Sued51's Blog

{March 22, 2012}   Family Size and Eating Habits

I recently read a thought-provoking blog by MindMindful. Her blog got me thinking about how factors in our upbringing affect our eating habits. I brought the subject up at dinner at a friends’ house and it created a lively discussion.
I related a story of sitting down to dinner with a roommate. She had baked a package of 10 dinner rolls and put them in a basket on the table. I proceeded to take 5 and put them on my plate. “You don’t have to take your allotment,” she said. We laughed, but it was an “ah-ha” moment for me. I had grown up with 6 brothers and there were no second helpings for me. I had to take the serving size I wanted up front. It is work for me now to think about how much food I put on my plate and try not to overeat.
My friend’s husband then related that because he grew up in a small family, he hates leftovers. He said they never wondered what would be for dinner on Monday because it was always leftovers from Sunday dinner, and sometimes Tuesday would be the same. His wife, on the other hand, who came from a family with 9 children where leftovers were unheard of, doesn’t mind eating them for lunch the next day. Like her, I don’t mind leftovers; we didn’t have any at my house either.
So, readers, I’m wondering, did family size or structure affect your eating habits as an adult? I’ll bet it did, even if it meant you purposely went the opposite way (which I think I’ll write about in another blog)…

{November 3, 2011}   Foodsaver: Money Saver?

We bought our first FoodSaver two years ago.  It worked great. We stocked up our freezer for the winter with meat when it was on sale during the summer months.  We were able to buy family packs of meat, which are cheaper, or a side of beef at the local meat market and have it cut into steaks. I was also able to freeze some vegetables from the garden. We felt like it was a great purchase.  Unfortunately the first one did not even last a year.  It would no longer create a vacuum seal; it just made a lot of noise.

We called the company because it was still under warranty.  Dealing with them required a long phone call, patience and aggressive complaining.  They insisted we had done something wrong or needed to clean the rubber gasket (which can’t have a spec of anything or it cannot create a seal).  We told them we had already tried to clean the gasket (which we had), and it still wouldn’t seal.  They said they would send us a new gasket.  No…we said, it is not the gasket; it needs to be fixed.  They finally agreed to try to repair it but they wanted us to pay the shipping. After more time on the phone and more aggressive complaining they finally agreed to send us a prepaid shipping label to send them the FoodSaver.  It took a while and we had to follow up, but they finally sent us another one.

Now we have had the second one almost a year and are crossing our fingers.  The freezer is full again for the upcoming winter.

I do believe the product is worth purchasing and can save you money.  If you make the bags large enough, you can wash them and reuse them to freeze smaller pieces of food, e.g., use a bag that contained a roast the first time to freeze a steak the second time.  Best of all, no freezer burn!  The food is fresh tasting when you defrost it and cook it (within a year for meat).  Also, we have bought produce at a warehouse club and used the vacuum sealing to keep mushrooms and other produce fresh longer in the refrigerator.

I recommend purchasing one but make sure you send in your warranty card.

{September 25, 2011}   As the Avocado Grows…

As the Avocado Grows…

My successful "plant experiment"

I have written in a past blog about my “plant experiments.” This 1 ½ year old avocado plant is one of my successes, and I’m proud as a parent.

I had heard you could grow an avocado from a pit but I had never tried it.  I was interested in the experiment, so I looked up information on the Internet (the Internet IS wonderful for that; you can find out how to do almost anything).  I followed the instructions: hovering a split pit over a dish of water with toothpicks. It took weeks and weeks to get a sprout, but it happened!  I transplanted it and it is now over two feet tall!  Because it was an avocado from the grocery store it is probably a hybrid, genetically altered not to produce fruit, but it is still a lovely plant and makes me feel successful. It has a place of honor under the skylights with our other “tropical” plants.

Meanwhile out in my compost pile last year, a plant rose from the depths. I recognized the leaves because of my indoor experiment; an avocado plant had grown on its own in my compost pile without the aid of the toothpicks and bowl of water. I briefly considered digging it up and repotting it, but I didn’t think I needed two of them.  I was attached to the one I grew myself because I worked so hard to nurture it.

