There’s a children’s book creating some buzz on the market at the moment, Barbie I Can Be a Computer Engineer. The original intention from what I understand was for the book to empower young women to step into fields historically dominated by men. Somewhere in the bowels of the book the writer took a wrong turn and lost her way according to critics. From what I understand, Barbie was attempting to fix a computer crash on her Pepto Bismo pink laptop. Somehow the computer contacted a virus. Rather than heeding the words of her computer teacher on how to fix the problem, she got into a pillow fight with Skipper in the end calling on two male friends who were able to fix the problem. Holy Bimbo’s Batman. Really? A woman writing about empowering women brings men in to solve the problem? Wasn’t that the problem in the first place?

I got my first Barbie in grade school. Instantly upon hitting the marketplace the questionably proportioned doll was a hit with little girls. Barbie was everything young girls wanted to be when they grew up. Thin, but well proportioned, with a generous bust line, beautiful skin, and lush blond hair. And those legs went on from here to Biloxi! Apparently the doll never ate, although I placed plenty of fake peas and pork chops on her pink plastic plates. Her waist would have had Scarlett O’Hara tightening her stays. Frankly I think she was sneaking cigarettes and drinking coffee behind her pretty pink closet.

Thinking back she was the first “fully growed” female doll I owned. Before Barbie I had Betsy Wetsy obviously to get me in training for what was to come, numerous Madam Alexander dolls, good old Raggedy Ann and a collection of Ginny dolls in a variety of ethnic costumes. Barbie perhaps was the first doll to get me thinking about boys, at least other than as an annoyance on the playground. Barbie didn’t have a profession in the beginning so I don’t know how she managed to afford all the lovely clothes and shoes or her dream house. Ken came along several years after Barbie appeared on the scene adding a new dimension to playing with the doll. Barbie had the car, so I assume she picked up him for dates. Memory serving me I don’t remember Mattel ever providing Ken with a vehicle along the way. Maybe Barbie got hers in the divorce settlement? This is pure conjecture on my part. I got an old Toyota Corolla with 150,000 miles on her. Naturally Ken was well built and good looking. In a perfect world Ideal rather than Mattel should have manufactured the pair.

As a child I loved playing dolls. According to the psychiatrists dolls actually make good role playing devices for girls aiding with their emotional and mental development. With the advent of more advanced toys actual dolls rather than virtual have sort of fallen by the wayside. The last doll I bought for one of my granddaughters was a Brat doll and that was some time ago. Before that I believe it was an American Girl doll, expensive by the way, and now as they are getting older there is a void. It wasn’t until entering middle school I regrettably tucked away my dolls in exchange for the real world. There are times when I see them standing on a rack in a toy store or in an ad in the paper I still get a pang of nostalgia.

Stereotypes limit us, to my view. There is no reason why a man should be better at math while a girl excels at English. Years of programming have landed us here. For many years I worked with engineers. Not for any particular reason really, I’m not one myself. After several jobs in the industry continuing on in that vein seemed to be the natural way of things. Most of the engineers I worked with were male. Only in the larger companies did I notice so much as a smattering of female engineers. At one job working for a small company manufacturing sump pumps there wasn’t one female engineer on the payroll. The women in the company worked either in accounting, human resources, support positions such as mine (executive assistant), or in maintenance. On one occasion we hosted a convention. It was my job to welcome three hundred engineers from around the country, entertain them, find housing for them, and generally get the show on the road. Truth is I like a project, probably why I’ve been married four times. I’ve often thought I should have been an event or party planner rather than …… I keep forgetting actually what is is I am. Anyhow, I shlepped groups from the airport to the various hotels they were booked at, attended events, organized events, planned picnics on two tiered London bus and generally went mad for a week. Of the three hundred engineers accepting the invitation three were women. Well, they said they were at least. It was difficult to tell behind the horned rim glasses, tailored suits, no nonsense hairdos, and hands off shoes they were wearing. Reminded me of those movies where the mousey secretary is transformed when her boss removes her glasses and lets her bun out of submission to long flowing hair. I spent some time with these ladies, and they had a lot to offer. One of them actually brought up what to wear to the final more formal event to be held at the Queen Mary in Long Beach. I believe it went horned rim glasses, tailored suit hands off shoes. Why, I couldn’t help but asking? She said it was difficult enough to be accepted in the man’s world of engineering on your merit and not your looks so dressing down helped them fit in and kept the flirting to a minimum. Really?

We’ve come a long way with this issue. Young girls are picking up bats on the field, and men are working as nannies. I’m not convinced we’ll ever fully tweak the system. It is a man’s world in many ways, but we’ve at least stretched it a bit out of shape.

This is my favorite baked chicken recipe. Moist and tender and always a hit.

