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Well, the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos are warming up to make some Super Bowl history. Tickets are going for as much as $7,000 for the choice seats, and as low (if you consider it low) as $3,000 for the nosebleed seats. At that price guaranteed my face will not be captured on the stadium camera. Whoa. Up until the last few years the Super Bowl passed without much fanfare for me other than enjoying the delicious food available at the myriad of Super Bowl parties I’ve attended. For some reason, perhaps self defense, several years ago I found myself sitting in front of the TV with Rick on a Sunday afternoon watching whoever was on the field. Being a curious being by nature, before long I was asking why this was happening, or what that penalty meant. Over time I began to notice without asking I knew what was going on and actually had begun to be familiar with players names and nuances of the game. Oh-oh. Now I have not gone so far as getting a paint roller and decorating my body or dying my hair to support my team (the 49ers) but I do look forward to Sunday afternoons to see what they’re going to do once they’re suited up. Along with Rick I suffer their defeats and cheer their successes. This year proving to be more the former than the latter for our Bay Area team.

Rick of course could coach the team far better than those actually paid to do the job. I know this because he says so about fifty times whenever they’re screwing up. Sometimes I become involved in appreciating the color combinations of the uniforms (for example I like the lime and blue of the Seahawks). When I admire such things out loud he throws me a look like “you are such a girl”. Why yes, I am, thank you. One day I got to commenting on the various sizes of behinds facing the screen and he simply threw up his hands and rolled his eyes. What?

The amazing salaries these athletes command blows my mind. I can see the logic, however, in gathering all the goodies while they can. The tremendous beating applied to their bodies during every game cumulatively amassed over the years must be painful when it catches up with them. Also, they live with the knowledge that one bad tackle or fall could result in the end of their career leaving them to fall back on hawking insurance or staring dreamily at the model most likely decorating the other side of their bed. As they probably net more in one year than most of us do in a lifetime I am not going to worry about where their next hamburger is coming from any time soon.

It’s not a game for lightweights. I heard a commentator say the other day they are taking the edge off of the game with all the restrictions imposed to prevent or at least diminish player’s chances for head injuries. At one time players hit the field with leather helmets and far less protection so I would suppose it might feel that way to those longer in the tooth. No matter how protected these players are the chance remains for injury or long-standing health problems. I would assume players signing up are either intensely passionate about the game or what it will bring to them financially to play it.

Sometimes when I watch how the players behave on the field it is reminiscent of boys in elementary school. Football seems to bring out the child in the man with all the posturing and dancing going on when a touchdown is made missing only the “neener neener” to make the picture complete. All the testosterone and team rivalry mingling on the artificial turf makes it not surprising fights break out and an extra elbow or unnecessary kick is thrown in on occasion once a player is down. The exchanges going on between the players when in formation waiting for the play to begin might be an interesting share. Somehow I don’t think they’re exchanging recipes or asking one another how the wife and kids are doing.

The fans are fascinating as well. Rain, snow, heat, or hail the sit in the stands faces painted, team colors displayed, beer in one hand rubber hands covering the other. If their teams is doing well they’re fully engaged and if they suck they’ll let them know that as well.

Since our team will not be represented we will be on hand to watch those who are stuffing ourselves with chile con queso at half time and cheering loudly along with the rest of the nation. When life seems to be full of chaos it is nice to see one thing still on track.

This soup is an easy meal to make, and truly is a meal in itself only needing a nice hunk of crusty French bread to round it out. Note: You want your veggies fully cooked but not mushy.

Tuscan Cauliflower and Potato Soup

1 lb. bulk Italian sausage, hot
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 cloves garlic minced
3 medium red potatoes cut into large chunks
8 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup grated Asiago Medium cheese
2 cups baby spinach, stems removed and broken into pieces
1/2-1 tsp. black pepper depending on taste
Salt as desired

In large skillet cook sausage, onion, mushrooms, and garlic until sausage is no longer pink. Drain on paper towels.

Place potatoes in microwave and cook on high for 4 mins.

In large pot cover cauliflower and potatoes with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking until vegetables are cooked but still slightly firm.

Add sausage mixture and continue cooking for 6 mins. Whisk in cream and then add cheese. Cook and stir until blended. Add spinach and pepper (I add more pepper if needed) and cook until spinach has just wilted. Taste before you salt as cheese will add salt to pot.

Serve with additional cheese if desired.

Serves 4

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The east coast got hammered with a major winter storm over the weekend. Makes me glad to be tucked away inside my warm house, a light rain falling outside my door, and a cup of hot coffee sitting on the table next to me. The last time I lived in a snow belt would have been in the early 1990’s. My husband at the time was a construction roadie. Pipe foreman jobs during those six years on the road would take us from Washington to Arkansas, east to West Virginia, south to Alabama and back to West Virginia before returning California. Our time in West Virginia totaled a little more than three years, one first time and a little over two on our second time around.

