Friday, June 28, 2013

Kitchen Sink Band Plays Cigar Box Blues At Common Grounds Coffee House

Every once in a wonderful while, the local blues band "Kitchen Sink" plays at a Brownwood Texas coffee shop (Common Grounds Coffee House and Deli) and we always try to go. We are early-to-bed people so these 5-8 shows are a real treat: live music that actually happens while we are awake and alert to enjoy it!

Kitchen Sink adds musicians from time to time (they are looking for a drummer and bass player), but the heart and soul are a Father Daughter Friend trio: Aaron McNeely, Moriah (aka Rye) McNeely, and Noah Pieprzyza.  They cover an upbeat mix of standards ranging from Noah's gravelly-voiced version of Muddy Waters' "Blow Wind Blow" to Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band's "Blue on Black" in a memorable Aaron/Rye duet, along with postmodern gospel like "Even When The Rain Falls" (NeedToBreathe).

This time we also got to hear an original song: in true old bluesman tradition, Noah took us along on one strange fishing trip with the humorous and toe-tapping "Nuclear Chicken". I look forward to more as they increase their exploration of original music and lyrics. 

Band leader Aaron McNeely sets the tone with his good, strong voice ("Ain't Much Left of Me") and solid guitar. He switches instruments even more frequently than Noah changes harmonicas, and plays them all with abandon. Loved the great covers of "Big Yellow Moon" (especially good timing too), "Layla", and interesting "Tulsa Time/I Walk The Line" medley. 

His song choices show off the band's versatility and he gives each artist continual opportunities to shine at their best.

A gifted vocalist with a truly good voice and a strong range, Rye McNeely can belt out a song like nobody's business. When she sings the Elvis-inspired "Black Velvet", she hits notes that give me chills. I love to hear her sing. Her harmonies with dad Aaron are lovely and melodious, and their voices balance each other well.

Plus the camera loves her - her face lights up any picture she is in. You've heard the saying about taking all the air out of a room? Well, Rye draws all the light in the photograph. Look through the band's Facebook page and you will see what I mean. Agents (and modeling agencies) take note.

Noah Pieprzyza (that is pronounced "Pieprzyza") usually hides - expertly - behind a hand-held harmonica or two. Or three.  As they set up to play "Bell Bottom Blues", he commented "There's a reason nobody plays harmonica on Eric Clapton songs..." and he proceeded to juggle two French harps through the key changes as though it's not unusual to play like that every day.

In true washtub tradition, you never know what kinds of instruments these guys are going to drag out of the "magic Mary Poppins Guitar Case" (as Aaron referred to it during set up).  This time, both the ridiculous and the sublime sounded... sublime.

While the new star might have been Noah's beautiful & haunting steel dobro slide guitar (gotta hear that porch swing on "Summertime"), the "novelty act" proved, in capable hands, to hold its own with the best: an eBay seller's homemade electric guitar made out of a wooden cigar box. Aaron about played the strings off of it and it sounded good!

 Kitchen Sink is a local band and that gives lots of heart to their music. Here's a little taste, a cell phone recording from last year.

The tip jar is out there, and they all have genuine talent, but their big edge at this moment in time is that they are alive and real when not much else is. They are singing live, for fun, in venues you can take the kids to.

They are people who have work-a-day jobs and local lives and families that fill up their venues with cousins and babies and old ladies...everyone goes to Kitchen Sink shows.

That's worth a Hallelujah.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Paula Deen, Rush Limbaugh, Shirley Sherrod: Honest Victims of Infantile Management

Paula Deen testified truthfully when under oath. She was asked "have you ever [in your whole life] said [that word]?"

Unlike the US Attorney General, she answered honestly while under oath.

Unlike the head of the IRS, she answered honestly while under oath.

Unlike the woman our President wants to make "National Security Advisor", she answered honestly when asked a direct question.

Unlike the current or recent Secretaries of State, she answered honestly when asked a direct question.

Maybe that is why she is being villified: the left is outraged that a member of their party tells the truth.

A culture that has renounced Christianity is not capable of forgiveness. A culture that has renounced reason in incapable of rational thought

I have written before about this disturbing habit of firing people for short term PR news bursts. It is a symptom of an infantile corporate management that allows immature Public Relations groups to run amok.

Instead of building their own legitimate company reputation on old-fashioned principles like giving customers what they pay for, honoring guanrantees, honestly representing the product, working to produce a unique product that can stand on its own, remaining loyal to existing employees and customers and suppliers, treating everyone fairly and equitably no matter who they know..... instead of building a great company themselves, companies like Food Network  are trading on other people's reputations, rubbing elbows and bragging about Who They Party With, but it is all a shell game, and no one can trust them.

The Supreme Court may have ruled that in law, corporations are people, but they are not human.

And they have no souls.

Meaningful work and the chance to use our talents are among the great blessings God has given us in this life.  They are blessings regardless of whether we get famous or rich in doing them. To make a living is a lovely thing. And good, honest, ethical people who put people and honesty and truthfullness above expediency and PR crap.... well those good people will always come out in the end with happy personal lives because no one can control them. They understand that their joy does not come from any corporation.

