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Amazingly our garden is looking like spring, and it’s mid-February. A bit unnerving for those of us living in the Golden State. Stands to reason if we’re enjoying tee-shirt weather this early in the year, summer will be a bear. I’m not complaining about the lack of rain, however, after observing what people to the east of us are enduring. Roads like skating rinks, power lines frozen solid, roofs caving in. Even Niagara Falls looking like a scene from Frozen. Truly Disney’s movie mirrored in a way what winter was to look like this year with a polar chill gripping most of the nation.

Three times in my life I’ve lived in snow belts. Growing up in Nova Scotia, certainly winter made itself known. Three years in Massachusetts, and three years again in West Virginia. Snow makes the landscape incredibly beautiful, I think. Draping itself among the tree branches, making stark patterns along the roadways and in fields. For a kid, it’s a playground on which to sled, toboggan, skate, and ski. Building a snowman was usually the first order of business when winter arrived for my friends and I. Learning to build a good snowball also an essential for kids growing up in snow country. By the time my ankles could support my weight I had ice skates. The frog pond in Point Pleasant Park, two blocks from the house, was where we gathered to show off new skates or glide about on the ones we’d already broken in. Cheeks red as persimmons, and feet frozen solid we twirled and raced across the ice for hours seemingly oblivious to the frigid air and our numbing limbs.

February should reflect the above, but snow seems as far away as another universe on such a short-sleeved day as today. Tulips ought not to bloom in the week following Valentine’s Day alongside bright pink cherry blossoms. What’s up Mother Nature? Were you bored with hurricanes and forest fires? Allergies are in full force out here while back east gridlocked frozen highways keep people long into the night stuck in their cars.

Deciding there was nothing to do but get out and enjoy this glorious day we first took ourselves to breakfast. I had Eggs Benedict, my favorite. Rick had his usual French toast. Creatures of habit are we. Afterwards we ran errands, stopped to wash the car, and ended up at Home Depot to look for some light fixtures before heading home.

As ridiculous as this sounds, I have a totally irrational fear of going through a car wash. This wasn’t always the case. It began about twenty years ago. I was dating a man at the time carrying on a love affair with his vehicle. Seriously I believe if an assassin had pointed a gun towards me and his SUV and said, “your lady or your car”, I would have gone down like the Titanic. The car, or “baby” to he who loved it, required a full bath each weekend rain wasn’t predicted. This was followed by a thorough hand rubbing with a soft chamois and a good vacuum to capture any debris daring to make its way onto the pristine floor mats. Kings have enjoyed less pampering. Taking food inside the car could be a deal breaker. Once we ordered take-out. The food was placed on a 33 gallon trash bag in the back in between two bricks to stabilize the bags. Taking the food in the house he went back to the car for a dusting of “new car spray” to remove any lingering odors of egg rolls mucking about. Water, if thoroughly enclosed, was acceptable on a trip as long as it didn’t contain any flavoring which might stain the upholstery. I suggested at one point a detailed manual might be handy to help one keep track of all the rules. This was not well received.

My car, unaware such vehicle spoiling existed, looked good but certainly not as good sitting next to the larger vehicle requiring sunglasses to view it in full sun. After several weekends without seeing me outside buffing and shining it was suggested I take my car through the car wash down the road. Fine. I worked a sixty hour week at least at the time and whether or not my car was immaculate at any given moment was on my list right after going diving for oysters. As a note, I detest oysters.

To appease, my next free Saturday the Neon and I made the drive to the car wash. A man met us at the entrance with options including waxing and wheels. Going for the works I was handed a receipt and instructed to pull forward. I did. Somehow my wheels got off the pulley used to drag the car through the cycles once inside. The Neon tipped on one wheel was being urged ahead almost sideways towards the entrance. Much yelling and waving of hands occurred outside as the car wash personnel managed to shut down the car wash completely just as the driver’s side rear view mirror was ripped from its holder and tossed under the bus, if you will. Uh-huh. After the bubbles settled I was told to submit a claim for the mirror and offered a free car wash and waxing. Um, no thank you. Since then I either go to the u-wash car wash or allow my other half to do it.

I’ve mentioned before I had my energy read at a fair in Berkeley for kicks. The reader said he had never seen energy like mine. Very powerful stuff apparently. Smile. He asked if I had a lot of problems with machinery. Did somebody tell? Ach. I can walk by a printer and get the lights twirling on and off. Always been that way. An IT guy at one job intimated I had somehow warped the screen on my computer and pulled up a page he’d never before seen. Really? Put me to good use and I could be a weapon of mass destruction. Just ask Rick.

