BU at LIU Post, or, Another Football Roadtrip

I often accompany Chuck when his football games are far away.  When his dad, brother, and/or friends cannot come in my stead.  As I have mentioned before, these road trips usually involve some kind of loving bribery that makes my company and navigational skills payment for a nice hotel room or a shopping spree or outrageously awesome dinner theater.  Yesterday, Bloomsburg played at Long Island University, Post Campus in Brookville, NY.  I tagged along and made sure to document the important parts.

First, the trip is long and full of tolls.  New Jersey and Staten Island are the worst offenders.  Normally, if you can avoid these places, do so.  And prepare yourself for the down time.  Fortunately, I am quite skilled at reading in the car.  Remember, I grew up road tripping – motion sickness is for wimps!  I finished A Dance with Dragons as we entered Nassau County, NY.

We decided to grab brunch as we had arrived a bit early.  The local diner had an hour wait, but then I noticed an IKEA and decided that meatballs would tide me over.  When out of town, I have a rule about never eating in a chain or franchise that I can visit at home.  In the sleepy mid-section of PA where we live, many novel stores and products take time to take root.  We have only recently discovered self-serve frozen yogurt bars!  IKEA is popular enough among my friends and family, but we have to drive to Philly or Baltimore to shop there and cannot get delivery.  Plus, those meatballs are bangin’.

Here is what I found in the parking lot at IKEA:

Do they make kitty Dalek stickers?

Best.  Family. Stickers.  Ever.

Then we went to the game.  BU won, the LIU Post fans were whiny and obnoxious, and a bunch of drunk students heckled everyone who walked to or from the guest seating.

I started reading Freakonomics and worked on some crosswords.  The campus of LIU Post is very pretty and wooded.  This area of “Lawn Guy Land” seems pretty swank.  There are lots of large houses and gated driveways.  Of course, the whole place is part of the flight path for JFK.  That would get old, fast.

Now, don’t laugh at me.  I have never been to NYC. If we had the money or time, we might have made this trip into a long weekend.  Alas, I never have the time or money.  I love the arts, I love cities, and I love history.  I know, I am a total bumpkin.  Look how excited I was just to drive past the city:

Central PA is a weird, ethnocentric type of place.  Most people here dislike New Yorkers  and city life in general.  I don’t think this type of billboard helps anyone overcome stereotypes:

Still, I find the city enchanting, even from a distance:

I abused my navigational powers and directed us to Manhattan.  We drove across the southern tip of the island and got stuck in terrible traffic.  I’ll blame the street festival we saw, but I know the city is not a place to bring a car.  Chuck was less than amused.  I thought it was beautiful, and I need to go back tomorrow.  Or ASAP.  Whatever.  I was busy looking at architecture but I did manage to snap a photo of us entering the New Holland Tunnel.

Okay, you can laugh at me now.

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Fall Peanut Butter Blossoms

I made peanut butter blossom cookies today.  This is one of Chuck’s favorite cookies! Here is how I made them:

First, I need to share the super easy recipe that I used.  The recipe is already doubled, so it makes about 6 1/2 dozen cookies.  I suppose you could halve it, but why would you only want 3 dozen cookies when you could have more than that?

Today I used butter-flavored shortening because it keeps the cookies softer and because I used a peanut butter that tends to keep recipes a little drier.  This peanut butter is made and sold locally and contains one ingredient: roasted peanuts.

The dough comes together nicely and you can just make regular peanut butter cookies (the kind that you smash with a fork), but I found fall nonpareils so my cookies had to be a bit fancier.  I used a 1 T. scoop to portion control the dough.  I like when my cookies are all the same size.  Then I rolled each scoop of dough into a ball and coated each ball with colored sanding sugar or sprinkles.    I smash the dough a little bit when I put it on the tray.

After baking, I pushed a nonpareil into the center of each cookie before I moved the cookies to the cooling rack.

