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Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

final

Spanking is in the news lately with people weighing in on both sides of the issue. Do you or don’t you? Is it an effective form of punishment for kids or not? Adrian Peterson, a Minnesota Vikings player, has been indicted by a grand jury in Montgomery,  Texas, for child abuse after beating his 4-year-old son repeatedly with a tree branch. Beating might be the optimum word in this case. Whipping is a more accepted form of punishment below the Mason Dixon line. Most people I knew while living in the south had stories to tell about switches being used on their bottoms or hands following doing something that displeased their parents. Interesting enough when a poll was taken asking spanking yes or no, 79% of the people polled agreed with spanking as an acceptable form of punishment.

I didn’t spank my children. Well, perhaps when they were little if I’d exhausted my last nerve they got a pat or two on a well padded bum, but in general I did not use this as punishment. Instead I was big on consequences. My kids fully understood my 1-2-3 rule. Similar to Newton’s Third Law, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. If I asked them to stop doing a behavior and I got to the third request, that was two too many. Once we were driving to Great America for a day at the park. At the time I had a huge station wagon. If you’re old enough you’ll remember what station wagons looked like, or if you’ve seen Vacation with Chevy Chase, similar to the Family Truckster. A vehicle large enough to land a 747 on, yellow with fake wood trim. Ours had two bench seats toward the front of the vehicle and another all the way in the back. We had two kids, three dogs, two cats, often half the soccer team, or a myriad friends, plus groceries, and whatever else needed to be carted back and forth. That day we were at full capacity. Naturally excited about a day filled with screaming on rides, stuffing themselves with junk food, and generally going wild, the car was a beehive of conversation and activity. Back in the day, again dating myself, seat belts weren’t universally used. Kids roamed like free range chickens in a vehicle, limited only to the space provided by the manufacturer. This led to the inevitable who’s going to sit by the window arguments, “he’s touching me” whining, and general mayhem accompanying nearly any outing involving children and their parents.

Leaving room for understanding their excitement, I still kept in mind I was driving a moving automobile and responsible for the young lives under my care. Several times when things got out of hand I asked them to calm down. When things got ridiculous, I said loudly, “I will not ask again. If you do not stop, I’ll turn around and we’ll head home”. Silence fell quickly, but before long it accelerated once again this time resulting a whack to the back of my head from an errant Frisbee.  Turning on my signal, I exited at the next available off ramp My son, realizing this to be far before our scheduled turn off asked what I was doing. Was I getting gas? Did I need to use the facilities, get a drink, go mud wrestling? I crossed over the freeway and got on the on-ramp heading back towards home. Realization swept through the car like a wildfire through a dry canyon.  Tears and begging ensued and apologies flowed like lava from a volcano. One thing I do know about kids, if you say something and don’t follow through with it you might as well hand them the tiller and give them full command of the boat.  A sorry lot of pouting faces pulled into our driveway that day. However, despite the disappointment, the next time I asked them to settle down in the car, they heard what I was saying quite clearly remembering what they still refer to as of this day, as the infamous “Great America debacle”.

Our house was always a gathering place as my children moved up the lines on the wall delineating their height. I like to think I was a fun mom, but a parent nonetheless. Time outs weren’t the rage at the time. We didn’t apologize for enforcing discipline nor spend hours explaining our actions. Rules were explained and enforced. Love was doled out generously but all focus was not on the younger people in the family but rather the family unit as a whole. Unapologetically we took time for ourselves here and there and children were not always included in our social functions nor our conversations. I liked it.

If my daughter was here she would recount six weeks of an unfortunate summer where she colored so far outside the lines she found herself on restriction. Sixteen at the time had I beaten her with a baseball bat no punishment could have hurt worse than this. No phones (there were not computers at the time – I know!), no friends, no movies, no skating, and a list of chores to do to keep her from getting bored. Believe me it was as difficult for me as it was for her. I loved my children but I wanted them to learn that action comes with responsibility. Certainly you have a free mind to choose the option you wish, but with that comes taking responsibility for the choices you’ve made.

