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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corned Beef Colcannon Soup

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


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

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

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


Pulse until chopped.


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

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


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

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

Serves 8-10

Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

This period of adjustment associated with Daylight Savings Time is doing me in. I may have to move to Colorado where they don’t acknowledge the change to carry on. Perhaps I’m getting old and don’t do as well with change as I did in my younger years, or it’s as simple as having my day altered an hour throws me off my feed. Yesterday was my day to work at the food bank. Normally I’m scheduled to arrive at 8:00, a schedule I’ve been adhering to for nearly a year without any problems. Before closing my eyes I switched on the alarm. Losing an extra hour of sleep would most likely put me behind in the morning.

I woke up to my other half standing over the alarm with a sledge hammer trying to get it to stop its infernal yowling. When choosing an alarm I tried to find the most annoying of the lot, and for a pleasant change of pace I was spot on. In my dream the incessant beeping translated to a kitchen timer which I couldn’t turn off. Annoying, but apparently not enough so to wake me up. I’ve a history with alarm incidents. Once on a trip across the U.S. in a U-Haul truck the movement of the truck triggered the alarm on a clock buried somewhere deep in the contents of the fully packed truck. The alarm, a plastic boy scout with a bugle was one I’d purchased in an effort to rouse my perpetually late son. Truly the most annoying alarm clock ever created. It was so loud it permeated the truck wall and we could hear it in the cab. I can’t tell you how many miles we drove with, “da-da-de-ta-ta, da-da-de-ta-ta, WAKE UP STUPID!” blaring in the background. Thankfully, before we were forced to pull over, abandon the truck entirely, and walk the rest of the way to Arkansas, the battery went dead.

Yesterday, after the alarm clock was silenced and my other half grumbled off to sleep, coffee was definitely in order. The cat, who gets treats in the morning, was rolling about on the floor striking her most beguiling poses lest I forget this ritual quite dear to heart.  I threw her a look saying, “Really? It’s 5:00 and the pot’s not full yet”. She rolled over and put two paws together like a bunny, did a brief tap dance, and winked at me. Fine, if you’re going to do tricks. Cats are funny beings.

Last week I visited my daughter, Heather. They have a cat answering to Myluv. Even cats seem to have unintelligible names these days. Cassanova was his original name. Once neutered, it no longer seemed to apply. Cassanova is an orange tabby, huge by cat standards, and totally S.P.O.I.L.E.D. I was told to spell this word when using it in his presence. It seems he’s bilingual. There are five animals living under their roof, two cats and three dogs. The two larger canines are of generic heritage, with the smaller feisty little black dog, Jasper, being a hybrid mix such as a Pookimo or somesuch. Jasper enjoys a combative relationship with Myluv, only coming together with the cat when it’s beneficial to both parties. After a recent visit to the vet, it was determined Myluv was, for lack of a better term, fat. The extra poundage is largely attributed to the enormous amount of feline treats he consumes hourly. If not given the treats, he will source them out himself, necessitating a treat door with a lock having to be installed causing the big cat much consternation. Last week Heather stopped to pick up a sandwich as she hadn’t eaten all day. Starving, she set the sandwich on her dresser to keep it out of reach of the circling Jasper, nose on full alert sensing salami and cheese in the immediate vicinity. As usual Myluv was waiting by his treat drawer. Disappointingly, nothing was forthcoming. Leaving the two animals alone while she changed, my daughter emerged from her closet to find the angry cat shoving the sandwich off the dresser onto the floor, where the waiting Jasper grabbed his prize disappearing under the bed. Totally tag teamed by her animals. These are the times when you need a quick video.

I digress, as usual. I’ve always been the one in the family having the most difficulty with the time change. This is not a new phenomenon for sure. I can recall a day back in the 1980′s, which my family brings up to me whenever we adjust our clocks. It was a Monday. Nothing good happens on Monday. The Saturday prior we began DST and Sunday, a busy day for me when working, I cleaned house and was tired by early afternoon. Feeling loggy, I set the alarm for 2:30 as dinner wasn’t scheduled to cook itself. Sitting with a book in hand, I dozed off waking up with the alarm at the allotted time.

Work back then, had me up and on the road by 6:15. My alarm was set for 5:00. So glad I don’t have to do that anymore, although I still wake up around then out of habit I think. Anyhow, children tucked in we turned off the lights that night around 11:00. In the wee hours the alarm went off. Feeling like I’d just gone to sleep I pushed the button off and padded into the kitchen. The coffee pot, usually set for automatic, hadn’t performed as programmed so I turned it on and got prone on the couch waiting for a punch of much needed caffeine to start my engine.

