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I had dental implants put in a week ago. The dentist told me to expect some discomfort following the surgery. Now to my mind discomfort is getting a hangnail or a sunburn. On the pain scale I’d nominate this for a ten. I’d rather have a baby (as long as I don’t have to take it home, naturally). The three hundred shots they administered to numb my lower jaw were torture enough. Once they wore off, however, the game was on. OMG. I have a high metabolism making it more difficult for anesthetic to take effect. I knew this, of course, from prior visits to the dentist but this is the first time they nearly exhausted their supply of Novocaine before starting the procedure. My lower lip, although appearing of normal size if viewed in the mirror, felt like an floatation device. I am sure if lost in the mid-Atlantic I would have remained on the surface of the water all the way to the coast of the British Isles.

Usually I eschew pain medicine prescribed after surgery if possible. My body doesn’t take well to medication for whatever reason. In this case I was swallowing those babies like a bucket of double buttered popcorn after a fast. Before the four hours was up I was cajoling for the next pill like a seasoned addict willing to sell the cat for a fix. To describe the feeling imagine taking a vice, tightening it on your lower gums, use a power drill to make four holes in the bone, then screw four screws tightly into the holes and wait for the wave of discomfort (as they refer to it) to arrive. The plus side, if there is one, is this rivals Jenny Craig when it comes to speedy weight loss. The pounds have drifted off to such an extent the only thing that fits is my uniform from grade school folded in tissue in my hope chest.

After the initial pain wave died down to a somewhat more tolerable level the next phase rolled on in. My lower jaw began to swell giving me the appearance of a lucky chipmunk having stumbled upon a huge bag of nuts. Swell.

Rick stepped up to the plate, I have to say. He poured water, filled ice bags, gathered my prescriptions, applied wet wash clothes and generally made me feel better about feeling bad. The refrigerator was packed with yogurt, cottage cheese, Jello, mashed potatoes, and butternut squash soup. The freezer held dinner for him, each box requiring only the push of a button on the microwave and a fork to make it happen. So desperate were my taste buds for a new flavor to sample this morning I cooked some corned beef hash and boiled two eggs. Together they went in the food processor with some butter. Actually, it wasn’t bad. You won’t see it posted on my next blog and my cholesterol probably spiked, but it beat the heck out of strawberry Jello, I have to say.

Over the years I have suffered at the hands of dentists. Our family, as I mentioned several blogs back, was not blessed with good teeth. Despite all the care and attention we give them, like spoiled children they show little appreciation. I have had several knocked out. No, no, not by ex-husbands, though I’m sure it may have occasionally crossed their minds. Once a collie by the name of Rollo tossed up his snout to give me an enthusiastic hello and knocked a crescent-shaped wedge out of my front tooth. I looked like an extra on the Honey Boo Boo. It wasn’t pretty. For several weeks I wouldn’t have smiled if I’d just picked the winning numbers on the lottery. In the end they filled in the gap, and life went on but I was careful around the exuberant Rollo after that.

Another time I got hit full swing with a baseball bat breaking my nose and knocking out two lower teeth. That was an attractive look for me. Two black eyes, a nose brace, a swollen lip and a hole in my smile. I was fourteen at the time, making it even more of a tragedy. I had a bridge made to replace my missing teeth, and my nose, still slightly crooked to this day, finally healed. However, my picture from the Valentine Ball two weeks later shows me in a beautiful sparkly red dress, with matching heels, looking like I’d just stepped out of the ring after losing a round with Sonny Liston.

I thought I was pretty much on an upward spiral after the implants so Rick drove me to a dermatologist appointment yesterday. It was one I had made some time prior, and thought I’d better show up for. In addition to the teeth, delicate white English skin was an inherited gift. Thanks, Mom. On most days I’m thankful for this, but unfortunately like many gifts there is an up and a down side to the acquisition. In this case, English skin and the California sun are not a happy combination. As a kid I lathered on the baby oil and accumulated as many rays as I could on the gorgeous beaches provided along our coastline to do so. Tanning was a way of life back in the day, and I excelled at it. Now an occasional spot shows up as the sun reminds me of my visits and needs to be treated. Yesterday was to be such a day. If you’ve ever suffered through the shots in your mouth you simply haven’t had any fun at all until they stick a needle in the fleshy part of your cheek, or anywhere on your face for that matter. A band-aid was applied and what was left of me was returned to Rick. I told him as we exited the office, “Jump ship, save yourself. It’s the only sane thing to do”.

So, it has been a full week. The Fourth of July has sparkled on by. People seem to have used their heads while handling fireworks this year, devices whose main attraction would be fire and sparks need to be handled carefully in a parched state. Ah well, it was a day to celebrate.

I actually ate real food last night. I could be found sitting in the corner closely guarding a juicy half chicken and a huge slice of watermelon saying “step away from the bird”.

