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Today I decided to deep clean the house before the holidays. Rick would tell me it is clean, but I believe the level on which most male animals rate cleanliness is often below the standard we women might use. To him “clean” is there isn’t a pile of trash on the floor with rodent presence and he has fresh underwear in his drawer. For me, this is not adequate for company.

Aside from the dust that settles minutes after I spray it away, Boo, the Queen of Cats, leaves evidence of her presence everywhere she travels. White fur floats through the air, covers furniture, and generally attaches itself to anything and everything. Last week my mother got up from the cat’s chair and the back of her black pants looked as if they needed a shave. Yes, yes, the cat has her own chair. I know. Not one penny did she provide for it, but if it had her name engraved on it it couldn’t be more hers. I’m rolling my own eyes. It’s a nice chair at that. IKEA would be proud to know that one of their own has been put to work in such a fashion. On top of the chair is the queen’s pillow, which if not whisked with the tape roller every day begins to look like Santa’s beard.  When we have to put her chair into use when extra company arrives she circles whoever is seated in it like Indians might a wagon train. In a particularly feisty mood, she might even make a swipe at the occupant before retiring to a corner and fixing them with an icy feline stare. Nice.

I have tried to find a groomer in our area who caters to cats. Seems the words out cats aren’t fond of water and groomers have chosen to stick with canines who for the most part are easier to manage. Where we lived previously was on the route of a wonderful mobile groomer. The truck rolled down the driveway every three months to freshen up the cat and trim her nails. This, I have to say, was never a procedure Boo looked forward to with any enthusiasm. So much so that if the truck turned into the driveway and she wasn’t crated she could be located hiding under the bed precipitating a pursue and capture routine Laurel and Hardy would have been proud of.  For those of you too young to know who they are please find a search bar.

I’ve had a string of animals since I got my first cat when I turned thirteen. While in Home Depot last weekend I ran into a man with a “goldendoodle”. What a gorgeous creature she was and blessed with the sweetest disposition. Goldendoodles are part standard poodle and part golden retriever.  Brought to mind the 80’s at my house and a golden retriever answering to Barnaby. Barnaby was my husband at the time’s dog at heart. That being said, he didn’t listen to anyone in the household but him, and at that not him very often.  The dog was enormous even by retriever standards. From the time we brought him home from the breeder the dog was prone to eating wooden door frames or sticking his head in the trash can distributing the contents everywhere if left unsupervised. Nothing was off limits when unattended including my expensive shoes or newly purchased leather love seat. Realizing as the days passed Barnaby needed some fine tuning when it came to behavior we enrolled him in obedience school at the local junior college. After the best efforts of the staff on hand it was determined he was not going to be an honor student. I believe when the last class concluded and I loaded the rambunctious Barnaby and his “diploma” into the back of the station wagon the staff breathed a collective sigh of relief. It became obvious leaving him in the house wasn’t an option. Once when left to his own devices after a dinner party he consumed an entire coconut cake a guest had kindly brought to share for dessert. Outside being the only obvious solution a huge dog house was purchased with a lovely padded bed for him to lie on. Not the sharpest pencil in the box I can still see him sitting with rain teeming down his face next to the dog house when I came home from work.

I love all animals, but Barnaby and I had issues. Holes, in particular were number one on my list. Our lovely yard was often put to the test when Barnaby found himself with time on his paws while we were at work. Even when I was home he could be seen digging furiously behind the fruit trees by the fence hoping to tunnel beneath it to freedom. Not alone in the yard most days, our more obedient and far lazier Shih Tsu would sit patiently at his side until the tunnel took shape. No matter how many times I filled a hole, another would show up to replace it. Sigh. On returning home on many days I would find the two doggie pals seated on the front step waiting for their evening meal after roaming the neighborhood. Thankfully they were friendly dogs, and the worst thing that ever came from such behavior was fatter bellies because of extra treats handed out by well-meaning neighbors and an occasional request to pick up a deposit one or the other animal left on a neighboring lawn.  Once after consuming an entire box of crayons I got interesting calls from around the block from people finding Technicolor dog droppings in their yards. Hmmmmm. Talk about having an m.o.

When even pouring cement beneath the fence line didn’t work we had to find Barnaby a home. The people who signed up were retired from their jobs and their children grown. They devoted all their time and affection to making the rest of Barnaby’s life full of doggie smiles. I got a Christmas card with a picture of the three of them in Santa hats each year for a while and am happy to know he found a forever home.