Still tired even after a coffee infusion, I washed my hair, put on my makeup and chose an outfit for the day. About that time I woke my husband up and was preparing to wake the kids when I noticed the kitchen clock read 3:30. Are you kidding me? My husband, to say the least, was not amused. I was up and ready to start my day so I made a meatloaf and put in a load of laundry. Not good, not good at all.

So far this past week I’ve arrived at two appointments at the wrong time, and missed one altogether. Hopefully, the week ahead will find me back on track.

Using up the leftover corned beef from St. Patty’s Day is always a creative process. Tomorrow is Colcannon Soup, Reuben sandwiches are coming down the road, and last night we enjoyed this yummy corned beef version of Cobb Salad which was absolutely delicious.

O’Cobb Salad with Leftover Corned Beef and Russian Dressing for Two

2 hearts of rommaine, chopped
20 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
1/2 cucumber, diced
4 slices crisp bacon, crumbled
2 eggs, sliced
1 cup cooked chicken, cubed
1 cup cooked corned beef, cubed
1 avocado, diced

Make a bed of lettuce on a plate. Line ingredients up artfully on top. Add a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper. Serve with Russian dressing.

Russian Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup chili sauce
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 Tbsp. prepared horseradish
1/2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbsp. sweet pickle relish
1-3 drops hot sauce (optional)

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to use.

Setting boundaries in our relationships isn’t always an easy task. Nobody wants to say “no” to a friend or a loved one, but sometimes it is necessary. Let me begin by saying, historically I have not been good at this. If my phone rang, I answered. I answered it whether I was elbow deep in a chicken, washing my hair, or hanging from a trapeze in my living room. It was my belief if someone cared enough to take the time to call me, I should reciprocate by caring enough to pick up the phone. These days I can give myself a hall pass on a ringing phone if I am too tired, not in the mood to talk, in the middle of my favorite movie, or simply not inclined to answer it. There is still a twinge of residual guilt associated with such behavior, but I manage to finish the chapter in my book, dry my hair, or simply keep my feet in an upright position and work my way through it. Another step forward is when I do call back I don’t spend two hours explaining why I didn’t answer the phone in the first place.

Taught early in life by the females molding my young character one puts others needs before your own, it was a difficult concept for me to 4wrap my mind around the difference between acting in a “selfish” manner and taking care of oneself. Once I grasped the idea, at least to the level I have achieved, I found it a most freeing concept indeed. In a world where contact comes in so many forms, it is nice to turn it off, if you will, for a while and find a quiet place for your thoughts and body to rejuvenate and refresh themselves. Cue yoga master, Celtic music, and waterfall here.

It used to be I found riding in the car extremely relaxing. Driving along with the radio playing my favorite tunes, was for me very soul soothing. Even when my son had colic as a baby, taking him for a car ride if he was fussy quickly lulled him to sleep. When cell phones arrived on the scene, prior to laws prohibiting their use while driving, my idyllic drive home after work or when headed for a day off at the beach or perhaps a picnic in the park was often interrupted by friends having issues, someone needing a recipe, requests to pick up dry cleaning, or to settle a disagreement or problem arising at home. My world became a little bit smaller the more connected I became.

In the 80′s my family adopted a “Susie will do it” attitude. If there was a button needed sewing, a game hen needed stuffing, a ride to be given, or a favor to be asked my name was the first one tossed in the hat. My son would announce five minutes before bedtime he had a project due the following day, and often I would find myself up long after everyone else was spooning with the Sandman building volcanoes out of paper mache or making flour and salt maps of the United States. If cupcakes were3 needed for a Friday school party and notice given Thursday night just before my favorite program was to begin, ten minutes later I would be running around the market in my fuzzy slippers gathering cupcake liners, and ingredients to get the job done.  It got so bad on my thirty-third birthday Superwoman showed up on my cake, and one of the gag gifts was a tee-shirt with a big red “S” on the front. Really? Looking back I think I felt if I could do absolutely everything for absolutely everybody somehow the world would sit better on its axis and life would progress wrinkle free into the good night. Not so, my friends. Definitely not so.

Being a working mother I entertained a certain amount of buried need to make up for not being there apron in place taking the Baked Alaska out of the oven for dinner when my children got off the bus in the afternoon.  In an effort to fill the gap, I signed on for Soccer Team Mother, Girl Scout Leader, Art Docent, Cookie Monitor, and Ruler of the Free World. if there was a sign up sheet pinned to a wall or attached to a clipboard somewhere, my name was on it. Trying to please everybody and keep them happy can not only be a thankless job often, but rarely is successful on any level. You’re not happy, they’re not happy, ain’t nobody happy.

