To fly or not to fly….

Usually when I travel it is by car but due to unexpected events I now find myself a frequent flyer. I have flown back and forth between S.C. and N.Y. at least 4 times in the last 2 months and each time I fly I get better at it or more prepared at least. On one of my flights, the turbulence was so bad I found myself sweating perfusely and praying to the big guy to please not let the plane go down. The plane was shaking so bad that the drink on the tray table beside me went flying. Good thing my neighbor had sharp reflexes. One time when I was flying a long time ago, I had to exit a plane and jump down an inflatable slide while it was still on the tarmac. Good times.

I do understand flying is a necessary evil, especially for this trip. It’s just about impossible to drive when you only have 2 days and you are 13 hours away from your destination. But believe me, if flying was absolutely not an option I would’ve driven and made it work. Some people are worth making the effort. For my Donna June I would travel to the ends of the earth, barefoot, over hot coals and broken glass if that’s what it took to get to her.

For you see, Donna’s mom has been diagnosed with early onset dementia. Donna is staying with her temporarily until her new home is ready for her in Pennsylvania. Donna’s sister Suzanne and her husband Pete are building an apartment in their home so that mom can go live with them being she is unable to stay alone any more. I can’t even begin to express the admiration and love I have for Suzanne & Pete, along with their daughters Amber & Alyssa, for opening their home and hearts to allow mom a safe place to live and being willing to make the necessary changes to make that possible. They are pretty amazing people and I am very lucky to call them my family.

Until the apartment is ready and mom’s house in NY is sold Donna is staying with her and has been there since the end of January. Hence, me flying so much. I probably should’ve gotten one of those credit cards that you get travel miles for but I dont anticipate flying much after mom moves to Pennsylvania.

The drive there is a lot nicer than the one to NY. I like to take I 81 being it is very scenic and takes you through the mountains. Also there is no going through NYC. Even though I was born, raised and learned to drive on Long Island I get little pangs of anxiety when I go back and have to drive. Southern State Pkwy, LIE, even Sunrise Hwy all make me yearn to go back home to SC. Regardless, I prefer to drive.

So that’s it. If I had my choice I’d drive everytime. For all of you out there in cyberspace that fly, I wish you safe travels with clear skies.

Bacon and the amazing liquor it leaves behind…

Bacon has been one of my favorite foods since I’ve been a little girl, next to fried chicken of course.  I remember one time back when I was here in S.C. on a summer visit, my dad brought me to Shoney’s for the breakfast buffet.  My eyes lit up with delight when I saw that bacon piled high.  Looking up at my daddy I asked him “How much bacon can I eat?” and he replied “As much as you want!”.  He still laughs to this day when he tells that story.

 

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Kelly, dad and little me in Disney 1976

 

I prefer crispy bacon, I always have.  When I used to come visit S.C. I would also stay with my Aunt Lavinia, who knew exactly how her niece liked her bacon and boy did she cook it perfect!  “Jennifer likes crispy bacon and Kelly likes floppy bacon”, is what she’d say.  Elvis records would be spinning on the turntable that was housed in a huge cabinet in her living room.  We’d sing and dance to “Don’t Be Cruel” while she cooked.  I have never met anyone who loved Elvis as much as my Aunt Lavinia.

 

Now back to the bacon.  This morning I fried the bacon traditionally in a skillet but in the past I have cooked it in the oven.  For all you die hard baconistas don’t gasp in disgust, it actually came out good.  There is no mess! No grease coating everything within 3 feet of the cook top and you don’t have to hover over a skillet watching to make sure it doesn’t burn.  It is also a much easier way to cook a large amount of bacon at once.  Put bacon on a cookie sheet (I put it on a cooling rack so the grease drips down onto the cookie sheet) and put it in the oven at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes until crispy.  Try it, you might like it.  The one plus of frying the bacon in a skillet though is the grease left behind. The liquid essence that has been extracted adds the most delicious flavor to the eggs fried in it.  I was in charge of the bacon and then Donna took over.  Donna cooks the perfect fried egg.  The egg white is completely cooked yet the yolk is the runny, which is the perfect consistency for dipping that crispy bacon into it.  And the grease adds such a depth of flavor to the egg that it is like a rock concert in your mouth!  My step mom Yuri keeps a tin of bacon grease on the shelf above her stove for cooking, so she has it at the ready to add it to a number of dishes such as green beans, collards, etc.  I can taste why.

Everything just tastes better with bacon.  Whether it is sweet or savory dish, bacon just makes it that much better in my humble opinion.  Till next time…enjoy your Sunday 🙂

Roasted fresh vegies….what can be better than that!

