Sunday, December 09, 2012

Sour Cream Drop Cookies

Today I made our family's traditional Christmas cookies - Sour Cream Drop Cookies

1 C heavy whipping cream
1 tsp baking soda (to be added to the cream to "sour" it)
1 C butter
2 tsp vanilla
2 C sugar
4 eggs
1/4 tsp salt
8 tsp baking powder
5 C flour

Mix heavy whipping cream and baking soda together in the cream carton. Cream together butter, sugar, and vanilla. Add heavy whipping cream/baking soda to this. Add the rest of the dry ingredients. 

Drop cookies by teaspoon onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. 

Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees. 

Once cooled, frost with powdered sugar frosting and sprinkle with colored sugar. 

This makes approximately 6 dozen cookies. 

Powdered Sugar Frosting:
4 C powdered sugar
1/4 C butter
1/4 to 1/2 C milk

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Daddy's Girl

I will unashamedly admit that I am a daddy's girl -- through and through. I have always adored my dad and I think the proof is that I quit my job and sold my home in Milwaukee in order to come home when he began having some rather serious health problems in 2005. I will also admit that living with anyone isn't always the easiest. We have our fair share of disagreements and some of his habits make me a bit bonkers. With that said, here's a bit of news: I can complain about my dad, but no one else (aside from my immediately family) better do it in my presence.

A year or so ago, my dad and I went to a local bar for burgers. While there, a couple of big mouths began talking shit about him due to a letter to the editor which had been written about my dad. "The only difference between John Johnson and BL is that BL has money." Obviously, these two men had no idea who my dad was since he was seated directly behind them. My dad found the entire situation funny and keep laughing. I did not. I began to fume. Finally, I said, "Excuse me, SIR, but John Johnson is sitting right behind you." The two men immediately shut up and we left shortly thereafter. I was steaming. My dad even wrote a letter to the editor and mentioned how his secretary didn't find the situation funny at all -- he refers to me as his secretary since I type all his correspondence.

Yesterday we had a primary election for the recall of our state senator, Dan Kapanke. I entered the poll and said hello to Craig, our village president - I love that guy. He said that I had just missed my dad. "He wasn't very happy about having to show a photo ID." This is a recently passed state law. When I showed him my ID, I said, "I look crabby in it." The village president laughed and said, "Well, you come by that honestly." I wasn't in the least offended because I know he appreciated my dad's advertisements on his behalf when he ran for village president. 

However, I did become irritated with the next poll worker who was in charge of getting signatures of the voters. Craig told Mrs. S my name and she said, "Are you related to John Johnson?" "Yes, he's my dad." With a roll of her eyes and a defeated look she said, "You're going straight to heaven." "Why? Did he give you grief about the photo ID thing?" "Yes. I know he does it for effect, but it makes this very difficult." Mind you, I don't know this woman. I've seen her around, but we are strangers. The fact that a stranger who doesn't know me OR my dad complained about my dad to me at the poll where she is supposed to be a professional pissed me off.

I then went to my aunt's house and told her about it. She said that the photo ID requirement to vote doesn't take effect until the FALL elections and she was going to take the newspaper article to the poll when she went to vote. So, Mrs. S at the Gays Mills polling place, my dad was right. The grief he gave you was deserved. 

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Nearly speechless...

For the complete effect, click on this link to hear "Dueling Banjos" from the soundtrack of "Deliverance." 

OK. So I've had a personal ad on Plenty of Fish intermittently for a while and I had corresponded with a farmer from Iowa via email for 6 weeks or so. We were going to meet a while ago, but I cancelled at the last minute, panicked that I would be rejected for my weight. We continued to email and he still wanted to meet, so today I met him. He has a 6 year old daughter and he's a farmer, so I thought it might be easier for me to meet him at his farm than to try to meet somewhere like a restaurant. I should have met him at a restaurant...

I pulled into the long driveway and thought the farm looked neat enough. Well, it looked good from far, but far from good... He lives in an old farm house, which isn't a problem. However, by the look of the front porch he has no idea what cleaning is or what a dump is. As I got closer to the house, I could hear that his daughter was watching TV. I knocked on the door and she answered it. She was a beautiful little girl, but she was covered in mosquito bites and wearing dirty clothes. She was an affectionate little thing and gave me a hug. I think it's rather unusual for a child to smell of body odor at age 6, but she did. I had brought along some popsicles since it was 90 degrees, so she was very excited to have a purple one. Her dad then came to the door and said she could have a popsicle.

