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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Watching Good Morning America over the brim of my coffee cup yesterday, I listened while Joe Manganiello discussed the history of his romance with then-girlfriend now-wife Sofia Vergara. Sofia, for those of you who have lived on a desert island with no media access since 2009, portrays the curvaceous hot younger wife of Ed O’Neill on Modern Family on prime time ABC.

Manganiello was asked if there was any truth to the rumor he’d written a forty page book dedicated to his lovely lady. He acknowledged in fact he had created such a book to mark the occasion of the anniversary of their first date. Really? No, I mean it, really? First, amazingly he knew what date they first met, and secondly he’d conceived such a personal and lovely way to show his love for her. Insert awwwww right here ladies. Go ahead, I’m right behind you. During that first year he created a photo journal documenting their travels, where they ate, evenings they shared, events they attended and included all these moments in her gift. Wow. I’m seeing a gold star in his future and much, much more.

Women, at least those who populate my life, love a little romance. A continual diet would be delightful but historically, at least in my world, a whiff here and there can get one by. I have found quite often the overtly romantic overtures get tossed out with the wilted flowers following the exchange of wedding vows or linger on in a paler shade until the first diaper is purchased at Walmart. After that day-to-day life tends to insinuate itself and romance often takes a back seat to bills, work, school, rearing children, taking the dog to the vet and generally everything else that fills the average person’s day.

Romance does not have to come with a high price. Surely in the tax bracket Joe Manganiello’s income falls under the man could afford to give his bride an extravagant vehicle or an obscenely large diamond. Instead, he chose to present her with a gift that took time, thought, and creativity. To me, this is a far richer gift to receive. However, if you’ve put a down payment on my metallic silver Porsche I’ll still accept delivery. Who am I to hurt anyone’s feelings.

I consider myself a low maintenance girl. Rick might tell a different tale, but I don’t think so. Many times while writing this blog I’ve talked about missing the princess line when coming into this world. Some women get handed a tiara before heading down the chute. In my case it was a Hoover and a can of furniture spray. Once after I had surgery I took a picture of my ex-husband vacuuming. When on my feet again I had the picture blown up and framed thinking this to be the only way I was ever going to see him doing it again. Turns out my intuition I was spot on.

There are many ways to show your love not involving a trip to the mall or a shopping spree on-line. A happily married neighbor recently commented on weekends her husband brings her coffee and her paper and on Sunday serves her brunch. Small concessions perhaps, but speaking of them made her smile.

After you’ve cohabited for a while the rules of the game tend to loosen a bit. Once you’re not working anymore these rules become downright loosey goosey. When we first met Rick would show up at my door in a crisply pressed shirt and pants for a night out. In turn, I would open the door wearing perhaps a dress and heels or an outfit appropriate for the occasion and off we would go. Living together day in and day out makes continuing this “dressing up” unless you are going to work every day a bit impractical. No way am I whisking eggs in a silk blouse nor am I chasing dust bunnies from behind the toilet in heels and hose. Not going to happen today, and tomorrow isn’t looking good either.

Don’t misunderstand me I don’t show up at the breakfast table looking as if I have recently been dragged behind a speeding vehicle either. Each morning, unless I’m ill, I put on makeup, do my hair, take a shower, and pull on a clean pair of jeans or shorts and a nice top. Every several weeks we also make a point to go out together and do something fun away from the persistently ringing phone and the household day-to-day. Always when we come home I feel refreshed and our relationship feels refreshed as well.

It’s easy to sink into a rut. Takes some work to keep the bloom on the rose and time to keep a relationship thriving and happy.

When you think about it stopping to pick up on a card when it isn’t a holiday (even better making one yourself), throwing together an unexpected brunch on a weekend, or simply acknowledging how much your appreciate your partner really isn’t asking much.

This fish is moist and delicious.

