Sunday, September 28, 2008

Goodbye My Dears for a Little While...

Dear readers, I'm not even sure how to begin this post and frankly can't even believe that I'm writing this tonight of all nights but I guess I just need to because after tonight I won't be blogging for a bit.

Today, my former partner in life, Wren,who I've written here about since The Sour Dough started as either MBH or W passed away.

goodbye my dear wren

I am going to need to take a step back for a bit to put some things in perspective and most importantly to take care of me, my family and Wren's family. You see, despite all the crap we put each other through towards the end of our relationship, we found we were still each others best friends and today I lost my best friend.

It was Wren who encouraged me to start this blog back in December 2004 on Blogger and it was Wren who walked me through all the trials and tribulations of hosting my own site and it was Wren, who just yesterday told me that he was proud of me because I was taking good pictures, writing good edited posts and mostly had completely found my voice. Then this morning, he decided he was tired of the demons that had taken over his life the past year since his father's death last year in May and took his own life.

I'm afraid right now, I just can't fathom using that voice for anything but shouting to the wind "WHY!" and "DAMN YOU FOR LEAVING ME!"

I do want to let you know that I will be back. I know that I would do a huge disservice to Wren's memory if I stopped blogging. I just don't know when.

I also do want you know that I am doing as well as can be expected right now and have a wonderful network of friends both physically here and virtually where you are who have leaped to show support, love, and care. If I don't personally comment or answer an email, please know, that I have read it and found comfort in your words and prayers of support.

One last thing, please if someone you know is suffering from depression or is having suicidal thoughts, get in contact with someone who can help you and help them. Suicide is never the right answer.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Roadside Surprises and Cuisine

I know, I know... I promised you my last two vacation posts earlier this week but what can I say? Work is work and well, I've been trying all week to hang onto that relaxed vacation feeling.

One of the best things about traveling by car on vacation is all the fun things you discover roadside. Part of my vacation plan was to just "wing it" in regards to where I was headed each day and to stay off interstate highways. I had hotel reservations each night in a different town about sixty miles apart but how I got from Point A to Point B was entirely open to my whim and whimsy.

An old country church at sunset in Shenandoah

For example, two different times I was driving along the General Lee/General Jackson highway (Route 11) and a side road would just call to me to drive down and discover what is at the end of the road. Both times I discovered lovely covered bridges

Covered Bridge outside of Cedar Creek, VA

crossing over pretty little creeks.

Another covered bridge I found in VA

Another day, I decided to completely re-route myself and drive back the way I had just come and take a highway marked scenic. I found myself in what probably was my favorite small Virgina town, Front Royal where along with visiting the house of Belle Boyd, the notorious Confederate Spy, I sat in the town square

Bandstand and town Square in Front Royal, VA

eating my lunch, reading a book, and watching the world go by.

On the day I headed to the Shenandoah National Park to drive the Skyline Drive, I pulled up to a stop light looked right and thought I had traveled back in time all because of these guys!

Got to love the kitzy 1950s roadside attractions

One thing was constant though in all my travels, if I got a craving for a mid-day breakfast all I had to do was look for was the black and yellow roadside sign for a Waffle House.

My favourite roadside sign in the South

If you aren't familiar with Waffle House, it is the Southern version of Denny's but better.

You know you are south when you see this place

I get excited when I drive up to this building because I know I'm minutes from a pecan waffle, side order of real hash browns and a slice of country ham.

Pecan Waffle with Hasbrowns and Coutry Ham from Waffle House

And if I can't find a Waffle House I can find a Dunkin' Donuts that not only sells me a big coffee and a creme filled long john,

Dunkin Donuts and Exxon station where you can also get live bait!

but I can get some bait...

Mmm...donuts, gas and live bait!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Sorry to have been so quiet of late. Between work and trying to take advantage of the early fall evenings when I get home, I'm finding it hard to get back into the full swing of blogging after my vacation.

Never fear though, I just uploaded to Flickr quite a few photos for the two vacation wrap up posts, including the food ones and tonight, I have set aside a few minutes to finish the draft I started yesterday.

