THE “I”s HAVE IT

YOU SCREAM, I SCREAM, WE ALL SCREAM FOR ICE CREAM

How many times in our lives have we seen the logo for Baskin-Robbins with the 31 hidden in it to represent their 31 flavors? Most of us have our favorite flavor but have you wondered about the other 30? Well, we did and as part of “I” we have decided to start checking off all 31 flavors.

We went into the project with a certain number of flavors already tasted. For Laura they were: Chocolate, Chocolate Fudge, Mint Chocolate Chip, and Jamoca Almond Fudge. Added to those were Barbara’s: Vanilla, World Class Chocolate and Snickers.

So far, we have tried an additional 7 and divided them into 3 categories:

Good, will order again

German Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Pistachio Almond – Laura, not Barbara

Good but one time only

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Caramel Turtle Truffle – too sweet

Not good

Black Walnut – the ice cream was watered down but also had a bad, almost rotten taste to it.

Pistachio Almond – Barbara felt this one had a bad aftertaste but it could be because she doesn’t like almonds.

Gold Medal Ribbon – thought this was rather tasteless.

Despite the great sacrifice, we intend to get through the rest by the time we check off the rest of the letters on our grid.

Film Theme – INDIGENOUS Native American People

Barbara: I watched the documentary Unspoken, which is a film about the Indian Boarding Schools. These schools were designed to wipe out the Indian way of life, language and culture and force the assimilation into the white man’s world. They were stripped of their hair, their names, their clothing, everything they learned as an Indian people. Although not what I would normally call a great film, the film touched me because even though I am not very religious, I have a very strong sense of culture and it is unimaginable to think that someone could have taken me away from my family and forced me to unlearn everything that made me me, especially if I had lived in the country all my life.

Film Theme – ISRAELI Cuisine

Laura: Watching the film In Search of Israeli Cuisine, you follow Israeli-born American chef Michael Solomonov of Philadelphia’s Zahav restaurant as he travels though the many regions of Israel to sample food, talk to chefs, visit farms and chat with journalists  – always searching for a definitive answer to the evasive question: what exactly is Israeli cuisine? Since there are more than 70 cultures that make up the Israeli people, it’s inevitable that the cuisine is a blend of these various ethnic traditions. But it’s a wonderful blend, since the food there is delicious and has led to the emergence of Israel being regarded as a trendy food destination. I really enjoyed this journey. Michael Solomonov is very likeable but the food, the various regions and the Israeli people are the true focus of this film, along with the political and social challenges of having a melting-pot approach to cuisine.

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ALL ABOUT ALLIGATORS

Our friend                                                                                                    Alphonso came to visit and he was horrified that we knew so little about alligators. He insisted we dedicate “A” to them.

First, he suggested we draw an alligator cartoon figure (he knows our level of skill).

And then he sat down to chat with us about some interesting facts about his kind:

  1. “We’ve got a whole lot of choppers.” They sure do! They have between 74 and 80 teeth in their jaws at any given time, and as a tooth falls out another one grows. Alphonso said his father went through 2,000 teeth in its lifetime.
  2. “I’ve mastered the use of tools.” Alphonso told us he and his friends balance sticks and branches on their heads to attract birds looking for nesting material.
  3. “All the women in my family are devoted moms.” For a cold-blooded animal, an alligator sure has a warm and loving heart towards their young.  She stays by their nest for 65 days and once they are born, she protects them for up to a year.
  4. “If the weather had been colder while I was gestating, my name might have been Allie.” For alligators, sex is determined by temperature.  Eggs exposed to temperatures above 93°F become males, while those at 86 °F become females.
  5. “We have some cool courtship moves.” Besides making a noise with enough intensity to cause the surface of the water around the male to ripple and dance, their moves also include head-slapping on the water’s surface, snout and back rubbing, and blowing bubbles. Most American women are lucky to get flowers or the door held open for us!

We shared some grapes with Alphonso and then he had to leave. You know we couldn’t resist saying “SEE YOU LATER, ALLIGATOR.”

 

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MIXED MEAL MADNESS

October in Texas has always been the time people go to the State Fair to have fun and, especially, to try out all the crazy food concoctions each year. Since this is a crazy year, we decided to go crazy ourselves and try out three unusual food mixtures.

