How I’ve learned to travel

It has been a very busy time in the Cork household. The month of June has consisted of nothing but travel (especially for me). I have not been home one weekend the entire month. With all of the travelling I’ve been doing I have finally figured out the best way to take the things that I consider essential to having a wonderful commute and keeping everything organized. So today, I am going to tell you some of the things that I feel are necessities.

1) The bag. It took me until the very last trip to figure this out. Up until my trip to NYC, I was taking two bags on the plane with me – my purse and my bag of electronics and camera. I finally realized that I need to consolidate these bags and save my self so grief. I decided to pack my purse with my other bags in the suitcase and put the essentials like my wallet, lotion, and makeup bags in my carryon bag. The key with this consolidation is finding the bag that is the right size and organizing it to a “T”. This is the bags that I have found worked for me.

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2) Organization. Once you have the bag you need to have a place for everything. This is when it is important to have specific places/containers so that you can find what you need at a moment’s notice. I have read about using sandwich/snack bags to place your cords for your electronic devices. I have rubber banded them and placed them in the pockets of my bag and that seemed to work for a while, but I recently found this nifty package that has become my best friend.

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I now keep it in my bag that I take to work. I love it. I purchased one for Babydoll also. I wanted to get one for Stan, but he insisted that he doesn’t need it and I should not waste my money. Any other person would buy it anyway and show him how misguided he is in his thinking; but after 16 years of marriage I have a few new things recently. 1 is that I do not need to buy my husband technology if he doesn’t specifically ask for it and even if he ask, I need to consider it carefully because he really will not use it if he doesn’t want it. I also have purchased a couple of smaller cosmetic bags that I use in my purse and my travel bag to keep things like my lipsticks (yes, I carry ALL of my lipsticks with me because I may decide the color I have on isn’t working so I need to change it), liners, mirror, blot powder, mints, etc.

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3) Neck Pillow. Have you ever had to fly an early/late flight? I have. As a matter of fact our flight to California this year was at 5am. We did not go to sleep so that we could make sure we didn’t miss our flight; so when I got on the plane, I went to sleep so fast, I don’t remember hearing the initial flight attendant safety speech. This peaceful sleep would not have been possible without my neck pillow. I know this because I forgot my pillow on our NYC trip (this happened because Stan was rushing me, I also forgot my iPod; it was a very tense 45 minutes before I was able to let it go). On the return trip home I was trying to catch up on sleep on the train from NYC to Jersey and my head was rolling and bobbing around worse than a bobble head doll. Also I think I might have had the head back open mouthed sleep on the plane. That only happens when I don’t have my neck pillow. Go to Walmart and grab you one for about $10.

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4) I think it is vital to have a good set of headphones and music for any type of plane/train ride. For me, it allows me to drown out all of the outside/surrounding traveling noise that is inevitable. I love my music and have a very eclectic music palate. I have gospel, new and old R&B, old school Hip Hop, some new school Hip Hop, Pop, I think one Country, and I don’t know what to call some of the others, I just like them. Having said that I have a great pair of headphones by Sol Republic that conceal all outside noise that allows me to go into my peace filled zone. No crying babies (I’ve traveled with a baby so I know the plane is going to bother their ears; I don’t like when parents aren’t considerate and don’t provide a bottle, Sippy cup, pacifier so that their ears can pop), no coughing/hacking passengers (that way I can pretend that I don’t hear them coughing without covering their mouths and getting a plane full of people sick), no engine noise – just peace and great music. I can read and not be distracted/disgusted.

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5) A snack. Be it a bag of nuts, apple slices, chips, a bagel, or graham crackers; having a snack will keep you from making poor airport decisions. The snacks that they provide on the plane usually only are enough to make you want more. I haven’t flown Internationally so I cannot vouch for the quality of those snacks, but Domestic peanuts or pretzels just don’t cut it. The fact that you are traveling is putting your body into a small amount of stress/shock; trying to keep your diet as normal as possible is key. So, bring something that can tide you over until you reach your destination. Your digestive system will thank you for it later.

