Denae's Get Well Quick Stew

Monday, 27 September 2010
Here's what I'm trying --

8 small garlic cloves, smashed then chopped (hoping this will help my sore throat, closed sinuses)
1/4 of an onion, chopped
4 T extra virgin olive oil
2 c chicken or veggie stock
1 (15 oz) can Great Northern Beans
2 T fresh garlic chives
2 t fresh lemon thyme
3/4 c water
fresh cracked pepper

Saute (over medium heat) chopped onions and garlic in olive oil in stock pot. Add a splash of water to prevent garlic from burning approx 15 minutes.

Strain and rinse beans. Add beans to pot.

Add broth. (Note: I used cubes with boiling water so the chicken stock is hot when I add it.)

Add fresh, chopped herbs. Add pepper (approx 5 turns of the mill).

Simmer for 20 minutes.

Serve with corn bread and go back to bed. :)

Me and 95,000 Fans

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Neyland Stadium is a beast to be reckoned with. It holds 102,000+ screaming University of Tennessee fans. The last college ball venue I visited was in Eugene, Oregon. The University of Oregon stadium holds 54,000 people. You can imagine how overwhelming it is to surround yourself with a huge blob of orange.

I never win anything but when my place of business hosted a ticket drawing, I put my name in the hat. I won one set of tickets! Even though I had to work Saturday, I made it for the second half of the game and wow - it was a nail bitter. 

My friend Dave won the other set of tickets and invited our web producer, Angie. The seats were amazing and we screamed our heads off, trying to encourage the Vols' defense to play harder. 

The University of Alabama-Birmingham kicker did not have a good day on the field. He missed 5 field goals (why didn't the coach put in the 2nd string kicker!?). 

UT's quarterback (in my opinion) couldn't scramble, wouldn't run for it through a hole, and led the passes too far out. I later found out he's a junior but recently transfered from a junior college and is inexperienced. He looked like it.

We were tied with UAB (not a SEC conference team) at 23-23 going into the first overtime. In the second overtime, we got a TD and won the game!

I haven't been in Neyland since 2003 and it was so fun to root for the Vols. Here's hoping for a better week next week at LSU.

Oh, I also need to get some UT paraphernalia to wear to the games. I only had an orange-ish dress that works for summer. 

Clearing Out

Friday, 24 September 2010
I tried to find a "before" picture but this at least shows some of the work I accomplished in the yard yesterday and today.

The below photo shows the "after" following about 5 hours of work cleaning out the back of my property beyond the "yard." I cut down two trees about 5 inches in diameter using a hand saw.

To some, that may seem like a small feat but it was hard work. I also transported everything to the brush pile by dragging it down the street behind me. I used the weed eater to cut down all the weeds in the "creek" bed and trimmed back other large tree/weeds that were hiding the natural clearing. Now... what to do with the extra space!? I'm going to keep clearing and maybe just maybe the area will be a good home for chickens.

Bonappetit Magazine Quiz

Wednesday, 22 September 2010
Please share your answers as well. I read this quiz answered by Alicia Keys in Bonappetit and thought it would be fun to share my thoughts.

What do you eat when you're on tour or traveling?  When I'm traveling, I always try the favored local dish. If I'm in the US - I like white wine and a salad with veggies and couscous

Of all the places you've traveled, where is your favorite place to eat? Portugal. Traditional restaurants serve each fresh seafood meal with personal portions of chopped onions, garlic, capers and cream.

What would people be surprised to find in your kitchen? My fridge remains mostly empty. My latest house sitter (went to Puetro Vallarta for a week) was shocked. She said, "Don't you eat?" My pantry keeps most of my canned goods which I cook with produce from the garden and herbs.

What's your favorite restaurant, and what do you order there? In Knoxville right now, I love Nama Sushi. The Soyjoy roll is my favorite.

Are there foods that always remind you of home? I remember fondly from my childhood, my grandmother and mother made the best fried chicken and deviled eggs - especially for Easter dinner with ham.