Yesterday after enduring me holding my hands over my face and chanting all the way through the car wash, we went to Home Depot. Not finding the light we were searching for I picked up a small house plant. Deciding on the self-checkout with only one item, I scanned the bar code. A screen came up on the machine depicting (not kidding here) a hammer suspended in the air and marks below it as if indicating I should hit the machine with it. Alerting the sales person there to help stupid self-checkout users such as myself, she stared at the screen. Seems she’d never seen that screen before either. Hmmmm. Curiouser and curiouser. Shutting down the machine entirely and rebooting I paid my $3.58 and decided to become a hermit.

This is a meal in itself. I served it with rice and we needed nothing to go with it.

Braised Artichokes and Beans

2 large globe artichokes
1 large lemon
1/8 cup olive oil
1 large yellow onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 oz. can red kidney beans, drained
1 1/2 Tbsp. dill
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Fill a large bowl with water. Squeeze entire lemon in bowl then toss in rinds. Allow to sit for 30 mins. Cut artichokes in quarters lengthwise. Remove chokes (furry portions near stem) with knife. Cut ends of stems slightly. These are an extension of the heart so don’t cut too much. Drop artichokes in water and leave for 30 mins.

1

Pour olive oil in bottom of stockpot. Heat over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 8 mins. stirring often. Add garlic. Cook for 1 min. Drain artichokes, tossing lemons, and place in pot. Add enough water to cover. Reduce heat and simmer for 40 mins. or until tender. Serve with a bed of rice and melted butter or mayonnaise for dipping.

Serves 4

1

Road rage is in the news again this week. A Las Vegas mother of four shot after an incident with a neighbor triggered by something that happened while both parties were in their vehicles. I’m the first to admit I get annoyed by inconsiderate drivers or people who insist on riding my bumper. Never, however, have I become so enraged I felt it necessary to arm myself or attack the other person. Arriving at my destination a few minutes later is better than not arriving at all.

One of my favorite scenes from a movie would be the one in Fried Green Tomatoes where Kathy Bates has her parking spot taken by two young girls. Bates leans out and explains politely she had been waiting for that spot. One girl responds, “Face it lady, we’re younger and faster”. Piled on top of the rest of the problems occurring in her life Bates rams the girls car out of the spot pulling in her car. On exiting the vehicle she yells to the excited girls, “I’m older, and have more insurance”. We’ve all been in such a situation. People can be rude and less than thoughtful. I run into it every day. Several days ago I was walking out of the pharmacy with a load in my arms. They recently instituted a plastic bag ban in our town and I keep forgetting to bring my reusable bags. At any rate a woman in front of me seeing me juggling my load of 2-ply Charmin, simply let the door go in my face knocking several packages to the ground. Turning around she looked at me, smiled, and kept on walking. The man behind me stopped, picked up my packages and walked with me to the car commenting that courtesy has all but disappeared in our world. Never during the whole scene did I feel like running the woman down in the parking lot or following her home. Not that important in the scheme of things. Really.

Often on the road I’ll encounter someone who is tailgating and passing everyone in front of them, weaving in and out of traffic. Arriving at the next stoplight that same car will be sitting behind all the others waiting for the light to change. All that activity didn’t really have much effect on how quickly he was going to reach his designation, but the unsafe lane changes and bumper running could have effected how others got to theirs or if. Unless you’re driving an injured person to the hospital what can be so important as to endanger your life or the lives of others to get to?

Anger is becoming a way of life. Every time you turn on the TV it’s in your face. Not long ago I watched my young grandson going through the levels of a video game. Military men, or cyborgs of some type, were shooting at one another with high-powered automatic weapons. Bloody limbs were flying about everywhere. The game, I was told, was purchased for his older brother. This may be, but it was not his older brother who was manning the controls. Kids are reacting, I believe, to all this violence with violence. Never in all the time I was in school or my children were in school did I hear of one case of a student shooting at other students on the school ground. Surely it had happened, but not in the alarming number of incidents we hear about today.

When married to my ex-husband, a Texan, we had a gun in the house. There were no worries about children getting hurt at that point, they were grown. Neither the dog nor the cat seemed to have any interest in the weapon, although both might have paid more attention had they known it had the propensity to eliminate the large red squirrel fond of taunting them in the yard. Truth was, it scared me. Bought for my protection, he worked nights at the time, the weapon made me more nervous than if an intruder was in the house. After several failed attempts at being able to even chamber a bullet, the decision was reached to leave it on safety underneath the nightstand on nights when I was there alone. Most probably I would have shot off my own foot before hitting an intruder, but he felt better knowing I had a way to defend myself such as it was.

I took it out only once when an errant possum wandered in the yard and got its head stuck in the tin can used to catch drippings beneath the barbecue. Other than that it remained where it laid until it went with him when he went and I wasn’t sorry to see it go. Growing up in Texas he explained they learned early to respect and use weapons. His daddy, so he said, kept guns in the house but all four children knew not to touch them and if they had occasion to use them, how do to so safely.