In between changing sheets and doing the floors I whipped up this soup. Really good on a chilly night.

Tuscan Sausage Soup

16 oz. bulk Italian sausage, mild
8 slices crisply cooked bacon, cut in fourths
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves minced garlic
32 oz. chicken broth
2 1/2 cups water
4 russet potatoes, thinly sliced
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. black pepper
Salt to taste
1 1/2″ square chub of hard Parmesan cheese
3 cups baby spinach
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Additional Parmesan for garnish

Brown sausage in stock pot. Remove with slotted spoon and drain. Discard fat in pot. Add olive oil to pot over med-low heat. Add onion and cook 6-8 mins. until translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 min.

Add broth, water, potatoes, red pepper flakes, black pepper, Parmesan cheese, bacon and sausage to pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and cook 20 mins. Add spinach to pot an continue cooking 10 mins. Whisk in cream and heat through.

Serve with Parmesan cheese if desired.

Serves 4

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final

Yesterday truly was the most ridiculous day. Sometimes I look at my life and wonder whether to laugh or cry.  After several months of recovery from his meningitis ordeal, Rick is beginning to venture out into the world again even reintroducing driving into his daily routine. Indian summer is lingering here in Northern California leaving temperatures in the eighties making it nice for getting out and about.

The SUV has been taking up space in our yard plagued with a dead battery since Rick’s illness.  Once back on his feet, he got the battery charged and we took the vehicle in for a much-needed bath and fluid check. The mechanic said the diagnostics indicated there was an impending spark plug issue but he felt this should hold for a couple of months. Deciding it might be fun to take the car for a run in the country on such a lovely day we made a plan. Colfax, a historical little mining town about a forty minute drive from us, was where we chose for a late lunch and to take a look around.

Unfamiliar with the restaurants in that area, I keyed in “best restaurants in Colfax, CA” and located four with excellent ratings programming the addresses into the GPS. Yea. In particular I was hoping to try the Mexican restaurant. The reviews were excellent and the menu intriguing. There are three Mexican themed restaurants in our area, none of which stand out over the other, so the idea of a great plate of enchiladas and an icy margarita made the trip all the more enticing.

The drive through the hills provided us with a preview of the fall foliage beginning to emerge in the prolific trees in our area.  Heeding the instructions from our GPS we turned off at our exit and quickly located the Mexican restaurant which was our destination. Having eaten a light breakfast early in the day my taste buds were on high alert. Yum. Parking the car we got our first good glimpse of the historic downtown area. The weathered buildings and rustic sidewalks still retained a hint of its original gold rush glory. If you closed your eyes and used your imagination you could picture miners driving horse draw buggies through town and hear laughter emanating from the saloon still standing several doors down from the restaurant.

Approaching the doors to the restaurant, we found them locked. Hmmmm. Looking at the signs posted in the glass display box out front lunch was served until 2:00, and it was now almost 3:00. Dinner, it appeared, was reserved for Thursday’s and Friday’s only. As it was Tuesday, my cheesy gooey enchilada bubble with the salt rimmed glass of limey goodness burst before the first hint of tequila touched my lips. Not to be discouraged, we headed to the number two restaurant on my list. At the second location the building gave the immediate impression of being closed. No lights were on and nobody was home. My stomach was beginning to protest. Ach. Reading the notice on the door, dinner service began at 5:00 and there was no lunch service.  Finding the same situation at the last two addresses Rick gently pointed out that perhaps I should have gathered this information prior to leaving the house.  A look from me indicated perhaps he should hold his suggestions until I’d eaten. I’m not at my best when hungry.

Deciding to head back down the hill and eat in Auburn, we reprogrammed out trusty GPS and headed south. The car, apparently over the whole program, turned on it’s “check engine” light and began to shudder and creak as we drove along. Great. Meanwhile the GPS was guiding us deeper into a heavily wooded area. Winding around a dirt road we came upon a sign reading “one lane bridge”.  The other option at this fork was marked “PRIVATE ROAD” in capital letters with an exclamation point. Whoever put it there didn’t seem receptive to unwanted company. Hmmmm. The problem with the bridge was a sign leading into it with a large arrow pointing in the direction from which we had just come. Feeling this was some sort of omen,  we turned around and headed back to civilization. The idea of getting stuck out in the middle of nowhere with nothing to eat surrounded by unwelcoming homeowners wasn’t sitting well with either of us.

