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Best St. Patrick’s Day dinner ever!

A sparkly gift from a friend

A sparkly gift from a friend

A buddy of mine walks down the hall to his weekly staff meeting announcing, “This will be the “Best staff meeting ever!” He is Irish American.  I host a St. Pat’s day party each year and it really does get better each time. Maybe that’s because each year I have a different focus. One year I co-hosted it with  a Jewish roommate and we combined Purim and Patrick. Another year, much poetry was read. This year it was pretty much all about the food. In the Irish spirit of hospitality, I feel compelled to share my most delicious recipes for success.

I don’t drink. Neither do many of my friends so that makes this a rather inexpensive meal. I do cook with alcohol and it was the key ingredient in a couple of stupendous dishes although I also had many dishes available without the hooch.

The best recipe for a successful St Patrick’s day get together is hospitality combined with good friends. There are fewer  and fewer people I know who want to risk driving out to bars and back on St. Patrick’s day or the weekends surrounding it. Why not have a small dinner party at home to share the real luck of the Irish – our friendliness? There’s really no need to buy decorations, save your money for the food.

I am lucky to have another lovely friend who came over early to help clean the mess of my cooking off the kitchen table, (the best place to host a St. Pat’s party.) She did dishes afterwards and even brought a green fairy cake.  It was a rolled angel food cake with a filling of lime infused cool whip and topped with green coconut! It was a great centerpiece and a coveted take home. My roommates were disappointed that the leftovers went to a four year old.  This is one version of the recipe I found on line.

http://www.pillsburybaking.com/recipes/lemon-angel-roll-4488http://

Here are the results of my experiments of over 20 odd years of hosting these galas culminating in last night’s event.

Number one recommendation

Chocolate Guinness cake! Not too hard to make, just regular ingredients for chocolate cake plus lightly boiled Guinness Stout and molasses plus added chocolate chips!  I can not describe how rich and moist this is. You can make this the night before if you wish but try not to eat it all. It really needs no frosting but goes well with whipped cream. Here is the recipe:

http://www.recipe.com/chocolate-stout-cake/

My second recommendation

Use Guinness in your beef or lamb stew! Once again just your regular ingredients then add  Guinness Stout and (surprise) – chopped up prunes to cut the bitterness! No one need know and everyone will benefit digestion-wise. Here is a fun non-recipe recipe in that it doesn’t really tell you much for measurements assuming, like most Irish people, you know how to make stew. I made this the night before so that the flavors would deepen. Delicious!

guinness-stout-beef-stew

My third recommendation

Colcannon! After several years of throwing away uneaten boiled cabbage I discovered that almost everyone loves colcannon. No recipe is really necessary. Just make mashed potatoes using something rich like sour cream or buttermilk. Saute leeks, garlic, a head of cabbage and/or some kale in butter or olive oil and mix them all together. Yum!  Make sure there are enough for leftovers. I usually go through about five pounds of potatoes but some years I have used ten.

My last recommendation

Some people will call this heresy but I bake my corn beef. I treat it like a roast covering it with onions, garlic, maybe some tomato paste, water and tin foil. Then I cook two of them at 375 Fahrenheit  for 4 hours.( meat thermometer temp 185 degrees .) The meat is so tender and it cuts like butter. It looks red, not grey like the boiled kind. You can add carrots, potatoes and more water into the tin foil tent for the last hour. Leftovers are great.

This leaves me the top of the stove to cook all those potatoes and leeks. Also the oven is hot so I can put some Irish soda bread and apple crumble in  when I take the beef out. Then I turn off the oven and put the colcannon and beef back in to keep warm.

