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Final

A friend of mine has recently dived into the dating pool after ten dry years. According to him, dating at this time of life is a task more terrifying than surviving a Halloween corn maze or spending a dark night in a haunted mansion. According to his testimony it is an endeavor fraught with far more zombies and unspeakable ghouls. Let’s face it, men are at a premium as we age. Statistically they leave us earlier than women do, leaving less of them to go around.

I must admit I have always questioned the perception we women are predatory beings circling the human pond hungrily trolling for the catch of the day. It is perceived by some we should view our men as some sort of prize and ourselves as incredibly clever for being able to trick them into accepting the heavy yoke of commitment. I for one have thrown several back, and am here to say prize is not the descriptive word I would choose if asked to describe them.

Words cannot express how delighted I am not to be in his shoes. The very thought of starting at A again, leaves me shimmering with sweat. Having to meet for the first time and endure awkward conversation and uncomfortable shoes only to be left to wonder if he liked me enough to dial my number again or if who I met sitting across from me bore any resemblance to who he was when I was not in the room. Scary business that. Not to mention if you do progress forward and down the road the business of either him meeting your children or, if both parties have offspring, you meeting his comes to the table. That’s always a defining moment. I felt a bit sorry for men who came up against my two. They lost their dad when they were seven and eight and in their mind if you weren’t a super hero or didn’t own a candy factory don’t bother applying for the job. To me this is the most difficult hurdle when attempting to have a personal life as a single parent, getting that link to connect. At the time I was doing it, I never introduced anybody I was involved with to my children unless the game was in the fourth quarter and my team was up by 21 points and we were first and goal. Anything more would have been confusing for them, and certainly confusing for me. If it hadn’t been for the fact my parents insisted on spoiling my children at least one weekend a month I would have been an acceptable candidate for the sisterhood.

Over the years I’ve had some strange dating experiences. On one occasion I actually made two dates for the same evening. While getting ready to go out for the evening with one man, I opened the door to find a second one standing there with a lovely bouquet of wildflowers in his hands. Whoops. That was extremely awkward and resulted in basically ending the need for any further involvement with the gentlemen with the flowers, as he did not find the humor the situation.

In my late twenties I went to dinner with a group of friends. It was a first date with an engineer from work so I felt safer surrounded by allies. We decided on a Polynesian restaurant in Hollywood famous for their flaming drinks and excellent cuisine. Whether he was nervous or simply a totally sot, my date went through the Mai Tai’s like he’d just been told he had twenty-four hours to live. At one point he became so inebriated he slithered like a reptile down the seat and puddled under the table. After we looked under the table to ensure he wasn’t damaged, we tried to help him up. At this point he became somewhat belligerent, then curled up and went to sleep. It was unspoken but unanimously decided by the group to allow him to remain there.

Another man I dated, with the unlikely job of professional barefoot water skier, was the tighest man I ever met. By this I do not mean he had an impressive six-pack, but rather he still had the first $.50 the tooth fairy put under his pillow when he was four. He believed in sharing everything. Again, I do not mean he offered you half his burger and fries, but that he expected you to pay for yours. If the restaurant didn’t have a coupon or promotion going on, you wouldn’t find him sitting at their table. From what I understand he was quite well heeled due to all this thrift, but it was a bit too much for me. Once I invited him over to dinner. I kept the receipt for the meal and when he’d had dessert I left a bill on the table for $11.50, his half of the food cost leaving room for a tip. He did not find this amusing. Hmmmm.

I shall continue to watch my friend’s pursuit of happiness from the sidelines with a bucket of popcorn and a smile. I am proud of him for diving back in and giving it a try, and wish him much success in his efforts. A really nice man with a ready smile, I’m sure he won’t have any trouble finding what he’s looking for. No, I cannot divulge his number.

My other half does not like peas. Of all the veggies, peas simply don’t tempt him. These, however, he will ask for.

Mexican-Style Peas

1/4 cup butter
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/3 cup thinly sliced orange bell pepper
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1-2 Tbsp. jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
2 Roma tomatoes
2 cups cooked peas (fresh, frozen, or canned)
2 Tbsp. water
Salt and pepper to taste
Chives for garnish

Cut a cross in the base of each tomato. Submerge in boiling water for 3 mins. Immediately drop in ice bath. Drain and peel. Cut into halves and remove seeds with spoon. Dice.

Melt butter in skillet until frothy. Add garlic and cook and stir until golden brown. Remove with slotted spoon.

Add onions, orange peppers, and jalapeno to pan. Cook for 6 mins. until vegetables are tender. Add tomatoes and water to pan. Lower heat to simmer and cover tightly. Cook for 10 mins.

Mix peas in with onions and peppers and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5 mins. or until peas are heated. Garnish with chives.

Serves 4-6

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final

Before I closed my eyes last night I turned on the TV. Marley and Me was on. I grabbed a box of tissues. This wasn’t my first viewing. Sure enough by the end of the movie I was blubbering like a baby. Rick came in and asked me what was wrong but I could only babble and gesture with a soggy tissue towards the screen. Realizing what I was watching he closed the door lest he get caught up in all the feminine hormones and emotions circling the room.