So, spanking sits on the playing field. Personally, I don’t think it’s effective. Sometimes, I suppose it might be necessary, but if so I would think only to delineate the serious offenses from those less grave. In my twenties I had a friend who spanked her kids for everything from sassing her to knocking off a jewelry store. They had no idea that one offense was worse than the other. Also, she would constantly say, “if you do that one more time, you’re going to get a whipping”. This was never enforced until she finally snapped now really angry to give them a smack. I found if I felt truly angry, a few minutes on an adult time out made me react more reasonably to my children.

Hitting to my way of thinking breeds hitting. I don’t know. Do I think parents should go to jail for spanking their kids? No. Do I think parents should go to jail for beating their children? Yes, and throw away the key. It’s a hard call.

I served this to my guests over the weekend and they were thrilled with it. The fun is in the presentation, but the yum is in the eating with the delicate eggs and the tangy sauce.

Mini-Omelets with Tangy Sauce on a Biscuit

4 baked biscuits
4 eggs
2 Tbsp. half and half
2 Tbsp. chunky salsa (your choice of heat)
1 Tbsp. chives, chopped
Salt and pepper as desired
8 Tbsp. cheddar cheese, shredded
4 wood skewers
1-2 bangers or thick breakfast sausage cooked, cut into 2″ chunks
4 slices crispy bacon
Olives and celery stalks

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray ramekins with cooking spray. Whisk together eggs, half and half, salsa, chives, salt and pepper. Pour 1/4 of mix into each of the prepared ramekins.

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Place in baking dish with 2 cup of water on bottom. Bake for 30 mins. or until eggs are set. Remove from oven and sprinkle 2 Tbsp. of cheese over each omelet. Return to oven for 5 mins. or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Holding the ramekin with an oven mitt, use a butter knife to loosen from sides. Slice onto dish.

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Halve biscuits. Slather both sides with sauce. Place omelets on biscuits to make sandwich.

Place 1 chunk of cooked sausage on skewer about 1/3 of the way down. Push sandwich down to meet sausage. Push a second sausage on skewer to secure top. Fold bacon and insert on skewer. Top with olive if desired.

Serves 4

Sauce

4 Tbsp. mayonnaise
2 tsp. yellow mustard
4 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsp. chives chopped
4-8 dashes hot sauce as desired

Whisk together and spread on both sides of biscuits.

For a great Bloody Mary recipe you might try http://www.food.com/recipe/best-ever-bloody-mary-416835. It’s the one I use.

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fall final
Sunday last I boarded the train in Sacramento and rode three hours to my destination in San Jose. Certainly I’ve been on trains before, but it’s been a while. I’d forgotten what a nice mode of transportation train travel can be. Rolling along the tracks lulled by the gentle rocking of the cars. It was a nice break from driving. I have made the trip back and forth by car so many times over the years I could set the car on autopilot and like a drunk cowboy’s horse it would make its way back to the bunk house. I entertained myself reading and watching the scenery change outside my window. So much graffiti painted on the backs of buildings and abandoned vehicles. Some of the backstreet artwork was absolutely amazing. New faces came and went as original riders got off and new ones boarded at the various stops we made. Many wandering the cars were wearing green baseball jerseys with players names across the back. The A’s had a scheduled game. Half the train emptied when we pulled into Oakland. One kid found me unbearably interesting. I believe he was around eleven. He’d show up in the seat across from me and announce “I’m here again”. Kind of sweet.