Tonight we had a picnic indoors.  I cubed up 3 small squash, which were grown with love by a coworker.  Along with that I diced up a sweet potato, sliced some carrots, tossed them all with some extra virgin olive oil, salt & pepper and then put them in the oven at 450 degrees for 40 minutes.  For the main part of this meal I cooked up some chicken breasts in the frying pan with a little extra virgin olive oil, salt & pepper.  When the cutlets where just about done I basted them with barbecue sauce on both sides, charring them somewhat (that’s how Donna likes them).  Don’t forget the corn on the cob!  You can’t very well have a picnic without corn on the cob.

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Roasted yellow squash, sweet potato and carrots
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So true you eat with your eyes first

I am just tickled I remember to take a picture of my dish before we started to hack into it!  Hoping everyone out there enjoys their long holiday weekend, with all the delicious food at their backyard barbeques and parties.  But most of all, I would like to express my gratitude for all of the service men & women who have served in the past and that are actively protecting us as I type.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Happy Memorial Day.

Order up!

 

 

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Me serving Dad and Molly 🙂

 

Jenn’s diner was open for breakfast yesterday morning!  Dad and his Maltese Molly came over bright and early for a feast of bacon, eggs, blueberry waffles, blueberry muffins, cantaloupe and orange juice.  I even served dad his coffee in a Denny’s mug that Donna had bought me one Christmas (I have a thing for coffee mugs, what can I say).  After filling up on breakfast we sat out on the veranda, drank more coffee and watched the river go by.  Molly, being the ferocious little Maltese that she is, barked at every last dog that was strolling along the river walk.

 

 

After we finished eating Dad, Molly and I took a walk over to the Guignard Brick Works, which is a historic industrial site located right around the corner from where we live.  The brick structures are called “beehive kilns”.

 

I love that there is so much history, literally right in our own backyard and I was tickled that I could introduce dad to something he hadn’t already seen.  My heart is also happy for the fact that my dad lives only 10 minutes away and we can make memories like these.  Donna and I recently saw a dishtowel at the Cotton Mill Gift Exchange at the S.C. State Museum and what was printed on it says it all…  I wasn’t born in the south but I got here as quickly as I could. 😉

An impromptu lunch date…

While at work today I heard my store manager page me over the loudspeaker.  When I asked her what she needed, she asked me if I would like to work a 1/2 day being they were cutting hours.  Without hesitation I said yes.  Immediately I think, where can Donna and I go for lunch?  If you haven’t been to Michael’s Café in downtown Columbia on Main Street you need to go.  It is located across the street from the fabulous Sweet Cream Co. artisan ice cream shop which by the way has the BEST ice cream!  I remembered I had recently read an article in Go Columbia titled “Food Crawl Pimento Cheese” and Michaels’s Café was mentioned in it.  So off to Michael’s Café we went.

Please pardon the crappy pictures of the half eaten sandwiches being I am new to this being a “food photographer” thing.  I’m lucky that I remembered to take a picture this time but unfortunately we were half way through when I did.  As I get better at blogging so will my photography, I promise.

We couldn’t have asked for a better destination for lunch today!  The atmosphere was delightful being we sat at a table indoors facing a large picture window which allowed us to watch the hustle and bustle of Main Street.  There are also several tables outside for “al fresco” dining as well.  Initially, I wanted pizza and caprese salad but pizza is only offered for dinner.  Donna chose The White Russian, which is a smoked turkey breast, swiss cheese and Applewood smoked bacon crumbles baked on a hoagie roll served with house made Russian sauce with a tomato and cucumber salad.  I opted for the B.Y.O. Grilled Pimento Cheese on rye with a caesar salad.  I love salad, I really do.  Every opportunity I have to eat it I do.  Both of the sandwiches were absolutely delicious, especially the roll that the turkey was on.  Crusty on the outside and soft on the inside, just as roll should always be.  Donna wished they were a little more generous with the Russian sauce, because it was that good but besides that everything was on point.  Highly recommend it.

Out for a run…

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Selfie at the bottom steps of the State House

So, last night we watched a great documentary on Netflix called “Losing Sight Of Shore”.  It is about a crew of 4 women who row across the Pacific Ocean from America to Australia, unsupported.  They row a total of 8,000 miles over 9 months.  It was absolutely amazing and I highly recommend it.  After watching this I was super pumped so today I decided to go for a run.    It was kind of hot out, mid 90’s, so I ran as much as I could and walked in between. With a bottle of water in each hand serving as weights, as well as hydration, I trucked it all the way to the State House.  There was some kind of school trip going on and the steps were covered in kids so there was no up and down for me this time.  I wonder if anyone saw me today?  No beeps or cheers as a ran, but maybe I just missed it due to Van Halen & Robert Palmer belting out tunes in my ear.  Oh well…  Here are some of the cool things that I have seen when I run from my home in Cayce down to the State House.  Enjoy!