Served these lovely heirloom tomatoes with my chicken and with the horseradish sauce they were  big hit. Will get back to cooking again this week as we are tiring of food we can eat with a spoon and I am behind on my blog.

Hope your holiday weekend was safe and fun.

Heirloom Tomatoes with Creamy Horseradish Sauce

8 small or 6 large tomatoes, sliced thin
1/4 cup green olives
Peppers and chives for garnish

Horseradish Sauce

2 Tbsp. sour cream
1 Tbsp. prepared horseradish
1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
4 Tbsp. half and half
1 tsp. Dijon Mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. chopped chives
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients together and serve over chilled tomatoes.

Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

I have mentioned before it seems to me to be an odd year. Perhaps it’s just in my life. Aside from the weather, which continues to break records, the news itself is disturbing. The world seems a little uneasy on its axis, and I must admit I’m sensing the vibe.

My phone rings more often, and I am pulling out my shrink hat, dusting it off, and offering my invisible chaise for quick sessions at an alarming rate. Why, as I’ve said before, people seem to think I have any kind of handle on how to face the world escapes me. Maybe it’s the universe sending me a message? Possibly I should have leaned towards psychology as a major rather than computer science, I don’t know.

To add to the untidy mix, Friday is blocked out for dental surgery. Ugh. Even though I was a dental assistant, I view dentistry as barbaric. Why after all these years they can’t just knock you out and do it all at once escapes me. Part of the reason I was an abysmal dental assistant stemmed from accepting my first job in a orthodontic office. Most of our patients still had occasional bed wetting incidents. Like the guards in the background at an execution, I was the one delivering the needle.

Over the years I have suffered many an hour sitting in a dental chair. Although blessed with good genes in general, teeth were definitely not on the plus side while listing the pluses and minuses handed down by my ancestors. Teeth were not well thought out, to my mind, when the original plans for human beings were drafted. “Hmmmmmmm, let’s see. Teeth should grind food for the average life span. About thirty years should get er done.” Originally I don’t think it was expected we humans would be the clever industrious little beings we turned out to be. Living to be 100, once a noteworthy phenomenon, is certainly far less unusual of late.

Not being my first rodeo with dental procedures I have stocked the larder with soft foods and the freezer with ice cream. Once I had to live on soft foods for three months. So desperate was I for the taste of meat, my apologize to the vegans out there, I actually ground some cooked meat up in the food processor just to savor the flavor on my tongue. Euwwww. I know. Talk about addiction, but that’s another blog.

In my early twenties I’ve written about my year on the road. Traveling with my husband and two toddlers we meandered across the country making an untidy run at seeing as many states as we could until our money ran out. Our vehicle of choice was an ungainly yellow station wagon, which served often as “home”, and managed to get us from Southern California to as far east as Lynn, Massachusetts breaking down only twice. The first mechanical issue arose early in the trip. The morning found us waking up in Casper, Wyoming. What a gorgeous piece of American real estate Wyoming is. Each round in the bend looks like a landscape painting suitable for mounting over a cabin hearth. I have heard people go there to lose themselves, and after touring the area I can see how easy that would be to do in that part of the world. For me it’s a bit to cold in the winter, and although I enjoy peace and quiet along with the next guy, I need a little more civilization around me than some parts of the state would provide.

Aside from the fact the car was showing some signs of a problem, I had a tooth ache. On the road this is not a good thing. We hadn’t thought ahead and invited an oral surgeon to share the back seat, so finding one on short notice where we were wouldn’t be a snap of the fingers.

Small towns were strung out along the highway between Casper and Cheyenne like clothes on a line. Many you passed through before realizing you’d entered. Sputtering, the wagon indicated going on without an examination wasn’t going to possible, so we pulled over at the first populated area with a gas station in place. In the 70’s gas stations were full service. Most of them, not all, had repair bays in the back. Fortunately for us this was one of them, as it was the only game in town. The patient was to remain overnight. Asking the location of the nearest motel, and learning there were two, we chose the closest one several miles away. Offered a ride to the lobby, we checked in.

Inquiring at the motel as to dentists in town, the cheerful clerk said there was one, but he was a ways out of town. Not able to stand the throbbing much longer, we called the number given us and thankfully someone answered on the other end. Because I was becoming an emergency, the gruff voice identifying himself as Dr. Wilkins suggested coming right out and gave directions on how to do so. How, with the wagon up in the stirrups, was to be the problem.

Inquiring again with the clerk in the lobby about transportation, she once again came to our rescue. She was off shift shortly, she told us, and lived near the dental office. If we’d like a ride out we could go with her and she would send her son to bring us back. The chances of that happening now are nearly as likely as picking the winning numbers on Power Ball, but I digress. As promised an hour later we were dropped off at the end of a long dirt road at a lone building standing nearly in the middle of nowhere.