What a gorgeous state West Virginia is. The Mountain State, as it is so named because of the gorgeous span of Appalachian Mountains to the eastern side of the state. The Appalachians offer endless vistas, impressive gorges, and prolific hiking opportunities. Once I hiked up to Hawk’s Nest State Park Museum on a trip through that part of the state. By the time we reached the top I was convinced I was going to be on the afternoon news being air lifted by helicopter to get back down. The views once we reached our destination were worth the hike, but I wasn’t taking in enough oxygen to really enjoy them.

On our second stay we rented a house in St. Albans. St. Albans is a small town on the western side of the state nestled against the banks of the Kanawha River midpoint between Charleston and Hungtington. The house was typical of homes in the area, older, well constructed, with a generous lot. A railroad track lay beyond the property line at the back of the house. So thrilled were we to have found a house close to the job site where my husband would be working, we didn’t give it much notice. Our first night in our new home we collapsed into bed around eleven. Half filled boxes were scattered about along with piles of clothes and household items. As with many older homes the bedrooms were relatively small. The king sized bed with its massive headboard had to be shoved up against the far wall in order to leave any room for maneuvering when getting in and out. As I slept on the wall side of the bed this meant I would have to climb over the foot board if I woke up before my husband did.  Deep in dreamland the midnight special passed by precisely on time whistle shrieking. The house shook to such an extent the bed actually moved toward the door across the freshly waxed hardwood floors. “Lucy, I’m home!” I was perched on my husband’s shoulders like a frightened cat. The following day we fused the headboard to wall mount to keep from repeating the experience.

As the months passed we settled in. The train’s whistle became so familiar by the time summer melted into fall our sleep went uninterrupted. A week before Thanksgiving a major snowfall captured the state. Having not seen snow in years I was the first one out of the door followed by my Shih Tzu, Sushi, a snow virgin. Excited by my antics the small dog plowed through the unfamiliar drifts gathering enough white on her muzzle to look like a canine version of Santa. How beautiful the landscape is when covered with a recent snow. Stark shadows and woody images contrasting with the purity of the land have contributed to many a memorable work of art. However, once you add a vehicle to the picture, the picture becomes far less attractive.

The river soon iced over and winter officially made itself comfortable in our part of the world. I became fairly adept at maneuvering the icy streets, managing myself through several skids and a near miss or two. Being a one car family, if I needed the car it was up to me to drive my husband to work. Not that it was far, about 15 miles as I recall. The worst of it was he worked ten-hour days so his day began at 6:00 a.m. meaning when I took him to work my day began much earlier. On one particular morning planning to use the car I woke late. In my hurry to get ready on time I pulled on a bunny fur jacket and a pair of leather boots over my leggings and nightshirt. Who was going to see me anyhow? Right? Right.

Crossing the bridge it was dark. We turned right and drove through the town on the other side making our way along a six mile span of country road heading toward Nitro where the plant was located. Half dozing I jerked awake when my husband yelled “hold on”. Gliding across the icy patch we moved as if in slow motion up and over the bank to one side. The car leaned to the right, creaked and came to rest on the passenger’s side. Above me my husband was suspended from his seat belt. Shaken up, either of us appeared to be hurt. The temperature outside twas several degrees below zero and nobody was on the road. Do we stay or do we go was the elephant in the room. The car, as was obvious, was staying. Experts tell you to remain with the car. Unfortunately, there weren’t any experts with us that morning so we climbed out through his side and began to walk.  After a while I began to complain I’d lost all feeling my feet and legs. My husband assured me we wouldn’t freeze if we kept walking. Whether or not that was true didn’t matter, I needed to believe it was.

Just when I felt my frozen toes had surely fallen off and were rattling about in the toe of my boots, a red truck crested the hill. Angels really are out there. Thankfully he stopped and welcomed us into the warmth of his cab. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. Never have I been so glad to see anybody. I can picture his face in my mind as I write this. Explaining our situation, he kindly drove me home to call a tow truck and my husband back to the car to wait with him for their arrival. Once my toes began to thaw pins and needles such as I have never experienced before or since attacked my toes with a vengeance. Fortunately, they were all still attached to my feet and functioning.

Winter leaves little room for idiots, but unfortunately we hadn’t read the memo on that subject at the time. Guess it wasn’t our time to go. So, if you’re stuck going out in snowy conditions dress appropriately, bring water, blankets, and flashlights. Trust me leggings aren’t going to do it.

These tuna melts are a favorite go to on busy days. I had some leftover cooked asparagus which was delicious on top. Vary the cheese as you like but whatever you use you won’t be disappointed. Yum.

Horseradish Tuna Melts

1 6 oz. can albacore tuna, drained and flaked
1 hard boiled egg, chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp. chopped red onion
2 Tbsp. chopped celery
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp. mayonnaise (more or less)
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. red wine vinaigrette
2 hamburger buns
1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
4 slices of beefsteak tomato
4 slices horseradish cheese
4 cooked asparagus spears sprinkled with lemon juice

Preheat broiler.

