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final final
Seems the world is brimming over with anger these days. People are frustrated and lashing out in so many different directions. It’s hard to maintain a happy outlook with all that is being thrown in our direction. Ever noticed how contagious a bad mood can be? Even if you’ve been vaccinated it spreads like a sneeze in an allergy ward. People suffering from a bad mood are easily identifiable. Symptoms include a perpetually down turned mouth, protruding lower lip, varying degrees of Turrettes Syndrome-like behavior, loss of functional sense of humor, and generally wanker-like behavior. I’m just sayin. We all suffer from bad moods now and again, some of us more often then others. I’m not naming names here. You’ll recognize yourself if you’re out there.

Most of the time I’m a fairly happy human. Just in my general makeup I think. Over the years, when the situation has dictated it, I’ve been depressed or suffered through some sad moments, but for the most part I’m up and raring to go every morning I’m lucky enough to find myself here. This I consider a blessing, and one I am very thankful to have been given.

Getting mad here and there is a good vent. I’m not saying one should run about looking perpetually as though you just got a double shot of Demerol, but attitude really is important on managing life. Realistically sometimes life hands us loaded bombs of misery which no amount of smiling silliness is going to erase, but for the most part happy upbeat people are generally more pleasant to share an afternoon with. In my humble opinion again, as always.

Another thing I don’t have a lot of patience for is arguing. Fighting to me is energy draining, solves little, and generally leaves you with a less than satisfactory conclusion. If you think you are right and your opponent thinks they are right, most likely after expending all the energy to debate the issue the outcome will be you think you are right, and your opponent thinks they are right. Hmmmmm. What’s wrong with this picture? Debating a subject is a totally different chicken. Debating, actually, can be stimulating. Invoking you as a participant to address other points of view and be open to other ideologies or philosophies not your own. Airing differing opinions on a subject and looking at both sides can be fun. When it goes beyond healthy debate and blooms into full time aggression, however, I say it’s time to put a cork in or or take one out and get over it. Agree to disagree, or put it away. I had a counselor once who said, “ask yourself how important it is in the scheme of things in your life, to win the argument”. Are you listening to the person on the other side of the disagreement or waiting impatiently for them to finish a thought so you can interject what you want to say? She suggested you rate the importance on a scale between 1-10. If you’re at 10 take a walk, do some push ups, mow the lawn, and come back to it when you’re at a five or below. I liked that idea.

The counselor I referred to above was teaching at a communications seminar I attended in the late 70’s funded by my job. Ahhhhh, the age of enlightenment the 70’s. We were mixed into classes with strangers and taught skills to communicate our feelings in a more productive way both in our business and personal relationships. Some worked, some not so much. During the seminar they put us in pairs. After choosing a partner they asked us simply to say to one another, “yes” and “no”, with each participant taking one side. In the beginning we were to say the words calmly. For example, I would say “yes”, in a calm voice and my partner would answer with “no” in a like voice. As we moved forward each time we exchanged the words we were to accelerate the level of our voices getting louder with each time around. By the time we were yelling I found my pulse racing and that I was actually angry. A really interesting study on how you present what you are saying and at what level.

Odd really how alike we are all in basic makeup, yet how drastically different one personality is from the next. Although they say we all have a “twin”, I’ve never found mine. Overlooking that possibility we are left with the fact each of us are totally unique as beings. Taking all that into consideration it is amazing any relationship, not to mention marriage survives after the first hello. When asked what I believe is the magic combination for a lasting union I always answer compromise, love, and friendship. When the initial blush settles down to day to day living, friendship becomes really important, for me at least.

So, I shall continue on my way content to be more of a lover than a fighter and associating myself with those who feel the same.

This pie would make a pretty addition to a July Fourth table but like magic it will disappear quickly.

Berry Berry Pie

1 baked and cooled pie crust

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place pie crust in pie pan and top with two layers of tin foil. Fill tin foil with loose dried beans. Bake on lower rack of oven for 25 mins. Remove foil and continue to bake about 5 mins. until bottom of shell is brown. Cool on wire rack.

Filling 1

1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese softened
3/4 cup confectioners sugar
2 tsp. lemon zest
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

In small bowl beat ingredients until light and fluffy. Spread onto bottom of cooled pie shell. Keep refrigerated until you add filling 2.

Filling 2

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup water
1 3 oz. pkg. strawberry gelatin
1 Tbsp. butter
2 lbs. hulled strawberries, whole
1 cup blueberries

Mix sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, salt, and water together in small saucepan. Bring to boil over med. heat stirring constantly until boiling. Continue stirring for 2 mins. until liquid is clear and slightly thickened. Add gelatin and mix until dissolved. Add butter. Pour over berries and toss to mix. Spoon into shell. Cool at least 4 hrs. before serving.

