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1As usual I continue to find myself in the most ridiculous situations. I was hoping the advent of 2015 would have me acting in a more respectable manner, but it seems to be simply an extension of last year.

Rick’s daughter is getting married as I mentioned. The celebration is in Phoenix. A dress or semi-formal attire of some sort is in order, so I’ve been shopping. Along my shopping route I stopped at a major department store advertising a huge sale. Not being the only one with this idea, the parking was lot packed. My style of shopping, if you can call it that, is to gather as much as I can carry the first trip through the store thus making as few trips back and forth to the dressing room as is necessary. As you might gather, shopping is not my idea of a good time. Along with a new dress I needed a pair of jeans. Finding several pairs I liked, I piled them on top of everything else. Trying the jeans on first, one pair needed a smaller size. Still wearing the store jeans to avoid having to change again, I grabbed my purse, and went out to look for the size I needed. Closing the door to safeguard my room, I left my glasses, the jeans I’d worn into the store and everything I’d picked out to try on in the dressing room. Easy peasey.

Walking back to the fitting rooms with the correct size I found a line had formed. Oh-oh. Sliding along the side of the line towards my dressing room as I approached the door I heard the lock click shut. Whoops. Now I’m dressed in store jeans with tags dangling beneath my shirt. The oversized jeans kept slowly moving south on my body. This resulted in my looking like one of those kids who insists on wearing his pants with the crotch hovering somewhere around his knees as if his underwear was meant to be the focal point of his attire. As I moved to the front of the line pulling the pants up with each step I ushered the women behind me to go ahead. The lady in my dressing room must have had half the store to try on because at least ten minutes passed. Ach. Pants nearly around my ankles I finally knocked and explained the situation to a voice behind the door. Several ladies behind me began to chuckle. Yes, yes, I know. I left my “I’m with Stupid” tee-shirt in the wash. A shirt I feel I’m entitled to wear even without a companion. Kind enough to open the door the woman inside and I had to rifle through the pile of clothes to find mine mixed in with hers and my pants and glasses. Sigh.

Leaving the store carrying my purchases free range as I’d forgotten my reuseable bags as usual, I headed toward an appointment at the podiatrist. This was to be my virgin visit to such a specialist. Even at the height of their glory my feet were never my finest asset. Someone in my family told me as a youngster my great grandmother’s feet were 12 AAA. Surely not. I had nightmares about those long skinny appendages for months. If she’d ever abandoned her nursing career she could have signed on immediately with the ski patrol without requiring any additional equipment. Not that I’m complaining about my piggies. Without them I would have been staring at the ground most of my life. Certainly though there was never a threat of my being lured away from my day job to make big money as a foot model. As a matter of fact, my other half tells me to keep my socks in place lest I traumatize young children. Lately, if possible, they have transformed into an even less palatable visage. My toenails once pristine have now turned a rather unpleasant shade of ecru. I was assuming this to be some sort of treatable situation like foot fungus, ewwwwwwwwww, but nonetheless.

Sitting in the doctor’s office alongside people with medical boots, casts, and crutches, my slightly yellow toenails seemed somehow less important. Ushered into a room a doctor bustled in shortly and asked me to remove my shoes and socks and hop up on the examining table. After a cursory look at my jaundiced nails, he confirmed my diagnosis. Fungus, most likely a result of taking antibiotics. Ach. Apparently a gift that keeps on giving, once you get it it likes to stick around. That’s nice. I assume a pedicure is out of the question? According to the podiatrist topical remedies for this surprisingly common occurrence currently on the market are of little if no use. There are medications you can take orally that might help, but in the end once a fungus always a fungus it would appear. Perhaps I’ll have to have healthy toenails tattooed on so I can go out in my summer shoes. My girlfriend told me to soak the toes in vinegar and water. What have I got to lose? I’ll update you if this has any effect other than making my lower extremities smell like the far end of a salad bar.

On the way home after that delightful piece of news about my feet I hit a deer. This has never happened to me before. First and foremost the idea of hurting any living thing left me saddened and shaking. Unfortunately, there was little I could do for the animal as it ran off into the trees after I clipped it. Moving at around 60 mph it rocked the car pretty good and tossed what left of my grey cells around a bit. On the right front side of the car there are several plastic pieces askew but other than that no other major visible damage. The deer, one might hope, either died quickly or somehow survived the ordeal and isn’t in pain. However with the intensity of the impact, I’m doubting the latter. I’m telling you, I’m going into my closet with a bag of fiery Cheeto’s and a jug of margaritas and shutting the door tight for the day!