Mix together tuna, egg, onion, celery in bowl. Salt and pepper to taste. Add remaining ingredients thru red wine vinaigrette adding mayonnaise to desired consistency.

Place halves of buns in toaster and toast on Bagel setting. Spread 1/4 Tbsp. of mayonnaise on each cut side. Top with tuna mixture. Place 1 slice tomato on top of tuna and top with 1 asparagus spear on each. Cover with cheese and place under broiler until bubbly and golden brown.

Serves 2

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Yesterday Rick and I had a date night. We try to fit one in every few weeks sort of like hitting “refresh” on the computer. This time we went to see The Revenant (literally “a person who returns”). Touted as a powerful movie I wanted to see it on the big screen . Whoa. Old Leo really did himself proud in this film. It was long, pushing three hours, but I was never bored for even a moment. Quietest group of theater goers I’ve ever seen. Like ice sculptures we sat heads directed at the screen. No one seemed to move even to visit the snack bar or use the loo. As a caution, however, if realistic violence bothers you, this is not the movie for you. Lots of raw scenes.

On another note, I was sad to hear Glenn Frey of the Eagles passed away yesterday. Sixty-seven. The Eagles had me at “Take it Easy”.  Sad these gifted beings only stay with us for whatever time they are allotted, but how wonderful to leave behind such a legacy of work. When I go I will leave as my legacy a cook somewhere saying, “where did I get this yummy recipe for stuffed mushrooms anyhow”? Well hopefully they will be saying that. Sigh.

I like most types of music to some extent, except perhaps rap, though I can appreciate it. Classical music is something I have to be in the right place to enjoy. There is a concert on Mozart’s music coming up in Sacramento. I don’t imagine he could have conceived his music would have been played and enjoyed centuries after he first sat at his piano to compose it. When the mood strikes I can get lost in classical pieces. Some seem to me to be dark and angry. Clair de Lune by Debussy on the other hand brings to mind a restless spirit and an endless sea. Always I find the music moving me greatly in one direction or another.

Last night I had a dream I was selected to play the lead in a stage production of “Mary Poppins”.  This not happening any time soon in my life I feel unless the intended audience is a bus load of people who are severely hearing impaired. I do love the theater. Lately I’ve been missing live productions rather than movies. There is something exhilarating about the low buzz in the theater before the lights dim and the actors actually before you on the lit stage. I have seen many such performances in my life time, although most prior to the past decade sadly. Not because there is any lack of local theater, rather our paths have taken us in other directions for the past ten years.

The Phantom would rank among my favorites along with Equus and Elephant Man.  Both had either music or stories or both I found compelling. There have been disappointments as well. I saw Camelot in L.A. at the beautiful Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in the 70’s. Ticket holders used to dress back in the day, gathering to clink glasses around the bar in all their regalia during intermission. These days unless it’s a state dinner about anything goes from flip flops to beach attire at most events. This production was truly a mess largely due to the big named lead actor playing the lead. The man was so intoxicated he nearly took a fall down the castle steps in mid song.  The Pirates of Penzance was another one that didn’t strike a chord with me (if you will). Gilbert & Sullivan are a little too wordy (this coming from a very wordy being) for my taste. I liked Cats, but wasn’t in love with it as were many of my friends. Memory was a beautiful song, but for me the only true high high point of the evening.

Looking back I wish I had taken theater in college. I have enough ham in me to perform a long run and have enough left over to make an excellent showing on an Easter buffet. Opportunities to explore this facet of my being never seemed to present themselves nor did I pursue making it happen. College is something I would have done a lot differently had I any intelligence at that age. Back then I toyed with my education and still landed good jobs. Today college is really a necessity if students moving into adulthood are to survive in our present economy. That being said I found it disturbing news that when asked, 10% of college students polled in a recent survey thought Judy Judy presently sits on the Supreme Court. Also it appears millennials are displaying little interest in how our government was conceived or runs, or U.S. history in general.  I will hope that is not the case, as that would make me question where our future will take us, but that is another blog.

When I graduated from high school I was served college on a platter as part of my grandfather’s estate. Though I enrolled taking enough classes to have a two-year degree at least in sight, sadly I did not finish. Hindsight being twenty-twenty I wish I had gone to a four year college and experienced living on a college campus before creating a family. But one must look forward with enthusiasm not backwards with regret.

Sooooooooo, in spite of my lack of degree I am pleased to state that I did, in fact, know that Judge Judy was not a supreme court justice. This, for today, will have to do.

I like this recipe for creamy broccoli soup. Still butter but no cream but you don’t miss it. My daughter shared this – and I loved it.

Broccoli Soup with Blue Cheese & Garlic Toast

1 large bunch of broccoli
5 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1/2 cup water
4 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup freshly cut parsley
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
salt as desired
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
Crumbled blue cheese
Crisp bacon (optional)

Cut off florets from stems of broccoli and break into bite sized pieces. Remove outer hard shell from stems and chop insides. Set aside.