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Here we are at Fourth of July, or at least breathing down its neck. Hard to believe half this year is gone already. Sometimes lately the hands of the clock seem to be whizzing by like a scene from the Time Machine. Fireworks shows are planned all over the Sacramento area. I’m a bit confused at this choice. To me it smacks of the same intelligent thought process leading a man guarding a pile of gun powder to light a cigarette. Not that I’m trying to rain on anyone’s parade, rain being the word of the day here, but with the tinderbox atmosphere of this water starved state it seems a bit risky. Again, this is just my opinion.

This has been a hot week. Our air conditioning is buzzing along filling up PG&E’s coffers most of the daylight hours. Truly I am missing the pool we had in our last house. Love our new home but the pool definitely was a bonus during the summer months. I spent a good part of my days doing laps once the triple digit numbers moved into the area. Certainly we saw our grandchildren more often when the pool was available. Of course we lived closer to them and they don’t drive so I have to give them that.

Humidity is hanging around as well with dry lightning storms hitting the mountain areas. As I’ve mentioned many times I lived in the southern states over a period of time in the 1990’s. Arkansas and Alabama, specifically. We arrived in Arkansas in the dead of summer. Before going I’d steeled myself to facing humidity, or so I thought. However, coming from California with little humidity, I was totally unprepared for what oppressive air I was to find on our arrival. Air conditioning isn’t a luxury in the south to my mind, it is a necessity. I imagine there are homes without it but was I to live in one I believe I’d plant myself on a block of ice and sit there until fall arrived.

Ashdown was the small town we settled into, located in the tri-state area of the Arkansas delta. Tri-state because in the southern end of the state it rubs noses with Louisiana and Texas to the south and west respectively. My husband at the time was scheduled to start work at the lumber mill. While he got settled in at work, I was to locate housing and get us moved in. Like snails, construction workers working the mills and refineries move along the chain carrying their belongings on their backs from town to town. Ashdown was a small town, even by small town standards. It had a Wal-Mart, several markets, a gas station, the lumber mill, and a Dairy Queen. After living in the south for a while I was to find a town might not have a stoplight, but by God a Wal-Mart sign could be seen poking through the trees. Although a quaint and rather lovely little place, Saturday night the joint definitely wasn’t jumpin, if you get my drift. One neighbor told me “most people around these parts when it gets hot, are happy to just sit around and watch the grass grow”, and grow it did. The humidity allowed for a daily rain shower to douse the hot ground making in steam and sizzle like water on a hot griddle. Abundant water contributed to the lush overgrowth present everywhere you looked. The lingering smell emanating from the rotting vegetation was to become a familiar visitor to my nostrils.

Locating a house to rent proved to be more of a task than originally thought. There were houses available, but in the area we wanted to live, fewer were listed on the real estate roster. Finally, I found and secured a house in good condition, with an air conditioner, and a huge yard at the back of the property. There were three bedrooms, a dining area, two bathrooms, and a massive kitchen facing out towards the street. Good to go, we welcomed our furniture arriving by van several days after the deposit was laid down. Yea.

The day we moved in was brutal. Temperatures moved far beyond the 100 mark and 98% humidity. I’ve been in saunas that provided less moisture. Not one to think things through to their logical conclusion, when I’d originally looked at the house I’d asked about the air conditioning and was assured there was a unit in place. “A unit” being the optimum word in this sentence. One unit, in the living room, protruded through the window. When turned on it rivaled a jet engine in decibels and laboring along managed to provide cool air for the room it was in and slightly beyond. As for the bedrooms, you could fry an egg on the pillow case if the stove top wasn’t working. For that first month we lived in the living room, appropriately enough. We ate there, we slept there, and if we could have put a porta-pottie in there, well, you know. Even the dog and cat moved their bowls in there, hesitant to step into the rest of the house. On the way home from work my husband would pick up a huge bag of ice which we’d chop and deposit in our portable cooler. While cooking I wore a wet towel full of ice either around my neck or on my head. Making me sweat just writing this.

At the end of a miserable month I contacted the landlord. Either he needed to do something or we were going to have to move. Sigh. The thought of moving all that stuff once again didn’t appeal to me, but the heat was getting me down. A man arrived the following weekend in a white van. I was to find out aside from installing air conditioning and heating units he was a lay preacher traveling from one church to another spreading the word. While in our house he left a volume full of shared thoughts for us to enjoy. What a character he was, but with all his postulating came blessed air so I was glad to have him there even if I did have to wear earplugs to reduce the noise level.

Thankfully, we have a great A/C in this house so I will enjoy it today I’m sure.

The beginning of the year I went to a restaurant with my daughter which served the most delicious deviled eggs. Now, I see you nodding your head. How many versions of deviled eggs can there be? I’m telling you these are delicious. I came home and worked on recreating them and this is what I came up. Just yummy. I’m sure you could use a regular purchased barbecue sauce but I like this one.

Have a great and cool day!