It’s been a helluva day at sea I’m just sayin’.

Brussels sprouts remain at the top of my “list of favorite veggies”. They cohabit with so many other vegetables beautifully. In particular I like them done this way.

Oven Roasted Spicy Brussels Sprouts and Carrots

6 small carrots, peeled cut in large chunks
15 Brussels sprouts, trimmed
1/2 lb. pearl onions, peeled
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. lemon pepper
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. hot paprika

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat medium saucepan full of hot water to boiling. Drop onions in boiling water for 2 mins. Remove with slotted spoon and immediately drop in bowl of ice water. This makes the onions easy to peel.

Boil carrots and Brussels sprouts together until tender but not fully cooked. Drain. Boil onions separately in small saucepan of water until tender but not fully cooked.

Spray casserole dish with cooking spray. Place vegetables in large bowl. Mix all seasonings together and sprinkle on top. Add olive oil. Toss to cover well. Place in prepared dish and bake for 30 mins. turning once.

finalfinalI’m heading out for a walk. Bathing suit weather is coming and I’m ill prepared for the challenge. Many blogs back I believe I mentioned I got a membership at one of the large local fitness centers. Since that post I have gone exactly once. Sigh. Walking is exercise I easily throw myself into. However, when floor exercises and treadmills are added to the mix somehow you lose me. When it comes to structured exercise my mind will accept any excuse thrown in its direction to avoid becoming involved. “It’s not healthy to exercise on any day of the week ending in d-a-y. Somewhere in the world it’s most likely night. My second smallest toe is larger than the big one making my balance questionable”. You name it, I can run with it. Not literally, naturally.

During a recent shopping trip my friend and neighbor suggested I join her for yoga. Couldn’t we just do lunch and call it good? Before committing myself I needed to acquaint myself with what yoga entailed. I watched a video on the subject. Really? Gumby couldn’t accomplish some of the positions shown. My oldest granddaughter is going to school to become a certified yoga trainer so I suppose in support of her aspirations and my well being I could give it a try. Getting in the spirit of the idea I picked up a yoga mat at the dollar store. No point in investing heavily in equipment in case its a short run.

Fortunately, all my workout clothes are nearly brand new. Their only function until now being gathering dust in my closet. Pulling on some Spandex, I hopped in the car with my trusty mat tucked under one arm heading for an exhilarating morning of stretching and posing. My anticipation at auditing the class was palpable. Not. The last time I attended a structured fitness group I chose Jazzercize. A bad choice in hindsight. Inadvertently I signed up for an advanced group. While the well choreographed women seamlessly moved about the floor doing their routines Susie floundered about in the middle of them like a recently caught trout in the bottom of a boat. Humiliation isn’t a big enough word to cover that morning.

As expected on arrival the yoga bunch was a mixed age group of about thirty. Mats of different hues were tossed about on the floor. With a peaceful brook gurgling in the background a perfectly toned instructor took her place at the front of the room. Speaking in tones that would lull a meth addict to sleep, we began with stretches. For the newbies she explained the basics. If these were the basics, I definitely wasn’t ready for whatever followed. Then, meditation. I found this part relaxing and certainly not asking too much of my body. Next we were asked to extend ourselves face down with our hands and feet on the floor and stick our behinds up in the air. Hmmmm. I believe this was called the dolphin. I’ve been to Sea World on numerous occasions and don’t remember ever seeing the mammals assuming such a position, but okay. Inside my head I heard my spine creaking and shifting as I assumed the position. Ouch. Secretly I was wondering if there was a chiropractor on the premises. One might be needed before the hour is over. Why can’t humans be born in perfect condition, with perfect teeth, and move on from there? I’m adding this to my list of questions should I make it to where it is we go once we leave our bodies behind. Several positions with “dog” in them came next, which I managed to execute without totally embarrassing myself. Quickly it became evident whoever originated yoga had been sitting on their porch observing wildlife while the concept took shape. Many of the positions were a tribute to animal agility. Certainly most were not a tribute to mine.

Towards the end she did three or four positions for the more advanced students suggesting those of us just getting started observe but not participate. No worries here. After seeing what they were doing even if I’d been enthusiastic about trying these there surely would have been body casts and EMT’s involved somewhere shortly afterwards. One she called an “ear pressure pose”. Made my ears pop and I was sitting on the floor as they executed it trying to keep from throwing up.

I will go back I decided, contributing $20 towards the next lesson. In between it was suggested we review videos on-line and become familiar with the various positions on the paperwork they gave us. Uh huh.

