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finalThe debate over whether to or whether not to immunize children rages on. This time in the form of commercials warning parents against possible serious, if not deadly, side effects. I don’t know what I’d do if my children were still young. At the time I was raising them you got regular vaccinations as the time arose to do so. There was no will you or won’t you involved. If you planned on sending your children to school, no vaccination records, no school. End of story. I still stand on the side of immunizing as these serums have eliminated many of these childhood diseases. Why expose other children to something your child might be carrying risking infecting many because of your choice?

Perhaps space them out as was the original way of doing things. My daughter, who runs a day care, said the practice nowadays is to give cluster shots with several types of vaccinations rolled into one visit. One of her little guys had such his shots recently and the following day his leg was so swollen at the injection site necessitating a trip to the ER. Nothing serious evolved from that incident but it would be concerning to my mind when the follow-up shot came around.

Three or four weeks ago we had a scary moment with my son’s thirteen year old daughter. While at school she was asked to participate in a science experiment involving flashing LED lights. Asked first if she’d ever experienced seizures she answered truthfully, she had not. Going forward she did in fact have a seizure, passing out on the floor and flopping about in such a way the other students witnessing the event had to get counseling afterwards. Whisked off to the emergency room her frightened parents arrived shortly thereafter. Neurological tests were taken, along with several other general scans. In the end it was determined to be an isolated incident brought on by the lights. This is not uncommon in kids this age it appears, but I had never heard about it. Certainly my son and his wife feel they should have been consulted prior to my granddaughter’s involvement, so they could make the choice themselves. Thirteen year olds would most likely sign up to jump off the La Quebrada cliffs in Mexico if suggested to them, so perhaps need a little guidance is needed when making such a decision.

Hard to know when to step in and when to allow our children to experience life. Both my children tended towards being fearless as kids, so when things got to what I considered a danger point I put the brakes on where they would not have done so for themselves. Even with this protection in place there were accidents and broken bones and childhood illnesses that simply couldn’t be gotten around.  You want to teach them to make intelligent choices without putting a damper on their adventurous spirits. A bit of a tightrope walk that.

During their last years of high school I rented a beautiful house on a man-made water community called Discovery Bay. Builders created homes on a series of canals and inlets that fed into the Sacramento Delta. I gave them the option of either a graduation gift of a trip or living directly on the water for a year or two, and they chose the water. Our house was second in from the main waterway on a lovely cove community with eight docks in a circle leading down to the water. Never doing anything exactly on point, I had sold our boat three years prior. First I had a boat and no dock, then a dock and no boat. What can I say, I like to color outside the lines. Even with no boat the water offered up so many opportunities for fun. Besides several huge rafts and water toys, we had kept the jet skies. One particularly gorgeous summer afternoon I sat in my lawn chair watching the activities on the water. Weekends, people who kept second homes in the area, increased the traffic on the waterways considerably. A jet ski flew by going way too fast. I commented to my daughter whoever was driving it was an idiot. My daughter, always willing to address her brother’s ineptitude, pointed it was him at the controls. Standing up I began waving and yelling. Shortly in another speedy pass he waved hello back at me. Really? I can’t remember dropping him on his head as a baby. Fortunately this didn’t result in any bodily injury to himself or anyone else but his jet ski was dry docked for a few weeks while he thought about his “need for speed”.

Besides my two teens I had a literal zoo. Sugar the Samoyed, Barnaby the golden retriever, and Sushi the Shih Tzu shared space with us along with Kitty, the only feline. Pete and Gladys our hamsters were eventually eliminated from the mix by cranky Kitty who tired of the wheel keeping her up at night. Moving in I paid $2,800 in pet fees, if you can imagine. Whew. Personally, I would have charged for the kids and let the animals in free. They were far neater.