Baked Tilapia with Cherry Tomatoes

4 Tilapia filets
1/2-1 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Kosher salt
2 Tbsp. butter cut into 12 squares
1 container of heirloom cherry tomatoes, sliced thick or in half
2 zucchini cut lengthwise in thin spears
1 lemon sliced thin
2 tsp. chives
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Lay out four squares of tin foil large enough to make a taco shaped pocket. Pat filets dry with paper towel. Generously season on both sides with Cajun seasoning (more or less depending on preference), pepper, and sprinkle with Kosher salt. Place one filet in center of each foil square. Place 3 butter squares on top of each filet. Top this with one-quarter of the tomatoes and the zucchini. Place a slice or two of lemon on each pile and sprinkle each with 1/2 tsp. of chopped chives. Drizzle a little olive oil on top of each.

Seal the foil bringing up the edges like a taco making sure to seal edges firmly. Bake in oven for 20 mins. Open carefully and plate.

Serves 4

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Rick came into the downstairs bedroom yesterday to find me seated on the floor among a sea of clean laundry watching “Long Island Madam”. Rick is not a believer of such sorcery as he refers to the supernatural, but I keep an open mind about such things. To quote a little Shakespeare, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy”.

This episode had her speaking to audience members who had lost loved ones. As she spoke she discussed contacting people who have passed not being as simple as picking up your phone and placing a really long distance call. Talk about using up your minutes. Rather, she said, noticing them around you in flickering lights or objects moved without explanation would be the more likely form of communication from beyond the grave. Rick rolled his eyes, mumbled something under his breath, and left me to my folding. Turning off the TV when I was done, the woman’s words jostled around in my brain. I thought of my paternal grandmother, Muriel (Gammy to me). Gone since 1988 I write about my grandmother often. Rarely a day passes where I don’t picture her face or remember a time I spent as a child in her company. I was living in California and she in her home in Halifax, Nova Scotia when she died. Though word of her passing hadn’t reached us as yet, I experienced waking up in the middle of that particular night feeling as if someone was giving me a hug. The golden retriever snoring at the base of the bed was an affectionate old sot, but never in our history together had the dog attempted to hug me. Odd.

Lately, as I’ve said in previous blogs, I have been in the process of getting my mother moved and settled in her new surroundings. The move (thank heavens) is behind us but the settling in is still a work in progress. Thinking of my grandmother, I whispered, “Gammy, wish you were around to help right now. I’m having a bit of trouble with your daughter.” Smiling , I went about the rest of my day.

Rick is the go to person in our house for getting the coffee ready each night for the following morning. Every day he washes out the pot and filter unit and returns them to the coffee maker where it rests against the wall t0 the right of our kitchen. Hearing him working in the kitchen last night I spoke to him but got no answer. As I turned to see why he was ignoring me the toilet flushed in the back bedroom. Really? When he walked into the living room I asked him if he’d heard me talking to him. Looking quizzical he explained he’d been cleaning up in the bathroom and hadn’t been in the area for at least ten minutes. Curious. A few minutes later he asked me why I’d moved the coffee pot to the center of counter. Me? I don’t think so. Coming into the kitchen sure enough the small appliance was now placed directly in the center of my tile counter. Gammy? Perhaps. Mentioning this possibility, Rick once again rolled his eyes toward the ceiling but I did catch him casting a curious glance or two in the direction of the coffee maker before returning it to its rightful spot.

As fascinated as I am by the secrets the world holds,  equally am I fascinated by the knowledge civilizations have amassed over the centuries. How far we have come since first discovering rubbing two stones together could generate fire. One has to wonder at the first guy squatting in that fire circle who came up with the idea of tossing a piece of raw meat in to see how that might taste. If there were MVP’s back in those days, I’ll bet his name went to the top of the list.