In large saucepan bring broth and water to a boil. Add florets, reduce heat to medium and continue cooking for 3 mins. until tender but crisp. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside.

Melt butter in large pot. Add onions, celery, garlic and broccoli stems. Cover and cook until softened about 5-6 mins.

Whisk in flour and cook for 3 mins. Whisk in broth/water mixture. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 mins. until thickened. Add parsley, scallions, 1/2 of the florets and simmer for 3 mins.

Also to cool slightly. Puree in food processor in two batches. Return to pot and mix in remaining 1/2 florets. Season with black pepper, lemon juice, nutmeg and salt as desired.

Serve topped with a piece of garlic toast sprinkled with blue cheese and crumbled bacon.

Garlic Toast

4 slices of rustic French bread
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat broiler. Spread butter on one side of bread. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Top with Parmesan cheese. Place under broiler butter side up under golden brown. Turn over
and toast the unbuttered side.

Serves 4

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The next few months are going to get busy for me. There are some milestone birthday parties coming up, family is visiting, and we are visiting family. Summers seem to be the time to plan all the fun events leaving Christmas and Thanksgiving to keep winter moving along briskly when we’re stuck inside.

This past week we’ve been dealing with getting our deck refinished. As usual things didn’t choose to move along without a wrinkle at our house. I suppose I might get bored if a project went off without a hitch, and what would I write about?

The job itself was to be done in two increments. Truth is we really debated about doing it at all because in order to refinish the wood a power wash had to be done and pre-treatment laid down. With water such a precious commodity in our state at the moment, it was up for debate for a while. However, if we didn’t do something our deck was likely to deteriorate beyond the point of no return during the winter the months so the decision was made to go ahead. Damn the torpedoes, and all. This house has a deck on each floor. Along with resurfacing the decks themselves, the paint has worn off the railings. We added this to the job description.

When we first looked at the house all of this seemed to be pristine. That was two years ago. My assumption, since it’s headed down the slope so quickly, is the previous owners did a band-aid paint job to help the house’s outward appearance prior to putting it on the market. I get it. I don’t particularly applaud it, but on some level I understand the theory.

The two men who power washed the wood were very helpful. The procedure ate up most of a day with two of them working concurrently, and racked up a nice piece of change on their behalf when the bill came in. Because our son was going to do the actual staining, before leaving the owner of the business brought us up to speed on how to correctly apply the stain once purchased. It was a long explanation. There was against the grain this, and back wash that, and seamless over here. I just nodded my head like a bobble head doll hoping he’d come to an end before I got a headache. Now, if you combined Rick and my knowledge of such things, multiplied the combined information by 10,000 you would still only gain enough facts to confidently pick out a decent paint brush. Reviewing the extensive notes left me I gathered we needed water based paint, brushes, a roller, sponge brushes, paint trays, drop cloths, and good luck. Some of these we were able to pick up at the local Dollar Store, which was a bonus. They were out of luck, unfortunately, but asked us to check back on Tuesday when their trucks come in it might come in then. After measuring the square footage it was determined we needed two gallons of stain at about $47.00 a gallon. At the paint store the employee behind the counter confirmed this amount of stain should do the trick nicely. I handed him my notes with our color choice as indicated and he went off to mix the stain. Life was good.

Saturday the painting began upstairs. We decided to leave the walkway directly outside the door for last as the stain has to cure for three hours. If it was applied at night there would be no issues coming in and out while it dried. Easy peasey. The color we chose was a silver tone, semi transparent. This, at least was the color on the paper I handed the store employee. The color we came home with was a semi-solid platinum gray which was like comparing orange to red, close but no cigar. Please take notes, there will be a test on this later. Nonetheless, the color sort of grew on us as it dried, and we came to like it. That being said all but one long walkway outside the door got done and two-thirds of the lower deck when we ran out of paint. Everybody but me was decorated with it, perhaps that’s where the extra half can went, so I was elected to go back to the paint store and get an extra gallon. Okie.

Back again at the counter in the paint store I requested the additional can of stain. I explained the original color had been off but we were staying with it so please make sure this one matched the other two. Off he went to mix the paint returning shortly with no can. “Sorry”, he said”, we’re out of the base for that paint. It is special order so will be in next week.” Hello? This was not news I wanted to pass on to Rick who was already well over this project and not going to happy that we were going to look like a zebra upstairs and down. Not only that but you only have a certain grace period after the pre-treatment is done to get the sealant on. Sigh. I was good until he said perhaps I should have gotten three gallons to begin with. Now, they were the ones who said two would be more than enough if you remember, and if secondly if they didn’t have the base now, they probably didn’t have the base three hours ago when I bought the first two cans.

So our flower pots remain in the driveway waiting for the deer to stop by for lunch and our deck remains half in and half out. Hopefully by next week it will be gorgeous and all frustration tossed away with the gooey tarp.

These are flavorful and yummy. Be sure to wrap them well around the skewers.