6) Finally, a tablet/electronic reader or something of that nature. Even if you are not a reader like me, a tablet will come in handy because you can have movies, music, magazines, games, and/or books in one small device. Unless you are sleeping the entire flight or it’s a short flight (30 minutes) you are going to want something to occupy you. You could be like my husband and insist that your travelling companion talk to you; but if they have item 4 then they can block you out like I do him. So be kind to your fellow riders that may not want to converse with you on the plane/train and bring something to distract you in case they don’t want to entertain you.

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That’s my list for no hassle travel. I still have not figured out the best way to carry my camera, so I’m currently wrapping it up and carrying it with my on the plane because I don’t want to risk damage in my luggage. I’m still struggling to find the perfect camera bag (and neck strap). I have made them in the past, but I not satisfied after three or four years. I don’t want the typical black bags and neck straps because they’re not reflective of my feminine personality. I’ve seen some of the nicer bags that would be awesome to use once I arrive at my destination but they will not be sufficient for the actual trip. If anyone has any suggestions, I am open to them. What are your travel essential suggestions? Is there something that you feel is essential that I may have forgotten?

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In April We Read…

This month Sugarbooks had chosen to read Styxx by Sherrilyn Kenyon.  Now when this book was chosen there was a lot of groaning from many of our members (since there are only six of us actively coming to meetings and making decisions you can imagine how loud the groaning was).  Anyway, we made the decision in December last year and last month as we were leaving dinner the reminder that Styxx was the book for the next meeting, some “I’m not reading it” were heard.  We have a rule (it’s not always followed but we have it) that states you have to at least read 100 pgs of the book assigned for the month.   With this in mind we still had some “I’m not reading it”. 

One of the members decided to brave it and start the book two weeks before the meeting.  When she found out how many pages the book had (876), she sent out an email with a WTH. :o)  She started it and finished it in 2 ½ days.  She then got on email and started commenting that put a fire under the other members kettle that had them reading it (yep…even the “I’m not reading its”).  Some of us had not read Acheron (and some still had not read any of the Dark Hunters series), but we felt that it was important to at least read Acheron first.  You did not want to read Acheron after you read Styxx first.  I think we all agreed, reading them backwords would have caused some feelings that could possibly be avoided if you read them in the right sequence. 

So here is our take on Styxx (If you have not read this book , there may be some references that could be deemed spoilers, just a heads up).  We all agreed it was a good book, we all agreed it caused emotions to be brought forth, and we all agreed that the men during the early part of the book (even in Acheron) were into a lot of rape and sodomy.  The first half of the book dealt with Styxx being raped by his uncle(until he killed him and that wasn’t until he had been abused on three or four separate occasions that lasted anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months) and some of the gods.  We all agreed that we were not fans of the gods in both stories.  That is where the agreement ends. 

There was a member that ended up with a dislike for Acheron after reading this book and she had been a huge fan previously.  It took a lot of deducing and reasoning before she could put her finger on what she deemed the ultimate betrayal – you don’t forsake your sibling to be tortured regardless of your reasons, and you then don’t walk around like they’re in the wrong EVER.  To her, that was making yourself into a victim – I was done wrong so they deserve to have wrong done to them too; you help/protect your siblings, you don’t make them victims too.  Styxx never made his siblings victims if he could help it; he protected them as much as he was possible although he sometimes was punished for it and they (his siblings) still treated him like dirt.   She didn’t like how Acheron  assumed that Artemis placed his brother somewhere where he was taken care of for 1100 years, when he knew Artemis to be a liar.  How can Ach believe people that have lied to him and mistreated him for most of his life and not allow his brother to even try to explain.  It didn’t sit well with that member and she was not changing her mind.

There were several members that were disgusted with Styxx and his inability to defend himself against his uncle and father.   As one member stated “he could maybe get away with catching him unaware one or maybe two times, but after that he should have been walking around with his mouth clamped shut and his back to a wall whenever his uncle was around.”  Styxx had become a feared and respected warrior and leader to his father’s army, yet he still was getting assaulted by his uncle.  Why did Styxx allow his father to punish him when they felt the army had his back?  Why not over-throw the king or kill him?  They didn’t feel like Styxx stood up for himself enough and because of it he seemed almost like a victim. 