Forward thinkers have expanded our range of exploration to include standing on the surface of the moon all the way to glimpses of mars sent back by means of a robotic vehicle. As far as I can see we are leaps and bounds ahead of the pack (if you will) when it comes to the other animals populating the planet. Not that I view us as superior mind you. Animals are far more noble and loyal to my mind. Still, with all we have gleaned through the years as yet we have only scratched the surface when it comes to answering the big questions such as where the universe ends or begins or what happens when our souls leave our bodies. These are surfaces I love to pick at with my thoughts. Such mysteries whose answers remain so tantalizingly just beyond our reach. If we knew the answers would that be our end? Another thought to ponder on a day of reflection.

Today I find myself also thinking about those clever people along the way who keep nudging us forward. I would like to take a moment to salute those highly overlooked creative geniuses such as the 14th century Italian chefs who thought to combine cheese and pasta to create macaroni and cheese or whoever realized that the delectable little grape though tasty when eaten, when fermented, could be both delicious and intoxicating. If not for those individuals willing to think outside of the box like the Renaissance athletes who developed the game we now call football or whoever discovered when you planted a small seed in the ground the rain and soil would create vegetables and fruits from that small seed to sustain them. These people were definitely thinking on their feet.

Now for you animal enthusiasts I’m certainly not dissing the animals. I’m just saying that until I see a labradoodle come up with a way to cure the common cold I’m thinking we’re still on top of the pile when it comes to the food chain.

This soup is simply the best on a chilly winter night. Heats you up from the inside out. It leans toward very spicy so if that’s not your thing omit the salsa and half the green chiles to calm things down a bit. I tend to lean in the direction of my Alabama neighbor when it comes to Mexican food, “if it don’t make you sweat, it ain’t worth eatin'”. No comments please about the vernacular. He was a very sharp guy who was fond of his southern expressions that is all.

I would highly recommend an icy margarita to wash this down with.

Rotisserie Chicken Taco Soup

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, diced
1/2 each orange, red, and green bell peppers, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 rotisserie chicken cut up (about 2 cups)
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup frozen corn
1 15 oz. can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 4 oz. can diced green chiles
2 Tbsp. chunky salsa (I use hot)
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix (I use Lawry’s)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
Mexican blend cheese
Doritos with a hint of lime

Heat olive oil in stockpot over medium heat. Add onion and peppers and cook for 6-8 mins. until peppers are tender. Add remaining ingredients through coriander. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and continue cooking for 45 mins. stirring occasionally.

Serve topped with cheese and garnished with tortilla chips.

Serves 4

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1Heinz catsup is asking people interested to sign a petition to have the Monday following the Super Bowl declared a national holiday. Certainly football is a sport revered by many Americans. Personally, I feel it doesn’t carry the weight of say a President’s Day or Veteran’s Day. However, several men I have dated along the way might strongly disagree with this statement. For some fans Super Bowl ranks among the great achievements in history such as inventing the wheel and the ancient brewer who thought to mix grains with hops to get beer. One argument for a Super Bowl Monday would be many of those rooting their teams on to victory will most likely be hung over and hoarse the day following. Having spent a day or two in the office in my earlier years jockeying position between my desk and the toilet I know I would probably have served my employer far better had I remained at home in bed with an ice pack and a bottle of aspirin.

Our team was notably absent in both the playoff standouts as well as the big game. Not that they made a good showing at any point. Generally, they blew the season tripping over their embarrassed protruding lower lip showing up second in the league. Second from  the bottom that would be, not the top. Rick and I faithfully tuned in the 49er’s all season in spite of the fact they haven’t done much to get us out of our chairs.  Don’t misunderstand me. No stones are being cast here. Athletic talent isn’t in my genes. The point here might be, however, no one is paying me millions of dollars to carry a football over the goal line.

High school P.E. was a misery for me. Track and field in particular. Most events I managed without the involvement of any emergency medical personnel, but tumbling, baseball and track and field got the best of me. The worst grade came for, of all things, throwing a softball. Why this was part of track and field still has me scratching my head, but nonetheless. With half my class watching after a dramatic windup the ball landed  approximately two inches beyond the toe of my tennis shoes. A nearsighted gibbon could have done better. This was to be a feat I continued to live down until the day I received my diploma. I set a new record that day for shortest distance a ball had been thrown since the athletic department purchased its first piece of chalk. Swell.