Violence has never been my first course of action. In the case of protecting myself or someone I love, I’m sure I would be spurred into action. I do know if someone took my parking place or passed me and shot me a universal hand signal, it would never be worth anything other than perhaps returning the favor. Obviously something far beyond the incident on the road must push these perpetrators of such crimes to the breaking point.

At any rate, dark thoughts for a gorgeous day. Unbelievably I have daffodils blooming on my hill and the cherry trees already magnificent down the road. Strange year for weather. Weather gurus are saying this could be a long drought for we Californians. Not good news for those people making their living from agriculture in the central valley.

On a cheerier note. This cod is so delicious. I make extra bruschetta and put in atop garlic bread. Yum.

Alaskan Cod with Olive Bruschetta Sauce

Olive Bruschetta

3 Roma tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup sliced Kalamata olives
4 leaves fresh basil, chopped fine
1/2 Tbsp. EV olive oil
1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a pot of water to boiling. Cut a cross on the bottom of each tomato. Drop in water for 1 min. Retrieve with slotted spoon and cool. Peel, seed, and chop.

Mix tomatoes with remaining ingredients. Allow to sit in refrigerator for 1 hour.

2 Tbsp. butter
1/3 cup fresh fennel, diced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes with garlic and olive oil
Olive bruschetta
1 tsp. dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Alaskan Cod filets
Hot cooked pasta

Melt butter in large skillet over med. heat. Add fennel, onion, and garlic. Cook for 5 mins. until onion is translucent. Add tomatoes, bruschetta and basil to pan. Heat until bubbly. Add cod to pan pushing down into sauce and ladling some on top. Cover and cook for 8 mins. or until fish begins to flake.

Serve over cooked pasta tossed with butter or olive oil and chopped fresh parsley if desired.

Serves 2

final

Rick suggested we go out for Valentine’s Day. What a nice idea. Unfortunately, we were a bit late in thinking of it so available reservations were all well on into the evening. Deciding instead to wait until the day after and avoid the crush, we chose a restaurant we’d eaten at before downtown. Rather, I chose it. Where we live is not exactly a restaurant mecca. Though quite an assortment to choose from, definitely it’s a question of quantity rather than quality. It’s not that they’re bad, mind you, rather not memorably good either. Sorry.

I chose a restaurant we’d eaten in before. My experience had been great the first time we’d been there with friends, with Rick’s sort of a disaster. Ordering a rack of lamb, he’d gotten two chops, standing one against the other like a teepee, for $35. There wasn’t enough meat, according to him, to keep a hamster’s bones from protruding. I asked if he’d give the restaurant a second look remembering my well cooked filet. He agreed. When we arrived, we fell in line behind three other parties. After a while we asked the person in front of us what the hold up was. It appeared we were waiting for the hostess to arrive. Ah. We stood. We stood some more. Then, yes, wait for it, we stood some more. Finally, the bartender came out from behind the bar. Apologizing, she said she would retrieve the hostess who was in the kitchen on her break. As I’ve mentioned numerous times I’m sure, we owned a restaurant. A hostess is certainly entitled to a break but this doesn’t mean leaving customers to forage for themselves while you take one.

After some shuffling it was our turn. Seated in a small table next to a far wall bread, at least, showed up quickly. I hoped this would keep Rick’s mind off our slow start. The menu included their standard fare plus a Valentine’s Day insert. Finding scallops on the insert, I signed up for them starting off with a salad with blue cheese dressing. A holiday after all, I intended to throw caution to the wind. Both my salad and Rick’s cream of mushroom soup arrived in short order. Rick reported the soup was hot and flavorful while my delicious salad disappeared quickly. Yea.

Our entrees arrived. Served with hot pads, the waitress warned us of very hot plates. Arranged nicely on my plate, were ten plump scallops encircling a mound of garlic mashed potatoes topped with crunchy slaw. Titled “fire and ice scallops” one side was served in a spicy red sauce, while the other side was presented in a more delicate creamy white sauce. Looked good. Rick had ordered Cajun prawns served with a side of fettucine and seasonal veggies. We were on our way to a good time. “Not so fast”, you say. Oh, that would be me saying that. Turns out the plates were hot as indicated, but the food sitting on them was cold. Actually Rick’s veggies felt like they’d just been taken out of the bin.

Turning to my scallops, I cut one in half. Oh-oh. Shiny through and through. Nothing is tougher than an overcooked scallop, unless perhaps an overcooked shrimp, but raw seafood can make you sick. I had a feeling this wasn’t going to end well. The waitress was called to the table and both dishes returned to the kitchen. The couple next to us sent one of their meals back at the same time. More bread please. Truthfully you can’t do much to ruin bread, though I’ve seen it done on occasion.