I am hugely susceptible to sappy stories. When I originally saw Love Story I nearly had to be sedated, forget about Terms of Endearment. Are you kidding me? Throw in some kids, a few dogs and cats, and a terminal illness and I’m there.  I watched every gut wrenching tear jerking moment of Steel Magnolias over and over again and most likely will tune it in the next time I notice it on the guide while doing my ironing. What can I say? I’m a glutton for sad movies. Obviously I’m not alone. Hollywood keeps pumping them out. From the beginning they successfully hooked the female audience, and I’m sure there are men out there watching when we’re not looking. Go back to An Affair to Remember with Cary Grant and Deborah Carr, or Imitation of Life with Lana Turner and Sandra Dee. Sigh. Such pulling of heart strings. Such angst. Luv it.

If you think of it, it’s kind of peculiar we gravitate toward such stories. Life is often sad enough without adding a little artificial misery to the package. Perhaps it’s knowing that others are suffering as well that’s keeps us viewing. Misery does like company after all.

Was I to write a novel or screenplay it would probably include some sappiness between the pages. I suppose it would be along the lines of Nora Roberts or Danielle Steele. Not that I am for a moment suggesting I stand next to these two prolific ladies in any way, shape, or form when it comes to writing skills. Rather my writing might run along the same plot lines as theirs. Incredibly wealthy, sexy, handsome, well built male living in a small, but beautiful Wyoming, Oregon, or Colorado town, meets equally beautiful (but unaware of her incredible beauty) available woman recently moved to said town because of loss of husband, job, or virtue. Both emotionally unavailable at first glance, in the end give in to their irresistible attraction to one another and fall into a deep passionate affair. The story, peppered with a little mystery, perhaps a murder or at least a home invasion with the incredibly wealthy handsome male saving the unaware of how beautiful she is female, all ending up in a pile of commitment towards the end of the last chapter. Whew. Absolute marketing gold.

It must be amazing to look on a bookstore shelf and see a book you have written resting there. I’d consider it an accomplishment of epic proportions to complete one book and actually find a publishing house willing to publish it. To have multiple publications in print must be mind blowing. Danielle Steele, I believe, has written 92. Wow. In the middle of all this writing, writing, writing the woman has been married 5 times and raised 9 children. Are you kidding me? She should donate her blood so they can make a serum to give to the rest of us struggling to get the bed made in the morning. Who has that kind of energy? I’m what some might say a high-energy lady, but really this woman puts me to shame.

Bookstores are slowly disappearing off the radar screen. That’s sad to me. Bookstores and libraries are great places to hang out. I used to like going to Barnes & Nobles, ordering a latte, and sitting in the chairs provided to peruse a stack of books. I realize I’m directly out of the Proterozoic Age with my fascination with the pages of an actual volume, but I like a book. A solid book with pages made out of paper. Call me crazy, throw rocks if you must, but I will hold out for the pretty picture on the cover and continue to read the brief summary on the inside of the back cover, and the bio of the author. You cannot slip a bookmark in the Kindle. Well, perhaps virtually, but certainly not one with a little tassel hanging out to remind you where you left off. Sigh.

I have laid out a basic plot format for a book. Actually, I have written 6 Chapters of something that feels like a book. I find the biggest challenge is keeping it cohesive. As you may have noticed I tend to run of willy nilly in all directions at times. Certainly I am prone to run on sentences. A habit my writing teacher spilled red ink on more than a time or two. Like artists creating on canvas, each writer brings to the page different styles, nuances of their own personalities, and a unique perspective on the universal cooked up in the melting pot of their individual brains. It’s sort of a word stew, if you will. This is, after all, supposedly a cooking blog.

Next year is a new turn of the page. I believe I will put on my to-do list at the very least to create some sort of book. I learned long ago if I am to complete something I have to make the goal within the realm of probability or I’m liable to fail before I begin. So for now I will put it in my stack to think about it, and do just that.

On the lighter side Rick and I have had quite a week with Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats. She had a small tumor removed from her left ear. While under she also had her teeth cleaned. The vet suggested we brush her teeth daily. Who is he kidding?  Could he tell the cat? Perhaps she could learn to do it for herself? I guarantee you she isn’t going to put up with us trying to do it. I don’t have enough skin to sacrifice to the cause. Boo is not a cat who takes kindly to being ministered to. They sent us home with what they call an Elizabethan collar. The cat sat in one spot and beat her head against the wall until we had to remove it. After calling the vet and asking what to do the receptionist explained some cats simply won’t tolerate wearing one. Sigh.

Each day we have to spray the ear twice. Once in the morning and once at night. Boo is not excited about this procedure. She watches us closely and if we even look like we’re going to approach her she runs and hides under the bed. It is terrible to admit two grown adults are being bested by an 8 pound cat. Sad really.

Anyhow, this soup is one of my very favorites. I made some olive bread croutons to go on top and a couple of grilled brie and Italian ham sandwiches on the side and it was a perfect meal.