With very little thought, I left it to become a victim of the New England winter.

A Successful Food Experiment

My friend, Julie recently posted a comment on Facebook regarding her experience dining out.  She related that in two separate instances a server gave her back only the bills of her change, and not the coins (which in one case was just 18 cents).  When she questioned the server about the coins, she was met with the response, “I didn’t think you would want it.”  Seriously???  The server in one case went on to say, “Don’t worry, I kept it, it didn’t go in the till.”  And that should be reassuring because…?  My friend promptly gave the server less tip than she had originally intended.

She asked her Facebook friends if this was a new practice.  Her story elicited comment after comment, some saying it had happened to them as well, and others expressing their outrage.  Many synonyms for “stealing” were used.  Not condoning it, but trying to understand it, my comment was that I thought this behavior was brought on by the practice of servers pooling and sharing tips, resulting in some being tempted to skim a little off the top for themselves.  I hate to clue these people in, but with the exception of large groups, a tip is not an entitlement, but a reward for good service, to be bestowed on the server at the discretion of the customer.

I told the story to someone I know who was a server for many years.  She was incensed and said, “It is absolutely stealing.”  She went on to talk about the elephant in the room: that the latest generation seems to have a sense of entitlement when it comes to tips: they do not recognize that tips are EARNED with good service.

My husband and I recently had a poor service experience while eating at the bar of a local restaurant.  A second server took much better care of us than the first.  My husband’s response was to ask her if they shared tips.  She said, “Yes,” and his reply was, “I’m sorry…that’s too bad.”  He praised her service but left no tip because the first server (a 20ish young man) had simply stood around doing nothing but ignoring us, and then disappeared.

My friend’s story ended with phone calls to the managers of the restaurants involved, producing shocked reactions from the managers, who said they did not condone the practice.  But do they actively discourage it?  How are these servers getting away with this?  Because patrons don’t speak up??  In a bad economy, consumers choose carefully when they go out; it’s a treat, no longer a habit, to go to a restaurant.  Customers, speak up if this happens to you!

As adults we are responsible for our food choices and most of us know which foods are considered “bad” or unhealthy choices: buttery, fatty items full of sugar and preservatives.  Ah, the days when I could regularly eat donuts or hostess snack cakes and not gain an ounce; back then we weren’t bombarded with knowledge of the content or calories of these “treats.”  That was a LOONNG time ago.

Every once in a while I make the choice to feel like a kid, and I allow myself to have a yodel, a ring ding, or a Twinkie.  The experience is a trip back to my childhood with each bite.

My husband and I recently bought a box of Honey Smacks cereal because it was on sale and we had a coupon.  In order to balance the guilt I felt about eating a bowl of it, I put corn flakes on the bottom.  But when I took the first bite….Whoosh!  I was taken back to childhood trips driving across the country in our car/van to visit relatives.  One of the most exciting things about the trip for me was that my mother would buy the small variety pack cereals.  Once in the car with the outside plastic ripped open, we kids would dive in to grab the “special” sugar cereals, like Sugar Smacks or Frosted Flakes that my mother almost never bought in the big box.  It helped make the trips special.

Variety Pack Cereals

There are some things I almost never eat anymore, because I’ve lost my taste for them, like ice cream sandwiches.  I ate one for lunch almost every day in junior high because I didn’t like the hot lunches.  I eventually got to the point that I felt nauseous just looking at one.  I used to eat a lot of ice cream in general; when I was in my late teens I would eat a banana split or Jim Dandy Sundae from Friendly’s for lunch or dinner.  I don’t think I’ve had one since.  I rarely have ice cream now because my teeth are too sensitive, which negates the pleasure of any good memories that may come from eating it.