Barbecue Deviled Eggs

1 dozen eggs, hard boiled
1 1/2 tsp. prepared mustard
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
2-3 slices of cooked crisp hickory smoked bacon
Barbecue sauce (recipe below)

Peel the eggs and halve lengthwise. Remove yolks and mash well with fork. Add mustard, mayonnaise, and salt and pepper to taste. Fill eggs with prepared yolks.

Break the bacon up into 2″ chunks. Push one piece into the top of each egg. Drizzle barbecue sauce over eggs and bacon.

Barbecue Sauce

1 cup catsup
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup Kentucky bourbon
2 1/2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground mustard
1/2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 Tbsp. Sriracha sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together ingredients. Allow to sit in refrigerator for 2 hrs. before using.

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Heard a breaking news story this morning. Hold on to your handrails, “granny panties” are back in. Unbelievably, they devoted quite a few minutes of air time to this earth shattering revelation. What will we do? How does one go on? Dumpsters will be overrun with discarded thongs. Once loved bikinis will be tossed aside like yesterday’s news, pardon the pun. According to a lingerie shop owner in New York this is a rebellion led by younger women struggling to disassociate themselves with their mother’s choices. Really? Couldn’t you just marry well or become wildly successful? Oh, that would be for my children really. When thinking of these garments all I can picture were my grandmother’s drawers blowing in the breeze on the line in her back yard. A generously cut woman, there was enough fabric in the woman’s underwear to propel a frigate across the briny seas.

Wearing all that fabric under your clothes seems a lot to me, but in the end I am an old horse for whom change does not come easily. Certainly I have seen fads come and go. Recently retro clothes have begun showing up in the stores. I support the theory that if you hold on to something long enough eventually it will come back into style. Hopefully hot pants aren’t on their way in any time soon. Skirts go up and down like window shades on a sunny day. When in my twenties they leaned towards short and shorter. Girls in the office would sit with their hems barely reaching the chair cushion. Then they went mid-calf. Mini, midi, maxi, whew. It’s hard to keep up.

Men’s fashions don’t seem to have as far to fluctuate. Tie widths swell and dwindle, lapels change, and vests are in and then they’re out. In a large department store the other day I noticed a man sporting a tie so wide it took up all the white space between his lapels. All he needed was a curly green wig and a flower that squirted water and he would have been good to go. Don Johnson encouraged men to set their ankles free and wear no socks. A look that suited him well, but not everybody else. Some people simply have an intrinsic sense of style which serves them well. As with many things in life, this gift is not extended to all of us.

Shoes really fly about the spectrum. Tall spiky heels are replaced by chunky block heels suitable for maiden ladies to wear with support hose to bible study on Wednesday nights. Thankfully, the 6″ lethal weapons fashionable over the past few years seems to be notching down a bit. Not that it effected me one way or the other, because if I asked my feet to tuck themselves in a pair of shoes with that much angle they’d pack their fallen arches and head for greener pastures.

Men are stepping into color, which I truly applaud. Not just blue or green, but actual vibrant colors. The males in the animal world in general are often the ones with the colorful plumage after all. Why not humans?

Today, in our area at least, less clothing is more. Our weather map shows 100’s marching down the map through next week. Whew. These days between the drought, the oppressive heat, and the high fire potential the “California dream” is leaning a little more towards a dream where something slimy jumps out of the closet rather than visions of Angora bunnies or winning the lottery. On days like this when the heat radiates through the windows, we hole up like mole people and take care of things we’ve been putting off. Thank God for air conditioning. People who lived before it came to be must have suffered through hot months. I can’t imagine. Yesterday I went into a donut shop to pick up a couple of twists for my other half. We try to keep our white sugar to a minimum, but every once in a while the guy has just gotta have it. Inside were a sweat coated couple, obviously owners of the shop. To say it was hot, and unbelievably humid, in the small shop would be a gross understatement. Perhaps they were economizing by not cranking up the air, or with the cooking going on it couldn’t battle the machines, but Lord, Lord, it was HOT. How they worked in there I have no idea. The donuts were out of this world, however. Perhaps humidity is good for the dough.

My first job was in a bakery. Sixteen at the time with a freshly signed work permit, I donned my hair net and hi ho, hi ho, it was off to work I go, or went, as the case may be. I don’t think language seems to matter anymore, so I’ll take liberties with it. I “seen” it happen all over the place. Cringe. The smell inside the bakery was enticing. Sweet, sticky smells with cinnamon afterthoughts permeated the air. Yum. Employees on hiring were told they were welcome to eat as much as they could consume. The mother lode. Now, let me preface by saying I’ve never really been a “sweet” person. Hmmmm. Let me rephrase. I don’t lean towards sweets, but offer me a bowl of French fries and I’ll sell out my own mother. Better.

Small signs were posted behind all the trays of goodies to help the clerks remember the prices of everything. Their bread, which was delicious, could either be sold whole or cut on the slicer sitting on the back counter. In the back of the store, where all the work was done, a team of bakers (all hatched from the same nest) sweated over cinnamon rolls, and chocolate chip cookies while listening to Credence Clearwater run through the jungle.