Limping into Auburn we ended up at Panera Bread ordering soup and a sandwich. Still hungry after my meal, I got back in line to pick up a pumpkin cookie I’d seen on the way in. Thinking a cookie wouldn’t be more than the $1.50 I’d grabbed from my wallet I was surprised when the cashier rang up $2.89 on her register. What? It’s a cookie. I said I’d only brought $1.50 with me and put the cookie back. Going back and sitting down next to Rick he asked where my cookie was. Explaining what had happened, we got up to leave. A lady who had been behind me in line stopped by our table and rested a conciliatory hand on my shoulder. Extending her hand she handed me the pumpkin cookie smiling gently at me.  Huh? Realizing by her behavior she was under the impression I hadn’t purchased the cookie because I didn’t have enough money to pay for it I reached in my purse to get her $3.00. Remembering I only had a $100 bill and some change I asked if she could wait while I got change for the large bill. She smiled knowingly and said “pay it forward”. Good God. Ah well, my humiliation was now complete.

Accepting this as a kind act from a stranger, I decided to simply say thank you and indeed pay it forward at the next opportunity. In the end the thoughtful gesture made my day and reminded me there are lovely people out there hiding just at the tips of our elbows.

Another ridiculous day put to rest. Ach. HAPPY HALLOWEEN! One of my favorite holidays. No costume or party this year unless you include a red, red nose from my first cold of the year. Thus I am living vicariously through those brave people I see manning the cash registers in stores wearing lime green clown wigs or those serving burgers in Wonder Woman outfits. Yea for them for keeping the kid alive beyond graduation.

These beans are really easy and incredibly yummy. Rick says he could eat them for dinner without a main course.

Blue Cheese Green Beans with Baked Mushrooms

1 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed
1/2 Tbsp. butter
salt and pepper
1/4 cup crumbled buttermilk blue cheese
1/3 cup thinly sliced mushrooms
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cover a cookie sheet with tin toil. Spray well with cooking spray. Toss mushrooms and garlic with olive oil. Spread in single layer on cookie sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 15-20 mins. turning several times until golden brown.

Meanwhile place green beans in deep frying pan and cover with lightly salted water. Bring to boil. Cover and reduce heat. Cook on high simmer for 15-20 mins. or until tender but not mushy. Remove from heat. Add butter and salt and pepper and stir until melted. Sprinkle blue cheese over top and place lid on. Add mushrooms and stir

Serves 4

1

Where to begin, where to begin. Such a year. When the holidays are done and the final day of December has been put to bed I am going to tear the last page off the 2017 calendar and feed it into the paper shredder never to be seen again. OMG.

The last few months have been jam-packed with a whole lot of crazy. Rick, the love of my life and my BFF, contracted meningitis the beginning of August. Leave it to Mr. Rick to have to be a showman when it comes to getting sick. The doctor in charge of his care said he had only seen six such cases in all his years in medicine. Thankfully, we caught it immediately. Not doing so might have resulted in less positive reporting. Once diagnosed the seriousness of the situation dropped over me like a trawler’s net over the catch of the day. The future appeared blurred, the road ahead uncertain.

Funny how one day can alter the course of your life. In the blink of an eye we went from our daily routine to Rick fighting to reach the surface and me praying to find a familiar piece of him in the fiery hot being lying in the bed before me. Awful simply doesn’t describe the feeling when someone you love is threatened in such a way. Helplessness washes over you. Strength is drawn from places you had no idea you had stored it for such an occasion.

While he was in ICU I was at the hospital more than I was home. Once in the house I fed the cat, took a shower and found the bed to attempt to catch an elusive couple of hours of sleep. Each time I laid my shoes out to slip them on the neglected Boo, Queen of Cats, offered me the feline version of the stink eye turning her back as I exited the house. Life, she has discovered over the last sixty days, does not always revolve around her ever spreading white furry behind.

At first the progress was disheartening. Meningitis is an inflammation of the brain and a serious thing to contract. The inflammation causes error messages to be sent out to other parts of the body much like pistons misfiring in the cylinder of a car. For the first two days when asked who I was by the attending physician, Rick would answer “the lady who sits in the chair by the window”. For me the response elicited immediate tears, to Rick is his addled condition it seemed logical indeed. As staff moved in and out he asked me several times why they kept changing their faces. These hallucinations were attributed to both the infection curdling his nerve centers and the heavy drugs being administered to keep the intense pain at bay. All this I’m sure was terrifying for him, and for me immobilizing.