Barnaby, the retriever, had been my husband’s dog. When he passed the dog was left with me. I felt in his eyes I was a poor substitute for his beloved master, but we managed. One day when home alone I sat on the dock with Barnaby. A beautiful dog, truly, but not the sharpest pencil in the box. A water dog by nature, Barn liked to watch with keen interest the variety of ducks found drifting along the waterways. This particular day a mother duck and about eight ducklings came close to the dock to say hello, perhaps hoping for a crouton or bread crust we often tossed in the water. Barnaby, unable to contain his excitement, took one neat dive and headed south after the retreating ducks. Just before he turned the corner and disappeared I hopped on the huge raft tied to the dock and paddled out after him yelling his name. Finally, the tired dog turned back my way. Once at the raft he climbed up on top. With his claws digging at the plastic it wasn’t long before I heard a ssssssssss sound coming from beneath where the saturated pooch was sitting. Sinking as I paddled, people gathered on a dock next to mine watching and gesturing as I sank lower and lower in the water. A canoe was pushed off and the lone occupant began rowing in my direction. Once next to me, now fully in the water with Barn clopping about my neck with his front paws frantically. At our location the man somehow dragged the saturated animal into the boat. Eighty pounds when not wet I considered this to be quite a feat. Not able to pull myself up, I held on to the side while he rowed back to the dock. Turned out the man was part Apache. Saved by a Native American in a canoe in 1988. Who knew?

Company came yesterday. As usual I made enough food to satisfy a sumo wrestling training camp. A warm day I came up with this refreshing drink that seemed a big hit.

Fruity Hard Limeade

1 container Simply Limeade
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 lime, cut in thick slices
3 lemons, cut in thick slices
2/3 up sliced strawberries
1/4 cup blueberries
6 shots of vodka (more or less depending on taste)
Sprigs of mint
Ice

Mix together all ingredients but ice. Squeeze lemon ends into limeade with hands before dropping the rinds in. Allow to sit in refrigerator for 2 hours. Add ice to glasses and serve. Top with a sprig of fresh mint.

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1Well, the wedding is behind us. Always filled with emotion, weddings have a way of going left when supposed to be going right and tears often flow like wine from the open bar.

On our way out we left our SUV in economy parking taking the tram to the airport. Rick complained that the one bag he asked me to limit myself to was giving him a hernia. Checking our thankfully underweight bag we headed toward the security area to get that behind us.  Going through security we showed our boarding passes and ID.  As instructed we placed any carry on items on the conveyor belt to be xrayed. Rick turned to me and said, “see you in a ten minutes”. By this he meant I would, as usual, be pulled to the side for carrying something I wasn’t supposed to on board the plane. This time I had thoroughly read what could and couldn’t go and thought I did very well, thank you. Unfortunately, the TSA agents were all wearing Rick’s jerseys and did not share the my sentiment. Sure enough I stood while they went through my carry on bag, “hmmmmming” here and “oh-ohing” there. Darn. Moments later all my items were sitting on the table with my $14.00 shampoo peeking out of the pile in the trash can next to the agent. Perhaps I look like a mad shampooer who when irritated yanks shampoo from my bag and in a screaming rage begins soaping up other passenger’s hair. Anyhow, that behind us we went to the gate to wait to be called to board.

Southwest asks that you go on-line to confirm your flight 24 hours prior to takeoff. Not 24 hours and 1 minute but exactly 24 hours. I know this because I tried it. At any rate, how quickly you type in your confirmation information determines where you stand in line for boarding the plane. Perched over the send button when the clock turned to exactly 24 hours prior I hit send. Yea for me. There was no way to do this any faster. Looking at our boarding passes we were B11. This sounded close to the front. At the gate they called up all those people having “A” numbers. Where did all these people come from? They must have some seriously fast trigger fingers on the mouse. Perhaps I’m missing something here?

Finally our numbers were asked to line up and we boarded the plane taking a seat towards the back of the plane. Rick is claustrophobic when flying so he has to be seated on the aisle. Apparently the logic of this is that he feels he can escape if seated there. Where he goes after he takes off running up the aisle is still open to question. I sat like the creme center of the Oreo in the middle seat waiting for someone to ask us to get up again to fill the seat by the window. In short order a lady I would guess to be in her late forties stuffed a huge bag in the overhead compartment and sat down.

There were two legs to our flight. Sacramento to Ontario, then Ontario to Phoenix. A total of 3 hours and 55 minutes as the crow flies. Actually if the crow was plotting this route he’d go directly to Phoenix but the only flight we could get had one stop.

