Recipe Card: Tomato Sauce

Merry Christmas Eve Eve! I hope you’ve already got dinner planned for tonight, or that you have a reliable Thai restaurant with good take out nearby, but in case this post is timely, I’m making Lasagna tonight.

I’d have made it yesterday, but lately, I have to make my own tomato sauce, and yesterday and I disagreed about cooking. Today I am making tomato sauce and it smells so good I can barely restrain myself from eating it RIGHT THIS MINUTE. So I sooth my cravings with sugar cookies. Wait, no I don’t. I am a grown up. 🙂 Lol.

If you have a can of tomatoes, you too can make your own sauce. If you have a few other things, it can be the most delicious thing ever.

Simmer this for as long as you have. I go for hours, but then I got an early start.

A can of tomatoes, diced, crushed, whole, whatever. Any size you like, you can freeze the extra sauce.

Carrots, chopped
Onion, chopped. More or less, depending on how much you like onion.
Celery, chopped, if you have it. It can be at death’s door. You won’t know.
Garlic, if you think onion isn’t enough
A tablespoon of butter. You won’t be sorry.
Glug of red wine if it’s around and old. Or newly opened.

If you have a stick blender, pull it out and puree this when you are done simmering it. I didn’t a few times, and it still makes a great spaghetti. It’s easier to make a really good lasagna with a smoother sauce, though, so I will be blending this tonight.

Spice variations that I have liked include

~Cumin and Red Pepper flakes
~Oregano, Basil, and Parsley (today’s version, now with fresh, garden parsley because December is broken)
~Nothing, because I forgot
~Salt, Pepper, and Parmesan
~Random off brand “Italian seasoning”

This is fool proof, crock pot-able, and outstanding with any kind of noodle on any kind of night. With or without beef, and this coming from a beast of a carnivore.

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good…hold that thought. We’ll get back to you.

Things My Father Taught Me

Earlier today, the pastor of my parents’ church asked Facebook, “What’s the best thing your father taught you?”

I found that I was hard-pressed to give one solitary item, since my dad has taught me so much: in words, by his example, and by virtue of what he emphasized in day-to-day life.  He catechized me well, taught me the principles of being a good student, and gave lots of other pieces of practical advice:

  • Ask interesting questions!
  • Call the city when you see a water main break.
  • Use a tape measure beforehand to be sure the furniture/ item will fit.
  • Learn how to type (this one not by example, but by making each of us kids practice 5 minutes with FastType for every 20 minutes of computer games).
  • There’s no such thing as a garment with too many pockets (this by the example of having our mother add a second breast pocket to several of his shirts). There’s also no such thing as too many flashlights.
  • Try to buy American when you can.
  • Wear shoes in places like the garage or the basement, where there might be nails or live wires afoot.
  • “Don’t watch the ads, children.” Also: look away from violent TV shows. Don’t put the television in the middle of family life; if you must have one, keep it in the basement.
  • Honor the cook by being seated when he/she brings the food. Clearly address someone by name when you want him/her to pass you food. “When you have eaten and are satisfied, return thanks to the Lord for the good land he has given you.”
  • “Is there a way to graduate early?”
  • “If you borrow a woodsman’s axe, you are borrowing his livelihood. If you borrow my pen, you’re borrowing my livelihood. So make sure to return the pen to my hand, where you got it.” The same goes for his Swiss army knife.
  • “What have you learned from this?” Usually asked at the very moment we realized that a bad situation was at least partly our own fault.
  • “When you leave a house, wish God’s peace upon it.”

I’ve recently come to appreciate that it isn’t always the case that a man with three sons and one daughter treat them alike in dignity. From the time I was young, Dad told me that I could be at the top of the class or be the “head of the company.” Thus Dad taught me that, though I am different from my brothers, neither my thoughts nor my person are worth less than they are.

He taught me that memorization of Scripture is important; invoices are also important; writing the date on things is useful; the items you own require maintenance; the items you buy represent a certain amount of time invested to earn the money so be sure it’s worth it; and that strawberries demonstrate that our God loves making beautiful things.

Last (and probably best), Dad always told me “I love you, but Jesus loves you even more!

What did your dad teach you?

On Being the Sister of a Jeopardy! Champion

This is a bit of a weird niche to blog about, and doubtless some of my Facebook friends are tired of hearing about it.  That said, it is pretty cool to have a Jeopardy! champion in the family, and anyway, David asked for a blog post about it.

j and alex

Alex Trebek and my brother John

When you accost people with “Do you watch Jeopardy!?  Well…you should, because my brother’s playing on there,” they inevitably ask questions about how the show works.  How did he get on the show? Is it taped in advance? Oh, okay, do you know how long he’ll be on, then?  What does Alex talk about with them as the credits roll? How much did he win? Is there a five-day limit, or can he go on indefinitely? Is it true that they give the contestants a list of the categories the night before? Can I watch it online?

Well. I can answer some of that for you.

A few days a year, Jeopardy has an online test for prospective contestants to take.  John registered and took it (every year since he graduated college, actually), and did well enough (35+/50 questions, I believe) to qualify for the regional auditions.*  The regional interviews involve further questions, this time with a buzzer involved, to narrow down the field of contestants further.  Finally, he was invited to come out for taping, and went through a final selection process (I forget how this part works) to determine which game he’d be in.  And then he just plays until he can’t play anymore!

*John has qualified for regionals twice now.  One round took him down to Kentucky; the second time he went from Columbus, OH up to Detroit.  Unsurprisingly, he says it’s easier the second time around.

Daily double beryl

John has NO idea what a beryl is.

They tape 5 shows in a day, each corresponding to the days of a work week.  John’s games were taped back in November, I believe, but he is sworn to secrecy.  He and his wife know how he did – she was in the audience, after all – but have preserved the mystery so the viewers can be surprised (especially when he gets Daily Double clues he doesn’t know, or Final Jeopardy clues he really doesn’t know)!

After the credits roll, Alex talks about whatever subject captured his imagination during the game.  After John’s first game, where he beat the reigning champion J. Elliott, Alex discussed Elliott’s plots for a Truman Capote opera (?!).

Thus far, John has won 5 games and a total of $104,500.  He continues playing until someone else beats him, though I believe that winning 5 times with that high a sum qualifies him to return for the Tournament of Champions (which will happen later this year, I believe; not sure when).

day 1 otherDay 2day 3day 4aday 5

study time

Studying up the night before taping

They don’t give the contestants question lists, but John did use his computer programming skills to great effect: he created an app which utilizes data from j-archive.com to see how well he’d do with questions from former seasons.  This has helped him in at least two questions, including a “Real Mystery” Daily Double that netted him $4,200!

Annnd while I don’t believe it’s possible to stream the show, it’s possible to watch recent games on youTube the day after – with all the ads removed for quick and easy viewing.

So with all that answered…what has it been like, having a Jeopardy! winning-brother?

Toast

Toasting after the first win!

Answer: it’s been a pretty good time!  Our whole family has gotten into it: my mum, our cousins, our aunts and uncles, and I have been exhorting the mailmen, the FedEx guys, bank workers, random folks at the shop to tune in.

J and E

John and his wife Elizabeth, Tuesday night watch party at our parents’ house.

day 1 win

Day 1: J. Elliott dethroned

John has spent the week going to viewing party after viewing party.  Some of his friends have driven across Michigan and Ohio to watch and celebrate with him.  There’s a flurry of texts and tweets and phone calls every night, as we photograph the shot of his total winnings, and discussions of sartorial considerations.  A whole bunch of J. Elliot fans lamented as their fearless leader was beaten out last Thursday, and some of them still aren’t over it.

JelliotJohn gets a certain amount of ribbing if he misses things – Billings, Montana and The Music Man come to mind – but there’s also a lot of impressed faces when he runs through a category like “Out –Let” or “Anagrams,” and I relish the facts which I know on account of sharing with him and which, I fancy, he knows because of sharing with me: Brideshead Revisited, Beedle the Bard, Baba O’Riley, and others that start with something other than B.

Pink shirt FriPink shirt verified

Boys and flueyes wide shutJ watches Self

We’ve gotten a little bit of background detail about the other contestants, John’s thought processes during the questions, and the stories he’s shared during the Getting-to-Know-You segments: how he proposed to his wife, the commencement of the Pink Shirt Friday, the puppy cam he and Elizabeth use to keep an eye on their dog Hektor, etc.

All these stories and details have prompted a lot of rumination on facts, trivial and otherwise; game strategy in a fast-paced environment; and stories which are worth the telling even when condensed to <30 seconds.  Some of which I might share in a later post.  But for now…we’re going to watch John on Jeopardy! tonight.  Join us!

Daddy

Daddy Drinks

I gave my dad a whiskey flask for Christmas.

He laughed. He has never had a taste for whiskey.

But because I gave it to him, he treasured it.

He brought it to work and showed it off,

trying to hide the proud pucker of his smile.

It had my school crest on it.

When I was small, I would be jealous of my cousin,

(he was grown-up,) smoking spicy cigars and drinking

on the porch with my dad, under thick, warm light

Decanting through the tree trunk silhouettes.

They would talk, and nod, genially, toward the window

at the sight of me.

He favors wine, but when I come home he pours me

a tumbler of Scotch – smooth, slow, golden-

as he asks me what I am thinking. I sip, and answer

in excruciating detail. And I pretend it is the

harsh heat of the whiskey making me choke,

            as I drink with my dad.