When I stepped into the living room, I was amazed at the filth -- and you people know I'm not a cleaner so it was BAD. There was a dog food bowl in front of the TV and there was food scattered all around. The only chair in the living room that could be sat on was occupied by the little girl, who was immediately glued to the TV as soon as she got her popsicle. All the other furniture was covered in boxes and garbage bags, leaving no room for a butt. The floor, the walls, the ceiling, the windows, etc., were all covered in a grime that had to be at least 10 years in the making. Frankly, this was absolutely the most filthy home I had ever been in. 

It was so filthy that it took me a few minutes to register how bleedin' hot it was in there. Most people will at least have fans running if they don't have air conditioning, but not this guy. From what I could tell, there was only one window open in the entire first floor and it was NINETY-F*&#ING DEGREES OUTSIDE! As the sweat began to roll off me, I thought, "I straightened my hair for THIS?!? Thank God I didn't bother putting on foundation. It would just be soaking into my shirt collar at this point..." 

I honestly don't recall where he disappeared to, but I suggested to his daughter what we go outside and I'd push her in the swing. She had a tire swing in a tree and we had a nice time in the shade until the tire swing came crashing to the ground with the little girl landing flat on her back. She wasn't hurt at all, but I felt pretty bad about it. The next thing the fellow wanted to do was to drive to the pole shed in his truck that had no AC, either. The girl decided to go back in the house and watch more TV rather than ride to the pole shed. I wish I had been given that option. 

My date proceeded to unload some items from the back of the truck and we chatted a bit. He was pleasant enough, but COME ON! I'm literally melting in front of the guy and he just keeps on flopping things out of the truck. Apparently, he needed to unload the truck in order to strap his grill into it so that we could go down to the pond to have a picnic. Great. Grilling out in the heat. Super.

We went back to the house and his daughter climbed in the back seat of the truck so he could give me a tour of the farm. I'm sure you're thinking what I was thinking, "At least there will be a breeze when we drive along." Ha. We toured 3 MILES OF FIELDS AT 5 MILES PER HOUR. Not a lot of breeze comes through the windows at 5 miles per hour people. The sweat-fest continued. 

The next thing that happened was he stopped the truck and said, "Do you know what that hole is for?" I thought, "Yep. That's where you're going to dump my body after you hack me up and put me in a garbage bag." However, I was wrong. It was a place where he dumps "mineral" for the deer. As we bounced and lumbered along in the truck, we stopped at a total of 5 of these "mineral holes." Throughout the drive he pointed out food plots he had planted for the deer over the past 8 years. OK, gang, I didn't have a clue nor was I even remotely interested. All I could think about was how flippin' hot it was.

After the very long grand tour, we returned to the house to load up for a picnic at the pond. He had told me to bring along a swim suit and I declined. "Ah. No. I will not be swimming on the first date." The man putzed around, gathering the grill, creating a strap to anchor the grill in the back of the truck, packing a dirty cooler with items, putting a cast iron skillet that was coated with grease in a plastic bag, etc. He went to grab a gas can full of diesel in order to light the charcoal, then thought better of it and said, "I have lighter fluid. Let's go all out!" 

He asked if I needed to use the bathroom, and told me to go through the kitchen, through the mud room, and to the right. As I got to the mud room he said, "Don't mind that pile of dirt. I was cleaning the place up, but you got here about 10 minutes too early." He was referring to a pile of dirt he swept from the floor which was about the size of a large cow pie. I stepped over it and entered the bathroom. Ugh. More filth and it smelled of mildew. I did a hover pee and reached for the toilet paper which was damp since the bathroom obviously had no working exhaust fan and no windows. I went to wash my hands and discovered there was no soap. Was I surprised? Not at all. Admittedly, my skin crawled a bit at this point.

Once the truck was packed, we headed to the "big, pretty pond." Along the way, we stopped at his garden. He asked, "Do you like turnips?" "I'm afraid not." He then got out and pulled 8 turnips from the garden for supper, telling me he had brought a peeler and would peel them at the pond. Yes, folks, pond water (not a spring-fed pond, either) to clean the vegetables. I was cringing.