On the third day when I walked in his room I was greeted with “Hi Baby”. Wow. I was so glad to hear those two words.

His daughter flew out for several days and was here with me easing that feeling of total isolation rapidly creeping over me. I was reminded of when I was infected with the norovirus six years ago. Visiting my mother when I fell ill I was admitted to a hospital with unrelenting diarrhea and vomiting. Tucked in a hospital bed in a room marked “isolation” in an unfamiliar hospital I was too sick to be afraid. Hospital personnel dressed in full contagious disease garb cruised in and out of my room checking vitals and seeing to my needs. “ET phone home kept coming to mind.” I had no visitors during that week lest they either get the virus from me or carry it out to others. At the time it was epidemic in the Bay Area and health authorities were beating the drum to slow down the spread.

Thankfully I came up out of that mess a size or two smaller but in tact much as Rick will out of meningitis. He is home now after 21 days in the hospital. Yesterday he insisted that though the virus hadn’t done him in he was fully convinced the kitchen staff at the rehabilitation hospital were doing their best to finish the job.  Ah sarcasm, Rick’s back.

This is such a delicious substitute for potatoes and looks so “fallish” on the plate. Yum.

Cauliflower and Carrot Puree

1 head of cauliflower florets
3 carrots, cut in chunks
2 Tbsp. butter, plus 1 Tbsp. divided
2 celery stalks, diced
1/2 of a large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. chicken bouillon
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup whole milk (more or less as desired)
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook vegetables until tender. Drain well.

Heat butter in medium saucepan over med-low heat. Add celery and onion. Cook for 6 mins. or until vegetables are tender. Add garlic. Cook for 1 min. Add white pepper, chicken bouillon and wine. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 min. Toss with vegetables. Allow to cool slightly.

Place in food processor or blender and pulse until roughly pureed. Add milk gradually (use more or less to achieve desired consistency of mashed potatoes). Add salt and pepper as desired. Top with additional pat of butter.

Serves 4

1

It’s official……my brain has given notice. Like so many political figures these days, my gray matter is longer in line with official policy and has decided to move on. This morning I found the leftover watermelon salad from last night’s dinner on the front seat of the car and the GPS in the fridge. Surprisingly I wasn’t shocked. This year hasn’t stopped for a stress break since the calendar turned the page on January 1, 2017. Never have I needed a vacation more and found myself less likely in a position to take one.

Next week is the planned move for my mother, the second since the beginning of the year. Although we downsized her cache considerably with the first move, still there are china cabinets packed with family treasures and endless boxes of shoes, miscellaneous household goods, and general household items needing to be wrapped and boxed. Last week was scheduled as the first of several packing days. I drove down in our SUV to get things rolling and bring her up here afterward for a few days. On the way down the car began to pull awkwardly. At first I thought it was the well rutted road but by the time I reached her place I knew definitely it was the vehicle behaving badly. The temperature was moving up. After several hours of filling boxes I decided to wrap things up (no pun intended) and get on the road early in case we encountered trouble.  Normally I might have taken this in stride. Certainly this is not the first car I’ve had that developed a problem. However, our second car, a Ford Fusion, had begun making a noise the day before and was scheduled to go into the shop the following day to be repaired. Should this vehicle need the same that would leave us without wheels.

Murphy’s Law, in my case at least, would be that things malfunction at the time you most need them to work. Murphy was alive and well, seated on my right shoulder getting a real charge out of himself. About thirty-five minutes into the drive with another twenty minutes to go, I began to wonder if we were going to make it. My mother chattered on happily in the passenger seat blissfully unaware of the fact there was a strong possibility we were going to be stranded on the side of the road at any moment thumbs pointed toward the sky.

Murphy or not, we finally reached the safety of our driveway. Once unloaded and inside, Rick and I formulated a plan to get both vehicles to the shop as well as return my mother to her home. Hmmm. Plan A was to get a rental car the following morning. Next to take the car under warranty, the Fusion, in first and get that one running. Then we would use the rental to get around and get my mother home. As an aside on my last trip down to gather my mother a rock hit the window on the Fusion. First a tiny hole, now had spread to a long line stretching across the windshield. Included in Plan A was calling our insurance company to get the windshield replaced. For those familiar with Munch’s oil, The Scream, you get some idea of how I was feeling.