1A side effect of all this doing was rather than being buried in appreciative hugs and copious thanks, the doing became expected behavior by my loved ones going unnoticed until not performed, then becoming a source of contention in the ranks. So, after many years of finding “no” a difficult word to say, I find as I’m getting older it slides as easily off my lips as a pat of cold butter off a hot pancake. Certainly because you are empowered by being able to say no, I am not encouraging you to go about saying no to everything, but it does not mean you always have to say yes either. The world will continue to turn, birds will sing, seasons will pass, and others will find a way to take care of things they need to take care of themselves, if you’re not there to do it for them. Trust me on this.

This does not mean we should not help one another, it just allows for time to take care of oneself as well. When my children reached the high school level I mastered no so effectively I could have taught a class on the word and all the different nuances and intonations involved in saying it to achieve the desired results. Such a little word, containing so much power. It is wonderful nurture others, but also paramount to nurture ourselves in the doing of it.

So, kick back, put your feet up, ignore the pinging of electronic device to your left and breathe.

This recipe falls slightly outside my comfort zone. My other half loves liver in many forms. I do not. As a child my grandmother often made liver buried in sautéed onions and bacon. It was my worst nightmare other than beef steak and kidney pie, often ending up in the folds of my napkin or in the open mouth of the grateful cat waiting under the dining room table. As the years passed I could manage liver if it showed up in holiday stuffing or gravy, and I love a good pate, but just sautéed livers presented on a plate will take me back to the napkin scenario for disposal in the blink of an eye. Saying this, I love this rich meaty sauce with the subtle tastes the livers impart to it. Go figure. Anyhow, I’ll present to you for your opinion.

Three Meat Pasta Sauce with Chicken Livers

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 rib of celery, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb. Italian bulk sausage, hot
1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground chuck
3 chicken livers, trimmed and fat removed
1/2 cup red wine (I used Merlot)
2 16 oz. cans diced tomatoes with juice
2 6 oz. cans tomato paste
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 cup water
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried fennel
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

In large pot heat butter and oil over med. heat. Add vegetables and cook 8-10 mins. until tender. Add garlic and cook 1 min. Crumble and add all meats including liver to pan. Cook until meat is browned.

Add wine to pan and cook until it is mostly evaporated. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, water, sugar and all seasonings. Stir well and bring to boil. Reduce heat and cook covered for 1 hr. and 15 mins. stirring often. Serve over your favorite pasta or in lasagna.

Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

Spring is definitely in the air. My nose is running, and the garden is in full bloom. For us our garden is a bit of a wonderment, with everything planted there done so by the former owner. We didn’t move in the house until early in the summer months last year, so each day brings with it a lovely surprise. On the far hill, beds of sunny daffodils are waking up alongside purple irises and dark pink tulips. Directly to the front of the house the terrain is covered by a lovely pale lilac ground cover , and sprouting green leaves are popping up everywhere not having revealed themselves yet. The yard directly below the deck is resplendent in baby pink roses, and buttercups and the Japanese maples have begun to show off their lovely magenta leaves. Achoo. Excuse me.

Bears are waking up from their long winter’s sleep and rubbing their eyes. The earth is reawakening after a long hibernation and celebrating. Personally I would have been happy if nature had completed the picture with spring and fall, but I would suppose we have to have their two harsher playmates to fully appreciate their beauty. Today it’s supposed to hit eighty. Usually I would be out sitting among bags of potting soil about this time, digging holes in the earth and planting seeds for my garden. With the water situation in our area being so dire, I can’t see a point in starting something growing I can’t nurture along the way.

While in the market the other day, the checker was telling me grocery prices are going to go up. That’s a surprise. When was the last time someone said they were going down? Put your thinking caps on. I can’t remember either. In particular she targeted milk, eggs, and meat, and I believe avocados are to be scarce this season as well. Guacamole will be a black market item by the time Cinco de Mayo rolls around.

Sometimes I think a move outside of California is once again in order. Hold on, hold on, for you Californians I’m not saying California isn’t a glorious place to live but you have to admit it’s getting expensive to live here. Come on now, you know it is. My other half suggested such a move while we were looking at houses in this area, but with my mother getting up in years I felt it wasn’t the best time to put a lot of mileage between us.