Some interesting notes about these cookies:

  • Normally you make these cookies with Hershey’s Kisses.  These are delicious, but require tedious unwrapping and they fall off of the cookies in storage.  The nonpareil candies are flat, so they don’t fall off the cookie when you take a bite.
  • I grew up in a farmhouse in the country, so mice were an occasional seasonal nuisance.  If Mom found mouse droppings, she simply closed the cats up in that room overnight.  My brother Jon and I decided that chocolate jimmies looked like mouse droppings, so we salted the counters with them, thinking our prank on Mom was hilarious.  I still think of chocolate jimmies as “mouse turd sprinkles” in my head.
  • I’m sorry if you can no longer eat chocolate jimmies.  They are my favorite kind of sprinkle.
  • I buy sprinkles and sanding sugar at bulk food stores.  I have an unhealthy collection of various sprinkles and sugars.  Is there something you can’t resist buying when you see it?
  • I used baking stones instead of cookie sheets.  I have a convection oven, so I don’t need to alter the baking time, but if you use baking stones and do not have a convection oven, the baking time will increase.

“Do these have tuna in them?”

A Post About Boating, OR, Kutztown at BU

Last Saturday was Kutztown at Bloomsburg.  Instead of going to that game, I went to the boat.

I have to do a post to explain boating.

But first I have to explain what boats meant to me before I was a boater.

Before I was a boater, boats were canoes.  Canoes are just another way you can die while camping. Canoes are scary. Boats that are not canoes are scary, too.  Ever see the Godfather? And fishing, which is what you do in boats when you are camping, is boring.  And fresh-caught trout for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, is disgusting.  I like eating fish now, but only fish I didn’t have to catch and gut.  I’m all about farm to table and low-impact food and buying local produce, but if I ever buy half a steer, I’m not going to butcher it.

Being one of seven children, I rarely experienced a hotel or motel until I was on the high school debate team.  We usually camped.   The first camping trip I remember was our trip Out West when I was four.  Mom packed me and my brother Jon (then two) into our Plymouth Voyager and caravanned cross-country with two other vehicles carrying my grandparents, Aunt Mary (mom’s baby sister, who at the time would have been nine at the time), one of my uncles, and some friends.  Like a bunch of hippies we spent three weeks driving for miles to camp in the wilderness of Colorado, Utah, and Arizona, eating the fish we caught and only using flushing toilets when we stopped for gas or visited relatives.  I remember having a blast, but I think my camping experiences went downhill once hot showers became a priority.

Throughout the years we camped at the beach and in the mountains, with family and with friends, mostly in Delaware and Pennsylvania but occasionally we trekked to the Outer Banks or Out West again.  We even camped at my grandparents’ house! I learned how to braid my hair to hide the grease if we didn’t have showers.  Once, I ate nothing but fish and peanut butter and honey sandwiches and raspberry breakfast bars for three weeks.  Bug bites, sunburn, being almost eaten by a bear, twisted ankles and torturous climbs to see pretty waterfalls  (as in, they all pretty much look the same, people!) have turned me into a disappointing non-enthusiast for camping.

Of course, I’m talking about TENT camping.  While I longingly ached for more than a sleeping bag on the cold ground, people known as “Not Real Campers” had travel trailers, fifth wheels, and motorhomes parked in the camping space next to ours.  It was like they were rubbing my nose in it!  They have TV and power and soft cushions on which they can rest.  I guess, since everyone I knew back then thought sleeping on rocks was awesome.  It’s not like I got to go into those vehicles or anything.

My Father-In-Law has a boat. Now I’m a boater.  When Chuck and I first met almost 10 years ago, I fell in love with boating.  These boats have big engines in them and you can use them as transportation, like a car.  They have flushing toilets, showers, and some even have bathtubs!  The beds have mattresses and the windows have curtains, but unlike a hotel, your view is always waterfront.  In the slip, you have cable and internet.  Everything even has cute nautical names like “head” and “galley.”  I’ve been on a boat with a dishwasher in the kitchen and chandeliers in the dining room!