Crispy Baked Parmesan Chicken

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
3 T milk
2 large eggs
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup plain bread crumbs
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or fryer cut up if you prefer)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a shallow bowl combine flour, salt, paprika, cayenne, and pepper. In another shallow bowl beat eggs and milk. In a third bowl combine cheese and bread crumbs. First coat chicken in flour mixture, then egg mixture, and finally roll in crumb mixture. Place in refrigerator for 1 hr. to set.

Put in well greased 13 x 9 inch pan and cook for 40-45 mins. or until internal temperature is 160 degrees.

Serves 4

They were saying on the news this morning one out of seven people in the U.S. has fallen behind on their payments. The median credit card debt per household runs around $7,000.00. Ah, at last I’m falling within normal parameters. What a relief. I thought perhaps I’d span a lifetime coloring outside the lines. Actually I’m never late on my payments but as the money pit continues to syphon funds into its ravenous belly my credit cards are beginning to take a hit. The latest casualty to add to the credit debt was our dishwasher. This is the third dishwasher to meet an untimely end since Rick and I have been together. Apparently as Texas is hard on women and mules or whatever the expression is, we are hard on dishwashers and coffee makers. in an effort to keep the latest one going we extended every effort other than triggering an exorcism or bringing in a shaman to perform a ritual of rebirth over it. In the end the patient was terminal and we had to pull the plug. (Sorry, my puns are a disease.)

Rick is handy to have around in these situations. I tend to shake my blond head like a bobble head doll when presented with prices. My bad is assuming the person quoting the price, a store employee, has some idea the numbers they are quoting are reasonably accurate. Rick, less trusting then myself, questions everything. This makes him an extremely annoying shopper but an excellent buyer, if you will. The employee in appliance sales was very helpful and good at her job. She led us into the sale beautifully. Initially we were planning to hit three or four stores before selecting a unit. She limited our shopping trip to her store only. After negotiating the price there were the usual extras to be considered such as installation, removal of the old unit, and extended warranties, if so disposed. Rick is a lovely man and an excellent partner but no one would ever accuse him of being handy around the house. Not that he doesn’t help out, he does, but when it comes to handyman type jobs he has ten thumbs with no natural gift for tinkering. He would tell you this himself was he penning this blog. Plumbers are meant to plumb, carpenters to carpent and Rick to run restaurants. Such is the order of life. At any rate all said and done he negotiated the $139 quoted for installation down to $55 to match one quoted by another merchant in the area. A win for the underdogs! When all was said and done we wished each other Merry Christmas and went out for a bite to eat.

Growing up my stepfather was much like Rick in this area. A teacher by trade the man had no talent for turning a screw. Unfortunately my stepfather wasn’t as self aware as my other half. My stepfather when presented with a handyman type situation would dive in with both left feet usually creating a disaster quicker than you could say Bob Vila.

While in high school we also had a dishwasher fail. My mother, a consummate shopper had little regard for price comparison. Mom’s mantra, “If it is expensive it is probably good. Always hire someone else to do the heavy labor. Never eat garlic before a date.” A new dishwasher was purchased, including installation. My stepfather reviewed the bill. After noting the charge for installation he insisted he could install the machine himself saving the nice gentlemen from Sears from having to trouble himself about it. Unable to change his mind, Mother took the path of least resistance and revised the order to include only disposing of the old unit and delivering the new one. Easy peasey. Dressed in his getting down to business coveralls and ball cap, my stepfather paced about the newly laid kitchen carpet surveying the manual explaining how to successfully complete his project. Even from my layman’s perspective I saw it in its basic form. A gaping hole approximately the size of the dishwasher and a dishwasher needing to be inserted in the gaping hole. An empty wall socket needing a plug inserted in it and a couple of hoses apparently needed to be connected going to and exiting from a water source. Plug it in, attach the hoses, and insert machine. Yes? To my stepfather this was a project of weighty proportions requiring much serious thought and lengthy deliberation. Much like the pool filter debacle of several years prior. A messy business involving EMT’s and a barely avoided electrocution. Erection of the Pentagon probably took less forethought and planning. Planning aside, things didn’t proceed exactly as laid out in the installation manual. According to the manual a five year old child could install the Kenmore during commercial breaks between Rocky & Bullwinkle and still have time left to tinkle before the program resumed. To quote the intrepid squirrel, “hokey smoke”.

Grunting, groaning, throwing of manuals, and swearing apparently are part of the home installation process. Perhaps not in every household but certainly in ours. Words learned during the installation of that dishwasher and other home improvement projects have served me well through the toughest spots in my life over the years where only such words seem to suit the occasion.

