Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wordless Wednesday ~ My Thanksgiving Turkey

Since Saturday, I have had a stomach bug. It has been a tough couple of days. UGH! I don't wish this on anyone. Suffice it to say, I have missed out on the Thanksgiving leftovers and haven't eaten since Saturday afternoon.

I am dreaming of my delicious turkey right about now. I am hoping I can eat some chicken noodle soup today. The good thing is I lost all the weight I put on last week.

Ignore the Turkey After comment on the photo, I was going to post a before and hot lazy.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Biltmore Estates, Asheville NC

Tom's mom came for Thanksgiving and on Wednesday we headed off to the Biltmore Estates.

I had never been there although we have lived in Western North Carolina for 3 years now. Both Tom and his mom had been before. I was interested to see it since I have heard so many good things.

Tom got us tickets for the Butler's Tour. It was a behind the scenes tour of the servant's quarters, pantry and other places that aren't on the normal house tour.

It was pretty amazing. The tour guide was great and we learned a lot of cool info about what it was to work at Biltmore Estates.

After the tour we did a little of the house tour. It was huge and I can't even imagine living in a place like that even if I had a zillion dollars. It also sort of reminded me of The Shining hotel. But then again all big giant houses remind me of The Shining.

The house was decorated for Christmas and it was beautiful. We also walked around the house and it was amazing. The views were fantastic. The weather was quite chilly so we didn't do too much walking.

We headed back to the car and drove around the estate which was cool because you drive by the gardens and the grounds are amazing. We headed off to lunch at The Bistro on the estate. I loved our lunch. It was so good. Fresh local food and anywhere I can get a cup of coffee and a cheese plate that includes date and fig chutney and fresh honey is a place for me.

After lunch we went to the winery and sampled some wine. Then we came back home because I had to start cooking my stuffing and I actually baked a pumpkin pie. It is the ugliest pumpkin pie you ever saw but according to Tom, it was actually quite tasty.

I am posting a bunch of Biltmore pics for you to enjoy. There are no pictures from inside because that was a big fat no-no. I couldn't even sneak one. If you are ever in Asheville, I have to say that this is a must see.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday ~ Dulce de Leche Flan

I tried to make flan. Flan is like a custard with a caramel topping. Being Latina, I grew up with flan but I never really liked it. It is super sweet.

Because it is not one of my favorite things, I never made it. I got nuts and decided to give it a go. It wasn't totally successful but it wasn't bad either. Some of the caramel topping got stuck on the ramekin but there was enough to make it tasty.

It is also a little demented and lopsided but it was delish!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Of Penn State and My Time in Happy Valley

In the year 2000, we moved from Florida to State College, PA. Tom got a job teaching lighting design at Penn State and we were off on a new adventure. I had only lived in Los Angeles and Miami back then so State College was a bit of a culture shock for me.

A few weeks before we left Florida, I saw an online ad for a Development Assistant in the local newspaper. I sent in my resume and hoped for the best. The day after I arrived in State College, I got a phone call to come interview for the position. I went to the interview and it went well since a day or two later, I got the job. I was the Development Assistant for The Second Mile. Yes, that Second Mile.

I have to state up front that I never ever saw anything untoward going on there. It wasn’t the best job I ever had, it wasn’t the worst. It was a job. During my tenure at The Second Mile, there was never any indication of the things we all know were happening. I guess you never know what lurks underneath.

At work, everyone was always telling me how wonderful the founder was and how they couldn’t wait for me to meet him. Everyone loved Jerry Sandusky. It was a little strange to me because I had no idea who this man was. I really don’t follow college football. But they were correct, Jerry was a very nice man. He was personable. He would come into the office every once in a while and he always had a smile and a kind word.

This is what bothers me now. You never ever really know people do you? Sometimes monsters don’t look or act like monsters. Sometimes, they look perfectly normal; sometimes they act perfectly normal, if there is such a thing. Would I have pegged him for a child molester? My honest answer: No.

In State College though I learned pretty quickly Penn State football was a religion. Joe Paterno was the Pope. Jerry was like an Archbishop. Everyone wanted to meet him. Everyone wanted to take their picture with him. People wanted an autographed book. He was at our events and people flocked to him. When people outside of TSM found out I worked there, the first thing I was asked was if I had met Jerry. Since I was an outsider, I couldn’t really understand the level of hero worship that I saw in Happy Valley. But I believe it was this culture though that allowed crimes to be committed.

I am one of the most cynical people you will ever meet. It takes a lot to shock me but this did. I was not only shocked but horrified. I know that pedophiles are sick people who prey on the weak. They are sick and damaged. I am not excusing his behavior but I wonder what happened to him to make him the predator he became. Was he abused when he was younger? Or was he just damaged?

When I saw the interview with Bob Costas it reminded me of the Michael Jackson interview where he found nothing wrong with sleeping in the same bed with a young boy. Pedophiles are delusional and somehow they must convince themselves that what they do is okay. I have no idea. His behavior is inexcusable whether he believes he did nothing wrong. And while in this country the motto is innocent until proven guilty, I believe after reading that sickening grand jury indictment that Mr. Sandusky needs to go to jail for a long, long time.

