Archive for November, 2007

Sinning for the birds

Last night I committed perhaps the biggest sin of the year.

I wore red. To a KU bar. And cheered for the Jayhawks. (Who subsequently lost to Mizzou. Perhaps the subconscious feelings of Jayhawk hate from my youth contributed to their demise.)

What have I become?

Let’s dissect this issue. What would posses me to behave this way?

  • It was the only big game of the night, and since Jenn and I have made a pact to get out and watch more football, it was only natural that we would choose a game between those ranked #2 and #4.
  • Boys from Kansas are cute. And there’s a higher probability of finding a Kansas boy at a KU game than, say, a Michigan game.
  • The KU bar is Lottie’s, which I’d never been to. So, it was an opportunity for a new adventure.
  • My red sweater was clean, and it makes me glow more than my black one. (Sidebar: Mom noticed that everyone in Chicago wears black. I pointed out that when it’s raining, black doesn’t show the muck from the street that inevitably ends up all over your pants. Try wearing white and you’ll see what I mean.)

So, what was the result of all this nonsense?

I spent $30. I supported the folks of Golden, Colorado. I talked to boys who looked half my age. And I was in bed by 11:30.



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Two Turkeys Making Pies

Happy Thanksgiving!

Last night, in preparation for Thanksgiving dinner at Jenn’s, I conned Mom into helping me make pies to take along. Clearly we would be making the Nelson Family Secret Butterscotch Pie, and then supplementing with another favorite — apple.

I die over butterscotch pie. And this isn’t any store-bought-jello-butterscotch-pudding rendition. This is the Real McCoy.

The crust is the real difference, though. And though I’ve made this pie a handful of times, I’ve never gotten the crust as flaky as when Mom does it.

So, in her infinite mommy wisdom, she decided to supervise as I did the work. Here’s how it went.

We spent a soppy afternoon shopping for furniture for Mom and Dad’s family room at the stores around North/Clybourn, and on our way home we stopped at Jewel to pick up these ingredients:


First we tackled the crust:

We made enough for three crusts by combining three cups of flour (carefully measured through dip-level-pour method)…


…a (generous) cup of Crisco…





…and one teaspoon of salt.


Then we cut it together until the fat resembled small peas. Mmmm.


Then we drizzled about a third of a cup of water into the mix while mixing it around with a fork, and then separated it into three pastry discs.




Then it was time to roll one out. (We wrapped the other two in cling wrap and put them in the refrigerator.)


Rolling it out proved not to be so simple, given that I don’t own a pastry cloth. Or a cloth cover for the rolling pin. So we had some issues with sticking. (And to tell the complete truth, our first one was too small, so we set it aside and used it for the top crust of the apple pie we made later.)


We loaded the pie plate, careful not to stretch the pastry…


and then trimmed the edge and did what you technically call “doot doot”. (I named this technique when I was 3.)


Then pricked it…


…and stuck it in the over for around 15 minutes at 400 degrees, or until it was lightly brown.

Now on to the filling.


We measured 2 cups of milk and preheated it in the microwave…


…and browned 4 tablespoons of butter lightly.


Then we packed a cup of brown sugar…


…and separated 3 eggs, putting the yolks into the warm milk, and the whites into a clean bowl to whip. (Note: Mom emphasized no fat or cat spit or germs or anything can go near the whites or they won’t whip up.)


Then we dumped the brown sugar on top of the browned butter, then dumped one-third cup of flour on top…


…and mixed it together over low heat.


Next we slowly added the milk and egg mixture, stirring to keep things smooth. (I turned the spatula over to Mom and headed for the egg whites.)


We beat them until frothy, then added 1/3 cup sugar, and continued beating until it formed stiff peaks.


Meanwhile the pudding had thickened and come to a boil…


So we turned off the heat and finished it with a teaspoon of vanilla…


…put it in the pie shell…and a completed the process with a big lick from the cook.


Then we added a pinch of salt and a splash of vanilla to the whites and spooned them on top of the pudding, careful to seal them to the crust to help prevent the meringue from shrinking. 


We baked it for about 15 minutes at 342 degrees, until delicately browned.


Phew. We were hot. But we forged ahead with the apple pie.

I was in charge of slicing Granny Smith apples. I am quite proud of my paring knife skills. (Too bad I don’t own a peeler or food processor, as I have now developed arthritis.)


So I sliced, and sliced, and sliced, peeled, and snacked. And then added a mixture of 2/3 cup sugar, a teaspoon of cinnamon and two tablespoons of flour.