We all agreed we did not like Ryssa, the sister.  We couldn’t figure out where her hatred for Styxx came from.  There was no reason for the type of hatred she had.  Even reading Acheron (some of us reread Ach and some read it for the first time), which had a large portion of the beginning of the book coming from Ryssa’s diary; we never ascertained why she disliked Styxx.

The culmination of the epic novel had a great HEA and we all agreed that we were happy with the ending.  Sherrilyn has done it again, sucking us into a great story that brought forth all emotions.  If you have not read it yet we all highly recommend it.  And we would love to hear your thoughts on it.  If you have read it, give us a holler and tell us what you thought.  

Next month we are scheduled to read, Tracy Solheim’s Risky Game.  This is the third book in the Game On series (if you do not count the anthology that was released in April).  This book does not come out until May 6th so it will be a race to finish it before the meeting considering  some of us have not read any other the previous books.  Again, if you have read any of the books, give us a holler.  We love to hear from you.

Smoochies,

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Today I’m…

Posting on the Sugarbook Club blog site.  Please visit it to see my thoughts on the new New Adult genre.  Have a great day.

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Menu 3/10/14

Good Morning,

I just wanted to take a few moments out to let you know what we’re having for dinner this week.  I usually try to put this out on Friday or Saturday, but it was a work Friday and a very busy Saturday, so I’m getting to it today.

Did you remember to change your clocks for Day Light Savings time?  I remember to change the clock in the bedroom so that I could get to church yesterday morning, but forgot the rest of the clocks.  Let’s just say we had dinner at 6:30 last night and I thought until the end of dinner that I was doing good with my time. Smile with tongue out

Here’s what’s for dinner…

Sunday – We had…Chicken Stroganoff, Spinach, Candied Yams (that I found leftover in the freezer from a previous dinner), and homemade biscuits

Monday – Chicken and Wild Rice Soup and Boston Brown Bread (Babydoll loves this bread and she has a dentist appointment today that she was terrified when I told her about it so I want to end her day on a happier note.)

Tuesday – Fried Shrimp and Sweet Potato Tator Tots (this is assuming I make up the Tator Tots today, but I started back at the gym today, meaning I lost an hour, and I still have three loads of laundry and the bathrooms to clean – already vacuumed the downstairs.  Does anyone else hate cleaning bathrooms as much as I do?)

Wednesday – Turkey Burgers with Potato Pancakes (I think I’m noticing a potato theme this week and that was not my intention at all).

Thursday – Chicken & Waffles and some type of green vegetable.  I originally had spinach down as the side, but I cooked it yesterday, so now I’m thinking broccoli or asparagus.  Stan is not a fan, but Babydoll loves it, especially with lemon pepper and lemon juice squeezed on it, and it’s on sale this week; I can pick some up before I pick her up from school.

Friday – Fish Fry Friday…enough said.

Saturday – Last Saturday, I volunteered to work at the church and was gone most of the day.  This Saturday, I have a book club meeting and cannot say what I will do; it may be an every-man-for-himself day.

For dessert this week I decided to make brownies – two types one without nuts and no frosting for Babydoll and the second with walnuts and a peanut butter chocolate icing.  I bought some Salted Caramel Blue Bell Ice Cream to go along with it.

That’s our menu this week, as you can see besides the potatoes everywhere; we are having a lot of poultry this week.  I asked Stan if he thought we could have a menu entirely of chicken…he said let’s do it.  I settled for mostly poultry with a few seafood items mixed in just so it wouldn’t become too boring.  Maybe I’ll do a whole week of it at another time to see how it goes.  What are you having this week?

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I found it!

For months I’ve been trying to duplicate this bread that they serve at Wildfire Grill in Chicago.  I’ve posted a couple of attempts of the pumpernickel bread that had raisins in it.  It is a bread that is served that is standard for each table.  It is so awesome.

Anyway last week while in the line at the grocery store doing my usual looking through all of the food magazines I came across a recipe for Blueberry Boston Brown Bread.  The picture looked just like the bread that I’ve been trying to make.  I knew I did not have enough time to write the recipe on the back of my grocery list, so I whipped out my phone and took a picture of the ingredients.

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Yes…I took a picture of the ingredients.

