Texas Caviar

Texas CaviarSo, here I sit in the hotel in French Lick, Indiana for the last time.  Checkout is at 1 p.m.  Beloved is coming to get me and I’ll join him at the client site for the remainder of the working day, then we are driving to Louisville, Kentucky for the night.  Tomorrow, we drive home.

This is my last chance at room service, which I am convinced is the greatest invention in the history of all mankind.  If I didn’t think the company bookkeeper would kill me, I’d order one of everything.

Oh, wait – I am the company bookkeeper.

Well.

Anyhoo, I can’t go a whole week without boring you all to tears with a new recipe, so here’s this weeks:  Texas Caviar.  Popularized by Helen Corbitt, the famed 1950s food consultant and cookbook author who directed food service at Neiman Marcus in Dallas, it isn’t really caviar, of course, it’s really more of a salsa.  And my, oh my – is it tasty.  Even if you’re not a fan of black-eyed peas – silly you! – you’ll like this.  It’s absolutely marvelous with good, crisp tortilla chips.

Texas Caviar

serves me and Beloved if you’re not quick

2 cans black-eyed peas

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small can of chopped green chiles

dash – or two – of your favorite hot sauce

2 tablespoons minced onion

2 tablespoons minced celery

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion

1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro, minced

2 plum tomatoes, diced

Drain peas, rinse with cold water and drain again.

Combine olive oil, chilies, hot sauce, onion, celery, vinegar, salt and pepper, and mix well. Pour over peas and stir gently. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight, if possible.

At serving time, add the green onions, chopped tomatoes and cilantro, and stir gently to mix. Serve with tortilla chips.

Printable version (requires Adobe Reader)

Hocking Hills State Park

Travel Tip ThursdayLet’s be up front with one small fact about me:  I do not like hiking.

Beloved adores it.  And since I like to take pictures and spend time with my husband, I occasionally go hiking.

Against my better judgment.

At any rate, July 23, 24 and 25 found us in Hocking Hills State Park in southern Ohio.  While I was there, I found I much prefer it to northeast Ohio; because the park practically borders Kentucky, southern Ohio is much more, well, Southern than the rest of the state.  (Click on any picture to enlarge)

Click to enlarge

Hocking Hills State Park adjoins a state forest by the same name and is a popular destination for families camping.  The park itself is home to several campgrounds for RVs or those who prefer to “rough it” with a tent.  They also have 40 “cabins” which are really just small homes with all of the amenities.  Directly outside of the park are several privately owned properties with similar cabins; some are commercial properties – “Inns” if you will – small, hotel-like properties with additional individual dwellings.  Most of the rental properties are owned by individuals; people who bought sizable tracts of land, built small homes on them (some of which are quite isolated) and rent them out.

Moss and Fallen Trees

Since my idea of “roughing it” includes indoor plumbing and a coffee maker, we chose one of the latter for our extended weekend away.  The fact that there was a fully functioning kitchen and a charcoal grill out back was just a boon (oh, if only it had been clean…).

Bridge Steps

It rained a great deal of the time we were there, but Friday was quite nice so we decided to put on our hiking boots and go hike two of the nine trails available in the park.  Neither was very long, although the first, to Old Man’s Cave, was marked “moderate”, as most of the trails are.  The second hike, shorter and much easier (and handicap accessible) was to Ash Cave.

Entering Ash Cave

Composed mostly of shale and limestone, calling either of them a “cave” is a bit of a stretch – both are more honey-combed depressions in the sides of moderately-sized cliffs.  Glaciers never reached that far south, but they did turn Ohio into a very cool, very moist environment and in the valley and gorges of the park, those conditions remain today, making it quite lush and green.  There’s a lot of moss growing there, which I found quite novel – moss simply does not grow in northeast Texas; it’s far too arid and hot.  The hike to both caves had a very “primordial” feel to them, despite the very well-maintained paths and numerous visitors.

Old Mans Cave

Old Man’s Cave is so named because a hermit apparently made it his home in the mid-late 1800’s.  There are a lot of steps going up and down, and places that require care when walking – as I mentioned before, it’s cool, damp and moss-covered – and can get rather crowded at times, but it’s a marvelous hike all the same.  Not too easy, not too hard.  Well, at least not for me, anyway.