Water sports were mostly where I shined. Also, to be immodest, I was an excellent tennis in player my younger years. For the most part though, even with a group populated by friends, my name was rarely the first one yelled out when picking teams. Hold your pity please. I may not be a talented athlete but I like to think as the years progressed I have developed  other talents equally as noteworthy, thank you very much. Sorry.

Constantly I remain amazed at the salaries these highly gifted athletes command. Someone explained this huge amount of money is needed to stretch over the lean years after the athlete’s bodies no longer can produce or should they sustain an injury. I’ve managed to stretch far less over my lean years and still had food in the cupboard. I rather doubt many of the retired athletes with these lucrative contracts are sweating their next burger, but possibly I am wrong. According to Mr. Rick some have lost their fortunes due to poor management or excessive spending habits. In general, however, most probably move seamlessly into retirement picking up a gig here and there touting insurance or the blessings of aluminum siding.

Most of the pictures of me taken between ninth and twelfth grade reflect a smiling young face with either a black eye, skinned knee or a limb carefully encased in casting material. Had social services been more observant my parents might have had some ‘splaining to do. Let me be clear, my parents never abused me. Rather, when coordination was handed out I must have been out getting a bag of Cheetos from the vending machine. If there was an elephant in the room, I would manage to trip over it or spill coffee on it. My mother actually used modeling clay to glue her valuables to tables and armoires lest Hurricane Susie accidentally sent them crashing to the floor with an errant flick of a sleeve or a poorly placed wave of a hand. Kindly, she said this was in the case of an earthquake, but I knew  with my casualty count rivaling that of WWII, the body count would be diminished somewhat by her efforts.

So, I have my wings in the wings (if you will) awaiting their entrance stage right this afternoon accompanied by ranch dressing. Ripe avocados in the basket to be gloriously paired with lemon juice, onions, and seasonings for my delicious guacamole, and my system is preparing for the unhealthy onrush coming down the chute as the game commences.

I look forward to spending the day manning my armchair and enjoying the best of the best go head to head for the ultimate prize. Why is it I wonder some individuals are culled from the herd for greatness while the rest of us muck around in relative obscurity? Guess that’s another question to be left unanswered. For me, I’m happy to be who I am with all my blemishes and scars and that will do nicely for today.

These delightful little bites of flavor will happily blend in with whatever else you’re serving for your Super Bowl party.

Lamb Koftas

1 lb. lamb mince
1 onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. crushed mint leaves
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (desired heat)

Oil for frying

Mix all ingredients with hands in large bowl until well blended. Form into small balls.

Heat oil over medium heat in large saucepan. Brown in two batches, turning often to keep from burning. Continue to cook until browned on all sides and cooked through.

Makes 24

Cucumber Yogurt Dip

1/2 English cucumber, peeled and chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup plain yogurt

Mix together and place in refrigerator for 1 hr.

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1Halloween is lurking just around a dark and dusty corner waiting to unleash all manner of ghosts and goblins upon unsuspecting neighborhoods. Fall, as I’ve mentioned, is my favorite season and Halloween. That being said Halloween is the whipped cream on fall’s sundae. Having been born on November 1st perhaps makes the date more significant to me. However, my passion for getting dressed up in costume probably would have held true had I been born in July. Growing up nearly every birthday party was a masquerade party. Peeking in my closet today you would still find an array of wigs and costumes from years gone by. Why I keep them I can’t answer, except that one day I might be called upon once again to be Minnie Mouse or the fried egg portion of bacon and eggs and I want to be prepared when the invitation arrives in the mail.

