I’ve always told my girls that I am determined to never grow old; age is a number, old is an attitude.
Then, overnight, it seemed that reading anything clearly closer than an arm’s length away was difficult no matter how hard I strained to focus. This included my computer screen, the dinner menu, signature lines on credit receipts (not to mention the preprinted total), books, the back of DVD covers, and my cell phone screen.
A visit to the eye doctor this week confirmed my dreaded suspicion. It’s time for reading glasses.
I sulked for a couple of days, but decided I could deal.
A couple of days later I was shopping and asked a salesperson to point me in the direction of the “record” section – yes, like vinyl; remember 33 1/3 RPMs?
The request flowed forth like I had purchased a record just the day before instead of more than 20 years ago. Where did that come from?
She had no clue what I’d asked for so I quickly corrected myself with the word choice of “music” and she pointed me in the right direction.
I returned home from my shopping outing that evening, treated myself to a much-needed bubble bath and reflected on both of these life moments.
One had snuck up on me subtly, like watching grass grow – you don’t notice its slow, daily ascent from the earth until you wake up one day and it’s time to mow that sneaky grass. The other had been a surprise attack except it was friendly fire, a faulty neuron connection or something.
Aging isn't always fun and it had been a double-whammy-age-reminder in one week.
Regardless, I want to be one of those octogenarians (and beyond) for whom age isn’t an impediment to living life to the fullest. And some have even picked up their hobby late in life like Gordy Shields - I hope you’re still going strong Gordy.
As for me, I’m learning to play golf, want to learn to play tennis, I’ve dabbled in gardening, and I’m a self-taught candle maker. I need to use my gym membership more often, but hey, nobody’s perfect. I can still share clothes with my teenage daughters so I’m not complaining.
I am determined to enjoy life's journey, abide in each moment, and take scads of bubble baths along the way.
On my Indian-spice-buying-fling a few weeks back I picked up a bag of star anise; it was an impulse purchase since none of the recipes I had looked at called for this rather mysterious, star-shaped spice.
So I was pleasantly surprised to find an article in the January 2006 issue of Bon Appetit magazine devoted entirely to star anise.
One recipe in particular was calling out to me on this sunny, but nippy Saturday morning – Star-Anise Scones.
I’m delighted I answered the call.
The flavor combination of the freshly ground star anise and lemon peel was both warm and fresh, a perfect compliment to the chilly, bright morning.
Star anise and anise seed are unrelated although they share a common chemical compound that gives them a similar licorice-type flavor. Star anise is the product of a small evergreen tree in northeast China, anise seed is the product of the anise herb plant.
Reputed to have curative powers, star anise is used in some homeopathic treatments. There may be some truth to this as star anise is also the source of a primary ingredient in Tamiflu, a flu drug.
Some cooks are now choosing to use star anise as a substitute to anise seed.
Based on my first experience with the mellower, sweeter star anise I might prefer it to the harsher flavored anise seed as well.
Coupled with a good cup of coffee, it felt like it cured something for me this morning.
Star Anise Scones 2/3 cup (about) heavy whipping cream, divided 1 large egg 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon peel 2 ¼ cups cake four 3 ½ tablespoons sugar 1 tablespoon baking powder 2 teaspoons freshly ground star anise ½ teaspoon baking soda ½ teaspoon coarse kosher salt 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter ½ cup raisins
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream 2 tablespoons raw sugar
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk ½ cup cream, egg, and lemon peel in medium bowl. Whisk flour and next five ingredients in large bowl. Using pastry blender, cut butter into flour mixture until coarse meal forms. Add raisins and cream mixture. Stir until moist clumps form, adding more cream by tablespoonfuls if dough is dry. Turn out onto floured surface; knead just until dough comes together.
Pat dough into ½-inch thick round. Using a pizza wheel, cut dough into 8 scones. Transfer to baking sheet.
Brush tops of scones with 2 tablespoons cream; sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake until golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 16 minutes. Transfer to a rack; cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Sandra’s Kitchen Notes:
I used a pastry blender to cut the butter into the flour (and modified the directions accordingly). The original recipe called for grating the butter and then using your hands to mix the butter into the flour; that just seems like a lot of extra work for no good reason.
I used plain flour instead of the cake flour as called for, but sifted it first to give it the lighter texture of cake flour.
I cut the dough into the traditional scone shape using a pizza cutter. The original recipe called for a 2-inch round cutter.
I didn't use raisins, but I will next time. So if you're not a raisin fan, no worries.
I’ve recently returned from 13-day, two-city, 4000+ mile business trip (and finally free from the upper respiratory infection that accompanied it and followed me home.)
And, yes, I counted before I departed. Thirteen days equated to 39 mealtimes on the road most of which was scheduled to be hotel banquet food; quite the challenge for someone whose hobby is cooking and who’d rather cook-in than eat-out.
I was feeling reticent about my time on the road from the moment my travel plans were settled until I checked into the Mirage on my first stop, Las Vegas.
I can remember the days when the draw to Vegas was cheap (not good) food and free drinks.