What do you make at home? Pasta dishes containing homemade tomato sauce with garlic and tomatoes from the garden. The trick to making a fabulous sauce is removing the skins from the tomatoes. Do so by plunging tomatoes first in boiling water for 45 seconds then in ice water. The skins come right off.

What are your comfort foods? Salsa and tortilla chips, chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream

What's the most unusual thing you've ever eaten? Kingsley took me to a fabulous restaurant in Sheen near Putney and we tried crocodile and kangaroo meat. I really enjoy Ostrich biltong which is a South African form of cured meat. I've also tried raw kudu meat (game from South Africa) served as a type of appetizer. Amazing.

Sushi Night at Nama

The seasons are changing and it is getting darker, earlier in Knoxville. I met up with friends on Monday to celebrate Nama's 1/2 price rolls special and I couldn't resist taking a shot of the JFG building with the sun setting. Nice lighting and you can see our tiny shadows on the bottom of the picture.

Bob, Dave and I went to the Crown and Goose for one drink out in the beer garden. The evenings are in the mid 70s and we enjoyed sitting outside and catching up. The three of us work together but in different departments so we don't always get to discuss anything besides work.

We then joined Ace at Nama on Gay Street. While the lighting was still interesting, I snapped a shot of the northern part of Gay Street - newly opened. The city did a great renovation project and the revitalization is appealing.

We shared a bottle of Italian white wine and ordered 6 different rolls. The picture shows the JG roll and the Makimoto roll. I think sushi could certainly double as works of art with the variety of colors, textures and shapes.

My favorite is the Soyjoy roll. Be sure to take advantage of the call-ahead seating on Monday nights at Nama. The downtown location (which is my favorite) is small and can get very crowded. We had a nice time catching up (Ace used to work at Channel 6) over good food and wine.

For Fun

Sunday, 19 September 2010
I've been reading Skirt a paper/magazine that comes out every week in many states with personalized content.

The ads center around shopping, spending and plastic surgery but the content is interesting and there are some feminist-oriented articles that are somewhat inspirational.

One feature I particularly enjoy is the question and answer with celebrities. I found myself answering the questions and I thought I'd share on the premise that you'll comment with a few answers too.

My passion right now:  Reading non-fiction about how to keep urban chickens and produce fall crops.

3 Items on my nightstand:  Man of Constant Sorrow, memoir by Dr. Ralph Stanley (bluegrass artist), thrift store reading lamp, Eucerin deep moisture cream

I can't live without:  Social media

Red, white or beer?  Microbrews

My favorite feminist:  Ellen Degeneres, who is not only a feminist but outwardly gay in a somewhat intolerant culture as well as an intelligent, compassionate entertainer. My favorite historical feminist is Kate Chopin for her novel "The Awakening" which was shocking to many because (gasp!) the main character, a young woman, is passionate about intelligence, art and intimacy.  

Walker, runner or couch potato: Couch potato who gets up in the Spring, Summer and Fall to garden, weed flower beds, harvest herbs and plant flowers.

One thing people don't know about me:  I love to write poetry but am too shy to share it with anyone but my husband.

The worst idea I've ever had:  Starting my own freelance production business in the U.K.

Food I could eat every day:  Fat free popcorn

I still can't get the hang of:  How to set up my wireless router (drat!)

Early bird or night owl?  I really hate to rise before dawn

Never... Accept intolerance

The Ability to Read

Thursday, 16 September 2010
How often do you read? We read and take the ability for granted. Street signs, job applications, recipes... Imagine if you couldn't even watch a movie with subtitles. And how do you tell people? It's pretty embarrassing.

There's a group in Knoxville called Friends of Literacy and I joined the board this year after being nominated by a friend. This was a great match-up because as you know if you are a long-time reader, I've been trying to commit my extra time to a program I'm passionate about. 