Tomato Basil Soup with Olive Bread Croutons

3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 Roma tomatoes, quartered
1/8 cup tomato paste
2 tsp. sugar
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or 1/8 cup dried basil
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
1/4-1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. parsley

Heat olive oil in large skillet over med.-high heat. Add onions, carrots, and celery and cook for 10 mins. Add garlic and cook for 1 min.

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Add tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, bay leaf, basil, broth, water and pepper flakes to pot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to boil. Lower heat to low simmer and cook, uncovered, for 40 mins.

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Add parsley. Puree with an immersion blender or a food processor. Serve with croutons.

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Olive Bread Croutons

1 loaf olive bread, cubed
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/8 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 tsp. dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line cookie sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Place cubed bread in large bowl with lid. Mix together remaining ingredients. Pour over bread and toss well to coat.

Cook for 10 mins. turning once. Turn on broiler and continue cooking until brown. Cool. Store in sealed plastic bag or container.

If you’re really in the mood to cook, try this recipe for olive bread. Delish.http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/fabulous-focaccia-recipe.html#!

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With the holidays on the horizon the usual tugging and twisting of arm is going on among my family as to who is going where for what. In an effort to please everybody, as is typical, ain’t nobody happy. Sometimes I feel like Gumby, my arms stretched in a rubbery imitation of my former self.

If you have read my blogs before you might note I am one of those beings who floats along on the crest of the wave. Not often do I sink down in the dark depths lurking in between each peak. Because my life has been peppered here and there with truly large crises, I seriously try to not sweat the small stuff. This way I keep from taking something appearing as a small blip on a radar screen from swelling into a national incident. Life is too short, and I am unwilling to waste a morsel of it on trivialities. This is my mantra and I shall carry my banner high.

That being said, there are times when I’d like to abandon ship around this time of year and pitch a tent on a white sandy beach somewhere tropical. Mai tai in hand I could bring in the New Year without guilt or frustration. In the end, however, my family and friends are worth the effort so I stay here and fight the good fight, turkey baster in one hand and meat thermometer in the other. Sigh.

I find there are a number of factions at play. There are those who don’t want to cook, preferring to contribute a pie or rolls to the party held at someone else’s home or share a meal at a restaurant. Then there are those people who hate to travel on the holidays, but like to cook who would love you to come to their house but don’t want to come to yours. There are always the diehard cooks in the bunch. Those who have made the same stuffing their mother, her mother and all the mothers before her made on the holidays and will refuse to eat anything anyone else prepared involving cubes of bread, butter, and typical Thanksgiving seasonings. Arguments break out over whether to fry the bird or slow cook it in oven. Do you stuff the bloody beast first or cook the stuffing separately? Fluffy whipped potatoes, or slightly lumpy for texture? Green bean casserole, candied yams, or both? Do you allow Aunt Jean to bring the Jello casserole for the third year in the row with the little crunchy things imbedded inside if analyzed by NASA would probably be determined as not of this planet or feed it to the garbage disposal as you’ve done in years past?

One year we decided on prime rib for a change. I took it over to my daughter-in-laws and dropped it off early in the morning with explicit cooking instructions. The dinner was to be in her home, but we were providing the beef. A crowd was expected. I peeled an army sized pot of potatoes and mashed them popping them in the slow cooker to keep warm. The broccoli casserole was next made with the stuffing mix. Yum. Asked to bring the cheese biscuits, and several appetizers, I got them going, running the dishwasher for the second time that day. Plates and silverware were running short on the other end apparently per a phone call from our daughter-in-law later in the day. I boxed up our extra plates, the silverware, and the napkins requested during a follow-up phone call saying they were out. Oh, and could we pick up some sparkling cider on our way over? An hour before guests were to arrive Rick and I loaded up a U-Haul van and questioned why we weren’t simply eating at our house since we seemed to be taking everything we owned with us to theirs.

There is always someone at every party who insists on filling their glass too many times or decides to air an unpopular political opinion or start a debate on religion. I keep an extra roll of holiday themed duct tape in the my drawer for such occasions.

We are staying here for Thanksgiving this year as we did last year. Air travel is weird enough on low travel days lately but on the busiest travel days of the year you won’t find me in an airport unless I’m being held for ransom. A friend of mine recently returned from Atlanta. The person sitting behind her put her rarely washed, flip-flop wearing feet in between the seats so she could stretch out. The woman fell asleep and was actually tickling my friend’s elbow with her long half painted toenail every time she moved in her sleep. That would have done it for me.

Each year we discuss what to cook on Thanksgiving. Should we have ham, prime rib, turkey? Why we do this I have no clue because in the end it’s a yard bird sitting feet up in a roasting pan in our oven. Tradition is tradition I guess, and old dogs tend to follow the same route to the butcher shop or something like that.

Yesterday I was making tomato basil soup. Had a lot of Roma tomatoes to use up and thought that would be the perfect way to put them to use. Taking a sniff while in the kitchen Rick said often things smell even more delicious than they taste. Coffee being the example he used. Brewing coffee or perhaps chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven both smell, if possible, even better than they taste.