Anticipating falling asleep, I retrieved my book from my carry on bag to help me on my way. There was plenty of room for it now my shampoo was relegated to the recycling bin. Sigh. The lady next to me introduced herself, and I in turn introduced myself and Rick. On her way to Palm Springs to pick up her daughter, I learned they lived on an island in Washington state. Actually, in the hour plus to Ontario I picked up such a massive volume of information about her life I felt I could effectively pen her autobiography without missing any of the pertinent facts. All kidding aside, she helped me pleasantly pass the time and I found her a lovely and interesting person. However, I have to say if she got paid for every word she uttered the woman would be a multi-millionaire several times over. Rick went to sleep, the coward, miraculously reviving when the drinks were being served. So excited was I to be handed a bag of pretzels with my beverage by the flight attendant. I haven’t had this experience in years on a plane. Not much later they passed by with peanuts as well and I nearly fell to my knees.

Both the landing in Ontario and Phoenix were memorable. In Phoenix we came down, bounced a few times, braked to such an extent that my spine relocated up through the back of my head most probably protruding from my skull. Passengers, I believe a little nervous with all the mishaps on airlines in the news were buzzing a bit as they left the plane. Rick and I and one other soul were the only ones left from the original flight going on the Phoenix. The flight attendants busied themselves wiping down chairs and policing the cabin. Catching one looking at me while holding up a cloth, I was hoping the airlines didn’t include dusting in the price of the steerage seats. Never have I flown in such tight quarters. Any less room and you would literally be standing up. If you bring the tray table down it makes it impossible to move.

As the passengers booked from Ontario to Phoenix came on board, the three seats behind us were occupied with a family including Mom, Dad and a chubby faced baby with a springy patch of hair on his head and rosy cheeks. Later I was to learn they were in the States visiting from Japan. The baby was secured to his mother facing forward in an apparatus not unlike a backpack. Maybe this should be called a frontpack? The woman, probably weighing in at under 100 pounds, looked exhausted. Their other son, a stocky nine-year old, took the window seat next to me.

It was hot in the cabin and noisy. Soon the baby, freed from his carrier began to gurgle and fuss. Rick just looked at me. What? I didn’t pick these seats. Once the plane began its assent the baby went into full voice. Oh Lordy. His brother seated to my left inserted his earphones (apparently this wasn’t his first rodeo) and began playing a video game. Thankfully the little one settled down once we’d reached our altitude and straightened out and was quiet for the remainder of the flight.

The boy removed his headsets once the beverage service started. We talked conversationally while he ate his pretzels. Little blue men, sheep, and other animals bounced up and down on the screen of his device. I asked if they were Smurfs. This produced a look as if to say, “What’s a Smurf?” and “boy are you out of date”. Ah yes, I suppose I am. I was informed somewhat impatiently of the characters correct name which I immediately forgot and wished I had some headphones to put on.

Phoenix airport is a madhouse. Sacramento looks nearly empty in comparison.

Nice to be back.

This lamb is just finger licking good. The only real work involved is shelling the pistachios but from there on it’s smooth sailing.

Fabulous Pistachio Encrusted Rack of Lamb

1 rack of lamb, Frenched
1 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
1/2 Tbsp. Fines Herbes
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/3 cup pistachio nuts, chopped fine
1 Tbsp. plain bread crumbs
1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. butter, melted
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Mix together tarragon and fines herbes. Rub all over the meaty part of the rack. Salt and pepper both sides. Heat oil over high heat in large skillet. Brown lamb on both sides, about 4 mins. per side.

Remove from heat. Place lamb on prepared baking sheet. Slather fatty side of rack with mustard. Mix together remaining ingredients until they form fine crumbs. Rub on fatty part of lamb on top of mustard. Sprinkle with lightly with salt and pepper as desired.

Bake for 30-40 mins. depending on desired doneness.

Serves 2

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finalAs mentioned in my previous blog, last weekend we flew to Arizona to attend Rick’s daughter’s (I consider her one of mine as well). The accommodations were amazing. The hotel itself, oddly called the Valley Ho, was originally built in the 1950’s. Investors, obviously seeing potential there, painstakingly renovated the hotel holding firm to the original retro style. The attention to detail evident everywhere was mind-blowing. Seated outside poolside, Johnny’s Angel could be heard playing the background, or perhaps The Beach Boys cooing Little Surfer Girl.

Two pools as well as a hot tub decorated the beautifully landscaped grounds. The larger of the two pools mainly attracted the younger group also prevalent in the outside bar areas at night. Afternoons this pool was well populated Photo_RmSpa_04with well tanned abs. Umbrella bedecked drinks passed by on round trays and a band, playing mostly country rock, helped set the party like mood. Towards the back of the property was a large lap pool where families with children and the older crowd slathered on suntan lotion and reclined in the luxurious chairs provided for guests.

