Me, Sher, and Ad

Me, Sher, and Ad
Bro Adam and sis Sher, my rocks!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Rotelle Pasta Salad and Summer BBQs

My Dad, Robert Haynes & Carl Chew, Sr (& the Chew's tan van!)
circa late 70's
While making this salad, I thought about summer BBQs with good friends and family way back in the late 70's and early 80's.  My family was close with two other families from our home town of Wenonah. Mom and Dad bought our house from the Gardler family who lived there prior to us, and who then bought a farm down in Swedesboro, NJ. They in turn, introduced us to the Chew family whom also lived in town. The ages of the kids ranged in the beginning with the youngest ones, the Chew kids, to the late teens of the Gardler kids with myself, brother, and sister falling somewhere in the middle.

Each year we would spend Memorial Day, July 4th, and Labor Day BBQing at each other's homes.  The Haynes' would host Memorial Day, Jane and Carl Chew would host July 4th (the parade in Wenonah was and still is legendary), and Anne and Rich Gardler would host Labor Day at the Farm. Our three families got together and for the entire day we'd eat, shoot off fireworks, play games, swim in the Gardler's pool, play in the woods or fields, antagonize pets and farm animals, and then probably eat some more until late into the evening. We kids were so exhausted, often passing out in the backseat of the station wagon on the way home if it were out at the Farm.  Throw in birthdays and the Christmas holidays and these two families became such a large part of my family for many years.

Sheryl would hang out with the Gardler daughters, Debbie, Helen, and Joanne listening to music or gossiping in their bedroom while Adam and I would hang out with Carl and Amy Chew. George Gardler would tease the girls to no end. I remember there being a lot of pranks and practical jokes played on each other throughout those years.

Some of the Chew, Garder, & Haynes families.
circa late 70's
As always happens, things changed. Unfortunately, for whatever reasons there were, my family stopped getting together with the other families on such a regular basis. We were never told why by our parents nor as kids did we ask. We noticed though and it was an uncomfortable if not difficult change after so many years of family "get-togethers."  

Years passed and our families moved on. Mom and Dad divorced and remarried. We would pass on "Hi's!" from Dad to the Gardlers and Chews and vice versa when our paths crossed, usually at the Wenonah July 4th celebrations. I know Mom and her husband Barry sometimes got together with Anne and Rich Gardler when they came back up north from Florida. It wasn't the same and unfortunately it wouldn't be. That's one of the those lessons learned while growing up. Things change and sometimes you just have to accept it.

In 2007, Anne Gardler passed away and Sheryl and I went to the memorial service at the Farm. In 2009, Mom passed away and the Chew family and Rich Gardler and daughter Debbie came up to Lake Wynonah for our service. And finally in 2013, Anne and Rich's daughter Debra Gardler Clement passed away with Sheryl and I making the trip down to South Jersey for her memorial service.  Our families each attended the services where we could and it felt like we came back to each other full circle spending time with the Chews and Gardlers once more.

Salad ingredients!
The advent of Facebook (I hate to admit it) helped us as well. We all started slowly reconnecting. Recently, Sheryl and I traveled a laughingly circuitous route to Joanne (Gardler) and Greg Gaynor's home to attend the graduation party and BBQ for their son, Tyler. We had a great time once we finally got there after stopping, getting lost, refusing to ask questions, arguing, screaming, and laughing all the way through Delaware. The graduation party was lots of fun with each of us cracking up as we recounted stories from the past. It feels good knowing how much we all still mean to each other.

Haha, all this from a great summer salad! 

You can  take this salad to a pic-nic or BBQ.  It is easy to make and just so good.  I did make one error though. I glanced at the recipe before heading to the store and thought it called for rotini, not rotelle pasta. The salad still came out awesome using the rotini. I will try it next time with the rotelle (wagon wheel) pasta. I also added 1 cup of celery. You could also add a cup of chopped up carrots. The 8 oz bottle of dressing was just enough to dress the salad. It wasn't overwhelming at all. If you want greater flavor, try one of the more robust Italian dressings now offered like Kraft's Tuscan Italian Dressing or Roasted Red Pepper Italian Dressing with Cheese.