We reached the pond after gathering turnips, and I have to admit that It was a nice enough pond. The girl asked me if I were going to swim and I told her I didn't have a swim suit. "You can go in your birthday suit!" she chimed. I laughed and declined. My date decided he was going to swim and he went in his jean shorts. I shouldn't have been afraid of exposing my "pow" since he obviously wasn't. Anyway, the two of them swam for about 20 minutes while I was swarmed by gnats. It was going on 6:30 (I arrived at 3:15) and he decided that it was too buggy to picnic at the pond so we returned to his house. 

His daughter went back to what appears to be her usual spot -- in front of the TV -- and he lit the charcoal. He then went into the house to cook the turnips and said I could come in if I liked. I was sweating so badly that I started using my t-shirt to mop my face and neck. I entered the kitchen and sat down at a booth-like seat around the kitchen table. I went forward to lean my elbow on the table and almost toppled the thing to the floor. After that, I thought, "To hell with this. I'm a sweaty mess, my car is air conditioned, and I'm going home."

I told him I was miserable and that I was going home. I apologized for leaving before supper, but I simply couldn't hack the heat any more. He was very understanding and walked me to my car. I practically sprinted into it, called out, "Thanks for the invitation," and cranked the AC. 

People frequently accuse me of being too picky in regard to men, but I toughed out 4 hours thinking, "OK. It'll get better." It never did. If that makes me "too picky," so be it. I can live with being terminally single as long as I can have air conditioning.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Ireland 27 June 2011 - My Last Day

Let's get this right out in the open: cities exhaust me. Right now it is 10:16 PM at my B&B on the northern side of Dublin and cars and buses continue to whiz by. It is still light out and I can see the occasional jogger/walker making tracks. Thankfully, I wear earplugs to sleep (a lesson learned when I took my first trip to Ireland and had a stranger roommate who cleared her throat all night long), so the street noises don't phase me a bit at night. However, while I'm awake, I feel mentally zapped the whole time due to over-stimulation. Anyway, on to what I did and saw today.

I talked with the owner of the B&B at breakfast and bought a ticket for the Hop On Hop Off bus tour from him. He said I could jump on any bus on this side of the street and I'd be taken to the city center -- all buses run to the city center in Dublin. So, that's what I did. I climbed on around 8:45 and was in the city center by 9:15 at a cost of 1.65 euro. Once I saw the Millennium Spire on O'Connell Street, I knew exactly where I was and made my way to the HOHO (ha!) bus stop. I prefer the English only buses because the bus drivers do all the narration rather than listening to a recording. I chatted with the driver a bit about which church to see: Christ Church or St. Patrick's Cathedral. I could have done both, but I get a bit tired of churches. I decided on St. Patrick's and hopped off there despite seeing bus loads of tourists doing the same. Yes, I may be a tourist, but I certainly hope I'm not an obnoxious lemming like the ones I've seen wander into traffic previously.

St. Patrick's is LOADED with crypts and various monuments, sculptures, and the like. Jonathan Swift and his lady friend Stella are buried there. I learned that Swift was "stark raving bonkers" and never married or had children for fear of passing on his insanity to his children. He had two lady friends (20 years his junior) at the same time named Hester and Ester, but he called them Vanessa and Stella. When he died he was quite wealthy and said he wanted all of his money to go toward building a home for the insane inside the Dublin walls where the insane could screech for hours without being disturbed. Huh. I did not know that.

After St. Patrick's, I went to Kilmainham Gaol where the patriots of the Irish revolution in 1916 were jailed. If you've seen "Michael Collins" with Liam Neeson, you've seen parts of Kilmainham Gaol. U2 did a video for their song "Celebration" and it was filmed in Kilmainham. If you can bear with the 1980s hair and clothing during the video, you'll see much of Kilmainham

Honestly, I loved the tour of the gaol. I found it entirely moving to stand in the courtyard where the patriots for Irish independence from Britain were executed. The stories of the executions of two of the prisoners brought tears to my eyes. 

