Never Forget

Never Forget 2009

Never Forget 2009

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”

— Rudy Guiliani quotes Laurence Binyon (English Poet)
in a NYC ceremony honoring the victims of 9/11

Every year since 9/11/2001, our community has sponsored a large flag display on the grounds of a local elementary school.   Each year, I go with my camera in hand, and it never fails to touch me in a deep way.  I took the photos above last year, and they are still some of my favorites with the sun shining through the flag.  It symbolizes “hope” to me, and hope is something I desperately needed in the fall of 2001.

9/11 touches me deeply, not just because of what happened on that fateful day in our nation, but what was happening to me and my family at that same time.  It was as if bad news was just piling on and would not quit.  Fear almost completely overtook me, and I could not see a way out.  It was, without a doubt, the hardest time I have endured in my lifetime, but it was also a huge life lesson for me in my walk with God.  Our lives changed during that time.  It was a very hard autumn season, though, and one I will never, ever forget.  The words of John 16:33 gave me so much comfort and reassurance during that time, too.

God bless the families and friends of those that perished on this fateful day in 2001.  You are in my thoughts and prayers today, as always on this day of remembrance.  As bad as our issues were at that time, I did not lose a loved one.  My heart truly goes out to you all.

As odd as it may sound, I think this commercial by Budweiser a few years ago kind of hits the nail on the head as far as my feelings about this day.  It was a commercial that was done solely to pay tribute to the 9/11 victims and their families.  No words… just the utmost respect… I cannot watch it without getting teary even still.


Update, September 14:  This is an incredible story that just came out, and I wanted to share it here, too.

Never forget.

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Supremes de Volaille a Blanc

“This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook — try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!”
Julia Child

Before the French title of this post scares you away, please let me just say that this is a great chicken recipe, and it is quite simple to prepare.  In fact, it is fabulous.  Really.  Please keep reading!

As a brief introduction, I visited the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in the Spring of 2009, including Julia Child’s kitchen that was moved there from her home in Massachusetts.  (This is just one of many great displays there, including the Star Spangled Banner.  That is just a “must see,” too!)

Julia Child’s Kitchen at the Smithsonian, 2009
Julia Child quote at the Smithsonian

Truth be told, though, I was afraid of this woman and her cooking.  I was afraid to even attempt any of her recipes.  I’m not exactly sure why, except that my mother never cooked any of her recipes either.  But after seeing this marvelous display at the Smithsonian, reading more about Julia and her cooking, and feeling that I might be missing something by not attempting to cook some recipes by such a beloved national icon, I finally decided to buy her first cookbook.  I am so glad that I did.  My goodness, I wish I had done it a long time ago.

This is now my favorite chicken recipe, compliments of Julia Child… “Supremes de Volaille a Blanc,” or “Breast of Chicken with Cream.”  (Yes, cream!)  The recipe is found in her classic cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and over this past year, the book has become a favorite of mine.  I selected the variation with mushrooms, the “Supremes de Volaille aux Champignons,” or “Chicken Breasts with Mushrooms and Cream,” and I also added a few tiny carrots as well, with those being just a personal preference.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking

I have prepared this recipe so often that my book pretty much opens to this page now on its’ own… page 268.  I no longer worry about splatters on the pages because it’s just too late for that.  I guess that is the sign of a good cookbook.

Julia Child’s “Supremes de Volaille a Blanc” or “Breast of Chicken with Cream”

What stands out for me in this recipe is the ease of preparation, the perfect moistness and tenderness of the chicken, and the unbelievable flavor of the sauce.  It is just a little piece of “heaven on earth!”

This recipe is among easiest main dish recipes I have ever cooked from scratch.  It is a classic, and I have not cooked it one single time over the past year that my family and friends have not just raved over it.  I think this is also the first recipe that Julia prepared on her cooking show in 1963, but I’m having trouble confirming that right now.