Middle Eastern Kibbeh Kebabs

1/2 lb. ground beef
3/4 lb. ground lamb
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 onions, grated and dried
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. hot paprika
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. ground tumeric
1/4 tsp. ground ginger

Olive oil for basting

Bamboo skewers soaked in water for 1/2 hour
Pita bread

Grate onions. Place in collander for 2 hrs. to drain liquid. Squeeze and put in large mixing bowl. Add meats.

Mix ground meats well with spices. Place in refrigerator for 1 hr. Soak bamboo skewers for 1/2 hr.

Wrap small amounts of meat in flat log shaped configurations around center of skewers, molding to fit tightly.

Preheat grill for medium heat being sure to oil grates.

Brush kebabs with olive oil. Cook over medium heat, turning occasionally until cooked to desired taste (about 6 mins.).

Serve with pita bread and sour cream sauce

Sour Cream Sauce

1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. Sriracha sauce (more or less depending on taste)
2 Tbsp. hot salsa chunky
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix together and allow to sit in refrigerator 1/2 hr. before serving

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Well, another Christmas season is tucked into bed, visions of sugar plums dancing on our hips. Sigh. I wasn’t born with a big sweet tooth, thankfully, as snowballs, fudge, and all varieties of cookies and baked goods have been shoved in my direction at every turn in the bend over the past few weeks. Not wanting to insult those offering, I’d take one, roll it in a napkin, and slip it in my purse. By the time I’d made the rounds of family and friends the bottom of my bag was attracting ants. Had a diabetic sat down next to me they would have drifted into shock from the fumes.

For my part you can keep sugary goodies. Salty carbs are more my guilty pleasure. Give me a mound of fries or a mountain of beer battered onion rings and I’m on my way to a good time. I resist these delicious artery clogging treats opting for healthier fare most days, but sometimes my willpower loses the battle with my cravings. On such occasions I can be spotted in the drive thru at McDonald’s wearing a plastic nose and glasses. If I was on death row waiting for them to pull the switch you would smell the grease heating up in the kitchen before my last meal was delivered. I’m just sayin.

As usual my holiday experience was not without mishap. I did not cook Christmas dinner this year. The first year in many I have not. There were to be only six of us so we opted to get a pre-made meal leaving more time for socializing and less time for cleaning up. Dinner was ordered before I boarded the train so no worries on arrival about getting something to load on the plates. My son had suggested a local restaurant chain as a good choice. With that in mind I ordered the turkey feast for six and we were good to go. From the website description they appeared very well-organized. Dinner came with all the typical holiday sides; a bread choice, truly yummy gravy, cranberry sauce, what appeared to be turkey and a choice of pie. Hoping to avoid the Christmas Day stampede, we opted to pick it up on 24th as soon as the restaurant opened. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on whether your glass is half full or half empty, my mom has a handicapped plaque. Difficult for her to walk any distance, we were able to park near the entrance without a problem. Entering the restaurant we were pointed in the direction of the bar. It was bustling with activity with staff members taking paperwork from people as they arrived and filling their orders. We were third in line. A victory at last. Handing the gentlemen my order confirmation, he returned shortly with a huge box of goodies. Running quickly over the contents, and gathering our pumpkin pie, he said jollily (well, it was the time of year for it), “Have a Merry Christmas. You’re good to go.” I understand this is not the politically correct holiday greeting, but for me it was just dandy, thank you. Driving the twenty-five minutes or so back to the house, we unloaded the box and began the process of finding spots in my mother’s two ridiculously overly burdened refrigerators for our dinner.

“Let’s see, mashed potatoes, yams, dressing, veggies, stuffing, gravy, cranberries, check.” Something was missing, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it? Anything glaring on your end? You win the stuffed rabbit if you went for turkey. Looking in the empty box again just to reassure myself they hadn’t sewn the bird into the lining, I picked up the phone. Sure enough, the girl told me, the gentlemen in the bar realized his mistake as we were already driving out of the parking lot. Sigh. Back in the car I drove the 25 minutes return trip to the restaurant only to find the parking lot now filled to capacity and spilling out into the side streets. Fine.