Rotelle Pasta Salad by Abby Deeds

The finished salad.
4 cups rotelle (wagon wheel) pasta (8 oz dried)
2 cups cubed chicken or 2 5 oz cans of chunk chicken
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
2 cups thinly sliced green pepper strips
2 cups fresh broccoli florets
1 cup chopped celery (Optional, I added this.)
1 bottle (8 oz) Italian dressing (I used Kraft's Zesty Italian Dressing.)

Cook pasta, drain and rinse.
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
Add dressing.
Mix well and chill for two hours.
Toss before serving.
Serves 6

Monday, July 21, 2014

Lost Cell Phone

For those of you which have not seen me freak out, shuffle about despondently, or mutter to myself over the course of this last week, "Where can it be, where can it be, where can it be", I have lost my cell phone. I am hoping it is just misplaced. I am now resigned to the fact that I may never find it. But an amazing thing happened this past week ... I survived. I also learned a little about myself in the process.

Cell phones, none of which are mine since mine is LOST!!!!!!

I was getting ready to go down to Philly to see my sister Sheryl for her birthday celebration and had just texted her if she needed me to pick up anything. Her response was no, she was in the store. OK, I texted, I'm leaving now. I packed up the car and in the span of 10 minutes, I lost myself phone, simple as that. You could say I just misplaced it but oh no, baby, it has gone waaaay beyond that!

With the car all packed, I tore everything apart, went through every bag, the entire car, the deck on the way to the friggin' car and nothing! I returned to the house, retraced my steps, bathroom, kitchen, laundry room, both bedrooms, library, NOTHING. I searched for an hour. Now there comes a time when you just have to accept you won't find it at that moment and just need to come back and try later. It was so hard but I pulled myself away from the search and left for Philly. I was paranoid that something horrible would happen and I wouldn't have a cell phone with me in my impending emergency.
This isn't my cell phone either, but it could be for all you know.

While I driving on Route 183, I hit a quick moving thunderstorm.  A tree fell down in the road ahead of me. (OK it might have been a branch, but by now I was completely freaked out!) I swerved around that and continued on my way, heart racing.  While on the PA turnpike, I heard honking and then a crunch. I tensed up and looked in my rear view mirror just in time to see the aftermath of a fender bender with both cars pulling over to the shoulder. Great, that could have been me WITHOUT A CELL PHONE!  I had beads of sweat forming on my forehead. I just wanted to get to Philly, just wanted to get to Philly. 

I did arrive (after much needed comfort food stop at the rest stop Burger King) and immediately hugged my sister retelling the horrible events of the last couple hours. I was determined though to have a great evening without the cell phone. I mean, it's only a phone, I could do it. How hard could it be?

The birthday evening with Sheryl and her friends was wonderful. We dined at the incredible Columbian/Cuban restaurant Tierra Columbiana. I shared the most incredible paella with my friend Jen. I even captured the evening with my old school digital camera.  But I noticed something. I was really fidgety. I had difficulty concentrating and kept glancing around rather nervously. After several rounds of cocktails, beer, sangria, and something called a Citywide Special at Bob and Barbara's Lounge (a can of PBR and a shot of Jim Beam), I finally found myself medicated and relaxing. AND it was a great birthday evening for my sister.

Sheryl, Strange Tall Man, Medicated Marc, Jen & Marie at 'Bob and Barbara's!'

Once home the next day, I began to look everywhere for the cell phone. Obvious places were searched. The floor, the bed, the counters, etc.  Then I began to search less obvious places:  the litter box, under dressers, the last bag of garbage (HURL), behind large appliances, the car for the 5th time.  I felt myself going through the stages of grief for this damn stupid phone!!! (By the way, that's acceptance and anger.)

I am still looking here and there. I will order one through the crappy insurance policy on my next payday. Sending in that horrible $100.00 deductible can wait until then. My friend Cathy has graciously provided me with her old Track phone to use for an emergency in the car as well. A curious thing happened though. I got through the withdrawal and have survived.