Plan B, should Plan A fall by the wayside, was I would marry a wealthy sultan with a fleet of cars and keep Rick on the side as my driver and confidante. This, might I add, was beginning to work for me.

I scheduled a pick up from the rental car company. The driver arrived early the next day and I signed a contract for three days. Originally I’d ordered an economy car which was all I needed. A sudden surge of renters left the dealer out of economy cars so they offered me an upgrade to a Ford Explorer at no extra cost.  Yea for me. The Explorer is a much larger SUV than ours. Equipped with every bell and whistle from cooled seats to in dash GPS and video capabilities it was quite a technologically sophisticated ride. I used up half the first day trying to figure out how to adjust the side rear view mirrors and use the radio. When you back up there is an excellent in-dash camera system equipped with an alarm when you get too close to an object. John Glenn had less equipment to train on before departing for the moon. Ach.

Yesterday we returned the rental car. It was a sad farewell fraught with shed tears and wrenching of keys from unyielding fingers. Sigh. Despite clever negotiation tactics on our side the Enterprise representatives were in the end unwilling to make an even exchange of our failing SUV for their shiny new Explorer. Such is life.

On our final trip I dropped Rick off at the auto shop and continued home by myself. Pulling into the garage I opened the car door and stepped out. A flash of movement caught my eye. Heart pounding I turned to find a pit bull inside the car. Rick often says you just can’t make up stories such as those that happen to me and I believe there is some merit to this. The large brown and white animal sat panting and drooling in the seat I’d just vacated. Hello? Stepping back I suggested to the animal (politely as I have respect for the breed) he vacate the vehicle. Amazingly he did. Following me to the front door he appeared hot and thin. Pouring him a cold drink of water I went in the house to decide how to proceed. Rick came home shortly after followed by a neighbor curious about the dog. With Boo the Queen of Cats peeking out the window holding a sign “No Canine’s Allowed” after some deliberation our neighbor took him home to post a notice on the Internet looking for his owner. Bless the woman. I could have kissed her direct on the lips. What a day!

Finally having a minute or two to relax, I dropped a couple of slices of bread in the toaster with the intention of using some tomatoes freshly picked from my garden along with some crisp bacon to make us a couple of BLT’s. Our toaster, barely three months old, popped the yet untoasted bread right back up when I depressed the lever and refused to do anything else. Really? Never mind. I’d have a turkey sandwich instead. Opening the refrigerator I found the package of turkey afloat in a sticky pool of pickle juice. On further inspection pickle juice had also leaked into the vegetable bin out of a baggie of pickles I’d placed in there after burgers cooked over the weekend.

At that point I went into the closet, shut off the light and stuck my thumb in my mouth. I’m considering having my mail forwarded there.

This is an easy weeknight throw together meal that shows up on the plate looking like a star. The light lemony sauce makes it especially refreshing during the summer months.

Pan Seared Scallops with Fettuccine with Lemon Sauce

10 large sea scallops
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt
Black pepper

Remove “foot” from each scallop and pat dry. Heat butter and oil over high heat. Place scallops in pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook around 4 mins. per side until golden and crunchy on bottoms.

Fettuccine with Lemon Sauce

8 oz. cooked Fettuccine
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
4 cloves garlic
Zest of one lemon
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp. chopped chives
1/2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions.

For the sauce

Heat 3 Tbsp, butter in medium saute pan over medium heat until foamy. Add garlic and continue cooking 2-3 mins. or until garlic is fragrant (be careful not to burn. Add lemon zest and juice and continue cooking for one minute. Remove from heat and mix in chives and parsley. Toss with pasta and top with scallops and Parmesan cheese.

Serves 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

1

Summer has arrived with a vengeance here in Northern California, giving barely a nod to spring. One weekend we had snow, the next the asphalt was melting. With all the strange weather going on all over the world it is hard to deny global warming is progressing, though some persist in insisting this is so. Our glaciers are melting, our oceans temperatures are rising. I cannot for the life of me understand how sticking our heads in the sand and pretending it is not happening will make it go away. My rant for the day.