 

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Sheraton Downtown on the corner of Main & Washington

And to finish off, here are a couple of pictures taken at the Trinity Episcopal Cathedral Church that Donna and I stopped at earlier this morning.  Since we’ve lived here I have always admired this beautiful church and wanted to take a stroll through its cemetery so we did.

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Doris Ann Kirby

momyoungToday while I was watching a segment on CBS Sunday Morning I began to cry.  For today is Mother’s Day and my mother left this earth over 13 years ago on January, 3rd 2004.  I miss her very much.  I wish she could see where I am today and the woman I have become.  Please do not say “She knows” and “She can see you” and “She is with you”.  I don’t want to hear that.  I want her sitting beside me on my patio, drinking a cup of coffee and watching the river flow by.  I want to introduce her to my friends that I have made here in my new home.  To ask her what she thinks about this blog.  You see, besides being a mom Doris Kirby was also a writer.  Words were her work as she used to say.  She wrote for the Babylon Beacon, served as  Public Information Officer for the Town of Babylon and Town of Oyster Bay, Director of Communication for Nassau County Legislator Peter Schmidt and Community Aide for Senator Carl Marcellino.  My mom was also passionate about saving our beaches and on many occasions she brought me down to Gilgo beach to plant beach grass to help save the dunes, which was surprising being she didn’t swim.  Mom learned to love gardening and it showed in our home in North Babylon as well as her town house in Smithtown.  We would stay up late and watch horror movies, but nothing like todays movies.  Our picks would be Children of the Corn, Night of the Living Dead, The Blob and any thing with Vincent Price!  We’d make popcorn with our Orville Redenbacher hot air popper and melt butter to top it off.  Mom loved M & M’s and Toffifay and back in the day she used to drink Tab.   I think the thing I miss most about my mom is her laugh.  When I belly laugh real hard I hear my mom’s laugh in me.

I think the thing that upset me the most earlier is the fact I don’t have any pictures of my mom.  When I had my house in N.Y. I had tons of pictures, in bins and boxes but now I seem to have none.  As I am writing this piece I wanted to include pictures so I started looking through the closet for them, but none were there.  I am not sure where they went.  This is of extra concern being that my memory is horrible.  No, I mean really, really bad.  Like something is missing from my brain.  Donna is always says as long as I don’t forget her and then I respond with “I promise I won’t Darlene.”   If it wasn’t for my sister Kelly reminding me of our childhood and early adulthood memories I wouldn’t have many at all.  You are probably thinking “What happened to this poor soul for her to have no memories?”.  No trauma, with the exception of that one time when I was a baby that the legs of my bassinet collapsed on the left side and I slumped down into the corner.  Besides that nothing out of the ordinary that would cause my life to be a blur.  I love walking into someone’s home and their walls are covered in photos.  For that shows me who they love and where they’ve been.  And if I happen to be in one of those photos all the better.  We have a sofa table, that was mom’s, that we have a handful of family photos out on.  Donna’s paternal & maternal grandparents as well as my grandmother & mom.  It makes my heart happy to see these photos, reminding us of where we came from.

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Mom in her backyard oasis in North Babylon

Recently Donna decided to send off her spit with the Ancestry DNA kit to find out about her heritage.  I said I wasn’t really interested in it but I think I’ve changed my mind.  Normally I am not one to ask questions but suddenly I am intrigued.   Who, what, when, where?  Spit away Kirby, spit away and let’s find out where you’re from…

 

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Me and my mom a long, long time ago

 

 

 

Lowcountry here we come!!!

 

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That’s me behind the wheel.

At 8:00 am Saturday morning we set out for McClellanville South Carolina to partake in the 41st Annual Lowcountry Shrimp Festival and the Blessing of the Fleet.  After stopping for coffee at Dunkin Donuts we picked up Kelly and our little Kia Soul was eastward bound for the coast!  After about 2 1/2 hours of driving and rocking out to our favorite 70’s & 80’s classics on the radio we arrived at our destination.  The little town’s main street was lined with people walking with camp chairs and vendors were setting up along the road as well.  I was super happy that there was a parking field not too far off from the festivities so we didn’t have to worry about walking far.