We were greeted at the door by a man clearly long past retirement age. The office was limited to one examining room and the lobby, but it was clean and the equipment relatively new. As it turned out my tooth was beyond saving and had to be extracted. Of all the extractions I’ve suffered in my life, this one caused me the least pain. Dr. Will, as he called himself, far nicer than his voice belied, was only willing to accept $10 for his trouble. Shortly we were picked up in an old Ford truck up concealed by a swirl of dust by the clerk’s son. A dinner invitation was offered but I was in no condition to accept. The following day, swollen but better, the wagon was retrieved and thanking them all we made our way down the road.

I assure you for this procedure on Friday, $10 wouldn’t allow you to sit in the lobby and read the out-of-date People magazine waiting for you. Ah well.

This was the best vegetable pasta ever. Love, loved it. I had a lot of veggies on hand, and it was the perfect way to put them to work.

Spring Garden Pasta

1 bunch broccoli
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 slices Coppa ham, sliced thin
3 large mushrooms sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced thin
4 yellow tomatoes (small) sliced 1/4″
2 Roma tomatoes, coarsely diced
1 lb. thin spaghetti
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
5 large basil leaves, sliced in strips
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Cut broccoli into florets. Place in top of double broiler or steamer. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. lemon juice. Cook until fork tender. Season with salt and pepper as desired. Keep warm.

Saute garlic in 1/4 cup olive oil until slightly browned. Add Coppa ham to pan and saute until crisp.

IMG_6355

Add mushrooms an zucchini to pan. Cover and allow to cook over med. heat, checking occasionally and stirring, for 5 mins.

IMG_6356

Bring water to boil for pasta and cook as directed. Reserve 1 ladle of pasta water.

Remove saute pan from heat and add wine. Continue to cook over med. heat until wine is reduced by half. Stir in tomatoes, lemon juice, basil, pepper flakes and cooked broccoli. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

IMG_6360

Drain pasta reserving 1 ladle full of pasta water. Add pasta and water pan and toss.

Serve topped with lots of shredded cheese.

Final 2
While visiting my mom we took the opportunity to get familiar with Monterey again (once the Sardine Capital of the World). Despite the steady stream of tourists present on weekends, I never tire of going there. The bustling sardine factories of the 30’s have long since closed their doors. Today Cannery Row is mainly stores, one much like the next, hawking touristy goods such as  tee shirts reading “I got crabs in Monterey”. Still, ghostly reminders stand fast in the weathered old buildings. An eerie presence of the history of the place lingers on like an understudy lurking behind the scenery, knowing his lines but unable to go on.

Restaurants line the pier as this is where tourists gather. An obvious choice in such surroundings, most posted menus feature a large variety of fresh seafood. Walking a bit, we finally surrendered ourselves to the delicious mix of fish and garlic wafting out the open doors, and stopped to eat. Lunch was to be a steaming plate of spicy shrimp at the Fish Hopper washed down with a dewy glass of sweet tea. We sat at a window which offered us a full view of the cove beyond the glass. Just beyond the rocks a group of otters were performing in the water. One busily working a shell with his agile paws, while others floated lazily on their backs grabbing some California sun. Gulls circled overhead or hopped along the deck craning their heads constantly as if searching for handout. Commenting on the weather, our waitress said the dense fog often swallowing up the coastline during the summer months had moved out mid-morning and stayed at bay. Needing to see the ocean as it is much a part of me, I can’t help but think the god’s were with us.

“Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses. Its inhabitant are, as the man once said, “whores, pimps, gambler and sons of bitches,” by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, “Saints and angels and martyrs and holymen” and he would have meant the same thing.”
John Steinbeck, Cannery Row

Back in the day

Back in the day

canneries-1

Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson – Cannery Row Today

Monterey 1We stopped to get our feet with others sharing the same idea. The sand was warm, the water cold, and the wildflowers in bloom everywhere you looked. Fishing trawlers cast their nets just beyond the surf line and an occasional sea lion could be seen bobbing up and down in the swells.

Monterey 2

Unable to resist, we stopped at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and loaded up on truffles and brick for the ride home.

Monterey 3Spring was evident in all the beautiful garden lined streets, each offering a more lovely and colorful display than the last. Even the scruffiest of lots seemed to overflow with color as if to make up for the disarray lying beyond the bushes.

Monterey 7

Monterey 8Monterey lends itself to black and white with all the historical property located within the city limits. I liked these two sans color for change. The building had such character without enhancement.

Monterey B&W

Monterey B&W 1

These chicken thighs are truly finger licking good, and easy to put together.

Crockpot Asian Sesame Chicken Thighs

6 bone-in skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
1 onion, sliced thin
1/3 cup scallions, sliced thin
Cooked rice

Sauce

3/4 cup soy sauce
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/8 cup sesame oil
1 cup chicken broth
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. ground fennel
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
1 tsp. paprika

Whisk all sauce ingredients together in medium bowl.