These days birthdays come and go with little fanfare. Balloons are rarely inflated, elaborately decorated cakes have been replaced with apple crisp and parties are for the most part a thing of a past. I don’t mind adding another candle to my apple crisp. Always glad to welcome a new year with all that it holds. The two weeks prior to my birthday often finds me reflective. Perhaps it’s because the pages of the calendar seem to be turning at a more steady rate, or that I miss my family more at certain times of the year. This year in particular with all that is going on in the news and in general, it sometimes takes a little more work to keep positive and upbeat.

I’ve said before I like to be scared. Not terrified, mind you. I do not enjoy a gore fest, but prefer the kind of scared that rises bumps on your arms and causes the hair at the back of your neck to stand at full attention. Fun scared. I understand from my friends who are fans of “The Walking Dead” the season premier left them reaching for their wastebaskets or whatever receptacle was handy as the gore factor ran up over the top and oozed down the other side. Nice visceral visual, yes?

Haunted buildings really catch my attention. Finding myself in purportedly haunted locations is not new to me, including the restaurant we owned ten years ago. Ghosts peak every curious bone in my body. Humans are fascinated with the afterlife, most probably because whatever faith a person holds gives them the what little information is available. Aside from heaven there is also whatever lies in between. Do tortured souls populate some dimension just beyond our consciousness? These questions plague us in the same way we desperately want to know if somewhere in the vast expanses of the universe, a spaceship piloted by ET’s is hurtling through the dark unknown in the direction of earth. I hold to all theories until unproven. How can we say no with conviction if we have no concrete proof of yes?

As a kid I was positive crocodiles lived beneath my bed, the toothy creatures hiding only when adults leaned down to disprove their existence. Waking in the middle of the night to find my hand dangling beyond the covers precipitated a mad counting of all my fingers to make sure each one was still firmly attached.

Aside from reptiles populating the waters beneath my day bed, during electrical storms the massive trees beyond my window sprawled wild shadows across my wall. Fingers on spiny hands reached out to capture the little girl watching through the folds of her blanket. My grandmother told me on many such nights she would find me snuggled up next to her without even knowing I’d sneaked into bed.

The popularity of mediums and fortune tellers further evidence our willingness to believe there is something beyond the facts we have at hand. I have been to see seers three times in my life. I saw seers? Whatever. One lady totally freaked me out. She had a dog, a black lab as memory serves. Wherever this woman went this dog was on her tail (so to speak), never leaving her side during my “reading”. At one point she spoke of a handsome young man with dark curly hair wearing a blue uniform who watched over me. The young man, she went on to say, died at a very young age. The room, warm up until that point, became so icy cold I shivered in response. The dog lying quietly on the floor stood up abruptly and began to whimper. The woman told me there was someone in the room. All I could think of was I hoped they’d brought a toilet because I had a feeling I was going to need one. Now, this would have been less strange if it wasn’t for the fact my father died at 25. At the time he was in the Canadian Air Force and was buried in his blue uniform. Pictures on my bureau depict a handsome man with a mass of glossy black curls. The dog began to furiously pace and the woman, releasing my hand, suddenly said she couldn’t continue. Now that, my friends, was weird, very weird. When I left the house I noticed a cauldron in the middle of her yard with perky looking daffodils peeking over the top. Enough said.

Another time I was given the gift of a reading from a noted numerologist in the Bay Area. To be honest I knew little about numerology at the time. I haven’t gathered much more information since. According to Wikipedia the definition of numerology is:

Numerology is any belief in the divine, mystical relationship between a number and one or more coinciding events. It is also the study of the numerical value of the letters in words, names and ideas. It is often associated with the paranormal, alongside astrology and similar divinatory arts.

To break it down into manageable parts, I would say it is a pattern of numbers derived from the time you were born, the day you were born, the year you were born and your birth name. I had to provide such information prior to meeting with the numerologist himself. On the big day I pulled up to a gorgeous restored Victorian home in the hills behind Lafayette, California. The man answering the door, a handsome gentlemen in his early fifties or so, wore an easy smile and had a welcoming demeanor. Once inside I was offered a cup of delicious tea and some shortbread biscuits. Made me wonder if my being Canadian had anything to do with the tea and biscuits.