After our company left I had bananas leftover. They went in this scrumptuous banana cake. Yum. Better add running to the yoga.

Banana Apricot Nut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup butter, softened
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 tsp. apricot brandy
1 cup mashed bananas
1/4 cup drained and finely chopped canned apricots
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 13 x 9″ pan with cooking spray.

In large mixing bowl cream butter and granulated sugar together until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat for 2 mins. Add vanilla, brandy, bananas and canned apricots. Beat for 2 mins.

In another bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 50 mins. or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool on rack until completely cool. Frost cake once cool and sprinkle with finely chopped walnuts.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8 oz. pkg. soft cream cheese
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar

Whip together cream cheese and butter. Add vanilla. Slowly incorporate powdered sugar, mixing well.

final Seriously today I could use five sets of hands and feet. Can’t seem to catch up. Perhaps it’s because spring has arrived way too early and I feel pushed to move into spring when winter should still be lingering a bit. Tulips are waving in the breeze by my garage, our doors are open allowing the fresh air to circulate, and the sun is warm on my skin. According to the news mosquitos too are fooled by the weather, coming out in hordes around the standing water areas. Sigh. We are being warned of a long and dangerous fire season so part of my spring to summer preparedness will be to put together a “fire box” in the event we should have to leave in a hurry. During an animated discussion with friends about dire warnings of California only having one year of water left, I suggested we build a huge pipeline from the flooded midsection of the country. Filling our quickly dwindling water storage areas with their excess spring thaw. In lieu of Mother Nature throwing a little moisture our way we are sinking slowly into our fourth year of drought.

We’ll be letting our lawns go, and washing our cars less for sure. In spite of the lack of water the intrepid wildflowers are blooming prolifically along the hillsides. Monday a friend and I are heading to the hills to stretch our legs and get a few pictures. Poppys adorn the sides of the roadways, their pumpkin colored blooms swaying with the wind generated by passing cars.

I’ve always loved flowers. Leaning toward colorful bouquets of fresh flowers rather than the silk varieties. Not to diminish the artfulness of artificial flowers available. Many of them closely resemble those growing in the yard. However, no matter how realistically they are made, the absence of fragrance and the fact that they remain the same season after season makes me continue to prefer the real deal. Personally I enjoy the cutting and arranging of fresh flowers. Fond memories linger in the dusty corners of my brain of my grandmother carrying armloads of freshly cut blooms from her garden in a large dishcloth slung over her shoulder. Her oversized crystal containers with the glass frogs were filled to overflowing with blooms on the months Nova Scotia encouraged flowers to grow. So many artful pastimes are disappearing from our lives. I think it’s nice to keep some close to us and use our hands to make our lives a little more beautiful from time to time.

Looking back I probably would have enjoyed a career in decorating. As one season merges into the next the decorative touches around the house reflect the change. Aside from decorating I suppose I would be considered rather a “crafty” person. Also I love to wrap presents, which is lucky because I have a baby shower gift sitting downstairs waiting to be done up. We’re to be surprised on the day of the impending shower with the baby’s gender, so yellow or non-gender specific colors are in order for the occasion. Spending some time on a recent shopping trip perusing clothes in the land of the wee I was taken with how massive the selection is for those with pink blankets in comparison to the choices for those tucked under a blue one.  Little boys need to shake their rattles in unity, demanding equal outfits littering the racks.

Babies seem to be an issue in the news. This morning they were saying many men are having trouble of late convincing their partners to step into the ring and produce offspring. A different twist on an old story. When I was having children we didn’t put much thought into it. I guess we assumed we were going to have children and did so, in my case in short order. Women of this generation are hesitant it would seem for a number of reasons. Have they gone to school and pursued a career, children certainly could throw a wrench in the works trying to manage new motherhood and a full-time job. Another reason cited was getting their bodies back to normal after a pregnancy, or the possibility of never getting it back to normal should additional children come along down the road. I think having children at such a young age didn’t cause me problems in this area. My skin was young and supple, and gaining around twenty-five pounds with each child my body easily snapped back pretty much to the shape it began in with little effort on my part.

A woman in the bed next to me after I delivered my first child horrified me. Not much older than I, she’d gained seventy pounds with her last pregnancy, her third in as many years. Her skin hung on her like a bad fitting suit and seeing this I assumed all women would look like that after birthing several children. Not true. Now women often continue exercising nearly full term as well as lathering on lotions and creams to keep their skin pliable during the time it is expanded.