To tide you over until then, I'll share a few more pictures from my vacation, including two really interesting buildings I discovered while traipsing across Civil War battlefields. Do you feel like you are trapped in your neighbor's basement watching their vacation slides yet?

The first is the ruins of the oldest grist mill in Virginia.

Old Grist Mill in Fisher's Hill VA

This was just down the road from the Fisher's Hill battlefield and before I had a fun encounter with these cows at Rude Hill.

Cows on a battlefield in Virgina

The pretty little white one followed me all over the battlefield like a puppy, including giving me a head butt in the bum when I quit scratching her ears.

But she led me to these ruins of this sad dog trot cottage and shed

An old dog trot cottageat the top of a hill on a battlefield in VA

before following my up the top of the hill and standing next to me to admire the view of rolling farmland in the Shenandoah Valley with the tops of the Appalachian Mountains in the far distance.

The top of the hill behind the cows

If I would have thought Maybelle, that's the name I gave my puppy-cow, and LB would have gotten along, I may have brought her home!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Weekend Cat Blogging: Mom's Home and She Brought Presents!

Mom surprised me last night by coming home half a day early! She said she just wanted to sleep in her own bed last night instead of a hotel. I was happy to see her I showed her how I could attack my new mouse toy she brought me.

LB with his New Toy Mouse

Mom also brought home a ton of booty from her vacation, including some Christmas presents and birthday presents for friends and family. She also brought home some wine, books and a Christmas tree ornament from a place she said was her favourite place to stay.

And Yet MORE Shenandoah Vacation Booty

Finally she found a treasure trove of old cookbooks. She was really excited that the found quite a few books from the Time Life Foods of the World collection including two of the recipe binders and a copy of the hard to find Kitchen Tips from the series!

My Shenandoah Vacation Booty - Old Cookbooks

Of course, the end of a really good vacation means laundry and grocery shopping. She also needs to put a few pictures together to show you a small slice of heaven on earth and tell you about a few really good restaurants she visited last week.

Weekend Cat Blogging is being hosted this weekend by our good friends Luna and Amar at Catsynth!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Shenandoah Snapshots

Early Morning Fog Outside My Hotel

Fog creeps in during the early morning outside my hotel in Gettysburg

Tree that was standing during Gettysburg

This tree was standing during the battle of Gettysburg

Old Bank Clock in Old Town Winchester

Old bank clock in Old Town Winchester

An Old Fashioned Department Store in Downtown Winchester, VA

An old fashioned downtown department store in Winchester, VA

Mini Crab Cakes Au Gratin

Mini crab cakes au gratin from dinner at the Old Mill Restaurant in Strasburg, VA (Baltimore is less than 100 miles away from Strasburg)

Shenandoah Sunset Outside of Strasburg, VA

Sunset in the Shenandoah Valley. The mountains are the tops of the Appalachians and the field is the Cedar Creek Battlefield. I had to balance the tripod on top a sloping pole to get the slow exposure...OK, so maybe it was the 1/2 bottle of really good Virgina wine (yes, VA makes some darn good wines!)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

WCB #171 Round-Up: While Mom's Away the Cats Will Play!

Mom's still away but she's letting me use the computer to get the round-up for this installment of Weekend Cat Blogging up!

WCB 171 LB Host

First up we have Kitikata-san showing off her present she got from her one of her humans!
Kitikata for WCB #171
I love it when I get a present from Mom so I know Kitikata-san must love her new "friends".

Next up, Othello, one of the three cats at Paulchin's, isn't happy with Mom either.
Othello for WCB 171
Seems that Mom's all over the cat blogosphere are leaving us alone to our own devices!

Brownie, our favourite non-kittie Hampster friend was stunned to discover that Stellaluna doesn't have 5 toesies!

WCB 171: Stellaluna's 4 toesies!

Brownie, don't fret, at least you have opposable digits.