The hot plates returned after a bit. I was on my second cup of coffee. If I continued I would be found swinging from the ceiling fan before dessert. My scallops were cooked perfectly for their encore performance. Rick’s fettucine, however, had been sauteed to heat it up leaving it enough tensile strength to safely wrap a bundle of steel. Amazingly, his vegetables were now stone cold. The prawns were hot and delicious he said. He almost enjoyed a bite before the plate once again was returned to the kitchen. Urged to eat before mine got cold, I reluctantly forged ahead without him.

On the third try the prawns were hot, and the fettucine recooked. The frigid vegetables had gone missing. Rick cautioned the waitress not to touch the plate. He was over the vegetables. Third try being the charm, his dinner was a success. Working on the last of my third cup of coffee I was talking at such a rate one would have thought I’d downed one of those energy packs from 7-11. I did that once. Already being a rather high energy being, I nearly wound myself up and bored through the ground to Asia. Never again.

Commenting on the preponderance of words flowing off my tongue, brought up a discussion of the two couples seated at the tables next to us. One couple, I’d say in their late forties, sat down, exchanged several words about the menu and never opened their mouths again for anything other than placing food in them. At different intervals each of them looked at the ceiling, the door, their shoes, the people around them, and the floor. Rarely did they exchange a glance. Wedding rings were evident on both hands so one would assume them to be a married couple. Apparently they’d already exhausted what they had to say to one another or perhaps had a fight before coming into the restaurant. The other couple, far older, didn’t make any pretense of having any interest in the other party simply ignoring one another through the entire meal.

Let me say, I would hate that. You might have noticed, if you read often, I am not one to be at a loss for words. A partner who didn’t communicate with me would leave me yawning I’m afraid. In spite of the fact we share a lot of time together, Rick and I always seem to be able to find subjects to discuss. Coming from opposite sides of the world and often opposite sides of a topic, leaves us open to lots of debates about what’s going on in the world, family, or whatever else is on our minds on any given day. I’m glad for that.

Hope your Valentine’s Day was filled with good times.

This salad is so light and delicious. Aside from peeling the lemons and oranges, it’s a no brainer to throw together.

Sicilian Lemon and Blood Orange Salad

4 blood oranges peeled and sliced in 1/2″ slices
3 ripe lemon, peeled and sliced in 1/2″ slices
1 small red onion, sliced thin
6 fresh mint leaves, chopped fine
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. EV olive oil

Arrange orange slice on a plate in a circle. Arrange lemon slices on top of orange slices. Top with red onion. Sprinkle with mint leaves and grind pepper as desired. Drizzle EV olive oil over top. Cover with plastic wrap and leave on counter for 2 hrs. prior to serving.

final

A legislator in California is pushing for a bill to pass requiring warning labels on sugary drinks. Is this really an issue that needs to take up time in our governing bodies? Certainly it seems there is enough hype about the effects of sugar on our bodies already. Are we honestly not aware soda is not good for us? Putting labels on harmful items doesn’t seem to me to be all that effective. Someone about to light up a cigarette doesn’t look at the side of the pack, read the label, have an epithany about the negative effects of tobacco addiction and throw the pack in the trash. At least not in my experience. This being true, the tobacco industry would have been out of business back when they began adding the label to their packaging. Never when pouring a glass of wine would the label on the side of the bottle have had any impact on my deciding whether or not to drink it, unless of course I was pregnant. My mother was saying when she was pregnant with me their were no such warnings in place. Women smoked and drank during pregnancy. I’m not advocating this as I practice. Strides in research about the dangers of doing this had been made by the time I was having children. As I was barely out of diapers myself it wasn’t a problem for me to do neither. I’m simply stating somehow the race perpetuated itself even with such ill-advised behaviors routinely being practiced.

Some warning labels are necessary. Particularly on medication bottles or safety products for children. “This drug may make you dizzy”, or “Be sure to buckle the seat belt when placing child in car seat”. These make sense to me. What’s next? How about McDonald’s putting warning notices on the side of the Big Mac box, “Warning, if eaten, immediately consult your scale”. Ach.

I noticed a label attached to the blow dryer I just purchased. Written in large bold letters it read, “Do not use in shower”? Really. Has somebody already done this and found it to be a bad idea? If so, I would assume they weren’t around afterwards to suggest a label would be helpful. How would you use it in the shower? Do you get your hair wet and dry it concurrently? Pardon the pun. I suppose an extension cord would work, but wouldn’t one think “Hmmmmmmmmm, electricity, water, water, electricity. Something here just feels wrong.”?