Tom Clarke was one of the key minds behind the 1916 Easter Rising. He had spent something like 15 years of his life in jails for his involvement in the movement for Irish independence from Britain. He was 59 years old when he was sentenced to execution. He declined a blindfold in order to stare down the young men who were part of the firing squad. Apparently, his grandfatherly appearance and his unyielding stare had the firing squad so upset that their rifles shook when they took aim. Because of this, his execution was botched, and an officer had to deliver a single shot to his head in order to finish him off.  

James Connolly was born in Scotland to Irish parents and fought for Irish independence. During the Easter Rising he had been gravely injured and developed gangrene. Despite the fact that the man would die within hours, he was loaded in an ambulance and taken to Kilmainham. He was so weak that he couldn't walked to the area where the rest of the Irish leaders for the Easter Rising were executed. The guards placed him in a chair at the opposite end of the courtyard, but he was so weak that he fell from the chair. Ultimately, the guards tied James Connolly to the chair to execute the obviously dying man. Connolly was the last man executed for the 1916 Easter Rising. The pointless execution of a clearly dying man so upset the British people and America that the executions were stopped by the British government.

Following Kilmainham, I returned to O'Connell Street for lunch and possible shopping. While looking for a place to eat, I saw a man doing sidewalk art with chalk and noted a bunch of rather strung out drug addicts in the area. One fellow was obviously stoned and another was obviously jonesing. When I mentioned this to Cerri, she said the reason was that there were several methadone clinics located on or near O'Connell Street. As she said, O'Connell Street is one of the most important streets in all of Dublin due to the involvement in the 1916 Easter Uprising, and it is very upsetting to think city planners thought it appropriate to put methadone clinics right there. 

After catching the wrong bus back to Upper Dromcondra where the B&B was, I had to wait quite some time for the correct bus. And then I missed the stop and had to walk about a mile -- uphill and backwards -- to get to Tinode House B&B. Ugh. Once I returned, I crashed for a couple of hours. I suppose if I were a younger person, I'd be back in the city hanging around Temple Bar, but I'm NOT a younger person and the idea of figuring out how to get there and back when on my own is not even remotely appealing. Instead, I have packed my bags for departure and feel very prepared to get on a flight home.

Yes, folks, I am ready to go home after 2 weeks in Ireland alone. I actually miss my dad (don't tell him that!) and I can't wait to see Oscar Moose Noodle. Of course it will be a long journey home, but I am actually excited to get my arse home. To quote Dorothy, "There's no place like home!"

Ireland 26 June 2011

Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! My GPS decided to CRASH Sunday morning while I was enroute to the Rock of Cashel. I didn't have a map and I was pretty upset by this since the bleedin' thing is only a couple of months old. Garmin mother-f*&kin'-piece of shite! I bought a map and managed to find the Rock of Cashel without any issue.

The Rock of Cashel is fantastic. Cerri told me that if I liked Muckross Abbey, I'd undoubtedly like the Rock. She was absolutely right. The Rock is a series of stone buildings which were used as a stronghold initially, but when a local king left paganism for Christianity, he gave the church the stronghold which was then turned into an abbey. The majority of the property is a ruin, but there was an effort to rebuild the choir deal several years ago. The same techniques were used to build it, but it is pretty obviously not original to the grounds. I wandered about the Rock for a bit and then followed a tour for an hour. It was pretty interesting stuff and I enjoyed myself quite a bit.

High cross was struck by lightning.
These are the various pieces of the high cross.

I love this photo.

Carved heads on archway.

Close up of archway carved heads.

After the Rock, I was supposed to stay in a B&B in Cashel, but the place was extremely remote. I drove past and opted not to stay there. Instead I tried to go to Kildare, but there was a derby which had the town sold out. I called the B&B where I was going to stay Monday to see if they had anything available and they did, so I drove on to Dublin. Argh. No GPS made finding the B&B a real bitch. I was quite close to it, but had to ask twice for directions. No one goes by street names here... "Go back to the light. Turn right. At the 'big' roundabout, take the forced [which sounded like first] left and it will be on the left..." Bloody hell! I finally arrived at the B&B around 7 PM and I was all done in. The B&B owner is pleasant enough, but he obviously thinks I'm an idiot since it took me so long to get here. Sigh.

