Traditional English Breakfast Texas Style

Traditional English Breakfast Texas Style

RM and I spent seven fun-packed days in London just recently enjoying the culture, history, arts, fashion and food and celebrating 30 years of marriage.  I am still trying to get my mind around the 30 years aspect of that sentence.  We had a traditional English breakfast three mornings in a row while staying at the Morgan Hotel just a hop, skip and jump away from the British Museum.  The cook at the Morgan offered eggs (scrambled, poached or fried), bacon (more like what we call Canadian bacon) and sausage links (sorta american hot dog style), sautéed mushrooms, baked beans, grilled tomatoes and bread (white or brown) served in a toast rack and the entire meal made fresh and customized  to meet the specification of each guest.  Of course, it was served on fine china.  Very refined along with either coffee or hot tea.  We felt so pampered.

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English baked beans are these pictured above, simply warmed up and served.  They dunk their toast in it and lap it up.  I did not find these appetizing but the Brits love them or at least they say they do.

This morning I was thinking about those lovely breakfasts back in chilly London as I was looking over my morning news and squinting out onto my sunny and warm backyard garden.  The required cup of  morning brew in hand.  I started getting hungry and came up with my Texas-inspired version of a traditional English/Tex-Mex breakfast that I will share with you today.  I am sure Winston Churchill and the Queen would purse their lips a bit but I thought is was lovely.

Step 1.  Take a ripe avocado and scoop out the pit and a little more of the flesh to make room for an egg.  I cracked the egg in a bowl and then lifted it gently with a spoon and slipped into the cavity of the avocado.  Repeat step for as many avocado eggs as you want. I did two (one for me, one for RM) because I knew they would be rich.  Place them in the oven at a preheated 170 degrees for about 20 minutes or to the consistency you like of the egg.  I like mine runny to slop up with the toast.

Step 2.  I cut up a few slices of thick sliced bacon and fried it crispy to add a bit of salt and really folks… nearly everything is better with bacon.

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Step 3.  Slice some tomatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper and a dash of balsamic vinegar.  I had some fresh dill so I added that too but you could use basil or oregano if you have those on hand.  Grilled this in my toaster oven.

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Step 4:  Make some toast – I chose two slices of sunflower and honey bread or as referred to in London — “brown bread”.  Their brown bread has seeds in it like sunflower but not sure if I got that correct or not.  It definitely wasn’t rye.

Step 5;  Assemble all together and serve with fig preserves and leftover avocado and butter spread.  Enjoy!

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Super Bubble, Duct Tape and Love

Super Bubble, Duct Tape and Love

I met RM in the summer of 1981 waiting tables at the Steinburg Inn located downtown on Kansas Avenue in Topeka, Kansas — the Inn was a deli that was co-owned by his dad and a business partner. I stumbled on the waitressing job late in the summer employment hunt after spending several days early in the same summer in Texas in training for my year-round job as a Resident Assistant for student housing at KU. I was planning to take two summer classes at Washburn, get a part-time job, and live with my parents so I could save money. That summer was between my sophomore and junior year in college. The deli was small but busy at lunch with government workers and downtown business people as the primary customer base. There were four employees that waited tables most days from 11-2 when we had our big rush. We worked well together — all four of us were about same age, fairly compatible, and a little competitive with one another about tip total counts after our shift. The food was fresh and business was good. That summer, RM was in a frat house studying to pass aerospace engineering coursework, the other male waiter, David, was son of a former sheriff and destined for leadership at KU as student body president and a Frank Sinatra impersonator –you should hear him croon– Susan had a distinct laugh and already a couple of modeling gigs under her belt, and me working to support myself through school, a GDI through and through, and happy to be foot loose and fancy free after recently ending a year-long relationship with a young man from Wichita.

RM didn’t ask me out, I asked him. Ladies, when you see a good man, go for it. RM was a good waiter, quick to impress the ladies, made the most tips except when I beat him, unfortunately obsessed with Astroids and Pinball, but a snappy dresser (no seed cap). I got his attention by asking him if he liked banana splits. RM said “yes”, and the next thing I know I am on the back of his Vespa, arms locked around him tight, headed to a late night spot for dessert. That was all we could afford at the time but it was sweet and that was the beginning of thirty plus years together. The next date, we decided to ride the Vespa together over to Lawrence so he could show me his frat house, meet some of his frat friends, and have a few beers. It is less than 20 miles between Topeka and Lawrence and there is a quiet, paved two-lane road that is fun to ride and enjoy the summer breezes. We made the trip over with no problems but stayed much later than we should but we were young and beginning to fall in love. After midnight, we head back the 20 miles only to quickly realize we had a rear flat tire on the Vespa. RM pushed it to a nearby car wash that also had, conveniently,  an air pump. He paid the quarter, filled the tire, but the air quickly escaped again leaving all of us flat and late. No cell phones then to alert anxious parents of our whereabouts. The tire needed a patch and we had nothing on hand. We reluctantly left the scooter and walked to a Kwik Shop to see what they had on the shelves. No patch kit just beer and stale nachos and a tired cashier. We were both wondering what our next steps would be. How to fix the tire? We combed the aisles and with my suggestion (RM will verify this important fact in the story) settled on a pack of pink Super Bubble and a roll of grey duct tape. We hurried back to the scooter, hoping it was still sitting where we left it. Still there, still flat. I chewed the gum and RM disassembled the tire to reach the tube and the tear. We worked together quietly. I worked on the biggest wad of gum I could chew and handed it over to RM. He placed the sticky pink mass over the hole in the tube, we wrapped the tape around the tube and over the gum, using our teeth to tear the tape, reassembled the tube into the tire, and then paid the air machine another quarter. The air went in, the tire inflated and held. RM bounced the machine up and down a couple of times and the tire continued to hold. We jumped on the Vespa and drove it to my home holding our breath that it would get us there without any problems. RM kept the speed down, took the corners and bumps easy and it worked. I arrived home to a sleepy mother that was glad I still had all my parts and I arrived home pretty sure that RM was mine. There isn’t much that Super Bubble, Duct Tape, and Love can’t fix.

I love (hate) our trees

I love (hate) our trees

Should I crawl out of my warm comfy bed, leaving behind my blogging, reading, gaming environment, to tackle the mounds of leaves in the back yard? I already feel the warm burn on the underside of my underdeveloped upper arm as I contemplate the task. And what about the sting from the little blister that always forms between my thumb and my pointer finger? “Where are those old work gloves? Where is the worn rake? ” No excuse really since the weather has turned mild again. The backyard landscape is all brown and the severe weather has nipped my collection of herbs — even the rosemary is blackened. Sorry old yard, sorry old me. Tired from the first hectic week back at work, from the renewed exercise regimen and from the winter blahs, I contemplate the task and dive back under the covers. RM brings me another cup of hot java and encourages me to linger longer in my lair before venturing out. “Why worry about the leaves, they will still be there for you,” he reminds me as he tries to pat down my terrible case of bed head. He creaks back down the stairs leaving me with my decision. With the pressure off, I recall the more positive aspects of leaf raking…the satisfaction of making the beds clear, discovering a green shoot under the mass amount of debris, and the cat playing games with the crumpling leaves and begin to make my way out of my bed, to the shower to fix the wild hairdo, and out the back door to my secret garden waiting for its trusty caretaker to give it a winter makeover. Why I love (hate) my trees.

My parents were elderhostlers and shared their love of travel with their grandchildren

My parents were elderhostlers and shared their love of travel with their grandchildren

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Elderhostel is a not-for-profit organization established in 1975 which offers senior citizens travel and educational programs in the U.S.  and around the world. Its 8,000 programs are offered in all 50 U.S. states, as well as in 150 other countries. More than 5,000,000 people have signed up for trips.  My parents and in particular, my dad, were big advocates for this program.  They traveled together on these adventures as well as bringing along grandchildren when the grandkids were old enough to travel.  My girls have special memories of time with Grandpa on these trips usually in the summer and often they traveled with another cousin – a cousin they only saw at holiday time or special occasions so this was a chance to bring the extended family together in an educational and entertaining way. The story I hear is that Grandpa was quite the flirt on these trips as the retired women outnumbered the retired men almost every time.  My special memory is the trip my Mom was able to travel with my Dad to Costa Rica and they counted monkeys for a research project while delivering school supplies to children living in the jungle.  After my father died, I found a little yellow piece of paper in his wallet that listed all the Elderhostel trips and dates he took in his lifetime.  I guess he kept it to remind himself of the experience and for quick access if he needed to remember a certain date or trip.

Below is the list from the slip of paper (front).  From 1991 to 2006 included over 45 trips to learn about a topic, explore a region, and enjoy time with each other and family.  I come from a long line of pastors, educators, and volunteers as well as parents with the travel bug.  My children have inherited it too, most probably from these early adventures with their grandparents.  C1 has traveled to the Middle East including several months living in Oman.  C2 has visited Swaziland in Africa.  C3 has Italy and Germany in the bag.  Here are the dates and place they traveled in their retirement after working many years as school and social work administrators.  I hope that I can too travel extensively and continue their legacy of life long learning.

1. October 91 – Thibodaux

2. December 91 – Chicago

3. February 92 – Winter Park

4. March 92 – Gulf Shores

5. October 92 – West Virginia

6. December 92 – Lees Ferry, Arizona

7.  February 93 – Brownsville

8. February 93 – Stillwater

9.  October 92 – Overland Park, Kansas

10.  December 93 – Belize

11.  February 94 – Phoenix

12.  February 94 – Carlsbad

13.  April 94 – Minneapolis

14.  June 94 – Grand Junction

15.  October 94 – Vermont

16.  October 94 – Gettysburg

17.  March 95 – Oklahoma State University

18.  May 95 – N. Illinois

19.  September 95 – Topeka

20.  June 96 – Tampico

21. October 96 – Ashland, Oregon

21.  July 97 – Kentucky

22.  August 97 – Michigan

23. November 97 – Lafayette, Louisiana

24.  February 98 – Georgia Coast

25.  March 98 – Central America

26.  September 98 – Washington

27.  March 99 – St. Vincent Islands

28.  April 99 – Santa Fe

29.  June 99 – Corpus Christie

30.  June 99 – La Paz, Mexico

31.  June 99 – West Texas

32.  December 99 – Key West

33.  February 2000 – Flagstaff

34.  July 2000 – Prospect, Arizona

35.  August 2000 – Rex, Idaho

36.  March 2001 – Las Vegas

37.  March 2001 – Hot Springs, AR

38.  July 2002 – Virginia

39.  February 2002 – Costa Rica

40.  July 20002 – Rochester

41.  July 2003 – N. Arizona

42.  August 2004 – Great Lakes

43.  July 2005 – Oregon

44. August 2005 – Bermuda

45. April 2006 – Belize

46. July 2006 – Baltimore

Oh so subtle differences

Oh so subtle differences

Brits
Drive and walk on left hand side of the road or street or stairs.

Yanks
Do so the same as above but on the right side which resulted in me colliding with locals on every turn. It is so bad, that the Brits have kindly written “look right” or “look left” at every intersection. It is called right for a reason, right? Not according to that double decker that nearly took me out.

Brits
Like their beer, ale, lager, cider served at room temperature but on occasion it does arrive a bit frosty because the pub temperature is chilly too. Wear your best woollies while visiting in winter.

Yanks
I don’t know what that is we are drinking but it isn’t Bud lite but is cold.

Brits
Have so many doors in their flats and restaurants. There are at least two doors to get in and then another after that to our final destination. Maybe to keep the cold air out? They also like to use an abundance of wooden door stops. I stubbed my toe on these several times.

Yanks
Believe in the open concept.

Brits
Like small round knobs and lots of switches for turning on and off the electricity.

Yanks
We just leave everything in the “on” position.

Brits
Eat biscuits and nibbles

Yanks
Eat cookies and snacks

Brits
Mind the gap

Yanks
What gap?

Brits
Give way

Yanks
Yield

Brits
Wear boots and scarves out of necessity from the wet and muck

Texans
Cuz they look good

Brit
Drink water in moderation when requested only

Yanks
By the slushy gallon

Brits
Polite and friendly and call each other mate or chap and greet one another with a robust “cheers”

Yank
Friendly and a bit too loud — we love to be recognized and noticed and the Brits understand this and do it well. Thanks for a great week and to the London mayor for a great fireworks show.