The selection of chicken breasts is very important, so be sure to look for large, good quality boneless and skinless breasts for best results.  I tried this recipe one time with smaller chicken breasts, and it just wasn’t as good.  So, please don’t skimp on the chicken.  I actually buy Tyson brand in the freezer section at our local Sam’s Club because they are consistently the best quality of any I have found in our area.  I also prefer a beaujolais wine for the sauce when I have it on hand, but that’s just me.  Julia states to thoroughly dry the chicken before proceeding with the rest of the steps, and paper towels will suffice for that task.  In fact, I now follow this step when cooking any meat now because I like the end result much better.  I also use a large enameled cast iron dutch oven when cooking this particular recipe, since it transfers from stove top to oven in the same dish.  The cast iron pot also works well for the sauce preparation.

Here is the final product!  Yes, that is two cups of cream in that sauce.  (I doubled the recipe because there would be a battle over the leftovers if I didn’t.)  I swear it is even better the next day, but who can wait that long to eat this amazing dish!

Supremes de Volialle A Blanc, variation with mushrooms and carrots (Mastering the Art of French Cooking)

One of the wonderful things about Mastering The Art of French Cooking is simply the way it is written.  A basic recipe is given and variations are then listed immediately afterward, without having to repeat the “core” recipe.  Such is the case with this recipe, too.  There are two more variations that I need to try, but so far, I keep coming back to this one.  I will try the others soon, though, especially the variation with paprika and onions.

I always serve Julia’s Braised Rice with this chicken dish, and that recipe can be found on page 532 of the cookbook.  In fact, I have not used my trusty rice cooker once since I discovered this extremely simple, one-skillet method of preparation.  The rice cooks in the same amount of time as the rice cooker, with only about five minutes of preparation before the cooking time, and it comes out perfectly for me every time in my large, non-stick skillet with a clear, tight-fitting lid.   The final product is a distinctly more flavorful rice with a more pleasing consistency.

The chicken recipe can be found in the cookbook, as well as by searching for it online, and I highly encourage you to add this cookbook to your collection, if you do not already have it. I think you will be glad you did.  I actually ordered my copy of Mastering The Art of French Cooking from Amazon and got a great price with free shipping when I added another item that I wanted or for free with an Amazon Prime membership.

Please make this wonderful dish for dinner sometime soon. You will be a hero… or heroine… or just plain loved for your efforts!  😉

“Learn from your mistakes, be fearless and have fun!” Julia gives good advice, doesn’t she?

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Labor Day Weekend

“Work isn’t to make money; you work to justify life.”
–Marc Chagall

A little birthday celebration…

a little wine tasting…

a walk down the monthly art trail…

a memorable drive around town…

a good college football game…

a couple of longtime friends visiting from out of town

= a great holiday weekend.

Hope yours was grand, too!

———-

Someone turned the big, bad 5-0.  Thankfully it wasn’t me. Been there, done that.

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Llano Estacado Winery… My heart sang when I tasted their Viviana… 😉

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The first stop on the First Friday Art Trail, the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center.

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Our favorite work of the evening… brilliantly beautiful!

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We ate cowboy peach cobbler and drank cowboy coffee…

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Dirk West’s original cartoon drawings brought back memories!  I miss his humor.

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The gallery area at McPherson Winery was packed with people and great displays!

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Many others were walking the art trail at sunset with us…

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Will Rogers and “Soapsuds,” all wrapped in traditional red for game day on Sunday!

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I just adore Fall.  But then again, it does start with “F.”  🙂  Have a fabulous Fall day today!

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Stormy Day!

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Storm Clouds

Specs: Canon Digital Rebel XTi, Aperture Priority f/5.0, ISO 800, Exposure 1/400, Focal Length 12mm (Tokina)

These were taken just prior to the second round of storms we had yesterday evening. The colors were just magnificent, and I used my Tokina wide angle lens (with hood) to capture as much of it as possible.

I am loving the rain, even though the first round yesterday evening was pretty intense with 70 mph plus winds and hail.  Our roads flash flooded, and I almost had to swim home from running my last errand.  But, I never gripe about rain in this part of the country.  Never.