As I’ve mentioned, math was never my strong suit. We had no computers so you were stuck with what God gave you and a calculator to make things happen. Had the fate of the world depended on my math skills, we would have been extinct long before now. How I made it through those three months (I only worked my summer break) without putting them under I have no idea. If the little sign said, 3 cookies for a dollar and they bought 4 cookies, I sort of went with the flow and came up with an appropriate number when charging people. Amazingly I didn’t get fired nor did anyone ever complain. Perhaps I was undercutting rather than overcharging? A question that will remain unanswered in the world I’m afraid.

At any rate, this recipe is quick on the grill and totally yummy.

Bacon Wrapped Pork Medallions with Fiorentina Sauce

1 1/2 lb. pork tenderloin cut in four pieces
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 slices uncooked bacon, halved

Remove fat and membrane from each medallion. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Wrap around center with 1/2 of a piece of bacon securing the ends with toothpick.

Preheat grill to med. high. Brush grates with oil. Grill covered until internal temp reaches 145 degrees turning frequently to crisp bacon.

Remove from heat and roll in sauce. Serve immediately with extra sauce on the side.

Fiorentina Sauce

1/3 cup EV olive oil
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. ground sage
1/2 tsp. ground rosemary
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. lemon zest
1/4-1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
Salt

Mix all sauce ingredients together and place in shallow dish.

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finalBlogging is definitely not for you if you’re overly sensitive, because there are simply going to be times when something you write is either not well received, not read, or simply isn’t the best piece of writing you’ve ever done. I’ve been writing this  blog for over five years now, and all of the above have happened to me. Like everything in life sometimes you’re going to ace it, and sometimes you’re sadly going to fall flat on your face. Cooking is the same. Every meal is not going to be met with raves when you bring it to the table, and some, hopefully a fairly high percentage, are going to be hits.

Many times I’ve written about the bumpy road I followed to learning the ins and outs of my first kitchen. With each meal I cook I take something besides the end result with me. I thoroughly enjoy researching what goes on our plates here at our house. I like to blend flavors and tweak recipes to try something new and different. Alternately I like the old favorites like the Beef Wellington I just posted. I don’t expect anyone to be surprised by the recipe, it’s been around a long time, but this is the best version I’ve tried personally so I put it out there for someone looking for a good one.

Entertaining, for me these days, is for the most part fun.  Personally I lean towards small intimate dinner parties or barbeques on the deck over larger groups.  Human nature being what it is, people tend to gravitate towards their comfort zone. The bigger parties often end up with the people who know each other talking amongst themselves in individual pods around the room.  Two to four couples create a more intimate mood with couples more likely to engage the other in  conversation.  This gives you an opportunity to get to get to know each other better when the evening is over.  At least, it works for us.

Planning a dinner party involves some work in either case.  I like to set the mood and create a colorful table with fresh flowers, a candle or two, and mix and match dishes with cloth napkins (dish towels cut in half work well if hemmed).  Back when I was starting out I rarely cooked an experimental dish for company, but these days I throw it in the pot and make sure the wine cabinet is stocked.

What you put into the dinner as far as ingredients will definitely influence the end result.  Fresh vegetables, a good cut of meat, excellent cheese and an intelligent wine choice really make a difference in achieving a dining experience your guests will remember.

This brings to mind a dinner party that I went to in my thirties.  Danville, California, was home at that juncture of may life. An upscale, yuppified community in a beautiful hilly area on the inland side of the Bay Area. Being Team Mother for my son’s soccer team helped expand my group of acquaintances more quickly than usual when moving to a new location.

Married to my second husband at time,  a gregarious sort of human who loved to entertain and thoroughly enjoyed having a group of people around him to hang on his every word, of which their were many.  Women used to remark frequently how “lucky” I was to have him.  This is me being quiet.

One couple often found seated at our table asked if they could reciprocate our hospitality by inviting us to a barbecue the following weekend.   Offering to contribute an appetizer plans were made and directions exchanged.

Arriving at their home the following Saturday night, we found a gorgeous two story home in the country. As if the inside of the massive house wasn’t impressive enough the backyard should have been decorating the pages of House Beautiful. Three separate decorative brick patios rose in levels up the hillside culminating at a beautiful lagoon type pool where our children were already happily swimming. Clay pots large enough to decorate the pyramids were evident everywhere overflowing with lovely floral displays. A Yorkshire terrier named Charlie ran about barking warnings as people began to invade his territory. Chaos in paradise.

All this opulence overrode a comment made by a friend that the Lord of this manor was a bit tight.  By this I don’t mean he was hitting the margaritas a bit heavily, but more that his wallet hadn’t been opened since Nixon was impeached.