 

A little insight as to what makes Jenn Kirby tick…I get a little twitchy when there are large crowds of people.  I am not sure when that happened but I have been like that for some time now.  I remember the first time we went to see the Lady Gamecocks play I had a mini panic attack due to the amount of people there and I wasn’t familiar with the arena.  Now it’s all good, being I know the layout and usually I am just following Sheila & Teresa’s lead to our seats.  I remember once we went to a Paula Deen book signing at the Book Revue in Huntington Long Island, this is before I found out she was a racist and she broke my heart, and it was frigging mobbed.  I mean wall to wall people.  We got there very early so we could get a seat and we were there for quite a while waiting for her.  I had a full on panic attack but stayed because I really wanted to see her.  Donna wanted me to go up and meet her but I was frozen in fear from the huge crowd.  This is why downtown Columbia is my kind of big city…not too big at all.  Anyway, back to the food.

So we get down to the festival, stake out our piece of earth and drop down our chairs.  Now for the food!  Kelly opted for the low country boil, Donna got fried shrimp with slaw and hushpuppies, which are her favorite and I picked a shrimp kabob.  All of it was very delicious.  The shrimp was as fresh as it could be, with a firmness to it when you bit into them.  Donna raved about the hushpuppies, claiming they were the best she’s ever had.  Even better than Rockaways!  The kabob was very good, with onions, sausage, pepper and of course big ol’ shrimp.  All of the food was great.

 

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Kelly’s Low Country Boil

Then we meandered around the festival where the vendor booths were.  Kelly picked up a new travel cup for her home-brewed ice coffee and of course Donna got a lip balm.  Every where we go Donna buys lip balm.  We must have at least 40 tubes of it throughout our house!  I on the other hand found the most exquisite map.  I have been looking for a map to hang in our apartment for a while and lo and behold I had found it.  A map of Charleston Harbor which is printed on a piece of wood.  I absolutely adore this map.  The young lady who makes these was so approachable and kind, I was all too happy to purchase this from her and support her art.  Her Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/kiracustoms, I highly recommend you check her out.

 

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At this point it was only about 1:30 and the official Blessing of the Fleet wasn’t for another 2 1/2 hours, so we decide to blow this taco stand and head to Charleston.  Kelly had never seen the famous “Rainbow Row” in person so off we went to see the multicolored architecture on display on East Bay Street.

 

 

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Me & Kelly on the bottom, Me & Donna on the top left.

Life is short, eat dessert first and that is what we did.  Ben & Jerry’s was the first stop on the Charleston leg of this crawl.  Now, I know you are probably thinking…didn’t Jenn say she might be lactose intolerant in her previous blog?  Guess who makes a non dairy ice cream?  Ben & Jerry’s does!  And it actually doesn’t suck.  I had P.B. & Cookies and Coffee Caramel Fudge in a chocolate dipped waffle cone and I am happy to report that it didn’t cause me any discomfort whatsoever.  Ben & Jerry’s also sells their non-dairy ice cream by the pint in the supermarket.  After strolling the cobblestone back roads and old cemeteries that had headstones dating back as far as the 1700’s, admiring the gas lamps and side facing porches with detail filled iron railings we were ready to eat again.  We were going to eat at Hyman’s Seafood on Meeting Street but the line was way to long, a testament to how good the food is.  Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. is where we ended up.  I don’t know why we went here, maybe because it’s familiar and there was only a 15 min wait.  Maybe because my name is Jenny.  Regardless, I think this will be our last go around at good ol’ Bubba’s place.  The food was good, don’t get me wrong but overpriced and nothing over the moon.  Donna got Shrimp Cocktail and what else, hushpuppies.  Kelly and I both got burgers and we all got a cup of She Crab soup.  The hushpuppies had seafood mixed in them so Donna wasn’t too much a fan.  The Lowcountry Shrimp Festival still holds the title of “winner” for the hushpuppies.  The soup was good but not great and the shrimp were small and not firm to the bite like earlier.  Oh well, you can’t win ’em all.  After that we headed home back to the midlands.  All and all it was a day full of history, laughter, family and food.  I can’t ask for more than that.

 

 

Ice cream and coffee and cheese, oh my!

How could the food and drink that I have come to love so much be out to get me?  I have recently been having some digestive issues and after going to see a gastroenterologist I have been scheduled for a colonoscopy and an endoscopy.  I know you’re probably thinking, lucky me right?  A double dose of fun all at the same time. I’m also scheduled for a Hydrogen Breath Test on a different date.  I hope the only thing the doctor discovers is that I am lactose intolerant after my tests.   Funny, I thought this blog was going to be about my love of food not my aversion to it.

Some times you gain a little and some times you loose a little…

June 2nd 2015 was the first day I ever worked out.  I went to the Harbison Recreation Center, in which I get a free membership as one of the many perks I get for being employed at The Home Depot, and rode on an exercise bike for 27  minutes and burnt a total of 107 calories.  At the time I weighed 218 lbs.