The coffee table by the couch where we sat had a pile of neatly arranged magazines and a pile of 3 x 5 cards. The pile, I was to be told, was my life in cards. Interesting. Why was it nine feet tall? I was only in my thirties at the time. Although I’d packed quite a bit into my life up until that point I didn’t feel I had a whole volume yet. Apparently, I was wrong. As it turned out it was an interesting afternoon. I will recall the fine points in my next blog.

I found this yummy little appetizer in a magazine at the doctor’s office. Easy and delicious. Yum. I’ve made this several times, first with apricot jam and the second time with red jalapeno jelly to add a Halloween feel to it when you cut it. Too cute.

Brie Wrapped Mummy

1 pkg. puff pastry, thawed
1/4 cup jam (I used red jalapeno jelly)
1 16 oz. Brie round
1 egg
1 Tbsp. water
2 small half moons of apple
1 dried cranberry, halved
Sliced baguette
Crackers

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Flour cutting board. Roll pastry into 14″ square. Round corners to make a circle. Cut milk off brie. Spread jam in center of circle. Place brie on top. Bring corners up over top and pinch to seal.

Whisk together egg and water. Brush brie with egg wash. Take remaining pastry and roll into 14″ square. Cut four 1″ strips. Cut strips in half. Place five strips across round leaving space in between. Take remaining three strips and crisscross across front to make it look like the head of the mummy. Bake for 25 mins. until done. Allow to cool slightly. Place two half moons where eyes should be. Top each with 1/2 of dried cranberry.

Serve with crackers or bread.

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Just as a rule I can manage to mess things up, but yesterday I really pushed my foot down on the accelerator. No matter what the situation I found myself in it seemed to go to hell in a hand basket. As I mentioned in my previous blog we recently bought several new chairs for the living room. My birthday is around the corner so the two IKEA chairs were what I asked the birthday fairy for.

Once the new chairs were here I ran an ad on Craigs List to sell the two they were replacing. One of the old chairs was a Papa San chair we’ve had for years. Still in good shape, though well loved, I thought somebody might find a place in their home for it. For some reason it never occurred to me a Papa San chair would generate much interest. Paint me WRONG. Maybe it’s retro or something kitschy. The emails began piling up in my inbox at an alarming rate five minutes after I hit “publish’. Help. The first three were from Rita, Tina, and Gia. Really? Say that fast three times. Trying to keep these three ladies straight with all the forthcoming emails was like juggling bottles of nitro glycerin; eventually something is going to blow. The end result is that one or all three of these women are arriving at the house today to gather this apparent prize. The other thirty waiting in line are chomping at the bit lest they decide not to take it. Who knew? I had to take the ad down to stop the bleeding.

As the day went on I realized it was time to organize Rick’s pills for the week. My poor guy, he’s single handedly keeping the pharmaceutical companies afloat. Three bottles up for refill, I called the prescriptions in to the automated system at the pharmacy. The phone rang almost immediately after I’d hung up. According the pharmacy assistant I had already called these in, and worse yet had picked them up. Are you sure it was me? Of course it was me. I forgot, I left my mind somewhere back in the fall of 2014. Damn. Hanging up I realized I didn’t know where they were. I tore the closet apart looking for them. No luck locating them, I called the pharmacy and said I’d misplaced them. I’ve never done this before. They offered to call the insurance company and explain the situation. Quite possibly they would replace them. Another call later from the pharmacist was good news. The insurance company agreed to refill the prescriptions at cost. Well it was good news up until I actually found the prescriptions in the drawer with the checks I’d received in the mail on the same day I’d picked up the pills. Sigh. Will somebody visit me when I’m in the home? If you can’t don’t worry about it, I probably won’t remember I asked. So, my red faced self once again called the pharmacy to report my commitment to a facility was undoubtedly on the horizon and to please cancel the order.