The beginning of the trip did not bode well for the rest of it. Somehow I got the idea my train was leaving the station around noon. This departure time in mind, I allowed for the hour’s travel to the station, plus time to walk to the loading platform. Not familiar with downtown Sacramento, and never having been to the station before we planned to lean on the GPS to get us there. Rick has absolutely no sense of direction. The man could get lost navigating from the pantry to the kitchen. As for me, I have an innate directional indicator. However, if I’ve never been to a location before it can’t be depended on to be entirely accurate. Around 7:45, thinking I had all the time in the world, I sat down to enjoy a cup of coffee and peruse the newspaper. Rick was still fighting dragons in his dreams. Looking at my tickets sitting on the table, the numbers 9:15 a.m. jumped up off the page at me. Whoops. Fortunately my makeup was on and my hair done. Dressed in exercise shorts, and a tee-shirt I ran into the bedroom and literally dragged the sleeping Rick out of bed. Explaining the situation, I urged him to get dressed while pulling clothes on myself. Sitting and standing concurrently we looked like two drunks playing musical chairs. Grabbing my duffel bag and carry on bag on my way out, we hopped in the car. The duffel bag felt unusually light. Later I was to find this was due to the fact I’d forgotten to grab the small pile of clothes I was planning to wear while away. Sigh. With me everything doesn’t always go as planned. It would be a pleasant surprise for Rick I’m sure, if for once it would.

Without coffee, Rick’s Prince Charming card can find itself in serious jeopardy of being revoked. That morning so far was not shaping up to put a smile on his face. It was a relatively one-sided conversation going down the hill. I chattered. He drove along probably quietly devising sinister ways to push me out the car door without spending his remaining years in incarceration.

Arriving in Sacramento, the GPS announced our final turnoff. The street took us on a ride across the American River along the I Bridge. Cool. As lovely as it was it was not unfortunately the correct way to go. Pretty nonetheless. I found this slightly amusing. Rick had to search a bit deeper to find the humor. If life gives you lemons, make lemonade, I say. However, I did not say this out loud. After one u-turn and another incorrect turn back over the bridge we went. Looking out the window I tried not to smile. Sometimes when I’m nervous I can’t help myself. Icicles had actually begun to form on the tip of my nose from the chill wafting across from the driver’s side of the car. Finally the GPS said “right turn”. This time we had the right turn but again, unfortunately, we cut the turn a bit tight. I say we figuratively, for actually I was not driving. Did not feel that was the time to point this out this either, but I’m just saying. The rim of the right front tire scraped loudly along the cement. Oh-oh.

By the time I was dropped off at the station frostbite had set in. Rick just kept repeating, “now I understand”. I’m glad he understood because I had no idea what he was referring to. Somehow I felt it had something to do with women in general, but I didn’t think that was the time to dig further for answers.

The parking lot was full so we said hasty goodbyes exchanging a kiss so cool it nearly cemented our lips together like skin when it contacts a frozen surface. By the time the train pulled out of the station Rick had finished his first cup of coffee and called to wish me a safe trip. As it turned out I was to wear the same clothes for three days until I brought my Mother and her roommate back on the train, but life was good. Rick on the other hand got half way home before the “tire pressure is low” indicator came on. Being Sunday, naturally no tire stores were open. One emergency road call and a spare in place he made it home. If life gives you lemons. Oh, never mind.

I posted this delicious pie recipe last year. A technical mystery has erased it from my history. Recently I was asked by several people for the recipe so I thought I’d post it yet again to have it available. It is a never fail recipe with a little elbow grease involved but more than well worth the effort. Don’t believe I’ve ever served it to company without having someone request the recipe.

IMG_6646Apple and Ripe Cheddar Pie

2 pie crusts
9 Granny Smith apples, sliced thin
14 thin strips of ripe cheddar cheese
1/2 cup butter
3 Tbsp. flour
1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Slice apples in piles of three apples each.

Place one pie crust in bottom of deep dish pie dish. Forming a circle rotate around piling apples one on top of the other. Take 1/2 of the cheese slices and form a ring in the middle of the apples.

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Repeat with apple layer, then cheese layer, then apple layer.

Place the other crust on flat surface. Cut into 3/4″ strips. Layer half the strips across one way and then the remaining strips back across them the opposite way leaving space in between like in a lattice. Crimp the edges together.