It’s been a long time since I’ve said something excellent about customer service, but if asked to grade this hotel I’d give them an A+. Whatever you needed seemed almost to appear in a Disneylike fashion at your fingertips.

Small touches in the rooms such as a silver tray of high-end liquors available at a price naturally, chrome racks with rolled fluffy towels in the bathroom, a spa robe for your use while there, and brightly colored walls with complimentary accents on the bed made staying there fun. A large private patio overlooking the pool was a great place to open up a book or enjoy a quick nap. Room service, if you wanted it, arrived quickly and the food was excellent and the coffee hot. Truly not one complaint from this guest, who would stay again in a hot minute.

On the day of our arrival we were instructed to meet downstairs at 3:00 for the wedding rehearsal. The weather, for Phoenix, was ideal. Hovering in the mid to high eighties with a slight breeze, it was desert living at it’s best. Phoenix at this time of year lures you to relocate. However, go there in a few months when the asphalt is so hot midday your shoes stick to the surface, and at least I will rethink any such thoughts and shelve them for another day.

At three we hopped on the elevator with other wedding party members and took it to the 8th floor. Doors opened onto a beautiful deck with a panoramic view of the city. The wedding, scheduled for 6:15 the following evening, promised to be Photo_Mtg_01spectacular. The minister, also the stepfather of the bride, put the wedding party through their paces. I sat with a glass of ice water enjoying the breeze against my skin and taking in the interesting rock formations all around me and the general hustle and bustle of the city traffic below us. Gorgeous.

Rehearsal over, we were told to meet once again in the lobby to carpool to the groom’s mother’s home for the rehearsal dinner. I have to say I was totally looking forward to the “dinner” part of this statement as nothing had passed my lips since breakfast and my stomach was starting to complain. The home where the event was held was incredible. A rambling ranch style home in Scottsdale, Arizona, reminiscent of homes you see displayed across glossy pages in magazines such as Sunset or House Beautiful. Each room was perfectly attired, walls lined with fabulous artwork, huge vases overflowing with unusual floral arrangements. Happily I would have settled in in the massive kitchen and made myself at home. Asking if there was anything I could help with, I was told the hostess was a little stressed because her housekeepers were off for the day. Hmmmmm. That must be stressful. Since they’re off perhaps they could head to my house. There’s work to be done.

Outside through French doors leading off the kitchen a massive covered patio made way for a huge expanse of well manicured lawn. To the left a fire pit flickered and off to the right a bartender stood behind a fully stocked bar waiting to fill your glass. Music coming from two incredibly small, but powerful, speakers helped to set the mood.

As the clock pushed forward and appetizers dwindled guests began politely inquiring about dinner. News came out the caterers had experienced plumbing problems and dinner was not, as originally thought, on it’s way to the table. Ach. I should have accepted that second prawn when asked. People gathered around the appetizer table as though the earth was on twenty-four hour alert and there was no more food to be had.

The hostess, now looking a bit the worse for wear, announced pizzas would be arriving in 30 minutes. There is a God. Crowds dispersed, weapons were holstered, and peace ruled the land once again.

In the end it was a glorious night. Unfortunately, I am one of those people who sends out signals to mosquitos in the area that the dining room is open and seating is available. Like a bear I kept rubbing up against whatever was handy trying to stop the infernal itching. By the next morning my skin looked like a relief map, but after a quick trip to the pharmacy calmed down a bit.

After lunch we grabbed ride from Uber to the Scottsdale Fashion Square. First time on Uber. Other than the driver getting lost coming to get us it was a good cheap way to get around town I have to say. The mall was impressive. OMG. I could have stayed there for hours, possibly days. I’m not a born shopper, but even I was enticed by the heady aromas of expensive soaps and perfumes and gorgeous window displays. Every elegant store yet created was represented. The trip, however, was to get Rick a shirt. The one we’d brought with us was cutting off his air. At Macy’s we located the right neck size but couldn’t pair it with the proper sleeve length. In the end we grabbed the one that allowed him to breathe and decided he’d hike up the sleeves the ceremony. If you’ve heard the expression, what a dog and pony show, please insert it here.

On to the wedding.