Next, trying to save what was left of the day I decided to work on the recipe for lamb shanks I was planning for dinner. To pull it together I needed two cans of tomatoes. Turned out the two remaining in my cupboard were diced tomatoes with chipotle. Definitely chipotle does not pair with the Mediterranean ingredients needed to complete the recipe. Never mind. Soup and sandwiches it is. Forgetaboutit.

Rick had asked me in the morning if I would have time to pop a cake in the oven. Sure. What am I doing after all? Realizing as the day passed the cake wasn’t going to happen, I searched for another dessert option. Hurriedly looking in the freezer I found a box leftover from a shipment of Omaha Steaks my mother had given me a while back. The only items remaining were potato puffs and apple turnovers. Reaching into the box I pulled out two turnovers, switched on the oven on to the instructed degrees and popped the little buggers in. Ahhhh. That’s one thing that worked out for the day.

When I woke up this morning I found the turnovers, one half gone, sitting on the counter with a note from Rick. “I love you and appreciate your effort to give me dessert, but these turnovers taste like potatoes for some reason. Perhaps they have turned.” Oh-oh. 0 for 3. I can now write yesterday off as a total loss and hope to see improvement today. Hopefully only one person will show up to claim the chair otherwise you can find me hiding under the bed with the cat.

The best part of yesterday was this soup. Made me glad the tomatoes didn’t work out.

Cheesy Potato Cauliflower Leek Soup

1 Tbsp. oil
1 leek, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large cauliflower florets
2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
4 cups vegetable broth (homemade or purchased)
2 Tbsp. chopped chives
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. paprika
2 1/2 cups fat free milk
3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in stockpot over medium heat. Add leek, onion and garlic and cook 6 mins. Add cauliflower and potatoes. Mix well and continue cooking for 5 mins. stirring several times. Add broth and seasonings. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and cook uncovered for 40 mins. or until vegetables are cooked. Cool slightly.

Place mixture in blender and puree until smooth. Return to pot. Whisk in milk and Parmesan cheese. Heat until hot. Serve with a sprinkle of paprika and chopped chives if desired.

Serves 4

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finalOn the best of days our cat, Boo, is bizarre. Some days, like today for example, she’s could be deemed certifiable. Early on I was relaxing with my first cup of piping hot coffee enjoying the Sunday paper. As is her habit the cat was canvasing the living room area in search of stray mice to toss about (the stuffed variety) or a piece of leaf to chase. Without any obvious explanation a small picture frame sitting in an easel on our glass TV stand fell over with a resounding crash. The cat, not named Boo for nothing, shot up in the air as if fired from a catapult. Every hair along her spine was at full attention as she bolted across me at rocket speed knocking the arm holding my coffee cup hard enough to spill the steaming contents all over the front of my new tee-shirt. Thank you, Boo. Thank you very much. Nothing I like better than starting off a morning with second degree burns and ruined clothing. Appreciate it. If she is lying on me, as she is prone to do off and on during the day, and a sneeze captures me, if I can’t stop it she is likely to scratch half-inch lines on my chest in an effort to escape. Even if Rick sneezes next to me, the reaction is the same. We feel she was abused in some way as a kitten or very scared. Truth is I can’t imagine my world without her disrupting it. I wish cats could live to be a hundred but unfortunately that wasn’t in the plan.

When Boo gets frightened I can generally locate her under a bed downstairs her behind pointed in my direction. For some reason when frightened she presents me with that end of her anatomy. I offer no explanation for this occurrence other than the cat is odd, very odd. This is why we clicked when first meeting I would most imagine. Both of us have unusual eyes and quirky personalities. Since the earlier strange situation with the picture frame Boo has been seen stalking the TV stand, tail wagging furiously and the well-known cat curiosity at the fore. At one point I saw her checking out the plug with her nose, a practice I discouraged lest she light up like a cartoon cat zapped by a good jolt of electricity.