Spray 6 quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Place sliced onion on bottom. Top with single layer of chicken. Pour sauce over top.

Cook on low for 8 hours, opening once and turning chicken and stirring.

Serve over rice.

Serves 6

Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

I received a wedding invitation yesterday in the mail. I love weddings. There’s something so lovely about dewy new love celebrated in a glorious setting surrounded by flowers and people drinking champagne in lovely clothes. This enthusiasm is not shared by my other half who only shows up for the cake. Being a practical being, for him it would make more sense to put that money to good use either as a down payment on a home or tucked safely away in a savings account for future use. It’s not that he’s not romantic, he is, but he feels grooms are really only arm accessories at such functions and it’s a lot of money for an escort service. A lot of men have voiced similar thoughts to me over the years. It is no secret weddings are all about the bride. The groom is only there really to add equanimity to the top of the cake.

Scanning my closet for something appropriate to wear, I discovered my wardrobe has seriously gone downhill since owning the restaurant. When you own a restaurant you are on hand any day the sign is turned to OPEN, and most days it is not. On operating days, it is necessary to show up looking like you’re somebody as a good part of your day is spent schmoozing with the customers and making a public presence at one place or another. Towards that end I put to good use all the dresses, skirts, and corporate wear I brought with me from my previous job as an executive assistant. As the work responsibilities grew for me after my other half had a heart attack, my body mass dwindled, and the corporate clothes began to hang on my frame. I found myself instead wearing size 2 clothes at middle age. At that size you’re forced to shop in the misses department desperately searching for clothes that wouldn’t cause tongues to wag about Susie trying to recapture her lost youth. Once the restaurant was sold, the cigarettes which helped me get through those stressful days were put aside, my body went back to its usual size 6 and the tee tiny clothes were donated to the Salvation Army for someone else nearly invisible to slip into to. Once the 2’s were culled out of the herd there wasn’t much left to leave the house in besides the boxer shorts I like to sleep in and an unwieldy group of tee-shirts chronicling my travels over the years.

Slowly I have rebuilt my wardrobe, admittedly mostly with shorts, jeans, and tops, but certainly if the Queen calls to invite me to dinner I am ill prepared to accept unless she’s going for thrift store chic. I like being comfortable. Most of my life I’ve rolled out of bed, put on my face (as my mother refers to doing your makeup), and panty hose in place stepped into my work persona and uncomfortable shoes. My feet of late run free in sandals and flip flops dancing into the moonlight with no calouses or blisters to slow them down. If I was still limber enough to make it happen they’d slap me a kiss.

The other half and I have long since crested that hump where we still need to dress up perfectly every day to convince one another we want to stay together. We’ve seen each other after a night of sleep, a bad bout of stomach flu, in a hospital bed, and in about every scenario involved in day to day living. Secrets have been spilled, myths debunked, and the truth is on the table. I can remember when married the first time setting the alarm in the morning so I could get out of bed and have my makeup and hair done before my husband woke up. Those days are far behind me.

It is not that I don’t put on my makeup each day, and pull on pressed, clean clothes and brush my hair. I assure you I do. Just because you’ve hauled the fish in doesn’t mean you stop trying to keep him in the boat. Conversely my crisply pressed other half has slipped his standards a bit, going from corporate clean to down home casual. He has a leg up on me in that his head wakes up already in place as the hair has long ago gone to a better place to end its days.

Men are more fortunate in the grooming department. Most men, naturally. There are those peacocks who spend hours maneuvering each hair into place and spraying it into submission. The guys who dress in a tuxedo to attend a picnic, have regular manicures and facials, and leave a party if their pleats aren’t ironed straight. The average guy, at least from my experience, mostly follows the three esses. You know what they are, so I won’t elucidate. Let’s just say it’s basically shaving (and stubble or a full beard have become the “in faces” making this less frequent), showering, and availing themselves of the facilities. As an aside here, I have begun to wonder what men do with all the toilet paper at their disposal. Over the years I have regularly supplied my bathrooms with ample rolls for passing patrons, and am astonished at the rapid diminishing of the supply. I wonder if I put up a potty-cam I would find them consuming it or tucking it in their pockets for an emergency?  If I’d saved a nickel for every roll of TP I’d seen fall by the wayside, I’d be sitting in a villa in Caan as of this writing.

There is a delightful freeing when in a good relationship that has seen some miles. I am not suggesting getting comfortable to the point of throwing banana peels on the floor and sitting around eating Cheetos in your wife beaters, but a little loosening up is a good thing and I believe a sign of trust in the person you have chosen to spend your life with. I certainly notice when my other half is dressed up and looking sharp, but I like him just as well when he’s in his shorts and tank top watering the plants. To me he looks like him, familiar and dear which is a good thing.