Yesterday Rick requested a homeland dish for him. Koshari is a traditional Egyptian dish. A bit of work but in the end proves to be an excellent meal with layers of flavors. This can be made ahead of time and pulled together at the last minute for serving. Yum.

Koshari

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Pita bread

For the rice

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup medium grain rice
2 cups vegetable broth

Heat olive oil in large skillet over med-high heat. Add rice and cook and stir until rice is a light golden brown (about 4-5 mins.) Add vegetable broth to skillet. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and cover. Cook for 15-20 mins. or until rice is cooked. Remove from heat. Let sit for 5 mins. Fluff with fork. Keep warm.

For the lentils

1 cup brown lentils
4 cups water
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced

Rinse and sort lentils. Place in medium saucepan and add remaining ingredients. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and partially cover. Cook for 25-30 mins. until lentils are tender. Drain. Keep warm.

For the macaroni

2 cups dry small elbow macaroni
1 Tbsp. butter

Cook the macaroni in boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain. Add butter and mix. Keep warm.

For the sauce

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 15 1/2 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
1 6 oz. can tomato sauce
2 tsp. Baharat spice blend (see recipe below)
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion. Cook 6 mins. or until onion is translucent. Add garlic. Cook until lightly browned.

Using food processor emulsion blender puree tomatoes with juice and 2 Tbsp. tomato paste. Add to skillet. Add tomato sauce, Baharat spices, red wine vinegar, and red pepper flakes. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook on simmer for 20 mins. Salt and pepper to taste.

Fried Onions

2 onions sliced thin
oil for frying

Heat oil in skillet over high heat. Add onions in batches and fry until crispy. Drain on paper towels.

Baharat Seasoning Blend

1 Tbsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 1/2 Tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
4 cardamon pods ground

Whisk together in small bowl. You will have seasoning left over. Keep for later use in sealed plastic bag.

Directions

Mix together rice, lentils and macaroni. Top with generous dollop of sauce, a sprinkling of chickpeas and the crunchy fried onions.

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1Our plans to attend Rick’s daughter’s wedding went just about as expected for my life. We had to rent him a suit because his went out of style about ten years ago. All this being a bit last minute for us, we found a place downtown renting formal wear and had Rick measured. The suit arrived at the store the two days before we were to leave. Stopping by for a fitting the pants were perfect, but that last late night donut stood in the way of the button meeting the buttonhole on the jacket. Oh-oh. A pinch of panic nipped at my spine. Not sure which size to move on to we called the people supplying the suit, or the saleslady did. Rick was measured again and a debate ensued about where to go from here. I asked if they could send the next two sizes in case the one up doesn’t work, or another glazed twist comes into view. Unfortunately, this wasn’t possible I was told. Prom season in full swing all their suits are in high demand. One size would have to be picked and fingers crossed. Naturally. So, we closed our eyes, pointed a finger at one size on the page, and made a decision.

After that experience we came home and I started packing. This was to be such a quick trip you would think a pair of clean underwear and a tube of toothpaste would suffice. Since there’s a wedding and rehearsal dinner packed in the middle, it required appropriate clothes for each so took a little planning. Literally I threw together an outfit for the wedding. I found a pretty skirt and located a top that went perfectly. At another store I picked up a feminine lacy shawl. A necklace and earrings were added, a pair of shoes purchased and I was good to go. At least as good as I get. Noticing my blouse needed ironing I wiped the cobwebs off my ironing board and set it up. Laying my blouse across the board I pressed one shoulder. Immediately a dark blue stain became noticeable draped across the top of the sleeve. Really? Now there was no time for me to run about finding something else to match so I flew downstairs and applied everything from carpet stain removal to Easy Off to the stain and tossed it in the wash. “PLEASE”, I thought, “let this come out”. My ulcer was working itself up to a frenzy in my nether regions. Ach. After an hour I heard the machine click off. Closing my eyes I retrieved my blouse and prayers answered the stain had disappeared. Yea for my team.

This brought to mind my prom days. I went to three proms during high school. My own and two at other schools. Two in my junior and one in my senior year. I was majoring in boys my junior and senior year and got an A for effort both years. All this promming required only one dress as each dance was at a different school saving my mother considerable outlay. Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth girls had their shoes died to match their dresses. I know. Peau de soie, I believe, was the fabric the shoes were made of. Apparently it lent itself well to dying.