Perhaps Boo’s strange behavior can be attributed to the change of seasons. Fall is definitely in the air. Leaves litter the ground and hints of others just beginning to change color are scattered about the hillsides. Summer, however, reluctant to give up center stage, keeps insinuating its hot little hands in the middle of it all. Yesterday it approached 100 degrees and today will be the same. Alternating between shorts and jeans I’m still leaning on the side of autumn. I have taken out my fall decorations in celebration of the changing of the guard. Ghosts peer out my windows and goblins huddle about bowls of candy.

Growing up in Nova Scotia the leaves would have turned dramatically by now, reflected in fiery images in many lakes and ponds scattered about (or aboot in Canadian) the province. Our family home sat at the mouth of the Halifax harbor two blocks from Point Pleasant Park, a place I explored often as a youngster. For a child the park offered so many opportunities to run and play. The frog pond inside the gate was where I sat on a rock to watch the busy insect and amphibian population visible on and just below the murky water. When winter arrived and the temperatures dropped the pond froze over and served as the perfect outdoor skating rink for local kids or a place to try out the new hockey stick Santa had placed under the tree.

Fall made it’s presence known dramatically in the heavily treed acreage. Walking along the paths the crunching pad of dead leaves beneath your boots echoed through the canopy of branches overhead. I loved it there. Funny, I don’t remember worrying about boogeymen, though I’m sure there were some lurking about over the years, nor do I remember feeling scared or alone while inside the park grounds.

Rick, coming from Egypt originally, is more of a sun worshiper. Was he a lizard, I can picture him stretched out on a rock soaking in the desert heat. For him the advent of chilly rainy days and darkened skies is embraced with far less enthusiasm than for me. Was I to draw how I feel this time of year in a picture my toes would be twirling, my lips smiling, and my eyes twinkling. Energizing my spirit the change in seasons heading into winter gets me even busier in the kitchen, eyeing my sewing machine for holiday projects, and beginning to look at store sales and seasonal recipes. This George Eliot quote says it all:

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.

I do think the stores are really getting ahead of themselves this year. Each year they start a little bit earlier. Christmas trees and decorations began showing up in some stores in August. What’s next, bunnies and baskets by Christmas? I like to ease into the holidays. They’re overwhelming enough with all the shopping (I’m not an avid shopper), wrapping, and shipping of gifts to family and friends. To me it’s like being given the whole cheesecake and asked to eat in at one sitting. I enjoy a good cheesecake but prefer to savor each bite and look forward to another piece a day or so later. Well, that made my stomach growl. Going to have to make a cheesecake one of these days.

Comfort food on my mind I decided to make Rick one of his favorites, turkey stuffed pepper soup. Delicious and filling with its mini-grilled cheese. Yum and yum.

Turkey Stuffed Pepper Soup with Mini-Grilled Cheese

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. ground turkey
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 onion, chopped
2 green bell peppers, chopped
5 cups beef stock
1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup cooked rice

Bring olive oil to shimmer in stock pot over med.-high heat. Add turkey and cook, breaking meat into crumbles, until no longer pink. Add garlic and continue cooking 1 min.

Add seasonings, Worcestershire sauce, onion and green peppers. Cook, stirring frequently for 6 mins. Add stock, tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook 30 mins.

Place 1/4 cup of rice in bottom of four soup bowls.Pour 1/4 of soup over top of each scoop.

Grilled Cheese

4 slices French bread, sliced thin
2 Tbsp. butter softened
2 slices sliced cheddar cheese

Butter one side of each slice of bread. Place two slices butter side down in skillet. Top each with slice of cheese. Place remaining slices butter side up on cheese slices. Heat pan over high heat brown on both sides and cook until cheese has melted. Cut into small squares and serve on top of soup.

Serves 4

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