Next up, if you still haven't decided who to vote for in the Presidential race or you really hate both the nimrods we have to choose from (my word, not Mom's. Mom is a rabid liberal Demo-CRAT and has mad up her mind for the only choice,) Cato has an idea...

wcb171 Cato for Prez

Vote for the Cat!

Fridolin from Rosa's Yummy Yums lets Mom take all the pictures she wants.

WCB 171: Rosas Fridolin

I think that is great because sometime Mom has to chase me around the house to get a good photo!

Meeoza and friend Cece prove that Ike isn't the only Category 2 hurricane hanging around!

mogmeowza a hurricane?

I get yelled at when I even get to category 1, so they are really lucky to be allowed to be Category 2.

My favourite musical kittie Luna is resting up from a tiring week.

WCB: Luna!

I love to sleep like that too!

Tigger and Samantha both got Wild and Wooley with Catnip toys!

WCB171: Wild-Tigger

I don't like catnip except this band camp...

I LOVE salmon but I'm not fighting Pepi over at House of Mostly Black Cats for a morsel of goodness!

WCB171: pepi-clawsofdoom

I don't want to see the claws of doom anytime soon.

OH NO! The kitties on House of Chaos are missing their brother Zorro.

WCB 171: Zorrolegrumpy

Go over and send some good love their way so that Zorro comes home soon!

Mina and I may not speak the same language but we both love flowers!

WCB171: Mina

Look at how Mina likes to hide under the pretty purple ones.

Mom's been visiting wineries on her vacation but she hasn't seen as many kitties at Sammawow had seen!

WCB: winerykitties

Looks like there is more than wine on the menu at those vineyards.

Mom isn't the only Bread Baking Babe with a sense of political humour or a good understanding of cosmetics!


Her fellow Babe Karen of Bake My Day has a kittie trying to get lipstick out of her fur. What colour is it? Jungle Red perhaps?!

Last but hardly least, Sasha has a cat by the tail over at Music and Cats!

WCB171: sasha grabs tail

Hmmm...Sergi, if I was you, I'd show Sasha who really was boss of the house.

Wow! We had a lot of good kitties show up this weekend for Weekend Cat Blogging. I can't thank you each enough. In case you didn't know, this week was suppose to be Sher of What Did You Eat's weekend to host. Mom and Sher were friends through food blogs and when Sher left us July to be an angel, Mom said she would host the weekends Sher had signed up for. Mom still misses Sher as do all the kitties and their Moms/Dads in WCB.

Thanks for joining me and keeping me company while Mom visits Gettysburg and then goes to see some battlefields from the Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley. When Mom called the cat sitter tonight to turn on the computer, she sent this picture for me.

This is the most famous view of Devil's Den as it looks today.

Devils Den at Gettysburg

And this is a picture of Little Round Top from the top of the Devils Den.

Little Round Top at Gettysburg

Mom said she walked in the path of her ancestors today.

Monument for the Michigan 4th at Gettysburg

She said it was very moving to stand where almost 150 years ago the fate of the United States was decided, knowing that in less the three months the fate of the United States will be decided again but not by bullets but rather by ballots.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Not Only are We Hosting Weekend Cat Blogging But...

I am in charge around here this weekend. Actually, according to Mom, I'm in charge for the next eight days!

LB Hanging Over End of Bed

Mom left on her vacation to Gettysburg and the Shenandoah Valley telling me to keep an eye on the place. So far I've napped and checked out the food bowl to make sure it was where I left it. When I get done writing this post, I'm going to jump in the window and scare the squirrels in the front yard who are busy burying nuts for the upcoming winter.

LB scaring the squirrrels in the frong yard

When Mom gets ready for a trip, she hauls out her big black suitcase. While she is running around the apartment picking up things to put in the suitcase, I guard it so nobody can stick anything that doesn't belong in the suitcase, like my Kittycrack.

LB Guarding My Suitcase

Did you know she can get a whole two weeks of clothes in there? She likes to let me help her pack. I check things out and stomp on the clothes to pack them down.

