Category Archives: My Life

Guacamole served with corn ships

Dip Into a Happy New Year with Guacamole

Here’s a Slice of My Life entry that should have come earlier, so you could make Guacamole for New Year’s Eve and Bowl Game parties. But here’s to partying all year round.

When we moved to Arizona from Ohio in the mid 1960s, I started adding Southwestern dishes to my menus.  At restaurants, I frequently have to skip guac because it has onions. I was happy to read that original Mexican quac generally does not have onion–just the Americanized versions.  Although lime might be more common than lemon, I use lemon because that is what I have on hand.

The best hint here, is in how to remove the seed–easily with a deep cut of the knife.

So here’s the process:

Cutting the avocado

Cut into the avocado, pushing the knife into the seed. (Don’t push so hard you’ll squish the other side of the fruit.)

remove seed from avocado

Remove seed from avocado, by lifting up with knife. (I slide the knife through tines of a fork to gently remove the seed and discard it.)

Open the cut avocado

Open the cut avocado and scoop the fruit into a bowl.

Avocado Guacamole Ingredients

Easy Guacamole ingredients: avocado, lemon, garlic salt, hot sauce.  mash together with fork so it still has some lumps. Restaurants with table-side guacamole makers get creative and add all kinds of things. You can experiment, too. Hotter, cooler, more ingredients.

Guacamole served with corn ships

Guacamole served with corn chips.

Happy New Guacamole to you!

 

Ohio State Buckeyes–The Guaranteed Winner in PB and Chocolate

Will a plate of Buckeyes affect the outcome of a football rivalry? A guaranteed winner.

Ohio State Buckeyes

Ohio State Buckeye Cookies

Are they cookies or candy?  Whatever Buckeyes are–the ones we are baking and eating today are NOT the Buckeye nut.  That nut, related to the Hickory, can be eaten by deer and squirrels, but not humans.  They look kinda like the little cookies/candy on the plate.

This weekend the whole state of Ohio vibrates with excitement. It is the weekend of THE BIG GAME.  The Buckeyes play against “That state up North”.  If that is not enough of a clue for the football clueless, team _e_bers are cautioned against using the 13th letter of the alphabet for a week. (Which can be tricky when you are addressing Coach Urban _eyer).

The rivalry goes WAAAAY back.  In fact, even before the first football game the two schools played, in 1897, way back before 1837 when Michigan became a state, the two states were skirmishing on the political field.  What is now called Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, belonged to Ohio.  A complicated deal traded the city of Toledo and the Toledo Strip to Ohio and the Upper Peninsula to Michigan, after a war of words known as The Toledo War.

Harriette Anderson Joins the Buckeyes

Ohio State University stadium

The Ohio State “Shoe” in 1923–one year after it was built.

My mother was attending Ohio State in 1923 a year after the “Shoe”, the massive new stadium, opened.  The second game in that stadium in 1922 was against Michigan Wolverines and announcers said the crowd was 72,000.  That in a stadium with 62,210 seats!  Crowd sizes measure the enthusiasm even that far back for the rivalry game.

Family Tradition Continues

I arrived at Ohio State in 1956 and promptly joined “Block O” a section of students who made pictures out of cards they held up.  Ten years later, my sister also became one of the Buckeyes.  She has never recovered from the fact that Ohio State’s marching band, TBDBITL–The Best Damned Band in the Land, was all male until AFTER she graduated, so she never got to play her trumpet out on that hallowed field.

Here’s a page with all the skinny  on the rivalry. When I was a student at Ohio State, we won two and lost two, but recently, the state up north as not been doing so well.

Game Time Sweets–The Recipe

But on with the Buckeyes cookies–or candy if that’s your category for this peanut butter/chocolate treat.

According to a December 1972 recipe in OSU employee newsletter, the Buckeyes recipe was invented in 1967 (just seven years after I graduated from Ohio State).  The “original” contains paraffin, which I wouldn’t want to put into the chocolate coating even if I had any on hand. But if you want to try the original–be my guest.

