Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The Wickedest Little City In America

Earlier in the week we left Des Moines, Iowa with our new truck (pictures to come) and headed to Nebraska (where we picked up our new trailer) before cutting down through Kansas (a state we rarely travel in) on our way home to Tucson. 

On the trip, we passed through Dodge City.

And then we got the hell out of there.

Wikipedia says, "Dodge City became famous, and no town could match its reputation as a true frontier settlement of the Old West. Dodge City had more famous (and infamous) gunfighters working at one time or another than any other town in the West, many of whom participated in the Dodge City War of 1883. It also boasted the usual array of saloons, gambling halls, and brothels, including the famous Long Branch Saloon and China Doll brothel.  For a time in 1884, Dodge City even had a bullfighting ring where Mexican bullfighters would put on a show with specially chosen Longhorn bulls."

For your viewing pleasure, here are some bales of hay I photographed as we rolled on through.

Dorothy's House is next.

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Just Do It

2017: Weekend In New York
2016: A Friendly Village
2015: Happy Thanksgiving!
2014: I'd Like A Parking Spot For Two Please
2013: I Desire A Snack Eaten Off An Owl Plate
2012: Pulpy Plumes
2011: Saturday Slow Down
2010: Let The Crazy Begin
2009: For Everything Thy Goodness Sends
2008: A Look On The Inside
2007: Free! Gratuito! Gratis! Ummm…No Charge!
2006: Life Giver vs. Indian Giver
2005: The Spaghetti Thanks You

Monday, November 18, 2019

Hello, My Little Dumpling

So...guess what I did this weekend?

I made gnocchi di patate (potato gnocchi) from scratch!

When I was a kid, my paternal grandmother and her sister, Jennie, did all of the cooking for the family.  They are the ones who I get my meatball recipe from, who made braciole to die for, and who made gnocchi by hand.

Here's a picture of Aunt Jennie and Uncle Lawrence making gnocchi at our kitchen table in upstate New York in 1974.  They were and still are my favorite pasta.

Recently I was watching a Pasta Grannies video and came across a video that included homemade gnocchi.  The woman in the video, Giggina, is from Ischia, an island in the Gulf of Naples in Italy.  She threw together this pranzo (lunch) in record time!

There's really not a recipe.  This gnocchi, like the ones my family made, is made from potatoes and flour.  So I started by boiling russet potatoes until they were fork tender.  While they were still hot but not too hot to handle, I peeled the potatoes and put them in a bowl.  My Aunt Jennie used a potato ricer, but I don't have one so I just mashed them with my potato masher. If I made these more often, I'd probably buy a ricer because the potato pieces come out more uniform.  

Once I had my bowl of mashed potatoes, I took a giant glob of them and added an equal amount of Semolina Flour.  I didn't measure anything, just watched the video and did it like Giggina did, mixing the dough by hand and measuring ingredients by eye.
You don't want to overwork the dough, just incorporate enough flour so the dough is no longer sticky.  Once I got to that point, I cut off a chunk and rolled it into a rope about 1/2' thick, then cut pieces (see photo below) about 3/4" to 1" long.

My grandmother and Aunt Jennie used to "flick" the pieces of dough, by hand, using their thumb to create a little dent as they flicked them away from their body.  Giggina was using a gnocchi board, so I bought one of those because I like the ridges and she made it look so easy.

Moment of truth:  It's not that easy.

I flicked and rolled but it took me a lot longer than what I saw in the video.  Of course, Giggina's probably been making gnocchi for more than 50 years and can roll and flick in her sleep.
 Look at these little beauties!  Perfect ridges, dusted with semolina flour. 
I should have weighed the entire lot when I finished making them but I didn't.  They're a heavy pasta so I'd say based on what I loaded onto the plate, I probably had between four and five pounds.  They actually tasted very light, though.  Magic!

To cook the gnocchi, just drop them into a pot of salted boiling water and fish them out when they start to float.  Don't crowd the pot, cook them in batches.

Can I just say that these little puffy-pillow-turned ridged-beauties were delicious??