If I was to move outside of California again, I believe I would head north. Can’t go too far up the coast as my other half finds rain and gloomy weather oppressive and you can’t live in Northern Oregon or Washington if you’re not fond of galoshes. If I had my druthers, I would buy a houseboat right by the ocean, on it preferably, and wile away the rest of my days watching the sun dance across the waves by day, and lulled to sleep by the gentle swells at night. Ahhhhh.

We’re headed south to the Bay Area for my mother’s birthday in the next month or so. On the calendar while there is a trip to the beach, in particular a favorite Mexican restaurant in the Moss Beach area, El Gran Amigo. Beach real estate has always been my first choice. Growing up on the coast leaves a firm imprint on your soul, and a yearning only sated by gulls circling overhead, warm sand squeezing between your toes, and the gentle reassurance of waves rushing and ebbing along the shoreline somehow adding a rare bit of certainty to an unsettled world.

Butterflies dancing outside my window brings to mind cleaning house. Not that my house isn’t clean during the rest of the year, it is, but I mean getting rid of clutter and unused items. I was amazed to find about one-third of my possessions can be lived without when they sat in boxes over the year prior to our finding this house. It’s amazing what you accumulate over time that ends up spending most of its existence gathering dust in the back of a closet somewhere on a shelf.

My mother called early today to announce she was embarking on the same voyage of discovery at her house. In her words, “so you won’t have to sort through all my things when I’m gone”. I wish she’d concentrate on sticking around and quit preparing for her untimely demise. It is most unsettling. Those of us who love her dearly would prefer to have her stay among us for many years to come. I would suppose as time passes you can’t help but get around the inevitable thoughts with regards to the end of your time on earth, but on this beautiful spring day I would prefer to address the butterflies and dust bunnies and leave deeper subjects for a rainy day down the road a piece.

1Took a four mile hike by the covered bridge, a historical area in these parts. I have not done so before and found it incredibly beautiful walking along the trail looking down at the river rushing by. Wildflowers were blooming everywhere and we encountered numerous red colored newts along the path. Interesting little creatures, slow moving and slick. The river itself was full of fish. Made me wish I had a line to drop in. Thought I’d share some pics.

This soup is a really nice starter before your corned beef shows up at the table. Cool and refreshing anytime.

1011In the pic above can you see the sleeping crocodile in the middle? Below, if you look closely you can see the fish milling about in the water.8

The bridge itself is being renovated.

166Minty Chilled Pea Soup

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
2 16 oz. bags frozen peas
2 1/2 Tbsp. dried mint
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Sour cream or plain yogurt to garnish

Heat oil in large pot over med. heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, 3-5 mins. Add garlic and cook for 1 min.

Pour in chicken broth and add peas. Increase heat to med.-high and bring to boil. Boil for 5 mins. Add mint and parsley. Remove from heat. Add lemon juice, salt, white and black peppers.

Cool slightly. Pour into food processor and pulse until smooth. Chill at least 2 hrs. prior to serving.

Add dollop of sour cream, or pipe shamrock on top.

Serves 6-8


There’s a campaign afoot to eliminate the “b word” when referring to those of our fair sex. No, not the usual b word we’re all familiar with having roots in the canine world, but b as in bossy. Bossy girls are perceived in the same manner as the other b girls. Being bossy, or taking charge if you will, is not perceived as a desired feminine trait by many in either the female or male camps so it seems. Why is it where a man is considered assertive, a woman exhibiting the identical behavior perceived as bossy? Hmmmmm.

Women begin early in their development to suppress their leadership tendencies, lest they be viewed as overbearing or, well, bossy. These very traits, however, are what propel men more often into leadership roles while women still lag behind both in filling these roles, along with the salaries they command when they do find themselves in the driver’s seat. Often I think we’re our own worst enemies.

Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook, has launched a campaign to eliminate negative adjectives such as bossy from the picture allowing young girls to instead be encouraged to spread their wings, express their opinions, and receive positive enforcement for exhibiting leadership qualities. Yea for us! I see that as a ten point spread in the last three seconds of the game.

My other half would view this, I believe, as dusting off my soapbox from the 70′s, tossing my bra to the wind, and going all Gloria Steinem on him. Not true. I very much enjoy being female, and treated as such but I do not agree with women in the work force doing the same job with the same skills being paid less than their male counterparts. Also, a strong woman does not mean an unfeminine woman, just a person who knows what she wants and is willing to take the steps necessary to achieve her goals. There I said it.