At the last of the three, my date and I went out to dinner with two other couples prior to going to the dance. By this time I was a year older, two inches taller, and probably slightly filled out from the twelve-year-old boy physique I’d been rocking the year before. The dress was a rich shade of peacock-blue. Fitted just to the waist, with a long flowing skirt, it had been snug to begin with. Add a fully loaded baked potato, a steak, a couple of yeast rolls and butter, plus dessert, and there wouldn’t have been room for a skinny gnat to take refuge inside. What? I was a teen. Feeling as though exhaling was my only option I managed to fold my body into the back of the car before I heard the sound of tearing fabric. Truthfully, that lovely blue fabric never had a prayer pitted against the slabs of cheese sauce the restaurant loaded on the once healthy broccoli they served on the side. Like lava squeezing forth from an erupting volcano my back let itself out of confinement and was laid bare for all to see. Not good. Not good at all. Dropping the two other couples at the dance we made a quick trip to his parent’s house, the closest one to us. Surveying the damage his mother took out the sewing box and in a half an hour literally sewed me into my dress. Back in the car and breathing wee breaths of air we went to the prom. A made it through the night without passing out or vomiting, which was amazing because I spent most of my time thinking I was on the brink of both. This gave me compassion for all the women going before me whose bodies were pinched, strapped, and corsetted into submission all for the sake of beauty.

cute-shar-pei-puppiesAll wrinkles seem to iron themselves out if you wait long enough. My life has contained enough wrinkles to put together a litter of Shar-peis but I keep rolling along.

I will write of the wedding when I catch a breath and pull my apron out of the drawer.

This eggy spinach salad is delicious. We ate the whole bowl between the two of us.

Spinach and Egg Salad with Sesame Seed Dressing

1 bag baby spinach
2 avocados
5 radishes, sliced thin
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
3 hard boiled eggs, cut in wedges
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

Place all salad ingredients in salad bowl. Toss with dressing just before serving. Serves 4

Sesame Seed Dressing

1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp. lemon infused olive oil
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
1/4 tsp. sesame seed oil
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together ingredients. Chill for 1 hour.

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finalBunnies, and chicks and ducks, oh my! Every shelf in the stores is lined with soft fuzzy faces. Packages of Peeps in all sizes and colors, and bags of chocolate covered treats abound. Makes me long for being a freckled faced kid again. Actually I had no freckles, but somehow it sets the mood. How fun it was after Easter services to go to my aunt and uncles house to look for the colorfully dyed eggs they’d hidden beneath bushes or behind rocks. After all the eggs had been gathered there was always the Easter feast to look forward to. A clove studded ham or a prime rib usually on display center stage. Being a portly kid, food was something I chased after enthusiastically. Easter, was a day with my name written all over it. I was dressed to the nines for such occasions. As my mother tells it I was the best dressed kid in Halifax. I’m quite certain if you weighed my glistening Mary Jane’s or white dress socks with the yellow bunnies appliqued on the sides against the delicious chocolatey eggs with the gooey caramel centers you would have found I cared far less for the designs on my footwear than the candy I was about to consume.

One Easter returning to my aunt’s following church, I was allowed to ride in the front seat with my aunt. Seat belts weren’t an issue in those days. Kids roamed about untethered. Excited by the prospect of filling my empty basket with treats, I knelt on the seat chattering at my mother and cousins seated in the back. Bouncing up and down as we made a left hand turn I somehow hooked the door handle with my shoe. Before you could say Peter Rabbit I disappeared from view. Shocked occupants screamed for my aunt to pull over. Fortunately, I landed in the gutter on my well padded bum. Other than a few scratches in the end, pardon the pun, only my dignity was severely wounded. For several weeks when I sat it was perched on a donut. Not the glazed variety, but a plastic cushion with a hole in the center. It was an Easter I wasn’t to forget.

Getting ready for Easter this year, I’m again perfectly attired. Well, at least if they’re looking for somebody to fill in for the Easter Bunny. Allergies in full swing my nose is slightly pink and my eyelids red and irritated. All I need is a fluffy white tail and I’m good to go. With all the warm weather I’m sure optimistic barbecuers have a big day planned on Sunday. If they live around here the news that rain and snow are moving into the area might douse their fire, so to speak. For me I’m putting lamb on the table. Either it goes on the grill or in the oven but it goes.