As a kid summer was at time of year highly anticipated. School doors shut for the season, warm sunny days, a glistening pool in the back yard. Life was good. Most of my life I’ve been a sun bunny. Spending my middle school and high school years in Southern California, the majority of my summer vacation was spent at one of the many beaches within driving distance from my house. Those were glorious days looking back. Blissfully innocent about the effects of the sun on our skin, we slathered ourselves with a lethal concoction of baby oil and iodine and spent hours coaxing the sun to turn our bodies a lovely shade of golden brown.

Though I’m sure not much has changed, the beaches somehow seemed safer back then. Other than an occasional incident of a swimmer caught in a riptide or someone getting a serious sunburn, I don’t remember hearing about many incidents of shark sightings or attacks, though I’m sure there were many such events. With no social media to propel stories along the information highway was much slower relying on word of mouth, nightly news, or newspapers to provide information. Southern California beaches lured sunbathers with warm water, miles of sun-kissed sand and, particularly in the Laguna Beach area, plentiful caves and tide pools to explore.

steps

My first child began her descent into the world in Laguna Beach. The first labor pain made itself known half way up a sheer staircase at a beach aptly named “1,000 Steps”. One pain following another I willed my overripe body to continue the uphill climb. By the time I reached street level I found myself praying for a helicopter to whisk me off to the nearest hospital. An hour and a half after I arrived at the hospital by our house my daughter arrived, leaving me to wonder if that last great effort up the endless steps hadn’t helped to hasten the delivery.

No matter whether on the east coast or the west the ocean is where I find peace. The only real regret I have about not finding wealth and fame (not that I looked very hard) is not having the wherewithal to buy a house with a panoramic view of the sea. How glorious it would be to open the door each morning to a salty sea breeze. To sit on the deck with your fingers wrapped around a hot cup of morning coffee and take in the sounds of waves crashing against the shore. Ahhhhhh.

dscf1082

As a child the ocean was my backdrop. At the first sign of spring I would head down the hill towards the thin strand of rocky beach stretching behind our house. Sitting on a rock I would unlace my shoes and dip my toes into the icy water.

point-pleasant-park-beach

I have had the opportunity to live on the water since, but never again on the ocean. When my children were in high school, my daughter entering her senior year and my son his junior, I rented a beautiful home in a man-made water community in Northern California on the Sacramento Delta called Discovery Bay. The house was second in on the first water cul-de-sac in a series of the same winding about the community. Our boat had been sold several years before so we used the dock mainly for fishing or launching the variety of floats and water toys stored in a massive bin on the middle deck. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mornings I would seat myself in my lawn chair to watch the horizon for the first hint of the sun making an entrance for the day. Usually Barnaby the golden retriever padded down to join me keeping a watchful eye out for a duck in the vicinity or a stray cat sleeping under a deck.

There’s something so calming and soul soothing about being close to water. If responsibilities and family didn’t hold me where I am, I would find a houseboat along a waterway somewhere and drop a line over the rail.On a day such as today where the thermometer is projected to reach record highs, the idea floats around in my brain like a bingo ball bouncing in a cage.

Should reincarnation be an option, I am definitely going to rethink being rich and famous just to allow me to live somewhere with salt in the air.

This cole slaw is positively decadent. I served it with tuna croquettes and a nicoise salad and it disappeared quickly.

Blue Cheese Cole Slaw

6 cups finely chopped shredded cabbage
2 oz. crumbled blue cheese
1/3 cup red onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp. Sriracha sauce
1 tsp. Dijon mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. celery salt

Mix together the cabbage, blue cheese, and onion in large mixing bowl.

Whisk together remaining ingredients to make dressing. Pour over cabbage 1 hour prior to serving and refrigerate.

Serves 6

final

It’s been a month since I sat down to write a story. Where does the time disappear to these days? I feel like I’m chasing my life as it speeds by me like an express train and I’m not a scheduled stop along the line.

Sensing I was itching to get out of the house last night, Rick suggested a date night. Movie perhaps and a bite to eat afterwards? As going to the Caribbean or boarding a ship for a trip around the world weren’t listed as options, this sounded good to me. Scanning the paper he reminded me it was his turn to pick a movie. The last movie we saw was Beauty and the Beast (my pick obviously). Now, it was my turn to defer to his tastes which lean in a completely different direction. Damn his excellent memory. Giving me a choice between the newest Pirates of the Caribbean or the most recent Alien sequel, I chose the latter. As much as I enjoy a couple of hours of large screen Johnny Depp, I haven’t seen a good alien up close and personal since Arrival. In hindsight should have gone for Pirates I believe. Hear it’s great.