Sitting in the lovely setting we enjoyed the sun and pleasant conversation.  Baked potatoes in foil covers could be seen under the hood of the gigantic built in barbecue. Next to the edifice an enormous piece of round steak waited its turn on the grill on a serving platter.  Now, I’ve done a lot of things with round steak in my time.  I’ve marinated it for several days, slow cooked it, tenderized it, pressure cooked it, pounded it into Swiss steak, but barbecuing it without any of these steps never occurred to me.  There is a reason for that. Intrinsically round steak can be a tough cut of meat. Slapped as is without tenderizing on the bottom of your shoe it would serve as protection if trekking from the west to the east coast.

The host explained that he had gotten the slab of meat on sale and preferred it to filets. In what universe was that? I asked at that point for a refill on my cocktail, having a feeling I might need my teeth to be slightly anesthized for chewing as the evening progressed.  Asked how we liked our meat cooked, I opted for rare leaving at least an opening for getting it down. Several cocktails to the good the cook then proceeded to char the entire side of beef well done. House fires leave less cremated remains.

That first piece of meat took me fifteen minutes to break down.  During that meal I left the table so many times to use the bathroom and get rid of pieces of meat I finally said I was suffering from a bladder infection, so as not to hurt my host’s feelings.

Dinner finally over, with half the meat still sitting on my plate, I was offered a doggie bag.  My husband was on his own. Unusually quiet, he persevered cutting the meat in miniscule pieces so as not to choke on it.  Arriving home our golden retriever, Barnaby, accepted the “doggie bag” quickly burying it under the plum tree in the back yard. That tree went bad the following year, we always wondered if there was some connection. Forgot to mention it was chocolate pudding cups for dessert.  Mmmmm.

They were very nice people. We enjoyed their company and appreciated their hospitality, but I remember the dinner for all the wrong reasons.

An array of fresh fruit with an assortment of cut cheese, or a bowl of ice cream with berries is not expensive but sets the mood.  If you can’t afford a nice cut of meat, a pasta with a delicate sauce or tuna salad with deviled eggs at the side. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just well thought out. I’ve eaten peanut butter and jelly with the crusts cut off and thought I was styling. That’s all I’m saying.  Anyhow, my thoughts for the day.

These beans are absolutely the best. I like the sauce so much I sometimes add some chicken and serve these over a bed of pasta. The radish crisps are the perfect topping (also good by themselves or in salads.)

Greek Green Beans with Radish Crisps

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (less if you like)
2 15 1/2 oz. diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. basil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. dried dill
2 Tbsp. freshly chopped parsley
1/3 cup crumbled Feta cheese
Radish crisps

Heat oil in deep saucepan over med. heat. Add onion and saute until translucent, about 6-8 mins. Add garlic and pepper flakes and continue cooking for 1 min.

Add green beans, tomatoes, oregano, basil, and salt and pepper. Bring to boil. Cover and continue cooking for 40 mins, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat and add feta and dill mixing well. Top with radish crisps.

Radish Crisps

Oil for cooking
4 large radishes, sliced thin
Garlic salt

Heat oil over high heat. Oil should just cover bottom of pan. When shimmering add the sliced radishes in batches. Brown well on both sides until crispy. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with garlic salt.

Serves 4-6

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Father’s Day has come and gone once again. Rick feels fathers always get a bit slighted when it comes to holidays. Historically when his kids were growing up, so he tells it, Father’s Day meant going to brunch with extended family.  When the bill arrived people scattered like ants on a hot grill, leaving him to retrieve his wallet from his pants. Saturday he went to the market and reported seeing tons of “dads” wandering about the store piling their carts high with what appeared to be party supplies. Somehow this didn’t sit well with him. Most probably tons could be whittled down to a more manageable amount like ten, but nonetheless this translated to him dad’s are not getting a fair shake. Now, I could tell stories about cooking for crowds on Mother’s Day, but I shall keep my own counsel and allow him to let off a bit of steam.

I believe, though don’t hold me to it, Mother’s Day to be the biggest greeting card holiday of the year, with dad’s lagging in the background somewhere. As the kids are spread out we will be celebrating his big day just the two of us. To ease his pain he has requested Beef Wellington, so I will be wrestling with puff pastry and duxelles while he is stretched out watching his soccer games. Beef Wellington is a dish I used to be intimidated by, but now I look the puff pastry directly in the eye and come out swinging.