Another old favorite of mine is popcorn; it always reminds me of when I worked at the movie theater.  I used to go home smelling like the butter-colored “lard” substance we would squirt on the top.  It definitely made me nauseous after a while.  Again it was many years before I could stomach eating it again.  My husband hates the smell of microwave popcorn, and eating too much of it at work made me pack on the pounds a few years ago, so the only time I have it now is home-made on the stove, with a small amount of real melted butter on top, which is a real treat.

As adults we know “moderation” is the key: it is okay to eat these “bad” foods every once in a while and enjoy where it takes us without guilt.

{October 18, 2010}   A Review of The Ugly Ducking Loft

My husband and I went on a drive to Sturbridge to see some foliage and have lunch.  We didn’t know anything about the restaurants there, but we chose The Ugly Duckling Loft because, even just before 2:00 pm on a Wednesday, it had quite a few cars in the parking lot.  It is the upstairs of the The Whistling Swan . 

It was attractive inside: wood-beamed with elegant-looking tables with white tablecloths.  We decided to sit at the bar, which had comfortable blue leather chairs.  The waiter/bartender told us it been under new management for two weeks.  The menu was one page, but had several delicious-sounding choices.

We started with an appetizer of fried calamari with sweet plum sauce.  I decided against the spicy sauce because I have had that at many restaurants and wanted something a little different.  It was delicious and tender.

Next we shared a salad called a “BLT” with a fried red tomato on top of thick bacon and baby greens, topped with goat cheese.  The waiter/bartender split it for us and gave us each our own plates; it was delicious.  Our only criticism was that the tomato was warm, but the bacon was cold.  The waiter/bartender told us the bacon should have been warm.

Lastly, we both ordered “stuffed burgers.”  We had seen burgers stuffed with cheese on Man vs. Food  on the travel channel, and we were curious to try them.  My husband ordered the blue cheese and bacon, and I got the Los Angeles burger with goat cheese; we both ordered them medium well accompanied by sweet potato fries.

The burgers we had seen on the TV show were made by taking cheese and stuffing it between two burger patties.  The burgers were pressed together around the outside to seal in the cheese before they were cooked.  When patrons bit into the burgers, hot melted cheese would ooze out; they came with a warning so people would not burn themselves on the hot cheese.  This is what we expected, but not what we got; the cheese appeared to be on top, not “stuffed” in the center; we were disappointed.  That said, the burgers were still delicious; the buns were toasted and the burgers moist.  The generous helping of fries were addictive;  we both should have stopped before we did.  No dessert for us.

The waiter/bartender was pleasant, attentive, and communicative.  Because the food was good and we knew the management was new, I was still pretty pleased with my experience, despite the cold bacon on the salad and the disappointment with the burgers.  I would definitely try the restaurant again.

A veterinarian told us that treats for our cats should not be those packaged as such, but a piece of chicken or fish.  But our cats go crazy for some of the packaged treats (especially the ones called “Temptations”), so it is hard to adhere to that advice.  What would the kitties pick if they could?

I remember as a child what an exciting treat it was to go out for an ice cream cone or sundae.  I live near a couple of dairy farm ice cream stands that have lines all spring and summer long, but I’m never in them.  I rarely eat ice cream anymore, and if I do, I eat it at home.  It just seems too expensive to go out to get it served to me when I can buy it at the store and eat it at home.  When did that treat change for me?

Economic and/or health concerns have changed my idea of what a “treat” is for me.  There are some things I miss and some things I don’t.  When I was young I worked at a movie theater.  I ate popcorn just about every day.  When I stopped doing that, I went through a phase when I was working in an office and was eating microwave popcorn several times a week, resulting in a lot of extra pounds.  I figured out it was the popcorn and stopped eating it.  Now every once in a while I drag out my popcorn popper at home and make popcorn.  I now consider it a treat.  Similarly, because donuts are so bad for me, I almost never eat them.

I don’t seem to have as much time as I used to just to read a book or magazine without feeling guilty.  These days I concentrate most of my energies on saving money (i.e., cutting coupons, shopping for deals, making food from scratch, etc.).  So, to take some time to quietly read a book or magazine nowadays is a definite treat.