Hours after he began the dishwasher was pushed into place. We stood in the kitchen and admired how shiny and bright it looked in its new home before going on our way. The following day it was time for the maiden run. Mother pushed the appropriate buttons and water could be heard gushing inside. Sensing a win I went outside to do chores. A scream came from the kitchen an hour or so later. Running to see what the problem was I found my shoes squishing over the newly laid carpet and my mother with hands on her face surveying the water flowing everywhere out of the dishwasher.

When the repairman left leaving behind a tidy bill, looks were exchanged between my parents. This was before the carpet people arrived to address the carpet situation. I didn’t speak adult but I felt somehow this was an indicator that the mood in the house was not conducive to asking for a raise in my allowance or if I could have a slumber party. Once the carpet had been pulled up and dried, my stepfather hung up his tool belt and retired his getting down to business overalls and Sears made a neat profit off of installations at our house over the ensuing years.

I have to say these rutabaga fries are nearly as good as traditional fries. Give them a try solo with some horseradish sour cream dip. Yum. Note, if carrots are large halve lengthwise and across.

Baked Root Vegetables with Rutabaga Fries

1 bunch baby carrots, stems cut, halved lengthwise (5)
1 rutabaga, peeled and sliced in 1/4″ slices
1 bag heirloom fingerling potatoes, sliced in half lengthwise (larger potatoes only)
1/8 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1/2 tsp. dried sage
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. lemon pepper
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Garlic salt and salt to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Line large cookie sheet with tin foil. Spray with cooking spray.

Place all ingredients in large bowl with lid or resealable plastic bag. Shake well to coat. Place on prepared cookie sheet. Scrape extra seasonings from bowl with spatula over top. Bake for 45-50 mins. turning once. Watch carefully not to burn. Season with salt and pepper if desired and serve immediately.

Serves 4

Gossip is a practice I try very hard not to participate in. Words, to my mind at least, are a powerful medium and should be used with prudence. I put nothing in an email, written form, or in a voicemail I wouldn’t want revisiting me at some time later on down the road. With the advent of the computer generation, words are thrown about like dandelions in the wind. Little thought is given to where they might end up once the train pulls out of the station. Court cases are won and lost on the strength of a poorly placed email or text message. I bring this up because I have a friend in just such a situation. An email containing confidential information meant for one person’s ears was accidentally sent to a number of people who she did not want involved. More embarrassing than catastrophic, it reinforces once words are out there it’s nearly impossible to pull them back.

When I was working in Silicon Valley I was sent a url for the original dancing baby video. For those of you who remember this video, and I’m sure that would be at least two of you, it was a video of an animated baby twirling its arms first circulated when dinosaurs roamed the earth. At the time everyone was amazed. The technology new. We passed it on from one computer to the next as if we’d discovered the cure for the common cold. My cubicle sat amidst a circle of cubicles. The over sized computer screen easily visible to people passing by or sitting in the immediate vicinity. The link with the baby video sent to me by a friend contained a slight misspelling. Rather than dancing baby it read dancing babes. Since this was a male friend, this could be attributed to either wishful thinking or a simple keying error. Perhaps you can see where this is leading. Ach. An experience such as this highlights precisely why you shouldn’t play on the computer at work while appearing to be actually earning your paycheck. As soon as I entered the link swarming pages of explicit porn appeared on my screen. I tried to get rid of it, but each time I deleted one page another immediately replaced it. OMG. A crowd began to gather so in total panic I crawled around under my desk and unplugged the computer. Thankfully I had a general manager with a sense of humor so this never went any further than providing a good story around the conference table during meetings.

Another time I worked for a large corporate group. Five thousand employees gathered their paychecks on this satellite campus alone. Aside from the myriad of personal email accounts, there were department group emails, and if you needed to alert the entire company IT had set up an umbrella email entitled “companywide” to be used sparingly and only for important announcements. One of the engineers, recently engaged, received a rather graphic personal email from his fiance. Answering in kind, he accidentally selected the companywide email sending the reply intended only for his lady’s ears throughout the employee pool. Soon we all were privy to their plans for the evening, and jealous. News of the most personal kind about his life climbed instantly up the corporate ladder attracting the attention of the heavy hitters in the board room, not necessarily of the kind he was looking for. Not fired luckily, we did refer to him from that point on as “Oh Baby Ferguson”. The following day one last notification came through on the companywide email saying this email list would henceforth only be accessible to certain individuals with clearance to use it and only in case of an emergency. Oh baby.

For all the public sharing I seem to do on this blog, in person I am rather private about my business. I have found over the years sharing even within the most trusted of family members needs to be done sparingly. When you do share something personal it is best to do it with the idea in mind the smoke signals most likely will have it moving across the mountains before you’ve finished the thought. I cannot tell you how many people have shared sensitive information with me prefacing the leak with “I shouldn’t be telling you this”, or “I was told this in strictest confidence, so don’t pass it on”. If I suggest perhaps they shouldn’t be over sharing I’m brushed off like ashes on a dress shirt and become privy to the secret like it or not. I suppose I could put my fingers in my years and begin reciting nonsense to avoid hearing the juicy item. Allowing the information to pass my way remains my responsibility as well.