The book was a book of slow cooker recipes and I briefly read the instructions, but my thought was I should be able to go online and find this recipe.  Not so. Sad smile  I found recipes for Boston Brown Bread, but not a slow cooker recipe that was the same as the one I had took a picture of.  I went through my cook books and found a recipe for the bread in my Better Homes and Gardens book and decided to go with it.  The final product was AWESOME (I say that in a sing-songy voice)!!!

Here is the break down….

First I mixed the All-purpose, Whole Wheat (I have white whole wheat), Rye flour, & Cornmeal in a bowl

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To that I added baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.

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Then I remembered that I needed to soak my raisins and cranberries  in 2 tbsp of boiling water.

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I mixed all the dry ingredients than moved on to the wet.  I measured a cup of buttermilk.

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I mixed it with molasses and brown sugar that I put in another measuring cup.

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I added the wet to the dry, then folded in the raisin/cranberry mixture.

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This I placed in a loaf pan that I had sprayed with cooking spray and then placed that inside of a casserole dish.  I took a piece of non-stick aluminum foil and placed it over the top of my dough/batter.  (In hindsight, I should have done a better job of covering it, and I’ll tell you why in a sec).

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I placed this in my oven (325 degrees convection, 350 convention) and added water to the casserole dish.

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The bread is to cook for approximately 2 hours.  I think I let my cook longer than that because I was also making a cake at the same time and I didn’t reset the timer once I had taken my cake out of the oven.  Have  mentioned that I cannot wait until I get my kitchen remodeled so that I can have double ovens?

Anywho…I took the bread out of the oven and gave it a slice.  The top was a bit crunchy, that could have been a result of my not covering the top securely or me leaving it in the oven for too long.  I’m not sure, but it was still awesome and finally what I had been eating at Wildfire. No longer do I have to attempt to make that bread.  I now know what I’ve been eating.  It wasn’t pumpernickel raisin, it was Boston Brown Bread! Smile

I slathered on the butter.  Then cut me another piece and slathered on more butter and had it with dinner.

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I’m so happy to have found it. Smile  Now if I could just get the recipe for their spiced peanuts that they serve at the bar.

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Here’s the recipe.  I hope you like as much as I do.

1/3 cup raisins (or dried blueberries, cranberries)

2 tbsp boiling water

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup rye flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 cup buttermilk

1/3 cup full-flavor molasses

2 tbsp maple sugar or dark brown sugar (I used light because that was all I had)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray loaf pan.  Add raisins to 2 tbsp boiling water and set aside

2) Combine all-purpose flour, cornmeal, whole wheat flour, rye flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and set aside.

3) In another bowl combine buttermilk, molasses, and brown sugar.

4) Combine the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.

5) Fold in raisins, include the liquid from the soaking process.

6) Place in greased loaf pan.  Then place the pan inside of casserole dish.  Take a piece of aluminum foil that as been lightly sprayed with cooking spray and place over the batter sprayed side down. (I know you can figure that out, but I do know some people that would not know to do sprayed side down, so I had to say it.)  For this I would try my best to secure it as much as possible without actually closing it off.  Tuck it around the sides really good.

7) Place the casserole dish in the oven then add enough boiling water into dish to come up sides of loaf pan about 1-inch.

8)  Let it bake for about 2 hrs or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Slice and serve warm with butter, cream cheese sweetened with honey, or even honey butter.  I had plain butter and it was fabulous.

Note:  I believe that I got this recipe from the Better Homes and Garden Slow Cooker Recipes book, but I must emphasis that I was in the grocery store line and didn’t pay much attention to which book I picked up.  I did however confirm the recipe from my Better Homes and Gardens Dessert Cookbook.

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Krispy Treat Hit and Miss

As I mentioned last week, I made a lot of rice krispy treats.  I made five types…some were a hit, some were not.  Here’s my recap.  NOTE: There are a lot of photos in this post because….I made a lot of rice krispy treats.

I decided to make Strawberry, Vanilla Bean, Cake Batter, Butterscotch White Chocolate, and Caramel with salted Chocolate.

Can you guess what were the hits and which were the misses?