It’s an odd thought to me to picture men chasing women around asking them to deliver. Perhaps if men had to participate as we do in the actual process their enthusiasm might be slightly diminished. For me, I wouldn’t trade the experience. At times when your ankles look like an anaconda trying to swallow a wildebeest it is annoying, but when you feel that first tiny butterfly flutter in your nether regions life is never quite the same again.

I came up with this updated variation on one of my favorite sandwiches to enjoy after St. Patty’s Day. It was absolutely delicious!

Texas Toast Reuben with Russian Dressing

4 pieces cheesy Texas Toast
1 1/2 cups sauerkraut, drained
Leftover corned beef sliced
4 slices Swiss Cheese
Russian Dressing

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place toast on foil covered cookie sheet and bake 8 mins. Turn on broiler and place toast under it until cheese is bubbly.

Remove from oven and distribute sauerkraut evenly over all four slices. Top with corned beef and place a slice of cheese overall. Return to oven and place under broiler until cheese is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve with Russian dressing.

Russian Dressing

1 cup of mayonnaise
1/4 cup catsup
2 Tbsp. sweet pickle relish
2 Tbsp. horseradish (or as desired)
1-2 drops hot sauce

Whisk together ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use.

2

The week has flown by and our company has come and gone. I sat with my mother in the train station until a few minutes before the train was to depart. I always get sad when she leaves. As our parents age each visit becomes more precious and the memories more dear. In some cases, naturally. In others perhaps a larger gap between visits is preferable. Such would be the case of one of my dearest friends whose mother comes for a month at a time and never ceases to communicate her distaste for nearly everything unless asleep. On the flip side, it will be good to return a bit of normalcy to the house and once again slip into the familiar routine Rick, Boo, the Queen of Cats, and I have become accustomed to.

Our other guest, Doc, accompanied Mother on her ride home. They will be sitting as I write this looking out the window at the ocean and playing their third or fourth hand of gin rummy. Doc will win, Mother will grouse, and life will again become as it was. Doc was a dentist, when still working. Surprisingly for being an ex-dentist, though the sweetest man, he tends to be a total pig pen. My usually pristine second guest bedroom looks as if we’d unleashed a Tasmanian Devil in its midst. Going down to survey the damage, I found crumbs literally obliterating the table. Having a voracious sweet tooth (also odd for one in the tooth repair biz) I assume this would be the result of his late night peanut butter and jelly runs. Somehow peanut butter found itself on every available surface downstairs up to and including the floor in the bathroom. Even Boo had a sticky tag behind her left ear. The house can always be clean, but I can’t always enjoy the company of people I love. Tomorrow I will get out the heavy ammunition and unearth what remains of my downstairs, but for today I will put my feet up and read the paper in absolute silence.

It’s funny how as we age we revert backwards becoming more like children then older adults. Things that were minor blips on the screen twenty years prior, as the years pass becoming difficult to accomplish. I opened jars, schlepped luggage, made meals, cleaned up after meals, and generally ran from one room to the other making sure everything was moving smoothly. Both visitors range from fairly hard of hearing to nearly deaf depending on whether or not they’ve inserted their hearing aids. Evenings the TV was on at such a level I’m sure our neighbors enjoyed Jeopardy right along with us, a show both visitors watch faithfully. Conversations are difficult as each sentence needs to be said and then repeated loudly, but we got by. A vacation is in order, and it’s coming our way the beginning of next month.

Some day our children will undoubtedly be writing such things about Rick and I. Between the two of us we have four children. Rick’s daughter, the youngest, is getting married the first of April. The ceremony will be in Arizona so I’ll have to step on board a plane again. Ach. Not my favorite pastime anymore. Over the weekend there were two reported near mishaps where landing gears didn’t deploy. I hope somebody comes up with teleportation pretty soon, so I don’t have to think about it anymore. Yesterday a passenger disrupted a flight. If the landing gear isn’t working that could well be me.

Shopping was in order when I got the news up the upcoming nuptials. Living up here in the tall trees as I’ve mentioned there is isn’t much use for dressy clothes. I’m not complaining, mind you. I’d be happy in jeans or shorts for the most part with a pair of flip-flops on my feet. Most of my life I’ve held jobs where dressing up was part of the package. It’s nice not to have to worry about what to wear in the morning these days.