Never jeopardize your own soul for any "thing" on this earth.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Homemade Sweet Cherry Ice Cream: First Freeze of Summer Fresh Fruit

 I know it isn't quite Summer yet, but it is here since I have made the first batch of homemade ice cream. It is cherry season, at least in those places where they grow cherries. Central Texas doesn't get cold enough and gets too hot for the quaint stone fruit, so this is something we must import from places like.... New Mexico*, which I think of as close enough to be almost local.  Anyway, whereever they come from, fresh cherries are abundant and relatively inexpensive right now.

I found a bargain on some that were past their prime, and had been drastically discounted. For ice cream, we want them cut into quarters rather than halves, plus they need to be fully ripe, so this is a good use for imperfect fruit that has reached full flavor. The necessity of tiny pieces of fully ripe fruit I discovered last year when I made the mistake of using commercially frozen peaches in large chunks. They froze so hard that they were not pleasant to eat.

My recipe is a custard-type. It uses egg yolks and is cooked. This makes a luscious, rich ice cream with just the right amount of body. Mema used flour to thicken hers, but I never liked that, I prefer the smoothness of the eggs. The fact that we can buy yard eggs with golden yolks from our neighbor's happy hens is a bonus.

It takes a little practice to learn how to make a custard. There isn't really any secret, just have to be whisking the eggs really fast while pouring a stream of the hot milk into the eggs to "temper" them, then whisk the hot milk really fast while you pour the tempered egg yolk back into the pot and finish cooking. Until you get the hang of it, pour the whole cooked batch through a strainer when it is cooked. That will remove any "scrambled eggs". Eventually you won't need that step any longer.

*(*THINK FOR YOURSELF TIP O' THE DAY: I won't go into the politics of the northwestern state fruit growers and the unreported twists in a lot of the mess our domestic food and immigration policies are in but it is something worth researching sometime. Hint: you will learn a lot if you read news from about 1995 through 2005 on sites sympathetic to Migrant Labor, Fruit Growers, etc. )

Now without further ado, on with the recipe!

Fresh Cherry Ice Cream
Makes about 1 1/2 Quarts

1 1/4 Cup Sugar
2 Cups Whole Milk or Half and Half
5 Egg Yolks (freeze the whites to use for meringue)
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Heavy Cream (Whipping Cream)
2 Cups Cherries, pitted and coarsely chopped (about 1 1/2 pounds)

Pit and chop the cherries, stir in 1/4 cup of sugar and set aside until the end.

Scald the milk in a 2 quart saucepan ("scald" means heat to steaming but do not boil).

Whisk the egg yolks and 1 cup of sugar in a mixing bowl.  Temper the yolks by pouring about half the hot milk in a thin stream while whisking the egg yolks very fast. I like to use a pyrex measuring cup for this, just dip it out (careful not to burn yourself) and pour. Makes it easier to keep whisking if you don't have someone to help you.  A stand mixer is also a good helper for this task - it can be beating the eggs whilst you pour.

Then pour the tempered egg yolks back into the rest of the milk while whisking the milk. Cook and stir, to prevent boiling, for 3 or 4 minutes until the mixture has thickened some. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temp. It is at this stage that you can strain it if you wish. 

After the custard has cooled, add the heavy cream and the vanilla extract.

Freeze in your ice cream freezer, following manufacturer's directions. Pay special attention to the need for salt in the freezing process - it is the salt that lowers the temperature below that of ice alone to enable freezing.

When the custard is frozen, remove the dasher and fold in the cherries. At this stage, I transfer my ice cream to freezer containers and put them in the chest freezer. If you want to finish the freezing in your ice cream maker, leave the canister set in the ice, remove the lid and the dasher, stir in the cherries then replace the lid securely, fill the whole bucket with more ice and salt, cover with a towel and let it sit for an hour or two until you are ready to serve, adding more ice as necessary.

I used to use a hand-cranked freezer, but last year I bought an electric one - mainly because my little manual one was not large enough. The electric one seems to take longer to freeze, but since I am not powering it that doesn't hurt! :-)


About the photo:  Fresh Cherry Ice Cream gets pride of place for its picture in my great grandmother's Pink Cherry Blossom Depression Glass. Big Granddaddy gave this set to Big Grandmother for one of their anniversaries, and I inherited it from her.   Isn't that vintage spoon adorable? It says "Betty Lou" on the handle, and is Carlton Silverplate. I have a funny little collection of figural spoons. I'll take pictures and show them here sometime.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Little Help That Makes Me Happy Every Time I Load The Dishwasher

Here's a little organization tip. A while back, we found a bargain on a huge box of Cascade. I don't remember what size it was, but I think it must have weighed ten pounds. It took both hands to lift it out from under the sink! And I almost needed a counter-weight to pour it!  With that much volume, it would be a long time before the box weighed much less.

Solution? An empty liquid coffee creamer carton. We used a funnel to pour it full and our problem was solved. The one we use is from Coffee Mate Brand, but probably any of them would work.

What is crazy is, we both liked this solution so much that we continue to transfer the dishwasher detergent powder into this bottle regardless of what size box we buy. It is amazing - I can pour the exact amount of powder into the little well. I never waste by pouring too much, and I never spill it.

I never knew that putting soap in the dishwasher was a chore until we found an easier way to do it. Now every time I load the dishwasher, I smile when the last dish is loaded and it is time to pour the soap!

As my little bio over there in the sidebar notes "I am easily amused."  Especially when things are nicely organized. :-)


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