When I first went on one of these boats, I immediately thought of those “Not Real Campers” in their RVs.  They are quite similar.  When you go camping, you can camp in a tent or you can camp in a recreational vehicle.  When you go boating, you can boat in a canoe or you can boat in a powerboat.  Obviously you know which one I would choose.

…….

Okay, so blah blah blah, my husband went to a football game and then did even more football stuff, and I went to the boat.  I just wanted to be sure you understood that I was NOT camping on the water.  Here is the awesome stuff I did on the boat:

  • Read more of A Dance with Dragons.  I guess I am dragging it out because I know it will be an eternity until the next book is published.
  • Did the puzzles in the newspaper.  I like the Jumble and the Crypto-Quip.  The answer is always a pun.
  • Went to a catered dinner at the Nauti Goose.  Again, I love puns.  We met new friends and saw old friend and had some very good food.
  • Took a sunset cruise and watched the sun go down while we slowly rode around on the bay.
  • Back in the slip, my FIL “practiced his religion” (this means he watched college football -the apple does not fall far from the tree) while I shared drinks and cookies with more friends old and new.
  • In the morning, we took another long boat ride.
  • Went out for “lupper” on Sunday at a new place in town called The Port House Grill.  I had the Southwest with a side of their fresh fries.  I gobbled it up so fast it was embarrassing.  Yum!

I took this picture on a sunset cruise a few years ago.

Last Friday

On Friday MY NEW COUNTERTOPS WERE INSTALLED.  You can do a little dance for me now.  My cousin Cara came over to celebrate/hang out with me/christen the countertops.   We did all of those things at once by baking butter cookies.  I’m going to have to ask Grandma if I can share the recipe here.  It is the BEST cookie.  One pound of butter in the dough alone.  YUM.  We roll the dough very thin (which can only be done if you have a kitchen with countertops, and of course I have not had this since July 4 or so) and use cookie cutters to make seasonal shapes. The cookies only bake for a few minutes. Then we make butter icing and use cake decorating tools to ice the cookies.  The result is layers of sweet, buttery cookie and buttery, sweet icing that melt in your mouth and give you adult-onset diabetes AND obesity AND a heart condition.  Good thing none of that runs in our family.  Oh wait.  Well, when you use real butter you really see a drop in cancer deaths.  I assume. Someone should do a study on that.

GO BU!

This is a LOTR reference. Please comment if you get it!

Awesome Stuff I Did This Weekend – Edinboro at Bloomsburg

Despite the atrocious weather forecast, Chuck went to two football games yesterday.  Instead standing in the rain watching football, I did some awesome stuff.

FRIDAY:

  • Took delicious brownies to a work party.  Did not bring any home.
  • Hosted the children’s activities at the Lancaster Public Library’s First Fridays For Families event.  Our artists, Jessi and Art, were amazing.  Also, we painted rocks.
  • Went to Frozen Yo Cafe for dinner.  Because I am a grownup and I put fruit on my yogurt so it can be a meal.
Image

Me with a rock painted like an eye. On my eye.

SATURDAY:

  • Spent the afternoon with Mom wandering around rural North Hampton County looking through antique shops.  The best loot was found at Sleepy Hollow Antiques!  I found a flashlight screwdriver combo for Chuck’s antique flashlight collection and Mom found some cool presents and projects as well- something to save fro Christmas, something for her best friend, a utensil holder for her picnic table outside, and some old books to turn into a cover for her router.
  • Played Spoons with Mom and my littlest little sister (LLS) and my littlest little brother (LLB).  They kicked my butt.
  • Discussed the world premiere of series 7 of Doctor Who with my LLB.  He’s 10, and totally obsessed. Suddenly he seems a bit cooler.
  • Went to Spice India with Mom and LLS.  Was very impressed with LLS as she is 15 and she still managed to find food to eat on their menu!
  • Went to Hobby Lobby.  Didn’t need anything, didn’t buy anything (shocking, I know), but still had fun browsing the entire store with my mom and sister, who are also avid crafters.
  • Came home with presents!  Mom gave me a bottle of Moscato (a regift; the ‘rents don’t drink but could never say no to a bottle of wine!), a scrapbooking organization bag she got on Freecycle, and a sample of K-Cups for my Keurig.  Dad gave me a bulb of garlic he bought at the Garlic Festival last week.  (NOTE:  I will post more about my father’s agricultural interests and how I am a total snob about produce).  The variety is called Spanish Roja and it is spicy!  I can’t wait to use it in cooking and to plant a few cloves for harvest next year!
  • Came home very late in part due to a sobriety checkpoint.  They talked to the lady in front of me for a loooong time.  Don’t drink and drive!