Personally it makes me feel as though the manufacturers of these products view us as less than intelligent. Sometimes we do behave that way I would suppose. For instance, another questionable practice catches my eye. People who post pictures of fabulous family vacations on social media WHILE they are on it. As lovely as it is to share our off with friends and loved ones back home, in this case mightn’t it be more prudent to do so after you return? Posting your time away from home definitely makes it easier for those people looking for a house to rob to narrow down their search. Another example of narrow thinking was several weeks ago the police caught jewelry store thieves after the two geniuses posted pictures on their Facebook account, full faces to the camera, holding their loot. To quote my seventh grade English teacher, “this is not muscular thinking”. Not me pointing fingers. If it wasn’t for doing stupid things on an appallingly regular basis I wouldn’t have much to contribute to this blog. Always, however, I am an observer of human behavior and I find the behaviors mentioned above definitely not muscular thinking at its best.

Warnings are thrown at us from all sides these days. Drink coffee, don’t drink coffee. For some years eggs have been on the cholesterol hit list. Egg white omelets touted by health and fitness gurus. Yesterday I heard the list has been updated and eggs are, in fact, good for you. Eat them up, yolks and all. Good news, because I’ve been eating them since I emerged from the womb. Dark chocolate now has a warning associated with it. For twenty-five years I couldn’t eat chocolate, so now that I can I intend to proceed accordingly. If I go, I go.

Speaking of dark things, Friday was Friday the 13th. Nice segway, yes? A good day to write about dark things. Curiosity led me to do some research about why the day got such a bad rap. Opinions vary widely, it seems, on how the superstition came to be. Some say it began in biblical times with thirteen guests seated at the table for the last supper, and speculation the crucifixion occurred on a Friday.

Superstitious souls believe it bad luck to begin an endeavor on Friday such as plowing fields or starting a new business. In the car business, vehicles manufactured on Friday are suspected of being more likely to be lemons or have major engine problems.

In earlier blogs on the subject I discussed the omission of the thirteenth floor in hotels. Naturally if there is a fourteenth floor the thirteenth must logically be the one below, it is simply not labeled as such.

Ancient Egyptians believed life unfolded in stages, the first 12 of which were experienced while of this earth with the 13th being after death.

Movie studios hopped on the unlucky thirteen bandwagon with Friday the 13th, a slasher movie featuring Jason, the slasher in point, running amok wearing a hockey mask in a summer camp. Not a fan of slasher movies, myself, it is the leading franchise of its kind on the market.

Sunday was Valentine’s Day.  A happy one for you I hope. My lovely red roses are still blooming in their equally rosy vase on my entrance hall table next to a suitably gooey card. Good job, Rick.

I craved cole slaw but found I had no cabbage. The craving did not overtake my urge to relax so I got to rifling in my vegetable bins. Hmmmm. Two large zucchini, several carrots, a red onion, and two apples. Life is good. It made a really delicious and pleasant version of the original.

Zucchini Apple Slaw

2 large zucchini, grated and squeezed dry
2 Granny Smith apples, cored, peeled, and grated
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1/2 small red onion chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Dressing

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Whisk together ingredients until smooth. Mix well with vegetables and fruit and adjust salt and pepper as desired. Place in refrigerator for 1 hr.

Serves 4

final
California is getting to be a mighty expensive place to live. Yesterday I actually purchased a chuck roast and a dozen eggs and parted with $26.00 and change. When the butcher informed me that the 3 1/2 lb. roast would come to nearly $20.00, I asked if a vehicle came with it. I have to give it to him he laughed. Saying the dozen eggs in my cart were going to be nearly $5.00, he said, “well you voted for it”. What? What did I vote for? I’m Canadian, so I’m fairly sure I didn’t vote for it. However, I would be interested to understand why my eggs are now costing what my chuck roast used to and my chuck roast what I used to buy two filet mignons for. On to the next market where I usually purchase the bulk of my groceries. After an hour of poking and prodding and satisfying a handful of coupons I approached the checker. In my basket were two packages of pork chops, several types of cheese, 1/2 lb. of lunch meat, a loaf of bread, some soup makings, a few items from the produce department, a bunch of bananas and several frozen food items. The total was $118.00.

Curious about Proposition 2, once my groceries were put away I turned on my laptop. Sure enough it was overwhelmingly passed by California voters and had specifically to do with giving chickens plenty of leg room (or drumsticks in this case) in their cages. The butcher said it also required the fowl have toys. What that means I did not get answered in the piece I read about the bill. Bill, legs, the whole thing is custom made for chickens. At any rate it’s sort of a free range affair. Hence the hike in egg prices. I’m all for the chickens being comfortable but I hope this doesn’t mean spas and workout areas. Some of the birds I’ve gotten lately are already a bit tough.