Mother and I hit the mall on Saturday. For my mother this is a regular occurrence. We stopped by the Lancome counter. Her picture was hanging over the cash register.  As usual she was fully lathered up by an attentive salesgirl suggesting Mother’s age to be just past legal drinking age. A lipstick in her favorite shade was tucked in a bag for the hefty cost of $32.00 plus tax. I’m afraid my lips would go naked if that was the price asked for a lipstick in my world. Next it was on to the handbags. One was purchased from their “spring collection” on sale for $150.00. I didn’t ask what the original price had been. My bag has no seasonal delineation. I carry my handbags until the handle drops off, then purchase a replacement.

On to the women’s clothing section. A “one day sale” in progress, the floor was abuzz with activity. Women of all sizes and shapes were moving through the clothing racks like a swarm of voracious army ants. Men, purses on their laps and long faces in place, could be seen in a line sitting on cushioned seats just outside the changing rooms looking as though they would sooner shoot of their own feet then continue the vigil. What amazingly ugly clothing designs they’ve come up with this year. Who wears these? Blousey shirts with no shape whatsoever, paired with ugly prints of wild floral origin such as never seen in nature. Flouncy, overly fussy clothes with no shape. Ugh. I tried to imagine even the bony models walking the runways in such god awful outfits doing them justice.

Sorting though one rack after another I finally located ten or so items I would consider leaving the house in and entered the fitting rooms. A woman cut of generous proportions stood in front of a three-sided mirror wearing an outfit so garish and ill-fitting a peacock would have buried its head in the sand if caught wearing it. A salesperson bustled about her saying how beautiful she looked. I was tempted to whisper in her ear “run, save yourself”, but located an empty room instead.

A half an hour later I managed to find a relatively basic skirt, and a tailored blouse in subtle more muted tones, as well as some silky pants and a top. My turn to be checked out I was helped by a fast talking woman with a British accent who asked if I’d like 20% off. Ummmm, “yup, sign me up”. Once I’d agreed, she asked if I had a store credit card. I replied I’d had one years ago but not now. “That will work”, she told me. “We’ll use that and apply the 20%.” Yea for me. Carrying on a conversation with my Mom, when queried I updated my address. On leaving I was handed my purchases and a small packet and told to expect my new credit card in two weeks. Whoops. Rick is always telling me to pay attention. I’m sure I’ll be reminded again when I tell him I inadvertently applied for and was given a new card. Ah well.

Braised Cabbage

1 medium head of cabbage
3 large carrots generously sliced
1 large onion, sliced
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup EV olive oil
1/4 tsp. crushed pepper flakes, or more or less to taste
Salt and ground pepper to taste

Wash cabbage removing any sagging outside leaves. Cut into eight wedges. Arrange in a 13″ x 9″ baking dish in one layer. Place the onion slices and carrots on top. Drizzle oil and stock overall. Season according to taste with salt, pepper flakes and ground pepper. Cover with tin foil and place on center rack in 325 oven for approximately two hours. Turn cabbage wedges once after first hour.

Happy St. Patty’s Day

game-hens

Haven’t been either cooking or writing for the past week.  I’ve been on the road collecting my mother and her roommate for a stay with us in the tall trees. Every time I return to the Bay Area I am again reminded of the crazy drivers prevalent in the area. Twice before I arrived I was nearly hit. Freeways are like destruction derby only I believe destruction derby might have looser rules. Horn honking has become somewhat of a stoplight game. While waiting for the light to change everyone honks at the person next to them or those in front of them, as if in doing so the light will somehow change more quickly. Bizarre.

Stores on the weekends are mob scenes. Pushing and shoving customers cram into cashier lanes and circle parking lots like birds of prey hoping to spot an afternoon meal. One thing I will say for the lack of available parking spaces, it allows you to get your exercise in while hiking the two miles required to get to the front of the store.

Speaking of exercise everyone living there seems to be getting some. Fully geared bicyclists clog the bike lanes along the roads, water bottles poking from back pockets and futuristic helmets pulled on their heads. A seemingly endless line of Spandex reinforced joggers pony tails jiggling through holes in their hats, puff along the sidewalks. Huge sections of the stores are dedicated to sports attire. It appears nobody shows up for a walk or a run without the appropriate clothing in place. This is California one is to remember, and looks definitely are everything. For as good as they look exercising they drop the facade when visiting the market or convenience store, opting instead for pj’s and a pair of clogs. Got to love this state. There truly is something for everyone.

I spent last week searching web sites looking for interesting activities not requiring a lot of walking. When mobility problems are a reality for some of the participants the amount of things to do not involving walking becomes a far more limited playing field. Not wanting to simply go out to eat all time, as I don’t want to have to use the jaws of life to extricate myself from my jeans, other solutions needed to be found.