A present was in order. Rick always gets something for me on Mother’s Day, though I had nothing to do with his birth. Women are easier to buy for I feel. Men, I find, are difficult to buy for unless they have a specific hobby or pursuit you can tap into. Rick isn’t a tool kind of guy, nor does he pursue any sport vigorously like fishing or golfing (armchair sports not included). Not a hobbyist either, sometimes I have no idea where to begin. Usually this has me running amok the week before any holiday presents himself. I try to be creative. This year, for example, I put together a gift bag with pictures specifically drawn for him and pics of the kids and grandchildren. Inside I put the usual items of clothes I picked up for him. Truly if I didn’t buy clothes for him I believe he would wear the same five shirts, two pairs of jeans, and four shorts for the rest of his life. Please don’t feel sorry for him. Lack of clothing is not the issue here. He has some beautiful shirts hanging in the closet, most still sporting their tags. I have spent the week clearing out and selling most of the clothes I don’t wear anymore so I suggested he might do the same thing. Retrieving all the unworn clothes from his closet and leaving him to sort through them I came back an hour later. There were two piles on the bed, one the “sell pile”, the other the “keep pile”. The sell pile had two items in it, with the keep pile about forty. Really? The explanation was he might need the keepers somewhere down the road. Uh-huh. I’ve been moving the same summer and winter shirts up and down the stairs as the seasons change for fourteen years now and the tags are still on them. Ah well. In the scheme of things whether they’re in the closet or in the mail isn’t going to make much difference fifty years from now, so no worries.

Three trips to the store were required in an effort to make two Beef Wellington’s. I don’t believe Gordon Ramsey is going to contact me about joining his kitchen staff any time soon. In my hurry I picked up puff pasty shells rather than sheets. Not going to work, unless I pushed the steak in the hole in one end and hoped for best. Home again with my pastry sheets I rummaged through my produce drawer looking for shallots. Locating them, I quickly determined they had gone south and weren’t coming back anytime soon. You can do onions and garlic if out of shallots, but substitutions are just that, substitutions. Fine. A burger I would take a shot, but with filets and pate, nope, not going to do it. Shoes back on again I went back up the hill. As the crow flies for us it is about a half hour trip to the store, not including shopping time. I bought shallots and returned home only to find red wine in the cupboard, when I knew the recipe called for white. Again with the shoes in place, I went back to the store for wine. Going through the checkout line I ignored the strange look sent my way from the same checker probably now fully convinced I was either suffering a breakdown of some sort or casing the store. Placing the wine down on my kitchen counter, shoes off and apron on I realized I was out of butter. How could I be out of butter? I am never out of butter. Usually I have several boxes in the freezer, but not Sunday. No, not Sunday. Could use margarine. What? Now I was having a breakdown. If I used margarine for Beef Wellington I believe Lord Wellington himself would rise from the grave and pay me a visit himself. Forget it, I’m giving him Papa Murphy’s and calling it good. Simply form the pizza dough around a wad of pepperoni and that will have to do. Ahhhh, I know, it was Father’s Day after all. Shoes on I headed back to the store quite sure the clerk would have me arrested on sight.

In spite of the interruptions and confusion two lovely golden pastry pods made it to the table and were thoroughly enjoyed. This recipe is certainly not geared for dieters but once in a while one has to unbutton the top button and go for it.

Hope your Father’s Day was filled with family and laughter, or at least good food.

Individual Beef Wellington for Two

1 Tbsp. butter
4 6 oz. filet mignons
Salt and pepper
2 oz. duck liver
1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
Mushroom duxelle
1 large egg beaten, plus 1 Tbsp. water

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cover baking sheet with parchment paper.

Heat butter over med. high heat in heavy skillet. Salt and pepper meat on both sides. When butter is foamy add meat and cook for 1 min. on each side. Remove to plate.

Cut puff pastry sheet in half. Should be malleable but still cold. Place 1 oz. of pate on top of each steak. top with duxelles (you may not use all them depending on taste – freeze remaining). Push onto meat. Turn topping side down in center of each pastry piece. Wrap like a present, making sure all edges are sealed. Brush with egg wash to seal any open edges. Brush entire crust with wash.

2

Place seal side down on parchment paper. Cook 15 mins. for med. rare, 20 mins. for medium. Allow to rest for 10 mins. after removing from oven.

Duxelles

1 lb. of mushrooms, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. butter
Juice of 1/2 lemon
4 shallots, finely chopped
6 oz. heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Squeeze lemon juice over the chopped mushrooms. In large skillet melt butter over med.-low heat. Add shallots. Sweat for about 1 min. Add mushrooms. Cook for 8-10 mins. or until liquid has disappeared. Add heavy cream and continue cooking until thickened. Remove from heat.

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1
T.G.I.F.! Even though I’m not working full-time these days, Friday still feels like a day of celebration for me. Too many years of looking forward to the clock rounding that last hour signalling the end of the work week, I would guess. Americans in general tend to clock more work hours than the rest of the world. France, for example, has a thirty-five hour work week. This both eases unemployment, and gives workers needed time off enhancing their “quality of life”.