LB in My Suitcase

I acted really brave when she gave me a pat and peck on the top of the head this morning when she walked out the door, but you know what? I really miss her and I can't wait for her to come home...

LB Hangin Off the Bar

If you want to be part of Weekend Cat Blogging, just leave us a comment!

Just so you know, I only can only get on the computer in the evenings after the cat sitter comes and talks to Mom. Depending on when she turns on the internet, I'll try and get the round up on Sunday evening. If for some reason I can't get it up on Sunday evening, I'll definitely be able to convince the cat sitter to turn on the computer on Monday.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Great Things Do Come in Small Packages

I'm in the home stretch of getting ready for my vacation to see the Civil War battlefields of the Shenandoah Valley and Gettysburg. I'm staying in a different town each night and I've booked myself into some nice small mom and pop old fashioned motels like The Blue Sky Motel in Gettysburg. To say that I can't wait to take my car for the first serious road trip would be an understatement.

I finished cleaning the house this morning and ran the last load of laundry before I pack. LB has a two week supply of cat food and even some new kitty treats and a new toy. Agi, the wonderful cat sitter, has been confirmed. I even have managed to remember to suspend the delivery of the NYT this time!

I feel like I'm grabbing a bit of my childhood back with this trip in more ways than just a long car trip to historic sites. Because besides packing clothes and few other essentials, I am packing enough food to have breakfast in the hotel room and lunch at various picnic sites along the way; just like my parent's used to do when we went on our summer vacations.

I have the picnic blanket and a nifty travel picnic kit from En Route ready to go and I've stocked up on a few other things that always meant car vacation to me. I've even borrowed a play from my mom's playbook and have baked cookies and a batch of home made granola to snack on. (Note: I'm taking a small little breaky break from the diet this week. Promise I'm not going hog wild but part of my trip had been planned around some food and wine stops) But, I wanted to try and keep my supplies to the minimum because it is only me after all and I was having a hard time finding small containers or single servings of some food items.

Getting frustrated and not wanting to go to every fast food joint in Westport and Norwalk to steal ketchup packs and ask for extra jam at the diner to stuff in my purse, I Googled "travel size food" and found the most incredible site for all things travel size, Minimus!

This site has everything you could ever want in single serving and travel sizes. I was stunned that I could get not only the things I normally see in the travel size aisle at Target but I could even get some gourmet foods in single servings. You know like those cute little jam pots that get brought up to you on the room service tray at really nice hotels and even pate! Prices aren't bad either with a packet of ketchup being .06 cents a packet.

I spent about two hours clicking through every category on the Minimus site. I was dreaming of stocking a sailboat galley and a kitchen of a little house by the lake. Heck, I was even thinking about what I would stock in the ultimate hotel room mini bar for a foodie with items from Minimus. So, did I order anything from Minimus?

You bet your lipstick covered pig I did! (snark...)

Here is what I ordered:
Travel Size Goodies from

Some little salt and pepper packs, some mayo, some orange marmalade, some Dijon mustard, and four containers of cereal. Grand total cost, including shipping? About fourteen bucks. Not bad as far as I'm concerned because it saved me from buying larger jars of most of these things that I already had in my fridge, not having to worry about keeping open jars of mayo cool during the day, and driving all over Fairfield county stealing condiments. Plus, I found out about the great Minimus customer service.

I originally ordered two Special K cereal packs. The next day I got a very nice email telling me they were out of stock and giving me several options: wait until the Special K came in and have my order shipped, have what was in stock shipped and at no extra shipping costs have the Special K shipped when it arrived, cancel the Special K, or have their customer service suggest a comparable replacement. I went with the suggest a replacement thinking I would just get 2 of whatever they had in stock tossed in the box. Nope, I got another really nice email giving me two or three options to choose from, which is how I ended up with Product 19 cereal.

So, will I be ordering from Minimus again? Oh yea!