Over the years men and women’s roles in society have gotten a bit fuzzy. I believe the conundrum arises with men actually wanting their spouses to help support the household, while at the same time wanting to come home to a clean house, bathed children, and stew bubbling in a pot on the stove. Women, on the other hand, are possibly torn between wanting a career and full life outside the house, and being a good mother, and providing proper meals and a nice environment for her family in the home. One, I believe, does not necessarily rule out the other. I do believe, however, it’s a tough call. Once Rosie set her first rivet, the world shifted and nobody really knows where to stand on stage anymore, or what their lines are.

I would have loved to stay home with my children, not that I view this choice as a walk in the park. Dealing with little people all day can be both joyous and exasperating from one moment to the next. My two were only a year apart. Once my daughter, the oldest by a year, got over the fact she’d gotten a baby brother rather than the lop eared rabbit she’d requested, my son became both accomplice and fall guy in whatever scheme she was brewing beneath the guise of that sweet little face. There were many. The infamous green crayon caper, where my two criminals in training made a mural on the walls of their bedroom with large green crayons during nap time necessitating a complete repainting of the room. Note here, crayons, being made of wax, bleed through paint so painting over them is really a project. Put that in your play book for parenthood, right after what Play-Doh does to neutral carpet in Chapter 4 – Why Parents Drink.

It was disheartening at times to come home from work and find I’d missed a milestone in their lives someone else had shared, or they’d had a rough day without Mom to kiss it better. Life doesn’t always allow for what you’d like to do, opting instead for what it is necessary for you to do.

Child care was always an issue. Sorting through the applicants and various pre-schools available was dizzying. Some pre-schools were progressive. Saying “no” to the children considered heresy. Others had a stricter code of behavior but progressive education, actually teaching the toddlers during their time there. Always there was the option of in-home child care or a nanny if one had the means. At one point or another I tried all the options, excluding nanny. One didn’t have the means.

Of the in-home variety, I had sitters in my home and those who picked up the children after school and took them to theirs. Neither were the perfect solution, but better than having the kids sitting on the curb waiting for their mother to arrive around 6:00 p.m.  There were no perfect fits, simply those which didn’t pinch the toes as much.

In Massachusetts there was the lovely lady from Japan with 10 children of her own, who for some unknown reason chose childcare as a profession. Another woman was so devout she spent a good deal of the day praying (I’m not saying this is a bad thing – no letters please) and not enough time watching the children. They did everything but tie her up and burn her at the stake. At that age, or any age really, you have to keep one eye on them at all times even you have to install a third eye in the back of your head. One day she placed bowls on their heads while I was a work and when I returned home my daughter’s lovely golden locks were handed to me in a bag along with her coloring pages with the explanation hair was prideful. For months when out in public my children were mistaken for twins. A new sitter was brought on board by the end of the following week.

Somehow we muddled through and they grew up relatively unscathed. I was a latchkey kid myself, coming home to make my own sandwich in the afternoon, feed my fish, and do my homework. My mother checked the TV for heat as soon as she walked in the door so I made sure to turn it off well before she arrived. Smile.

I have done my tribute to clogged arteries for the month so let’s try on something healthy and delicious. I love beets. I realize they aren’t for everybody. Baked like this I could make a meal out of this salad during the summer. Delish.

Baby Romaine Baked Beet Salad and Cumin Dressing

1 bunch of beets (4 small)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Garlic salt (Lawry’s preferably)
6 oz. baby romaine lettuce
2 slices of orange bell pepper, halved
1 small can mandarin oranges, drained
1/3 cup raspberries
1/4 cup blueberries
1/4 cup sliced red onion
3 large mushrooms, halved and sliced thin
2 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Scrub beets. Cut off stems leaving 1″ on end. Leave on tail. Wrap in tin foil, making a tight package. Place in oven on cookie sheet and bake for 1 hr. and 15 mins. Beets should be fork tender. Leave package open and allow to cool until you can handle. Peel and chop in large chunks.

Plate lettuce on four salad plates. Top with remaining ingredients, leaving beets until just before serving.

Cumin Dressing

1 cup olive oil
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. basil
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
4 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix together in cruet or container with lid. Chill for at least a half an hour before serving.

Serves 4

Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

Make it stop. Seriously. I went to the food ministry for my volunteer day. The doctor also volunteering there gave his usual pre-distribution speech on healthy nutrition and exercise. According to him the lack of activity in our country has reached such an alarmingly low level, they’re suggesting if you could work at least three minutes of heavy physical exercise into your day it would be a start. I accomplish that before flushing the toilet the first time. Once the physical side of the program had been addressed, he went on to say manufactured peanut butter needs to be eliminated from our diets, replaced by peanut butter you make yourself. Sugar is killing us apparently, and it’s no longer considered prudent to eat artificial sugar products or products made with artificial sugar products either. Besides detrimental health issues, artificial sugars can make you fat. Really? Truthfully, what doesn’t? I have a friend who swears she can simply catch the eye of a piece of garlic bread and have to go up a size.