Anyhow, I will go out this weekend and attempt to find a dress. It’s been so long I hope I don’t have to fight my body to get one over my head. After looking in the ads at the major stores I’m not sure I like what’s trending at the moment, but surely in the sea of dresses and fabrics there’s one with a tag saying, “made just for Susie”. It will be nice, actually, to slip into a bit of femininity. No matter what I’m wearing I retain a bit of my tomboy, so a little sway and flow in my outfit might feel nice for a change.

Soup weather is moving away from us, but I reserve this one for early summer. Light and refreshing, it is great served with a tuna sandwich and a cold glass of lemonade.

Lemon Chicken and Rice Soup

8 cups rich chicken broth
1 rotisserie chicken (garlic) skinned, and cubed (about 3 cups)
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 mushrooms, thinly sliced
3 carrots, coarsely chopped
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced thin
1/4 orange bell pepper, sliced thin and halved
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
3 cups spinach, coarsely shredded
2 cups cooked rice
1 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
3 egg yolks, beaten
4 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (or more depending on your lemon prevalence)
1/2 lemon, seeded, halved and sliced thin
2 tsp. lemon zest

Spray 6 quart crock pot. Add broth, chicken, onion, garlic, mushrooms, carrots, zucchini, orange bell pepper,
bay leaves, black pepper, salt, and cumin. Mix well. Cook on low for 5 hrs. Add spinach. Cook on low for 1 hr.

Cook rice according to pkg. directions. Add to pot with parsley.

In small bowl whisk egg yolks. Add 4 Tbsp. of lemon juice and whisk until thin.

Take a ladle of hot but not simmering soup. Add slowly to egg mixture whisking constantly. Add a second ladle and continue to whisk. Pour egg mixture back into soup slowly whisking constantly. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Add zest and slices of lemon.

Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

Dress codes for school are in the news this morning. Specifically when are short shorts too short, tops too low, etc.? Hmmmm. I’ve been passing young girls on my way out in the morning. I presume they’re headed for school, some wearing shorts that would make lil ol’ Daily Mae blush. When there’s far more cheek outside of the material than what’s captured inside, perhaps the shorts are, in fact, too short?

Always I take into consideration the generations lying in between my thinking and those girls and try to adjust accordingly. I can remember wearing head bands, hot pants, mini skirts, and fringed jackets, my bra dusted off only for special occasions back in the day. Young people are going to express themselves differently as each generation mounts the hill but when is it too little considered too much for school?

Let’s face it young boys are highly motivated by young girls. This concept is not news recently uncovered by a motivated cub reporter. The original inhabitants of this planet caught on to the program pretty quickly even with no visuals or reference material to guide them. Unless someone else has noticed it going in a different direction, I believe the original man/woman thing has held our attention until now. However, when given soooooo much feminine landscape to look at I can’t imagine anything the teacher might be saying besides, “see you tomorrow” sinks into youthful male’s intellect during any given class period.

Things have changed a lot over the years. I was explaining to one of my granddaughter’s we used to have to wear dresses to school. Pants were not allowed – on girls, naturally. Dresses and skirts had to be a certain length and if they were not, you were sent to the home economics classroom to get the hem lowered. Once I explained the term “home economics”, then “hem”, she found the whole concept positively barbaric questioning whether I was playing with her or actually telling her something based on fact.

For six months several years ago we had one of our grandchildren living with us while going through some transitions with her immediate family. It was an eye-opening and interesting experience. Raising a teenager at any time in your life is like traversing a mine field without a map. Something’s going to blow up at some point, it’s just a matter of when and how much collateral damage will occur once it does.

“What’s the big deal?”, was our granddaughter’s mantra. I considered having a tee-shirt made with the words emblazoned across the front to eliminate her having to repeat it after every sentence out of my mouth involving work or school. She arrived at our house with a 33 gallon trash bag packed to the maximum expansion point with a wad of clothing looking much like a mating tangle of cottonmouths. I discovered early on folding and ironing were neither terms she was familiar with, nor wished to become familiar with at any time in the near future. The drawers I’d cleaned out in the spare room dresser were quickly crammed to capacity with clothes, makeup, jewelry and toiletries. Wash and wear, they were pulled out of a pile, wrinkles blown out with the blow dryer, and placed on the body in this order every day.

As the warmer weather moved in the jeans were tossed aside in favor of briefer apparel. The higher the thermometer pushed, the briefer the apparel got. Hmmmm. One morning I called to her to take her to school and she arrived looking more like she was headed for a shift at Hooters than a trip to ninth grade. Nope. This is, what’s the big deal for me. Insisting she put one something that at least covered the spots taped out on explicit pictures on TV, she came back up after much grousing looking much better and we got in the car. As the backpack was thrown into the backseat a light went on in my mind. This was not my first rodeo. I raised two teenagers, was one myself, and if it could be done I had already figured out how to do it. Asking for the backpack I was not surprised to find the errant shorts tucked in among the papers and her lunch. One of us is going to have to get up earlier in the morning.