First I started with two HUGE bags of rice cereal and five 10 oz bags of marshmallows.  I decided to go with the store brand to see if these was something that doesn’t make a difference or not and I was making a lot of treats.  I will say now, the treats that were hits were hits regardless of the maker of the basic ingredients and the misses were because they were – let’s face it – just not the right ones for my taste palette.

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The first treat I made was the strawberry.  It required half of a box of strawberry gelatin to be added to the basic krispy treat recipe (6 cups of puff rice cereal, 1/2 cup of butter, 1 tsp of vanilla extract, and 1 10 oz bag of marshmallows).

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I melted one stick of butter, then added 1 bag of marshmallows.

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I melted the marshmallows and butter in 30 second increments that took about 1 minute total.

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I added about 3 tbsp of strawberry gelatin to the marshmallow butter mixture.

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Then my six cups of cereal

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I then pressed my mixture into a greased tin pan (I bought a four pack) and let them sit.

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Next I made the Vanilla Bean treats.  For these I decided to try margarine to compare flavors – I have decided that I like the flavor of butter better.  The recipe is very similar: 4 tbsp of margarine, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 tsp vanilla bean paste, 10oz marshmallows, 6 cups of puffed rice cereal.

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To my marshmallow and margarine mixture I added 1 tsp of vanilla bean paste and 1 tsp of vanilla.

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These were a lot sticker, so I had to spray my hands with a little of cooking spray to press these into the pan.

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Third I made the cake batter treats.  This recipe called for the addition of cake mix – 4 tbsp of butter, 10 oz marshmallow, 1/2 cup cake mix, 5 cups of puffed rice cereal, and 1 container of sprinkles.

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1/2 cup to be exact

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At the last minute I realized I had forgotten to buy the sprinkles and I had none in my pantry.  I did have tons of sparkling sugar though.

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After I pressed the treats into the pan, I used my multi-colored sugar and went to town to add some color.

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Butterscotch White Chocolate Cereal Treats was next on the list.  This recipe required

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Butterscotch chips and one of my favorite ingredients

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Peanut Butter!

This recipe did not need a fat ingredient, getting it’s fat from the peanut butter and chips.

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I added white chocolate chips to my mixture because the original recipe called White Chocolate Wonder by Peanut Butter & Co.  I didn’t have that, but I did have some white chocolate chips and some peanut butter, so I tried my own version.

 

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Once it was smooth, I added the puffed rice cereal and smooshed it into the pan.  Then I started thinking lets add some melted white chocolate over the top.

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Butterscotch White Chocolate Rice Krispy Treats : 1 bag butterscotch morsels, 1 cup peanut butter, 1/4 cup white chocolate chips, 6 cups puffed rice cereal.  Combine butterscotch morsels, peanut butter and white chocolate chips.  Melt in microwave about 1 min (in 30 second intervals).  Add rice cereal.  Press into 8×8 lightly greased pan.

 

The final treat I made, Caramel with Salted Chocolate, required caramel.  So, I made caramel.  I did this by combining 1/2 cup of sugar with 2 tbsp of water and placing them over med/high heat.

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I left that mixture alone until it began to turn amber around the edges.

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At that point I removed it from the heat and began whisking.

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I then added 2 1/2 tbsp of softened butter to the mixture and whisked again.  Once that was incorporated, I added 1/4 cup of warm whipping cream.

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Now that my caramel sauce was done, I melted my butter and marshmallows.

 

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Then I combined the caramel sauce and marshmallow mixture.

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I added my cereal, 6 cups, and smooshed into a greased pan.  I then made the ganache my pouring 3/4 cup of very warm heavy cream over 2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips.

 

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I let my ganache sit for a few minutes then poured it over my treats.  Maybe I should have placed the treats in the frig, but I’m not a huge fan of overly cold desserts.  Cheesecake, lemon meringue pie, key lime pie, jello, and a few other desserts should be cold…Rice Krispy treats, in my opinion, should not.  Oh yeah…after I let the ganache sit a little while I sprinkled the top with sea salt.