Smell does play a big part in the decision of what to cook on the holiday I do agree. If they could make a roasting turkey spray, like the new car spray they use when you get your car washed. Perhaps then I could put a piece of cow or a leg of lamb in the oven. Until then Tom shall go in and be served with all the trimmings. My mom likes to go out to eat. I guess after years of basting she’s hung up her baster. I need the actual ritual of doing it and will cook a turkey whether I eat at home or at someone else’s house.

In anticipation of feasts to come I offer you this corn casserole. Creamy and delicious. I could eat it by itself. If I have a couple of ears of leftover cooked corn I use those, or grab a package of frozen corn from the freezer and use that.

Mexicali Corn and Bell Pepper Casserole

2 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, chopped
1/2 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 large green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. hot chunky salsa
5 slices crisp bacon, crumbled
2 cups corn kernels (if using frozen thaw first)
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
2 large eggs, plus 1 egg white
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp cumin
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 1/4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray 1 1/2 quart baking dish with cooking spray. Melt butter in large skillet. Add onions and peppers to skillet. Cook over med.-low heat for 10 mins. Add garlic to pan. Cook for 1 min.

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Add salsa, bacon, corn kernels, and parsley to skillet.

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In separate bowl whisk together eggs, cream, salt, peppers, and cumin.

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Add vegetable mixture and incorporate well with egg mixture. Mix 1 cup of cheese with 1 tsp. cornstarch. Fold into egg vegetable mixture.

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Pour into pan. Bake for 25 mins. Top with remaining cheese. Bake an additional 10 mins.

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final
There were two things I liked better about my old phone when comparing it to my recently acquired smart phone. Number one, I understood how it worked, and number two I never lost it. Neither of these can be said of my new phone. Agh.

Whether it was lifted from my purse or I simply set it down some place and it was picked up is left to the universe to unravel. In either case, it has disappeared from sight and I have looked everywhere but the septic tank with no sign of it thus far.

This was not news I was looking forward to sharing with Rick. I tend to be a bit absent-minded about where I put things to begin with so telling him I’ve misplaced a $300 phone isn’t going to make his day. Perhaps I’ll just move and not leave a forwarding address. After alerting our phone carrier of the loss they were happy to report our warranty had run out last week but if I would like a new phone they would be delighted to comply at the price we paid for the original one. Good news! There goes my birthday. Sigh.

Being a scorpio my birthday is coming up. If you could see me now I’m not dancing in place. On one hand I’m glad to be having another birthday, and on the other it adds yet another number, and not a lower one, to my count of years on the planet. Dirt is still older, but I am catching up.

My birthdays are either great or abysmal. They always make me a bit jumpy as they approach because I’m never sure which way the wind will blow. As it falls the day after Halloween pictures of my past parties usually show me in costume as one character or another doing something equally as stupid as I look. Perhaps my love of dressing up stems from having most of my birthday parties growing up costume parties, or simply I find it fun to parade about as Minnie Mouse or the egg half of bacon and eggs once a year. Time permitting I would dig out my old photos and share but if I dug through the cache of photos I have stored in boxes in the garage to locate my Halloween pictures it would be Christmas and no longer relevant.

In the back of my closet downstairs hangs my Halloween stash of costumes. On one hanger an angel, replete with wings and halo, on the next my cowardly lion with one paw missing, and so on. Over the years I’ve shown up as everything from the Goodyear Blimp to Dracula. Armed with an imagination and some basics you can make a costume out of almost anything.

At the various parties thrown in my honor along the way people have shown up in the most original dress. One of the engineers I worked with the 80’s used a head of cabbage to create his walking dead outfit. He peeled and par broiled the outer larger leaves. Then he placed them about his head and covered them with makeup and fake blood. It was very realistic and what a clever idea. You can dress up and eat your costume following the party. Genius.

One friend showed up with his face half white and half black. He wore a black cowled coat and had a hunchback. Contacts of a greenish-yellow covered his normally blue eyes and he carried a cane that blinked. Very effective. One problem with this costume was that whatever he used to create the black half of his face didn’t wash off well. For easily a month following he continued to look ghoulish until he finally returned to normal. Don’t try this at home.

Cossack was my choice of attire on another Halloween. I made the tall furred hat out of the lining of an old coat and lined a cape I found in a thrift store with gold fabric. Add a pair of tall boots and some leggings and there you go. It was great.

If you can avoid uncomfortable costumes, particularly ones where you can’t sit or have long attachments that are likely to sweep the cat down the back stairs when you turn around or impale somebody standing behind you. Boo Peep was an example of this for me. I realize the original was Bo Peep, but I used creative license. I created a wire hoop skirt out of coat hangers and covered it with fabric. It looked great but when I sat down it went up and covered my face. Also it necessitated keeping my bloomers in line as they were visible every time I took a seat. Being that the skirt was made of metal it also stuck me regularly during the night to the point where I removed it and went about in my knickers.