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Fun

“People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.”
— Dale Carnegie

Isn’t that quote just so true?  I could write volumes on this, but I think Mr. Carnegie hit the nail on the head, especially as that thought pertains to the things in life that we normally don’t think of as “fun.”  I think it should also give us pause as to what we choose as professions, volunteer work, family time, etc.  Let’s be honest… not everything in life is fun, but perhaps this thought can help to change our attitudes toward our daily tasks.  That is a challenge I set for myself years ago, and it is a goal I still work toward today.

My “fun” topics will venture into some of the areas that I truly enjoy, in addition to the others that I have mentioned in previous posts.  Topics will vary, but no doubt, you can expect posts on music, movies, technology, books and travel at the very least.  I may even surprise you at times, too.  Stay tuned.

Fun is not just for the young.  Neither are iPods.  🙂

And speaking of iPods, Apple just announced their newly revamped Nanos and iPod Touches today.  Sigh.

Engadget’s Review of the new iPod Touch

Make today a fun day!

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Fotos

“Sometimes I get to places just when God’s ready for someone to click the shutter.”
— Ansel Adams

Please forgive me for using “Fotos” instead of “Photos.”  Thank you.  It worked with my “Five F’s,” and I thought it was cute.

Now that the apologies are out of the way, I want to introduce my favorite hobby… digital photography and photo editing!  Just typing those words makes me happy.

I confess that I am a newbie as of late 2007 to the non-point-and-shoot club.  Both my husband and I always wanted to delve into quality photography, and early in our marriage, we invested in a Pentax 35mm camera set.

Our first good camera, purchased in about 1985, I believe

Neither of us ever really got the hang of it, though, due to time and money constraints.  Experimenting with rolls and rolls of film and developing costs for that film just did not fit into our early marriage budget.  Ultimately, the camera made it’s way to the top of a closet, and that was it for our first attempt at photography.  From time to time, we continued to look at good digital SLR cameras, but we never bought one.  Something was starting to swell in me about pursuing photography, though, and I think my husband picked up that I was really serious this time.

Fast forward to Christmas Day, 2007.

I try to not put treasure in earthly things.  I really do.  But I must confess that when I opened my gift from my husband that Christmas that I was just blown away… really and truly.  With my family eagerly watching, I unwrapped my new Canon Digital Rebel XTi, (detailed info) the most current Canon DSLR at that time.  If I didn’t cry, I know that I wanted to very badly.  I never realized until I opened the box just how much I wanted to explore photography.  Now that I have experimented with it for almost three years, I think I know why.

I am a “visual” person.  If you want me to learn something new, you will do well to give it to me in writing and not tell me verbally because I am 1000 times more likely to pick it up that way. I am often mesmerized by the sight of something, and honestly, that can be almost anything…. a beautiful sunset, a hummingbird at the feeder, a homeless person on the street, a new baby right after he is born, or my big ol’ poodle taking a nap.  It’s like there is something that resonates inside and says, “This moment is special and needs to be preserved because it won’t come again.” This has been a part of who I am for as long as I can remember.  It is why I now take 150 pictures at my great-nephew’s birthday party.

Just look at those eyelashes and the Indiana Jones hat!

I truly believe that sometimes God is “nudging” me in what I see, so that I will wake up and take notice what he has laid before me to appreciate or notice that something needs to change.  My opening quote by Ansel Adams is my absolute favorite thought regarding photography in general, and I plan to talk more about by budding love “no color” photography at some point, too.

Part of my desire to take good pictures also stems from the experience of trying to preserve the photos of my parents… the only visual record of our family from those days.

My grandmother (right) and her sister (left) as young women, most likely taken around 1910. Her sister looks exactly like one of my cousins as a young woman.