Switching into full hiking gear, I trekked the two miles (the same two your parents walked to school) to the restaurant. Once again in the bar (I entertained placing an order at this point) I whizzed past the long line attracting stares which Santa might deem worthy of a lump of coal. Greeted by the same gentlemen assisting us the first time he announced loudly, “ah, the lady who forgot her turkey”. “Hey, I didn’t forget the turkey, funny man”, my mind replied. My lips, however, well brought up, said sweetly, “that would be me”. Never mind, I thought. Santa is writing this stuff down. The fact that the blonde had forgotten the turkey brought a huge laugh from the people waiting. Thank you. I didn’t feel stupid enough already, it was nice to have a cheering section. One lady commented I could have put the whole box in the refrigerator and not noticed it until Christmas Day. Now that would have been a tragedy. Had to admit she had a point. At least we had a turkey to put on our plates. One must be thankful for their gifts. In the end I took a little harmless ribbing, gathered my bird,and drove the 25 minutes back to my mother’s only to discover she now needed something from the store. Really? Perhaps a quick call to the cell phone would have been an idea? Leaving the turkey in the bag it came in, I deposited it in the fridge after once again rearranging to make room. Seating in my still warm seat I headed for the store. Good news. 3,420 other people had exactly the same idea at exactly the same time. They were all standing in line waiting for me when I arrived. The store, thinking ahead, had three checkers working the twelve available check out areas. Grumbling in the crowd about adding more checkers resulted in a manager saying, “they’re on break”. After that announcement things began to get ugly. I decided to take the high road and smile and be sunny in line. Luckily there wasn’t a mob rush on my person before I paid my bill. Announcing they were out of paper bags temporarily didn’t serve to cheer up the crowd. Not use to having to provide my own bags, I juggled my way out to the car. A recruiter from Barnum and Bailey circling the area dropped a business card in my pocket suggesting I contact him after the holidays. See, there’s always a silver lining.

Dinner was very good for the most part and easey peasey. Pop in the microwave, push the indicated amount of time and deposit on the warming unit. Yea. The turkey, or at least it was labeled as such, was another matter. Opening the bag I found a large oval shaped object inside wrapped in plastic. The instructions indicated we were to put this item referred to as turkey breast on a rack in a roasting pan, cover it with foil, and heat for 2 hours. Conjecture ran rampant through the group. Could it be a freeze-dried bird? Perhaps if we added water the thing would swell to its original shape and form. My mother kept looking underneath it. When I asked why she was doing this odd behavior she said it was to see if perhaps the legs and wings might spring out when the body was lifted. This was after a stiff egg nog but really? As you can see the acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree in this family. Perhaps it was a fakurkey, someone else suggested. Not a real turkey at all but a fake turkey molded to look like turkey. Once cooked and on the plate we were left with another one of life’s unanswered questions. Jury’s still out.

Questioning my son about this later it appeared we ordered a turkey breast feast rather than the full monty featuring the entire bird. Ahhh. This, at least leaves us with one question answered.

All in all it was fun and silly.

These potatoes were perfect with my spicy pork loin. Rich, gooey, and yum.

Scalloped Potatoes with Parmesan and Onions

5 russet potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
1 medium onion, sliced thin
1 cup Romano cheese, shredded, divided
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
1 14 1/2 oz. can chicken broth
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
2 Tbsp. chives, chopped
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp. crushed rosemary
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray 2 quart casserole with cooking spray. Place 1/3 of the potatoes on the bottom. Top with 1/2 of the onions, and 1/3 cup Romano cheese. Repeat layers ending with the potatoes. Reserve 1/3 cup cheese.

Melt butter over med. heat. Whisk in flour. Cook 2 mins. until smooth.Gradually add chicken broth and remaining ingredients. Pour over potatoes. Cover tightly with foil. Bake for 1 hour.

Remove foil. Sprinkle with remaining 1/3 cup cheese. Return to oven for 1/2 hour or until golden brown. Allow to sit for 8 mins. before serving.

Serves 6

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Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

To continue the Perils of Susie, I painted yesterday.  Once settled in a new home you begin to notice both its highlights and shortcomings.  Somewhat like being in a new relationship, caught in the throes of infatuation little things often get overlooked at first observation.  With this house there were several thumbs down on a list with many, many thumbs up.  One slight negative is the washer and dryer are situated on the lower floor.  I don’t mind, it’s good exercise climbing up and down the stairs, but they are in the hall between the two spare bedrooms with no place to fold the clothes.  Surveying the area, I came up with an idea.  Like Lucy, my ideas do not always go as planned, but this one was a keeper. Passing the idea on to a contractor helping us with some things needing to be fixed, he took it and ran with it.  A rectangular piece of wood with a hinged leg that would fold up against the wall and secure when not in use.  Voila.  $40 later it was up and running, however remained unpainted.As you can see by my cave drawing below, Frank Lloyd Wright is not turning over in his grave at being bested in design, but it works and I don’t have to fold clothes on the bed or on top of the drawer, so I’m happy.

Sooooo, Susie took herself to Home Depot and purchased a small pot of paint, a wee roller and trough, and a brush.  Rick in his favorite easy chair was lost in an afternoon of dreams of his niners going to the Super Bowl. I taped the painter’s tarp to cover the surrounding areas.  It certainly would have been easier to paint if still apart, but it was a small project after all, so should come together quickly.