My phone looks like this one. Lemme know if you find it ... :(
I rediscovered how to eat my dinner, watch TV, and just relax without the urge to glance at my phone.  I have seen families at a restaurant with each member on their phone, not conversing with one another. I never thought I was that bad but I definitely felt "lost" without my phone attached to my side. Could losing my phone be one of the best things that have happened to me?

Oh wait! Lemme check under the bed just one more time ...

Saturday, July 12, 2014

How Not to Impress an Well Known Photographer

I washed a load of laundry the other night which resulted in accidentally huffing bleach. Mixed with a recently downed shot of whiskey, it actually wasn't that bad. Thank G-d the hot water heater is next to the washer and dryer or I would have face-planted right into the cat's litter box on the floor. 

Argh! Permanent coffee stain.
My bleach inhalation occurred while doing a load of whites. The next day, I was wearing to work a freshly laundered and bleached blue pinstriped white button down. That's when I saw the permanent coffee stain on my sleeve! No amount of bleach could save this shirt. Well that's just GREAT! I exclaimed out loud in my office. My favorite shirt quickly became the shirt "most likely end of in the trash" as soon as I got home.  SO much for freshly laundered and bleached.

The little incident reminded me of the great schmear incident of Jim Thorpe, PA, back about 5 years ago. I quickly scanned my blog posts and realized I hadn't yet shared that little gem with my readers.

John and I often go up to Jim Thorpe, PA, to get away for the weekend either hiking or mountain biking. The sleepy little town sits wedged in between two ridges in the Pennsylvania Poconos. It has a bustling little tourist industry and has historically been called the "Switzerland of America" due to the sweeping vistas and scenery of the Pocono Mountains. Jim Thorpe, of course, is also known for taking the name of the Olympic athlete of the same name in his honor. It's his final resting place.

Not many people know this, but it is also the place where yours truly embarrassed himself once before a well known photographer. Don't even ask his name as I won't be mentioning it.

There are favorite shops, galleries, and stores that John and I always hit while we are there. One of them is a wonderful gallery called Dakota Ridge. The owner always has up and coming artists and photographers who exhibit there. John and I were in Jim Thorpe that weekend there for their Victorian Christmas weekend.

All of the businesses were open during the evening with food and drink to celebrate the annual event. The gallery happened to be at the end of Broadway, the main drag of Jim Thorpe. Between the place we were staying and the gallery were about 6 other shops, bars, and boutiques where I could get my holiday drink on.

By the time we got to the gallery, I was feeling a very nice holiday buzz. The photographer was working the room taking compliments about his large scale photographs adoring the gallery walls.  I loved this guy's photographs. Just incredible. The Giclee prints were each at least 3 feet by 4 feet not including frames and were of landscapes, cityscapes, or abstract designs.

I started to head over to tell him how much I enjoyed his work when John stated that there was food and booze in the back room. I stopped and made a hard left towards the bar. I figured I would look classier with a cocktail or glass of wine in hand.  Plus, I had noticed a lot of moochers (OK, besides myself) had arrived behind us. I figured John and I had better make a little plate of something something before the masses hit the food table. Did I mention I had hit 6 others places prior?

Ooooh, the food! There was a cheese and charcuterie platter and an antipasti tray and I love love my crudite' with various dips! And there's hummus and pita! HELLO dinner!!!  I poured myself a healthy glass of red wine and made a plate of ...everything. This was so good, I was in "gallery opening" heaven!

After noshing for about 10 minutes, I decided to schmooze the photographer. I had two things in my favor. I have a father who is a photographer and artist. I also have a minor degree in art history. I was set to get my schmooze on!  I knew what buzz words to use to sound vaguely well spoken.

John had mentioned something to me about getting too excited when I first speak to someone and to breath between thoughts. Whatever does he mean??

So I went over to the photographer who was with someone else. During a break in conversation (and them awkwardly glancing at me), I introduced myself, saying that my father was a photographer and I was really enjoying viewing his work.  He responded, "Thank you very much" and turned to speak to the other person.

At this point, I launched myself into their conversation (whether they appreciated it or not). Luckily for me, the other guy seemed to back off suddenly and it was just me and the photographer to talk about his photographs. As we were chatting away, I noticed he kept glancing at the center of my chest. As soon as he looked across the room, I quickly looked down. To my horror was a huge SCHMEAR of goat cheese clinging to my shirt.

OK, OK I thought, I will just wipe it away discretely while we are talking. He won't notice and all will be well! So I kept talking to him while coolly and confidently maintaining eye contact. With my left hand holding my wine glass, I went to wipe the schmear off my shirt with a napkin. Well, as Steinbeck famously wrote, "The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry."  It was not goat cheese as I had thought, it was ranch dressing. As as soon as I went to wipe it away with the napkin, I proceeded to further schmear it down the front of my shirt.  It was a schmear of epic proportions!

The photographer stopped in mid sentence and abruptly stated, "Um, well it was nice talking to you. Enjoy the exhibit!" and made a beeline to the backroom of the gallery.

"Um thanks...." I said quietly.

And there was John in the corner of the art gallery dying from laughter after having watched the entire epic schmear unfold.   "John, do you think he noticed?" I whispered.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Ambrosia Salad with a Secret Ingredient?

Ready to  mix!
Ambrosia is a traditional American fruit salad which is thought to have originated in the early 19th century. There are so many variations of this salad across our country. You can add fruit cocktail, grapes, bananas, pecans, whipped cream instead of sour cream, yogurt, honey, as well as other ingredients. The list goes on and on. None of which included the special secret ingredient I copied down from my cousin Helen's recipe.

This Ambrosia recipe is from my father's cousin, Helen Haynes Dreiske. Helen and her husband, Gordon, farmed the Haynes/Dreiske "family" ranch in tiny Keldron, South Dakota (population 11). We visited them on trips out West each summer.  As with most large families, there were often BBQs, dinners, and picnics with lots of food and drink. This is one recipe of several that Helen always made and then gave my mother Abby during our visits. Helen and Gordon have since passed on but I am happy to include her recipes in my blog.

I took the recipe card with me down to the local Piggly Wiggly to pick up the ingredients (my Southern and Midwest friends know this supermarket chain!).  OK OK I actually went down to my "Giant" Supermarket but I just like sayin' Piggly Wiggly.

The Ambrosia recipe with the "secret" ingredient. Can you spot it? 
While going up and down the aisle with my cart, I went down the list picking up ingredients here and there. Two cans of of pineapple chunks, two cans of mandarin oranges, a couple cans of button mushrooms, shredded coconut, sour cream. Hmmm, sour cream, that's odd, I thought. I always thought it was made with whipped cream. I pulled out my smart phone and did a quick search of Ambrosia recipes and found several made with sour cream. OK, I guess cousin Helen made her's with sour cream. Well I wanted it to be authentic as possible so I figured I would make it with sour cream too.

As I wandered towards the checkout, I looked down at my cart and surveyed the ingredients. My eyes rested on the cans of mushrooms. Hmmm. Mushrooms. I looked at the recipe card. "Small mushrooms" it read.  I must have stared at it for a good minute or two. I grabbed that smart phone again and scanned some recipes. No mushrooms found but everyone had small MARSHMALLOWS!  I copied the recipe wrong! I started laughing out loud in the middle of the supermarket.  Hedda Homemaker passed by with her cart looking at me strangely.  I quickly returned the mushrooms and retrieved a bag of small marshmallows. In retrospect, I find it funny that I initially focused on sour cream as being the odd ingredient and not mushrooms!

Thankfully, the making of the Ambrosia salad went smoothly. And I am happy to report that all of the Ambrosia salad was eaten at my stepdad's 4th of July celebration. I wonder if that would have been the case had I made it with mushrooms ...

The finished Ambrosia salad!

Ambrosia Salad by Helen Haynes Dreiske

1 can of pineapple chunks (juice optional)
2 cans mandarin oranges
Coconut, shredded
Sour Cream
Drain fruit first.
Mix together, chill well.

***The couple changes that I had made were based on personal preference. I used two cans of pineapple chunks instead of one and added some pineapple juice from the can to taste. Most recipes online called for 1 cup of shredded coconut, I used about 2 cups.  And remember, use marshmallows instead of mushrooms!