There’s nothing wrong with hard work. I support it. In my experience people who have put little effort towards what they get often have equally little appreciation for it once they have it. However, there needs to be a line where you leave work behind, put on your party hat and get down to the business of enjoying your life.  The art of truly relaxing escapes many of us, including myself. Even if I sit down to watch a movie or read a book I’m often called away by that nagging little ass in my mind telling me I “should” be doing this or I “should” be doing that. Inevitably as soon as my foot rest is in the up position, my snack sitting on the table next to me, something calls me away. Often it is the phone. There was a time when if phone rang I felt compelled to answer it. After all if someone is kind enough to want my attention, shouldn’t I be polite enough to answer it? Yes, in theory, but unless it is an emergency perhaps not at the given moment the call comes in. I have friends who would crawl across hot coals to reach their phones. Money would be traded on dark street corners with scrupulous men to ransom the beloved devices. So attached are they the phone resides on their nightstand while they sleep to insure not missing any incoming texts or calls. Really?

One friend of mine recently left her cell phone in a restaurant. When she went back to retrieve it, it was gone. Arriving home without it, a panicked voice came in on my voicemail telling me her phone was stolen. So distraught was her voice I would have thought one of her children had been misplaced. I seriously thought she was going to have to be sedated. I heard a news story yesterday about a young guy who had a tracker on his phone. He followed the GPS to the location indicated and confronted two men in a parking lot. He was shot and killed for his efforts. Sorry, no phone for me will ever be worth that kind of sacrifice. I don’t care if it has an APP for cleaning the house. Hmmm, well I might at least attempt to find it.

Summer has officially arrived here in Northern California. Nature is celebrating the first day of summer by heading towards 100 degrees this afternoon. To keep cool I’m staying inside catching up on the projects in the house. One project is getting a “fire box” ready in case I need it. The news last night was monopolized by smoke filled stories. Fire season on the west coast can be miserable enough without adding the continuing drought to the pot. Our dry ground is the perfect fodder for any loose spark. A weed whacker or lawn mower could cause massive destruction if used carelessly. Living surrounded in the tall trees as we do fire is definitely something to concern yourself with. My mother has begun her “why did you choose to move to a wooded area” speech once again. Truthfully it doesn’t matter where you make your home, fire can seek you out. She has a valid point with regard to our area because we do have more fuel, if you will, than in more sparsely forested areas.

You can’t live your life worrying about what could happen. Wouldn’t really be living. Being prepared is smart thinking, but sitting around waiting for disaster to happen surely isn’t the formula for having a happy life. Let’s face it you can’t ever be fully prepared for what goes on day to day. Life has a way of throwing roadblocks in your way creating both pleasant as well as unpleasant surprises. A whimsical universe for sure filled with bumps and potholes along a road ablaze with fragrant wildflowers.

I was in the first year of an expected four years of college when the unexpected happened. I found out I was expecting. That’s a lot of expectations gone awry in the death of one rabbit. My second child arrived a year after the first and the rest, as they say, is history. Not that it can’t be done, but being a mother to two active toddlers, holding down a full-time job, and keeping a marriage on track was enough to fill the day, without books and homework added to the pile. Trying to keep up became a nightmare, with my two little ones being on the losing end of the program. College was postponed until later down the road, and in the end was just well, postponed. Sometimes I still go through available classes leaning towards signing myself up. Mostly art classes these days. Working in clay is an old passion of mine. I signed up to take a class once before, even buying the huge lump of clay and whatever else was needed. Life again stuck it’s nose in where it wasn’t needed and an emergency surgery had me in the hospital the day the first class convened. The clay dried and cracked ending up along with the leftover lasagna headed for the landfill. Perhaps a field mouse with a knack for capturing faces is working on it as I write.

I have neglected my art the last couple of years. My tablet sits downstairs with a pencil propped on top of it, but I haven’t picked it up in quite a while. Recently I discovered an art school in my area. Next week I’m going to to audit a couple of classes and see which one holds my interest. Perhaps there is a Georgia O’Keefe lurking beneath my skin yearning to express herself.

I believe because you start out in one direction does not mean you must continue going that way. If another road crosses your path it might be interesting to find what lurks beyond the entrance. Even it doesn’t take you where you want to go, you might enjoy the detour.

These beans are easy to put together and taste great.

Root Beer Float Beans

6 slices smoked bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, chopped
2 cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can Navy beans, drained and rinsed
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup root beer (not diet)
1/4 cup Kentucky bourbon
1/2 cup ketchup
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. Liquid Smoke
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp. coarse brown mustard
2 Tbsp. Frank’s hot sauce
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat oil in large deep skillet over med. heat. Add onions and green pepper. Cook about 8 mins. or until vegetables are tender. Add garlic and cook for 1 min. Stir in bacon, beans and all remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer.

Spray casserole dish with cooking spray. Pour beans into casserole. Bake uncovered for 45 mins.

Serves 8

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4
Rick says when I go he’s going to donate my brain to science. He feels there are things to be learned there. Several weekends ago I combed through my closet and discovered I had clothes on my hangers probably manufactured when Hot Chocolate was, well, hot. You’d have to know what a disco ball looks like to understand that reference.