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final

Over the past few weeks there have been three reported incidents of leg room rage on airplanes. Passengers who either wouldn’t allow the person in front of them to put their seats back or passengers so cramped they lost it with a passenger either in front of or in back of them while trying to claim what little area comes with their ticket. It is ridiculous how tightly the airlines are willing to confine us in order to serve their Screen-shot-2010-10-21-at-10.49.56-AMbottom line. I found the diagram to the left showing what the future could hold in store as airlines attempt to squeeze more and more people into the same cabin space. Sort of half sitting half standing. Really? And we’re okay with this? Why not suspend us from hooks on the ceiling like sides of beef? Maybe freeze us before take off so we don’t require any attention during the flight. If things get this extreme I’ll take a boat, bus or a train before I’ll fly. Seriously. I realize my not flying have little impact on the carriers. Also, I can see where other means of transportation less expeditious won’t work for many people. Time holds us hostage to the airline companies, but I will definitely fight standing up in my seat to promote their profit margin.

A friend of mine recently returned from a trip to British Columbia. Customarily she will pick up something at the airport food courts to take with her on the plane. On this trip she was late arriving at the airport. With no time to stop for food she barely made her flight. On the plane she was offered a snack menu from which to choose from. For $8.00 she opted for cheese and crackers assuming they couldn’t do much damage to that. Unfortunately, the airline outdid themselves. Amazing how you can completely ruin four slices of cheese and a package crackers. According to my friend the cheese resisted all attempts to be cut. Tearing it, pulling it, slicing it, proved fruitless. Chewing definitely wasn’t an option. I believe this could be a new secret weapon. A micro-fabric so invincible to outside forces it could be adopted by NASA to create spacesuits or to reinforce the walls on future space stations. After a while you just have to laugh.

Besides the obvious comfort considerations, there are health issues associated with sitting in such cramped positions for long periods of time. Diabetics, for example, often have leg circulation or foot issues. Strokes and heart attacks can actually be induced by such conditions, and certainly if you’re traveling with small children it can make a sometimes bad situation nearly unbearable.

Once, flying to the east coast, I got seated in the very last row of seats. This was interesting. Not only are you forced to sit perfectly erect during the entire flight, the bank of toilets are located directly behind you. A steady flow of customers either pass by or stand in line directly over you. I made one attempt at trying to sleep but found no matter how I shifted, my mind couldn’t wrap itself around the fact I expected my body to sleep in such a position. Even if I did drift off, I would jerk myself awake to find some waiting restroom patron watching me to see if I slept with my mouth open or snored. I ended up sitting straight in my seat for the five-hour flight. Fortunately, they had a beverage service.

You pay for every little perk these days. Gone are the days when wee bags of peanuts or pretzels were handed to you with your beverage of choice. Also gone are the days when flight attendants wandered through the cabins offering newspapers or magazines to read or a blanket and pillow if a nap was what you needed. If you want a pillow or blanket on many airlines they offer you one for around $7.00, and reading material is limited to the map of the exits or the in-flight magazine in the seat pocket, also benefiting the airlines.

All these are only the obvious extra charges. There are also a myriad of “hidden fees”. Are we having fun yet? If not, let’s take a look at what’s happening to that over weight allowance bag you coughed up $75 for at the check-in point. It’s highly possible baggage carriers are either sifting through your underwear or tucking that tablet into their jacket before throwing your suitcase on top of the pile.

Personally I’m not adverse to a little spoiling. The original Orient Express stopped running in 2009 I believe. You can still book a suite on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express for $5,000 plus a person, however. Sign me up please. Before you leave you are given a bottle of wine and served champagne. Lunch is a three-course affair in the dining car. Afternoon tea follows later in the day served in your cabin. The day is summed up with a four-course meal created by talented French chefs, and then off to bed which has been turned down, undoubtedly with a chocolate on your pillow. Mornings breakfast is served in your cabin, with an attendant pouring steaming cups of coffee or tea and seeing to your every need. This sounds way better to me than having a pillow/blanket pack thrown at me for an exchange of funds.