I would like to say the change in my thinking is an age-related phenomenon, but the other day I met some elderly people who were making an event out of going to one of the dairy farm ice cream stands.  My parents do the same.  So why isn’t it a treat to me?  Mindset – Mine is set in practical/economical mode right now, which doesn’t include going out for an ice cream sundae.

To go back to what the veterinarian said, the best treat should not be something unhealthy for you.  But doesn’t the definition of “treat” include “fun” combined with a certain amount of “guilt”? My treats these days are virtually guiltfree and the fun factor is much diminished.  So…are they still “treats”?

I watched the show for the first time last night and I admire what he is doing. I think it is a wonderful thing to teach kids about food and nutrition.  It is one of those practical skills that working parents don’t have time to teach their kids.  I have always been of the opinion that there should be more “life-skills” taught in high schools: personal finance, nutrition, and parenting — not the old-fashioned “Home Economics”, but more like kitchen science.

I think the rise of celebrity chefs in the media has been good for society.  I have recently become a fan and have learned a lot about food and cooking, as well as business and world cultures, from the likes of Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsey.

Cooking, as a vocation was and still is to a great extent, hard work.  In the past, the potential to make a lot of money from it was almost nil.  Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential” gives a good picture of this world.  But the new celebrity chefs are not just “cooks” or even “chefs”; they are authors, businessmen, and marketing experts.

This is the new world and the new economics.  I sometimes pity the children growing up now; to succeed they will need a multitude of skills and for the most part, they will have to fend for themselves to make a living.  The best thing the older generation can do is recognize this, and prepare them better.

My Favorite Catalog

My favorite catalog came yesterday—Burpee Gardening!  I can just stare at the pictures for hours; the pictures of the vegetables, fruits, and flowers are my idea of paradise.  This year the cover is graced by a cream yellow and magenta petunia called “Fancy Dress”, and it is fancy indeed. “Come into our garden!” reads the front, and I eagerly enter.

Hmmm…what are the highlights this year? The front of the book contains a “Big Pink Tomato” (that truly looks “pink” in the picture) and a “Cherries Jubilee Tomato” (the photo shows a hanging branch — wonderful depth of field –of countless red and orangey cherry tomatoes).  The names of the plants are imaginative—who can resist a lettuce called “Braveheart”, or a fruit called “Seascape Strawberries”.   And I love to read the descriptions; peppers called “Flavorburst Hybrid” are described as “Giant blocky bells [that] begin granny apple green and finish in a lovely shade of goldenrod.”  The accompanying picture is as described: peppers all combinations of green and gold.

If you’ve never looked at a burpee catalog; here’s the link; you’ll see the “Fancy Dress” on the web site.

Go to the bottom of the page and click on Request a Catalogue.   Send for one.  I’m telling you…when it is snowing outside or when you are waiting in vain for a glimpse of your crocuses breaking ground, this catalog will help you dream of spring!

Sometimes it’s the perfect relationship where taste and smell work together to create a transcending experience. For me, that is the case for basil, cilantro, rosemary, and peanut butter to name a few.  Orgasmic!

Sometimes the smell is better than the taste. For me coffee is on this list; I LOVE of the smell of fresh ground coffee, though I’m a tea drinker. And of course there are many things that taste a lot better than they smell (come on, who really likes the smell of fish?!). Many alcohols are on this list for me, especially beer and whiskey.

Then of course there are all the things that smell great, but can be poisonous or can’t be eaten.  Many flowers come to mind.  This makes me wonder about evolution. Why do we like the smell of things that we may be allergic to?  Why doesn’t our body instinctively keep us away from these things?  I love the smell of fresh cut grass, but it doesn’t take long before I start sneezing.  I also love the smell of Russian sage, but I am highly allergic; every time I try to trim my plants, I have difficulty breathing.

I started thinking about this because I wanted to make a list of my favorite smells but kept finding myself writing qualifiers after many things on the list.  I found the task I set for myself, was not so simple, but of course that is what made it challenging and fun.  Try it and see if it is simple…maybe it is just me.

et cetera
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