There are a number of sites online available for recycling your used clothing. I picked one I’m familiar with, took my pictures, and started selling. It really is true one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Often I buy online from people selling used “stuff”. For them it’s cleaning out a hall closet. For me, decorating an empty spot in my house or getting a “gently used” pair of jeans.

The numbers started adding up next to the ten items I’d listed. After the bidding had closed half of the items had sold for more than I listed them for so I was pleased. A while since I’ve gone through this process it was fun watching the sold items stack up in my email. Each email included the buyer’s address and suggested I ship the sooner the better. Okay. I printed mailing labels, pulled envelopes, and sealed the sold items inside. Hopping into the car I whisked them off to the post office and my part of the transaction was done. When I got back to the house there was a new email saying I had been paid for one of the items. Another note further down said naturally the seller is not to ship anything until the monies are received in his or her account. Oh-oh. I started to giggle. Sometimes it is the only thing to do other than change your name or move to Easter Island. Thankfully, today the final payment was received from the honest group who purchased my items. Two of them received their packages before I received my money. Now that’s some seriously quick service. I noticed my rating as a seller went up. No doubt. Buy from Susie. She’ll ship it paid for or not.

Probably being the C.F.O. of a Fortune 500 company isn’t in my future. Numbers, for some reason, baffle me. Always words have been my strong suit. When in my twenties I accepted a temporary job in a bank. No computers at the time, or no personal computers on desktops certainly. I was to use a calculator. The job, as it was explained, involved taking stacks of deposit slips, adding each stack up and getting a grand total per grouping. Sounded a bit like a no brainer. I was placed in an office, handed the massive pile of paperwork, shown the calculator I was to use, and left to work. For four hours I added up the huge columns of numbers for each stack twice to check for accuracy. Each time on the second run I got a different result, and on the third, etc. You get my drift. Over and over I added never coming out with the same number more than once. Unbelievable.Truly what are the odds of that? You’d think just purely by accident I might have hit the same total twice. Absolutely humiliating. This was the shortest job I ever had. Arrived at 8:00 a.m. and was unemployed by noon. May be a record. Certainly my personal best.

Another short-lived job comes to mind while on the subject of failure. Burpee Seeds hired me to be their telex operator, again while in my twenties. Prior to that I’d been a keypunch operator, a secretary, an area director for the American Cancer Society, but never had I used a telex. I keyed like a Trojan so they hired me on the strength of that assuming the quick hands would easily translate to the Telex. Wrong, so very wrong. The first night everyone left at five while I sat feeding yellow strips of paper through the Telex doing the same outgoing message over and over again. At seven I was in tears when finally I got the job done. The following morning I explained to my new supervisor that in the interest of maintaining our up until that time good will, I would be seeking employment elsewhere. She didn’t thank me then, but believe me in the long run she would have sent up balloons at my announcing my departure.

The bonus of working for a temp agency, which I have on many occasions, is it gives you the opportunity to scope out the company and the environment before hiring on permanently. Like a relationship, it doesn’t take long to determine which direction the breeze is going to blow.

Over the years I have temped in the infectious disease department of a southern hospital collecting urine samples, at the drive-thru window of a feed and grain in Alabama, and as a lab assistant for a concentrated tropical juice company. One of my favorites was working for a McDonald’s supplier. Lots of freebies in that job. While under their roof you could eat all your pants would allow, but no taking the goodies home. Fortunately my job included a gym membership so I managed not to bulk myself out of a wardrobe in the six months I was there.

I’m talking about jobs a lot lately because I’m thinking about getting myself one. I don’t mind working actually, although I’m not fond of the process of interviewing. Particularly now where they dig into every part of you life up to and including what brand of toothpaste you prefer. I’m not a big social media person so they shouldn’t find anything too damaging on there other than an occasional recipe gone south.

This chicken is so crunchy and delicious.

Grilled Banana Pepper Brined Chicken with Honey Butter Sauce for Two

2 chicken hindquarters
Brine from 1 16 oz. jar of banana peppers
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. paprika
1 cup chicken broth
2 Tbsp. honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup cold butter, cubed
2 Tbsp. peanut or canola oil for frying

Pour brine in large resealable plastic bag. Add chicken and mush around. Refrigerate overnight turning twice.

Mix together flour, thyme, pepper, salt, garlic powder and paprika. Remove chicken from brine and discard brine. (Save banana peppers in refrigerator for later use.) Pat chicken pieces dry with paper towel. Dredge both sides in flour mixture.

Heat oil over med.-high heat in saucepan. Add chicken and brown on both sides (about 10 mins.) Turn heat off but do not clean pan.

Transfer to preheated grill and continue cooking, turning occasionally, until internal temperature of chicken reaches 170 degrees.

Return pan to med.-high heat. Deglaze pan with broth being sure to scrape brown bits. Add garlic and honey and simmer until broth has reduced to about 1/2 cup.

Remove from heat and whisk butter into sauce in increments until all butter is melted and sauce is thick. Pour over chicken and serve.

Serves 2

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