I have always struggled with my weight, even as a young kid I went to weight watchers.  One of my weaknesses is ice cream.  If I could only have one sweet that is what I would choose, every time.  My favorite place to get ice cream is Sweet Cream Company in downtown Columbia on Main Street.  If you haven’t been there I highly recommend it.  Jessica & Joe are the owners and they make all of the ice cream on site themselves.  It blows away any other ice cream shop I’ve been to and that includes in Long Island, where I am originally from.  Being a coffee snob I also need to shout out their locally roasted coffee as well.  All around I just adore this place and once you go, you will too.  See what happens when I start talking about ice cream, I get all in a tizzy and get off track.  Any who, one day in 2015 after Donna and I had finished a candy run at Mast General Store, another must if you have never been also located on Main Street in downtown Columbia, we were driving home and I had an awakening.  I caught myself mindlessly taking one tootsie roll after another, unwrapping them and popping them into my mouth without a thought.  Was I hungry?  No.  Was I taking my time to enjoy each piece of candy?  No.  All of a sudden I just stopped chewing and spit that tootsie roll into an empty water bottle that was in the car.  Donna looked at me like there was something severely wrong with this picture.  She now says that she felt a shift in the universe at that moment.  I woke up.  Something changed in me.  From that point on I have looked at food and myself differently.  Have I been a perfect picture of healthy eating everyday since then?  Absolutely not, but then again I am human.  I don’t want to be perfect.  I don’t want to be skinny either.  I just want to be comfortable in my own skin.  Comfortable in my clothes.  I want to be healthy.  I want to live my life with Donna for as long as I can and being overweight does not support that vision.  But damn isn’t it sometimes a son of a bitch to do the right thing with food and exercise!

The itinerary of my working out consists of this.  I run on my own, with my MP3 keeping me company, pumping out the best of the 80’s to keep me motivated. I usually run/walk to the S.C. State House and back which is about 4 1/2 miles.  I actually ran my very 1st 5k last year for the Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers Foundation in downtown Columbia with my step mom Yuri.  I was so incredibly proud to participate in this run being I am from N.Y., so the cause hit home hard and I was just proud that I did it.  I could never imagine myself in the past running in a 5k, but I did.  You can do anything you put your mind to, remember that.  It just depends on how bad you really want it.  You are the only one standing in your way.  Yuri is my workout mentor, besides being the best step mom anyone could ask for.  I have participated in 2 different boot camp workouts with her.  From flipping big ass tractor tires to burpees and planking, she will make a fitness warrior princess out of me yet.  I also want to shout out my face book family who are some of my biggest cheerleaders.  Nicole Maxwell Kallo, thank you for challenging me to do better and inspiring me through sharing your fitness journey.   You are an awesome example of what can be accomplished with hard work and determination.

I have been slacking off on my eating habits as well as not doing any kind of exercise lately.   It hasn’t really bothered me too much.  I went to the doctor recently and when I got on the scale it showed that I had gained 10 lbs since the last time I was there in November.  No bueno, no bueno at all.  But that didn’t really phase me too bad.  Sometimes a visual is all we need to turn that corner.  Just today I was looking at pictures on my phone and I saw one of myself taken a couple of months ago and it stopped me in my tracks.  I didn’t look like the person in that picture anymore.  I had an awakening, again.  Just like what happened with the “tootsie roll incident”.  So I dusted off my MP3 and I decided to go for a run.  Every journey starts with the first step, so I took it.  I know your probably thinking that I shouldn’t be too hard on myself. Well, it took me changing my diet and literally exercising my ass off to lose the weight I have lost.  I had lost a total of 42 lbs and not by drinking any fad shakes or taking pills or getting the fact sucked out of me.  Not by buying expensive workout clothes or getting a membership for a trendy gym.  I did it Rocky Balboa “old school” style.  Before you ask, I don’t beat up slabs of meat in a meat locker but you can spot me running over the Gervais Street bridge from time to time, so feel free to cheer me on if you see me.  Oh and another thing…  Did you know you can get fit and lose weight no matter what kind of clothes you wear?  My cheapo shorts and tanks from WalMart work just fine.  I lost weight by challenging myself to change my eating habits and get my ass of the couch and excercise.  This is the first time I have ever been successful at loosing a substantial amount of weight and I don’t ever want to be in the position again where I have to do this again.  As I said before, I don’t want to be skinny.  I don’t think skinny is sexy by any means.  I think healthy is sexy.  So whatever your healthy is, achieve it and strut your stuff people.