Both my sister and I have worked on this project, and we still have more work to do.  Bless her heart, my sister sat at a scanner and literally scanned hundred of old paper photos.  I have worked to restore some of them digitally as best I can.  And we are still trying to figure out the best (and most affordable) way to preserve hundreds of slides.  But, the reward of having our oldest family pictures preserved in a better format is very rewarding indeed.  Someday, I believe that younger family members will appreciate having our quality pictures in digital format, already organized in an online database can also be searched with relative ease.  Perhaps not.  But, I will have one there for them, just in case.

The art of photography, for me, is moving the image and feeling (especially the feeling) that is so vivid in my mind to the digital image that others see, and doing it as accurately as possible.

Our big ol’ baby, now 13 years old on a “dog day afternoon”

I needed better equipment to accomplish this feat, including digital imaging software.  When I opened that camera on Christmas Day in 2007, I knew that was the first step to making a dream come true… helping others to see what I see and even understand a bit more about who I really am and what my values are.

While equipment is very important, there are techniques for good photography that can be applied to any camera, including my trusty little point-and-shoot and even my phone camera.  Even most of the basic point-and-shoot cameras today have untapped capabilities beyond what most people care to explore.  I still have a Nikon point-and-shoot camera in my purse at all times, so I’ll explore more on this topic here, too.

I have learned much, but I still have much, much more to learn.  It is all pure joy, too.  Grab your camera and come along for the journey!

Visually yours,

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Food

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
— J. R. R. Tolkien

Oh my, where do I start on the topic of  “Food?”   Well, perhaps a bit of honesty will suffice.

My mother set the bar very high in the cooking category. Her holiday meals are legendary in our family, and we are all quite sad that at age 89, she no longer opts to spend hours and hours in the kitchen preparing her famous meals. Oh sure, she will come to one of our houses and cook up a batch of fudge or two, but she now opts to let us attempt to carry on the tradition. To date, we have not even come close. But, we do try.

Until the last few years, I can honestly say that cooking was often a chore for me. Most of my first two decades of marriage were consumed with holding down jobs in my profession, raising kids, running the “mama taxi” and doing housework. More often than not, I worked more than eight hours per day at my jobs, especially my first job right out of college. My husband frequently traveled during the week on business and was unavailable to help. By the time I picked up kids from daycare, I was tired and hungry, kids were tired and hungry, and all I wanted to do was get us something to eat and enjoy some family time before hitting the evening “to do” list.

Needless to say, cooking was not on my radar as often as I would have liked, except for preparing some traditional holiday dishes for our family gatherings and some weekend meals at home.  I did, however, take advantage of my crock pot, and often used it at least once a week.  My husband sometimes volunteered to cook on a weekend, which was so nice for all of us.  Experimenting with new recipes was fun, especially ones that I had sampled from friends or fellow church members. (Oh my, covered dish meals at church… what a fond memory! How I miss them now.) I never disliked cooking. I just didn’t have much time to cook.

Fast forward to the beginning of my “empty nest” period that began a few years ago. Combine that with my mother selling her house and moving to a place that will do all of her cooking for her, and the result was a desire in me to cook more and try to fill the void of my mother’s home cooking. I appreciate great food in restaurants, but there is just something about the satisfaction and flavor of a good home cooked meal that just warms the heart.

One of my first cooking tasks was to gather and preserve our most treasured family recipes. I will talk more about that project later because it is one of the most satisfying things I have ever worked on. I will even share a picture or two of the finished product. All I can say is that I am so glad that I completed the recipe collection while my mother was still around to help clarify some of her handwritten recipes. If you are considering such a project, take that bit of advice to heart and don’t delay another minute.  Treasured family recipes should never be lost.

Food posts here will not be solely devoted to home cooking. We have dined at some wonderful restaurants, and many have been quite affordable. Others have been more memorable events that I will always treasure… in some fabulous places. Who could overlook those special times in any decent food discussion?

Shredded chicken tostadas at La Margarita, our favorite San Antonio restaurant

Stayed tuned and bring your appetite. More to come… especially calories.

Tastefully,

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