Also

I like to have a few Irish items around to spark conversation. i’m not very big on loud cds as most of my friends love to talk and tell stories, go figure. I have some spoons I can play at a very elementary level so I might show off a bit. I have an Irish home cooking book I leave out with  some Gaelic phrase books and this one which is one of my all time favorites: Irish Wake Amusements

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1856351734/ref=x_gr_w_bb?ie=UTF8&tag=httpwwwgoodco-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1856351734&SubscriptionId=1MGPYB6YW3HWK55XCGG2

I used this as a source for a paper in graduate school. It’s hilarious in a scholarly way. As you might know, wakes are events where people gather to mourn/celebrate a death. They used to be held in the kitchen of an Irish home and there were some games that were played. Here is a short quote,

.”” …cards might be played on the bed where the body lay or else on the corpse itself; and the corpse too would be given a hand of cards. A pipe was sometimes placed in its mouth; and occasionally it was taken on the floor to dance”

Perhaps you know someone for whom this book would make a welcome gift!  I hope this post reaches you in time to share this wonderful holiday with your crazy Irish and non-Irish friends. Cead Mille Failte!

Marching into winter- Alaska style!

It’s not spring yet, oh Non-Yeti people of the South. I fell on the ice three times in the last two days, twice trying to unplug my car and once ice skating. It’s balaclava weather, a stiff wind with cold, dry undertones of glacier.  And yet, no snow. This is why I keep slipping, not because I am old and clumsy and I have to climb an icy hill to wrap my extension cord around the fence after I unplug my vehicle. It’s the Ice, baby, ice.

In Alaska, this is time for the midwinter festival. We have an outdoor carnival, parade and usually, if we had snow, some dog races. What we had this  year were faux races, kind of like a reality TV show of what is supposed to be a ceremonial start, (read not even real when there is snow!)  Here is a photo from the ceremonial start of The Iditarod in downtown Anchorage this year. It was about 15 degrees F. but felt like 0 because downtown is a wind tunnel. There’s nothing like pink hair and a fuchsia beard to warm things up.

We may not have snow but we have style!

We may not have snow but we have style!

That slushy snow you see was hauled in from the snow dump in town only to be rained upon the night before the race. To see what the downtown streets really look like, here are some scenes  from The Fur Rondy parade the week before.  Let’s start with my all time favorite float – the giant inflatable colon with Mr. Polyp!

Next year I will volunteer to be Mr Polyp!

Next year I will volunteer to be Mr Polyp!

Note that there is no snow or ice on the colon!  Behind the serious health message of Mr. Polyp was a float from a  local business with a similar theme.

Sitting down on the job

Sitting down on the job

And while we’re at it, let’s not forget the roughage!

Sad to say, only the white bread was marching. I will boycott until I see brown bread represented

Sad to say, only the white bread was marching. I will boycott until I see brown bread represented

I did find what looked like a marginally local clump of snow off the parade route.

Parking was a little tight downtown but this is just showing off!

Parking was a little tight downtown but this is just showing off

And thus arrives March with a bite of frosted but no flakes, okay perhaps a few human ones. Self included.

Alaska earns title “Most Delusional State”

Perhaps you saw this article in The Huffington Post or USA Today.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/02/19/well-being-index-alaska_n_6706222.html

We made it – We are clearly the most un-empathetic, self involved state in the Union! In a time of racial conflict, economic repression, religious and military turmoil, we Alaskans are giddy with our finances and well being.  I bet  the poll numbers in Dubai are high up there on self satisfaction as well.

Who answers these surveys? People who think Game of Thrones is a reality show?  Are our ridiculously high sexual assault rates or our nationally highest rate of fetal alcohol syndrome disorders the particular Alaska trends they are ignoring? Perhaps it’s because everyone who answered was drunk or high?

I acknowledge that happiness is not my strong point. Maybe people here are overjoyed to be moving into the Twentieth Century while the rest of the world sails into the Twenty First. We have finally given up the right to discriminate against gay marriage although I watched a Lisa Murkowski video on The occasion of Black History month where she  bragged about our being twenty or so years ahead of the country in getting rid of Jim Crow laws.  I note that one can get rid of laws but that prejudice against Native peoples still thrives.

Seasonal affective disorder layered on top of depression is not a burden I alone bear.  Many people at this latitude have been bemoaning low gas prices and the lack of snow this winter which would seem to other more sane states to be an upside down attitude. If you love to make money out of people by overcharging for oil, by all means, you belong here. If you want to ski, move to somewhere it snows like Virginia.