My daughter and I have discussions about the newer generation often. Many things she feels are okay, I’m not so sure of. I want to remain open to new ways of thinking and behaving while remaining free to still have a voice about what I’m seeing. Several days ago I got in a discussion with my son about cell phones and tablets in the classroom. He said it’s great. No need for books, etc. and a valuable resource for facts and information. I can’t argue with that, but how do you learn to use your mind with a device who makes answers so easily ready at your fingertips?

Also, I have concerns about language. I have been told several times recently language is not important anymore, nor writing as we know it. Some day we may even communicate by text-ese, or whatever they call it. Really? Will we go back to throwing excrement at one another as well? I don’t vote for it. It is apparent this is true if you listen to young people speaking. When did “tooken” become a word? How about “I seen it”, or “I haven’t went yet”? Another one I find interesting and hear often is “conversating”. Hmmmm. Yesterday I heard someone say “I boughten it”. Well I guess that’s better than you tooken it, which often comes with extended jail time.

Keeping my mind open is a constant uphill battle I’m trying to win. I have a kind of love affair with language difficult for me to leave behind. So many glorious works of literature have been written using the beautiful language we have developed. What is to come? Wuthrng Hgts :)

Be with me always – take any form – drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I can not live without my life! I can not live without my soul!” Sigh.

So I write, and continue to use complete words until my audience no longer understands what I have to say.

This cake recipe I originally got from Taste of Home. Then I added the cheesecake filling  and fresh strawberries which made it truly rich and decadent.

Mocha Cake with Strawberry Cheesecake Filling

2Mocha Cake

2/3 cup butter, softened
2 cups packed brown sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup baking cocoa
2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup brewed coffee, cooled
3/4 cups sour cream

 

Frosting

12 oz. cream cheese, softened
6 Tbsp. butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla extract
4 1/2 – 5 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture alternately with coffee and sour cream, beating well after each addition.

Pour into two greased and floured 9″ square baking pans. Bake 30-35 mins. or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool 10 mins. before removing from pans. Place on wire racks to cool completely.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese, vanilla and butter until fluffy. Gradually beat in confectioners sugar. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Cheesecake Filling

2 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries

Preheat oven to 325.

Spray bottom and sides of 9″ non-stick baking pan well with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.

Beat cream cheese in mixing bowl until smooth and creamy. Add sugar and vanilla. Mix on high for 3 mins.

Add eggs one at a time mixing well after each addition. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 40 mins. until fully set. Run knife around edges. Allow to completely cool in oven.

Assembly:

Place 1 layer of mocha cake on serving plate. Frost top. Place cooled cheescake on top and top with 2/3 cups strawberries. Frost bottom of 2nd layer of mocha cake. Place on top of strawberries. Frost entire cake. Top with remaining strawberries.

final salad

At the shelter this morning we were greeted by a full complement of cats. Between the felines smelling the food we were mixing, and the dogs responding to the yowling cats it was a cacophony of noise. My ears are still ringing. My heart always goes out to the old timers. Those animals logging months of time in the cages rather than the newbies only having been there a matter of weeks. It is almost comical how their faces reflect their moods. Big, sad eyes peer out of cages occupied with the older, less adoptable cats while kittens look well, kittenish, playfully tossing their toys about with or draped engagingly from cat towers. Let’s face it baby anything’s are cute. Even a newborn crocodile might be somewhat endearing. As we age, like the leaves on the trees, we tend to get a little crinkly around the edges.

There are two cats in residence at the moment each with only one eye. The older of the two is appropriately named Old One Eye, while the other one answers to Myron Cohen, for God knows what reason. Both old gentlemen have easy-going natures despite viewing their world through only a single lens. In either situation the injuries were due to human neglect rather than fighting, making their loss slightly more disheartening. There is also a small female with one ear partially missing. She sleeps in the litter box provided for her, as if the high walls offer some protection. According to the notes on her cage her owner, tiring of the cats in his charge, decided to use them for target practice wounding several before help came. Little angers me more than people deriving enjoyment from inflicting pain on animals or children who cannot fight back. Such a cowardly way to conduct your business. I am not of a vengeful nature but if there is retribution for our acts on this earth, this is one case where I believe an eye for an eye in the most literal sense would be justified.