Recently I read an article suggesting we should be careful about sharing information about our partners with other family members or friends. Particularly if we have recently had an argument or are upset as it may alter how our friends and family view our partners. We all want to be heard (particularly women I believe – as we are the true communicators), but we have to be careful what we want to impart lest it come back to bite us. Selective sharing I guess would be the ticket.

You have to get your slow cooker out and try this recipe. Shared with me by my daughter it was wonderful. I could have it again tomorrow night and enjoy it equally as much.

Savory Sweet Potato Stew

1 3 lb. boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cubed
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
3  14 1/2 oz. cans beef broth
2 onions, chopped
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1  14 1/2 oz. can stewed tomatoes with juice
1/2  10 oz. can Ro-Tel tomatoes
1/2  4 oz. can diced green chiles (mild)
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 Tbsp. oregano
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 can corn, drained
1 Tbsp. lime juice
Sour cream and chives to garnish

In large resealable plastic bag mix together flour, garlic powder, pepper and salt. Add meat and toss and squish to coat.

Heat oil in large skillet. Add meat in two batches to brown on all sides.

Spray 6 quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Place browned meat on bottom. Add tomato paste and any flour left in bag to pan. Cook for 2 mins. over med. scraping up browned bits. Deglaze pan with broth.  Increase heat to high and bring to boil. Boil for 2 mins. Pour over meat.

Add tomatoes, onions, garlic, Ro-Tel tomatoes, chiles, chili powder, cumin, coriander, and oregano. Cook for 6 hours on low. Add sweet potatoes and corn. Cook for 3 hours on low. Add lime juice. Season to taste if desired.

Serve with a generous dollop of sour cream and chives over Mexican rice.

Serves 6.

The Internet adds another dimension to our lives. This dimension comes with both perks and pitfalls. For example, while busily bouncing from site to site searching for a great pair of lime green shoes with 12″ heels to go with that new dress, the Internet is at the same time tracking you.

I know this because my birthday surprises were diminished somewhat by the fact Rick purchased them on line. Not the boots, they were fabulous, but it kind of took the SURPRISE!!! out of the surprise. According to him he searched for the best deals on the brown leather boots currently decorating my side of the closet while at the same time ordering the lovely flowers decorating my entry hall. We share a computer. Soon after he hit “place order” the boots began showing up in ads at the side of my email account, on Amazon, below Yahoo, and everywhere else I found visiting. If the boots didn’t show up, floral ads prevailed. Hmmmmm. Very interesting. Now I’m blond, but I do not need to be hit in the head with a rubber chicken to figure out something was afoot (no pun intended). After twenty times of seeing the same boots  might this not have something to do with a shoe box sized box arriving in the mail? “I think so, Watson. I really do.” Also, the flowers were glorious, but I wasn’t totally shocked when they arrived.

I get this from a marketing standpoint. Web business is booming. More and more folks are hitting the “add to cart” button these days thus avoiding the prospect of grouchy shoppers and endless lines prevalent in stores during the holiday shopping season. I’ll be right there with them finger poised.

Apparently not only following our interests, internet marketers track what we buy, how much we pay for it and with that in mind all this data influences the prices we are shown when we search. The time you search can vary the price as well from what I’ve heard. So many different threads influence your shopping experience you probably will be completely unaware are weaving together below the surface of the page you are on.

Whether you shop in the stores or on your computer holidays are getting mighty expensive. A Hallmark card might cost upwards of $5.00. With the price of food, it might be more expedient to mail a loaf of bread with “Merry Christmas” written on the side of it and a gayly wrapped jar of peanut butter.

A friend of mine has nine children. Yes, I said nine. When I asked her how she managed all those kids she replied “every time a new one came along we got a bigger dining room table”. Works for me. Their holiday tradition as far as gifts for their adult children is an ornament or Christmas decoration to use the following year. I’m sure this would be effective for a while but as they get older it might require purchasing a larger tree.

I love to shop for Christmas but with our brood it has become highly impractical to go into debt to say “I love you”. A friend of mine spent over $3,000 on Christmas gifts last year for two children and three grandchildren. All of it went on her credit cards. During a phone call last week she said she just got the bills down to a zero balance and Christmas is here again. I told her to step away from the card and get small thoughtful remembrances instead. Make something, give a gift certificate for a nice dinner out. Be creative.