FOLDING TABLEAt any rate, I threw on an old tee shirt with bees all over the front (my nemesis as you might know) and an old pair of shorts.  Down into the belly of the house I went, armed with my brush and roller.  After surveying the project, I decided to start with the underside first, or when the table is in the “up” position.  Easy peasy.  I pulled up the table and secured the pin, and poured some paint in the trough.  Finding the roller smoother than the brush and easier, I went with that.  Working around the leg in the middle was a pain and soon I had paint on my hands.  Unaware the rolling motion was jiggling the pin in the hinge securing the table, I continued down the board bending to reach the bottom. One last roll shook the board free from the hinge slamming it soundly down on my head fresh paint and all. The cat lying on the floor next to me, definitely cashed in a life on this one.  Not only did a lovely circle of stars form in front of my face, but because I was facing down, thankfully, wet paint was slathered all over the back of my hair. Damn the concussion, my hair was painted. Oh-oh.

Panicked, I headed towards the bathroom leaving a trail of clothes in my wake.  Rick, awakened by the noise and seeing the splotched project and line of discarded clothing, sprinted in the bathroom at a pace I haven’t seen him attain since the last time I served liver and onions. Offering the Reader’s Digest explanation, I stuck my head under the tap. He shook his head. Sigh, that again. Under the hot water I shampooed and rinsed twice praying I wasn’t going to still be Ivory Bisque when I got out.  A goose egg any mother goose would be proud of sprouted across my crown.  Toweled off and clothed, Rick checked my head for damage.  He suggested we call in a phrenologist to read my bump and determine why I do such incredibly stupid things.

In the middle of the night I woke up to giggling on the other side of the bed.  Yes, I said giggling, a grown man.  It seems the more he thought about what I’d done the sillier it got.  At least I contribute some comic relief to the relationship.

He checked me several times during the night to see if I was speaking in tongues or unresponsive.  Since I’m sitting here typing this undeniably stupid story about myself and sharing it with you, the jury is still out on whether or not my head suffered permanent damage.  To loosely quote Kelly Lebrock, “don’t hate me because I’m stupid”.

Today I will repair my mess, but I’m one step ahead of the game because I’m going in in full military gear, pith helmet in place.

I have to tell you this was great “jam”.  I hesitated to make it because I wasn’t sure it sounded like I’d like it.  Bacon, however, can make even liver taste good, so I gave it a shot.  Yum, I say.  I intended to make the sandwich, take the picture, and give it to Rick but after one bite I ate the whole thing and had to create another.

Breakfast Sandwich with Bacon Jam

l lb. bacon, chopped
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup ale
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp. pure maple syrup (I used pure Canadian)
4 Tbsp. chili sauce
salt and pepper
4 English muffins
4 fried eggs
Salt and pepper

In large skillet cook bacon until crisp. Set aside.

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Drain on paper towels, reserving 1 Tbsp. of grease in pan.

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Add onion and garlic to grease in pan. Cook over med. heat about 10 mins. until onion is translucent.

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Add ale, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup and chili sauce to pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 35-40 mins. until thick and bubbly. Add bacon and season with salt and pepper.

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Spread a spoonful on bottom of toasted and buttered English muffin. Top with fried egg and another spoonful of “jam” on top. Place top of English muffin over all.

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Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

Fall is lurking beyond the next corner.  Signs of the impending change are everywhere. Yellowed leaves caught up in the afternoon breeze can be seen spiraling to the ground and shadows stretch longer and arrive earlier in the day. Nobody loves this time of year with the associated leaves more than I do.  Lovely to hear the fall-leavescrunch beneath your feet during a brisk morning walk, and the natural cloth of color they throw across the table outside your window. As a kid in Nova Scotia, running and hurling yourself into the middle of a huge pile of newly raked leaves was an autumn right of passage. Like snow, however, leaves are pretty to look at and a pain in the rear to clean up after. Putting aside the negative aesthetics of having a yard full of leaves, fire season is fully upon us here in painfully dry California, and keeping your immediate surroundings free of ready fuel can come down to a matter of survival.

In our last house we had the same gardeners for eleven years.  It was a minimum upkeep yard with a pool in the back, built on the slope of a hill.  Every four weeks the family who tended it arrived in a truck, grandma, mom and dad, and teenage son.  They never missed, never raised their rates, and never did anything but a stellar job.  I miss them.  When we first moved in here we had them come once to do a general cleanup including their gas in the cost.  By the time we were done we could have purchased the adjacent lot.  So, I got a leaf blower. Shall I say we got a leaf blower. I say I got a leaf blower because I have learned over the years when Rick says “we”, it is in the hospital sense of the word. Like, “Have we taken our pills today?”.  He says it is an early Christmas gift, no need to thank him.

Now, I see you shaking your heads.  I’m not a big proponent of the noisy buggers either, but in our area you either blow or rake and our yard is huge and on a decided slope. Not the gazelle of my youth and looking terrible in traction, blow it shall be. I pulled the parts out of the box and assembled them.  Reading the limited instructions enclosed, it says the machine is guaranteed to produce gale force winds with the flick of a switch. Assuming this to be a noisy process and being a polite human, I waited for the virgin run until later morning. I’ve never operated a leaf blower up until now.  Not because I’m a princess I missed that line when signing up for this world, but because the occasion never presented itself I would suppose.