Malaysia Airlines recently came up with the incredibly bad taste campaign to enter a “bucket list” contest to win airline tickets or prizes. Considering their recent track record in the air, having a contest based on all the things you’d like to tick of your list before dying seems rather bad form.

I’m off on the train to San Jose this afternoon leaving Rick and Boo the Queen of Cats to man the oars. Made this soup to keep him going. Yum.

Savory Rotisserie Chicken Noodle Soup

1 rotisserie chicken cut up
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped sliced
3 carrots, sliced
3 ribs celery, sliced
1/2 green pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic
4 baking potatoes, peeled and diced
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. rosemary
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 tsp. chicken bouillon granules
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. white pepper
8 cups chicken broth
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can water
1 cup 2% evaporated milk
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1/2 cup cooked peas
2 cups cooked egg noodles
Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in stock pot over med. heat. Add onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Saute 6-8 mins. until onion is translucent and vegetables are tender. Stir in seasonings, broth, and bouillon granules. Add potatoes, mushroom soup, and water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to med.-low and simmer for 45 mins. partially covered.

Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

Add chicken, milk, and peas. Continue cooking for 15 mins. Add parsley.

Place 1/3 cup noodles in bottom of each of 6 soup bowls. Ladle soup over top. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

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final
Finally I made it to the health club for orientation on the machines. They do this in groups so there were two other ladies waiting at a table I was directed to when I arrived. At the front desk we all been told to sit and wait for Cody, our machine guru, to arrive. Being good newbies we sat as instructed and struck up a conversation. Shortly, an exquisitely sculpted young man came over to our table and introduced himself as Cody. Lush hair, perfectly proportioned, tan, and blessed with a set of blindingly white incredibly straight teeth. Barbie would have left Ken for this boy. Up until Cody walked up we’d been chatting away amiably. Upon his arrival, the three of us sat with our mouths agape as Cody the Magnificent laid out the plan for the upcoming hour. Apparently August was eye candy month for me because I had the glorious Dr. Puddinface just last week when I got the splinter in my palm. Telling Rick about this when I came home, I said the female instructors were equally as dazzling. If he wished to exercise his option to look but not touch he was welcome to get a membership. He said he didn’t think so. It seems he secretly suspected they’d want him to exercise while there.

It makes all the sense in the world to me that health clubs and spas hire beautiful people. One does not hire a bald man to promote hair products, nor a person with severely crooked teeth to man the front line at the dentist’s office. We are addicted to beauty in our culture. The myth they are selling, I would assume, is that after you use their hair products, slather their cream on your skin, or sweat on their equipment you will ultimately look like their representatives. Even I, who leans toward taking most everybody at their word, can’t buy into that.

For a young guy Cody was surprisingly patient and engaging. Their HR person did a good job in recruiting him. Before proceeding, we were asked to fill out a questionnaire and answer some questions to narrow down the muscle groups we wished to target. It turns out my target group includes everything from the tip of my pointed head to the bottom of my flat feet. Basically, there was nothing between those two points not in need of some attention. Good to know. It’s fortunate I have fairly good self esteem or I might have gone into the tank about then. The thing that is deceptive, I believe, is that I’m small. In clothes I look fine. It’s when summer comes along and I have to free those upper arms or legs that I start noticing the skin isn’t as tight as it once was. I don’t expect to achieve anything near perfection but I would like to give gravity a little push back. I have a friend who is quite large busted, a curse I have never had to deal with. Her “girls” as she refers to them, have moved to a new location beneath her arms and refuse to return to the front unless confined by a bra. Vindication for me for all those years in gym class when I was entering puberty.