Once home, I took a few minutes to browse what was trending on the internet. A top story caught my eye stating meat and cheese most likely are contributing to early death. Both items should only be eaten sparingly or only if you have the occasion to be lost in Death Valley with only a cheeseburger in your pocket to get you by. What the hell?

I used to think Subway was a fairly safe bet for a take-out lunch. Their ads feature the gentlemen who dropped considerable poundage eating only at their establishments. It seems it would be a suitable choice if it weren’t for the glue products baked into their buns as preservatives. Sigh. Oh, and naturally no mayonnaise, uh, cheese, probably lunch meat, but you could have the onions and peppers in a lettuce wrap. Healthier alternatives are suggested for sandwich spreads such as yogurt or guacamole. Double sigh. I enjoy both, don’t get me wrong, but I draw the line at yogurt in my tuna sandwich.

Another recent new story was yellow was dangerous. The color, yes. Okay, enough. Red was the first casualty in the color spectrum. With red and yellow eliminated, what happens to green and purple, etc.?

Let’s review. No meat, no meat bi-products, no dairy, no cheese, no rice, potatoes, pasta, or bread, with no butter or toppings. Certainly no bacon or ham, limit the eggs, nothing with sugar, artificial sugar, anything yellow period, minimal caffeine and one glass of alcohol a day. I’m sorry, but I’m going to give up all that I’m going to need to to more alcohol.

Lent is upon us. It’s time to give up something in atonement if you adhere to this practice. I was thinking of cottage cheese, or possibly kale. Oh, cottage cheese is both cheese and a dairy product so I couldn’t eat it anyhow. Kale it is, or maybe turnips. I can give up turnips! Jicama, that’s it.

It always seems odd to me Easter evolved from a religious holiday to bunnies and colored eggs. Not exactly an obvious transition. Biblical animals turn my mind to lemmings maybe, whales, or rats, but bunnies? Also, if there are eggs, shouldn’t it be chickens in the forefront? Just a thought here. Hmmmm. As a child on Easter Sunday I was dressed like a Victorian lamp with tons of stiff frills and a bonnet with bows or flowers. Patent leather Mary Jane’s finished off the look with a wee pair of white gloves as if the humiliation hadn’t already reached epic proportions. Tradition dictated church first with my family, followed by an egg hunt at my cousins, then home for an early “supper”. Easter meals often revolved around huge glistening hams studded with cloves or roast beef. Sides included scalloped potatoes, fresh spring vegetables, and light flaky homemade biscuits dripping with honey butter. All this followed by a variety of diet busting desserts my grandmother was famous for. Glorious. I suppose now the only thing remaining on the plate would be the pattern, obscured possibly by a stray carrot or two.

Our world is becoming entirely too regimented to my mind. Too many rules. Rules which seem to fluctuate with the shifting wind of opinion from one day to the next. In the end, will we simply take a capsule in the morning for sustenance and give up the wonderful pleasures associated with food? Will we stop consuming it, enjoying the ambiance of a great meal served in a fine restaurant, or the company of friends and family across the dinner table? I’m going to picket. That’s it. Settled. I can’t take it any more. Susie needs her cheeseburgers.

Gone are the days where people sat at the dinner table waiting for a steaming dish of macaroni and cheese, puffing on their Camel unfiltered cigarettes, while refilling a tumbler of scotch. Ah, the good old days.

What did people do before all this available information? I guess we died younger. Makes we wonder if we weren’t a bit happier when we went. I know a lot of people, not just a few, who are terrified of nearly everything they put in their mouths. My mother washes her vegetables with liquid dish soap. Not so sure about that. One day I’m told to wash my greens. The following report says do not wash greens as they may pick up bacteria in your sink. HELP! I’m certainly not holding to the view there’s nothing to be afraid of. What the government holds back about the food industry is probably far more terrifying than what they dole out to us.