Everyone visiting our area seems to want to include a trip to the casinos. Before moving to the new house, the city we lived boasted two Indian casinos within the city limits. Passing them every day I rarely stopped in to deposit my money. I’m not saying we never visited, but mainly when company came to call.  Historically, not being one to be given things without a little work involved, I would be equally as lucky standing in the parking lot shredding my bills into confetti. However, I do love Las Vegas, and enjoy Reno. Comparing these two gambling meccas to local casinos is like comparing artichokes and calves liver. Totally different program. Las Vegas is an adult theme park replete with slot machines. Both my mother and Doc love to go to the local fare. The last time we took them I believe Doc invested $5 in the slot machine. When that disappeared, which took about five minutes, he announced he was tapped out. Sigh. Mother is another story entirely. Have to watch her, or she’ll have the house mortgaged and be looking for the pink slip to her car.

Back in my twenties my husband and I took my cousin and his wife, visiting from Alberta, to Las Vegas. Youth being what it is we didn’t think to make reservations at a hotel ahead of time, simply hopping in the car and heading east. On arriving in town we quickly discovered there was an OB/GYN convention in full force and all the major hotel chains were fully booked. Not having brought a speculum with us, we searched for rooms available in the smaller motels along the strip. They were to be found, for a price. Pooling our money we took a room at a small hotel off the main drag eclectically adorned with a large elephant in the courtyard. Hints of the pachyderm’s original pink paint were still evident where it hadn’t peeled through to the white plaster below. A large neon sign blinked on and off all night outside the window, and the bed apparently had been stuffed with machine parts and rocks. A sign pointing down the hall read ICE. 110 in the shade we followed the arrows to a locked freezer laced with cobwebs next to a stack of cracked plastic ice tubs. The air conditioner, admittedly worked, though humming at decimals just below a jet engine. Leaving for dinner we were fairly certain we overheard a prostitute and her “date” making a deal for the evening outside the room next door. I slept on top of the bed with my clothes on. All this luxury for $125 a night.

Little time luckily was spent in our room. We stayed up well into the night pulling the handles on slot machines and handing our money to black jack dealers. All in all it was a profitable night in tinsel town. Not on our side naturally, but the casinos weren’t going to have to close up shop any time soon. Around 3:00 a.m. we ate at an all you can eat all night buffet. Everything in Las Vegas is all night really. Alcohol flows 24/7 and ladies missing half their clothes can be seen handing out drinks to weary looking gamblers barely before the rooster crows.

Once while going across country by car my husband and I found ourselves in Ely, Nevada around 6:00 a.m. Needing coffee to keep our eyelids from drooping we stopped at a large hotel indicating food was served inside. Ely, on Highway 50 touted as the loneliest highway in the U.S., stuck me as a place people went when they didn’t want to be found. I can’t substantiate this with any fact, simply something I felt. Inside we found a long counter inhabited by mainly men. Some were drinking coffee and others enjoying an early morning eye opener. A friendly bunch we bellied up to the bar and had some of the best bacon and eggs with crispy home fries we had along our travels.

So, this week we will be off with the heavy hitters betting our whole $5 on the big win. I’m sure we’ll be comped a room for our troubles.

These little hens were requested by my guests. Always a hit.

Baked Cornish Game Hens

4 Cornish game hens
1 cup melted butter
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
12 mushrooms, dusted and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup melted butter
1 lemon, quartered

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Combine all ingredients except hens, lemon, and 1/4 cup melted butter in mixing bowl.

Wash hens and clean well. Dry thoroughly Season hens inside and out with salt and pepper to taste. Stuff equally with butter and vegetable mixture. Place 1/4 lemon in each cavity. Spray 13x9x2″ casserole and place hens in breast side up. Drizzle with 1/2 cup melted butter rubbing over hens. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic salt.

Cover with foil and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Remove cover and brown under broiler.

Serve with wild rice.

Wild Rice

1 Tbsp.  olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup uncooked wild rice
1 cup uncooked long-grain brown rice

Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over med.heat. Add onion, celery and garlic and cook until the vegetables are tender.

Add broth and wild rice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover tightly and cook for 25 minutes.

Stir in the brown rice. Cover and cook for 20 mins. or until the rice is tender.