Once the questions were answered, Cody ushered us along a bank of huge machines stopping at one on the end. Men and women red faced and sweaty struggled on the machines in the main cavity of the room. Ah, exercise looks like so much fun, smells like it too. Cody sat in the seat provided for the user on the machine. He set the difficulty, placed his feet on a long metal bar, and breathing in and out moved the bar effortlessly back and forth bringing his knees to his chest and back. Looked so easy. Gesturing for me to go next, I sat down. As instructed, I planted my feet squarely where his had been. Waiting a minute or two with nothing happening Cody asked if the machine was on. As it happens it was. My brain was sending a message to my knees to push the bar. Clearly push came through several times. As much as I felt my knees straining to comply with the request, my muscles simply couldn’t make it happen. After some adjustment, probably reducing the torque to “newborn”, the bar moved when I pushed my knees. There’s nothing like a good workout to point out what truly abysmal shape you’re in. The other ladies had the same issues, so at least I wasn’t alone in my humiliation.

Over the next fifty minutes we became acquainted with ten machines, all working different muscle groups. On each machine we did about six to ten reps. Doesn’t seem like much does it? I didn’t think so either. Easy peasey. Waking up the following morning each muscle group addressed announced itself loudly. First they counted off in order, and then all together. Ow.

As luck would have it it was my day to work at the animal shelter. To add to my good fortune, I was volunteered for all the bottom cages as several of the other volunteers in that day were hurt or had had recent surgery. Crawling around on the floor feeling every muscle I’d pulled from the day before none of the cats questioned my movements. Animals can sense when to engage and when not to, and that day definitely weighed heavily on the side of the not pushing the envelope.

So, I embark on a journey of self-improvement once again. I get myself to where I think I’ve improved enough to stop and then find I’ve a long journey ahead beyond the bend in the road. Sigh.

This delicious appetizer or side is usually served on toast points, bruschetta, or in a sandwich. When serving it on toast points I give each guest a steaming packet to open and spread on themselves. Usually you use anchovies in the traditional version of this dish, but my family won’t go near them. So, I came up with this delicious alternative.

Mushrooms in Parchment (Funghi ‘Ncartati)

1 lb. mushrooms (your selection), sliced thin
8 slices Coppa Ham, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 green onions, chopped white and green
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped fine
4 Tbsp. olive oil
4 Tbsp. Italian bread crumbs
4 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, shredded
Juice of 1 lemon
Generous grind of black pepper
Lemon slices
6 squares parchment paper, 12″ x 12″
Extra olive oil

Preheat oven to 375

Slice mushrooms thin. Place in medium bowl. Add remaining ingredients up to lemon slices. Mix well.

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Brush one side of each piece of parchment paper with olive oil in the center. In the middle slightly towards the front of the paper place 1/6 of the mushroom mixture. Top with a slice of lemon.

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Fold paper in half over mushrooms and crease. Beginning with upper left hand corner, fold and crease, fold and crease. Follow all around the outside of the paper to form a half moon.

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Place on cookie sheet. Bake for 10 mins.

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1

Prices continue to rise. People are searching for ways to cut costs to keep their heads above the water line. I clip coupons and scan the paper for sales in an effort to keep food costs down. Our pharmacy sends emails with specials on coffee and cosmetics, which I try to follow up on. As it happens, I needed a few things from the pharmacy yesterday, but only had one coupon appropriate for what I was buying. Putting my items in the basket I went to the front of the store to check out. Because of the holiday weekend, all lines were busy. Being in no particular hurry, I chose a line and got behind the last shopper. The woman in front of me had an extremely full cart, but other lines were equally backed up so I stayed put. Luck being what it is, the woman turned out to be an extreme couponer. In the kiddie seat beside her purse was a bulging notebook. Standing at the register it flipped open to reveal page after page of plastic sleeves filled with coupons. Each section was tabbed and in her hand she held a stack of coupons about 3″ high. I’m not lying here. Naturally, each coupon had to scanned. Some were good. Some were not. I knit a sweater, wrote the great American novel, and took a class on Spanish as a second language while waiting for her receipt to print. In the end, she paid about $6.00 for the overflowing basket and went on her way. I bought some hair mousse and two twelve-packs of toilet paper. Handing over thirty dollars and one $.50 off coupon, I received enough change in return to purchase a pack of breath mints.