Shadow and Light

The feeling that you’re wending your way through a primordial forest is even more apparent on the easy hike to Ash Cave.  Again, it’s only a cave if you consider an overhang of limestone in the side of a cliff a cave, but it’s still pretty impressive.  The entrance and interior floor of the cave is covered in the kind of sand you’d expect to find on a beach, making me wonder if it occurs naturally or was imported (and why, if it’s the latter), making it a nice place to sit and relax for a bit.  In fact, more than one family was having a picnic lunch while we were there.  The main attraction to the cave is the waterfall, but despite the rain over the previous day or two, was more like a water dribble.  Still, the light and vegetation made it worth a picture or two.

Waterfall

Waterfall 2

There are lots of activities in the park – camping, hiking, fishing, swimming, archery – some of which are available year round.  Part of the park is a nature reserve, and there is a family-style restaurant available, as well as the requisite visitor’s center with knowledgeable employees and a souvenir shop.  All in all, it was a very pleasant day and we wished it hadn’t rained on Saturday so we could have gotten out and gone on a couple of the other hikes.

Ferns

Shadow and Light 2

For more fun Travel Tips, head on over to Pseudonymous High School Teacher.  Tell her the crazy lady from the Sushi Bar sent ya; she’ll treat you just fine.

So – Who Wants to Help Me Move the Body?

Cone FlowerFriends help you move.  Real friends help you move the body.

I have been extremely fortunate to have marvelous friends during my lifetime.

I suppose that statement deserves a little clarification, for while I have many friendly acquaintances, I don’t have many friends – but the friends I have are very good friends indeed.  Some of my friends have been my friends for more than 30 years. *waves madly at Trina, Martin and Tammy*  Hi, Trina, Martin and Tammy!

I am also fortunate that I am friends with my kids, and even more fortunate that my kids are all friends – I am not necessarily friends with all of my siblings, and while I loved my mother a great deal, we weren’t what you’d call friends.  She didn’t believe in being friends with her children – she was the Mom, we were the kids, and that was the way things were, even after we all reached adulthood.  I am and always shall be a mother first and foremost, but I’m also good friends with my kids.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I have also had the great fortune to meet my very best friend ten years ago, and eventually marry him.  That friendship brought me two more friends – my lovely step-daughters.  The Brady Bunch we ain’t, but our kids have all become friends (with varying degrees of success) on some level.  It gives me a great deal of satisfaction to see that as our children all grow up, these friendships are growing as well.  It hasn’t always been easy, but it has always been worth it.

It certainly gives new meaning to the saying, “True friendship is never serene.”

With the advent of the internet came a new way to make friends, and I now have some good very good friends that I’ve never met face-to-face.  Blogging has opened that avenue in a way I’d never have imagined; I now have very dear friends all over the country – hell, all over the world.  And I don’t know whether it has to do with the medium, or advancing age, or the people themselves – perhaps all three? – but I have more women friends now than I have ever had in my entire life.  I’m loving having a bunch of wonderful, crazy girlfriends.

But you know, I’ve found THE true way to find out who your real friends are.

Get divorced.

Ex-husband and I had a large circle of friends.  When I divorced him, two people stood beside me.  TWO.  I’m sure the fact that those two friends were people we’d been friends with since middle school is no coincidence.  The rest of the people we’d met during the course of our marriage?  A couple of them remained friends for awhile with Ex-husband, but most of them just drifted off to the next party, the next free meal, the next free ride.  Of the few that remained friends with the Ex, they hung around and used him, and when they couldn’t use him any longer they, too, faded away (oh, the stories I could tell about the woman he was involved with when we split up).

Trina and Martin, you may never know how incredibly grateful I am that you were both there, and still are.  The two of you are the true definition of real friends.  Here’s to another 30 years of friendship.

For more friendly posts, hop on over to Sprite’s Keeper and The Spin Cycle.

RTT: Short, Sweet and, Well, Weird

Random Tuesday Thoughts

I am busy beyond belief today, so this Random Tuesday Thoughts is going to be more or less brief.  I make no promises about the normalcy of what follows, though.