The year I was the angel was the first year we owned our restaurant. In the spirit of the holiday (if you will) we all dressed up for work. Our restaurant, as I mentioned a few blogs ago, had a history. Most of our staff felt there was a ghost or two roaming about, particularly the bar. If so, they had IMG_0837company that night. A live band had the bar moving and shaking. Pumpkins flickered and Halloween drinks were lined up on the server’s trays. I had my picture taken often that night thinking nothing of it. Several weeks later several friends who’d included me in their shots commented on the fact in the photos I appeared to be almost transparent. One photo turning out that way might have been acceptable, but all of them? Don’t know if the universe couldn’t accept me wearing an angel’s costume or the spirits resented having such a being in their midst, but there you have it. Looking at the photos I’d shot for the first time mine showed the same odd occurrence. To add to the mystery of that evening a picture I shot in the bar shown above just before we opened our doors which depicted what looked to be a ghostly spirit shooting out from the computer screen.

To give Hamlet his due, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

This soup is delicious but hearty. If you need to thin it out for a second use use a little milk.

Hearty Potato, Carrot, and Corn Chowder

1/4 cup butter
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 medium carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 cup fat-free milk
5 cups chicken broth
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
1 can niblet corn, drained
Crumbled crisp bacon and chopped green onions for garnish

Melt butter in stockpot over med. heat. Add onion, green pepper, celery, and carrots. Cook for 6 mins. or until vegetables are tender. Add garlic. Cook for 1 min

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Add flour, curry powder, salt and pepper. Stir for 2 mins. until well blended. Slowly add milk. Add broth, potatoes, and corn. Bring to boil. Simmer uncovered for 25 mins. Use an emulsion blender to blend well. Adjust seasoning as necessary.

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Serves 6

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final
Zombie costumes are the hot ticket item in the Halloween stores opening up around the area. Apparently half the nation tuned in The Walking Dead the other night. People in the position of analyzing this phenomenon attribute it to a twofold reasoning. First, most of us would like proof we come back from the dead and that death is not the final bend in the road. Secondly, what is airing on the news lately is all too real and terrifying, so it is easier to focus on fictional fear than the real deal. I’m there, really I am. Reality lately is a bit of a big bite. For me put me in line for some great Halloween candy, preferably not laced with anything lethal, and a little trick or treat fun and let’s forget the outside world for a moment.

I tire of the misery dished out on the news. I want a bright upbeat news hour perhaps with bunnies and small children saving a bevy of nuns from drowning. A whole hour of this would be worth turning the tv on for. It’s not that I want to bury my head in the sand, but I think a steady diet of misery tends to make for an upset stomach.

Zombies have never been my choice for horror. I prefer vampires really. Salem’s Lot was one of my all time favorite Halloween movies. I resurrect it (if you will) every year and watch between two fingers with a blanket pulled up to my chin. So many movies come to mind when thinking of Halloween. Young Frankenstein might be high up there on my list. Madeline Kahn was fabulous in the movie alongside Peter Boyle who was the perfect comedic monster. Cloris Leachman as Frau Blucher was memorable as well, with the horses neighing every time her name is mentioned in their presence. Brucher is the German word for glue. Mel Brooks is classic.

I only saw one Freddy Krueger movie. The first Nightmare on Elm Street. Getting scared is one thing. Losing hair and finding yourself sleeping with a weapon is another. Not a big fan of the Halloween genre of slasher horror either. I’m more the Psycho type or perhaps Silver Bullet. One movie I will never watch again was Pumpkinhead. I slept with one eye open for days after I watched that.

Besides the terrifying horror films like Clive Barker’s Hell Raiser there are psychological type horror films like the Shining which stick to the roof of your mouth as well. “Here’s Johnny” never was the same after watching that’s movie.

Poltergeist is also at the top of my list. The original, not the ubiquitous sequels to follow. “They’re here” another catch phrase to take on an ominous meaning. Tucked away in my DVR, I’m sure I’ll be watching Elizabeth Ann sucked into the vortex once again by the end of the month. To add to the malevolent feel of Poltergeist were the strange happenings to the cast members appearing in the movie. The actress playing the oldest sister in the original film was murdered by an ex-boyfriend. The little girl playing Elizabeth Ann died at the age of twelve six years later. Other cast members met untimely ends involved in both the first and the two following movies. Reportedly the boy playing Robbie, the son in the original film, was actually unable to breathe when dragged under the bed by the clown puppet. Those filming the scene thought he was just doing incredibly good job with his role until they realized he was being nearly asphyxiated by the toy. Insert shiver here.

Amityville Horror is another film hitting close to home. Hoax or actual event? Only the demons and residents of the house itself hold the key to the answer to that question. It does titillate the imagination, however. I’ve never looked at flies the same way after that film experience.

Haunted houses with dark corners and deep cellars scare me to death. I’m a jumpy person anyhow so put me in a creaky old house on a dark and stormy night and the goose bumps will be marching up and down like militant armies across every available inch of skin on my body.

Once while living in Massachusetts I was home alone with my two toddlers. Their dad was working in Boston and was to be there overnight. A predicted fall storm moved over the lake across from our house. Dark clouds hovered above the tree line accented by an occasional flash of lightning. Inside we were warm and toasty but occasionally the lights would flicker leaving me slightly on edge.