Instead, I surfed for a different version of Buckeyes, and found this slightly lower-sugar, lower-fat recipe on the Smitten Kitchen site.  Rather than repeat it here, I suggest you follow the link to Smitten Kitchen.

However, I must warn you that the volume amounts and the measurements by weight did not compute on my scale.  For instance, I found that a 1-pound jar of Jif Creamy Peanut Butter made a generous cup and a half, which equals 454 grams, not 145, and was definitely enough peanut butter for my taste. I don’t know why she thought 190 grams would be necessary.

Also, the air is dry here in Arizona, which may have accounted for the dough being too dry to form into balls until I added another couple of tablespoons of melted butter.  So play it by ear.

I used dark chocolate chips instead of chopped chocolate.

Finally, getting the dough dipped in the chocolate so that only a little spot of peanut butter filling shows was much harder than I thought it would be. It would be a snap to just cover half the ball, but that doesn’t look like a buckeye to me.  Smitten Kitchen’s methods didn’t work for me. Let me know how you cope with that step.

I’m hoping we will win tomorrow, but on the list of unpredictability–the outcome of the annual Ohio State Buckeye/Michigan Wolverine game stands out.  You never know what will happen.  Wish us luck.

But peanut butter and chocolate is a guaranteed winner. Have a cookie.

Ohio State Buckeyes. Great football team. Great cookie. Fitting pillow.

Buckeyes and pillow

Buckeyes with the never humble pillow for THE Ohio State University alumni.

A Slice of My Life: Paradise and Doomsday on Mt. Weather

In 1945 I traveled with my family from Ohio to Mt. Weather, Virginia, a place so peaceful and beautiful that it hardly seemed real. I had become the heroine in my own personal adventure, living in a cabin like Laura Ingalls Wilder’s little houses; living on a mountain like Heidi with her grandfather.

As an adult I discovered that the paradise of Mt. Weather now hides a secret even more serious than those mysteries unraveled by my other favorite literary characters, the Bobbsey twins.

The Summer of 1945 at Mt. Weather

Shenandoah

View of the Shenandoah Valley near where we spent the summer.

That summer the air was clear and the views from our modernized cabin stretched for miles.  I had just turned six years old and my little brother, Billy was only six months. World War II was winding down and the official peace treaty with Japan would be signed in September.

That summer, my father, Paul Kaser, worked for the U. S. Weather Bureau, the operators of Mt. Weather since the early 1800s.

Despite what the later news articles say, the Bureau of Mines did not control  Mt. Weather starting in the late 1930s. They might have coexisted with the Weather Bureau, but everyone my father had contact with that summer belonged to the Weather Bureau. They were busily sending up balloons into the atmosphere, not digging an underground city.

One of the men he had worked for in New Philadelphia six years before held a position at Mt. Weather, and invited him to come work for the summer.  A cabin was available on the property of a Dr. Tappan, who had a young daughter just about my age.  My father blissfully describes our home for the summer to his friend, Delmar (Red) Alderman, an old friend from Killbuck, Ohio.

Paul Kaser

Alderman Hardware back room. Paul on the right, and owner of the store, Delmar “Red” Alderman on the left.

Father starts the letter off with a bit of understatement–sneaking up on the spectacular view.

The view is not spectacular just pretty countryside miles and miles of it streached [stretched] out like a panorama. We can see Winchester about 25 miles. Our front yard looks out on the Shenandoah valley on the other side of the mountain is Bull Run valley and beyond are Bull Run Mountains. The air is so fresh you never get tired. The big thing is the peacefulness. No noise except of our own making. The cabin is a thing of beauty. The man who owns it has spent $3000 on it and has managed to keep it looking rustic. It is nicely furnished and has all modern convenience. Hot & cold water, electric refrigeration and modern kitchen except that cooking is done on a wood range or on an electric hot plate.

Although I was just six, the cabin and its surroundings made a lasting impression on me. Unfortuately, my parents did not take a lot of photos of that idyllic summer, but I have snapshots in my mind of the walks through the woods, visiting in the big house with Cummie Tappan and my fascination with the fact that the Tappans had a colored cook. (That’s how we would have described her then.)  I never had known anyone but Mommys to do the cooking!!

When we needed to buy something we went to the nearest “big” town, Berryville VA.

Berryville Main Street looking west

Sometimes Mother and I, pushing my baby brother in his buggy, would walk all the way to the Mt. Weather complex where we  visited Aileen Corwin, the wife of the man my father worked for. The Corwins also had a son my age to join me in exploring the woods.  I remember that Mrs. Corwin once  killed a rattlesnake with a broom when  it had invaded her porch. Fortunately, no snakes visited us, but each evening, mother checked me over carefully for ticks.

The Corwins lived in a simple wooden house near the edge of the complex. Beyond their house were a few two and three story wooden buildings that housed offices and “Government Building,”  a kind of dormitory for workers. We could walk anywhere in the simple complex and visit my Father at work. As I recall, roads were narrow and unpaved.

In his letter to  Delmar Alderman, my father describes how to get to the cabin.

Come to Winchester VA. You can come east on Route 40 or 50 or you can take the Penn. TurnPike and drop down to Winchester then take VA. State Route 7 and come to Berryville VA. (You can inquire there) follow 7 to the top of the ridge (10 miles or so) there you will find a cross road with a lot of signs reading Mt. Weather, Appalachian Trail and a lot of peoples names. Turn south on a gravel road and follow uphilll about a mile and a half till you come to a mail Box marked Dr. Tapppen. That’s the place. Come in and take off your things.

He also tempts his friend to visit by telling him that he can visit the Skyline Drive and Washington D. C., each only about two hours away from the cabin.  (We had gone to Washington D.C. to visit with my father’s nieces, Phyllis and Evelyn Kaser, who worked during the war in government jobs.)

I can remember walking along the sparsely traveled road with my mother, enjoying the wildflowers, learning the names of trees, and picking wild strawberries. Amazingly, although the Mt. Weather complex has changed drastically,  the area around Mt. Weather seems no different than it was 60 years ago. The Google Map street view of Route 601(the cross road off Rt. 7 that my father referred to in his letter) along the ridge of the mountain look so familiar to me, that I feel like Google must have an image of my mother and me walking along, looking for wild strawberries growing in front of the low stone walls.

But when my journey on Google Maps closes in on the Mt. Weather facility, I can’t “drive” right in. A sign declares FEMA Mt. Weather Emergency Operations Center, and a gate and guardhouse end the Google Maps journey.

Mt. Weather

The Mt. Weather Complex today.

What a surprise it was to see a Time Magazine article about Mt. Weather 45 years later. Digging into the mountain, government agencies had created a hideaway for important officials in case of atomic bomb attack. In 2011, Time magazine’s blog ran a condensation of that article from December 9, 1991, that you can read here. Although the road leading to the top of the mountain may look the same, the pastoral innocence of the Mt. Weather complex itself existed no more. The FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) designation is a cover for the real mission of the place.

The title of the article, DOOMSDAY HIDEAWAY, describes a very different place than the one where my father worked and my family visited during the summer of 1945.

News items and Wikipedia have a gap in their timetables of the way that Mt. Weather morphed from a Weather Station into a secret underground hideout for high government officials in case of nuclear attack. The history the reporters dug up skips over the immediate post-war period when we saw Mt. Weather.

A more recent report, from NBC, (June 2015) indicates that the facility is no longer used as a hideout for government officials, but instead an “alternate” center of operations for Homeland Security. At any rate, the real work of the government there remains top secret.

The news sources say that in the late 1930s the Bureau of Mines started some excavations, and by 1959 the Bureau had completed an underground shelter in Pre Cambrian basalt.  Ironically, my father’s description of the place emphasizes “peacefulness” and a decade after he wrote that letter, the emphasis was on preparedness for war and disaster.

I am so glad that we had that short respite on the mountain at a moment in history when we were enjoying the prospect of long-awaited peace in the world and the peacefulness of the beautiful Virginia mountains.