SUNDAY:

  • Read a bout 200 pages in A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin.  I call this “pulling a Carol” after my beloved Notorious MIL, who is known to make reading a priority over almost everything on her days off.
  • Chuck took me out to eat for breakfast.
  • Set up the “new” cat tower that I bought at Sal’s Boutique.  Cats are in love.
  • Went shopping with Chuck.  We bought clothes and OMG so many shoes for me because they were all on major sale.  I have three new pairs of flippies and a new pair or strappy black heels.  And a new filter for my vacuum.  You know, essentials.
  • Dinner at Infinito’s, which is the BEST pizza buffet in the world.
  • Read Post Secret.
  • Pinned a lot of geeky stuff.

What did you do instead of going to a football game this weekend?

Red Velvet Brownies

I’ve noticed that red velvet is always a trendy flavor for sweets.   It’s not a cake flavor my mom baked when I was a kid, but I’ve developed a taste for it and I enjoy the various toppings (pudding, yogurt, cream cheese, goat cheese, white chocolate, and the traditional cooked icing).  Last year my middle little sister Emmi found a recipe for red velvet brownies and adapted it to suit our needs to the Manheim Farm Show.  Emmi entered the brownies and won 2nd place!  I’ve also turned the brownies into brownie bites and brownie pops.  They are moist and have a rich color that really makes eating them a multisensory experience.

Here is the recipe:

Red Velvet Brownies                Adapted from Smells Like Home

6 T. cocoa powder                                 4 large eggs
2 oz (4 T.) red food coloring               2 ½ c. flour
4 t. vanilla, divided                                ½  t. salt
1 c. butter                                                   2 c. white chocolate chipscc
3 cups sugar

    • Preheat the oven to 350°.  Line a 9×13 pan with parchment.
    • Mix cocoa, food coloring, and 2 t. vanilla into a thick paste. Set aside.
    • Cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well, then add the remaining 2 t. of vanilla.  With the mixer off, add in the cocoa mixture, then beat until uniform in color.  Slowly add in the flour and salt and mix until just combined.  Do not overmix.
    • Add chips and mix in by hand, eliminating any streaks.
    • Bake for 40 minutes at 350°.  Cool in the fridge to make extra fudgy.
    • Optional:  omit chips and frost with cream cheese icing.

I will give you a visual on how much I love this recipe:

One Gallon of Red Food Coloring

Yes, I bought a whole gallon of red food coloring.  The local restaurant supply store price for a gallon is less than the grocery store’s price for two tiny bottles.  It has a bit of yellow in it, but I don’t mind.  I have made the recipe enough times to know it is a winner!

Farm Show Red Velvet Brownies, October 2011

Red Velvet Brownie Pops, February 2012

Awesome stuff I did because Chuck is watching college football on ESPN and working on his blog:

  • Went to one of my favorite restaurants for dinner, JoBoy’s.  I had to pick up cream cheese so of course that was the perfect excuse not to cook dinner.
  • Made a whole Pinterest board about poppies, which are one of my favorite flowers.
  • Baked two batches of brownies in a kitchen without plumbing or countertops.  It can be done.  And now I have used my new oven!  There is potluck at work tomorrow and the stress of washing dishes by hand is (for once) worth it.