We dumped the into an uncooked pie crust, topped them with a bit of butter…


…and unfolded the top crust on top.


Mom sealed it down, trimmed the edge, and gave it the ole “doot doot.”


And after carefully protecting the edges, I made a self-portrait with the initial “K” in honor of our Thanksgiving hosts, and loaded it in the over for about 35 minutes at 375. At that point we removed the foil and continued baking for another 15 minutes.

Fortunately we had some apples and crust left over, which we baked and snarfed at about 11:00.

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(So much for fashion week…could I have been less inspired? At least I can go out with a bang.)

Last week I was standing in cubeland in Naperville, and one of the resident fashionistas exclaimed, “You have so many coats!”

Yes, my friends, the accusation is true. I am a coat whore. 

I think it started sometime when I was living in Wichita, but it really kicked in when Bobbi and I went to Paris in 2004. Since then I’ve been known to buy extra suitcases to schlep home my souvenir jackets.

I spent a fair amount of time on the streets of Paris in search of a trenchcoat, and voila! I found a minty pink one at Comptoir des Cotonniers on one of the last days of our trip.


(And I just couldn’t leave the store without a brown military jacket, too.)


Then it was on to Buenos Aires, where Kristin and I made a last-minute stop on Florida Ave in the leather shops to pick up a rabbit stole I’d been eyeing. Pretty soon the salesguy had us both in coats. And not long after that, I handed over my credit card and had them modify mine to be reversible. It was done just in time for us to snatch it and run for the airport.




Last year when Jenn and I were in Italy, we’d just gotten off the train after a cold, damp day in Viterbo when we spotted a cute clothing store next to the station. I couldn’t resist the red bow.


Last month in Breckenridge I had a chance to shop the handful of excellent boutiques on Main Street, and just as I was paying for a sweater, one of the salesgals swooped around the rack in this coat. Which I promptly bought.

trench front

trench back

The next week I saw a khaki trench hanging on the back of Kim’s office door, and despite being another brand, it was identical to the very last stitch.

On to the next category: Designer Coats I Love.

I saw this one at Krista K on Southport one day, and it was love at first sight. But not ownership at first sight — for financial reasons.


Jenn bought this one, and I’ve been salivating over it for weeks:


But I settled on this one, which I spotted at Max Mara. I dig it.


Now for the final category: Coats With Histories.

The summer after my junior year in high school, I was determined to win the Kansas State Fair 4-H Fashion Review.  After watching the event for several years and being runner-up the year prior, it became apparent to me that all you had to do was fill three criteria, and you’d be a shoo-in: (1) wear wool, (2) wear a dress and coat combination, and (3) wear a hat. Yes, I realize the hat seems absurd. But at the time, the old ladies judging the competition liked hats. And I was right — I won. (It’s interesting to note that the runner-up made a leather coat — from her prized steer. Egads.)

A couple years ago I bought new buttons for it, to replace the gold ones cleverly hidden in the photo below. They’re still sitting in my sewing box. Even a hot patent belt doesn’t quite do the trick.


When I feel like looking like a rock star, I pull on my tall boots and sassy glasses, along with this brown suede coat Mom bought when she was in college. (This was before she knew she was destined to be a farmer’s wife.)


My friend Ann always has me in mind when she’s thrift shopping in Newton. First she sent me this white wool coat, which was single-breasted and had ugly gold buttons — size 14. I replaced the buttons and pulled it over to be double-breasted. And then I saw that Banana Republic had copied me.


And finally, she sent me this Persian lamb coat. It’s rather obscure, but I think it’s fun to wear. 


So, there you have it. Nelly’s Fall 2007 Outerwear Collection. Available in a rural fire department near you.

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Galloping Fashion

In honor of the season premiere of my FAVORITE show this Wednesday — Project Runway — I’m hosting Fashion Week here at Galloping Nelly. Each day (assuming I’m still alive by the time I get home from work), I’ll be featuring one of my favorite designers or fashion trends.

Today it’s Diane Von Fuerstenberg. If you need a dress, Diane’s your gal. She’s famous for her knit wrap dresses, which are incredibly flattering to those of us who have hips.

You might remember the mumu I was salivating over last spring. It was one of hers.