The other thing that makes me sick about this whole thing, however, is so many people knew about this and did nothing. This was not just one isolated incident. This had been brewing for decades. There is not one witness but several witnesses who saw the abuse. I just am gobsmacked that McQuery, Paterno, Spanier and the others never ever reported this to the authorities. I cannot wrap my head around that.

I also find myself wondering if there something I missed that year I worked at the Second Mile. I wonder if others missed it too. When I read a new article, editorial or see Jerry’s face splashed all over the Internet, I wonder who knew. Did my bosses at The Second Mile know? Did any of the board members or volunteers know? I may never know.

I also wonder why these people decided not to do the RIGHT thing when they knew what was going on. Do you wake up one day and say I will keep quiet when I see crimes being committed? How do they live with themselves? And how can anyone defend someone who did nothing in this case?

It is painfully obvious that many people knew and chose to do NOTHING. How can you watch a child be raped and do NOTHING? It’s a sad day when people see a pattern of abuse happening and choose to turn a blind eye. Shame on them!

Sure, we hear that all those involved did what they were legally required to do. WTF? Shouldn't doing what is morally correct supersede doing what is legally required? Frankly, they were covering their ass and protecting the institution and probably hoped this would never come to light. But as my abuelita would say: entre cielo y tierra no hay nada oculto. Translation: Between heaven and earth there is nothing unseen. And usually things come out regardless of how much you try to cover them up.

Being a cynic, I usually don’t expect much from people. But I do expect people to have a tiny bit of basic human decency and do the right thing when it is warranted. I shouldn’t be surprised though. Time and time again, people will give up their humanity and integrity because they are more interested in saving their own jobs or not tarnishing the image they so carefully built up. What is funny is that so many kept their mouths shut to preserve the myth of Penn State, Paterno etc. and it still got out. I am glad they were all f*&king exposed!

All I know is that there have been many lives that have been shattered and destroyed. First by a pedophile and then by people not doing the right thing. I, for one, have no sympathy for any of these people. If it were up to me, all of them would be in jail where they all belong.

Right now, I know the only thing to do is to wait for all this to play out. I just hope the victims get justice. They deserve that much. I think Jerry will go to jail and hopefully it will be for the rest of his life. I am not sure about the others. My cynical side says that they will not be punished as they should be. So I can only hope that there will be some "Karmatic" justice that will punish all those involved in covering these heinous crimes.

I never imagined years ago when we moved to State College and I started working at The Second Mile that something like this would hit close to home. It sickens me. It saddens me. I apologize for being so damn preachy and bordering on the melodramatic but I think this post warranted that. My outrage warranted it. I just hope that people take this whole scandal as a lesson to SPEAK UP, CALL THE POLICE, and CHOOSE DO THE RIGHT THING.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Caro's Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe

I have been cooking lately but haven't been blogging about my cooking lately. But this weekend I made the best chicken noodle soup ever!

One of our favorite winter meals is homemade chicken noodle and grilled cheese sandwiches. Friday I went to grocery and found whole chickens on sale so I decided to make fresh soup.

Making chicken noodle soup is actually quite easy. The trick is in the flavoring of the soup. I use fresh herbs, salt, pepper, poultry seasoning and other special spices that are secret.

This is how I make my chicken soup. Cut onions and add them to a big stock pot. Saute them a little. I then take a whole chicken and pop it right into the pot. I add some water to cover the chicken and let it cook on medium heat for an hour or two. At this point, I also add a little salt, pepper and poultry season. I would say about a teaspoon each.

After the chicken is cooked, I take out the chicken and put it aside. Then I start adding more spices to the broth. Remember you cannot taste the broth until the chicken is cooked. Otherwise, you can get sick.

I taste the broth and start adding more salt, pepper to taste. I also  add carrots, celery and more onions so the soup will have a little texture to it. I let the veggies cook for about 30 minutes before I add the chicken.

In the meantime, I start pulling the chicken apart and start taking out the bones. Once the veggies have cooked a little, I add the chicken back tot he pot. And then add the egg noodles and cook for about 15 minutes.  If I have fresh thyme, rosemary or sage, I will add them to the soup. But in winter, it's hard finding fresh herbs.

You don't need a whole chicken either. You can also use a chicken carcass and bones and get the same flavors. I often make a roast chicken for one meal then put the carcass in water and cook it up. Any leftover chicken is added to the soup. Then I have 2 meals from one chicken.

That's it. Homemade chicken noodle soup. It is healthy, delicious and will keep you warm on those cold winter nights. Plus, if you are sick there is nothing better.

We like having our soup with grilled cheese sandwiches. So yummy!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday ~ Dreaming of next week!

This is our turkey from last year. I cannot wait to cook my turkey this year. YUMMO!!!! Isn't that a freaking beauty!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday ~ It's Chilly!!

It's been cold and Scout likes the heat. She curls up in her bed that I placed next the the heater and she is in hog heaven.