I’m giving my son a Starbuck’s gift certificate inside a mug. As of this date he is one of their most loyal customers, spending a fortunate on coffee inspired drinks, so this seemed like an excellent idea.

Another thing to keep in mind while pushing through the crush of people in the stores is to watch your purse or wallet. Hackers are getting smarter as technology does. If you set your purse down and look away a thief can extract your credit card information as well as passwords before you drop that pair of mittens in your cart. An easy way to keep this from happening I understand is to wrap your cards in tin foil. Makes sense to me. I’ve already gotten notices from Home Depot and Target that most likely my personal information is floating around out there somewhere. Changing passwords and using passwords not easily detectable are both good ideas but as soon as we figure out how to fool identity thiefs, they figure out a way around it. I guess this is the price you pay for the convenience of having made so many amazing steps forward in the technical world.

On a lighter note I haven’t had a ridiculous “Susie Day” in a while. It seems I was overdue. Yesterday was a rainy drizzly sort of day. Not complaining, we definitely need moisture in California in any form. This morning the sun was attempting to break through the fog and finally by this afternoon it turned into a crisp fall sort of day. Leaves draped over everything in the yard sticking up from planters and covering our patio table and barbecue. Feeling industrious I went out front and grabbed my rake. In the middle of gathering the leaves I noticed one of our trees would soon be seriously encroaching on the upper driveway. Our driveway is the worst thing about our house. It was nearly a game changer when we were considering buying here. You come straight down at a grade and either into the garage or turn to the right. If one car is out and the other in the garage it takes about three tries to get out again. Pain.

Anyhow Rick came out to say he had a headache and was going to lie down. Fine. He uses a C-pap for his apnea so usually closes the door to the bedroom. Out of habit rather than toying with me he locked the door. Starting to get cold outside I swept up the last of the leaves depositing them in the scrap bin. Yea for me. Went to go in and the door was locked. Sigh. Really? Now we’re on the second floor when we enter the house and the bedroom is toward the back. I knocked, rang the door bell, yelled, and generally wet myself trying to get in. Finally a half an hour into my routine Rick opened the door. Good news, he was laughing. I was not as amused. At any rate I’m sure our neighbors thought we were having sort of drama and am surprised someone didn’t alert the authorities. In the future I’ll take a key out with me.

Country Captain Soup is something I can remember having years ago. I had a cooked turkey breast, or what was leftover from  a meal, which I substituted for the usual chicken involved and added things here and there to bring it into this decade. It was wonderful on a rainy night.

Crockpot Country Captain Soup Revisited (Turkey)

2 tsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
2 large mushrooms, sliced thin
2 carrots, sliced thin
4 green onions, sliced
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
1/2 tsp. celery salt
2 Tbsp. curry powder
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 can Ro-Tel tomatoes, without juice (omit to reduce heat)
2 cups cooked turkey
8 cups rich chicken broth
3/4 cup cooked snap peas, ends trimmed and vein removed

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, green pepper, mushrooms, carrots, and apple to pan. Cook for 8 mins. or until vegetables are tender. Add celery salt, curry powder, ginger, black and white peppers, and salt. Saute for 1 min.

Add diced and Ro-Tel tomatoes to pan mix well.

Spray 6 quart crockpot with cooking spray. Spoon vegetable/tomato mixture into bottom. Top with turkey. Add chicken broth and mix well. Cook for 8 hours on low.

Cook snap peas in boiling lightly salted water for 6 mins. Drain. Stir into crockpot and cook an additional hour. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

At our house the debate rages on over Thanksgiving dinner. Turkey or prime rib? Prime rib or turkey? Me, I’m in the turkey camp. You might have known, right? I suppose one could eat, but it doesn’t sound as appetizing, prime rib sandwiches the following morning for breakfast, but I don’t feel it. The best part of cooking all the delicious food on the big day are the leftovers waiting in the refrigerator the day afterwards. Always I make my traditional turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sandwich. Susie’s got to have it.

I use every bit of the turkey. Nothing goes to waste over here. The carcass will be popped into some boiling water with a splash of vegetables to make a rich broth and the meat sealed and frozen to be revived later for soups or whatever strikes my fancy. Stuffing, if there is any to spare, goes in the freezer as well. Delicious inside a pounded chicken breast or in mushrooms with a bit of garlic butter. Spacing out the turkey themed meals is important lest you get turkied out before Christmas in which case the debate would heat up again. The great thing about the big bird is it is such a versatile meat you can creatively tuck it into about any dish.

Rick, obviously, has taken up the prime rib flag. Not a traditionalist and a big fan of beef. The turkeys, feeling the heat, have fallen in line behind his lead carrying signs reading “beef, the new white meat”. In the end being two stubborn beings living beneath the same roof I see it going down like this. Turkey cooked one week and prime rib the next. Coin toss determines who gets the actual day. Win-win.