A friend of mine called over the weekend. She recently downsized to a one bedroom apartment in Santa Rosa. Santa Rosa is the county seat of Sonoma County, a lovely place to be about an hour north of San Francisco. A one bedroom is her area is going for a minimum of $1,750 for a decent location. A single lady approaching retirement age, she told me she is looking at actually retiring about the same time the Neptune Society stops by to pick her up for her final flight over the Pacific. Even with her savings and Social Security if she wishes to enjoy her golden years work will definitely be included in the package.

If you drove the 55 miles south and decided to break camp in San Francisco the price for housing is much dearer. One bedroom apartments are leasing for around $3,000 and if you need that second bedroom add another $1,000 to the pot. Whew.

Minimum wage workers can’t make it in today’s economy. The problem with this is that as soon as they raise the hourly rate to help minimum wage workers survive prices go up accordingly making them once again unable to afford what they need. I’ve noticed too there are a lot of silver haired workers in fast food restaurants lately and other typically minimum wage careers. With baby boomers cresting the hill older workers are moving into these lower paying positions. People are living longer, and working far past their retirement age. While in a chain department store yesterday, I was waited on by a lady I’m sure was well into her 80’s. I think that’s great, mind you. People with nothing to keep them busy often fall into disrepair, but I can see where young people might finding it more difficult to find these positions.

Millennials, the 16-34 group are not purchasing homes or cars at the rate the previous generation did. Some of this sluggish purchasing is due, according to those who watch such things, to delayed maturation. Growing up seems to be less attractive than when I was trying to figure out how to do it.  Certainly it is a more costly proposition. School loans are prohibitive, leaving kids in massive debt once they surface their college years. Housing, as mentioned before, leaves options such a group housing often the only alternative. Looking back I’m glad I achieved adulthood when I did. One granddaughter of mine has declared she plans on still living at home at forty. From what I’ve observed this may not be far beyond the realm of possibility. A beautiful young woman loaded with potential, the world outside of the front door seems too big for her at the moment. I hope this changes soon as time has a way of passing by before you’ve noticed it in life.

At any rate, I’m getting ready to put my $20.00 chuck roast in the pot along with the $12 and carrots. Once done, I’ll make a couple of $2 eggs and a piece of toast. McDonald’s is starting to look pretty good right now.

I love, love this cheese sauce, and not just on broccoli. Sometimes I make it and dip garlic bread in it. Yum.

Broccoli With Beer Cheese Sauce

1 lb. broccoli florets
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Garlic salt
1 Tbsp. butter
Salt and pepper

Place florets in steamer. Sprinkle with lemon juice and garlic salt. Cook until tender. Drain. Toss with butter and season with salt and pepper.

Sauce

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cup chicken broth
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup beer
1 cup Mexican style cheese, shredded
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
Salt and pepper
1/2 Tbsp. lemon zest
Paprika

Melt butter over medium heat in saucepan. Whisk in flour. Cook for 1 min. Whisk in broth and milk. Cook and stir until mixture is thick and smooth. Whisk in beer and cheese. Stir until cheese is melted. Add Worcestershire sauce and mustard. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking for 10 mins. Remove from heat.

Serve over Broccoli sprinkled with lemon zest and paprika.

final2
With an outbreak of measles dominating the news lately, there’s a lot of talk flying around about vaccinating children. As a youngster the available vaccines were limited to polio (thankfully), DPT (diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis), and smallpox. Measles came along later, after I’d already suffered through it. As with most of my peers I survived the three most popular childhood diseases of the time, measles, chicken pox, and mumps. Of the three I probably enjoyed mumps the least. This, I suppose would like be saying you preferred an appendectomy to brain surgery. Mumps had my glands swelling up until I looked like an ardent squirrel tucking away nuts for winter. With the other two I simply scratched my way to health. Clawing my body to such an extent my grandmother put my mittens over my hands to prevent scarring. Still, I managed to wriggle out when miserable leaving several small poc marks above my left eyebrow as a memory of the ordeal.

Both my children were required to have all the needed vaccinations, by then including measles, prior to entering school. Moving around a fair bit in their formative years, I literally carried a loose leaf notebook which I referred to as their “papers” containing all required documentation allowing them entrance into pre-school first and all those following. My AKC Shih Tzu had less papers to her credit.

My brother-in-law from my first marriage actually contracted polio, or “infantile paralysis” as a child. For those of you youngsters unfamiliar with the disease, it is viral, usually entering through the mouth then targeting the nervous system. Back in the day when it reached epidemic numbers many children and adults were left crippled after coming down with it. The accepted treatment with no vaccine available were braces for the affected limbs. However, a woman by the name of Sister Kenny introduced an alternative treatment to the U.S. eschewing bracing the legs for a less conventional form of therapy involving massaging the affected muscles, a healthy diet, and retraining. Told her son would most likely be crippled my mother-in-law took him to Sister Kenny and if you looked at him today you would never know he had ever had the dreaded disease. Now, of course, there is an excellent vaccine created by Dr. Jonas Salk that successfully keeps polio at bay in the United States.Polio remains endemic in three countries – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.