I made a basic marinara sauce with shallots and garlic sautéed in olive oil, crushed San Marzano tomatoes, a little bit of salt, a pinch of hot pepper flakes, and fresh basil from the plant on my kitchen counter.

I tossed the gnocchi in the marinara, then used my microplane grater to grate delicate threads of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese over the entire platter.  

This meal was AMAZING!

The gnocchi were lighter than I anticipated because the only other time I made them they were heavy, like little cement balls.  These were just delicious.  They tasted like I remember my grandmother and Aunt Jennie's tasted.  They tasted like the ones I get at my favorite place to go for gnocchi.  They tasted exactly as they were supposed to taste.

Who's coming for pranzo?

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Colorful Confections
2017: The Opposite Of Being Seen And Not Heard
2016: El Ed Rides El Tour
2015: Not Everything Is Lost
2014: Hairspray Is Gross
2013: Breathing Retro Life Into The West End Of A Miracle Mile
2012: A Little Bit Of Wyoming
2011: A Franchophile’s Paradise

2010: 10 Things I Learned On My Vacation In Italy
2009: A Beautiful Deep Fried Pocket Of Cornmeal Dough. Or, My Mom.
2008: A Foxy Furry Little Friend
2007: The One That Got Away
2006: Don’t We All?
2005: Miss Singular

Friday, November 01, 2019

Bettlejuice At The Playground

Last year we were in Europe, celebrating Halloween on our river cruise ship. 

This year, we celebrated with Halloween Happy Hour at my mother's semi-retirement community.  I say semi-retired because some of the residents in the little community work, the other half are retired.  It was a nice spread - appetizers with BYO beverages.

Some cooler weather hit us this week, and while out for coffee downtown with our friend Kim, we watched costumed young folk heading into The Playground Bar & Lounge, a place we've never been but might consider checking out when it's not being invaded by people 30 years younger than me.

Although I've had some good costumes over the years, and been to several parties, I'm not really one who gets super-excited for Halloween.  At my house, the lights are always out - the universal "stay away" sign for trick-or-treaters.  Maybe we'll watch a scary movie or two. 

But tomorrow....tomorrow I buy Fun Size candy.  On sale.

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2018: Bratislava Boo!
2017: Hunting For Halloween Candy
2016: Why I Don't Open My Door
2015: How To Escape The Grim Reaper
2014: Happy HalloCatMoose
2013: It's That Time Of Year
2012: Happy All Hallows' Even
2011: What You’ll Find In The Hills And Hollers Of Tennessee
2010: Three Coins In A Fountain
2009: Truck Or Treat
2008: Spooktacular
2007: Isn’t He Comcastic?
2006: Trick Or Treating With All Ten Toes
2005: Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 14, 2019

Edible Jewels

Ed and I recently watched an episode of Arizona Illustrated on PBS that showcased a local chocolatier here in Tucson.  How did I not know this place existed??

Monsoon Chocolate, an award-winning chocolate maker, is a bean-to-bar chocolate factory.  They are located in a former tortilla factory in the Barrio Santa Rosa Historic District.  
As you can see in the photos above and below, giant blocks of chocolate are on display at the factory.  They source cacao from all over the world - Madagascar, Peru, Vitenam, Jamaica, Mexico, Tanzania, Ecuador, and more.
This bowl - and I don't know why I didn't take a picture of the inside of the bowl - contained homemade marshmallows.  Free for the asking.  They were delicious.

Their cafe menu offers brownies, cookies, muffins, pots de crème, chocolate tacos and more.  To wash these treats down, you can choose from hot chocolate, frozen granita, horchata, coffee, tea, juice.

Small pieces of crushed cacao beans.  That's the description of cocoa nibs.  I didn't buy any but now I think I have to make another trip to get a package.  I'm sure I can figure out plenty of things to sprinkle them on or mix them into - yogurt, oatmeal, banana bread, smoothies.  I've even read they have some very significant health benefits - rich in antioxidants, reduce heart disease and diabetes risk, highly nutritious.  Hmmm.  Definitely making another trip to Monsoon Chocolate.  

Here's a photo of a corner of the cafe.