Next time I have to travel for a long business trip I'm stocking up on things I would really want in the minibar! Because you never know when a little pack of fudge sauce, a small pack of duct tape, and this fun product just might come in handy, if you know what I mean...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Local Flour is Ready for Its Close-up

I love Wednesdays. Yes, it is the middle of the work week but Wednesdays are also the day all the major newspapers in America publish their food sections. Meaning I spend mornings and evenings reading the food sections from the LA Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Dallas News and the mother of all food sections, the New York Times.

Today, I was super excited to see the New York Times had two great articles on local flour and the differences in baking with local flour compared to the national brands like Pillbury and Gold Medal. In the United States, most of our flour comes from wheat grown in the heartland and the major brands of flours are blends of various wheats whereas local flour uses regional wheat.

As you know, I primarily use King Arthur flour when baking. I use King Arthur because they use hard wheat and offer what I consider the best flour that give me consistent results. But, on a road trip I took a few months ago I discovered a fantastic local grist mill that makes small batch flour, Kenyon's Grist Mill.

I especially like their Scotch Oat Flour and I add it when I'm making my hearty sandwich bread.

Pantry Challenge:  White Sandwich Bread

But my favourite flour is their Whole Wheat flour. When I want a dense old style wheat bread, I will use two or three cups of this in addition to my normal King Arthur flour. I use the King Arthur flour so I don't need to use extra gluten and I let the sponge sit longer so flavour is developed. When I make this bread it is so close to the Roman Meal bread I grew up eating along with Michigan's Lumberjack.

One thing to keep in mind when baking with local flours is that the grind is often more coarse than with the national brands. This is because quite a few local flours are ground in old style stone grist mills, like at Kenyon's Grist Mill. Also, because they use the whole wheat berry they will have a shorter shelf life. So, if you don't bake often but want to use local flour, talk to your miller about packaging a smaller amount for you or find a friend to share.

Yes, baking with local flour can be a bit tougher than the national brands because of the differences in the flour gluten from region to region but once you try it, you will find the interest and yes, the taste is worth the effort.

To find a local flour producer, check with the groups that support local agriculture to see if there is an operating mill in your area and if there is a source for local wheat.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

The Smell of Summer

Tonight, when I came home from work, I stepped out of my car to the smell of the ocean. Not the acrid smell of rotting seaweed and fish but that crisp clean smell of salt and sea and it called me to the shore.

As I stood down on the docks that are at the end of my street, I could see the tide was out and in the disappearing sunlight I was drawn back to a wonderful visit from my parents two summers ago and a day trip up the sea coast of New Hampshire and Maine.

Mom and Dad on Harbor Cruise 2007

My step-dad and I share a special love for seafood. We can down a dozen oysters on the half shell faster than you can blink and eye. We both think the most perfect thing to start a lobster dinner with is a pound of steamers. We fight over the last piece of calamari and if there are whole belly clams on the menu watch out! Whenever he and my mother are out here to see me, he orders lobster every meal he can.

Dad and his new buddy

When I was living in Boston, one of the places I always took visitors to have a true New England clam shack experience was Ray's Seafood Restaurant in Rye, NH. As far as I am concerned, there isn't a better place to get the quintessential summer beach seafood between Boston and Portsmouth, Maine. Yes, the fried clams at Woodman's are legendary and rightly so, but I think that Ray's does the whole menu beachfare as well as Woodman's does their clams and the prices are cheaper and the lines shorter too!

Ray's whole belly clams are coated in a light dusting of cornmeal and flour and fried to perfection.

Ray's in Rye, NH Fried Full Belly Clams

I also think they do some of the best clam strips I've ever had.

Clamstrips at Ray's in NH

There is no skimping on the meat and hiding it under a thick coating of batter.

Besides the food, the best thing about Ray's is the view from the upper deck.

Beach across the street from Ray's Seafood in Rye, NH

You can sit on the upper deck, scarf down some of the best fried clams ever, and stare out into the Atlantic Ocean, where a few hours ago your lunch was swimming.

Even though it is humid outside tonight and I have the ac on, I cracked the window when I finally walked through the front door. I want to cling to the smell of summer as long as I can.