I wish I had the time, patience, and energy to collect and categorize all those coupons. Really I do. I admire the tenacity, but question the resources. My life doesn’t have the bandwidth to include the hours it must take to amass such a collection. Not only do you have to obtain the coupons in the first place, but you have to sort by like coupons, file them, and travel about to appropriate places to use them. Also, they go out of date fairly quickly. You would have to go through periodically and throw out the ones already past their use date. Ach.

Bartering though, is another concept for cutting costs I’m toying with. For example, my dear friend Louise and I barter every six weeks in a manner of speaking. While living in our previous home, Louise was the first friend I made when we moved to that area, also my hairdresser. When we moved, Louise sort of came with me. Every six weeks she travels here to touch up my hair. In exchange I make her a fabulous meal, provide her with her favorite adult beverage, and, if she has the time, offer my downstairs guest bedroom for the night cooking her breakfast in the morning before she leaves. This gives her a night away in the tall trees, provides us a chance to catch up on our lives, and leaves me root free for another six weeks. Works beautifully for us.

With this in mind I came up with an idea. I know. Please write down the date. It may not happen again for another decade or two. I had a large computer monitor I wanted out of my craft room. We defer to our laptop these days for everything so it was just gathering dust. I ran an ad to sell it on Craig’s List with no takers. I reduced the price to nearly free. Still no response. This is a very nice monitor, practically new. Hmmmmm. So, I came up with an idea. I needed a few bushes and tree limbs trimmed. I posted the monitor under free stuff at no cost with one caveat. Whoever claimed it needed to trim my trees and bushes. Having no idea how this would work I hit “publish” and went on my way. My phone and my email lit up with responses. Actually I had to remove the ad to make it stop. A student at Sac State was the first to respond.

Our student arrived about two hours later. I handed him the trimmers. In about an hour he did a nice job on the yard, piling the trimmings in my trash can. In exchange, I handed him the monitor and after mutual nods of appreciation he went on his way. This was an idea I can embrace. Sort of a win/win.

This is not the first time I have dabbled in bartering. I have swapped my artwork for services in the past, and have used my writing skills in exchange for goods a time or two. Bartering is certainly not a new concept, dating back to prehistoric days. Perhaps a warm pelt was exchanged for a willing bride, or meat for the best cave to wait out the winter in.

I will try this again. It allowed me to help out a student needing a desk, and it helped me to get rid of the tree limbs encroaching on my driveway. Yea.

This dressing leans toward the sweet. I’ve always called it sugar salad. The dressing should be made the day before for the best results. Yummy.

3Sweet and Sour Salad

2 hearts of romaine, chopped
3 green onions, sliced thin
1/3 cup green bell pepper, sliced in strips
1/3 cup orange bell pepper, sliced in strips
8 radishes, sliced thin

Poppy Seed Dressing

1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 Tbsp. white vinegar
2 1/2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp. minced onion
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. hot paprika
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
2 1/2 tsp. poppy seeds

Whisk together all ingredients. Refrigerate 24 hrs. for best results. Toss with salad ingredients just before serving.

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2
Between Rick and I we share four children. These four have produced nine grandchildren. I know. Four boys and five girls in all. Of the girls, one daughter and one granddaughter have a real affinity for ink. The tattoos began as experimental I think. A small rose here, a delicate heart there. Now they’ve progressed like the urban sprawl covering larger and larger areas of available acreage. The artwork is genuinely to be praised. Amazingly detailed, with vibrant colors and clever design.

The ladies in question are young. Blessed with beautiful smooth young skin. A natural canvas upon which an artist can create. Unfortunately, as with all of us these bodies are in a state of flux. As the years pass, skin loses its elasticity. Even with the most tender loving care and expensive lotions and creams they insist on withering and wrinkling like an apple left too long in the sun. I can’t help but wonder what happens to tattoos during this transition.