I loved the original Alien movie. Sigourney Weaver facing down a truly fierce and formidable alien. Jam packed with lots of action, a lot of Hollywood magic, plus a great script. What’s not to love? This new one was a bit of a different creature, if you will. There was definitely action but I didn’t find much of a story line. If you’re a fan of gory evisceration scenes, however, this is the film for you. According to Rick I spent two-thirds of the movie with my hoodie pulled over my head (probably a slight exaggeration). The scenes I did see were enough to haunt my dreams for a long while. Ewwww.

Getting out of the movie past our usual feeding time, we followed the herd to the local Cattleman’s Steakhouse. Rick was on a quest for liver and onions one of their menu items, yet another taste belonging only to him. Amazingly for two individuals who are soooooo vastly different we manage to come together beautifully.

The restaurant was humming for a weeknight. The slogan on the server’s aprons read “the restaurant where the big boys go to eat” or something of that nature. They offer generous portions which even for big boys most likely need to be accompanied by a defibrillator if you order dessert. I chose the smallest of their burgers with a side of potato salad. Settling into a conversation about the movie, Rick was a thumbs up while my thumb was pointed toward the floor.

Waiting for our entrees to arrive a lady, perhaps in her early seventies, eating alone at the table behind us got up to use the facilities. Passing our table she stopped. After an uncomfortable pause she commented “this is being taken off tomorrow”. Having not one single idea what the woman was talking about but not wanting to be rude, I replied, “I’m so glad”. As soon as the words left my lips I was hoping she wasn’t discussing an unsightly wart or skin lesion. What? I don’t know. Rick was looking at me as though I’d just taken my shirt off and was working on the hooks on my bra.

As the woman continued I noticed a huge boot on her right leg which I came to understand was what she was referring to. Whew. The story was she had visited a doctor in our area with a sore foot who diagnosed a broken bone. Going to another source for a second opinion it was determined it was not, in fact, broken and the boot was to be removed. Probably more information that I needed but she was friendly and perhaps a bit lonely so I listened attentively nodding my head at the appropriate junctions.

Heading on to her destination she stopped once again on her way back to tell me about the YMCA’s classes in our area. Why I have no clue. Perhaps when she saw Rick’s plate arrive with an entire loaf of white bread perched on one side of a pile of liver and French fries she thought the information might be beneficial. The odd thing, if you wonder why I’m leading you down this convoluted path, is the day before I had been on line searching for a Y in our area. Missing the pool we left behind I thought I might find one at a Y and I want to try my hand (and the rest of my body if they insist) at yoga or Zumba. The closest Y I could locate was at least forty minutes away so to find out there was one closer was the information I needed. Weird.

For me this puts a lot of truth in the belief people weave in and out of our lives for a reason. Some come to remain at your side, others stay for a while then move on, and some only visit for a moment or two to provide us with something we might use on our journey. Happens to me so often I’ve dismissed the thought this is mere coincidence. Sometimes I will wish I had a particular item or that a certain person would call and somehow what I needed comes to me or the phone begins to ring with that person on the other end.

In the end the boot lady was lovely. We spent a short time sharing the events of our day and information I needed came my way. On another note both the burger and the potato salad were noteworthy. Thank you to the universe on both counts.

These little nests are so pretty on the table and filled with whatever you might like. I served them with marscapone and strawberries last weekend to rave reviews. Got the idea from a recipe in Cuisine at Home.

Tomato Cheese Tarts

2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp. water
8 oz. Rondelle garlic and herb cheese
2 Tbsp. milk
16 cherry tomatoes (mixed colors are most appealing visually), halved
2 Tbsp. minced basil
Salt and pepper
Basil leaves to garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove pastry from refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 mins.

Cut one sheet of pasty into four equal quarters. Cover cookie sheet with parchment paper and arrange quarters on top.

Cut second sheet of pastry into 8 3/4″ strips. (You will have pastry left over.) Cut the strips in half.

Place two strips on two sides of each pastry square. Then place two strips on the uncovered sides of each square overlapping the ends.

2

Whisk together egg yolk and water. Brush lightly over the borders and the ends of the squares. Bake for 25 mins. or until golden brown.

Remove from oven and cool for 5 mins. Using a fork gently pull top of center piece of pasrty out of each square and discard.