I have to admit I wonder why if a vaccination is available that will keep your child safe, you would choose not to allow him or her to have it. I do understand we are bombarded with side effect paperwork and articles with medications, but if I did not take any medication coming with frightening literature attached I probably would long ago have succumbed to pneumonia or massive infection. This is not in any way saying we should ignore such startling information,  because at times the cure can be more intimidating than the disease, just not be so cautious as to stand in the way of our well being or our children’s well being.

Another thing to consider is those coming in contact with your unvaccinated children. These kids are unable to defend themselves if too young to be vaccinated thus very vulnerable to whatever the unvaccinated child might be carrying. In essence the decision you make could impact many others around you.

You can’t protect your children from many things today no matter what precautions are in place. Helmets are available for everything imaginable. Last time I was in a toy store I was amazed at the armor for sale to accompany bikes, skateboards, roller skates, in-line skates, sleds, and toboggans. Pretty soon dolls will come with protective gear. If we purchase all this and still they get hurt, why not opt for a tetanus shot which virtually insures they will be protected at least from lock jaw? Forgive my confusion.

At seven, my son presented with a rash. Along with this lumpy bumpy skin, he had a fever, and a tongue that looked as if he’d recently enjoyed a raspberry lollipop. At first I thought he had measles, although he’d completed all his shots. Whisking him off to the emergency room, as it was a Sunday, I was ushered into an examination room to wait the appropriate three hours to be seen. A doctor came in surprisingly quickly to examine my boy. After some poking and prodding he left and came back in short order with two more doctors now wearing masks. Hmmm. Discussion ensued, and my uncharacteristically quiet youngster’s eyes grew bigger with the entrance of each new member of the hospital staff into the room.  Within an hour we had a quorum. Diagnosis, scarlet fever. At one time this could have been a death sentence. Fortunately, with penicillin it is treated much like strep throat. Highly contagious we were sent home and instructed to remain on “house arrest” for four days until the rash subsided and the contagious phase of the disease had passed.

Our family is big on doing things other families only think of for the most part. We get in odd situations, contract weird maladies, and in general live life outside of the box. My son also had shingles at the age of nine. Who knew? In children the disease manifests the ugly skin rash, but bypasses the pain involved in older patients. If not for the red army of bumps marching across his lower back I would not have known he had the disease at all.

We humans are such highly delicate mechanisms. Our bodies amazing on the worst of days with their intricately intertwined systems and largely misunderstood thinking processes all continuing to be examined while we’re alive and often after we’re gone in an effort to understand what makes us work.

This chile verde got an A+ from my chile verde in-house critic. Good and fairly easy to throw together. As always if you wish to beat the heat, make the Rotel tomatoes regular diced.

Crock Pot Chile Verde

8 flour tortillas
4 lbs. boneless pork loin, trimmed and cut into cubes

Seasoning Mix

2 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. oregano
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin

Mix spices together well. Place meat in large resealable bag. Add spices and squeeze and shake to distribute. Place in refrigerator for 1 hr.

Spray 6 quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Add meat to bottom. Combine sauce ingredients and pour over top. Cook on high for 9 hrs. Serve with flour tortillas, rice and refried beans if desired.

Sauce

1 Tbsp. chicken bouillon
1 cup water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. oregano
1 28 oz.can green enchilada sauce
2 12 oz. jars salsa verde
1 10 oz. can Rotel tomatoes with Lime Juice and Cilantro
1 14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes

3

As a kid I loved fly, actually looking forward to the hustle and bustle of the airport and soaring high above the clouds in the friendly skies. That was back when airlines spent time wooing potential customers with acceptable food choices, free drinks, blankets and pillows, and even pleasant flight attendants walking through the aisles with offers of magazines or newspapers to pass the time. Anymore you’re lucky if you have enough room to squeeze into your seat if in coach, and will find not so much as a peanut tossed in your direction while in flight.

Aside from the amenities virtually disappearing of the map, it seems every time I turn on the news there’s another airline related disaster or near miss to report. This morning was really the kicker. A pilot en route to Las Vegas found himself locked out of the cockpit after taking a bathroom break. Really? I can’t think of anything that would get my sweat glands operational more quickly than finding the pilot seated next to me fastening his seat belt on a commercial flight. Las Vegas is often a rough place to land prone to desert crosswinds, but without the pilot at the controls, I believe I’d be looking around for a parachute and revisiting my connection with my maker.