Beautiful chocolate bars. I'm very drawn to the wrapping.  
Here's the box of Bon Bons we purchased.  Each Bon Bon is $3, so not a cheap treat.  But if you were to see the PBS special and understood the way they handcrafted these jewel-toned morsels, you'd understand the reason for the high cost.
All of their Bon Bons are made using their “Monsoon Blend” of bean-to-bar chocolate, which is crafted using cocoa beans from Ecuador, Madagascar, and Uganda. Check out their complete flavor guide.

Here’s a description of the ones we got:

Top Left: Whiskey del Bac Dorado (2 Layers. Buttery caramel and a rich dark chocolate ganache, both infused with Hamilton Distillers’ mesquite-smoked whiskey. Enrobed in 69% “Monsoon Blend” dark chocolate.)

Top Right: Black Cherry Cocoa Nib Caramel (Black cherry caramel with Costa Esmeraldas cocoa nibs. Enrobed in 69% “Monsoon Blend” dark chocolate.)

Bottom Left: Prickly Pear Caramel (Soft caramel made with prickly pear cactus fruit. Enrobed in 69% “Monsoon Blend” dark chocolate.) 

Bottom Right: Chiltepin (Dark chocolate ganache infused with chiltepin pepper. Enrobed in 69% “Monsoon Blend” dark chocolate.)

Center: Mezcal Caramel (Soft caramel center infused with Mezcal Vago Espadin. Enrobed in 69% “Monsoon Blend” dark chocolate.)

I shared the Bon Bons with my family on our recent Family Dinner night.  We cut each one into three pieces (tiny pieces) so everyone could have a little taste of the one they were interested in.  I was very impressed.  Of these, my favorite was the Black Cherry Cocoa Nib and the Prickly Pear Caramel.

I think this is a beautiful hostess gift, especially if you know the recipient is a chocolate lover.  Opening this little box of jewels is much more exciting than pulling the cork on yet another bottle of wine. 

What I'm trying to say here people, is that if you come to my house for dinner, I fully expect to see these in your hand. 

I thank you in advance.

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Run, Roll, And Rain
2017: Bee Stop

2016: Prepping The Butt
2015: Strangled By The Capital Beltway
2014: Even The Deer Are Bored
2013: Happy "Columbus" Day!
2012: Not So Subtle
2011: Satan Called. He Wants His Weather Back.
2010: If Only I Looked As Good As He Does
2009: What Grandmothers Do When Their Grandchildren Grow Up
2008: The View Of The Valley And Meadow
2007: A Beautiful Dimple In The Earth
2006: Dive The Sky
2005: G-Y-M

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Bird Of Prey

We are a little over a week into September and things in our neck of the woods are just about the same.

It's still hotter than the pit of hell out here and that heat is wearing on me.  We've had some rain but it hasn't really cooled things off.  It's made it nice and humid, though.  Lovely.

I've been cooking a lot.  And eating.  I've made some new dishes that I was very pleased with.  You can see more photos here on my Instagram account.  

Still bird-watching in my front yard where we've been getting lots of visits from two hawks that live in nearby trees, a cute little Brown-Crested Flycatcher, the bright but tiny Lesser Goldfinch, the silky black Phainopepla, and my favorite, the Gila Woodpecker.

I might have mentioned we went a little crazy with the birdfeeders.  It's like a bird condominium complex out here. Lots of options for visiting birds.

Here's a shot of our hawk who stopped by for a bath.  He likes to get his body in the birdbath, puff up his feathers, and then shimmy his body in the water.  I've tried to get him on video but have been unsuccessful at capturing his bathing ritual.

And I've yet to see him catch anything he preys on.

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2018:  Down The River
2017:  Valion Pride
2016:  Be Virtually Anywhere
2015:  This Is Not 100% Natural Spring Water
2014:  Rain Day Delay
2013:  That Sunday, That Summer
2012:  Heading To The Mountains
2011:  End Of Summer Rainbow
2010:  UGG, What A Surprise!
2009:  Under The El
2008:  We Escaped With Our Teeth Intact
2007:  Praying In The Jewel Of The South For Over 250 Years
2006:  Drive Time Champion
2005:  Yukon Bet We're Far Away

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Luck Of Double Sevens

Yesterday was my mother's 77th birthday.  Lucky double sevens!!  I invited the family over and put on a big spread, much of which was devoured.  

Much of the day was overcast and it rained quite a bit, which was really a gift to me.  It also cooled everything down, if you consider 88 degrees cool.  

While it was raining I took a picture of this little barrel cactus.  The rain must have brought out the color - the bright green flesh, the fuschia spines, and the yellow flower. Wetting it down knocked the dust off of it.  Looking at it today, the only thing on it with color is the flower, the rest looks like a drab greenish-brown blob.

The rain does wonders.

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What Surfing Produces

2017: How To Make A Girl Feel Like She's On Top Of The World
2016: Resting Bitch Face Is Real
2015: No Rooms To Let
2014: Beautiful Brutalism In A Bucolic Bourg
2013: Have A Little Faith In The Romantic Comedy
2012: The Perfect Volunteer
2011: The Men Who Stare AT Goats
2010: A Peek At A Working Team
2009: Alligators Are Not A Girl’s Best Friend
2008: Forget Your Cholesterol. Get A Hearing Aid.
2007: Sizzling Good Time
2006: Amarillo May Smell Like Cow Shit, But They Have Some Pretty Tasty Steaks
2005: List Of Fives

Monday, August 05, 2019

The Movies Have Always Been An Escape

It's the fifth day of August and the thing I've been doing the most is trying to stay out of the heat.  It's difficult, but I'm managing.

We've been watching a lot of movies.  Netflix is our friend, RedBox loves to take my money, and finally, all the movie channels we pay for each month are paying off.

Some of the ones we've seen recently are:

Ibiza:  Love Drunk:  This was a cute, funny, romantic comedy.  Richard Madden (from Game of Thrones and The Bodyguard) was in it.  The soundtrack was great, and because I was reminded of how cute he is, I rewatched the six-episode season of The Bodyguard. 

The Red Sea Diving Resort:  Based on a true story about Israeli Mossad agents and Ethiopians, who in the early 80s, used an abandoned seaside resort to carry out the mission of evacuating thousands of Jewish-Ethiopian refugees from Sudan to Isreal.

BlacKkKlansman:  Based on the true story of Ron Stallworth, the first black cop in the Colorado Springs police department, who infiltrated the KKK in the late 1970s.  

Otherhood:  Three mothers try to connect with their adult sons.  

The Upside:  A remake of the original, The Intouchables.  This was okay, but the original was better.  Don't waste your time on this movie, see the original instead.    

Green Book:  Based on the true story of Dr. Don Shirley, a world-class pianist, who hired Tony Lip, a bouncer from the Bronx, as his driver for a tour from NYC to the Deep South.  I liked this movie a lot.  

The Mustang:  T
he story of Roman Coleman, a violent convict, who was given the chance to participate in a rehabilitation therapy program involving the training of wild mustangs.  I love love LOVE Matthias Schoenaerts (he was in Far from the Madding Crowd, A Little Chaos, Suite Francais, Loft, and more) which was the sole reason I decided to watch this.  I wound up liking it quite a bit. 

Dare To Be Wild:  Based on the true story of Mary Reynolds, an Irish landscape designer, who fought to compete in the world's most prestigious and famous gardening event, the  RHS Chelsea Flower Show.  

Movie theaters used to be the place to go to escape the heat.  They're obviously still a great way to escape, in more ways than one.

And I can do it from the comfort of my own home, where the temperature of the a/c is set to 65.

Take that, one hundred degree plus temperatures!!

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Nowhere Near As Cute As A Kitten

2017: Celebrating Seven And A Half Decades
2016: Makes Complete Sense
2015: I'm Always Hoping It's The Last Time
2014: Apes At The Hitching Post
2013: History On Water Street
2012: Do It Like The Settlers Did. With Whiskey.
2011: No Vacancy
2010: Imperial Sand
2009: How Many Twenty Year Olds Have A Seventy Pound Head?
2008: My First Time
2007: I’ve Been Everywhere Sunday
2006: Text Me
2005: Eddie Dines Out Friday

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Confounding Celtic Yard Art

Almost two months ago I posted about the hiatus I've taken from blogging.  I thought it was about time to check in and tell you what we've been up to.

So, basically...a whole lot of nothing.

Ed and I are still alive, which I'm hoping you're happy to hear, and we're still waiting on our trucking business-related stuff to be sorted out, but in the meantime, we're just trying to handle the oppressive heat as best as we can.

Being on the road for so long, we realized that we were rarely home during the summer months.  That's when the industry freight picks up (for us, since we do platform freight) and being on the road during the unbearable heat of the desert suited us just fine.  Oh, sure, it's hot in other places in the country, but I've got to tell you, there is no heat like desert heat.  And we're getting a giant dose of it right now.  Most days have been between 102°F to 107°F (38°C to 41°C). 

People like to throw around the "it's a dry heat" comment.  Dry, my ass!  It's "stick your head in an oven" heat.  Seriously.  People have asked me how hot it gets, and I've told them to pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees and once it reaches temperature, get nice and close and open the door.  That eyebrow-singing whoosh of heat is exactly what it feels like out here in Tucson.  Not pleasant.

But there are people who love it.  Like our Welsh neighbor, who goes for a run when the sun is high in the sky, at the hottest part of the day.  Or he's outside doing yard work.  He apparently loves to feel that heat on his skin.  And sweating.  He must love sweating.  

Confounding Celtic Art - the title of the latest yard art piece in his gorgeous backyard - is visible in the photo above.  Walking his property is like being in a southwestern nature preserve. Lovingly cultivated over 20 years, he has done all of the work himself with the help of his two sons and has created the most beautiful maze of pathways through this arid, sun-baked landscape.

I wish I had more to tell you, but sadly I don't.  Oh, wait...there are lots of little baby creatures we've been watching recently - baby quail, baby ground squirrels, baby rabbits - there's nothing cuter than a tiny furry creature.  They've all been frolicking outside our living room window, so we have a front-row view.  

Oh, and we recently saw a great movie on Redbox - Bohemian Rhapsody.  I loved it.  LOVED.  Rami Malek did a phenomenal job playing Freddie Mercury.  I wasn't a huge Queen fan - I only knew the popular songs - but this movie really won me over.  I highly recommend it.

That's about it.

Check back in every once in a while.  I might not have much to say, but I'll try to post a picture here and there.  And of course, you can always find me on social media.

Have a great Fourth of July!!

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2018: On The River
2017: Reaching The Boiling Point
2016: Any One Will Do For Doo
2015: A Lazy River Surrounding A Big 'Ol Lazy Pool
2014: A Successful, Safe, Million Mile Driving Man And His Timepiece
2013: In Hot Pursuit
2012: The Spotlight Isn’t Just On The Community
2011: The United States Of American Cheese
2010: Waiting
2009: My Mother The Jihadist
2008: Perfectly Reasonable Defense
2007: Provocative
2006: Sidewalk Sushi
2005: $4,000 Worth Of Tupperware

Tuesday, May 07, 2019


View from our front yard of the sun setting on the Santa Catalina mountains.
Today marks the 14th anniversary of the start of this blog.  On May 7, 2005, The Daily Rant went live.  The posting during the first few weeks was sporadic, but by June 20th, we were daily!  

I love writing this blog.  I found it to be a great tool to keep my friends and family informed about where I am and what I'm up to.  Over the years I've shared photos of places I've visited and written about things that happened on the road.  My perspective was unique - my vantage point was the cab of an 18-wheeler.

I'm proud of what I've done here.

I have been hired for several writing assignments as a result of my writing here.  I sold photos that were published in magazines and books.  My most coveted assignment was the one for The Guardian in 2013.  Not only did that run online, but it also ran in the print version, and my friend Linda in Manchester, England, was kind enough to send me the weekly copies of the actual newspaper.  Someday I'll frame them and hang them in my office.

Ed's knowledge of trucking coupled with my experience and perspective in the industry was used to secure several paying assignments.  We were both hired as consultants on a secret project (had to sign NDAs and everything!) two scientists were working on to improve a certain aspect of truck performance.  I was contracted to write an article for the Go Daddy Garage Blog about questions to ask before starting a trucking company.  And I was also contracted by an online employment firm to be an SME (Subject Matter Expert) to help develop an assessment for truck drivers.  These are just a few examples. 

Some days gathering content for the blog is challenging and I've written about this before.  During times when we were home, or on dedicated runs, it was difficult to come up with things to write about.  We were trucking, but we weren't doing much traveling to write about.  I've filled in with stories about my family, photos of my mother's cat, recipes and whatnot.  And of course, I write about our vacations and travels out of the country.  I may not be trucking during that time, but it's the trucking that made the traveling possible.  It's not just trucking life, it's our life in general.

Well, our life, in general, has experienced a bit of a hiccup.  And due to that hiccup, I need to take a break from blogging.  Don't be alarmed!  Ed and I are just dealing with a few things related to the truck and the business that will likely keep us off the road until November.  I can't talk about it right now but as soon as I can, I will.  Don't worry about us!

Because we won't be traveling, keeping up with a daily blog will be impossible - there's just not that much to write about when we're home and there are only so many pictures of cactus to post.  So I'll be taking a hiatus and suspending the daily writing until we get back on the road.  

This makes me very sad.  I've put a lot into keeping this blog going daily.  Even when it wasn't the best content, I maintained the daily aspect.  As I said, I'm proud of what I've done here.  I'm proud of keeping it up for so long.  I'm thrilled that I have readers from all over the world and I've been so lucky to have met some of those people in real life. 

People like Mick and Ali, people like Linda from Manchester, people like Irene from Queens, NY, 
people like Gary Goulette, people like Bob and Linda Caffee, people like George and Wendy Parker and people like Marlaina and MacG to just name a few.  Hell, Marlaina and MacG have become such good friends that not only do they spend holidays with us and our family, but we also vacationed with them in Europe for a month last year!  And we still love them!  

So although I'm sad about having to take this break, I'm going to use this time to explore the ideas I've had about changing my blog format.  I'd like to redesign it, figure out exactly how I want to proceed, and figure out whether keeping up with posting daily is even something I want to do.  

I do have an Instagram account and will use that to do a little micro-blogging, with pictures and little snippets about what's going on, so please follow me there.  Be forewarned - there will likely be photos of cactus, mundane daily activity photos, and updates on where we eat.  Maaaybe we'll go for a weekend away and post about that but don't hold your breath.

That said, I will be back here posting periodic updates so please check in once in a while.  If you'd like to receive those updates via email, go to the sidebar on the right side of this page where it says "Subscribe To Me!" and enter your email address.  You'll get new posts as soon as I publish them.

I'd like to thank you for your continued readership and appreciate all the emails and messages you've all sent over the years.  If you'd like to contact me personally, I can be reached at salenalettera@gmail.com.

I'll see you all soon!

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2017: Twelve Years Of Flitting Around

2016: The Magnificent Eleven
2015: My Baby Is Ten Years Old
2014: A Contented Living
2013: Eight Takes The Cake
2012: Seven Years And Still Ranting
2011: Don’t Worry, Daily Rant. I’m On Your Six
2010: So This Is What Niche Feels Like
2009: The Sum Of Its Parts
2008: Look At Me, I’m Three!!
2007: A Trucking Style Birthday Celebration
2006: A Perfectly Uninteresting Event
2005: The Day The Blog Began

Monday, May 06, 2019

A Purple Native

I'm making the rounds in my yard.  I bring you today's blooming cactus.

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2018: Watch Like A Hawk
2017: Folk Parking
2016: Flashback Friday
2015: Rise
2014: Freshly Dusted
2013: Sockless Monday
2012: Extra Virgin
2011: Eddie Makes An Appearance
2010: Watt A Work Of Art – Part Three
2009: The Clouds And Trees Line Up For Bed
2008: The Shimmer Of The Sea
2007: Indian Gallery
2006: Geography Test
2005: Sorry, no post on this day. The blog didn’t start until May 2005!