Mix together cheese and milk. Divide equally among the squares spreading around the bottom. Top with sliced tomatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Divide basil among the four and return to oven for 5 mins. Garnish with whole basil leaves.

Makes 4

 

 

 

1
Premarin is a hormone replacement therapy available for women of a certain age or any woman no longer producing estrogens naturally. I called it my “princess pill”. A tiny purple capsule that when introduced into the body creates calm where there was chaos and balance where none existed. Ahhhhh.

At the age of thirty-two I underwent a hysterectomy. There were strong indications at that young age such a surgery was necessary, so I checked myself into the hospital and gave up my reproductive organs to a glass lab jar. There was little talk post surgery about what to expect once these organs were no longer in place. Looking back, any information might have proved helpful during the year following. A year my children refer to with horror as “Mom’s Dark Ages”. At best a hysterectomy is a surgery incorporating both physical loss as well as emotional upheaval. For many women being told they can no longer bear children can make for a difficult transition. A supportive mate and family can help to make this an easier time, but like many journeys in our lives, this  is one traveled by yourself.

During that year my emotions ran the gambit from crying for no reason, lapsing into unexplained bouts of hilarity, or suddenly being angry.  My family, alarmed at the changes in my personality, approached me cautiously in the morning not knowing whether they might be greeted by “The Good Susie” or her evil twin Suselzabub. Most unsettling.

To add to the myriad of emotional issues that befell me that year hot flashes arrived with a vengeance. For men, or ladies not yet there, these fiery episodes send heat crawling like a blanket of lava up your body. Your face approaches melting temperatures causing you to want to rip your clothes off and throw yourself in a bed of ice. Often they are accompanied by profuse sweating leaving you looking for all purposes like an overripe tomato left too long in the sun. Good news, once one eases up you become so chilled you need a parka to warm you up. Lovely.

Doctors, to my mind, often dismiss ailments in women as “emotional” or “imagined”. For nearly a year between fanning myself and losing my mind I explained my symptoms during my doctor’s visits. Usually this was dismissed as either non-existent or unimportant enough to pursue further. Finally, at the end of a frustrating year I went to a woman doctor who immediately wrote me a prescription for Premarin. Three weeks later life as I knew it had returned to nearly normal (or as normal as my life gets).

Once I had no prescription for two months during an out-of-state move. My husband at the time announced that if that ever happened again he would happily crawl across a field of cut glass to get me my meds. Nice.  Thus was born the term “Susie’s princess pills”. Ah yes.

Up until three years ago once  day I took my little pill and life rolled along like a calm sea on a balmy summer day. I went to my doctor for my yearly physical and was told Premarin had too many side effects and that she would no longer be prescribing it. Really? So I’ve been taking it all this time with the side effects and suddenly it’s a problem WHAT?

Sure enough before long the dreaded heat from within began once again to make its presence known followed shortly by my hair molting in the bathroom sink. Then came a bout of dry eyes attributed to the lack of hormones in my system. Thankfully that was three years ago and all but the misery of hot flashes have somewhat abated. Still, I miss my little purple pill with its blessed healing powers. Ah well.

There are pros and cons regarding Premarin. Heated discussions continue in medical circles on whether to or not to prescribe it. On the con side it increases the chance of a stroke. On the plus side a happier patient with stronger bones, higher libido and lusher hair. Certainly your body sings a more joyful song when your hormones are in balance.

Last week I was waiting in line at the prescription counter. A package marked Premarin sat on a shelf behind the counter. I considered scaling the counter, grabbing the goods and running.  After weighing Premarin or jail I picked up my order and left. Looking back I’m not convinced I made the right choice. Ah well. Life is full of hurdles. I will survive this one as well.

This dessert is sinfully easy for how it presents itself and is my Mother’s number one request when she visits.

Cherry Crisp

2 cans cherry pie filling
3 tsp. lemon juice
1 pkg. deluxe yellow cake mix
1 cube butter, melted
1 10 oz. pkg. crushed pecans
Whipped topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 13″ x 9″ pan with cooking spray.

Spread both cans of cherry pie filling along bottom of pan. Sprinkle with lemon juice.

Mix cake mix, butter, and pecans together in large bowl until well blended and crumbly. Sprinkle over cherries.

Bake for 25-30 mins. until browned and bubbly

Serves 6-8

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