It seems kind of odd not to be going anywhere nor expecting anyone here. To be honest I’m thankful we aren’t driving this year. There’s something freeing about not having to race around getting packed and organizing as I’ve done so many years in the past. The day will still be filled with great aromas and lots of busy work in the kitchen, however. Macy’s parade will be playing in the background and calls will be coming in from family and friends. Surely I will miss seeing their faces, but they are never very far from my side any day, so this one should be no exception.

One day over the holiday weekend I will drive down to visit my oldest granddaughter, Bre, visiting from Phoenix. Since moving to Arizona she has gotten several tattoos, been baptized at a local church, and become a vegan. Now the first two I can understand, but a vegan, really? I will stop. I respect all people’s right to free choice, no matter how the choices differ from my point of view. For me not being vegetarian or vegan stems directly, I would suspect, from my lifetime pursuit of the perfect burger. A veggie burger could never prove an adequate substitute for a juicy hamburger no matter how deliciously it was prepared for me I don’t believe.

Bre and I email quite regularly. Not a cook, she has had the good sense to chose a mate who is. Chef or not she is still an avid foodie so we have this in common as so many things it would seem. Both of us are scorpios with creative bents. When she was a little girl I painted characters on a white picket fence her mother was going to use to surround the girl’s toy closet. Her girls at the time were Payton, four and Breanna six. The playroom idea was so whimsical, the fence being the focal point around which it was designed. Such a cute idea, but a lot of work to take from conception to reality. Each slat in the fence was to have a different insect character or flower. Worm, rose, butterfly, daisy, etc. Twenty slats in all. They had just moved into their new home so the proposal was I spend a week with them painting the fence and doing other chores to help them settle in. I set up two benches in the room and covered the floor with newspapers. It was summer so the windows were opened for ventilation. Each day Bre would climb up on the bench next to me and watch as I created each character. Conversation was kept to a minimum as I was concentrating. We simply enjoyed each other’s company as the fence came to life. A memory was made over that week both of us will always share. I believe its important to find these moments with your grandchildren, though I must admit with nine all spread about it’s not always easy to forge a tight bond with each one.

I love all my offspring’s offsprings equally, but in this girl perhaps I see the most of myself. Looking at her at this age and remembering myself then, I can see she’s making excellent choices for her life. Being honest at her age I was a hot mess about eighty percent of the time.

As to the vegan issue we will probably never choose the same path so instead agree to disagree. I totally support her choices even if they don’t mirror mine. Life is more interesting in its diversities after all, not it’s similarities. In my view like many animals populating the planet, we eat meat to survive. I suppose the argument is we could eat vegetables to survive as well so I will not take up that argument at this writing. If I did, would we then have to say that said then are we okay with eating plants? Do we know if they have feelings? They are living things. What can I say, I am a carnivore and that is where it lies. For now I will sit on the fence. Ahhhhhhhhh, no pun intended. Or not.

This bread is perfect for the holidays, or any time. I make several loaves and freeze them.

Orange Cranberry Banana Bread with Orange Glaze

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups mashed ripe bananas
1 Tbsp. orange zest
1/3 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly grease 9×5 loaf pan.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in mixing bowl.

In large mixing bowl mix melted butter and sugars. Whisk in eggs. Add vanilla. Add bananas, orange zest, and cranberries and mix well.

Add flour mixture in two portions, mixing to just moisten. Pour into prepared dish. Bake for 55-60 mins. until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Orange Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. orange juice
1 1/2 tsp. orange zest

Mix together in small bowl until well blended. Immediately pour over bread. Cool.

1Ach, I have been sick. It seems fall is going to insist on my remaining inside on these glorious color filled days. Most probably I’ll be feeling better by the time the rain moves in next week. The word hospital came up when I was told I needed to go home and take care of myself. Susie’s kryptonite. I do not like hospitals. The smell, the sadness, the desperation. Also, I am a firm believer it is not unusual to pick up a little something extra besides the bill when you are departing. A friend of mine got a staff infection while in the hospital for a hernia operation and never came out. He was fifty. The only part of a hospital that makes me smile is the obstetrics section, and only as an observer there. The last time I was interred, as I prefer to call it, I made it through all the procedures but the most painful part of my stay was the food. Some of the chefs must have been recruited directly from Purina. They did a nice job with Jello and whipped cream and tapioca but other than that I feared I would die from starvation before being once again released into the wild.  It was the first hospital stay where I was offered a menu from which to choose my meals. Amazingly no matter what choice I made they all tasted the same when you put them in your mouth.