On the way into the shelter, however, I witnessed a lovely bit of human kindness. The drive takes me along country roads winding back through the unincorporated areas of our city. It is beautiful in these rural neighborhoods, mostly populated by small farms or white fenced horse ranches. Crops line up along neat rows of furrowed chocolate-colored soil, and cows and goats roam across the pastures stopping to graze at the ground or nudge a fly off their rumps. Rounding a curve I found cars stopped in both directions, a line forming. As I slowed I realized there was a parade in progress, led by a mallard and his rather large duck family. Waddling slowly across the asphalt, the male duck looked to the right and left as if to check for oncoming traffic. Mom followed closely behind, quacking responses to the dialog coming from her mate most likely regarding the 8-10 fuzzy little youngsters excitedly hopping about in a haphazard formation behind their parents. Drivers waited patiently in their cars, while one little duckling, obviously not the sharpest pencil in the box, weaved in and out of line finally turning and heading in the completely opposite direction. Mother duck, sensing a flock member out of control flapped her wings and quacked angrily until the errant youngster made his way back to the group. Finally the small family reached the safety of the opposite side of the road and traffic once again commenced to move. It was a nice way to start my day.

Cats are funny creatures, prone to do what they want to do at any given moment, rather than follow the path you’ve chosen for them. If I want Boo to right, it is assured she will go left. She has shared quarters with us since 2006 and up until this point, I haven’t seen her vary this behavior one iota unless there’s something coming her way should she capitulate.

My mother, who as I wrote in my previous blog suffers from OCD, owns a cat. The cat, unfortunately also named Susie, has not read the pertinent books on the subject so has no idea what the rules are when living with a person suffering from the disease. At first I thought the pairing was going to go about as well as downing a glass of Zinfandel with a Twinkie, but amazingly they have survived the initial rough spots and have now been together three years. Who would have thought?

Mother’s kitchen is antithetically clean. You could easily plop on the floor and make a sandwich on the tile and remain untouched by any bacterial invasion. While there the coffee pot is ritually cleaned by my other half on each visit, a chore Mother has deemed his. Mine would be making the coffee once the pot is cleaned. As I am usually the first head out from under the covers this serves us all well. Making my way to the kitchen on our first morning there, I switched on the light to find Susie perched on the counter, eyes wider than the Cumberland Gap, licking the butter dish. Derision in the ranks. Seeing it was me and not her mistress, she cast one last eyebrow lifted look in my direction and went back to the task at hand. I gently put her on the floor, tossed the butter, and kept her secret safe when Mother arrived on the scene. We all have to break the rules from time to time. I did suggest she either put the butter in the refrigerator or keep the lid tightly sealed. I love kitties, but prefer my toast without fur, thank you very much.

They have an excellent working arrangement. Mother chases Susie around the house saying, “Noooo, Noooo, Noooo, Noooo, Noooo, Kitty”, glad I passed the baton on that one, and Susie continues on doing exactly what she was doing lending a deaf ear to the conversation. Blankets have been laid over the furniture for the cat to sleep on. That being said you will find her curled up on any number of uncovered spots, taking an afternoon “cat nap”, if you will, leaving a spot of hair here and there to mark her passing.

We’re never going to fully train them, and would we want to? We have taken them into our homes and domesticated them, but in the end they are cats not human beings, and should be treated as thus. If I put Boo in a lion costume on Halloween, I assure you she would pack her Kitty Treats and her favorite mouse and be out of here before you could say “trick or treat”.

This salad was lapped at a party over the weekend. It was pretty and colorful in the dish and crunchy and delicious in your mouth. I found containers of baby heirloom tomatoes which made the perfect blend of flavors.

Heirloom Tomato and Pepper Salad with Tarragon Dressing

2 lbs. of small heirloom tomatoes, halved
8 large mushrooms, sliced thin
1/2 yellow bell pepper, halved and sliced thin
1/2 orange bell pepper, halved and sliced thin
1/2 green bell pepper, halved and sliced thin
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/2 English cucumber, peeled and sliced thin
Feta cheese for garnish

Place all ingredients in bowl. Toss with dressing. Serve with a sprinkle of feta cheese on top.

Tarragon Dressing

3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. fresh basil
1 Tbsp. fresh tarragon
1/2 Tbsp. parsley
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

Whisk together all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use. Toss well with vegetables.

Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

Had a fun and busy five days with my Mother. Truly the woman amazes me, never stops. It is generally known in my family Mother has OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Probably this is something that should have been addressed years ago as it is undoubtedly equally as frustrating for the sufferer as it is for those around them. Some of this naturally slopped over on me, and I, in turn, passed it on to my daughter. She always says I’m a “giver”. I passed on asthma, allergies, lactose intolerance and several other itis’s to her, somehow leaving my son unscathed. This is something she reminds me of often and with extreme prejudice.

OCD manifests itself in some people with extreme symptoms such as rituals they are compelled to perform before leaving the house, when eating, or performing any manner of life’s day-to-day endeavors for most of us non-threatening. In my earlier years I knew a woman who had to schedule at least a half an hour extra in the morning to get herself to work, just to get out the front door. Each lock, and there were many, had to be tried and retried before she could push herself to leave the house and go to her car. It was agonizing for her, and took a long bout of therapy to help her learn to manage it.