It is hard to sort the wheat from the chaff (if you will) in order to make an intelligent decision. Terms like “free range” and “organic” are often loosely thrown about or misinterpreted. Free range does not mean the chickies are running about fancy free, wind in their feathers. It means they’re in a pen, sometimes not all the time, and not caged. Still, they are not exactly renting a penthouse on Fifth Avenue with a mini-bar. The term organic is often abused and from what I’ve read not always well regulated. Most probably we’d all be better off growing our own food, but I would guess not always a viable solution for a myriad of reasons. I have the room actually, but neither the time nor the water. Somehow I believe raising cattle and pigs in the yard might have our neighbors manning the picket lines themselves.

My stepfather’s grandson lives in Georgia. He has built a successful business from his vast organic garden, and only eats organic vegetables, no meat. In his telling he has never been sick and his skin, hair, etc. looks lush and healthy. Of course, this could well be attributed to genes. The family is a healthy looking lot. Can’t help but wonder though about all the peanut allergies, and odd physical ailments showing up lately. If we dug deep might we discover the source connected to our food? Not the food itself, but how it’s manufactured and what’s added to it. It’s a lot to chew on (sorry).

For today I will close at least one eye and enjoy my dinner without afterthoughts and hopefully no after effects.

These crispy cutlets with the tangy sauce were an absolute delight. I had cooked a turkey breast and had half leftover. Tired of turkey sandwiches, and souped out, I pulled together items at hand and came up with this. We loved it.

Crispy Leftover Turkey Cutlets with Lime Butter Sauce

Lime Butter Sauce

2 green onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. chives
1/2 tsp. dill
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup butter, cubed
1/2 cup prepared Ranch dressing
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper to taste

In medium saucepan combine onion, garlic, chives, dill, chicken broth, and lime juice. Bring to boil over med.-high heat. Reduce heat to med. low and add butter. Stir until butter is melted. Remove from heat and whisk in Ranch dressing, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper. Keep warm.

Crispy Leftover Turkey Cutlets

6 slices turkey breast about 1/2″ thick
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup half and half
2 Tbsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. hot paprika
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
Canola oil

Beat together eggs, half and half, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, mustard, white pepper, and salt in shallow dish.

Mix together Panko breadcrumbs and Italian breadcrumbs. Dip turkey slices in egg mixture then roll in breadcrumbs. Place in refrigerator for 30 mins. to set.

Heat 1 1/2″ of oil in bottom of heavy skillet over high heat. Place turkey slices in oil and cook until golden brown on both sides, about 4 mins. per side. Serve with warmed sauce.

Serves 6

Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

Whoops I missed Mardi Gras. I’ve been missing it for years actually. One of these days I’m going to get there. Well, perhaps I can make up ground with St. Patty’s Day in a few weeks. Bring on the corned beef and cabbage.

Last night was wild here. I woke up around 11:30 to a bright blast of light outside the window followed by a roll of thunder which had the whole house shaking. Boo, the Queen of Cats, was but a white blur passing my face as she went airborne. Mother Nature at her best.  Thunder storms amp me up.  My mother claims she spent most of her pregnancy with me hiding under her bed in her Montreal flat, terrified of the electric storms prone to the area. Maybe this has something to do with it. I’ve been in some truly horrific storms leaving me with an understanding of why some people feel compelled to chase tornadoes. The sheer power of nature can be magnetic.

Southern storms were intense. If you’ve read my blogs about my time in both Arkansas and Alabama I’ve often referred to the weather lightning5there, leaning in the warmer months to sticky hot days with brief drenching rains. Many times I stood watching in wonder as fingers of lightning poked down through the clouds stabbing at the ground in the fields beyond my house in Alabama. Rain would pelt down at such a pace it would actually ricochet back up against itself. Culverts became rivers before the clock had passed an hour. Trees bent nearly to the ground with the weight of the onslaught. Awesome.

Muscle Shoals, an Alabama city located at the extreme northwest corner of Alabama is known for producing music. It was my home for just under a year. Our house was in a middle class neighborhood noted for its spacious lots and hospitable inhabitants. When I think of Alabama, and certainly Arkansas, I think of green. Lush overgrowth, evidence of liberal watering, is visible everywhere you rest your eyes. The verdant fields grew quickly with the ample irrigation, and during the summer often required frequent mowing to keep the grass at bay. Our yard was no exception. At times after allowing our Shih Tzu out to do what dogs do in the grass, I’d have to look for a glimpse of black and white between the tall blades to locate her once again.

