I spent a pre-Easter weekend with my daughter and her family, a lively bunch. Between my daughter, myself, her two daughters and their friends drifting in and out of the house my son-in-law only found peace and quiet once the lights went out. It was a fun and frenetic few days. My oldest granddaughter flew in from Phoenix while I was there to gather up her incredibly neurotic hybrid Yorktese (Yorkie/Maltese blend), Jasper, who’s been boarding with my daughter until my granddaughter got settled.

Jasper lost his mind on seeing his beloved owner for the first time in months. In the thrill of the moment he left a trail of urine from the front door to the kitchen worthy of a St. Bernard. Bladder empty, the dog rolled over on his back passing out cold as a wedge from the excitement. I’ve never seen a dog do that behavior before. Fainting goats, yes, but small dogs not so much. Maybe we humans should quit splicing dog breeds. The results seem to be somewhat left of perfect. Jasper suffers from acute separation anxiety if left alone. Viewed on the nanny cam he looks like a furry pogo stick jumping up and down behind the closed front door until his owners return. The dog seems unable to stand his own company for more than a minute. To be honest, his disposition could use some fine tuning, having felt his teeth at the back of my leg a time or two. He trails along after my daughter as though tied to her ankle by an invisible string. Perhaps the inbreeding makes them odd or high-strung, particularly when you blend two breeds both already known for that particular trait.

My odd sleeping habits, mainly falling asleep early and waking up in the middle of the night, make it difficult for me to spend the night away from home. To add to this, with a full house at my daughters I was assigned the couch on the first floor as my sleeping arrangements. It became obvious later in the night the twenty pound cat received the same notice. I awoke with his furry tail in my face to find my lungs deflated and unable to catch air. The huge tabby circled five times then made quite himself comfortable on my chest. Unable to take a hint with gentle nudging he didn’t seem inclined to move to the other couch anytime soon. Sleep not being an option, I reached my book on the coffee table and rested it on the cat’s back clapping my hands to turn on the lights. The Clapper. Remember that? Probably not. It is an invention whereby clapping of the hands causes the lights to turn on or off. My son-in-law found it at a garage sale. I’m amazed it ever made it beyond the light bulb stage, no pun intended. At one time, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, The Clapper ranked right up there with Pet Rocks, lava lamps, and Silly Putty. My mother gave my stepfather one for Christmas when I was a kid. For days afterward like two pre-schoolers with a new bike they delightedly illuminated and darkened our living room to such an extent it prompted a neighbor to stop by and inquire if everything was all right. Parents, go figure.

There are inventions on the market for everything. The “As Seen on TV” aisle is alive and well in most pharmacies and large discount stores. I have to admit I’ve been caught in the net a few times. Our garage sale featured a few must have items like the Veggetti and Perfect Polly. Not that they’re not great products (ahem). Perfect Polly was a gift for Boo, the Queen of Cats, from my Mother. Our Perfect Polly (a plastic parrot whose head and tail move as it tweets) never quite found her pitch. Polly met an untidy end when the poor bird’s head fell off while Rick was trying to make it work. Boo, the Queen of Cats, was not impressed.

So many inventions over the past decades have made life easier for most of us starved for a moment of free time. Still, with all the peelers on the market I defer to my hand-held potato peeler when the need arises. Once I purchased a tomato slicer, which produced pureed tomatoes seamlessly, but never actually made a thin slice of tomato while in my possession. In the end, I took out my razor sharp knife and it got the job done.

I have noticed with some of these new conveniences the cleanup is far more laborious than with the original item it is replacing. In the example of the tomato slicer by the time I took the machine apart and cleaned it after I used it, I could have washed one knife and been done. As much as I use my food processor, when it comes to grating cheese, which it does very efficiency, cleaning up the processor after you’re done might have made pulling the hand grater out a more expedient option.

Over the weekend I was explaining to my granddaughter and her friends that when I was their age there was a cord attached to the phone, and the phone was often attached to the wall. While using the phone the speaker was limited by the length of the cord attached. Back in the day the phone was well, a phone. I know! The receiver was only that a receiver. A phone contained no visuals, no Internet, no camera, and no keyboard. What! This was too much information apparently for one sitting. If I had told them I’d just run over a baby chick they couldn’t have been more horrified. Further I went on to explain there were no phones in cars. If one needed to speak to someone while on the road you pulled into a gas station and used the pay phone. I caught several of them eying me suspiciously after that revelation as though I was of an alien species. I half expected them to hang a sign on me and call the Smithsonian.

We’re having guests for dinner. Allergies are dogging me this week and keeping me from my usual high energy level. Millions of webs are descending from the trees in the yard draping barely visible filament all over everything. Earlier I got outside to tackle the situation but it became obvious armed with a broom wasn’t going to be enough. As soon as I swiped twenty down, thirty string along behind them. Our first spring here, this is a new phenomenon for us. Webs drape across car windows and paint. This is probably not good. Fortunately, our garage will allow two cars parked inside at once. Unfortunately, if one is an SUV once parked you cannot exit the vehicle. This could be a problem. I like our garage, don’t misunderstand me, but not on a permanent basis. Little snags in an otherwise glorious spring day.

This is such a pretty salad on the table without much effort from the cook. Perfect for a day warm enough to allow for open windows permitting a hint of a breeze to move through the house. Lovin it. I took the picture before I placed a line of hard boiled egg slices along the top.

Shrimp and Fresh Asparagus Salad with Simple Caesar Dressing

1 lb. asparagus, cooked, drained and chilled
1/2 lb. small cooked shrimp, tails on
1 container of cherry tomatoes, halved
4 button mushrooms, sliced thin
1/4 large red onion, thinly sliced and quartered
1/3 cup yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped
2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
1 hard boiled egg, sliced
Freshly ground black pepper

Line plate with a single layer of asparagus. Top with remaining ingredients. Line one sliced hard boil egg on top. Grind freshly ground black pepper over top. Drizzle liberally with dressing.

Caeser Dressing

1 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 tsp. dried mustard
1 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. anchovy paste
2 cloves garlic, minced

Place in food processor and process until smooth. Refrigerate preferably overnight. Shake before pouring.

Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

Last night I had an In-N-Out burger “animal style”. Yum. In high school I contributed a good deal of my allowance money to In-N-Out and never lost the taste for their delicious burgers over the years. To give them all the credit they deserve, they’ve never lowered their standards using fresh ingredients and delivering a terrific product every time. The original stand I frequented was just that, a stand. Basically it was set up for drive through customers, although there was a small window at the front of the small boxlike building, where customers could order if on foot. Music blaring from our stereos, tuck and roll freshly installed from Tijuana, we cruised through after catching a movie at the drive-in or roller skating for a late night cheeseburger with grilled onions and a large fry, washed down with a soda or a suicide (a deadly concoction of coca cola, root beer, 7-up and anything else with a spigot attached to it). No wonder Clearasil did a big business back in the day.

Unbelievably, I can remember getting a McDonald’s cheeseburger and fries for about $.30. When I babysat, which I did often during my high school years, parents paid me $.50 an hour for the privilege of watching their little ones. Married not long after I graduated, I could feed my new husband and myself on a budget of about $15 a week, barely covering a loaf of bread and a jug of milk at today’s prices.

I mention this because I went to the grocery store yesterday. This is not unusual as is obvious by this blog, but it certainly is getting more expensive. Handing over $65.82 I got in return two bags, neither containing meat other than a half a pound of deli peppered turkey. Amazing. I wanted turmeric for a recipe I was working on. I found it appropriately in the spice aisle on sale for $7.99. Really? I hope it comes with a steak. Waving a fond farewell to the turmeric I decided instead to do something different with my chicken with the impressive array of spices already found in my cupboard.

It used to be I went to the store and purchased what was written on my list. With the drought pumping up the prices on nearly everything I need, I’ve turned to grocery outlet stores and double coupon days to help bring the cost of food down to a manageable place. Mentioning the soaring prices to the checker as I placed my two bags in the cart he said, “don’t forget the price of gas”. Thanks for reminding me.

Our middle class is fading into the background with jobs flourishing for low-income employees as well a higher paid executive positions. Advancing technology is phasing out many jobs formerly done my middle-income employees with a high school education, or high school plus a few years of college. Many middle-income jobs are being rerouted overseas where products can be produced at a fraction of the price by employees happy to work for pennies on the dollar. It is not unlikely the grocery clerk reminding me about the rising gas prices may someday be replaced by a computerized system at the checkout stand.

Lately there is a lot of buzz about reeling in some of the technology we’ve come to know and love. It is deemed unhealthy for little ones easily addicted to tablets with colorful pictures and animation before pulling on a pair of Dora the Explorer training pants. How do you reel in a revolution so warmly embraced by everyone from the diaper set to their great-grandfather Skypeing his grandchildren from the nursing home? It would be like taking away a pacifier from a crying baby. It wouldn’t be pretty.

Apps are popping up quicker than spring flowers. They range from helping police officers locate the closest donut establishment to capturing a picture of the food on your plate and determining your caloric intake taking into account what you’ve already put away for the day. We’re on the line, the hook is set and we’ve been reeled in. People are tiring of the constant clicking and chattering cluttering up their daily lives, unable to capture a moment of their children’s attention away from the glittering screen in front of them. Technology companies are amassing huge fortunes in their coffers riding on the surge of technology flooding the market devoured by consumers hungry for newer and more advanced products finding the ones just purchased obsolete before reading the user’s manual.

Where will we go from here? It boggles the mind. I watched a story on the news about a device implanted in several spinal injury cases which actually sends pulses to the brain allowing them to walk again and feel their previously inanimate limbs. Wow. Had we seen it in a movie in the 70′s we would have considered this all merely a work of Hollywood fiction. Hal, for me, in 2001 a Space Odyssey, was a bit unnerving but perhaps not so far fetched. What if we create machines so smart they outsmart their inventors? Cue Rod Serling now.

It is becoming an interesting, frustrating, often dangerous, and unpredictable world we live in. Always filled with incredible beauty and mother nature in the background toying with us playing her incessant games. Hopefully, the prices will level out as I’d like to try that recipe with turmeric down the road I’ve been eying. For today, it is to be in the 80′s, the tulips are blooming in the yard, and I’m headed out for a walk.

Panko Crusted Tilapia with Spinach Salad


4 tilapia filets
1 1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs
2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. salt
2 egg whites
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
Canola oil
Tartar sauce

Pat tilapia dry. Mix together Cajun seasoning, black pepper, garlic salt and salt. Sprinkle evenly over filets. Whisk together egg whites and Dijon mustard in shallow dish. Place bread crumbs in another shallow dish.

Coat each filets with egg white mixture then thoroughly dredge in bread crumbs.

Heat 1/2″ of Canola oil over high heat until shimmering. Add fish to pan and cook until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Serve with tartar sauce.

Serves 4

Spinach Salad with Mustard Dressing

1 pkg. baby spinach
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
6 large button mushrooms, sliced thin

Toss all ingredients with dressing or plate decoratively and pour dressing on top.

Mustard Dressing

1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 red onion
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp. prepared mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes

Add all ingredients to food processor. Process until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

Today I am behind on my original plans to clean. A friend going through a bad patch in her life needed some time with me on the phone. It is not a new rough spot for her, actually having been in place for several years due to a situation or several situations at home. In my estimation, not being a psychiatrist, though sometimes I feel as if people think I have hung out my shingle, she is stuck. By this I do not mean her feet are cemented to the living room carpet, rather stuck figuratively or emotionally.  This has happened to me a time or two in my life, usually after something traumatic having occurred.  Sometimes it’s difficult to get pointed in the right direction again when you’re thrown completely off course. I always suggest baby steps. If you put a long list of to-do’s in front of someone already overwhelmed with their lives the effect most likely will be self-defeating. As I said, I do not presume to know what is or what is good for someone else, but I do know what works for me.

People often ask me how I maintain a relatively “sunny” outlook on the world. Truthfully, I have no idea. I feel sunny most of the time, and wake up generally looking forward to the 24 hours stretched out before me with unbridled enthusiasm. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not one of those perpetually chirpy humans who only sees rainbows in torrential downpours, but I do try to concentrate of what is going well in my life if possible rather than what is not.

Sometimes when my mind wanders, an event happening about every three seconds, I wonder if we evolve as we move along on our journeys.  Trials and tribulations, tests of our mettle and stamina, seem to fill in the gaps between happy and blissful times we live through. As the years pass I ponder more often if this is our only visit on earth, or if we do, in fact, evolve through a series of life experiences coming back in a new and better version of ourselves each time until we are complete.  This is a lot to chew on on this lovely day, so I shall move on to lighter subjects but the unanswered questions will linger with me for a while as I haven’t had my second cup of coffee which usually makes moving rather than thinking a more likely choice for the day.

I spent most of yesterday doing spring cleaning. Basically, I lugged all the heavier clothes and jackets to the closets downstairs, replacing them with more springlike attire in the upstairs master bedroom closet.  At least I was able to combine my cardio for the day with moving my closet. Second on my list was installing the new box from our satellite provider. My other half, a lovely man by all accounts, hasn’t got a technical bone in his entire body. There’s someone out there running around with extra hardware savvy programmed into his brain having used up the savvy originally targeted for Rick. In other areas he’s genius but give him an unfamiliar computer screen or some software to load and his mind goes to pudding before your very eyes. I’ve often reminded him should anything ever happen to me he’d better rush out and find a computer motivated female who likes to cook or he’s doomed to sit alone staring at a blue screen while the microwave runs through the minutes until his chicken pot pie is ready. I consider it sort of a tenure clause, keeping me around til the end of the run.

Unpacking the new unit to be installed, I set up a stool at the back of the mammoth TV in our family room. Setting the new unit atop the old, I began unplugging the old cords from the back of the malfunctioning unit and transferring them to the back of the new.  Once done, I followed the instructions on the card provided and worked my way to the final screen where it indicated I was to call the service provider to activate the receiver. Yea for me. I got a lovely woman on the phone who began at the beginning. Stopping her, I explained I’d already gotten to the last screen and all I needed was for her to activate it. She asked who was here with me. I said, “the cat” . For some reason this amazed her and she asked if I had technical background. She went on to say most people call her as soon as they exchange the plugs. Really?  Maybe this stems from my single mom days when I could fix everything from the garbage disposal to the Hubble Telescope with a kitchen knife and electrical tape. We went on to hook up the wireless setup and she said she was going to send me a gold star for excellent “techie” performance. Even I was impressed with me at that point.

It does suck, however, even as far as they’ve come technically all the programs you’ve taped up until the receiver starts to fail are all lost when it is replaced.  I don’t have time to watch that much TV but when I do sit down to watch a program it’s nice to find a movie in the DVR I’ve saved for just such an occasion. Having hooked up the wireless connection allows for a lot more choices available so perhaps this will be a great change! Ahhh, the rainbow in the torrential downpour.

My mother called as I was typing with one of many daily “culinary questions”. I never mind the interruption. Some day I will not be able to pick up a phone and hear her voice on the other end, so consider a pleasure (most days anyway) to speak to her when I’m available.  Aside from how long her tortellini soup would last once prepared, she shared with me her cat, Susie, had left the remainder of her lunch on Mother’s pillow. This was something I could easily have finished my day without knowing. I’m just sayin. Once the descriptive phase of the conversation was over Mother concluded by saying, “I don’t like it when she does that.” I pointed out most likely the cat didn’t wake up from her nap and come up with a devious plan to ruin Mother’s afternoon. More likely all the treats my mom insists on giving her when she begs upset the animal’s stomach. Ah well, those treats are not a problem any more.

This garlic cheese bread is the best. Someone gave me a similar recipe a while back at a get together and I took it and ran with it. It’s easy, impressive, and absolutely addictive!

Easy Cheesy Garlic Bread

1 loaf sliced sourdough cheese bread

1 cup Italian blend cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
1/2 cup chives, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place bread on piece of tin foil large enough to fold up around the sides leaving the top of the loaf exposed.


Mix cheeses together in small mixing bowl. Sprinkle cheese over top of bread, opening each slice and sprinkling cheese in between each piece.

Melt butter together with garlic and chives in microwave for 1 min. or until completely melted. Pour over the top of the bread. Cover top with tin foil. Bake for 15 mins. Remove cover and continue baking 20 mins.

Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

I have a friend with an adult child going through some legal problems. After speaking to her at some length last week, I was reminded of an experience I had about fifteen years ago with another friend going through a similar situation. Her son, just legal age, was in jail for possession of drug paraphernalia. Struggling through high school with his addiction, this was not a new situation for the family. Actually his arrest was by way of a relief because at least if he was behind bars he wouldn’t be using. At least, I believe that’s how our penal system is supposed to function. As with many government agencies and officials, what they’re supposed to be doing and what they’re actually doing are often totally different programs. From what I was told later he managed to locate a supplier inside the jail eliminating the need to shop elsewhere for his drugs. How terribly convenient.

At any rate my friend needing moral support her husband washing his hands of the whole matter, asked if I would accompany her to her first jail visit with her son. Let me preface this by saying being “locked up”, if you will, would be the worst imaginable punishment for me. Besides being totally claustrophobic, from what I’ve heard the people you’d be cohabiting with most possibly wouldn’t have your best interests in mind. I’m a lover not a fighter and I’m sure they’d see powder puff scribbled across my forehead before I’d changed into my orange jumpsuit. Much against my better judgment, I signed up to go with her. You don’t let a friend face a crisis alone simply because you have feathers and a beak. The following Friday she picked me up an hour prior to visiting hours. On the trip she explained what would happen when we got there so we’d have some idea of what to expect. Words like hoosegow, club fed, big house, slammer, and the joint kept floating through my mind. Palms sweating I could picture a warden with a southern drawl telling me “what we have here a failure to communicate”, while shooting a perfect bullseye of chewing tobacco into the spittoon next to his desk.

The jail itself was composed of a number of drab buildings made ominous by being surrounded on all sides by a peripheral gate with barbed wire strung along the top. Guard towers rose above the roofs of the buildings and armed guards could be seen moving behind the glass. Oh-oh. We followed the arrows towards the main lobby. Inside we found four uniformed officers and about twenty people either seated along the wall or standing talking to one another. Some of the women, to reference an old southern quote, looked to have been “rode hard and put up wet”. Life had obviously weighed hard on them and I had a feeling this wasn’t the first time they’d found themselves sitting on the hard lobby benches. Heavy makeup, low cut tee’s and full body tattoos seemed to be the dress of the day. Obviously we hadn’t gotten the memo. We stood out like a red dress in a convent. At the counter we had to fill out some paperwork and show identification. At the visiting time we were instructed to put our belongings in a tray and walk through the metal detector before entering the interior room. Perhaps this was in case we were “carrying”. How exciting. The only thing I was carrying was a tin of Altoids, my wallet, a lipstick and my hair brush. I suppose I could have used the hair brush as a weapon, or perhaps threatened to make them eat the entire box of Altoids at one sitting temporarily reducing their air flow. At any rate, we waited with the others trying not to establish eye contact with anyone. Silently I was wishing I’d worn my “Born to Be Bad” sweatshirt I’d gotten at the Runaways concert. Who knew?

A guard announced it was visiting time and we lined up as told. My friend and I lingered towards the back trying to go unnoticed. One by one people were scanned and passed through the waiting room. I placed my items in the tray and walked under the frame of the metal detector. Lights blinked and buzzers sounded. Everybody turned to look at me. What? It’s a hair brush I swear. Next they pulled me to one side and the wand was waved over me so many times I thought perhaps the pumpkin had turned into a carriage and my prince was waiting outside the palace for me. Removing everything but my clothing and skin, still the buzzers went off.

Finally, unable to proceed a matron, easily over six feet with a pony tail so tight she appeared to be wearing a perpetual grin, escorted me to a side room and closed the door. I was asked to remove my shirt. At this juncture I began looking for an available escape route. One more scan of my upper torso confirmed the suspicion, not voiced to me, the under wire in my bra was setting off the machine. Really? Just as a thought, perhaps you could have asked me if I was wearing such an item prior to asking me to disrobe. Aside from that I couldn’t believe I was the only female in the entire group with an under wire? Leave it to me. I should have read up on prison chic. When I came out with the woman buttoning my shirt I couldn’t have gotten more attention if I’d been wearing a pig on my head. All eyes turned in my direction. Explaining the situation to my friend she started laughing and continued to laugh through the entire visit with her son. Very un-friendlike behavior if you ask me.

Determining I wasn’t the criminal mastermind they’d originally suspected me to be, I was let in with the others to the meeting room. Shortly the prisoners arrived making their way towards familiar faces, with my friends son waving at us. At one table a man and woman were making out on such a level that a guard came over and separated them with his baton. For the most part though the conversation was low, occasionally accented with laughter and once an argument broke out between a man and his lady necessitating her removal from the area. I kept my head low and listened to the exchange between my friend and her son. He needed money, she said she would leave some for him. Much the same conversation that landed him there in the first place I would guess.

So, that was my close call with incarceration. I was so glad to get outside and in the car. For sure, I’m not destined for a life of crime, aside from the fact I seem to have the look for it.

My other half asked me to experiment with Kataifi, basically shredded filo dough. Having never used it before it was indeed an experiment. It wasn’t as beautiful perhaps as it could have been but the end result was gooey and delicious and how interesting it looked on the plate. Going to try it again to make birds nests on Easter. Yum. I couldn’t find the dough locally but as with most things, I found it on Amazon.

IMG_5941Kataifi me Amigthala

1 lb. Kataifi dough (thawed for 2 hours on counter)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup ground walnuts
2 cups ground almonds
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 Tbsp. brandy
1 egg white
2 cups water
2 cups caster sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice
2″ lemon rind strip
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp. honey

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Mix nuts with 1/2 cup caster sugar, 1 tsp. ground cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp. ground in medium mixing bowl. Note: If you can’t find caster sugar, place sugar in food processor and pulse until fine consistency. Add brandy and lightly mixed egg white to nut mixture. Mix well to form a paste.


Separate into eight portions. Roll each portion into cigar shapes about 7″ long.


Spray a cookie sheet generously with cooking spray.

Lay out pastry strands lengthwise. Taking 1/8 of the strands at a time lay them out in front of you close together facing away from you lengthwise. Brush with melted butter. Place 1 cigar shaped nut piece on the end closest to you and roll up as tightly a possible. Place on cooking sheet. Repeat with remaining pieces.



Once all rolls are on baking sheet brush again with melted butter. Place in oven and bake until golden brown, about 55 mins.


While rolls are baking place 2 cups water in medium saucepan. Add 2 cups caster sugar and mix well. Stirring constantly over low heat cook until sugar is dissolved. Add lemon juice, lemon rind, 1/8 tsp. ground cloves, and 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon to mixture. Bring to boil over med. heat and continue boiling for 10 mins. Remove from heat and add 1 Tbsp. honey. Allow to cool completely.

Immediately on taking browned rolls out of oven pour cooled mixture over top. Allow to cool completely then cut each roll into four pieces.

Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

I’ve been quiet for a week, at least on my blog, to help my mother celebrate her birthday. An impressive number of candles were lit on her behalf to mark the occasion. The exact count, when all was said and done, I cannot reveal as she had me sign a non-disclosure form the day I could write my name. Mum has lied about her age for so many years I believe for a period of time in the 80′s I was actually older than she was. Twenty-nine cards arrived from friends and family. Each year she counts her haul and saves every one. I’m thinking of submitting her name to Hoarders, the Greeting Card Episode. One party after another was hosted on her behalf. If she milks this right she could still be celebrating when the next one rolls around.

As usual my mother continues to amaze me. The woman drives like a teenager, not necessarily a good thing, recently resulting in a speeding ticket. Although not a feat worthy of a pat on the back, if you factor in her time on the earth it’s somewhat impressive. As a family we keep an eye on her driving skills from visit to visit. Nothing significant indicating slowing of her reflexes or any glaring reason for considering alternate means of transportation has shown up as yet. There isn’t a day that passes I’m not thankful for her apparent tapping into the Fountain of Youth. I have many friends in less enviable situations with their aging parents and can imagine it can be extremely difficult for both sides involved.

On her birthday day we gathered at her favorite Mexican restaurant for a celebratory Cadillac margarita or two and some fabulous flour tortilla crab enchiladas, a specialty of the house. Presents in the center of the table tipped off the waitress to a birthday in our midst so once the dishes were cleared a group circled the table presenting my mother with a dessert with a candle in it. One waiter predominated, obviously of Italian descent once he began to sing. He belted out “”Happy Ada Berday, toa youa” in such a rich, and incredibly loud baritone my mother had to take her hearing aids out.

Outside my window snow is falling. I know. I pulled out the calendar to reassure myself we were, in fact, on the page marked April with 1the colorful picture of all the lovely spring flowers on top. Hmmmm. Today they predict more snow flurries, thunderstorms, and possibly a tornado or two just to keep it interesting. With the lower half of the state returning items to their shelves after the large quake and myriad of aftershocks, California is a rockin place to be at the moment. All we need are some flying monkeys for effect.

Scientists are saying we should get used to extreme bouts of weather or strange weather patterns. I’d say if this year and last are any indication of what’s to come, we’re in for some interesting years ahead. Today I am tucked inside with the windows between me and the beautiful snow falling but tomorrow is a volunteer day for me so I’ll be aiming the car up the steep driveway and crossing my fingers I’ll go up and not come back down. Life is nothing if not interesting.

Being shut in for the day will give me a chance to tackle my backed up pile of paperwork before it spreads it’s ever growing roots along the countertops until it consumes all life below. For me the perfect horror film scenario would be to be trapped in a huge warehouse filled to the brim with nothing but old mail, magazines and catalogs with a huge mail slot continually feeding in new envelopes. Now that would be terrifying. We shred, shred, shred and yet the pile continues to grow. I’ve signed up on line for automatic bill pay and yet still the number of envelopes I find in the mailbox every day don’t seem to be dwindling significantly. With the price of stamps increasing before the ink has dried on the latest edition, pretty soon it will be cheaper to drive mail to its destination rather than placing it in the mailbox.

Speaking of horror films, or mail, or whatever I was speaking about. Help me out here. Were you listening? Horror films, that was it. The first scary movie I saw was Frankenstein when I was nine. Unable to look away from the screen but needing to lest I wet my pants, I peeked through slightly open fingers as the monster terrorized the village. After that I was hooked. To this day, however, when watching a particularly terrifying scene I still view it through my fingers just in case. For myself, I’m not a fan of slasher movies or anything involving a chain saw. Nightmare on Elm Street gave me, well, nightmares, so I never watched any of the sequels nor did I continue on with the guy in the goalie mask after the first movie came out. All the Hitchcock films captured my full attention, and still seeing a line of birds perched on a telephone wire gives me pause for thought. Stephen King, one of my favorite writers of his genre, provided me with several sleepness nights being pursued by demonic clowns after watching It, and Pet Cemetary, to be literal, scared me to death. I’ve seen every Alien movie and will still sit chewing on the edge of my throw if one appears on the TV schedule over the weekend. The words “Here’s Johnny”, bring to mind Jack Nicholson’s maniacal grin at the bathroom door, and snow on the TV, not possible these days, would remind me of Carol Anne saying “They’re here”, in Poltergeist. The worst of the lot for me were the really gruesome variety such as Pumpkinhead, the 13th Floor, and Hellraisers which I thought I’d have to have erased from my memory banks via electric shock therapy.

I do love to scared, it’s true. Much like life, in a good horror flick you never know what’s going to turn up around the next corner. Smile.

This is great recipe if you have leftover crepes from Sunday brunch. I often make the crepes ahead of time and store in the refrigerator with wax paper in between to eliminate that step the day I make the dish.

Crespelle Ripiene (Stuffed Crepes) with Zucchini Pepperoni Sauce


1 1/2 cups 2% milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 large eggs
3 Tbsp. butter, melted

Place all ingredients but 3 Tbsp. of butter in food processor. Blend until smooth.

Heat large non-stick skillet over high heat. Use additional 3 Tbsp. melted butter to brush skillet between each crepe. Pour 1/2 cup of batter in center of skillet and swirl quickly and turn to spread a thin layer on bottom of pan.


Cook until golden brown, about 1 min. on each side until you have 6 crepes. Stack until ready to use.



13 oz. Ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Mozzarella cheese, grated
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
3 Tbsp. freshly chopped parsley

Mix all ingredients together and set aside.


Zucchini Pepperoni Sauce

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium zucchini, small cubed
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. marjoram
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 cup water
2 Tbsp. freshly chopped parsley
10 slices pepperoni
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat olive oil in large deep skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, about 5 mins. Add garlic and cook for 1 min.


Add zucchini and cook for 5 mins.


Add tomatoes, basil, marjoram, salt, pepper, bay leaves, sugar and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 40 mins. or until sauce has reduced and thickened.


Meanwhile line baking sheet with tin foil. Spread out pepperoni and place in oven for 6 mins. Cut in quarters.


Add to sauce at end with 2 Tbsp. parsley and cook an additional 5 mins.

To assemble:

Place 1 1/2 Tbsp. on top of each crepe. Fold in half.


Then fold in quarters.


Line crepes in shallow baking dish. Top with sauce. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp. olive oil and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Bake for 25 mins.

Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

My mother is having a birthday. As she puts it she’s not fond of birthdays, but prefers them to the alternative. Each year I try to come up with something creative for someone who has covered most of the bases over the years already. Being the “only chick”, the onus is on me to make her birthday special and hopefully memorable. One year, waaaaaaay back, living out of state I forgot. What living out of state has to do with it I’m not sure, but I threw it in by way of a defense. This has never been forgotten, or repeated, especially since it’s never been forgotten.

With our clan continuing to expand, remembering all the birthdays requires a “birthday calendar”, and making sure no one feels slighted a financial consultant. With groceries, gas, and general living expenses on the rise I have had to lower their expectations when they find a card with my handwriting in the mail, because finances simply can’t handle the traffic anymore. At one time everyone got a piece of the pie, but between Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, not to mention the heavy hitters like birthdays and Christmas, it can get out of hand pretty quickly. Aside from the cost involved in keeping up, picking out the perfect gift isn’t easy anymore. It used to be a doll or a game would suffice but now it has to be interactive and most likely expensive.

I consider myself so fortunate to have had my mother with me throughout my journey. Certainly she has stuck with me through the worst and best of it. Being my biggest fan she’s watched me walk down the aisle four times each time holding out equal optimism for the results. Go team Mom! Somehow we struggled through my teenage years without inflicting personal injury one another, a feat looking back I consider short of a miracle. Being an only child can be a bit daunting at times. It falls on you to pull the wagon, and if it goes off the road there is no one else to point a finger at. Certainly on the plus side all the attention comes in your direction without other siblings involved. The spotlight steadily shining on you can be both good and bad, especially if you’re trying to get away with something. A side effect might be a selfish bent if spoiled, as sharing is not a word you learn much about until you reach adulthood with the full share of your parents love and devotion piled solely upon your person. I was given lots of love, but was taught responsibility and had to earn my way to things my heart desired. Being an only encourages an independent nature, often making it easier to entertain oneself when the need arises. I have many friends with multiple siblings, who simply don’t know what to do with themselves when left to their own devices. Conversely, I find alone time a happy place on many occasions, giving rise to deep thought and creativity.

At fourteen, when my mother remarried, I was handed a stepfather with my piece of white cake with raspberry cream filling, and a stepbrother. I would have preferred a scoop of ice cream. Adjusting to the new men in my life was a process fraught with ripples, and I certainly didn’t calm the waters. Up until then I’d been doing just fine on my own, and suddenly every other weekend, holidays, and summers I had a tussle headed shadow at my heels I hadn’t signed up for.

Mike was two years younger than I, and for some unknown reason thought the sun rose and set on my sorry behind. To me, he was like an annoying bee circling my piece of watermelon. I was a teenager with lots of friends, and having a little brother tagging along wasn’t number one on my list. “Take Mike with you, Honey”, became the mantra around our house.

The first year as a new family was a rocky one. Slowly but surely I came to accept the annoying little bee around my watermelon, and came to find a certain protective feeling rising in me. Mike was a latchkey kid, much like myself, from a broken family, much like myself. His mother was a lady with a huge head of unnaturally bright red hair and a penchant for Boone’s Farm Tickle Pink Wine. I remember this only because when visiting their house to pick up my stepbrother, the empty bottles were displayed all over the living room having been put into use as flower vases, candle holders, and herb gardens. Amazing. In comparison to my stepfather who stood well over six feet, his ex was a short woman as wide as she was tall. Professing to have an hour glass figure, she was prone to wearing waist pinching belts moving what was gathered there either flowing up and over the top or oozing out below. A non-stop talker, her bright crimson lips entertained a perpetual wagging cigarette, and she smelled, as I remember, quite strongly of Evening in Paris perfume. The house itself was hippie chic. Love beads dangled from the doors and incense burned in a pot by a stereo usually blaring the latest Stone’s hit. Laundry hung everywhere. In order to sit it was necessary to remove something covering the furniture to locate a spot. In comparison to the chaos in the rest of the house, the kitchen was pristine, as it was rarely used. According to Mike his mother had never used a pot, at least in the conventional sense. I think he enjoyed coming to our house because my mother loved to cook, our cupboards were always full, and immaculate, you could eat off her floor on any given day.

As the years passed we became the best of friends, siblings really. We fought like brothers and sisters will, and made up. Schemes were plotted and sentences enforced when things went wrong. I got used to having him around and came to like having a brother. At eighteen with the war in full swing in Viet Nam, my stepfather bought him a food truck. Mike threw himself enthusiastically into his new business, having a knack for cooking and natural head for numbers and promoting himself. With his name moving up the list to be called to service always lingering in the back of his mind, he was easy prey for the disciples of a religious cult building strength in numbers in the area. Before long they wrapped their beliefs around him as tightly as a boa constrictor might a gazelle. The food truck was found abandoned by the side of the street in Los Angeles one night. Searching for months we found him in a building outside of San Francisco. Our only contact was to speak to him from the sidewalk while he leaned out of a window on the third floor. The next time I heard from him I had two children and he was farming in New Zealand. After that the trail went cold. I often wonder where he is today. I’ve tried searching from time to time but without much luck. His name is in my birthday book, perhaps someday I’ll know where to send his card.

This burger was too juicy and yummy. I ate it right down to the ground.

Torta Burger with Picante Sauce

2 lbs. ground chuck
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
6 slices cheddar cheese
1 cup iceberg lettuce, chopped
1 large tomato, sliced
6 Bolillo Buns
Red onion

Crumble meat in large bowl. Add Worcestershire sauce. Mix seasonings together and sprinkle over meat. Mix together with fingertips until well blended. Make into 6 oblong patties. Barbecue, broil or cook meat on stove top to desired cooking level. Add cheese at end to melt.

Slice buns in half and slather both cut sides with sauce. Top with meat, lettuce and tomato. Add garnishes as desired.

Picante Sauce

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
2 tsp. key lime juice
2 Tbsp. chopped green chiles
2/3 cup Pace Picante Sauce (I used hot)
Salt and pepper

Mix together all ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Yesterday while in the doctor’s office the doctor, who I had never met before, asked me what I preferred to be called. Let’s see, intelligent, funny, perhaps attractive would be nice. Oh, if you mean my name, Susie works well. Looking up over the thick black rims of his reading glasses he said, “really?”, as though I’d asked him to call me Desdemona Lemongrass. What’s wrong with Susie? It’s a perfectly good name. It originally belonged to my great-grandmother and she did very well with it, thank you. If Susie is the strangest name he’s heard lately he hasn’t been watching the news. Kate Winslet recently dubbed her new baby boy Bear Blaze. Now that deserves a “really?” Bear Blaze? Moon Unit and Dweezil weren’t punishment enough? Jessica Simpson called her son Ace Knute with Gwyneth Paltrow naming her little angel Apple. Beyonce chose Blue Ivy as the perfect name for her daughter. At least she could have gotten the color right.

Names, I believe, are important. They follow us throughout our lives and often help shape who we are. Once I read about a women in a maternity ward naming her infant daughter, Private (pronounced pre-vaah-tee). This, because she couldn’t think of a name so used the word on the sign over the door across the hall from her in the hospital as a guide. PRIVATE. Nice. What’s next, Cafeteria or Radiology?

In high school I learned history (or at least attended the class) in the seat behind Robin Hood (a girl), and briefly dated John Johann Johnson, who we simply referred to as J.J. Thinking back it should have been, J.J.J. Charlie Chaplain was the drum major in my Junior year, and if being in the band wasn’t enough of a social gaffe, his name was an endless source of ridicule. Fortunately Charlie went on to graduate from medical school and a successful career in gynecology. Sometimes names hinder a person in business. I was once referred to a surgeon with the last name of Hamburger. Most likely this was linked to German heritage, but in his profession I can imagine it’s not a plus.

When I was a dental assistant, there was a dentist listed on the local roster of dentists by the name of Dr. Sugar. Hmmm. This could be a good or a bad thing depending on your point of view. Once in his office to deliver some films I noticed there were bowls of candy strategically placed in the office. Obviously drumming up new business.

I babysat as a kid for Harry Orange and his wife Ann Orange. He fit the description to a tee, being a rotund man blessed with his and someone elses share of body hair all the color of a ripe persimmon. Someone was thinking ahead when he came into the world. At fifteen I painted a local bakery’s windows for Halloween, appropriately given a check for the job from Mr. Baker, the appropriate owner of the establishment.

Pregnant with my daughter, we searched, argued, debated, and changed our mind about names right up until I entered the delivery room. Muriel, my grandmother’s name, was suggested by my parents. I adored my grandmother, a wonderful woman by anyones standards, but wasn’t it enough she had to go through he life with that moniker, did we have to repeat the mistake? Being Susan, which was shortened to Sue, Susie, Suzy, Sus or lengthened to Suzanne, Susie-Q, and God knows what else, I wanted a name which couldn’t be cut off at the knees. In the end, Heather came to live at our house, shortly known at Heath. Sigh.

All this came to mind because of a young lady working behind the counter at Target the other day wearing a name tag reading, Shy-low. I couldn’t help but inquire about the origin of the name. She explained it was a version of Shiloh. I didn’t have the heart to explain I’d gotten that far in the riddle prior to asking the questions. Her mother, it seemed, wanted to add some originality to the original. Success was definitely achieved.

There are some odd ones circulating at the moment, Crispian, for example. Sounds like a snack cracker. Breezy, for a girl’s name brings to mind fabric softener or perhaps a light-headed girl, and I do not mean hair color. Names come and go, I would suppose. You don’t see many Ethyl’s or Gladys’ these days, and I can’t remember the last time a man introduced himself to me as Harvey or Stanley.

It’s good to infuse some new names into the mix for a little variety perhaps. I do wish they’d at least spell them so we could pronounce them, however. My second husband’s last name was Smallwood, which became mine once I said I do. For the years we were married I was constantly asked to spell it. Our realtor’s name was spelled Rene, but pronounced Rainey. I had to write it phonetically on a piece of paper before I went in the office. When living in the southern states, I met many people with two first names like Billy Bob, Mary Lou, etc. Our insurance agent was Bobby Ray something or other, and never went by Bobby that I knew off. Once a month Ina Mae performed wonders on my hair, and our neighbor Patsy Jane, in Alabama, stopped by often for coffee and a bit of gossip.

So it remains a quandary what to name our offspring. Not for me, of course, I’ve done my damage. If I was to do it again, I’d believe I’d go for something original like Rhino or Topaz. Perhaps if I come around again, I’ll spend some time writing some ideas down so I don’t end up with Private or something as plebian as John.

Anyhow, food for thought on this glorious spring day. This is my last salute to my leftover corned beef. It was really good with the bit of hot in the topping.

Corned Beef Colcannon Soup

3 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup dry pearled barley
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
4 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
8 cups beef stock
3 cups cooked corned beef, diced
3 slices cooked crisp bacon, crumbled
4 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 bay leaves
1 sprig fresh thyme
4 cups packed fresh spinach


1/2 mayonnaise
1/2 sour cream
1 Tbsp. prepared horseradish
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. dried thyme
Salt and pepper

In large saucepan boil water over high heat. Stir in barley and mushrooms. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 45 mins. Drain reserving all liquid. Set aside.

Place onion, carrots, and celery, and garlic cut in chunks in food processor.


Pulse until chopped.


Melt butter in stockpot over high heat. Add minced vegetables and tomato paste to pan.

IMG_5817 - Copy

Cook until liquid disappears. Deglaze with wine an continue cooking until wine is nearly evaporated.


Add reserved stock, corned beef, potatoes, bay leaves, and sprig of thyme. Lower heat to simmer and cook for 15 mins. or until potatoes are fork tender. Stir in barley and spinach. Continue cooking for 10 mins. Remove bay leaves and thyme sprig. Adjust seasonings if needed.

For topping combine all ingredients. Serve in dollops on top of soup.

Serves 8-10


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