Even prior to all the recent airline incidents I had become a white knuckle flyer as the years passed. As a twenty-something I applied, and was accepted for a position as a flight attendant. Unfortunately my husband wasn’t as enthusiastic as I about the prospect of me flying about without him so in the end I settled down and raised a family instead. Although not a fan of my aviation career, he eventually chose one of his own in a way. After joining a friend in his private plane on a trip from L.A. to San Diego he was severely bitten by the flying bug. Small planes are not my thing. Hanging precariously from a propeller high above the ground, placing my life in the hands of someone who may or may not know what they are doing does not bode well for my lunch passing pleasantly through my digestive system.

Before I knew it flying school brochures were turning up on the coffee table, discussions about saving for a plane were initiated, and after several months a deal was in place for flying lessons to obtain his private pilot’s license. Ach. Before the ink was dry I made it clear I did not share his enthusiasm about this venture. Not that I didn’t support his choice to learn to fly, I did. I did want it clear I did not have any intention of making such a lofty goal for myself, if you will. Love, I know means never having to say “I’m sorry”. However, in this case, “I’m sorry”.

Secretly I hoped this new found passion was but a passing fancy. Similar to his loss of luster for the Harley Davidson with the for sale sign in our garage, the flat-bottomed metal boat in our back yard yet to be repaired, and the in-line skates gathering dust in the back of the closet. He surprised me, however, persisting in his lessons. Each Saturday I dropped him off at the local airport and watched as he climbed into the cockpit of the small Cessna with dual steering used for lessons. When I picked him he would excitedly relate his lesson for the day and enthusiasm for the solo flight coming up once he’d completed his hours. I smiled, then I prayed. Then I prayed, and I smiled, wondering if it was against the law to duct tape your spouse to a dining room chair for his own protection.

As the day of the solo flight approached an idea took form in his boyish mind. What if I went with him? “Wouldn’t that somewhat diminish the solo portion of the program”, I would argue? As the idea grew and mushed around under his skull it gained momentum. Young people do ridiculously stupid things, and looking back we were no exception. Insisting we had toddlers who needed at least one parent he persisted. Let me preface this paragraph by saying my first husband was a very charming man. Irish by descent as well as temperament, he was blessed with dark curly hair, twinkly brown eyes, a well chiseled face, and truly the man could have sold a flat of blow driers in an Alopecia ward. Also, he convinced me he’d had a premonition if I didn’t accompany him on th<span e flight from the L.A. area to Santa Barbara things wouldn’t end well. As I said, I was young.

How could we do this, you ask? Dropping him off as usual at the appointed spot, I parked far down the runway and waited. I couldn’t help but wonder if his instructor wouldn’t notice him taxiing to another location before taking off but somehow he accomplished gathering me up and preparing for takeoff. To say I was questioning my decision as the runway sped by outside my window, would be a gross understatement.

In the air we hung on the whirring propeller and turned our nose north. I was hoping all my affairs were in order as we headed up the pass. Wind had picked up. The wings dipped from one side to the other in the currents. Jokingly he asked if I’d like him to show me how the plane reacted to a stall. Really? Why did I marry this man, my mind inquired? He was far less charming hundreds of feet above sea level. My fingers gripped tighter on the door handle and I reassured myself there were parachutes on board if the need arose.

Amazingly we made it along the pass and leaving the turbulence behind us headed in towards Santa Barbara. A bank of fog moved in making visibility difficult. My husband picked up the radio and carried on a dialog with the flight tower. According to the man in the control tower the airport was pretty well socked in so they were going to talk us in. “Mama”. Flying virtually blind, the voice on the radio issued instructions. Suddenly the voice became agitated telling us to abort the landing. We were coming in sideways it appeared. A suspicion I had already entertained as I was basically hanging from my seat belt.

My guardian angel must have been sitting on my shoulder that day as somehow that small plane’s wheels located the ground below and held the landing. Never was I so glad to step out onto the earth. Nursing a cup of coffee in the small cafe on the grounds I informed my pilot to be I would be taking the bus home. I suggested he do the same, but he insisted on going back and finishing his “solo” flight. As I said before, “I’m sorry”.

In the end he was a good pilot. Unfortunately, he passed away not long after his thirty-third birthday before ever buying his plane, but he enjoyed soaring up there in the clouds and I even joined him on occasion white knuckles in place.

Arroz (Mexican Rice)

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup uncooked long grain rice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup chopped onion
2 green onions, sliced
1 14 1/2 oz. can chicken broth
2 Tbsp. chunky salsa (I use hot)
1/3 cup tomato sauce
1 Roma tomato, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and sliced thin
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. salt

Heat oil over medium heat in deep skillet. Add rice. Stir and cook until rice turns golden brown. Add garlic and continue cooking for 1 min.

Add broth, salsa, tomato juice and all remaining ingredients to pan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for 20-25 mins. covered until rice is tender. Allow to sit for 5 min. Fluff with fork.

Serves 6

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