Certainly we need hospitals. Dedicated people who staff them, for the most part, do a rough job with a good attitude. I wouldn’t want to do it. As I’ve said before I considered being an R.N. as a vocation, before choosing instead to be, uh, …………, whatever. My grandmother was an R.N. This is how she met my grandfather, who was to be a doctor. Three uncles were physicians, and my second cousin just graduated from medical school. With all that medical blood coursing through my veins it’s amazing I chose instead to be, uh, ……………., whatever.

To add to the mix, Thanksgiving will be here in a few weeks and right on its heels Christmas. Help. On my sewing table are patterns pinned to pieces of fabric. Each Christmas for about five years I get orders for aprons. Combining my artwork with the sewing, I make each apron unique with a general theme to guide me provided by the buyer. It’s a project, but one I enjoy when I’m both feeling well and have the time to devote to it. Neither is true at the moment but I’m muddling through.

Christmas always seems to sneak up on me. In October it seems a long distance off, but in a blink I look at the calendar and it’s November. Suddenly the month is powering by and I haven’t even thought about gifts or plans and it’s all right there throwing tinsel in my face. Traditionally I put my Christmas decorations up the weekend after Thanksgiving. It’s one of my favorite times of the year. Already Christmas Vacation and The Bishop’s Wife are waiting on my DVD, and the hot chocolate is in the cupboard next to the marshmallows.

Rick didn’t start out as a likely candidate for elf’s assistant. At some point he will take out his “Christmas Sucks” hat to show his support. Over the years I’ve never been associated with a male partner or mate who threw himself into the decorating with me. Several have gotten on the ladder and hung outdoor lights but usually it is me with my sea of boxes wearing my elf hat with the bells and singing happily to the cat.  A Christmas movie deal is not on the table for this story, but it makes me happy.  For the first time this year he said he looks forward to the lights and the blinking tree (not a euphemism). It is true when all is said and done the house takes on a warm and friendly feel not duplicated any other time of the year.

Boxes line the upper shelves of my garage marked Xmas or Christmas. This house being much smaller than our previous home, I have to be careful not to turn it into a Christmas store or put some of the larger items in places where they can be knocked off or become a hazard. Thinking on it, I need a larger house for the holidays with this one doing fine the remainder of the year.

I haven’t been out all week so today is the day. Our larder is bare and the dog has no bone. Oh, I don’t have a dog, but if I did he definitely wouldn’t find a bone in the cupboard. Rick said he went looking for a snack last night and settled on a stale graham cracker and some string cheese. Mmmmmm. Maybe I’ll feature this in my next blog?

In our house the shopping is mostly left to me. A list maker from way back, I always have a long one when I get to it and Rick gets antsy after about ten minutes in a store. Honestly I like grocery shopping for the most part. Making a list makes it easy for me. Somehow I seem to manage to omit one item no matter what only to get home and find I have to go back out again. It’s a personal problem.

Anyhow, I’ll make this list short for today. This cauliflower was really good and totally different. Give it a try if you get a chance. The lime juice and salsa give it a lovely tang.

South of the Border Cauliflower

l large head cauliflower
1 onion, diced
Juice of one lime
1 15 1/2 oz. can of petite diced tomatoes with juice
3 Tbsp. hot chunky salsa
1/4 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper

Place diced onion in small bowl with lime juice. Let sit for 15 mins. to soften onions.

Steam cauliflower and drain well. Season with salt an pepper to taste.

Heat tomatoes and salsa over medium heat until hot. Add onion mixture.

Pour over hot cauliflower florets. Top with feta cheese and sprinkle with cilantro.

Serves 4

While consuming my bowl of cereal topped with sliced banana this morning I read an article on the health benefits of milk. After all the hype to drink the cow’s contribution to my breakfast, some study has determined milk is not as beneficial as once thought. Before I was old enough to make my own decisions I was handed a glass of milk and told, “Drink up. Milk makes your bones grow big and strong.” As it happens I liked milk, so this was one parental instruction I easily complied with. I still drink milk. Throughout my adult years I’ve included a glass or two in my daily routine. Non-fat milk is my poison. More out of habit than taste. Also because it’s healthier and easier on the waistline than the creamier options. This began really as a chubby little girl. My grandfather, a physician, felt non-fat milk would lessen my girth. Oink. The milk article being startling enough, below it was another article titled “Six Fish You Probably Shouldn’t Eat”. I didn’t read it. We’re having cod for dinner. Really? What’s left tofu and kale? I don’t pay attention to these types of studies anymore. Puts me off my feed.

Truthfully I make the effort to eat and prepare healthy foods. Fresh fruits and vegetables are staples at our house. However, if I eliminated everything from my diet recommended by this study or that there would be nothing left on my plate but the pattern.