Back in the 80’s I worked with a female executive. Linda was a very attractive woman in her mid-thirties. With a reputation as a powerhouse, she led her minions with a firm hand. Quite a feat in those days, particularly in an engineering company a venue long dominated by a strong male presence. Beautiful clothes were her hallmark. I used to wonder at where she stored all the accessories and shoes on display. Even on the hottest summer days, however, a jacket or cover up always accompanied her outfit. I knew she worked out because we had gone together on several occasions. Even on the treadmill a long-sleeved shirt was pulled on over her workout pants. Hmmmmmm.

Two years into our working arrangement we established a sort of friendship outside of work. Not best buddies, but we hung out on occasion, stopping off for a glass of wine after a long day or grabbing lunch every other week or so. As our friendship deepened, Linda’s story naturally unfolded. She hailed from a blue-collar family, very white bread. Her father, given the task of watching over four girls, took his job very seriously. Linda didn’t take easily to all the rules and restrictions. At eighteen instead of heading off to college as was written in her parent’s playbook, she chose to run with a local motorcycle club. In particular a twenty-something rider with cascading hair affectionately known as Blade. I remember his name because you just don’t come across that many Blades in a lifetime, so when you do the name tends to stick with you. (No pun intended.) During these wild and unproductive years she found herself quite drunk one Saturday night. While in this state she chose tattoos for both upper arms and one for her lower back now referred to as a “tramp stamp”. Back then tattoos were mainly the craze in military personnel, fringe groups, and motorcycle types.

Over the next few months the tattoos came to life. Well suited for the lifestyle she was living at the time, as relationships will do when we are young the shine wore off Blade. Linda left him in her rear view mirror and moved on. Replacing leathers for jeans and tees she headed off to college to jump start her education. On one arm off the shoulder it read “Rider from Hell” above a cutoff clad female biker on a bike. On the other arm, “Born to be Bad” was inscribed above a heart with crossbones. I don’t know what was on her lower back. Didn’t know her that well. At any rate, as well accepted as these were by the Harley set, in an upscale college environment they were more of a conversation starter. Worse yet they set the tone for how she got treated at parties or on dates. Clasping her degree on graduation day preparing to let herself loose on the interview circuit, the tattoos were not going to be her foot in the door.

Hiding them for interviews, it became necessary to continue to conceal them as she moved up the corporate ladder. I suppose tattoos are well accepted in most environments nowadays. I’m still not sure I can picture them in the boardroom, but that too may be changing.

I’ve mentioned before I’ve thought of getting one myself a time of two. My choices would be small and most likely placed for easy coverup. I do admire the beautiful workmanship and support the girls choices to do what they choose to do with their bodies. Can’t help but wondering how they’ll feel about it down the road a piece. Being grownups I’m sure they’ll deal with it as it comes along.

As an aside the dogs in our neighborhood seem to have all lost their minds simultaneously howling and carrying on endlessly. Makes me wonder if it’s associated with the recent earthquake and aftershocks in Napa. We didn’t feel the earth move, but friends in the Bay Area certainly did.

This is a really meaty and delicious version of good old tomato soup, which I love with either a light salad or a gooey grilled cheese sandwich.

Meaty Tomato Pepper Soup

1 lb. ground chuck
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup orange bell pepper, chopped
2 15 1/2 oz. cans diced tomatoes, with juice
2 6 oz. cans tomato sauce
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 cup cooked corn
1 Tbsp. taco seasoning mix, hot
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice

Brown ground meat over med.-high heat in stockpot until browned. Drain on paper towels. Return to skillet. Add bell peppers and onions. Cook until onion is translucent over med. heat.

Add remaining ingredients except rice to pot. Cover and simmer for 45 mins. or until peppers are tender.

Ladle soup into bowls with 1/4 cup rice on bottom.

Serves 6.

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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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