The B&B is on a very busy street called Drumcondra. There are a million buses which zoom up and down it, so I will take one to the city center today to wander about today. I'd like to see Kilmainham Gaol and Christ Church Cathedral. Perhaps I will do the Hop On Hop Off bus tour again (3rd time's the charm) in order to get to Kilmainham Gaol. Actually, there are a ton of places to hop off to see the sites in Dublin. 

Honestly, I am citied out. I know I could get used to crazy traffic and constantly running people easily enough, but I don't know that I want to. As far as cities go in Ireland, I prefer Cork over Dublin, Belfast, or Derry. It is smaller and less busy. If I were to work in Cork, however, I'd have to live outside the city in order to not lose my mind. Bleah. I much prefer the slower pace of small towns like Baltimore, Adare, and the like. 

My apologies for this being so brief, but I hope you can at least enjoy the photos of the Rock of Cashel.

Ireland 25 June 2011

Saturday, the 25th, was a very relaxed day. I actually slept till 7 AM and leisured my way into driving to Skibbereen to meet Cerri at a market where she sells her painted stones and blackboards. Due to the rain, it wasn't a very busy day for stone sales. Her booth was set up next to a fellow named Martin who was selling painted glass that his other half made. He was extremely pleasant and we chatted a bit when Cerri would go in search of something or other. I had plenty of time to wander the market myself and I was dazzled by all the fresh food for sale. After wandering the market, I wandered the streets of Skibbereen and window shopped. We all know I'm not into shopping! Anyway, I decided around 1 PM that I'd had enough and returned to my B&B in Baltimore. 

I decided to go down to the strand immediately in front of Wilmie's (the hostess of the B&B) and take a few photos. A neighbor's old yellow lab came down to get some attention, so he and I wandered from bench to bench along the strand, It was quite a lazy afternoon.

I went to John and Cerri's house for supper that evening. Cerri and I split 2 bottles of wine and the three of us yammered away. At one point I made mention of a woman who had been at the farmers market earlier. Cerri explained to John that the woman (Shirley) was obviously bipolar and having a bad day. "Shirley just goes on and on. There's no stopping her." John said, "Oh. So there are two of you." The two of them banter back and forth like this nonstop. At one point Jasper the dog began snoring in his bed. John said, "He sounds just like you, pet." Cerri grumbled, "What are you talking about? You're stone deaf." John said, "Yeah, and it's your snoring that made me deaf." They are a delight to hang around. Common phrases between the two of them include: oh for fuck's sake!; Lovey, will you...; Pet; etc. I told them I wished I could leave a little camera in the corner of their kitchen so I could watch them banter from the states.

Our supper was gorgeous. John had boiled some prawns earlier in the day and Cerri made egg salad, potato salad, and a green salad. She had cold chicken breasts, salami, and brie. It was fantastic.

After supper, Cerri and I went to the neighbors' place across the road: Mick and Sally. They are English but they've lived in Ireland for decades. Mick was a butcher and Sally stayed home with their kids. One son has emigrated and Mick and Sally recently visited him in Australia. The other son lives in Dublin and works for Aer Lingus. Sally is quite the ball of fire and reminds me a bit of a few people from home. Sadly, Mick and Sally both smoke in their home, so it smelled just like Grandma Hillman's house in Gays Mills. 

I learned quite a bit about Ireland by listening to them talk. No one pays taxes on their primary home, but that is going to be coming to an end in the near future, which has them quite upset. Water is free with the exception of if the land is used for commercial purposes. John's parents had a small dairy at one point, but it hasn't operated as such in over 20 years. However, it would take a small miracle for them to get the property removed from the commercial list because, "It has the POTENTIAL to be used for commercial purposes." There seems to be no way to litigate it, either, since the magistrates tend to be owners in the water company. Everyone pays into a system like our social security, but you are only able to draw unemployment if you were employed by someone else. Cerri, who had been self-employed for years, lost her business in 2007. She has been ineligible for unemployment despite paying into the system for years while self-employed because she worked for herself. "It's just very Irish," is a common phrase when it comes to dealing with the government. Honestly, that turned me off a bit about the country. The idea that there is no way to fight the government or the various corporations that influence your daily life is amazing to me.

At a bit after midnight, I said my goodbyes to all and headed back to my B&B. I was said to think that I'd be leaving my friends early in the morning, but I was starting to feel ready to return home, which has NEVER happened on previous trips to Ireland.