The house, a historical monument of sorts, was a massive two-story building. The owner had sectioned it off in the center of the building creating two living spaces one facing the lake, the other facing the back yard. Ours was the former. For the first year we were there another family with a little girl occupied the back of the building. I liked knowing they were there as my husband’s job often required overnight stays out of town. Before school started that year, however, they relocated out of state. Curiosity getting the best of us we opened the connecting door once that part of the house was vacant and took a look around. Old houses, like old people, tend to creek and groan with age. This house was no exception. With no furniture or floor coverings to absorb the sound, our voices echoed in the cavernous rooms.

Rain began to spill from the sky outside that night. Wind whispered through the chimney while I built a huge fire in the fireplace and plopped my children in a hot bath before bed. Rinsing off the soap on my two pirates the lights flickered, then went out. I gathered them up in towels and went into the living room to keep them warm. Looking out the window I could see lights in the neighboring houses, so the trouble I assumed was in our electrical system and not a general blackout.

This had happened on another occasion. My husband showed me how to replace a fuse in the fuse box. Unfortunately the box was located in the basement, requiring a walk outside in the storm. Tucking my children in bed, I grabbed the flashlight. Stepping outside I fought the wind and the rain to the side of the house. The old screen flapped and fanned in the wind as I struggled to open the lock to the basement. Inside the flashlight did little to relieve the darkness. Cobwebs and God knows what else hung from the ceiling. Locating the fuse box I checked each fuse as instructed, replacing the bad one with the new one. Behind me something moved in the corner casting a shadow on the wall. Whether human, beast, or goblin I did not wait to find out. My feet have never been used for a better purpose. They propelled me at record speed across the basement floor and up the old stone stairs. That night I slept with a baseball bat on the opposite side of the bed. Never again did I go down in that basement alone at night.

I carve a pumpkin every year. In an effort not to waste the bounty a pumpkin offers up I try to do something with the seeds as well. Love this Mexican pumpkin sauce on steak or with on a hot corn tortilla. This recipe was shared by a friend one year. Yum.

Mexican Pumpkin Seed Sauce

1 1/2 cups raw pumpkin seeds
2 lbs. Roma tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups rich chicken stock
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
6 Tbsp. red chili sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat a heavy frying pan over high heat. Dry fry the pumpkin seeds stirring constantly to avoid burning (important to stir without stopping). Once all the seeds pop (watch out they sometimes try to escape), remove from heat.

Cut the tomatoes in half lengthwise and in half lengthwise again. Cover cookie sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Roast in oven for 45 mins. Allow to cool and remove skins

Put the pumpkin seeds in food processor and process until smooth. Add tomatoes and process for 3 mins. Add garlic and stock and process for 2 mins. more.

Heat oil in large frying pan. Add red chili sauce and continue cooking for 2-3 mins. Add pumpkin seed mixture and bring to boil stirring constantly. Simmer uncovered for 20 mins. Stir frequently until sauce has reduced by half. Add salt and pepper as desired.

Chill and serve on top of a burger or a steak or with homemade tortilla chips. Will keep 7 days in covered dish in refrigerator.

Serves 8.

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2When the leaves begin to fall my mind often goes to my friends towards the east. During my “construction years”, as I always think of them, my feet didn’t allow much grass to grow beneath them. My saga began in California, took me first to Washington state, and brought me back full circle through Arkansas, Alabama, and twice through West Virginia. Was I to describe my time on the road in written form I believe I would capitalize my adjectives, as it was the kind of experience warranting a little extra attention.

Not a lifestyle fit for everybody I’m sure. Packing up and moving at a moment’s notice. Reaclimating at each turn in the road to a new environment and new people. We referred to ourselves as snails, carrying our homes on our backs. My ex-husband was my travel companion during those years. Born in Arkansas and raised in Texas, David was built for the life. By twenty he could be found most days working on the oil rigs lining the landscape outside of Odessa. When not drilling for Texas gold he hit the rodeo circuit riding the bucking broncos or straddling or straddling an occasional bull. Looking for all intents and purposes like the Marlboro man he suited the rough and tumble life he’d chosen. Accent his physical attributes with a smooth southern drawl and an extra ounce or two of charm, and the man cut through life like a hot knife might slide through a stick of cold butter.

While in Longview, Washington, which as I said previously was to be our first stop on our journey together, we met the Cole Family. The Coles were headed up by Oscar and Teddy. A warmer group rarely graced the planet. We were absorbed into their midst as one might be sucked into a vat of melting marshmallows. The family, a tight one on the worst of days, traveled together. Three of their four children, two girls, and one boy, all grown with families of their own moved from place to place like a caravan of gypsies changing schools and locations like most people change underwear. Parties at their house were generally food oriented and always boisterous. Women usually gathered in one or the other’s kitchens, sitting around the table chatting or preparing food at the counters. Being an only child myself, it was nice to be part of a large family unit and included in the fun.

