Last Week’s Good Things

Jan18It was birthday week, so, of course, there were good things!

Somewhere in this house I have a great picture of me as a kid on my birthday. I can't find it. Here, I think it is Christmas, but I am at least opening presents!

Somewhere in this house I have a great picture of me as a kid on my birthday. I can’t find it. Here, I think it is Christmas, but I am at least opening presents!

  1. Birthdayfest – It is hard not to like birthdays when you’re me. From the Sunday before to the Sunday after, it was the celebration of Birthdayfest. During that timespan, Dan made me some great dinners: grilled steak, lobster rolls, Pasta Amatriciana. I got some sweet cards from friends and co-workers. Facebook filled up with greetings. The actual day of my birthday, I spent the day organizing and putting together my year’s resolutions. Both kids called and chatted. I got to meet Barb for a beer, followed by an amazing dinner at Novel. It is true that the birthday buildup is different as you get older. There are days that I think that the years go by too quickly and I want them to slow down. When I look at the number of years tick up, it is weird. But regret is useless, and I do my best not to do that. I enjoyed my Birthdayfest greatly and I thank everyone who helped make it a special one.

2.  George Saunders – On a number of “Best of” lists for 2013 was the short story collection Tenth of December by George Saunders. I had not read it, but when I found out that he was coming to town for a reading, I wanted to go. That was because of the widely circulated graduation speech that he did at Syracuse University for the class of 2013. It is a beautiful piece about personal failures of kindness. Everyone should read it. I will help you by linking to it right here. Anyway – I got tickets for us to go see him read. In the meantime, I read the collection of stories. They are kind of dark and a little odd. Some I had to read over to figure out what he was talking about. I liked them, but it was not what I expected. Tuesday night, in a pretty full big venue, he read a section of one of the stories. When I read it, it wasn’t very funny. When he read it, it was. When he finished reading, he answered questions for about 45 minutes. He was so kind. He was so engaged with everyone who talked to him. When he talked about his wife and his daughters, the words that he chose kind of melted my heart. Afterwards, we got in line to get our book signed. When it was our turn, he stood up, shook our hands, thanked us for coming – by name (it was written on a sticky on the book), and signed our book as shown below. I am charmed. george saunders

3.  Reading Reptile – This is another book thing. On Saturday we were going to a birthday party for a baby friend and we wanted to get a present. I knew just what we should get. She was turning one and I wanted to get her the same poetry collection that we had for Sam and Ali. Running into a local shop that is devoted to children’s books is a pretty awesome thing. That is what we have with Kansas City’s Reading Reptile.  Amidst the displays of handmade art projects and eye catching wonder, I was able to go directly to the book that I wanted and make my purchase. At the counter, it was lovingly gift wrapped in a roadmap of Europe. I admit that I do not go to Reading Reptile as often as I should – although I am kind of out of the kid’s book world, they still sell some specially selected adult selections. Maybe this year I will do better. It is an awesomely good thing!

4.  Mignon Faget, again – I wrote before about the wonderful customer service from Mignon Faget when a beautiful glass pitcher that Ali got us for Christmas weirdly shattered. When I let them know, they apologized and sent me a replacement. When I received that, I opened it up, only to find it also shattered. I wasn’t sure if I should, but I did let them know. I was assured that I definitely should have reported it, and they were sorry for the inconvenience that this had all caused me. Third time is the charm. Last week, I got a beautiful pitcher and a sweet note. That is customer service!

pitcherand note

5.  Movie Night – Good friends moved back into town during 2013, but we have not done well as far as getting together and seeing them. When we had dinner at the end of the year, we decided we just needed to set a date. We now have a recurring calendar event to go see a movie together once a month. This new tradition started this week. On Thursday, we met for dinner and then we went to go see Nebraska. I really can’t put into words what fun it was to have a pre-movie chat with people that mean so much to me followed up by a really great movie – and knowing that I get to do this every month! Yep – that is a most good thing! nebraska

Here is to another week of good, better, best things for all of us. To those of you who read, I wish you a wonderful rest of your week. Tell me something good if you care to!

Last Week’s Good Things

DSCF7851I am returning to my roots and doing my best to pay attention to all of the good things around me. Here are those that made me happy last week!.

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Kleenex with Vicks! – A sense memory of childhood is Vicks Vapor Rub. When I had a cold, my mom would pull out the little jar from the medicine cabinet and rub some of it on my chest and a dab under my nose. The mentholated heat and vapor got the healing going. Since right before Christmas, I have been the Kleenex corporation poster child. I go nowhere without a stash of tissues that I use in massive quantities. We had to replenish our stash at Costco, and when I went to get a new box, I found that a few of the boxes were separately wrapped. It was because these special four boxes were permeated with Vicks! The moisturizing tissues were a big step when that happened, but this is brilliance. It probably is not something that I want when I am healthy, but during these days when I am still a sniffly mess, this is a wonderful thing.