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But maybe if I had my ganache would not have seeped through. :(

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Here’s the recipe: Salted Chocolate Caramel Rice Krispy Treats (courtesy of http://www.yourcupofcake.com)

Caramel: 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tbsp water 2 1/2 tbsp of softened butter, 1/4 cup heavy cream

Cereal Treats: 1 10 oz bag marshmallows, 2 tbsp of butter, 1 tsp vanilla, 6 cups puffed rice cereal, and caramel sauce

Ganache: 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, 3/4 cup heavy cream, Sea salt for sprinkling on top

Make the caramel sauce: Place cream in small pan and warm, but do not boil (I actually placed mine in a small ceramic bowl and placed it in the microwave for 30 seconds right before I added to sugar mixture).  Combine sugar and water in small pan over med/high heat.  Leave alone until the edges begin to turn amber.  Turn off the heat and begin whisking.  Add the butter and continue whisking.  Add warmed cream and whisk.  Place to the side.

Make cereal treats: Melt butter and marshmallows.  Add vanilla to marshmallow mixture.  Add caramel sauce to mixture.  Add rice cereal and combine.  Press into lightly greased pan.  Set aside and make ganache.

Make ganache: Place chocolate chips in bowl.  Heat cream just until it is about to boil.  Pour hot cream over chips and whisk until chocolate is melted and smooth.  Allow to sit and cool a few minutes.  Then pour over treats.  Tilt pan to allow even coating of treats.  Let sit a few minutes more then lightly sprinkle with sea salt.      

Here are all of the treats lined up on my dining room table setting and waiting to be cut.

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Now to tell you about my hits and misses.  Did you figure out which was which?

 

Strawberry was a phenomenal hit!!!  Babydoll and her sleepover guest loved them and any others that were left was taken as a dessert treat with lunch this week.

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Vanilla Bean and Cake Batter were also hits!  They weren’t as well liked/loved as the strawberry by Babydoll, but they are her backups.

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The Butterscotch White Chocolate was just too sweet for my palette.  As much as I love peanut butter, I could not take how sweet it was.  If I attempt them again I think I will cut the butterscotch morsels by half and double the peanut butter.  I will search the store aisle and find the White Chocolate Wonder and use that also instead of my own version.

 

 

 

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Finally, the Salted Chocolate Caramel was a big miss.  I believe a lot of this had to do with the fact that the ganache seemed into the actual bar.  This changed the texture of the bar and made it something I really did not want to eat.  In the future, I think I will make these without the ganache top and just do the caramel krispy treats.

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That was my Saturday, off & on because I took Sasha to get a haircut and met Stan and the girls (Babydoll and her sleepover guest) for lunch after he took the girls skating and dropped off his car at repair center.

I found several other recipes for rice krispy treats that I will try another time (they tend to be a big hit at gifts at my Girlfriends Dinner party).  I’m excited to try the pumpkin spice.  Plus I still have 3/4 of a bag of cereal to use up.  Do you have a variation that you would like to share?  I’m open to suggestions.

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Sorry about the picture quality, first I am not nor do I claim to be a food photographer; and second I re-sized these pictures in WordPress, something I stopped doing a long time ago when I began using Windows Live Writer.  I had already transferred the draft to WordPress and decided to finish up here before I had decided on size of pictures.  There were so many I pictures I didn’t want it to take too long to transfer.  Lesson learned, I will complete my editing in Live Writer from now on. :)    

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Menu 3/2/14

Happy Friday Everyone,

Here’s what we’re having this week.  Have a great weekend. :)

Sunday: Roasted Bone-in chicken breast with Creamy Orzo and roasted Asparagus

Monday: I will be making Stan a childhood favorite – Chipped Beef on Texas Toast and Babydoll and I will have soup and Sandwiches (we may try the chipped beef instead of the sandwich), soup wise I’m thinking I will take one of my Bear Creek packages and do a quickie soup.  I’ll Tweet which one I decide on.  There’s supposed to be a huge snow storm on Sunday so the soup will be much appreciated.

Tuesday:  Chili Dogs and Tater Tots with Fruit Salad.  This has to be a really quick meal because last week we finally found a new dance school for Babydoll and it looks like we will be in school from 5:30-7:30 with back-to-back dance classes.

Wednesday: Taco Salad (another late night – Babydoll has choir practice)

Thursday: Turkey Manhattan with chopped Spinach

Friday: It’s a work night, it’s every-man-for-themselves

Saturday: Chili

Have a great week. :)

 

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