We rented. While on the road during the construction years we always rented. Home was where we were at the moment so there was little chance to spread out roots out and settle in. The house in Alabama was owned by an older couple, odd by most standards. Sug and Pat owned several rentals in the area living in the largest of their properties with their only son, Pat, Jr., J.R. to his friends. J.R. 2966350047_b580105d5b_zhad spent a good portion of his thirty-four years on earth making a profession of spending his parents considerable assets. According to Sug, the matriarch of the family, he was very good at his job. Fortunately for all concerned, Sug and Pat were highly successful real estate brokers who managed their finances well, so as quickly as J.R. spent it the coffers were replenished. When speaking of her son she often said, “that boys about as handy as a back pocket on a shirt”. On reflection, I believe this not to be an unfair description. Sug was perpetually “under construction”, as she referred to her endless series of plastic surgeries. I have no reference other than a few pictures on her wall of what the woman originally looked like but I had a feeling it was far afield from the visage she presented when I knew her.

I liked that house. It was a single story brick home with a huge kitchen sporting a bank of picture windows capturing the lovely view of the pastures beyond the borderline fence. A lovely bright place to cook with copious counter space, it was usually the gathering place for friends and family when they stopped by for a visit. Neighbors were well, neighborly, there. Before the first week had gone by the families on either side of us had stopped by to say hello and the lady across the street had presented me with a bag of freshly harvested beefsteak tomatoes, huge red and green peppers, and a bottle of home brewed beer by way of welcoming us aboard.

The back yard was huge. With the aid of the large windows facing out on it from the kitchen also quite visible. Grass grew there at an alarming rate, and inside the long flowing blades a huge community of creepies and crawlies made their home. If possible, I avoided going through the jungle, and when I did I wore long pants. Often you came out the other side with more creatures on board than when you went in. During the summer months the thermometer teetered well up over the 100 mark most days and humidity was extremely high often producing a spurt of rain midday. I couldn’t manage the upkeep of the yard by myself with our push mower, and my husband who was pulling long shifts at the refinery had little time for lawn care.

Sug, at least I think it was Sug, as she was fully bandaged from her most recent tour of the local surgical facilities, suggested J.R. was the man for the yard clean up.  To this end she threw in the use of her riding lawn mower. J.R. enjoyed a beer on occasion. From the looks of him he considered everything from making an omelet to brushing his teeth an occasion. He arrived early on a Saturday morning, a small trailer hitched to his pick up truck toting the lawn mower. I hoped he wouldn’t generate any sparks because if he ignited the alcohol he was emitting with every breath it would likely level the block.

Watching J.R. drive the lawn mower down the trailer’s ramp without mishap, I returned to what I was doing. Occasionally I could see his head go by above the tall grass. Noticing a while later it had gone quiet, and seeing no J.R. in sight, I went out to investigate. The lawn was amazing. Crop circle artists had nothing on this guy. The lawn mower sat silent on one end of the yard with J.R. prone in the grass at its side. At first I thought he was dead. On closer inspection I could see his chest rise and fall. Surveying the damage, for a moment I thought I might kill him myself.

Finally able to rouse him I asked what was going on. It seemed the mower and J.R. were both out of gas. With my lawn half mown, we contemplated how to get the mower back on the trailer with no gas to propel it. It was determined I would sit on the mower and J.R. would push me until I picked up enough speed to drive it up the ramp. Right. Laurel and Hardy have thought of more plausible schemes then that one.

At any rate, seventeen attempts later I somehow made it up the ramp and onto the trailer without flying off the other end. J.R., well he was prone again. My neighbor across the street ambled on over. Taking off his hat he scratched his head and pretty well summed it up by saying, “Girl, I believe I can die now sayin I’ve seen it all”. That weekend I hired my neighbor’s son to finish the job. Easy peasey.

My mother was not happy about my move to Arkansas. People from the north often hold onto old stereotypes about southern living which don’t hold water in present times. Sure I would be picking my teeth with a blade of hay and shooting turkeys off the back porch I sent her a picture similar to this one with the caption, “Good news, we’ve found a house to rent”. Don’t think she ever forgave me for that.


finalTangy Vinaigrette Garden Salad

For the salad:

3 hearts of rommaine, washed and chopped
1 avocado, peeled and diced
1/2 red onion, sliced and quartered
1 hard boiled egg, sliced
1/2 English cucumber, peeled and diced
4 large mushrooms, sliced thin
6 small tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/3 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup green pepper, diced
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in salad bowl. Toss with vinaigrette just before serving.

Tangy Vinaigrette

2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. scallions, chopped fine
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. dried tarragon
6 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
6 Tbsp. peanut oil
6 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place mustard, scallions, red pepper flakes, dried tarragon, and red wine vinegar in bottom of bowl. Whisk briskly until well blended. While continuing to whisk slowly add oils. Salt and pepper to taste.


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