Although you still get free drinks while you gamble (are they really free though if you lose your shirt on the casino floor?) the food is far from cheap.
But, as I discovered by taking a very necessary break from the conference-provided meals, the food is fantastic.
I had a full-flavored rib-eye at The Eiffel Tower Restaurant in the Paris Hotel; a melt-in-your-mouth filet mignon at Stack, and a delightful four-cheese eggplant rollatini at Onda.
Even the buffet-style food served during the conference was tasty and surprisingly interesting. One of my favorites was a Mediterranean-themed dinner buffet with a cumin-rubbed tenderloin served with a cumin-spiced mustard, grilled vegetables, and hummus to name a few of my favorites. Kudos to the Venetian on the conference food.
Orlando was my next stop. It was a letdown to check into Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside hotel which felt a bit like a cheap motel after a week at the Mirage.
And the food, well, let’s just say it’s lacking. To be fair, the conference was headquartered at the Swan and the Dolphin hotels located on Disneyworld property, but you won’t find Mickey-themed soap in your bathroom there as neither hotel is operated by Disney (go figure).
The one good meal I did have in Orlando was at Fulton’s Crab House in Downtown Disney. My Texas roots were showing that evening, however, when after looking over all the wonderful seafood choices I chose a sumptuous steak instead.
I did manage to get one homemade pasta dinner on the road compliments of family who live in Vegas.
Although I was pleasantly surprised with the discovery of great food in Vegas, my sentiments align with Dorothy. There’s no place like home and I’m happy to be back in my kitchen.
The Belo Mansion was rocking away to the powerful blues tunes from Dallas’ own Edwin Holt and his 12-piece Conspiracy Band at Dallas Mardi Gras (pictured left). The stage was packed for hours! He’s not in Dallas for long, though. In May he heads for the Gold Coast down under, headlining at the 2006 Broadbeach Blues Festival in Australia where thousands of blues fans gather on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
Visit the website for details: http://www.bluesonbroadbeach.com Visit Edwin’s website for details about him: http://www.edwinholt.com
Everyone was celebrating the spirit of Mardi Gras, wearing crowns, hats, wacky make up; boas and feathers were everywhere. Surrounding the band’s stage and huge dance floor were tables with seating for guests, gambling, tarot card reader, bartenders pouring champagne, wines and everything else.
This is the perfect event for parents to enjoy with their adult children, friends and couples to make a fun night of complete partying: food, dancing, great silent auction items and the people watching is its own party.
(Pictured here: Meg Munson with her dad, Ben Munson and sister, Merry Munson Wyatt, chairman.)
Who was there: The Munson family: Merry Munson Wyatt, chairman and her husband Brady; Meg Munson, Susie and Ben Munson (mom and dad. The Tabasco bar was named Ben’s Tabasco Bar, honoring his penchant for spicy foods).
Angela Choquette and Angela Jones, Underwriting Co-Chairs, along with Maggie Cooke and Hadley Hammonds,Silent Auction Co-Chairs and Sarah and Alan Losinger, Honorary Chairs with their son, John.
April Miller, the Dallasite who did not get the rose from the Bachelor in Paris, looking absolutely adorable with her friend, Paula Masters; Amy and Brent Carreker; Angela and Doug Nash; Don Hicks with Dr. and Mrs. J. L. La Manna; J.B. Hayes and Teffy Jacobs with her parents, Jack and Doris.
Patrons helped themselves at the well-stocked food stations. Menu: Jambalaya Station: Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya, White Rice, Southern Cornbread, Chicken & Baby Shrimp Sauces. Carving Station: Chef Cajun Blackened Beef Tenderloin , Mini Sliced French Baguettes , Zataran’s Mustard & Herbed Mayonnaise , Spicy Red Beans , Fried Okra. Dessert Station: White Chocolate Bread Pudding , Vanilla Sauce , Coffee and Tea.
Décor: Choreogrpahed by the lovely Meg Munson & committee. People probably expect to hear Todd Fiscus or the like as designer because decorations were absolutely fabulous: huge Mardi Gras masks, red draping everywhere, with gold, black and white accents, mirrors and the big hit, one of the girl’s trainers covered himself completely in gold make up and wore nothing but a gold leather sash around his waist. He was the “live statue” of the evening.
Top Auction Item: Vacation at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa and two roundtrip flights provided by American Airlines - $5,500.
Close Second: Vacation at Rosewood’s newest property – CordeValle in San Martin, California (also included two roundtrip flights provided by American Airlines) $4,800.
(Photo of Tracy Schnyder)
Final Stats: 392 in attendance.
The money raised the night of event (casino, raffle & auction) was $42,700 and combined with sponsorships and underwriting, the total NET donation to the American Red Cross: $164,950.
The event: Dallas Mardi Gras happens every year and is the largest, single fundraising event organized by the Dallas Chapter. Unless specifically earmarked for other uses, donations made to the American Red Cross – Dallas Area Chapter stay in the Dallas metropolitan area to benefit its citizens. Tickets for Mardi Gras begin at $125 per person. For more information on next year’s event, contact Audra Russell, Development Associate, Special Events at 214.678.4402 or email: