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1

I spent a good part of yesterday sitting in the doctor’s office. Well, lying down in the doctor’s office, to be more accurate. In my usual accident prone way I managed to take what should have been a quick look out the front door at a couple of baby deer and stretch it into a major production. Rick knocked on the living room window pointing toward the door. Opening it slightly to see what he needed I was to look to my left. Two very tiny deer were making short work of some recently liberated shoots on my azalea bush. So tiny and dear, or deer, whatever the case, I couldn’t bring myself to be too angry even if they were consuming my landscaping. We stood and watched them for a bit until mother came and moved them along to the next yard. Turning to go back inside, I absently ran my hand down the side of the door. Apparently, there was a long splinter of wood looking for a hand to insert itself in. Mine proved to be the perfect host. Wow, that hurt. Totally surprised to find myself in pain trying to close the door, I was even more surprised to see a large piece of it protruding from my palm.

Rick totally freaked out, letting loose of Lecture 47 from his 2014 Lecture Series on why I need to watch what I’m doing lest I do not make it to my next birthday. Directing his attention to my now throbbing hand, he pulled the spear out leaving half still imbedded beneath my skin. OW! Damn, I’m sure that’s not how that was supposed to go. Remind me not to frequent this facility again.

For a person who loathes going to the doctor, I seem to be spending a lot of time there of late. Deciding to ignore the problem and see if the splinter fairy might appear during the night and remove it, I went to bed. Disappointingly in the morning the offending object was still in place and my hand was starting to look upset about the situation. Reluctantly I put a call into my doctor. No same day appointments were available. What do people do anymore when they’re sick? I do suppose my splinter wasn’t exactly the highest priority on their patient list. The receptionist suggested I go to the urgent care clinic down the road from them.

Going to a new doctor’s office is, if possible, more annoying than going to one already familiar with your frailties. A book of paperwork is handed to you on a clipboard and you’re asked to recall your medical history, your families medical history, your allergies, surgeries, affairs, positions you’ve been fired from, and recent felony convictions. By the time you’re done they have more information on you than your mother is privy to.

Urgent care is done on a walk-in basis. A good rule of thumb on figuring how long you’ll be there is to count the heads sitting in the lobby as you enter. Figure at least 15-20 minutes apiece and that is approximately how long you’ll be reading your book before hearing your name called by a nurse. Five people in front of me and two hours later, I was shown to an examination room.

The staff was a lovely group, all very friendly and welcoming. They have such cute scrubs these days. When I was a dental assistant they were white and quite unattractive. They’d just begun to show some colorful uniforms with designs before I left the field.

Shortly, the doctor came in. Ladies I must admit the splinter was worth the floor show. If all doctors looked like this gentleman, the wait would be 6-8 hours minimum. Smile. As nice as he was attractive he said he would have to remove the splinter and give me a tetanus shot. Oh goody.

A nurse followed with enough equipment to do a set up for a heart transplant. It’s a splinter. I don’t need a set-up really. A pair of pliers should suffice. She explained they’d have to numb the area and then perform the removal in a sterile environment lest I contract an infection. Looking for an exit, Dr. Eye Candy returned. Gently taking my hand in his gave me an injection directly in heart of my palm. He became far less attractive as the syringe depressed. With all the advances in technology couldn’t they either knock you out for absolutely everything, or invent something that numbs the area by simply hovering above the spot? Someone get to work on this.

After some maneuvering the splinter came out. Life is good. The doctor told me to hang tight until the nurse came with the tetanus booster and to bandage my hand. Left alone in a prone position with a long week behind me my eyes closed. About an hour and a half later I was awakened by a nurse who was apologizing for forgetting me. Apparently everybody had gone to lunch and left me on the table. That’s fine. I had an excellent nap. I suggested they install a mini-bar for such occasions as I was hungry and was offered a delicious blueberry muffin before being sent on my way.  On the way out I noticed the office plants were doing very well. Always a good sign according to Erma.

So, I have a big bandage for a small incision, and thankfully medical insurance because I’m sure all that prep came dearly. Another day in the life.

In an effort to keep frying at a minimum, I created this delicious alternative to stove top prepared home fries.

Oven Baked Home Fries

3 large red potatoes, sliced in 1/2″ slices
2 medium onions, sliced thin
4 thin slices red bell pepper
4 thin slices green bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. dried basil
1 Tbsp. parsley flakes
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 cup Mexican style cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spray 9″ square pan with cooking spray. Place all ingredients but cheese in large bowl. Cover and toss well to coat.

Line in three rows in pan alternating vegetables as you go.

IMG_6529 - Copy

Seal tightly with tin foil. Bake for 30 mins. Remove cover. Increase oven temperature to 450 degrees. Bake for 20 mins. Remove from oven and sprinkle cheese over top. Return to oven for 10 mins. or until cheese is melted.

Add additional salt and pepper as desired.

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1

It’s hard to believe it’s time for kids to go back to school. It seems to happen more quickly then when I was hitting the books. From what I understand this is due to more in-session time off due to teacher conferences and the like. As much as I looked forward to summer vacation as a kid, I believe my parents anticipated the resumption of school with equal enthusiasm.

There was a news item yesterday about a young boy, seven I believe, whose parents allow him to stay home by himself for short periods time as a form of exercising his independence. Seven seems young to a lot of people, certainly it would have to my parents. Being a latchkey kid, both my parents worked outside of the home.  Up until sixth grade this required hiring somebody during the summer months to keep me from giving in to my own inner demons and getting in a pile of kid-type trouble. The summer between fourth and fifth grade we resided in Southern California. After interviewing several applicants, Hilde, a German immigrant, was engaged for the position. Hilde’s personality would have served her well on a chain gain.  She encouraged no insubordination, and when confronted with bad behavior didn’t hesitate to get the wooden spoon out of the drawer and threaten to use it. Never during that three months we shared together did she actually use the spoon, but I wasn’t fully convinced she wouldn’t, which made it equally as effective.

Food usually being my main concern, that summer it became more so. Hilde leaned towards her German ancestry when it came to food.  Many of the foods appearing on my lunch menu I’d never seen before. Growing up in Nova Scotia there wasn’t a lot of knackwurst included in my diet. Perhaps I couldn’t pronounce what I was eating, but I learned to love the flavors and tastes she added to my relatively limited palette at that time in my life. Knodel, or German dumplings, ranked among my favorites. Bratkartoffeln, fried potatoes and onion with side meat was wonderful as well, although occasionally it was served atop a large piece of fried liver which sent me screaming from the room.

Hilde loved American television. Once I had been fed, she would sit before the television and watch All My Children while eating her lunch. A woman equally as tall as she was wide, she enjoyed her food and didn’t subscribe to thin American women, who she viewed with open suspicion. Lunch for Hilde consisted of huge slabs of bread filled with liverwurst or a bratwurst slathered with hot mustard. German potato salad or a side of sauerkraut usually accompanied the meal washed down with a large glass of German beer. Several times she tried to insinuate liverwurst into my diet, but I remained then and now immune to the siren song of the organ meat.

Each day after lunch Hilde tied on her hat and we went for a brisk walk. We probably logged in a mile or two out and back on these expeditions keeping me from packing on the poundage with all the delicious streudels and the like paraded past my overzealous eyes while she was keeping an eye on me.

In the evenings when my parents arrived, Hilde straddled her bicycle and pedaled the five miles in between our house and hers. She had never owned a car she told me. Didn’t want one. In her small village, the name of which left me years ago, cars were a luxury few but the rich could afford. Coming from a farming family, she was not a fancy human being. Clothing was chosen for functionality rather than fashion, and her thick shoes sensible if definitely not eye catching. Never married, at least up until that time, and with all her “people” in the old country, I felt she might have been glad for my company that summer.

My mother, a slave to fashion, felt Hilde needed some sprucing up to catch a man. Mother felt every woman should have one, Hilde being no exception. Asking her to stay on one evening beyond her usual quitting time, Mother did Hilde’s hair. Having nothing in her own closet close to the appropriate size she suggested a shopping spree one weekend to help Hilde select some more up-to-date styles for her closet. The tight buns and coiled braids I’d come to identify with Hilde were soon replaced with a softer look and before long she began to hum when making lunch in the kitchen.

I saw Hilde on many occasions after school reconvened that year, the most memorable being her wedding. Ours being the only “family” she had in the States we were there for moral support, or so my mother told my step-father. The groom, a man also as wide as he was tall, was also of German descent and called me “Leibling” at the reception. I wanted to tell him my name was Susie, but my mother pinched me and nodded her head so I kept my mouth shut.

Hilde comes to mind as school reconvenes every year. She gave me an introduction to delicious German cuisine I wouldn’t otherwise have had and a look into a culture that is also included in my family tree.

This chilled soup is quick to assemble and oh so refreshingly good.

Avocado and Cucumber Soup

1 large avocado, seeded and peeled
1 English cucumber
1/2 cup sour cream
1/16 tsp. onion powder
Generous pinch cayenne pepper
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp. chopped chives
1 1/4 cups chicken broth

Cut avocado in quarters and place in bottom of food processor. Peel cucumber and cut in half lengthwise. Use spoon to scoop out seeds. Cut each half in half again and place in food processor. Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth.

Serve cod topped with chopped chives.

Serves 4.

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1Did you hear about the man who sat on hold with the cable company for three and half hours only to find out they’d closed? Ah, customer service at its best. There’s another story circulating about yet another guy who was totally bullied by a cable company representative while attempting to close his account and go with another cable provider. I had a similar experience with Social Security. I was on hold so long I finally put the phone on speaker and went about my day. After about an hour and a half I discovered the office had closed leaving only the recorded music to keep me company.

I think of this because I found myself once again standing in line at one of the major markets in the area yesterday trying to check out 15 items or less. It was some sort of special Friday in the store so there were more people milling about the aisles then is usual. Along the front of the store is a line of about a dozen or more check out lanes, two of which had their light’s lit. Shoppers were backed up five to a lane and the grumbling had begun by the time I pushed my cart behind several others in line. Besides the items I had just placed in the cart I was returning a bottle of orange juice purchased two days prior. The use by date I noticed after getting it home was over thirty days out of date. My other half is constantly pushing me to check dates before loading an item in the cart but as I actually have a full life there isn’t always time to inspect every item. If this is my job, then I’ll look forward to getting paycheck sometime in the near future with the grocery store label printed on the top. Since the price of everything has gone up so dramatically I make it a point to return out of date or bad goods and exchange them or get my money back. Five dollar is five dollars. Since I don’t seem to be able to exit the market under $100, every little bit helps. I pointed out to the clerk that the entire supply of this brand of juice had the same date printed on it. He looked at me with the same enthusiasm he might show his wife if she announced her mother was moving into the spare room. Fine.

Cleaning products were on my list. They all seem to run out at the same time. My mother is coming up in September so it’s time to actually move the furniture and clean underneath it rather than flit around it and pretend I did. Rick is taking the cat and going to a hotel. It drives him straight up the wall when I do this. He informed me it is most annoying to have someone rushing about dragging a vacuum hose and spraying noxious sprays around his head. Not to burst his bubble but if you are to clean the house, you have to CLEAN THE HOUSE.  Believe me if a way to could be found to circumvent the actual cleaning process and do something more fulfilling a woman would have invented it by now.  He has an annoying habit or two himself, but I shall refrain from starting a list. After fourteen years together we accept that neither of us is perfect. Expectations carried into the relationship early on have long since been tossed out the window replaced by more realistic ones now in place.

I come from a long line of clean women. My maternal grandmother was up with the roosters at 6:00 a.m. every morning. Breakfast was eaten and the first cup of tea poured by 7:00. By 7:30 the breakfast dishes were washed and drying in the faded wooden dish rack. A slim woman by any standards, Gammy, as we grandchildren referred to her, wasn’t one to spend a lot of effort on breakfast during the week days. A prolific baker, several slices of her scrumptious homemade wheat bread usually found their way to her plate. Lightly toasted, the buttery slices were spread with tangy orange or lime marmalade from her pantry. Fruit always plentiful at our table, this might by a crisp rosy apple with a piece of ripe cheddar cheese. A bit of a clothes horse, as is my mother, my grandmother had a closet full of lovely outfits to choose from if going out for the day. When home on cleaning days, however, house dresses designed purely for function rather than looks, went on over underclothes. The dresses were designed for the express purpose of comfort and disposability easily replaced if soiled. They came in a variety of patterns printed on cotton. Some were covered with tea pots, others chickens, or apples, most faded from frequent trips to the washing machine. The tubular gowns started at the shoulders and dropped straight down to just below the knee. Snaps were sewn in at the appropriate spots for easy on and off maneuvering. Certainly they were not designed with attracting anything but dust if memory serves me. As a girl, I can picture my grandmother feather duster in hand making short work of the silty layers gathered on the myriad of knickknacks perfect as a gathering spot. Mementos of her life and those who came before her were scattered liberally throughout the old family home. Many of these have since come to live in my house and I too spend much time keeping the dust as bay with equal love and concern.

As with the women before me in my family I do most of the housework. Time Magazine, I think it was, did a study on this a while back. According to the results men have stepped up in this regard but still can’t catch up to their female counterparts when it comes to helping out around the house or tending to their offspring. I think men wrote the book on this subject back in the beginning and weren’t all that disappointed about how the story went. As with the old southern expression, “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke”. My ex often commented “I’d rather take a beating then do dishes”. Hmmmm. Never mind. Once after I had surgery on my toe he used the vacuum. I took a picture, blew it up, and framed it. It hung on our den wall for the duration of our marriage as I knew it wasn’t likely I’d ever see such a phenomenon again. Both my children went on to marry spouses who pitch in and help carry the load at home so things are changing as the new generations come up the ladder.

This light dinner was perfect for a warm summer night. In and out of the oven in a minute and delicious going down. I’ve become a big fan of cooked grapes and with the blue cheese absolutely wonderful! I make one pizza per person as they disappear quickly.

Blue Cheese and Grape Lavash Pizzas with Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce

4 slices lavash
3-4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup fresh spinach, sliced thin
6 large basil leaves, sliced thin
6 slices Genova Salame (thin), sliced in 1/2″ slices widthwise
4 large mushrooms, sliced thin
1/2 cup red onion, sliced thin
1/2 green pepper, seeded and sliced thin
1/2 yellow pepper, seeded and sliced thin
12 purple grapes, halved
4 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
1 cup Italian cheese blend, shredded
Sliced black olives as desired
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Cover cookie sheets with tin foil and spray foil with cooking spray. Brush the top of each lavash with olive oil.

Layer in order listed distributing ingredients over the top of all four slices as evenly as possible. Dust with black pepper. Cook for 6-8 mins. or until crust is browned. Watch carefully. Slice and serve with dipping sauce.

1Blue Cheese Dipping Sauce

4 oz. crumbled blue cheese
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1/3 cup cream
1/8 cup 2% milk
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. hot sauce
1 tsp. parsley flakes

Mix all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use.

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2 On the news a week or so ago they showed photos of an accident involving a Coca Cola which had crashed into a into a fish market. The market, a lovely old brick establishment, was damaged to the point of having to be demolished. After the dust settled it was determined the truck driver lost control of his truck due to a wasp flying about the cab.  I feel his pain. Truly I do. So many times I’ve written about my irrational fear of the little buggers thus not to make light of a serious situation, I can totally understand the mans anguish.

Looking back I’ve had many bad experiences when an insect flew in the car. In West Virginia my ex-husband and I were traveling down the freeway towards Charleston on a lovely spring day. Weather being glorious we had the windows down allowing the lovely spring air to circulate through the car. A bee the size of a small rodent flew in the passenger side window and buzzed around my head. Never before nor since have I see a honey bee the size of that one. Perhaps it had morphed due to all the chemicals emanating from the plants puffing away along the Kanawha River but whatever the reason it was flying about my face and didn’t appear to be in an amicable mood. My bee-fear kicked in full force and before I realized it more of my body was outside of the window than remained inside the car. At that point my husband began yelling for me to get in but I had totally lost it so was reduced to pointing and repeating “GET IT” at ever accelerating decibels. At that point it moved to my husband’s face and for the first time since I’d known him I saw him react to an insect. Swatting it about, the car began to weave slightly. People had begun to notice and traffic around us granted us a wide berth. Finally, he picked up a road map and the bee was to bee no more.

Last night as if prophetically predicted by the earlier writing of the first paragraph of this blog, I had a visitor. My other half was off having his sleep apnea observed at a local sleep center so the cat and I were reading in the bedroom. Actually I was reading, she was only turning the pages. Suddenly she sat up and began looking at the ceiling. Being human, after observing this behavior for a few minutes I too had to look up. Should have kept my nose in my book. Above my head as still as a southern morning hung a large brown spider. Sigh. With no knight to rely on paper cup and newspaper in hand I had only the cat, who avoided my eyes when asking for volunteers. Now there were two plans of action as I saw it. Either I ignore the beast in the hope it would slink away during the night or simply remain in place, or I could get up and do something about it. Tired from my day, I decided to take my chances and go with Plan A. Eying the bug from below I had the distinct feeling the arachnid was keeping his sights on us as well and deciding his plan of action. “Should I sneak down, climb under the covers and crawl along her goose bumps, or simply land on the human’s face and ensure an immediate stroke?”

Looking back on the day, it hadn’t begun on good footing. Getting an early start I hit two grocery stores and the pharmacy before the little hand was on ten. Rushing around the house I quickly stored the food in the cupboards and the fridge and headed downstairs to grab a shower and wash my hair. At 12:00 I was due at the fitness center for an orientation on the dreaded exercise machines. This was the second time I’d made arrangements so I wanted to get there on time so as not to appear a total flake. Brand clean I checked my appointment schedule to see if it was 12:00 or 12:15 I was due to arrive. Opening to the page it read “Fitness Center – 10:00 – Tammy”. Damn. Guess the ship had already sailed on the flake issue before I even opened the book. Dialing the number I’d noted I explained to Tammy, undoubtedly perfectly toned and lithe, that I had thought the appointment later than it was and needed to reschedule. In her book it probably read “Tues. – 11:00 – Susie N. – flake”.

It’s funny if you’ve got problems chewing on your mind, they seem to present themselves after the sun has set. Several of our offspring are going through some personal issues. No matter how old your children get their problems continue to fall under your umbrella and it is difficult to see them struggle even if they’ve long claimed themselves as adults on their tax returns. Sooooo, the spider, the cat, and I lay awake long into the night sharing space but not bothering one another. It is strange how the company of something living can make the house seem less empty. My mind busily sorted through this scenario and then that one, processing and troubleshooting. At one point I asked my busy brain if it might not be time for sleep, but apparently taking the phrase “having a mind of my own” literally, it went on tossing and turning until finally my eyelids, too tired to remain open, shut and sleep came.

I cannot say I’m refreshed, but the kitties were glad to see me at the shelter this morning and I didn’t fall asleep on the job. It’s a gorgeous day more worthy of early fall or spring than mid-summer and I’m enjoying it. The spicy aromas of chili cooking in the crockpot are floating in the air and all in all it’s a good day to be alive!

Question for those of you WordPress bloggers reading this. I lost the toggle bar on the inside of my post. Now I seem to be getting a different look while editing. Anybody know what I pushed that I shouldn’t have??

Slow Cooked Chili Beans and Rice with Sausage

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, diced
1/2 yellow bell pepper diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 1/2 oz. can stewed tomatoes
1 15 oz. can chili beans, with sauce
2 15 oz. cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 – 1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes (heat factor)
2 cups water
2 6 oz. cans tomato sauce
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 Polska kielbasa, sliced in 1″ slices
2 cups cooked rice
Avocado slices
Sour cream
Cheddar cheese
Chopped red onion

Brown ground beef, onion, and peppers over med-high heat until meat is cooked. Add garlic and cook an additional 2 mins. Drain meat mixture on paper towels.

Spray 6 quart slow cooker. Add meat to bottom of cooker. Add all remaining ingredients up to Polska kielbasa. Mix well. Cook on low for 8 hours. Add Polska kielbasa to pan and cook an additional hour.

Cook rice according to package directions.

Place a dollop of rice in bottom of serving bowl. Top with chili and garnish as desired.

Serves 4-6

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1
This particular blog is dedicated to those of you who like myself who have managed to successfully avoid scheduling an appointment for a colonoscopy. Yesterday for me was the big day. Over the past several months I rescheduled my original appointment twice. Something always conveniently came up, mostly my white flag with a huge chicken embossed in the middle of it. Finally I ran out of reasons and excuses and decided rather than having this looming over my head I’d do it and get it over with.

Let me start by saying they give you way too much information to assimilate. Prep begins 5 days prior to the actual procedure by eliminating certain medications like blood thinners out of your daily regimen. Fortunately this didn’t apply to me so I went on to the 3 days prior instructions. Along with the pamphlets provided by your doctor everybody who has every had one of these tosses in a few hints on how to survive it. In the end you will need a wall sized white board and pens of assorted colors to manage the event. A friend’s husband told me when he had his the doctor told him he could watch the proceedings on the screen as they went along. I’d be willing to comply if they handed me a bucket of buttered popcorn but otherwise I’d rather watch reruns of Cheers thank you very much. At any rate, my friend went on to say the next thing he remembered he was sitting in the passenger seat at a stop sign having no idea how he arrived there, who dressed him, or anything that had transpired after the doctor told him he could watch the screen. Sign me up for that experience please. That’s the one I’d like to have.

Day 3 prior to the procedure you begin a soft diet, eliminating our usual plans for dinner and a movie. I’m not wasting a date night on a dollop of mashed potatoes and a couple of soft boiled eggs. Day 3 you have to stop eating anything with seeds such as berries, tomatoes, bananas, etc.  As these are included in my menu daily I sadly deposited the last of my fresh raspberries on top of vanilla ice cream I was serving to my other half.

Day 2 you continue with a lite diet for breakfast and lunch and begin taking on a little extra liquid. The lite diet consists basically of cereal (without seeds) and milk, eggs, white toast, chicken without skin, fish, rice, applesauce etc.

On the day before the procedure I was allowed a small bowl of cereal with milk or poached or boiled eggs, white toast, chicken or fish, and a potato without the skin or a cup of rice and clear liquids. The clear liquids included black coffee, Gator Ade, Jello (no red or purple flavors), apple juice, 7up and on and on …. Apparently if you can read a newspaper through it, it’s clear. Now, why is it I have to drink black coffee but milk is okay in my cereal? Who writes these directions?  Already full of water so the cereal wasn’t sounding good.  My stomach, usually rather flat, had taken on proportions suitable for keeping oneself afloat if thrown overboard.

Have you noticed immediately when you’re told you cannot have something, you want it more than you ever have before? Suddenly I was craving tomatoes, seeds, sigh. Another interesting thought, why no red or purple Jello? Perhaps the colors making it so leave a telltale trail along the way?

At 2:00 in the afternoon I was to discontinue enjoying these delightful menu selections and move on to simply liquids including chicken broth. At the time I didn’t think I’d miss the cereal and boiled eggs, but found out around 7:00 in the evening either was sounding rather good. At 6:00 you down your first dose of the molotov cocktail you get from the pharmacist. The object here is to divest your body of all stored materials which I will not delve further into as I’m sure you get my drift. Then the fun begins. Again you get my drift. Take a book, really.

At 2:00 a.m. you have to wake up and take on another gallon of liquid and repeat the procedure.

Now, I am here to tell you after all that I was still nervous about what was to transpire in the doctor’s office. We arrived at 7:30 and I was quickly taken in to an operating room once I was in a hospital gown. They asked me for my choice of music, finally found a vein as they’re harder to locate when you’re dehydrated, and told me to have a nice nap.  From that point on I remember not one thing until the nurse was standing over me asking me if I’d like a glass of water. Are you kidding? I want an In n Out burger with extra cheese. Water has had its way with me.

Sooooooo, all that worry was for nothing. In the end as I’d been told the worst part of the program is the preparation. Animals are lucky. They feel pain like we do certainly but don’t suffer with the anticipation of pain. I’m so glad this is behind me (no pun intended).

I want to take a moment here to say how much I am going to miss Robin Williams. Not a friend of mine, I didn’t know the man. Although through his work somehow I feel as if he was. Mrs. Doubtfire is a movie I switch on when I’m sad. Dead Poet’s Society is like slipping on a comfortable shoe. Good Will Hunting, well, wonderful. I could go on and on. I first saw him on Happy Days as Mork and was immediately smitten as was the rest of the viewing audience. Always his comic genius and humanity shined through when he performed. Such a quick and wonderfully capricious mind. Our family has been touched by suicide on more than one occasion so I speak with some knowledge on how it feels to be a survivor.  To know you must continue on down the path leaving behind someone you loved who simply hadn’t the strength to complete the journey. Questions often remain unanswered as you move on without them. I wish his family well.

These carrots are simply the best. They almost resemble a sweet potato in their yummy goodness.

Carrots Istanbul

2 lbs. carrots, cut into large chunks
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. chives, chopped
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. paprika
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. lemon pepper

Cook carrots in boiling water until tender. Drain and cool slightly. Place all ingredients in food processor and pulse until coarsely processed. Adjust salt and pepper if desired.

Serves 4

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final

Some outsource centers are providing language classes for their technical support people overseas. Classes designed specifically to refine their speech to sound more Americanized,. This was done in response to complaints from customers finding it difficult to communicate with support personnel with heavy foreign accents particularly on questions of a technical nature. To add another layer to the cake, the classes also provide different nuances in their speech instruction. For example, a y’all or two might be thrown in for those wanting to sound like they hail south of the Maxon Dixon line or some broad “a’s” for the east coast citizens. Could be the gentlemen with the pleasant southern drawl introducing himself as Dwayne actually may sign his checks as Muhammad Singh. At times I have found it extremely difficult myself to get my point across on these phone calls and to understand what are saying in response.

No matter how frustrating, language always fascinates me. English is my only fluent language. I’m saddened to see it fall by the wayside. “Conversing” has been replaced by “conversating”.  “I seen it” has eclipsed “I saw it”.  Ach.  I took four years of Spanish in high school. At one time I was able to speak and understand it quite well. Technical Spanish was taught where I attended school. Conversational would have proved more helpful. Standing on a street corner in Baliz “Donde ala biblioteca?” isn’t going to do you much good unless the man you’re speaking to actually knows where the library is and you are really interested in going there. French came along in college. I took one semester and found it didn’t come as easily for me as Spanish. People assume if you’re from Canada you speak French.  French is the second language of the country, and certainly would be your first if you resided in Quebec I would suspect. I’ve traveled to Quebec on several occasions. Particularly in the country areas if you speak poor French it is not well received by the locals. On several occasions while trying to communicate with a sales clerk I was sure they understood exactly what I was saying but were so appalled by how I was saying it they pretended not to.

When visiting Rick’s Mother in Paris before her passing, she commented people in “the colonies” (French Canadians) don’t speak true French. Canadian French is old French, if memory serves. I wouldn’t have argued that point with Labiba.  Born in Egypt, she was truly a French woman at heart. Paris would have been far more confusing for me without the two of each speaking the language like natives. Labiba had been an interpreter for the U.N. in her younger years, French to English.  Her English was spoken with a hint of French and Arabic as is Rick’s. At her apartment I was introduced to a young Frenchman nicknamed affectionately Ooh-la-la for his penchant for punctuating his sentences with the same. Charm oozed literally out of this boys pores. Had he told me a flock of sea gulls had deposited their lunch all over my rental car I would have been nothing less than enchanted. The French speak with their bodies as well as their mouths, moving their arms and gesturing as the words flow. This is true of the Greeks and Italians as well I believe. My girlfriend who is from a lively Italian family would be unable to communicate if I tied her hands behind her back.

If you are exposed to different types of speech for long periods of time it is likely you will adopt some of the peculiarities in your own speech patterns. After living in Arkansas and Alabama for a year or so the “you’re not from around here’s” came less often as my speech drifted into their speech zone. Looking back I always had trouble with the y’all’s. There are guidelines for saying y’all that never became completely clear to me.

When living in Massachusetts it wasn’t long before their use of the broad “A” became noticeable when I was speaking. My mother kept asking me if I had a cold. I learned that “Chuck Rivah” made reference to the Charles River where I used to stop on my way to work in the morning to watch the rowers glide seamlessly through the glassy water.  “Regulah” coffee meant you liked cream and sugar in yours. If you were going “down sellah” you were likely headed for the basement.  Rain, which came down often in buckets there, might be said to be “coming down like a bastard’. By the time we returned to California after three years on the east coast people here were asking me if I hailed from the east originally. Funny.

Canada is not immune to language differences. Arriving in Southern California I still said serviette when referring to a table napkin and toe-maatoe when asking for one in my salad. To me toe-mayto referred to a woman. Back in Nova Scotia for a wedding some years ago I ran into several men from Newfoundland. At first I thought they were speaking to me in a foreign dialect rather than English. From what I understand their particular manner of speaking is partially attributed to their Gaelic roots. When saying hello they might come up with “Whaddaya at?” “Stay where you’re at ’til I comes where you’re to,” might be translated as “Stay where you are until I arrive.” I just nodded and smiled hoping I wasn’t agreeing to anything I didn’t want to sign up for.

All in all it’s fascinating how we communicate, at least for this writer.

Totally off subject, one of the gentlemen I volunteer with at the food ministry told me in conversation last week he was diabetic. As it happens Rick is as well. However his is well controlled by diet. At any rate, during the conversation this man mentioned using okra water to manage his sugar levels. Really? I don’t know if you’ve heard of this, but it was  first for me. Researching a little further I found a number of articles on the Internet discussing the same subject. Who knew? There are as with most discussions people sitting on both sides of the fence but it is an interesting concept and natural at that. Since it certainly couldn’t hurt I will give it a shot.  According to my source he cuts the ends of an okra. Drops it in an 8 oz. glass of water and soaks it overnight. In the morning the vegetable is discarded and you drink the water. Anyhow, my unusual bits of information for the day.

 Garlic and Parmesan Oven Fries

3 large potatoes, peeled and sliced lengthwise into 1/2″ sticks
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 Tbsp. chopped chives
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

Spray cookie sheet with cookie spray. Slice potatoes and drop into ice water for 1/2 hour. Remove from water and pat dry with towel.

Toss with oil, garlic, chives, and red pepper flakes. Spread in single layer on cookie sheet. Bake for 25 mins. turning once.

Remove from oven and toss with cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper as desired.

Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce

3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 Tbsp. chives
2 Tbsp. yellow mustard
1 1/2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp. honey
1/2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Whisk all ingredients together. Refrigerate until ready to use.

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2
My other half has been visiting his son for a few days so Boo and I are batching it. It’s odd not to have my conversational partner in the house. Being left to my own devices I do find I’m attending to all those things I’ve been putting off since summer set in.

People are funny when they hear you’re alone. Immediately they seem to feel the need to highlight all the horrible things recently in the news about happening to people home by themselves. Even my mother related a story about a home invasion involving two women. Both women were bound, gagged, robbed, and one was raped. Thanks, Mom. When I’m gone Rick turns off the lights at night and goes to bed as he would normally. When he’s gone I leave enough lights burning to guide the Space Shuttle in after a mission. If I’m really feeling squirrely I’ll leave the TV in the living room and the one in the bedroom on for company. Not afraid to be alone, I actually enjoy solitude from time to time, it’s being alone at night. Something changes for me when the sun goes down. After my mother’s story and several others, my nightstand, usually only holding a glass of water and my book was flushed out with a large kitchen knife and my cell phone with 911 on speed dial. What possesses people to do this? When I was pregnant people told me terrible stories about women birthing huge moles (not the animal the skin condition). Before I had surgery one friend related horror stories of surgeons removing a healthy organ instead of the diseased one because the x rays were turned backwards on the viewer. Another brought up all the potential infections one could contract, such as flesh-eating virus, even if only in the hospital for a routine procedure. Shhhhhhhhhh, please.

As a child I lived on the second floor of my grandparents large home. Mine was one of two rooms hugging the back of the house facing the yard. From my window there was a view of the gazebo where I often held teas for my dolls and the enormous vegetable garden my grandmother tended when the capricious Halifax weather allowed her the luxury. Directly across the hall was my mother’s room. Down the front stairs to the right behind my grandfather’s den led to the master bedroom where my grandparents slept. Directly to the right when exiting my room was a large mahogany door which opened on to a fully enclosed back stairway. Following it to the end to the right was the kitchen, to the left the basement. The stairwell door was left closed at night with the key dangling from the keyhole. During the day I often used this stairway. It afforded immediate access to my grandmother’s spare pantry just outside the kitchen door. The pantry housed a wonderland of confections. Colorfully decorated tins each lined with waxed paper were chocked full of gooey lemon bars or perhaps the specialty of the house Gam’s wafer thin lighter than air ginger snaps. Often I perched on the high stool with the red vinyl cover and like a frog on a lily pond hopped from one tin to the next sampling the delicious goodies to be had inside. At night, however, I wouldn’t have descended the dark stairway had the house been on fire and that the only way to safety.

Each night was a ritual growing up. After dinner I was tossed in the tub to scrub off the accumulated dirt of the day. Dressed in clean pajamas, I climbed into bed. Either my grandmother or my mother sat beside reading Honeybunch or The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Story done, I was tucked in and left for the sandman to deal with. Many nights strong winds whipped in from the sea. Trees brushed against the window creating long fingers of moving shadows across my walls. In my child’s imagination they were gnarled hands reaching out to pull me into the pitch black night. Often I lay in bed covers up to my nose waiting for whatever was knocking to figure out a way in. Darkness is after all the fodder for great horror films and wild imaginings. Unspeakable beings lurk in dark dusty corners. Rarely do you see a good monster movie set in the bright sunlight, except perhaps for Jaws. Even as a teenager when asked to take out the trash after dark I can remember walking briskly to the trash bins. An unexpected sound triggering my imagination would have had me sprinting back as if a pack of hungry wolves were nipping at my ankles.

As mentioned previously I lived in Ashdown, Arkansas for a while back in the early 1990’s. Ashdown, a small sleepy town in the Tri-Corners area of the state, was a bit of a culture shock for this California girl. We drove into town, my ex-husband and I, late afternoon on a hot and sweltery Saturday. The heat laid across you like a heavy blanket. Breathing itself required effort. Spending the first week in a small motel towards the outskirts of town, our time was consumed finding housing for ourselves and the cat and dog for the nine months we were to spend in the area. My husband, a pipe foreman by trade, was to begin work at the local paper mill the following week. It was hard to imagine him working outside in that heat. From a small town in Texas he was no stranger to the climate so from what I could see it never bothered him much. He was always saying the reason I was so uncomfortable in the heat was I hadn’t learned to sweat. Oddly this was something I was eager to embrace as I spent most days making an effort not to pass out.

After much searching a house was located in town. Basically a rectangle home. Three bedrooms, a living room, dining room, two bathrooms and  generous kitchen were distributed along the length of it. One air conditioning unit hummed in the window of the living room, barely adequate for cooling the area it was given. What cold air it spewed out of it never extended far beyond the living room door. A swamp cooler dominated the kitchen ceiling, a familiar sight in the south. Conventional A/C units struggle to cool heavy humid air where swamp coolers are made for the job. When turned on the unit sounded like a 747 revving for takeoff but it was better than the alternative.

About a month into the move my husband decided to go fishing. Other than a few people from work we knew no one in the area so he set off alone around 6:00 in the evening, saying he’d be back around midnight. By myself in the house with only the drone of the swamp cooler and the steady whir of the fans, every creak and unidentified noise made the hair on my arms stand at attention. Watching the clock when three o’clock arrived and no sign of my husband, full panic set in.

Knowing no one to call, I got in the car. I headed out into the country in the direction he said he was going. With no help from street lights the back roads were inky black. Lush overgrowth, so beautiful during the day, took on a menacing appearance when highlighted by my headlights. At the end of a dirt road I found myself with nowhere to go. Stepping out of the car insects sensing fresh meat buzzed around my head. As far as I could see nothing but muddy water lay beyond the drop off in the road, or perhaps a curious alligator or a snake or two.

Across the river another set of headlights appeared. Several men spilled out of their trucks. Their voices rose and fell captured in the slight breeze. The ember from a freshly lit cigarette briefly lit up their faces. At the same time they noticed me and yelled.

I believe that to be one of the most alone and vulnerable feelings I ever experienced. Terrified, I got back in the car. Wedged tightly I maneuvered back and forth kicking up dirt until finally managing to turn the car around.  Flying down that dirt road with my foot fully on the gas I somehow found my way home. My husband, sitting on the front porch, was about to call the police. Tired from no fish and a busy week he’d fallen asleep by the river losing track of time. Looking down at my soaked tee shirt I was delighted to report I’d learned how to sweat.

Many times I visited that fishing hole in the daylight always a beautiful and welcoming place to be. I never again went there at night even when invited to tag along on a fishing trip.

This is just so yummy. I had both on hand and decided to mix them up. My other half is on his way home and I have the lights lit for him (all of them).

Garlicy Cauliflower Brussel Sprout Mash

1 large head cauliflower florets, cooked
1 lb. brussel sprouts, cooked
3 Tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup half and half
2 Tbsp. chives, chopped
1/2-1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Steam brussel sprouts and cauliflower over 2″ of water until well cooked (fork tender plus). Drain well. Place both in the food processor and pulse until coarsely processed. Puree for 2 mins. until well blended. Add remaining ingredients (1 1/2 Tbsp. butter only and 1/2 tsp. only) and puree 1 min. longer. Add additional salt if desired.

Pat with remaining 1/2 Tbsp. butter and sprinkle with chives.

Serves 6.

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2

August is starting out on an interesting note. The temperature has risen to the point you could get breakfast going on the asphalt on your driveway by around 8:00 a.m. Yesterday I believe it hit 105. Too hot for this Canadian girl. Been dreaming of cool aqua waterways and rattan ceiling fans.

I volunteered mid-week at the food ministry. 9:00 is my scheduled arrival date. At around 8:30 I poured some ice water in my water container, put on my sunglasses and grabbed my keys. By the time I snapped my seat belt in place I realized my water was still sitting on my counter next to the apron I wear when sorting vegetables. Sigh. Turning off the car I retraced my steps only to find the lock on my front door literally sticking its tongue out at me. The center unit housing the keyhole was protruding out about 3″ from the lock itself. This was something I’ve not seen before. Not sure how to approach it, I inserted the key in the protruding mechanism at the same time pushing it in towards the door. When I turned the key to the right it immediately became securely wedged in the key slot with my car key and remote dangling from it. Insert expletive here. After ten minutes of wrangling with the key it became clear it wasn’t coming out and I wasn’t going in. On the way out I’d locked the door to the patio. A phone call to my other half would have done the trick but he was asleep and either wouldn’t hear the phone or possibly ignore it. Still this seemed the only available option. However, after searching with no luck through my cavernous bag for my phone I realized the phone was also sitting next to my apron and water on the counter. Never mind. Needing to remove the car keys in order to be on my way I found this procedure more difficult than I expected. Sitting on my porch mat I pulled and pushed, grunted and groaned, stood on my head and laid on my back, and generally worked up a sweat on my freshly cleaned self finally releasing the key and the remote. Yea for me.

My luck got better as the day progressed and I made it through my shift without incident. Afterwards I had several errands to accomplish. One, to exchange several items at Ben Franklin’s Craft store. Passing the bench directly in front of the store I noticed people passing by staring openly at a young woman sitting there. As I got closer I realized she was nursing her infant without benefit of a diaper or blanket to cover herself. She smiled and I smiled back at her and entered the store. Inside I heard two women discussing the nursing situation. The words “disgusting” and “shameless” came up in the conversation. Really? The young mother looked to be sort of an earthy type. Her blonde hair was braided. She wore a shirt made of a gauzy material worn over cut off jeans and what I call Helen of Troy sandals. In the 70’s I would have expected to find such a girl living in Santa Cruz or possibly in a brightly painted VW van parked on a piece of acreage in a small mountain community mainly known for their excellent crops of marijuana. Perhaps with the climate in our country regarding such public displays being what it is it would have behooved her to cover herself. There have been several recent incidents involving women breast feeding in public in the news. Certainly I don’t find one of the most natural things in the world to be either disgusting or shameless, but some people are offended by it.

The U.S. is a country of contradictions, I believe. Our European neighbors seem to be far less prudish then we Americans when it comes to their bodies. In the Scandinavian countries nude bodies are not a rare sight and if you hit the beaches in the south of France tops are definitely optional. In turn we seem to celebrate such shows as Dating Naked, Naked and Afraid, and even the amazing premise involving real estate agents and a nudist colony called, Buying Naked on reality TV. Personally I find Dating Naked far more strange than a young girl nursing her baby, but again that’s just me.

I’m sure when Trog was running around the world skinning his knuckles trying to pierce the tough hide of an uncooperative bison, the little woman wasn’t sitting under a tree with a palm frond over her chest nursing Trog, Jr. Clothes came into being originally as protection for our bodies, not to hide them from view.

Truth is I think we can’t decide. Strip clubs certainly abound in cities around the nation. Pornography is the number one search option on the Internet and adult bookstores and movie houses can be found in most big cities. This is not considered good form by the moral majority, but nonetheless people continue to seek it out and the industry continues to flourish.

For me, perhaps I don’t want to sit across from a woman in Starbucks before my first morning latte and look at her exposed chest, but I wouldn’t find it so much offensive as simply too early in the morning for flesh.

At any rate my bifurcated thoughts for the day. Interested in your opinion on this subject.

These lamb shanks were out of this world. Too hot to cook with the temperature soaring this week, so the crockpot was the perfect solution.

Fabulous Slow Cooked Lamb Shanks

4 lamb shanks
3 Tbsp. canola oil, divided
Salt and pepper
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 cup orange bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup prosciutto, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup beef broth
1 cup red wine (I used merlot)
1 15 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 15 1/2 oz can diced tomatoes w/peppers
1 15 1/2 oz. can cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 cups cooked rice

Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in large skillet over med.-high heat. Sprinkle lamb shanks with salt and pepper. Brown shanks on all sides for about 10 mins.

Remove from skillet. Add 1 Tbsp. oil. Add carrots, celery, orange bell pepper, prosciutto, and onion to pan. Cook over medium heat for 8 mins. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute.

IMG_6448

Place cooked vegetables in bottom of 6 quart slow cook sprayed with cooking spray. Add beans to vegetables and mix. Top with browned shanks.

In bowl mix remaining ingredients. Pour over meat and vegetables. Cook on low for 11 hours, removing cover twice to stir and spoon juice over meat.

Serve over cooked rice.

Serves 4

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2Today I am suffering with a terrible case of wanderlust. It’s nearly 100 degrees outside and not a day to go exploring, which is probably why I feel like doing exactly that. Further contributing to my tapping feet I enjoyed a conversation with my son this morning mostly devoted to his upcoming trip to Cancun. The tickets include himself, his wife, and their two children one boy and one girl, eleven and twelve respectfully. Detailing the highlights for me and directing me to a site on-line showing pictures, my skin turned a deeper shade of green the longer we spoke. By the end of the conversation you could have thrown me in the pot with the delicious soup noted below and not been able to tell me from a leaf of spinach.

The resort they’re visiting is all-inclusive, so once you lay down your money for the tickets the food and beverages are included in the overall price. Naturally, if you want to visit the nearby ruins or enjoy other side trips they come at an extra cost, but while in the resort you can order one brightly umbrella bedecked drink after another guilt free. Other than any messages your liver might be sending up. However, as an aside if visiting one of these resorts do not pillage the mini-bar in your room unless you have the cash to cover it. From what I understand the all-inclusive umbrella extends only to restaurants and lounges.

ZipCruises are structured the same way, with the exception of the ones I’ve been on at least charging for alcoholic beverages. Back in the 90’s I took a ship from Miami to Key West and then on to Cozumel. Luckily for us it was spring break and so we shared quarters with hundreds of fun crazed college students bent on consuming as much alcohol as possible on their parent’s dime. One kid who we’d seen vomiting in the potted plants in the pool area the night before was presented with a $700 bill for alcohol from the same night. If I was his mother he’d really be sick by the time he got home.

At any rate my kids are going on several side visits. My son, Steve, is a hands on dad and has provided his kids with a rich background of sports, education, and experiences to take with them into adulthood. Makes me most proud. They swim like fish and both of them snorkel skillfully and havexel-ha-park some minimal scuba training. To be honest I’ve stayed away from scuba equipment as of this writing. Being claustrophobic the ideal atmosphere for me isn’t hundreds of feet below sea level with a mask covering my face. I’d be likely to take a great white on while trying to get out of the water. Watching documentaries on the ocean floor fascinates me but the idea of going down, down, down, not so much.

xelha_011One place he mentioned specifically was Xel-Ha Park. This is a lush park devoted to water lovers with something for everybody. Mayan ruins, jungle trails, bike riding, underwater caves, and swimming with the dolphins are just some of the fabulous attractions in a park touted as being the most beautiful aquarium in the world. I’ve got one flipper on and I’m ready to roll. Swimming with the dolphins is high up on my bucket list. Also walking with the penguins on the beach in New Zealand. The list seems to be growing as my bank account is dwindling.

Bank robbery is an option, but orange washes me out and I don’t like guns. Did you see the bank robber on the news who cleverly disguised himself in a see-through plastic bag? There’s a guy who stood in the stupid line a bit too long.

As delighted as I am that my kids are living the dream, I’m not as enthused about flying these days. Aside from everything in the news I watched a movie with Liam Niessen titled Non-Stop which sealed the deal. To take my mind of of it, and since I was ironing I turned on another movie. This one titled, The Impossible. A true story about a doctor and her family swept away by a tidal wave in Thailand. It’s not beyond the scope of possibility I may never leave the house again. That’s it for me. No more disaster movies.

Company is coming and I haven’t seen any hands when I called for volunteers to peel the eggs for the deviled eggs so I’d better run. Have a safe and happy day.

Even in the heat, this soup got an A+++++ from my other half. To quote him exactly, “I could keep eating this until I throw up”. Not delicately put, but I believe there is a compliment cleverly buried in there somewhere.

Crockpot Italian Sausage, Zucchini, Roasted Pepper and Tomato Soup

6 plum tomatoes, halved
1/2 green pepper, seeded
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Italian sausages, hot
2 cups diced zucchini
1 ear of fresh corn or 1/2 cup canned corn
1 15 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 cups water
8 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. Italian Seasoning
1 tsp. basil
1 bay leaf
1 pkg. Sazon Goya (or 1 tsp. hot paprika)
1/2 bag spinach
1 cup cooked ditalini pasta
Parmesan cheese and fresh basil for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover a cookie sheet with tin foil and spray with cooking spray. Toss tomatoes and green pepper with 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place tomatoes and pepper on foil cut side down. Bake for 15-20 mins. or until charred. Place in plastic bag for 15 mins. and peel off skins. Coarsely chop.