The first, and most delicious, was one that we didn’t cook ourselves. It is a combo of a donut and a croissant and is called a cronut. We found it at a small donut shop called Jaram’s. What made this mixture great was that the croissant, while a little sweet, cut the greater sweetness of the donut glaze and the result was eye-rolling-back-in-the-head deliciousness.

The second mixture was one that we had a load of fun making. It is a ramen burger. Yes, a burger that uses ramen noodles in place of the traditional bun. Although messy, we shared lots of laughs trying to get our mouth around this one.

Last – and least – is a so-called new cereal idea: Cheetos and milk. The thought of it was like taking medicine. When we took our first bite we had a second of insanity thinking it may not be too bad, but the longer the Cheetos sat in the milk the more we went back to our first impulse. That is definitely not replacing our Cinnamon Toast Crunch!

Let us know if you have tried any Mad Meal Mixtures of your own!

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TASTINGS AND HAIL TO KALE

When there’s not much to do, there’s always food! So we decided to do some TASTINGS today. First up were varieties of pears: Anjou, Bartlett and Korean. The Bartlett was ripe and juicy and just plain delicious. The Anjou wasn’t quite ripe enough but a little bland in any case. The Korean pear was just awful (watching Barbara spit it into the trash was not a pretty picture).

Next up was the apple. We picked three we hadn’t tasted: Jazz, Pink Lady and Kanzi. The only one we semi liked was Pink Lady, but the other two just weren’t up to par; maybe they’d be better used in baking?

We’ve been a little intimidated of KALE and wanted to see what all the fuss was about on this little, leafy gal. Since Barbara’s daughter-in-law is a big kale enthusiast, we asked for a recipe. The Kale Sausage Soup recipe was a WINNER! The only thing disappointing was that it did not involve massaging the kale. The kale leaves were very upset since they were anticipating a relaxing massage, a little soft music, etc. and instead found a hot pot of broth. We promise to treat them better next time (although we actually think spinach would have worked just as well…ssh, don’t tell the kale).

BREAD UPDATE

Our weekly bread was an orange chocolate brioche from our BreadEx delivery. We’re going to use it in a French toast tomorrow and Barbara will see how it compares to her challah banana pecan French toast.

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WATCHING WITHOUT WORDS

Did you ever wonder just how much body language “speaks”? We decided to experiment by watching a show on TV with the sound muted and comparing notes on what the show was about. We chose a soap opera since the acting in those shows tend to be very exaggerated, making it easier (so we thought) to interpret the action and figure out the plot.  Our goal was to see how similar our interpreted story lines were to the show’s and to each other’s version.

The results were mixed. The body language allowed us to perceive the emotional narrative and gain insight into the relationships between characters. The plot line however was a hit and miss. The overall results were we aligned about 60% with the actual plot line and character relationships, but not totally agreeing with each other.

Actually, the whole activity was a hit and miss. Took up time but not time well spent. Instead of Watching Without Words, we would have been better off and had more fun doing an experiment by Speaking Without Words. In other words, playing Charades!

BREAD UPDATE

We thought we’d give a weekly update on our BreadEx deliveries. This week we went all out and in addition to our weekly order we also selected a Bread Box for the holidays. The star of this box was the challah, which was out-of-this world when used in Barbara’s amazing Banana Pecan French Toast Sandwich – delicious! This week’s Broa Portuguese Corn Bread tasted great with chili. It’s amazing how different corn bread Portuguese style is from what we are used to here in the states.


 

We just love trying out these different breads from all over the world. Now off to watch a movie while we enjoy our accompanying caramel popcorn cookie. Thanks BreadEx!

 

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“O” WHEN WILL COVID-19 BE OVER? “B” FORE LONG, WE HOPE!

All Rise…for a BREAD Surprise

 One of the hardest things about staying safe during the pandemic is that most of the days seem the same. We’ve all narrowed down what we personally “permit” ourselves to do and the people we feel safe to see, so our routines tend to be static. But one thing that can always liven up the week is a surprise – and a fresh baked bread has risen to the occasion for these sisters.

We are sharing a monthly subscription to BreadEx – fresh, artisan bread delivered to your door every Saturday morning. For each of the first three weeks in a month-long subscription, Pastry Chef Uma Iyer focuses on using different flours and creating loaves that highlight various countries. Then the fourth and final loaf is a surprise where customers don’t know what they’re getting until the beginning of that week. “We say that we want you to explore the world one bread at a time, so every week it changes,” Iyer says.