Penny

Smiley Penny Usurping a Novel

Cats make great company.  I like dogs just fine, but I am firmly in the “cat person” camp.  I really hate being alone but having cats helps.  We currently have 5 cats.  Chuck commented to me that he hates that “the more cats we get, the more I love them.” Psht, this is simple exponential cat-amatics.  We had both cats and dogs in our homes growing up (and fish, crayfish, tadpoles, and various wild creatures like snakes, baby bunnies, and box turtles that we would catch and keep just for the day, until everyone had a chance to see the poor thing, and then release back into the wild).  I like animals just fine, though horses sort of annoy me.  They’ve outlived their usefulness as a domesticated animal, you know? Cats are just the best kind of pet I know how to have.

Everyone in that “barely out of college/in a committed relationship/no kids yet” stage of life seems to have a dog.  Dogs are great, but they tie you down.  You need to walk them and get them lots of exercise, train them, and you can never go anywhere for more than 8 hours without making plans for (and spending money on) your dog.  I like the beach and the boardwalk; no dogs allowed.  We like to spend long weekends on my in-laws’ boat; we’d either have to kennel a dog or buy a doggie life vest and schedule everything around the dog.  And Chuck goes to football games every weekend in the fall.  Again, no dogs allowed.  Frankly, I think I am just too lazy to be a dog owner.   I was already thinking about how to convince Chuck that we needed a feline family member.  And then Penny found us.

It turns out, Penny took care of everything.  One day in May of 2005 I was working in the flower beds at our house.  I started moving shovels and supplies from the shed in the back yard to the bed by the front door, and a tiny orange tribble appeared on the back deck.  She was so small that she kept stumbling as her paws slipped through the boards in the deck.  She was so miniscule that when she followed me to the front of the house, instead of walking through the open gate, she climbed through the chain-link fence.  Every time I used the shovel, she sat on it.  Every time I knelt to weed, she sat on me.  I called Chuck at work but had to leave a voicemail.  “I think we need to keep this kitten.  It’s obviously a stray and it is sooooo sweet.  Can we keep her?”  Chuck called me back.  “It sounds like you already decided that you’re keeping it.”  “Yea!!!!  Thankyouthankyouthankyou honey!  You will love her; she is sooo tiny and cute!” “Uh-huh.  I gotta get back to work.”

So Penny found me and moved in.  Later my neighbor told me her babysitter found another orange kitten around the same time in her back yard.  He son adopted him and named him Oliver, after Oliver in Company.  I did not bother to tell my neighbor that the Disney movie is based on a classic Dickens novel.  Because I am neighborly.

Tiny and coppery like a penny, my new best friend kept us awake every night for 6 months.  Kittens are a lot of work.  She slept on my chest every night but woke up to play as soon as we were in REM.  If we put her out of the bedroom, she would scratch at the door and cry.  If one of us left the house while the other was still in bed, she would forget that she wasn’t alone and cry at the door until we called for her.  I think when we really did leave her alone, she would cry for hours.  She nipped and bit at our hands when we petted her, and she hissed and screamed when we brushed her.  But she loved us and we loved her.  Most of her issues sorted themselves out when we adopted Simon, our second cat, but she still hates to be brushed.  I’m pretty sure that she thinks I am her mommy, and she is completely devoted to me.  Penny is my daughter and my baby and anyone who has every bonded with a cat knows exactly what I mean when I say that.  Everyone else needs to get a cat.

Today Penny (sometimes lovingly called “Penny Cat,” “Pen-Pen” and “Penelope Ann” when she is naughty) is a 13 pound ball of orange fluff.  She is always in charge and always deliberate.  She still sleeps on my chest, and will wait for me in bed if I am still up and she is ready to snuggle.  She loves wet food and her crinkly tube and boxes and paper bags.  Penny watches Futurama and South Park on my laptop but does not care for any other television.  My constant companion vies for my attention nearly every moment I am home; she takes advantage of any apparent lap I acquire, even if I am sitting on the toilet.  My laptop is her nemesis because it is the only thing I will choose over her to sit in my lap.

One way I cope with being abandoned during football season is by reminding myself that if I stay home, I’m not alone.  Cats are with me.  Especially Penny!

Obligatory cat photos: