Monday, June 28, 2010

Shoebie, Shoebie, Do....

Not wanting to give into a lazy-do-nothing Sunday, last weekend my daughter, her friend and I braved the 90+ degree weather and headed to the shore to be “shoebies” for the day. Daughter’s boyfriend also paid us a visit at our beach-blanket address at 34th Street in Ocean City (mainly because there is a bathroom there…I cannot possibly go the entire day without going to the bathroom and the obvious alternative is not an attractive option).

We packed our chairs, umbrellas, beach bags – complete with towels, sunscreen, reading materials, sunglasses – and our lunch and headed to this sandy slice of heaven. Now, you have to understand, the Jersey shore is one of my favorite places ever. What makes it even better, in my estimation (some would, of course, argue) is the variety of conversations that one is lucky enough to overhear and the antics of families that spawn those sometimes banal conversations. On this particular day, I overheard a litany of platitudes about sunscreen, dinner and, of course, the always unpleasant but somewhat reliable family admonishing a slightly puckish child (however, in this particular case, I thought the mother was infinitely more annoying than the child).

Anyway, we bought our daily beach tags, the price of admission to enjoy the usual aerial advertisements being pulled by two-seater airplanes, the school-house-like-bell call of the ice cream boy, and the familiar whistle of the lifeguards warning people to swim between the green flags...pure relaxation and enjoyment!

If you are unfamiliar with the term “shoebie” let me enlighten you. explains that “a shoebie is a South Jersey Shore expression to describe the day-trippers from Philly and NYC that took the train “down the shore” for the day or weekend and brought everything they needed in a shoebox”…hence the word “shoebie.” Wikipedia says that the term was coined in the 1920’s and further details that the “shoebox” would include items such as a towel, suntan lotion, and food. There is some funny “shoebie” paraphernalia one can purchase at

Our shoebie lunch (that was really in a Playmate cooler) consisted of turkey, ham and cheese on wheat sandwiches, chocolate chip cookies, pretzels, and nectarines. I took a walk to the 34th Street Produce Market hoping to score some Jersey tomatoes but it is too early in the season so I had to settle for beautiful imposters from South Carolina. It was a delightful day!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Solstice Shenanigans

In my humble opinion, one of the best things about summer is the opportunity to barbeque. I know that this is an activity that one can do all winter long, but it’s no fun freezing your ass off drinking a beer while a steak sizzles on the grill…I’m just saying. What makes summer barbeque fare even better is barbeque that is not only a verb but a noun…as in a party. Better yet, a party to welcome summer, as in a Summer Solstice party.

Such was the case at my house this past Saturday…we gathered, as the name of the post suggests, to partake in some shenanigans with the Irish side of my family. We had a grand time (I borrowed this term from my cute talented Irish contractor) even though the crowd was a bit abbreviated - some of us were in Ireland…rascals! Anyway, we had some fabulous grilled stuff – gorgonzola cheese burgers, chicken/spinach/feta sausage, bratwurst, hot dogs (that were very well done), Becky Beans (so named for my Aunt Becky), corn-on-the-cob, and of course the standard cold salads. We had the most fabulous desserts that were happily contributed by our guests, including a special delivery of chocolate dipped strawberries sent by a cousin who could not attend. My sister saw this idea in a magazine and made these adorable little centerpieces that included a single gerbera daisy in a plastic take out cup…very clever, cute, and colorful!

We were our usual jovial selves (some would say loud and obnoxious)…reminiscing, taunting and teasing each other, and playing games, including one to name this blog post…the first runner up…“Mojitos Lead to Cheating” (which gives you a hint about one of the libations of choice - perhaps that would explain some of the shenanigans!) and the winner is….

It was great to see everyone…it was really a lot of fun!

© JMW 2010

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

On Father’s Day, all I can do is remember my dad, Joe. I miss him every day and often wish he was around to talk to. He and his brother and my godfather, Uncle Eddie, were good men who were taken from us way too early.

My dad and uncle used to work at the same place in Philadelphia that was not too far from where we lived in the Fairmount section so my dad could walk home. I remember sitting on the steps of our house and watching for him to appear way down the street. When he did, I would let my mom and grandmom know that “daddy was coming” and when he got closer, my older sister, younger brother and I would run to greet him. Not being a particularly sappy sort, he would usually say something aloof, but we knew in our hearts that he was happy to see his children greet him so gleefully. I used to love to hear his stories, especially those about his work buddies and WWII. He swore like a drunken sailor and loved to play practical jokes on us...he would laugh hysterically when we fell for them, which we routinely did. He and my mom would take us to restaurants, down the shore, to drive-in movies (I remember seeing “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” like it was yesterday) and to see the Phillies. One particular game we attended was “Autograph Day” at the “Vet” and my brother, Joey, ran around gathering signatures and returned with one from a rookie named Mike Schmitt and we all said in unison “who’s that?’ Funny, we all found out soon thereafter who he was! In his later years, my dad was much more of a home-body and he enjoyed his grandchildren, our dog, cooking, his caps, and one favorite knitted sweater that my mom still has.

One day, shortly after he died, I was sitting in class at St. Joe’s feeling particularly gloomy. Noticing that I was not participating in class as much as I usually do (I know you’re all shocked to learn that I was an animated class participant) the professor asked me what was wrong and I told him my father died. I’ll never forget what he said next…”a snowflake is never just a snowflake, a raindrop is never just a raindrop, or a falling leaf is never just a falling leaf any more…they are now all greetings from your dad.” I am often comforted by those words and during the snow storms of this past winter, I speculated that my dad was giving me a good swift kick in the ass – can’t imagine why!

Happy Father’s Day daddy, Uncle Eddie, Uncle Charlie, Uncle Lou, and Gene…you are all missed every day.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Don't be so crabby!

This past Tuesday, we had dinner at the foodie’s house…with a little twist in our ritual. It was my turn, but it was her husband’s birthday, so he and the architect’s husband joined us for a birthday dinner (remember, I am Bachelorette #1, so I went stag….my life size cardboard cutout of President Obama does not fit in my Mini Cooper unless I put him through the sunroof and I didn’t want to get arrested by the local police who sniff me out whenever I do something even remotely wayward in my vehicle).

Sorry…back to Tuesday.

Anyway, she made soft shell crabs and I never had soft shell crabs before mainly because I didn’t understand how one could eat a whole crab including the stuff you’re not supposed to eat. So, being an inquisitive sort, I had to investigate how to clean a soft shell crab to make it completely edible. First, you need to know that a soft shell crab is actually a blue crab that has outgrown and shed its shell. When the “molting” is complete, but before the crab begins to grow another hard shell, the exposed crustacean is whisked out of the water, and immediately prepared or frozen. enlightened me on how to clean a soft shell crab:
1. Cut off the face with culinary shears
2. Cut off the bottom flap, or “apron”
3. Cut the guts out with a sharp knife
4. Remove the intestines by partially peeling back the top shell and then pulling them out….damn, I’m glad I’m not a crab.

OR you can just go to Hill’s and buy them already cleaned and ready to be prepared.

Preparing a soft shell crab to eat:

First, our hostess dredged the crabs in flour that was seasoned with salt and pepper, and

then she fried them until....

they were golden, about 3-5 minutes on each side…that’s it…very simple.

I must say that those little critters were very tasty indeed…..subtlety briny and very sweet. We also had rice and asparagus and for dessert, the most delicious homemade apricot tart with homemade cardamom ice cream…it was a lovely birthday evening, complete with Tom Collins cocktails and a wonderful bottle of wine. There was an arrangement of freshly cut hydrangas from her garden on the table that, along with the crabs, shouted "summer is here!" Hooray!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Knitting for Charity

I subscribe to many cooking and knitting electronic newsletters and I am always happy to see my email from Lion Brand Yarn. As you would expect, the newsletter provides knitting advice and patterns but it also spotlights knitters who donate their work to charity. One such story profiled Heather Brown, a Peace Corps volunteer who in 2009 founded a non-profit organization called Global Knit. As the name suggests, the organization solicits knitted donations, such as socks and sweaters, and donates them around the world. Knitters can use any pattern or yarn with 70% wool content or higher.

Most recently, Global Knit organized an effort to aid the Haitian earthquake victims by sending bath kits that contain a 100% cotton knitted washcloth and hand towel and a bar of soap. Maybe to add a little fun, they should include a toy rubber ducky...I think I'll suggest that!

For more information on Global Knit or to make a knitted donation, visit their website at

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pond(er) This!

Last night we had dinner at the architect’s house and we had a beautifully presented meal….grilled scallops that were marinated in olive oil and lemon juice, served on a bed of risotto topped with asparagus and grated Asiago cheese. To complement this wonderful meal, we had a very buttery and crisp chardonnay from California, Muirwood, and of course, the thyme ice cream for dessert.
Before dinner, we sat in the architect’s beautiful yard in which she installed a pond, complete with a working pump and a mini waterfall. It was lovely and listening to the sounds of a babbling (albeit man made) brook was very peaceful. I can’t wait for the fish to arrive (I hope one doesn’t appear on our plates for dinner) and for the pond’s foliage to mature.

A (very) little and elementary tutorial on how to build a backyard pond:
1. Outline the pond and dig it out
2. Sink the pond tub or liner
3. Weigh down the tub or liner with rocks
4. Install a pump to circulate and filter the water
5. Fill with water
6. Place decorative rocks in and around the pond and decorate with pond-appropriate plant life, or water lilies. Add fish if you'd like.
7. Scatter comfortable chairs around, crack open your favorite libation and enjoy your pond.

Pond update...a little more grown in....with fish!

During dinner, the architect told us a story….one fine day as she approached the Easy Pass toll booth on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, she decided that the sensor would be strong enough to be read through the glove compartment. When her plan was foiled, to avoid being featured on one of those riveting police chase shows and to maintain her law abiding citizen status, what does she do…..she parks the car – on the PA TURNPIKE – (finally) takes the Easy Pass sensor out of the glove compartment, and walks up to and waives the pass under the sensor to activate the “Toll Paid” message. I only wish I could have been there to witness this little escapade and to take pictures (not to mention eavesdrop on the attendant’s comments)! She said to me…”don’t put this in the blog” and her daughter said “oh no, please do.” You’re welcome, daughter.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Ice Cream Thyme

Speaking of comfort food, let’s talk ice cream. I’m sure we all remember hearing the familiar music-box-type-tune of the ice cream truck as it traveled through our neighborhoods.
On queue, we immediately stopped what we were doing (probably playing Mystery Date…I thought the dud was kind of cute) ran in the house to ask for money and, after a brief “you’ll spoil your dinner (yeah, in five hours!)” protestation from a parent, and watching through the window during the entire negotiation to make sure the truck didn’t leave, we finally happily snatched the money, probably 25¢, said thank you (to ensure future monetary assistance), and ran out to purchase a coveted treat – mine was always an ice cream sandwich. Now that we’re all grown up (well, sort of), our ice cream preferences are a bit more refined than Jack & Jill, Mr. Softee, or Good Humor.


A few years ago (ok, 6 or 7 years ago), I received an ice cream machine for Christmas and, I am embarrassed to say, that it has never been out of the box….until now! The “Scoop It Up” from Cuisinart is a handy-dandy “simple to operate…fully automatic…easy and mess free” device that streamlines the ice cream making process and promises “pure indulgence in as little as 20 minutes" (I could say something, but I won’t). A recipe book was included and I decided to make a plain-Jane vanilla, BUT, not wanting to be conventional, I decided to add stuff, not predictable stuff like chocolate chips or nuts, but unexpected stuff, like an herb, specifically, thyme.

Don’t say “yuck.”

Yesterday morning, I put the mixing bowl in the freezer to ensure that it “was completely frozen before beginning” my little experiment. Ingredients for Vanilla Ice Cream: 1 cup whole milk, ¾ cup of granulated sugar, 2 cups of heavy cream, well chilled, 1-2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract. 2-3 tablespoons of chopped fresh thyme (from my garden) will do nicely (very hopeful that the ice cream doesn’t taste like a pork tenderloin). I took the well-chilled mixing bowl out of the freezer, I followed the other instructions precisely – remember the checkerboard cake fiasco – and turned the machine on.

8:20 a.m. …wait 25-35 minutes.

8:45 a.m. … it’s churning . While I waited I cleaned the kitchen; I am a good, but messy cook.

8:55 a.m. …. Needs a little more churning time but almost done. I felt like an expectant father.

9:04 a.m. ...this is best damn ice cream I ever tasted. The savory thyme blends so nicely with the sugar and cream.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Who doesn’t love biscuits? I lump them into the same comfort food category as spaghetti & meatballs, macaroni & cheese and, mashed potatoes & meatloaf (especially Martha Stewart’s recipe…say what you’d like about Ms. Martha, but girlfriend can 1. cook, and 2. make handy items out of everyday objects and, just for the record who else can go to jail for securities fraud and emerge even more of a domestic diva and affluent than before..I'm just saying). Martha is one of my idols (not because of the fraud stuff)…Jackie Kennedy is another…love the pearls.

I digress.

Anyway, I came across a recipe for Cheddar Rosemary Biscuits that was calling my name but, being a rebellious sort, I naturally had to add my own twist. Not wanting to get too adventurous the first time I tried this recipe (I really wanted to add another cheese and red pepper flakes) I added only one additional ingredient – sage.

Biscuits are very easy to make and I offer a photo tutorial below. The original recipe is from

1. Gather all ingredients: Bisquick, cheddar cheese, 1 tablespoon each of rosemary and sage (both chopped -- btw, the herbs are from my garden), sour cream, Dijon mustard, milk.
2. Mix together Bisquick cheese and herbs.

3. In a separate bowl, mix sour cream, mustard and milk and mix the wet ingredients with the dry. The dough will be a “playdough” consistency

4. Drop dough into 2” balls, brush with a beaten egg
5. Bake for 15 minutes at 425°
6. Serve warm.

On Tuesday night, we had dinner at the foodie’s house and she served the moistest grilled chicken breasts marinated in mango, rum and lime juice, baked asparagus, and mixed greens/orange/pine nut salad. We also enjoyed the herb biscuits and wine – a beautifully presented and wonderful Italian Raboso, Italo Cescon... "Ruby red color with streaks of purple. Aroma is rich and complex, youthfully fruity...combined with nuances of spices and vanilla." This is a red grape variety from Northern Italy. We had a delightful evening sitting on her deck, enjoying a wonderful meal, drinking our wine and listening to the sounds of nature (the architect said she felt like she was in a rain forest).

Wine information is from