September’s breads are Buttered Oats Sandwich Bread, Broa – Portugese Corn Bread, Limpa – Swedish Rye Bread and Baker’s Choice Surprise. We’ve already received the Buttered Oats, with two oatmeal cookies thrown in as a surprise – and they were delicious! Bread-Ex is offered by the gourmet French bakery Tart-a-licious in Plano, which we intend to visit soon because their tarts look amaze-alicious!

OVERCOMING Inertia

It has been such a challenge coming up with interesting activities to use for the ABC Covid-19 Life. Currently, we are overdosing on intellectual pursuits – Zoom classes, Great Courses, movies and books (Barbara hit a record of nine books last month). But thank goodness for them or we would be twiddling our thumbs. So, this month we are grasping at straws to find something more “hands on” to do.

Barbara – Ever since I worked after college at the American headquarters of a company based in Japan, I have felt a strong fondness for all things Japanese. Still hoping I can someday go there and am mightily regretting not doing it when I was younger and a 14-hour flight wasn’t as overwhelming. Since Laura and I covered the haiku I thought this time I would try my hand at ORIGAMI.

Origami comes from the Japanese words meaning to fold and paper and dates back to the 6th century. One of the most famous origami designs is of the crane and it is said that if you fold 1000 origami cranes you will have your hearts desire come true. Unfortunately, I tried 5 different YouTube videos and could not make 1 crane so I’m hoping my heart’s desire is not dependent on my origami skills!

Laura: With all this time spent at home, you would think I would have ORGANIZED my entire house. Or falling short of that, I would at least have every drawer and closet ship shape. Alas, that is not the case. But this week, I had reached a point where I decided that each morning I would fill out a quick list of things that I would do that day and one or two of them have to include something productive. So, one of the first things I tackled was to ORGANIZE an old recipe box and my spice rack. The recipe box had a few recipes from my mom (keepers), a few from former co-workers (keepers) and lots of clipped-from-magazines (tossers). The spice rack was more of a challenge: did I organize by size so it looked better? Or alphabetize for quicker access? I went with the latter and a few shelves for specific groupings. So much better…and I actually was able to grab the Ground Cinnamon immediately to spice mom’s sweet potatoes!

 

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DOING A LITTLE DETECTIVE WORK

Laura – For our D activity, we first thought of de-cluttering something – and believe me, there is always something that could fall into that category. But when our Movie Zoom discussion group posted their August film selections, I volunteered to facilitate the movie Mr. Holmes, about an aging, retired Sherlock Holmes. Naturally, that meant venturing into the world of DETECTIVES. I’ve always enjoyed a good mystery – and there is no better detective (or consulting detective as Sherlock calls himself) than the famous Sherlock Holmes. After doing my own “detective” work on Sherlock’s popularity, here are just a few of the interesting things I learned:

*Sherlock Holmes is the most well-known and popular detective ever. He’s appeared on screen 254 times (as of 2012) and has been played by over 75 actors.

*Sherlock Holmes books are the most widely circulated and translated books in the world, with the exception of the Bible.

*In a 2008 survey of British teenagers, 58% believed that Holmes was a real person.

*From the 1880s up until the present, people have written to him at 221B Baker Street, thinking that he was a real person. Since that wasn’t really an existing address, the letters went to the closest building – Abbey National Bank. They hired a secretary to answer all the letters that flowed in daily. Then when the Sherlock Holmes Museum was built, that privilege fell to their staff.

*Sherlock was using forensic methods long before they were used by investigators abroad or in the United States. Holmes used fingerprint analysis 11 years before Scotland Yard did. He solved crimes using ballistic evidence 15 years before that became a regular police procedure. Plus, blood, handwriting and footprint analysis were other areas in which Sherlock laid the groundwork. Truly amazing!

Barbara – After hearing about the letters sent to 221b Baker Street as though Sherlock Holmes was a real person, I was inspired and excited to write a letter myself just to see what kind of response I (hopefully) will get. The interesting thing is that while writing the letter I channeled my inner English woman and could almost feel like I was writing to the “real” Mr. Holmes. Here is what I posted (see what I mean; who says “post”?):

Dear Mr. Holmes,

I am writing to you in the hope that you may shed light on a delicate matter.

I live in a suburb of Dallas, TX with my sister. Since childhood I have been keeping a yearly diary which has of late become a leather journal. My sister has early on been warned that my diary is not to be read and until quite recently I had no reason to believe she was breaking this trust.