I agree that some people in Alaska are pretty happy with themselves. We have jobs to pay for our extraordinarily high health insurance and plenty of wilderness to roam in. But bring up the subject of Federal Government oversight and you might have to call an ambulance to stop these same folks from choking on their own bile/oil.

Do I begrudge the happy Alaskans? I’ve tried not to be one of those awful people who say, “If you’re not angry, you’re not listening.”  I just don’t think that the kind of happiness we have in Alaska is sustainable. As long as the economy is good, we are happy. That’s not real happiness. It’s the bliss of the overfed, extreme sport loving not quite deep thinker. It’s a self righteous, young and entitled kind of bliss. Even if you look and feel old you can have it by thinking that you earned it by being rough, tough, individualistic and perhaps white.  I encourage you to try it. It seems to work well for certain political parties.

Anyway come visit Alaska and see if any of our wacky happiness rubs off.  We’ll share our amusing stories about shooting and eating wild animals, overcoming the elements and hope that you don’t notice that we bulk shop at Costco and Sam’s. We have an image to maintain. Notice it’s never raining in our brochures. Don’t believe everything in print, including this. It isn’t all that bad.  I’m just jealous.

A reason to celebrate –  I feel something thus I must still be alive..

Global warming update – winter griping finally starts in Anchorage, AK!

suzy

It’s all Anchorage can talk about – Snow! Temperatures near 0 degrees Fahrenheit!  It’s been a long grey fall up here. I used my superpowers to help encourage the weather  by purchasing a lovely spring dress online yesterday. Contrary to all logic, it actually shipped within 24 hours. Now I can wear it while I shovel.

If you’ve never lived in Alaska, you may not be aware that many online companies refuse to ship here, as if we were not part of the United States. It’s even funnier when they  claim they only serve  “the Continental U. S.”  They mean the “Contiguous U.S.” but then I’m  not sure there are any more than 700,000 other people who care about this and not many of them buy from Tall Girls catalogs.

There are also a good many companies who for a $10.95 order will charge $45 in shipping fees.  On the other hand, Alaskans all get a free checked bag on Alaska Airlines. At least they used to. I haven’t flown them for awhile because they are pretty expensive.

But enough complaining. Almost enough. I paid $7.98 for strawberries today. I didn’t have to buy them but I was bringing a treat into work and I thought I should have something for the gluten free folks.  I admit I get paid much more than I would if I worked in the lower 48 but you can see how it evens out. I spend more money on antidepressants and chocolate due to the lack of light. I almost had to go with The Affordable Health Care Act which had arranged a nice fee of $750 a month for  mid-range insurance but I got a job.  I had an insurance plan a couple of years ago which offered the benefit of paying for the flight and any surgery in Seattle rather having it performed in Anchorage. It was just too damn expensive for them to pay for it up here. Also you got paid airfare for a caretaker of your choice and a weeks stay at a hotel for them.

Some people believe that only the worst health care providers end up in Alaska. As someone who works in a health like profession I say NO! Some of us are at least mediocre!  I actually strive for mediocrity as that keeps my ego in check. I know that there are plenty of people better at what I do and often wonder if I should choose another profession to be mediocre in.  But life is not all about work. I am exceptional at making brownies, making people laugh and complaining so I really should be grateful.

On that note I’m going to stop worrying about my sore throat, the results of my HSV test, my increased ability to see the negative in people, places and things. Instead I will bake the peanut butter brownie mix I bought to deal with such emergencies and watch for the first flakes of winter. Hah, flakes of winter – that would be me!

Holiday Adventures with Anxiety Woman!

Let’s start with my holiday party for which I had lowered my expectations and bought only food I would be able to eat should the world be too busy to attend. My roommate surprised me by buying a real tree and decorating it from the listing fake mini tree with the broken base containing landfill from a distant Chinese province. Then he ate some day old sushi, (marked half off) and began a race for his life to and from our only bathroom.

I could have cancelled the party but it was a caroling party meaning we would only be here a half hour and then hit the streets. Only about 6 people had RSVP’ed so  as long as they didn’t have to go to the bathroom I figured it would be okay. By 7:15 pm I had close to 50 people in my living room and kitchen, this number includes the children and the two dogs with antlers. I knew about 6 of them.  I built an event on the “Nextdoor” social networking site and they came! I got to know which of my neighbors could sing and who was okay with the food poisoning thing.