The Cole women were generously cut, as they would tell you themselves. This I would suppose could be contributed to genetics on one hand and their absolute love of food on the other. Before long Cindy, the second oldest of the daughters, and I became the best of friends. With her mass of curly red hair and abundance of freckles Cindy looked like Rebecca of Sunnybrook farm and had a way with the soil that would have made her well suited for the role. In West Virginia our homes were situated a mile down the road from one another. Ours was a three bedroom rental, while Cindy and her husband Nicky rented a farm-house large enough to accommodate the two of them, their two children and two large hunting dogs answering to the names Dumb and Dumber. Most of the crews rented while on the road. There was no point in signing up for a mortgage as odds were you wouldn’t be there long enough to put a dent in the principal. Included with their house came five acres of fertile land which they quickly put to good use. A large patch behind the barn was cordoned off for Cindy’s vegetable garden. I love to garden. Certainly I’m not going to teach any classes on the subject, but I grew a prize worthy crop of okra once (not my favorite of the vegetable clan) and made my own pumpkins one year while living in Alabama. Cindy, however, had the touch. Walking among the huge stalks you might look down inside a leaf to find a cauliflower staring back at you, or see a bunch of broccoli protruding from curly leaves.

Along with the prolific vegetables she produced, the trees on the land were heavy with apples, plums, peaches, and apricots which I spent many a day gathering in baskets to help her put up in preparation for the cold winters in the state.

Around Halloween one year the three Cole women, Teddy the matriarch of the group, Cindy, and her younger sister Melissa, asked me to attend a Halloween potluck at their church. They all drove trucks so the obvious vehicle of choice was to be my 1979 Thunderbird having the most room. The T-Bird was built the year Ford decided to make a massive vehicle out of the formerly smaller model. Long in the front, it had bench seats and plenty of extras. It was vintage at the time. A polite word for old. Perhaps I shall take to calling myself vintage. Much nicer. David spent his time off sliding in and out from beneath the engine trying to encourage it to keep on running. We had already replaced the transmission and most of its working parts but it got me from Point A to Point B so I wasn’t complaining.

We decided to all go to the luncheon as cast members of the Wizard of Oz. I was to be the witch (a little type casting). Cindy was Dorothy. Instead of Toto lurking beneath her gingham napkin in her basket she tucked one of her delicious apple pies to share at the potluck. Teddy was the scarecrow and Melissa the Tin Man.

Outside fall had swooped down on the state with a vengeance. Brilliant leaves carpeted the area with a blanket of riotous color. The trees so beautiful they took your breath away. We took the back route that day, probably more because we looked somewhat ridiculous, than to save time. The road wound through farms with rows of corn standing at attention waiting for the last harvest.

Going up a steep hill the car began to gasp. One final breath led us to the side of the road. We had passed the last farmhouse about two miles back. Not knowing what else to do, we popped the hood and looked beneath it. Why we did this, as none of us would have recognized a problem, is beyond me.

With no cell phones at that time after much debate we sat on a rock by the side of the road, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Wicked Witch, and the Tin Man and each ate a piece of Cindy’s delicious pie. A farmer came by in a beat up old pickup truck about an hour later. With room for only two in the cab the scarecrow and I (appropriately as the bed was filled with remnants of hay) rode in the back with an enormous dog who looked at me as if I was the daily special. At the farmers house we called for a tow. Never made the party. Not sure if we didn’t have more fun where we were.

Cindy passed away six years ago from cancer at 48. I look back at my times with her like this one and smile.

I have a long recipe and a short recipe for carnitas. These are for my friend who hates to cook who asked me for the short version. They are delicious and easy to put together.

Crockpot Carnitas 4 Layer Burritos

For the Carnitas

3 1/2 lb. boneless pork shoulder
1 onion, sliced thin
1 tsp.
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. lemon pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 orange, cut in wedges
2 containers hot chunky salsa (or less if you prefer less heat)
1/2 pkg. Lawry’s taco seasoning mix
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Spray 6 quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Place sliced onion in bottom. Rub pork with salt, peppers, and garlic. Place fat side up on top of sliced onion. Place oranges on top of meat.

Mix together salsa and Lawry’s seasoning mix. Pour over top of meat. Cook on low for 10 hours. Shred meat with fork. Return to juice in pan. Add cilantro and mix well. Discard oranges.

For Burritos

1 large ripe avocado
1/2 lime
salt and pepper
8 flour tortillas (burrito size)
2 16 oz. cans Rosarita green chile and lime refried beans
1/2 cup Mexican style cheese, shredded
Mexican Rice (arroz)*
Sour cream
Salsa

Peel and core avocados. Mash with fork. Add salt and pepper and squeeze 1/2 lime.

Heat beans in microwavable dish for 3 mins. Sprinkle with cheese and return to microwave for 1 min. on high.

Wrap tortillas 2 at a time in paper towels. Heat for 1 min. in microwave on high.

Spread 1/8 of the beans on each tortilla to within 2″ of outside border. Top with shredded pork, rice, and avocado. Tuck in ends and roll to form burrito.

Top with salsa and sour cream if desired.

You will have meat leftover. Freeze for future use or use in tortas.