In the store, the salesman said it was easy peasy.  Plug it it, turn on the switch, light as a feather.  I found there are two speeds, 1 – Sub-Tropical Storm, 2 – Atlantic Hurricane.  Being intrinsically blonde I didn’t wear my glasses.  The first of many mistakes.  I began with speed 2 rather than 1, the second.  First, let me explain it is definitely not “light as a feather”.  For a full hour after I turned it off and returned it to the garage the muscles in my lower arms continued to involuntarily twitch.  For you fisherman, picture a freshly caught wide-mouth bass flopping around on the bottom of the boat.  Apparently I do not have the hang of it yet as when pointing the beast in one direction leaves, dust and debris blew everywhere.  There was, I must admit, a clean hole where I’d pointed, and the urgent need for an opthamologist.  The hole remained until I went over to the other side and began to work there.  Then, there was a clean hole in the new area and everything blew back to its original spot taking the new leaves with it.  Sigh.  After an hour it looked pretty good except for the fact that we’d only purchased a 50′ foot extension cord and needed a 100′, my bad .  There was a clearly visible line where the yard clean-up began and where the cord reached the end.  Ah well, I tried. Remind me to appropriately thank Santa for such a thoughtful gift by leaving him a liverwurst sandwich and a big glass of prune juice on Christmas Eve.

Speaking of Christmas, if we must before fall has even jump started, according to the news Kmart has already launched an advertising campaign to encourage shopping early.  Do you think we could at least purchase a pumpkin or change the flowers in our vases from summer to fall before they start with Santa themed ads?  I’m not ready.  That’s all there is to it.  My barbecue isn’t even cold yet and I’m still working on summer birthdays.  Ach.

We had company over the weekend and while out to dinner the conversation fell to the holidays.  Presents, in particular.  With extended families on both sides the cost of purchasing gifts for the adults and children in each family can get out of hand.  Rick said he read somewhere some families finish paying off Christmas from the previous year shortly before they start buying for the one coming up.  We’re not in that category, but it does get expensive.  As the little ones get older, or even once they can walk and talk, gifts on their lists to Santa get pricier.  What ever happened to Barbie or Lincoln Logs?  Gone are the days of a kid asking for a baseball bat, and even if they do, bats aren’t cheap these days, running upwards of a $100.00. Games used to be a go-to gift like Candy Land or Clue, but games for children these days are played on devices or Wii’s which can suck your supply of ready money quicker than Dracula at a Red Cross Blood Drive.

One year I watched in horror as a group of my offspring’s offspring tore into the gifts under the tree like army ants on a trek.  Such shredding and tearing has not been seen since the Watergate papers.  Clothes were thrown over shoulders and toys dumped in a pile.  My mouth dropped and my blood pressure rose.  This has never happened since, as new rules went into effect once the dust had settled.  Each child is handed a present and waits their turn to open it.  Thank you’s are in order whether it’s a crocheted soccer ball from Aunt Fran or an iPad from grandpa.

For me, I’d be happy to have a twinkling tree, the smell of stuffed bird emanating from the oven, Christmas carols playing in the background, and my family around me. A great deal of the joy of Christmas is wrapped in the anticipation. If every day was decorated so, it would make it less special. My humble opinion, again.

I wanted to share this tomato jam with you. A new friend brought me a jar she’d put up and her source and I found both the jam and the source outstanding. I served it on a baguette slice with a slab of cream cheese and it was amazing. A great way to use up the end of the season tomatoes. Visit Jennie’s blog at use real butter for the recipe and directions. You won’t be sorry.

jam

These potatoes are Rick’s No. 1.  The bit of onion adds just the right touch.  It is difficult to put exacts on the ingredients, as I’ve made them so often I fly by the seat of my pants so taste and add as you go, but this is very close.

Light as Air Oniony Mashed Potatoes

6 russet potatoes, peeled and cut in eighths
6-8 Tbsp. butter
4 Tbsp. sour cream
1 cup whole milk
2 Tbsp. grated onion
Salt and pepper
Paprika

Cover potatoes with water in large saucepan. Bring to boil over med-high heat. Reduce heat and continue cooking at a low boil until fork tender and well cooked but not mushy. Drain well.

Heat milk in small saucepan over med. heat. Do not boil. Set aside.

Place in large bowl. Mash well with fork, reducing to small pellets. Add 2 Tbsp. butter and 1 Tbsp. sour cream and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Beat on high speed for 1 min. Add 2 Tbsp. butter and remaining sour cream. Beat on high speed for 1 min. Slowly add hot milk and beat until mixture is smooth and fluffy, 3-4 mins., stopping to add salt and pepper and to taste.

Add grated onion and additional butter, if desired, and whip again on high. Adjust seasoning. Spoon into serving dish and top with pat of butter and dusting of paprika. Serves 6.

Note: I like mashed potatoes light and fluffy, no lumps. Cooking them correctly is key and also whipping the heck out of the works for me every time.

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