Oh, stop laughing.

~~~~~~

Yet another IM conversation between me and Oldest Son:

Oldest Son: Ugh… having to scan my work PC for spyware again.

Me: Good grief!

Oldest Son: I keep getting this damn program called “Vundo” on there. Either it keeps replicating itself or there’s a website I need to quit visiting.  Then again, it may not even be me, it could be one of my co-workers that uses this PC when I’m not here.

Me: That’s the problem with work computers.

Oldest Son: Yup.  It keeps generating all these annoying pop-ups, sometimes of a questionable nature.

Me: Ahhhh – I hate that!

Oldest Son: One minute I get mortgage rates, the next minute I’m staring at someone’s ass.

~~~~~~

When you suffer from insomnia in a hotel room, your choices are rather limited – especially if you’re sharing said hotel room with your husband, who, besides snoring like a chainsaw with a clogged carburetor, has to be at a client site at 7 a.m. the next morning.

So you channel surf with the sound down as low as possible.  You watch a really bad movie with Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson as treasure hunters, then a not quite as bad movie with Sandra Bullock as a homicide detective tracking two teenagers who think they’ve committed the perfect murder.  Then you suddenly find yourself watching an amply endowed young woman who is 1) nude from the waist up, 2) doesn’t look old enough to drink and 3) holding what appears to be a large, plushy vagina and seemingly giving some sort of instruction on how to make it feel good.

I had no idea large, plushy vaginas were in need of such assistance.

~~~~~~

As we were winding our way down to the cabin in the woods, in the middle of nowhere we came across a sign that said, “Airport Rd. Next Exit”.

“Who the heck would build an airport out here?” I exclaimed.  “It’s the middle of nowhere!”

“You’d be surprised,” Beloved replied.  “It’s probably a windsock in the middle of a cow pasture.”

You laugh.

Cow Pasture Airport

~~~~~~

For some longer Random Tuesday Thoughts, go visit Keely over at The UnMom.  I can’t vouch for any normalcy over there either, though.

The Deer Hunter

Well, here I am, snugly ensconced in a hotel room in French Lick, Indiana after three blissful days of solitude in our little cabin in the woods, sans cell phone or internet reception.

The cabin itself was nice, if small, but perfect for us.  I had a bad moment when we got there and I saw that the fridge needed to be wiped out, the bathtub needed to be cleaned and the plastic dish drainer (there was no dishwasher) needed to be taken out back and burned – I’m sorry, it didn’t look like it had EVER been cleaned and was truly disgusting.  Beloved found that the grill out back next to what turned out to be a very comfortable hammock had been similarly neglected and took to scrubbing it, as well as the grubby utensils, while I took care of the inside.

And as usual, he had a much more humorous approach to it all than I did.

“You know, 25 years ago, this wouldn’t have bothered us at all.”

Oh yeah?  Maybe so…but now?  WILL SOMEONE PLEASE HAND ME A GERM-PROOF SUIT AND A VAT OF HYDROCHLORIC ACID????

I guess I’m just getting old.

We spent Friday morning hiking about Hocking Hills State Park, which I’ll post about in more detail on Thursday, and the rest of the time napping, watching movies, listening to the rain and hunting deer.

You see, Friday morning Beloved had to go into the nearby town for a bit and when he came back he was all excited to report that he’d seen tons of deer on the drive out to the highway. So several times, mostly in the evening, we’d climb in the car and drive slowly around the little winding, back roads looking for the critters, armed with the new camera and zoom lens.  And, naturally, because we had taken the appropriate lens, we only found them once, on the edge of a clearing leading into the forest, where they were tough to get a picture of.

Mama Deer and Baby Deer

Mama Deer and Baby Deer

Of course, the day we packed up and left I had the wrong lens on the camera, so they came out and stood around everywhere, thumbing their cute little black noses and laughing at me.  This little guy even let me get out of the car and approach him a bit before running off.

Fawn

Fawn

Fawn Running Away

Fawn Running Away

Maybe there’s something to this whole deer hunting season thing after all.  I’ve heard that venison can be quite tasty if prepared properly and the thought of eating a nice Filet of Bambi’s Mom is a bit more appealing than it used to be.