We got out of the house pretty fast and decided that whoever knew someone was home in a nearby house could pick the song and knock on the door.  We saw some people peek out their windows and hide. Was that you? I thought so!

We did this for a couple of hours, which due to the warm weather we’ve been having in Anchorage is how long it took for us to begin to get cold.  Here is a bad photo of what anarchist caroling looks like.

It was too cold for the drum to make any sound

It was too cold for the drum to make any sound but the bells jingled and the Turkish Delight flowed.

We had many leftovers which sat out on Miss Havisham’s table until today (New Years). One reason is that the food poisoning of my roommate turned out not to be food poisoning. I deduced this  in the midst of a spaghetti dinner with home made sauce at a friend’s house. It tasted so good but I felt a little dizzy and could not feel anything landing in my stomach which was an unseen  broiling ocean of bacteria. After 3 trips to the bathroom and a pit stop at the grocery store I settled into 8 hours of stomach/bowel illness sharing the bathroom in tandem with my roommate. Thank goodness the 3rd roommate did not move in until today!  One thing I learned is that spaghetti has the opportunity to strangle you when coming up in an undigested state. Don’t let it!

Other than not being able to eat for Christmas I received several lovely gifts and bought many for myself. As an adult  I practice this as a resentment prevention tool. It was not necessary this year as I received lots of chocolate and the world’s most delicious caramels which all got eaten in one sitting after a combined 30 lbs were safely shed by myself and my partner in unintentional weight loss.

My roommate also gave me a card calling me “the best roommate ever”! That’s a keeper. I think I deserve it even if he doesn’t know I had to use a chamber pot during one of his bathroom occupations.

But enough of that. Here is our lovely tree.

note the red and white theme and how symmetrical  it is, unlike me.

note the red and white theme and how symmetrical it is, unlike me.

I had to work between Christmas and New Years but here is a food based image from on The Joint Base. I don’t think I’m supposed to take photos but  maybe this one is okay. All of the buildings look the same anyway.

Alaska noodle house!

Alaska noodle house!

I went to a New Year’s Eve party where I got to yell “CRAP!” many times which was fun for me even though there was nothing close to being Scottish involved and my illness was completely healed.

I visited the light display downtown several times. It’s made of recycled holiday lights from other decades. Great way to say goodbye to the old year which contained several entertaining jobs, unpleasant dating experiences, fun with family and learning the spoons. No idea what this year will bring.Not that this makes me anxious. Happy New Year!

Goodbye to the old year!

Goodbye to the old year!

Holiday Presidential Tribute

Sure it’s not synched right and it’s been done before but it’s goofy and up to date. Happy Holidays all!

Merry eccentric Christmas

I live in a house with a chain link fence. This has  influenced the way I live my life. There are no pretenses behind chain link. My neighborhood is home to many duplex apartments which are identical in design. None of us are rich, all of us put some effort but very little money into decorating our yards.

I focused on my fence this year because it is so unpretentious,  so un-white picket, like me.  I don’t know why I’ve made the choices I’ve made. I don’t own a house, have kids or a spouse. I don’t even own a cat which is really surprising for a woman who spent many years working in libraries. The fence is a homely scaffolding for my approximation of holiday cheer.  The decorating process was quick but fun. It doesn’t require computer synchronization or air blowers although some food coloring and balloons to create the ice globes. Also bleach wipes to clean up the mess from trying to tie up spurting crazy colored water balloons.

Away in a manger, a planter for his bed

Away in a manger, a planter for his bed

There are planters on each side with …. Angels!

A big old fluffy angel from the second hand store looking over my house

A big old fluffy angel from the second hand store looking over my house

christmas on w 19th - 7

Not really an angel  but shiny!

My Christmas wishes hanging on the fence

My Christmas wishes hanging on the fence

Snow globes!

Snow globes!

When balloons backfire

When balloons backfire

Merry eccentric Christmas to you!

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