Serves 8

*For the rice try this link. Also, http://www.mexicoinmykitchen.com/2009/03/how-to-make-mexican-style-ricecomo.html

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final

Our daughter-in-law posted a video on Facebook yesterday she took in a gas station near her home. The video shows dialogue between a man pumping gas and a women probably in her early sixties in an upscale 2013 SUV. The man, clearly agitated, is loudly berating the woman. As the story unfolds it comes to light the woman, professing to be homeless, regularly stands on a street corner in the center of town with a cardboard sign asking for money. According to the man speaking he has given her money often over the past months, even on one occasion going without lunch to give her his last $5.00. Now he finds her well dressed driving a new car. Hmmm. It is not up to us to judge, although I must admit you can’t help but wonder.

I can remember giving a man outside the grocery store a $20 bill. After purchasing my groceries I came out to see him walking out of the liquor store across the street carrying a large brown paper bag. Hmmmmm, again.I suppose if the liquor helped him to get through the day (and occasionally it hasn’t hurt me) it wasn’t a total loss. I have a feeling his liver wasn’t thanking me. Another time I picked up some food for a lady and her dog while I was in the market. On the way out I handed her a sandwich, some chips, and a soda. As I was driving out I saw her deposit them in the trash can. Someone with me who lived in the neighborhood said she wanted money for drugs not food. Oh. Perhaps I should have gone to CVS. I saw a man one day outside of Wal-Mart with a sign saying “Will Work for Sex”. I found that original. At least he was honest.

Rick always says I have that face that people see and feel comfortable to come up to and ask for a handout. On a trip to San Francisco several years ago I was stopped so frequently, he threatened to hang a sign around my neck reading “I gave at the office”.From what I understand there are people begging on the street corners making a good living off the kindness of their neighbors. Some of them, like this woman, drive nice cars and live in nice neighborhoods themselves. It’s a hard call because certainly there are many people out there who really need help and it’s hard to know when to and when not to.

It’s a shame. It used to be if you saw someone changing a tire by the side of the road or standing by their car with the hood up, the natural inclination would be to stop and help. These days we pass on by, afraid of what the consequences might be should we extend a hand to a stranger. Several days ago we were coming home along the main highway leading to our house. On the side of the road stood a man looking to be in his twenties hitchhiking. He caught my eye not because his thumb was up, but because he wore shorts, no shoes or shirt, and his face was bruised and appeared to bleeding. Rather than asking Rick to pull over I reached for my phone to call 911. Just as I was to place the call a police car pulled up and we went on our way. You want to stop, but the stories in the news keep you moving along.

It seems we have to put up side mirrors by our doors to catch intruders. Cameras need to be installed to keep at eye on thieves watching your house waiting for a package to be delivered or a chance to sort through your mail. If a stranger rings the doorbell and you’re alone, it is recommended you not answer.Last week a man came by while I was in the garage. Rick was gone and I was sorting things I’d brought home from the store typically stored in the outside shelves. The man and I stood there in the garage alone and suddenly I felt very vulnerable. As it turned out he was selling meat packages at wholesale, and when I declined to purchase anything went on his way with a smile.

When I lived in Alabama I don’t believe I locked the house unless I was going out of town. Wouldn’t think of doing that now. Now you have to keep your handbag in front of you, your phone in your bag not in an outside pocket, and your house key on a different ring than your car key lest your car get stolen. The other day I saw a news cast where they suggested you keep your car keys by your bed. In the event of a home invasion this will allow you to set off the car alarm. Historically I don’t find most people react to car alarms as they’re often set off by a truck passing by or whatever, but I suppose someone might pay attention in the wee hours of the morning.

If using your ATM you may be taking a chance someone standing behind you is capturing your bank information.Even if you use your credit card at a well-established business you risk hackers swooping down and grabbing your information before you take the bags out of the car.

Certainly don’t post pictures on-line you don’t want the world to view and appreciate because what goes on the Internet stays on the Internet.

It’s a strange world, but a lovely one still. The more technologically advanced we get the less privacy we are afforded, but you cannot dam up progress. It is both necessary and inevitable.

Do guard what you can while avoiding becoming paranoid about it. In the meantime enjoy one of these graveyard delights. I had some sweet potatoes needing a place to be so I whipped these up. This recipe was given to me at a gathering recently and is really yummy.

Boot Hill Sweet Potato Cupcakes

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. allspice
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
4 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
15 oz. sweet potato puree
1 bag slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Set aside.

In large mixing bowl mist together brown sugar, granulated sugar, and butter. Add eggs one at a time mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla extract.

Gradually add dry ingredients. Add sweet potato puree and mix well to blend.

Spray cupcake pans with cooking spray or use liners. Divide batter into 18 portions.

Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean – 20-25 mins. Cool on wire rack.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp. maple syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
Pinch of salt

Beat cream cheese, butter, maple syrup and vanilla until smooth. Add confectioners sugar gradually, beating on low speed until well incorporated. Increase speed to high and beat until light and fluffy. Add salt.

Frost cupcakes. Stand almonds up pushing half way in to resemble tombstones.

Makes 18

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