 

 

 

 

final

As a preteen all I ever wanted to be was an Egyptologist. Every term paper, short story or journal entry was filled with pyramids, sultry nights, and Middle Eastern history. Thoughts of digs permeated my young mind. Sitting cross legged in the hot sand unearthing artifacts buried there in the beginning of time. I’m not much into scorpions or snakes, and heat makes me wilt, so most probably it would not have been the appropriate career choice for me. However, to this day if offered a chance to see the pyramids I’d be on my way in a hot minute. Hot being the appropriate word here.

Rick having been born in Cairo was definitely a plus on our first meeting. A blend of English and Egyptian blood he was raised in a suburb of Cairo largely by his maternal grandparents. Coming to the States to attend college in Michigan, he never looked back, but speaks of growing up there often. Days were a mix of tea and falafels as he tells it. For one year they relocated to Kuwait. A scientist of note, his grandfather was called there for a series of lectures. Kuwait in the dead of summer presents itself with withering, blistering heat, driving inhabitants inside to the relief of cooled air during peak hours. Chores and outside activities were dispatched early in the morning or later in the day after the persistent sun was laid to rest. Businesses closed their doors after lunch proprietors retreating to their homes for an afternoon siesta, to return later in the day staying open into the evening. Aside from the heat, this particular year was to be a year of the locust. Billions of voracious bugs swooped down from the sky forming a dark moving cloud. Acres of vegetation were laid to waste in their wake. Clean laundry could be seen hanging on the line on the day the locust arrived. Rick’s grandmother had hung the clothes early in the morning when the sun was kinder. Despite the two men’s attempts to stop her as the insects descended on the yard Rick says his grandmother ran out into the into the courtyard to rescue her clothes. Covered with insects she yanked the clothes from the line. Returning to the house she stood in the kitchen looking as if she’d been a chicken thigh dredged and ready to toss in the pan. Exerting herself in the intense heat apparently had sucked all the salt up through her pores causing it to rise to the surface and dry. A thin white coating covered all her exposed skin. There is no laundry, no matter how dear to me, that would be worth that sort of effort. For my money between the heat and the crunchy swarm, the clothes could have remained on the line until they went out of style, but that’s just me.

Besides all the wonderful stories about his life there, Rick introduced me to many dishes a good old Canadian like myself would never have Döner_in_Istanbul_(01.10.2008)found in my Joy of Cooking. Shawarma, for example, meat marinated and layered on a large skewer rotating around a vertical gas fire. When cooked the meat is shaved off with a sharp knife in thin slices and served. Absolutely wonderful. Also, he introduced me to falafels. Up until then I thought it was something one might treat with a healthy dose of antibiotics.

I’ve developed a real taste for Middle Eastern food with all its rich exotic flavors. Following is an easy recipe for falafels. They’re the best. Vegetarian as well, for those who eschew the ewe. Tahini (pronouced Ta-hay-na)should be able to be purchased in any grocery store in the International section.

Falafels

1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas or garbonzo beans (approx. 12 oz.)
2 cups chopped cilantro
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground tumeric
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1 onion, quartered
Oil
Tahini
8 pitas halved
1 red onion thinly sliced
2 large tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
8 lettuce leaves (I use romaine, but any will do)

Sort and wash chickpeas. Place in large bowl and cover with water at least two inches above beans. Cover bowl and let stand overnight. Drain.

Combine chickpeas, cilantro and next eight ingredients in food processor. Process until the consistency of coarse meal. Divide into 16 equal portions and form into patties.

Heat 1/2″ oil in large skillet. Add 5-6 patties at a time and cook approximately 3 mins. on each side until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

To make pockets. Spread tahini sauce on insides of pita halves. Place 1/2 lettuce leaf, 3 falafel patties, tomato, onion, and cucumber in pocket. Drizzle lightly overall with sauce.

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final
Ever having day where you question your intelligence? Read my blog occasionally. Surely it will reassure you to know there’s someone out there a notch lower on the intellectual pole.

Yesterday I went to the store for some groceries. My list included salsa, so I picked up a tub. Helping me put my items away Rick noted the date on the salsa to be about two weeks out. Sigh. They should have a shuttle to the market for people like me. No matter how many lists I write, I either forget an item or omit one necessary for a recipe I’m planning requiring a return trip.

This morning I had a doctor’s appointment, a well-check, they call it. At the beginning of each year they look you over and see if you’re in need of repair. Good news! I’m still chugging along. After the doctor visit I stopped at the market to return the out-of-date salsa, pick up a new one, and get a few items for Rick. Setting the salsa in the cart, I shopped for a few minutes. While in produce I ran into a friend of mine. After exchanging a few words I went up and checked out. Turning onto the road to my house it occurred to me I’d forgotten to return the salsa in the cart. Are you serious? I think I should have had a brain scan while in for my well-check. Now I have purchased the same out-of-date salsa twice, providing my own the second trip, and I still can’t eat it. This seriously should make you feel better about yourself. Smile.