 Here are some of my favorites from her fall collection:



black ruffle 2

Is it better in black…or red?

red ruffle

pink dress


black ruffle

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One of my clients, by the last name of Swim, is the king of aphorisms (aka Swimisms). Yesterday I stopped in the bookstore across the street and ran across a book of quotes that got me thinking about Mr. Swim and his sage bits of advice. My personal favorite of his is “Somewhere in that pile of s*#$ there’s a pony.”

So as I was sitting here gearing up for another work week, I searched and found a few to ponder.

We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have done.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The quality of an organization can never exceed the quality of the minds that make it up.
Harold R. McAlindon

If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.

Hell, there are no rules here — we’re trying to accomplish something.
Thomas Alva Edison

Try to relax and enjoy the crisis.
Ashleigh Brilliant

One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.
Bertrand Russell

A pint of sweat saves a gallon of blood.
George Patton

Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.
Albert Camus

By working faithfully eight hours a day, you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve.
Robert Frost

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Cab Drivers

Given that I don’t have a car, I have been carted around by a host of colorful characters since I moved to Chicago. I probably take at least 4 cabs a week, so that’s about 200 different drivers a year.

Yesterday Mom asked if I’d ever had a repeat cabbie, and the answer is yes. At least twice. And I remember them because they were women. One of them was a young grandma who had a line-up of stuffed animals on her dash. She’s taken me home from O’Hare twice. The other was a fashionably dressed eastern European gal in her early 30’s, who clearly ran her cab like a business.

The weirdest was Ray St. Ray — the singing cabbie — who’s pretty famous. He’s even been on the national morning news shows.

Quite frankly, I enjoy a good peaceful cab drive — one where I can talk on the phone if I want, rather than with the cab driver. But there definitely wasn’t a choice with Ray. From the moment you step in, it’s entertainment central. (Good thing I’d had a drink before I climbed in — I was primed to find him moderately entertaining.) He asked what kind of mood I was in, and then broke into song accordingly.

Last night my flight into O’Hare was delayed 3 hours due to high winds, and my flight landed at exactly the same time as all the other delayed flights — which meant the cab line was long. Once it was my turn, I crawled in and learned that my driver had been sitting at the airport for two hours, waiting for the landing ban to lift.

And then he chatted my leg off.

For whatever reason, I tend to rehash Middle East Peace on trips to and from the airport. This guy was Palestinian, and he grew up in Jerusalem. He told me about how his friend was killed by the Israelis during the conflict, and how he hopes peace will come to the region.

I find this topic pretty interesting, especially given that I recently finished Queen Noor’s biography (former queen of Jordan — an American woman who married King Hussein). Even though one of my friends is Israeli and I actually spent two weeks in Israel about 10 years ago, I didn’t really understand all the politics until I read that book. Granted, it’s gives a glowing review of King Hussein that is probably not quite realistic. But it explains in great detail how the Zionist movement came to pass and the implications for the uprooted Palestinians.

Sigh. Who knew getting home was a matter of solving world peace.

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Milo Harvest

Until I moved to Chicago, I had no idea that milo was weird.

Indeed, I’ve only met one person in Chicago who has ever heard of the stuff, and he happened to be sitting next to me on the plane to Wichita on Friday.

I guess it never occurred to me that milo isn’t grown much outside of Kansas, Nebraska and Texas. And since no one buys it in the grocery store, it’s pretty clear why no one knows what it is.

So for those of you who still have no clue what I’m talking about, milo is a sorghum that is basically used for animal feed and ethanol. This is what it looks like:



It’s planted in late spring and looks like corn as it’s coming out of the ground. It’s harvested in October/November. It grows to be about shoulder-height on me, which I suppose is about 4′.

milo 856

Saturday got off to a bit of a rough start — the clutch went out of the tractor. Good thing Brother DIY was an engineer on the tractor at John Deere. He promptly (and proudly) pulled out some wire and rigged it to work.


Once that was fixed, I quizzed our trucker about his rig.


Then Mom and I went home for a nap. And an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.

A couple hours later the combine was nearly out of gas, so we motored back over to the field in the old GMC fuel pick-up that had a “clunk clunk” under the hood. Dad munched on a banana while trying to figure out the issue. (By the way, this is the truck that traditionally hauled us around for trick-or-treating.)


Brother DIY started fueling the combine…


…and then we all partook in a snack…


…and some laughs.


Once the combine was fueled, I jumped in with Dad for the annual milo harvest report:

Then I took over the wheel. Eeeek.

Dad had to go clean up what I missed:


We finished as the sun was setting, so Dad stepped outside the combine to phone the trucker and let him know he was done for the night.


And then we rested.

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