Cook Italian sausage and slice into 3/4″ slices.

Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over med. heat. Add onion and celery and cook 6 mins. until translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 min.

Spray 6 quart crockpot with cooking spray. Add tomatoes and peppers, sausage, onion/garlic mixture, zucchini, corn, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, water, stock, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, basil, bay leaf and Sazon Goya. Mix well.
Cook on high for 1 hr. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking for 7 hrs. Add spinach (stemmed and broken into large pieces) and ditilini. Cook for an additional hr. Adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve topped with shredded Parmesan and fresh basil if desired.

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1 - Copy

Good news! Grab your checkbooks. I heard this morning for $32,000 you can join the President and other influential Washintonians for lunch. If you choose to attend only the reception prior to the luncheon, make your checks out for $10,000 and grab an appetizer plate. It must be interesting to move in such circles. The fly on the wall wonders what’s on the menu, as even before the state of the union I’m generally concerned with what’s to eat. For sure you’re not likely to get a plate of deviled eggs, little wienies in barbecue sauce, or a meatball sandwich. For $32,000 I’d like to start with some goose liver pate perched atop delicate toast points. Then let’s move on to an assortment of excellent imported cheeses resting next to a glistening sliver of sticky honeycomb. Pair all the above with some equally excellent wines, and, let’s see, a Prius, and I think it’s worth the outlay. I admire the president but for that amount of money I’ll put a dent in my home mortgage and enjoy a tuna sandwich, thank you very much.

I’ve attended some fairly high brow events over the years. While working in Boston in my twenties, my job threw me into the mix with a lot of well-heeled people. Fortunately my grandparents and my mother took care of my manners early on, so I managed to get through it without suffering total humiliation. The American Cancer Society, the name on my paychecks at the time, courted a lot of influential people into their fold, both as contributors and spokespeople. Fund raising functions were often held at exclusive locations and packed with political and social movers and shakers. Boston, aside from being one of my favorite cities for many reasons, houses many of the old money gentry. The upper crust is a closely guarded somewhat cliquish community populated by incredibly wealthy individuals. Somewhat spellbound by all the grandeur, I still far preferred the wonderful diversity of the city found in the fragrant Italian delis and ethnically flavored burroughs. Toni’s in Roslindale, I was surprised to note, is still open for business. I last went there in the 70’s and would go again was I to visit the city today. Their meat compared to what you find on the market shelves, cannot be beat. Homemade sausages, imported deli meats and cheeses. My taste buds are doing a happy dance at the thought of it all.

It’s the aromas of those delis and sandwich shops I remember most. Ripe cheeses, pungent meats, and the biting pickly smells when you opened the lid to the huge jars of pickles sitting on the counter. Makes my mouth water. Smell is so much a part of our eating and cooking experience. My maternal grandmother, a fabulous baker and cook, lost her sense of taste and smell to a stroke in her eighties. After that she reported life simply wasn’t the same. She ate, naturally, as we must to exist, but her enjoyment of food ended for her on the day of her stroke.

So much of our lives are guided by our noses. Certainly our noses bring us pleasure. Breathing in the glorious fragrance of a rose, serves to enhance the beauty of the flower. The smell of brewing coffee first thing in the morning to me actually surpasses the taste of the brew itself. Along with providing us pleasure, our nostrils also serve as alarms such as in the case of gas or chemical leaks or fire. I was interested to hear about a man working at NASA who smells for a living. By this I do not mean to insinuate the man doesn’t bathe. I don’t know him well enough, or at all, to base this on any fact. Rather his actual job has been for many years spending his days while at work smelling. I cannot confirm this, but I have a feeling he has an office to himself. To add another fact to the tomes of things I did not know, astronauts need to be provided an atmosphere fragrance free in order to keep from becoming ill. This is under this gentleman’s job description. Interesting.

Another fact along these same lines is about bees. For those of you who may have read my previous blogs on the subject, not my favorite insect. I understand the need for them in the balance of nature. I’d just prefer they do their good work somewhere other than in my presence. For some reason they sense my feelings on the subject and choose to sting me more often then not, thus my animosity. At any rate, they are using bees to ferret out drugs in the same manner they employ drug dogs. Bees, as opposed to their canine counterparts, have a much shorter training curve and by nature are more compact and easier to handle. The insects are trained by being exposed to a smell and then rewarded with sugar immediately following. After a brief period the bees will stick out their bee tongues when the familiar smell is introduced in anticipation of the treat to follow. Now here’s another fact to add to my encyclopedia of little known facts, I don’t believe I realized bees had tongues and rather long ones at that for their size. Every day is a new adventure.

Soooooooo, these are my convoluted thoughts for the day.

On a lighter note, the humiliation I missed out on in my earlier experiences has come to roost as I’ve gotten older. This morning I went to fetch the newspaper. Clad in my signature sleepwear, men’s boxers and a tee-shirt (Victoria’s Secret – Intimate Rendezvous Collection – argh), I eyed the paper from the front window. Normally I would slip on a pair of shorts but since we have no neighbors to our left at the moment I took the chance. The paper is always thrown about half way up the driveway so with my Croc’s in place and looking nothing but fabulous I made a run for it. Just as I bent down to pick up my paper the trash truck drove up. Ah yes, trash day. They waved. I waved back. Sigh.

In honor of wonderful Boston memories I offer up the meatball sub. We ate ours down to the ground with forks and yums.

Italian Meatball Sandwich

1 1/2 lbs. ground chuck
3/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
1 large egg, beaten
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 onion, chopped fine
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. dried basil
1 Tbsp. parsley flakes
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 French rolls split and toasted
Fresh basil
Shredded Italian blend cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Mix together all ingredients through red pepper flakes in large mixing bowl. Mix until well blended but don’t over mix.

Form into eight meatballs.

Spray cookie sheet with cooking spray. Bake meatballs for 10 mins. turning once. Drain and put in a deep frying pan.

Sauce

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic minced,
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 jar basil spaghetti sauce
1 15 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes

Heat oil over medium heat in skillet. Add bell pepper and onion and cook until translucent, about 6 mins. Add garlic. Cook for 1 min. Add sauces and heat until warm.

Pour over meatballs in pan. Bring to a boil. Cover and cook over med.-low heat for 20 mins.

Toast rolls. Spread inside of all rolls with sauce. Place two meatballs on bottom of each roll. Top with desired amount of cheese and garnish with fresh basil.

Serves 4.

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