However, lately I have been getting a slight suspicion that she may be doing exactly that. Little things have bothered me: a door to my room slightly ajar, a knowing look on her face over our morning tea when I recounted a story of a college romance. I did confront her, but she denied seeing my journal and of course I had no evidence to point out to her.

That leads me to this letter. The other day when I retrieved my journal, a tan leather bound notebook, I noticed a discoloration on the bottom right hand corner of the leather, which also had a minty smell. Then upon looking inside at my last entry, there was a water stain on the page whereon I was waxing sentimental about the death of our dear mother.

Mr. Holmes, do you think anything in these two things could be the substance of clues to finally confront her with as proof of her betrayal of my trust? I know you are a busy man, but I am hoping you can take a moment to help me out.

Warm regards,

Barbara Katz

(So…do you think she’s guilty? We will let you know what Sherlock thinks.)

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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

With procrastination behind us, we were eager to check off another activity for our COVID-19 ABC Life. Q is never a letter that offers an abundant array of choices, but it does come with Questions! Our thought was to ask some deep questions to a small group of friends and spend an hour or so delving into them. Barbara, who was reading “What My Mother and I Don’t’ Talk About:  Fifteen Writers Break the Silence” by Michelle Filgate, realized that this book was a great segue into a Q and A session on mothers and daughters.

Here are a few of the Questions we discussed:

*Are there questions you wish you had asked your mother or subjects you still can’t approach with her?

*Is there a way in which your mom failed you? And how may we have failed our children?

*Do we show all our sides to our children or is the aspect of hiding things from your children something from the 50s?

*As parents, are we always to blame for anything bad that happens to our children or for their undesirable traits?

What would you have discussed about mother/daughter relationships?

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PROCRASTINATION SAVES THE DAY

COVID-19 has definitely gotten the ABC Sisters in the doldrums. Because of this we have procrastinated in posting anything new for the COVID-19 ABC Life. Procrastination is definitely in our genes and we use most any excuse to put things off. But ironically, procrastination has also been what got us started again here as a result of seeing a very cute piece in the New Yorker called “Know Your Procrastination Style” by Dana Maier. In it, she lists several styles of procrastinators.

Barbara definitely identifies with the Procrasto-Working variety and Laura with both that and the Loophole.

Let us know what kind of Procrastinator you are!

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LOBSTERS AND LETTERS

Four weeks into the ABC COVID-19 life and the sisters have already filled up 6 of the letters on their grid. Here comes number 7.

For our “L” ABC COVID-19 Life post we have decided that one size does not fit all.

One of the things that Barbara never has had the courage – or maybe the conviction – to do is to write a Letter to the Editor in response to an article or Op Ed she reads in the paper. However, this week something written in the Wall Street Journal really touched a nerve and she mustered up her nerve to write the following:

“Dear Editor,

I found the article “Good Cops Tame the Inner Warrior” by Karl Marlantes quite offensive. From his very first paragraph he assumes that police officers wake up each day hungry to shoot or kill someone, that they “see themselves as warriors.” He further states that “police should use force as a tool to be used as minimally as a situation permits.” I have many police officers as friends or acquaintances and not one of them has the “warrior mind set.” In fact, most of the ones I know were proud to have never had to fire their weapons, despite the fact that they were stabbed, punched, etc. in the course of addressing a situation. By saying that the police should have a daily ritual where they touch their weapon to their heart and say aloud that it’s for defense, not offense, he is assuming that they don’t already think that. He decries behaviors that create immense harm, one such behavior being “choosing a side and therefore an enemy.” Of course they do – the side they choose is public safety and the enemy they see is the criminal. Isn’t “choosing an enemy” exactly what Mr. Marlantes is doing here? Only the enemy to him is the police force. How sad.”

Laura stumbled upon her “L” when she watched The Lobster, a film that was discussed by a movie review group within one of their women’s clubs. The Lobster was a difficult film to watch, being extremely odd and often cruel. However, the discussion made up for it – as ideas and opinions were tossed about and a greater understanding of what the film was saying and why it was saying it emerged. The lesson here is twofold. First, belonging to a movie discussion group encourages us to step out of our comfort zones at times. We watch movies that we may not have chosen on our own and are therefore exposed to new ideas and themes. Second, it drives home the idea that sometimes the value of an experience is in the analysis and not in the journey.

Update: as of the date of posting, Barbara’s letter has been printed in the Wall Street Journal!

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