A friend of mine has an adult child who counts food. If potato chips are the choice for a snack, six will be laid out. Not seven, not five, nor twelve, but always six. As a child this same person couldn’t have her food touching. The potatoes stayed on one side of the plate, the meat on another and the vegetable in a third corner. She ate them in a sequence, following the same sequence each time she took a forkful. Potatoes, meat, veggie, potatoes, meat veggie. This, would put me in a padded room. Fortunately, she outgrew the sequential eating but to this day will lay six chips, crackers, or candies on the table and recount them carefully before they go in her mouth.

With my mother it is order. If I set the newspaper on the counter, she will walk by, look at it, and feel moved to have to adjust it one inch in either direction apparently until it’s perfectly centered to her mind’s eye. I tend to mess up this scenario for her preferring actually to read my newspaper rather than admire it from a distance in its perfectly symmetrical environment. Each morning the newspaper is taken apart, folded, and placed in exactly the same spot in exactly the same order it was the day before. The other morning the newspaper delivery person had the effrontery to deliver a paper missing Section C which nearly threw of the entire day. I make fun, but for people dealing with this disorder I’m sure it is less than that.

As she’s gotten older, this has become far more pronounced than when I lived under the same roof. Cans are lined up with like cans, labels facing forward, towels hang on the stove reading “Dishes” and “Hands” and by God you better not dry a dish with the “hands” towel or dry your hands on the “dishes” towel or there will be hell to pay. There is a specific fork or utensil designated for everything. If you’re eating grapefruit you will be handed a grapefruit fork. It would unthinkable to spread butter with anything other than the designated butter spreader, even though she has probably seven drawers of silverware available each stocked with butter knives, ahem, suitable of spreading the soft stuff across the bread.

To add to the mix, an old family friend moved in after my stepfather passed away and now rents her spare room. A retired dentist, and a lovely easy-going spirit on the best of days, the man is the exact opposite of my mother in every way. To begin with he’s a mess pot. You don’t need a forensic scientist to determine what his last meal consisted of, because there are usually remnants of it evident on his shirt and/or pants. Having a laissez-faire attitude in the kitchen, what drops on the counter, stays on the counter. What falls to the floor, remains as it has landed. If living alone this chaos would go totally unnoticed by him but at Mother’s, thanks to her diligent kitchen patrol, it will immediately be brought to his attention. Watching the two of them interact could keep me entertained for hours.

From what I’ve read OCD can be inherited. This is good news. It is triggered sometimes by physical ailments, or possibly emotional trauma or stress. Our brains are such amazing organs, it is impossible to know the full extent of the reasons behind why we humans do the strange things we do. I would imagine this will be a question mark poised in the dialog bubble of scientists and researchers for many years to come. It begs the question, do some chimpanzees eat only three bananas at a time, or feel the need to keep a tidy tree while others are content to languish in filth and disarray? Is this only a human specific ailment?

Another common behavior associate with OCD is hand washing or fear of contamination. I cannot count on all my digits how many times I was asked if something was still good in the refrigerator or if it should be thrown out while visiting my mother. A package of bacon which had been in the refrigerator for 4-5 days with a sell by date of two weeks down the road was questioned simply because it had been in the refrigerator for that length of time. For me having to worry about all that 24/7 must be extremely exhausting. I prefer to opt on the side of safety, but not hang my hat on every sell by or use by date as if at midnight on the night indicated I have to rouse myself out of bed and take inventory of my refrigerator discarding anything on the way out.

For someone not going through this every day, it seems silly, but then I have an irrational issue with bees and their kin, that some people might view the same way. As I’ve mentioned I’ve bailed off a moving boat with one buzzing about my head, and gotten out of a car making a right hand turn when finding one sharing my space in the front seat. We all have our little quirks and nuances making up the whole of our being. The quest is to love someone with all their dings and notches, rather than only when they’re picture perfect.

At any rate, I’m home again. Boo, the Queen of Cats, was most delighted to find her treat provider and partner in crime occupying the right side of the bed. I adore my mom and miss her but it was a relief to use any old spoon out of the drawer for my cereal this morning without having to locate a “cereal spoon”. Ach.

These are truly my go to potatoes when I have a nice piece of meat fired on the grill. Yum.

Crispy Broasted Potatoes

8 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 Tbsp. butter, cubed
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. Montreal Chicken Seasoning Mix
1/2 tsp. Lawry’s Garlic Salt
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Spray bottom of 13 x 9″ casserole dish.

Cover potatoes with water in large saucepan. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low boil and continue cooking about 8 mins. just to take the raw off, not to cook fully. Drain.

Spread potatoes in single layer on bottom of pan. Distribute butter around the pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with seasonings. Toss to coat well.

Place in oven for 1 hr. or until crispy and brown, stirring every 10 mins.

Serves 6

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