Last night, I went to a GED class in Fountain City. It is free, paid for by a local church but there are at least 4 other sites in Knoxville where adults can take GED classes for free. They don't have to pay for books, classroom materials or teachers. The teachers and tutors volunteer their time and Friends of Literacy raises the money and organizes the program.

Students work as fast and as hard as they can in order to test and earn their GED. Tutors guide them in the process, teach them skills they may not know and even help them learn how to read by starting with the alphabet if needed.

It costs $45 for an adult to take the GED (the testing sites are run by county government). With a GED, adults can get a job and can make more money to feed their families. Without it, the circle of poverty continues. If you'd like to get involved with a great organization, we need tutors and money for the tests and supplies.  

Why would you help? How about this - the student who won the essay contest last year essentially said since learning to read, she doesn't have to sleep with her shoes on. Now she is in a better place and doesn't fear for her life constantly. Reading = safety, knowledge, opportunity and hope.

Our special fundraiser, Writer's Hall of Fame is next week, September 23. You can still buy a ticket ($100) and sit by me! 

Snorkeling at Los Arcos

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Here comes our boat! We decided to hire a guide to take us to Los Arcos (two large rocks visible from our villa) because we heard the area is lovely for snorkeling.

We noticed an abundance of wildlife during the tour. Pelicans, egrets, ibis and various other seabirds call the rocky island off the coast home.  Dad, Dannen, Kingsley and I all swam with the wildlife but since Mom didn't want to get in, our guide threw in a tiny bit of bread so the fish would come to the top. The vibrant colors were amazing.

Kingsley and I snorkeled together in Cancun and loved every minute of it. This was also an amazing tour because even though the Pacific is not as clear, our guide dove down and brought treasures up for us to examine such as coral, star fish and other sea life.

Dad, Kings and Dannen were such brave swimmers that they abandoned their life jackets for a moment and dove down where they said the water was a bit clearer. I just enjoyed floating on the surface and feeling the warmth of the sun.

El Eden Waterfall

Thursday, 9 September 2010

We enjoyed an exploratory day in the jungle and found El Eden Waterfall. Cesar (house manager) suggested we go there and also check out the Predator movie set. We had to drive on a dirt road for at least 20 minutes to get to the location. It was bumpy but worth it.

Remember the scene in Predator when the helicopter burns? It was filmed outside of Puerto Vallarta. They left the set there.

We went across a rickety bridge and mom snapped a shot of me and the boys. She was just fine to stand on the other side (a few planks were missing).

Here's the video I took going back over the bridge:

La Comedia

Wednesday, 8 September 2010
We tried something slightly different this vacation. Rather than going out to dinner every night, we decided to hire a chef to prepare a couple of meals. Laura is a lovely woman who is skilled at doing a variety of dishes (she is also helping me practice my Spanish), but last night's traditional Mexican meal was to die for.

We started with shrimp cerviche (boiled shrimp, onion, tomato, jalepeno, garlic, oil and cilantro).

For dinner, Laura prepared chicken enchiladas, chiles rellenos, beef enchiladas and sweet/spicy Mexican rice.  The house manager, Cesar makes a wonderful margarita which compliments nicely.

For breakfast, we usually have fresh fruit including mango and papaya, French toast, omelets with peppers and onions and freshly squeezed orange juice.

We were also able to get fresh shrimp at a local market caught just 3 hours from where we're staying. Laura did a great dish of grilled shrimp with caramelized garlic and fresh veggies.

Okay, can you tell I REALLY like to eat?

It's nice for me and Kings to be together again (at last!) and we're enjoying the time with the extended family as well.

El Tigre Golf Resort

Tuesday, 7 September 2010
We dropped the boys off at the El Tigre golf resort and there was literally a baby tiger in the pro shop. My mom and I thought Kingsley was trying to play a joke on us. He said, "There's a baby tiger inside." Whatever. "There really is. Take a look." So we did...

Sure enough. They have a baby tiger sleeping on the bottom shelf. I asked the woman out of disbelief, "Is that real?" She showed me the scratches on her arm and said, "Es verdad." (It's true.)  We couldn't get enough of it. Once the little thing opened its eyes, yawned and rolled around. They apparently keep 2 tigers on the grounds.