Deb Perelman’s Mushroom Bourguignon via Food52 – Deb Perelman is the author of  the beautiful food blog, Smitten Kitchen. I have a number of recipes saved from her blog and I have given a few a go. They are always tasty, but they never look as beautiful as hers. Food52 is another food blog that I follow. More than a year ago, I clipped a recipe from Food 52 that is actually a Smitten Kitchen recipe. Friday, I wanted to make something warm and hearty to go with the cold, icy weather we are having. This rich mushroom stew was perfect. As the blog post noted, there was a fair amount of chopping prep, but other than that, it is an easy recipe to put together. It smelled delicious cooking, and it finished rich with its own meatiness. I used a mix of portabella and cremini mushrooms, and I even found some real, non-frozen pearl onions. I served it over wide egg noodles. Rather than top it with sour cream, I just added some at the end. I wish I had taken a picture so I could do a side by side. For a change, my dish looked just as good as the one pictured on the food blog!

Deb Perelman’s Mushroom Bourguignon (via Smitten Kitchen, via Food 52)

Servings: (4) 

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 lbs. 1/4-inch sliced portobello or cremini mushrooms
1 cup pearl onions (thawed if frozen)
½ carrot, finely diced
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup full-bodied red wine
2 cups beef or vegetable broth (beef broth is traditional, but use vegetable to make it vegetarian; the dish works with either)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 ½ tablespoon all-purpose flour
Egg noodles, for serving (polenta, buttered potatoes or farro work well too)
Sour cream and chopped chives or parsley, for garnish (optional)
Heat the one tablespoon of the olive oil and one tablespoon of butter in a medium Dutch oven or heavy sauce pan over high heat. Sear the mushrooms and pearl onions until they begin to take on a little color, but the mushrooms do not yet release any liquid — about three or four minutes. It helps to do this in a few batches. Remove them from the pan and set aside. Lower the flame to medium and add the second tablespoon of olive oil. Toss the carrots, onions, thyme, a few good pinches of salt and a several grinds of black pepper into the pan and cook for 10, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for just one more minute. Add the wine to the pot, scraping any stuck bits off the bottom, then turn the heat all the way up and reduce it by half. Stir in the tomato paste and the broth. Add back the mushrooms and pearl onions with any juices that have collected and once the liquid has boiled, reduce the temperature so it simmers for 20 minutes, or until mushrooms are very tender. Combine remaining butter and the flour with a fork until combined; stir it into the stew. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 more minutes. If the sauce is too thin, boil it down to reduce to the right consistency. Season to taste. To serve, spoon the stew over a bowl of egg noodles, dollop with sour cream and sprinkle with chives or parsley (optional).

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Goats and Rabbits – For Christmas, Sam got Dan some amazing business cards announcing Goats and Rabbits. Goats and Rabbits will be a Ryan family brewpub in Kansas City. The business cards were a step in making this idea that has been percolating for awhile now, real. This week, GoatandRabbits.com, Goat And Rabbits on Facebook, and @GoatsandRabbits (tagline: Kansas City’s greatest brewpub still not in existence), all went live. Dan and Sam have an on-going email discussion on the whats, hows and whys – with occasional input from other members of the team. This is fun and exciting and I can’t wait to see what comes next. Follow us and like us to find out.pitcher2

Excellent Customer Service from Mignon Faget – Ali got us a beautiful pitcher from a wonderful New Orleans shop for Christmas. This week, we used it for dinner so I washed it and set it in the drying rack. About an hour later, I was in the living room and I heard something that sounded like an exploding light bulb. I went into the kitchen and there was that pitcher – intact, but shattered. It was bizarre. I emailed the store, and before the day was over, they had my address and were sending a new one my way. They sent Ali a note with the tracking number as well as their thanks for being a customer. Actions like this mean so much. They didn’t have to replace it. A sincere apology  could have gone a long way. Kudos to them!

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Dark Horse Distillery Tour – Off of I-35 in Lenexa, Kansas there is an unassuming industrial park building where some pretty neat things are happening. Since 2010, the Garcia family has been putting together an operation where bourbon, rye, white whiskey, and vodka are distilled on premises. They supplement the liquor making with a beautiful event space that can host all sorts of social occasions. Thanks to Rotary, we had a New Year’s Eve day tour of the operation. The family spirit is everywhere. The sister was there to check us in. The marketing brother started us out with the story. The distilling brother went through the mechanics. They spent a lot of time answering questions and showing us around. This is a small scale shop where every step happens on site. There is a mill for the grain, that doesn’t look a whole heck of a lot bigger than what Dan uses for his beer. The bottler has four spouts – they bottle four at a time! Right now, the distilling brother hand numbers and signs each of the bourbon and rye bottles. They have dreams of growing, so I don’t know how long things will look the way that they do now, but this was pretty cool. The tastes were very good too.

I hope everyone who is reading this has come into the new year with many good things, and that they continue to accumulate each day of the year.