As is evidenced by my recipes I do like butter. Occasionally I throw in some cream, and my love affair with cheese probably shines through now and then. What can I say? Rick has type 2 diabetes. When he was first diagnosed the suggestions from the doctor were two. Lose the belly weight and fine tune your diet. Medication and a relatively well rounded diet has resulted in a less well rounded tummy and his numbers are excellent these days.

All things in moderation is where I stand. Beef is on the “got to have” list for Rick. Beef is incorporated in our menus, but it’s far down on the list of choices following poultry, fish or pasta.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could eat and enjoy without worrying about it? On pondering this, perhaps it is as it should be. Would it not upset the Yin and the Yang delicately creating balance in our world were it otherwise? Being humans and prone to immediate gratification surely some of us would continue to eat and eat until the rest were left to fight over the crumbs left behind.

I’ve often thought about what I’d choose for my last meal. Don’t ask me why. I’m not planning on going on a crime spree in the immediate future. Still it is interesting to ponder what you would order should such an occasion arise. For me there is no doubt involved. A hamburger. A fat, juicy, hamburger. I would want it drooling with 1/2 lb. melted cheddar cheese. Next to it I would have a salad bowl full of fries, a side of onion rings, and a pile of romaine ladled with Roquefort dressing topped with home-made croutons. For dessert, chocolate. A bunny the size of my living room filled with caramel would work nicely.

We cannot always have what we would like. As a matter of fact I would take this a step further and say more often than not we cannot have exactly what we would want at the moment we want it. Credit cards came into being to help us with this dilemma, and look where that led us.

When my children were growing up I used to explain to them there is a difference between “wanting” something and “needing” something. Shoes are definitely a necessity to protect your feet and keep you warm, but $150 designer running shoes are something you want, not something you need.

Credit card companies follow me around sending enticing letters offering great deals at low-interest. I have credit cards because one needs them in this world to obtain a credit rating to obtain more credit to obtain a higher credit rating, or something like that. Last week I went through my monthly ritual of paying the few credit cards still owing via the Internet. I realize I could have auto-pay (I hear your gears turning) but prefer to make my own decisions about when and how much money is to be taken out of my checking account. Old dogs are not easily retrained. Yesterday I received a notice from one of the cards I’d made a payment to saying because of my late payments they were raising my interest by a specific amount. Now, first I have never missed or been late on a payment, and secondly I wasn’t late on the one I just made. I make a practice of holding onto my credit rating and work hard at maintaining it. If I can, I transfer funds around to avoid paying any interest at all. Because of this, it irritates the life out of me to have a levy assessed when I didn’t do anything to deserve the penalty. Placing a call to the credit company’s 800 line, I finally got a representative on the line. They really don’t want to speak to customers these days. Ten options were given to me other than speaking to a real person. When I kept repeating “customer service representative” the system finally got exasperated and I could swear the digitalized voice sighed before it said, “fine, if you’re going to be an ass, customer service representative”. Explaining the situation to the man on the line, he took a moment to look over my account. In fact I had paid at 8:00 P.M. on the allotted day, but it was PST (Pacific Standard Time). The credit card company is on MST (Mountain Standard Time). So, I even though I paid on 8:00 the day it was due, technically I was late. He removed the $26 late charge and restored my original interest rate. Really?

They are a necessary evil, I suppose. For twelve years of my life I never owned a credit card and rarely missed the pleasure. However, when I went to buy a house again I discovered no credit to be more of a curse than bad credit so I began to reestablish myself credit wise. It took quite a while but with the purchase of this house here I am happily in debt once again with Christmas coming up. Cha-ching.

So, yesterday was my birthday. Normally we’d have been headed out to dinner but both Rick and I have been fighting a bug. Calls steadily came in all day and I’ve been totally spoiled in spite of this, so I shall not complain. This salad is good summer or winter. Yesterday was rainy, and a thunder storm rolled over earlier in the day. Perfect for staying inside and getting better!

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing and Basil Croutons

1 carton heirloom tomatoes, halved
1/2 red onion, halved and sliced thin
1 avocado, pitted and diced
1/2 green pepper, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup English cucumber, chopped
Salt and pepper

Place all ingredients in large bowl. Toss with dressing. Top with croutons. Serve with extra dressing.

Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing

1 shallot, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. crumbled blue cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together shallot, garlic, buttermilk, sour cream and mayonnaise until well blended. Fold in blue cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for 1 hour.

Bagel Croutons

1 sesame seed bagel, cubed
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place croutons in resealable plastic bag or bowl with lid. Add remaining ingredients. Toss to coat.

Line cookie sheet with tin foil. Spray with cooking spray. Place coated croutons on top. Bake for 10 mins. turning once.

Turn on broiler. Cook until golden brown. Salt and pepper as desired. Store in sealed plastic bag.


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