Before leaving the boys for the afternoon, I snapped a shot of Kingsley and Dannen.

Mom and I stopped by a florist in Puerto Vallarta and purchased this lovely arrangement of tropical flowers. The bouquet contains Rosa Porcelana and Hielo Verde (Green Ice).

Mom and I then sat out on the patio checking the view and reading our books. I finished Speaking With the Angel, edited by Nick Hornby with short stories from Colin Firth, Zadie Smith, Melissa Bank and others.

Family Vacation

Monday, 6 September 2010

We're together in paradise. Today we took a side trip to Mismaloya and checked out where The Night of the Iguana was filmed in 1964 starring Richard Burton, Ava Gardner and Deborah Kerr. We actually sat in the restaurant on the site where part of the movie was shot. Here's the trailer:

Kingsley and I are very happy to see each other and have been celebrating our reunion. He hasn't seen mom, dad and Dannen since the wedding and we are all having a lovely time together.

The villa my mother rented for all of us is right on the Pacific Ocean and we have a view of Los Arcos, two large boulders in the sea which long ago broke from the main land. We look out over the landmark from our infinity pool which is constructed to appear to simply be melting into the sea. Here's a picture of Dannen enjoying the "amenities."

The boys are planning to play golf tomorrow and I'd like to read more of my book, Scribbling the Cat: Travels  with an African Soldier by Alexandra Fuller.

Observations While Flying

Sunday, 5 September 2010
I flew to Charlotte and then Puerto Vallarta today to meet my family and my husband. Because of the long flight South, I spent quite a long time in the airport. During my time there, I made a few observations. Do let me know if you've had the same.

The food is expensive and not very good. This has happened to me various times. You carefully study the menu and order the one item they can't possibly screw up, "Grilled Veggie Sandwich" to take a bite and realize the bread is frozen and the vegetables, before grilled, were frozen. The lesson? Don't trust what you see. Eat something hearty before arriving or purchase a branded, pre-packaged item. You'll receive exactly what you expect.

Some people are suckers for rules. While I was sitting there waiting for my first flight, the attendant arrived and went to the loo. She left behind her luggage at the gate (which I admit, is strange). The woman next to me turned to the passengers sitting at at the gate and said loudly, "She just broke the number 1 rule! Should we call to report suspicious behavior?" I didn't look up from my book. Others laughed in a hesitant way. Was this woman going to end up as a crazy person? When the attendant came back, the complainer didn't even look up. Chicken.

The customer is not always right on a flight. When we were getting ready to land, I sat up, stowed my tray, put my bag under the seat in front of me and waited. Other people who perhaps had never traveled before, where slow to do the same. The main attendant made a hurried announcement with the directions to get ready for landing. Not many people reacted. She went through the cabin, admonished a few, and then went back to the microphone. She repeated everything in a slow..., drawn out..., embarrassingly simple way. Very passive aggressive chic. People stopped what they were doing and looked around shocked at the act. Her point was clear, the passengers seemed learning disabled or two years old to her and we needed to get our acts together.

Flying used to be so pleasant.

She's a Brick...

Thursday, 2 September 2010
I decided to put myself to work and build a brick patio for Kingsley. I'd like to use this spot for a grill because having a grill on the deck is a little scary to me. (Fires) Also, our deck isn't huge so this would give the man of the house his own space to grill (or braai as South Africans say).

First, I dug up the grass and raked out an area. It isn't level but I didn't quite realize that until later. But, it's level enough.  Next, I laid layers of plastic to discourage weeds and started a brick frame. These are all recycled materials.

My next door neighbor kindly donated some of his old bricks and even helped me get some from a friend. I used the old bricks left over from the out building that was taken down on my property.

This was an easy project and complete in just two evenings. I think it looks cute. I lined it with my herbs and have basil, oregano, rosemary, mint and chives close by.