gift from a sweet friend last year, and while I cannot eat these types of foods day in and day out, these recipes are truly wonderful for all of the holidays listed in the book.

Pioneer Woman Holidays_sm

Brining is the key, even for a properly thawed frozen turkey.¬† You may also read elsewhere to not brine anything but a fresh turkey.¬† Feel free to just ignore those comments.¬† Just rinse the bird *very well* for several minutes after the brining process.¬† Ree rinses her turkey, then puts it in a separate bucket of cold water for 15 minutes to help rinse away as much of the salt as possible.¬† After rinsing, just pat the turkey very dry before putting it in the oven.¬† The result will be a great entr√©e that is very moist and flavorful, as long as Alton’s directions are followed according to the recipe at the link below.¬† Don’t forget the covered rest time of 15 minutes after baking, which is important.¬† Seriously, this is absolutely the best turkey we’ve ever had.

Alton Brown’s 5 Star Turkey Recipe

There is a good reason why this particular recipe remains one of the top recipes at Food Network’s site year after year.¬† ūüėČ

To see some of my previous detailed posts on preparing a Thanksgiving dinner, just check out the links below.¬† I’ve noticed that some folks have already been doing just that, and I hope my information is helpful to you!

 Best Thanksgiving Meal Ever
(very detailed prep by day)

Easy Thanksgiving Lunch

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Contribute A Verse

I am sad to hear of the passing of Robin Williams yesterday.  It is certainly a tragedy, and I will pray for his family left behind today.  Truly, we all were blessed by his talent onscreen for so many years.  While I loved his comedy roles so much, I may have actually enjoyed his serious moments on the big screen even more.

This scene in the movie, Dead Poet’s Society, is one of my favorite movie scenes.¬† The timeless words of Walt Whitman are just as timely today as they were when he wrote them over one hundred years ago.

Perhaps we just don’t read enough poetry today.¬† I’m off to find my copy of Leaves of Grass now.

O Me! O Life!

By Walt Whitman

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring‚ÄĒWhat good amid these, O me, O life?
                                       Answer.
That you are here‚ÄĒthat life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
Source: Leaves of Grass (1892)
_____________________

Post-publication addition:

Although I have mixed feelings about doing this, I would like to offer why I chose to share a quick thought on the passing of Robin Williams today, based on a comment that a stranger attempted to leave on this post today.  Perhaps I should have included this in my original post, too.

I certainly did not worship or idolize this man.¬† He was just a very talented actor, and he made me laugh more times than I can count.¬† His roles and dialogue sometimes caused me to think a bit.¬† His tortured life mirrored the lives of too many people close to me, especially his life-long struggle with depression and addictions.¬† After dealing quite directly with someone who suffered from a truly life-threatening addiction and another person who has attempted suicide twice, in addition to suffering from depression and addictions, I have a special sympathy for anyone who struggles in this way.¬† I’ve seen this horrible suffering up close, and I’ve felt significant negative effects in my own life, to be sure.¬† I remain assured of my own inability to make it go away in their respective lives, too.¬† I know that it was nothing short of a miracle that Robin managed to have such a successful career and life as he struggled simultaneously with this disease.¬† Seeking good professional help, he successfully overcame it for a very long time, too.¬† He even went overseas many, many times to entertain our troops, much like Bob Hope did in his time.

It truly breaks my heart when anyone with this disease loses their battle in such a heartbreaking way, and today, I wanted to just acknowledge one special moment in his career that particularly spoke to me.¬† Nothing more.¬† The thoughts of one particular commenter (who obviously knows nothing about me) that seemed to insinuate a “worship” relationship, when I simply desired to acknowledge the life (and tragic death) of a fellow human being, are beyond disappointing, if not insulting.¬† Grief for a fellow human being’s struggle and his loved ones now sadly left behind is a loving thing, so I will not publish such negative and judgmental comments here.¬† I have endured suicides of two family members, and I know how the family of Robin Williams feels right now.

So, to the person who attempted to leave such a negative comment here today, please know that I have chosen to not share your comment here for these reasons.  Hopefully you will be spared such torture in your own life and the lives of those you love.  Sometimes it is best to just keep those negative thoughts to yourself, although I know the temptation is just too much for some to pass up these days.

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What’s Old Is New

Dear fellow RVers, have you seen the new Winnebago Brave for 2015?

I am a big fan of retro RVs and trailers, and while we would still likely pass on this one for now, I think Winnebago may find huge success with it.  Some fellow RV friends told us about this new model while we were on our trip this past weekend to the mountains, and after Red chewed up the magazine page they gave us with all the information on it, I looked it up online and found this video.

What do you like and dislike about it?

I really like the layout of the cab, living room and kitchen areas, as it is very similar to what we presently have in our motor home but a little more functional, especially the sofa that converts several ways, even to a long table.  We also have the pull-down bed over the cab, just like they show in the video, although ours is not electric.

About the only thing I don’t like is the main bedroom configuration, but I think there is another model that has both a slide-out and a better bedroom arrangement, the 27B model.¬† If we happen to find one of these 27B models in good shape a few years down the road, I would definitely consider buying it, if we think we could live with a 26 foot RV instead of our 31 foot RV.¬† I would also prefer one of the other colors, not the Mellow Yellow.¬† The 27B model is so similar to our present configuration, and I think that is why I like it.¬† Having the shower separate from the rest of the bathroom has been so handy for us on so many occasions, especially when our son comes along on a trip.¬† I can see where this model is likely too small for those that travel more than we do or full-time in their RVs.

We are so happy with our present motor home, though, it may be hard to ever part with it, especially since it is completely paid in full and feels like our home away from home now.¬† It’s always fun to look, though!

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