After a certain point in life forgetfulness becomes an integral part of the program. You open the cupboard to get the coffee in its usual place only to find the ice cream you ate for dessert the night before melting all over the shelf paper. After much searching you locate the coffee in the freezer where the ice cream should have been.

Rick’s favorite word lately is “whatchamacallit”. This because his short-term memory is not as good so when his mind is searching for names of people or places whatchamacallit is a place holder until it locates what it’s looking for. Last week one entire sentence was constructed with the word.

A friend of mine recounted a visit to Macy’s. Always carrying two pair of glasses, dark lenses for driving and her prescription glasses for, well, seeing. She exchanged her sunglasses for her regular glasses on entering the store. First stop, the makeup counter. As an aside I can almost smell this section as I write about it. There is something positively intoxicating about the look and smell of the makeup and cologne section of a high-end store, but I digress. Chatting with the saleswoman she made a selection and was handed a bag with her purchases. Finding nothing else she couldn’t live without she headed toward the exit realizing she’d left her glasses on the make-up counter. Backtracking she explained the dilemma to the lady behind the counter. Staring confused at my friend’s face the lady asked “are they a different pair than the ones you’re wearing”? Ach. Embarrassed, my friend mumbled it was her sunglasses she was searching for and hurriedly left the store.

We’ve all done stupid things. The ability to laugh at ourselves is important, because there’s going to be a time when it will come in handy, guaranteed.

It isn’t only with age I’ve begun to make an idiot of myself. It’s been going on for some time. In my late twenties I involved an entire security force at a mall searching for my car, presumed stolen. While tooling around the parking lot with a security guard in a golf cart I realized I’d forgotten I’d driven to the mall in my fiance’s vehicle. Shortly we located my fiance’s car in the spot I’d parked it in, waiting for me to remove my head from my behind.

Apparently these genes are potent because I’ve passed them on to my children. Picking up the phone this afternoon I enjoyed a rather lengthy conversation with my daughter. Knowing she’d been invited to a relative’s wedding shower, I inquired as to how it went. Surprisingly this prompted tears on her end. What? “You don’t have to tell me if it’s a sensitive subject. What?” Both she and her daughter purchased new outfits and shoes for the event to be held in a beautiful restaurant not far from their home. Uh huh. Looking forward to wishing the couple about to get married well, since the wedding was to be held in Hawaii, my girl was excited. Saturday she spent all day selecting just the right gift and card, getting her hair cut, and nails done. All good. So why the tears? Sunday she and my granddaughter got gorgeous, collected the beautifully wrapped presents, and headed toward the restaurant. Once inside they inquired at the reception area where they would find the wedding shower party. Confused, the hostess checked her books. She suggested they might look in church since the shower had been held the day before. Sigh.

Life will insist on throwing you a curve now and then. I think it’s for balance. As I’ve said before how will we appreciate the hot weather if it never snows, the lack of pain if we never experience, life if not for death. Keeping us on our toes for sure, it’s a fun ride nonetheless.

This was an interesting omelet. My mother is arriving next week. I have allowed my larder to dwindle in anticipation of shopping for food on the weekend. Opening the vegetable bin, I found two zucchinis, and a bunch of green onions. Eying the eggs I wondered. Hmmmm. Surprisingly this was very good. I put sour cream on top. Yum. Normally I would have accompanied this with a dish of salsa, but, you know.

Zucchini Dill Omelet with Dill Sour Cream

1 medium zucchini sliced thin
Salt
3 green onions, chopped fine
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 large eggs
1/8 cup whole milk
1 tsp. dried dill
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/8 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Slice zucchini thin. Place in colander and sprinkle with salt. Allow to sit for 30 mins. Rinse well. Pat dry with paper towels and then roll inside towel to squeeze liquid out.

Heat oil in large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add zucchini and cook until lightly browned and tender, about 8 mins. Add green onions, and cook 2 mins.

Whisk together remaining ingredients in mixing bowl. Pour egg mixture into pan. Swirl to cover pan and vegetables.

Cook until eggs begin to set. Reduce heat to med.-low, cover, and continue cooking about 10 mins. until set. Immediately invert on serving plate. Serve with sour cream.

Dill Sour Cream

1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp. dill
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use.

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