Water is needed here, so I hope it pours. Lately I try not to waste a drop if it can be avoided. Water left in our glasses after a meal goes into a large container and is recycled in the garden to keep my flowers going. I haven’t done my usual spring planting because of the water situation. My planters on the deck bloom happily every year, however, and need a little water to keep them going.

Spring break is also in full bloom. I always wanted to go to Florida during spring break when I was young. Movies out at the time made it sound like the place to be. Don’t believe I’d allow my kids, if I had any say in the matter still, to attend. Not that I’m a buzz kill or anything but it’s become downright dangerous. Twice as an adult I’ve been in an area where kids gather at this time of year. Once I was captive on a cruise ship headed for Cozumel, Mexico with a huge crowd of college students bent on drinking all the liquor on board and depleting their trust funds. Late into the night howling kids prowled the hallways throwing up in the potted plants and leaving disaster in their wakes. During the day, the severely hungover occupied all available chairs on deck, green faces pointed toward the sun. Not a fun time for those of us beyond the days of chuggin beer through a funnel and seeing how regrettably stupid we could become. In retrospect, when viewing my life in reverse, I cannot remember a time where I entertained an intelligent thought while inebriated. When drunk, you seem to think every word you utter a pearl, and your opinions, good and bad, flow over your tongue like alcohol into your shot glass. Ah yes, I remember it well.

Another time we took our kids, middle school age, to Lake Havasu for a week during spring break. Who knew? That time we rented a huge motor home with two other couples. God it was hot when we arrived. Standing outside in the midday sun was an assault on your skin. The lake itself was gorgeous. I had been there when the idea of creating the water resort was still in the planning stages. Amazing to see where they took it after that. Boats were everywhere. Ours, at the time, already launched and waiting for a virgin run at the lake on the end of the pier. One of the couples had relatives who lived on the lake year round so we were to hook up to their generator during our stay. Unfortunately, their hookup wasn’t compatible with our RV so in the end all the food in the refrigerator had to be dumped and we slept inside the double wide trailer with our hosts and their family like twelve peas tightly tucked into a pod.

During the day the water was nearly impassable. Kids were visible everywhere and their glasses were full. At one point sitting on the end of the pier with my children a boat went by pulling a naked skier. As he passed he held up the beer bottle he was holding by way of a salute. Nice. Boats, like vehicles, are equally as dangerous when you’ve had too much to drink. We went out early in the morning to ski while everyone was sleeping off the night before.

Wherever you are, I hope you have a happy and safe Easter.

This dessert is truly rich and decadent. Perfect for a special occasion such as Easter dinner. Sort of a drink in a dish. Smile. Top with ice cream or whipped cream. Yummy.

Intoxicating Bread Pudding

4 cups artisan bread, cubed
1 1/2 cups raisins
8 eggs
4 cups milk
3 oz. good bourbon whiskey
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray 9 x 13 with cooking spray.

In large bowl combine bread and raisins. Set aside.

In second bowl whisk together eggs, milk, and whiskey.

In third small bowl combine dry ingredients. Add to egg mixture and mix well.

Pour over bread and raisins. Stir until well mixed.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 1 hr. or until filling is set.

Serves 8 -10

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final
For some reason I’m dragging today. Perhaps the weather shifting from shorts appropriate 80’s to overcast 70’s in the blink of an eye has something to do with it. Also, it could be the pending nuptials and all that entails. No answers here.

Actually I’m looking forward to going to Arizona again. This will be my fifth visit to the state. During several marriages the subject of actually living in Arizona has been broached. Each time it was vetoed by me. Not because I don’t enjoy it while I’m there. I do. Well, I do when the heat is at a tolerable level. I’m not a cut out for intense heat. Desert vistas are beautiful to my eyes in a stark and minimalist sort of way, but I prefer more lush surroundings where I make my home. A personal choice, naturally, as many people immensely enjoy living there from the looks of the expansion in the metropolitan areas. Obviously somebody noticed I preferred cooler climates when I was waiting to be born, and set me down in Nova Scotia where I could thrive.

After five visits you’d think I’d have stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon. Each time a trip there was planned, and each time something got in the way. Perhaps my lack of coordination would have me catapulting over the edge into the great abyss, so the universe is trying to save me from myself. A close friend took a raft trip along the canyon floor. For him, it was the trip of a lifetime and he talks of it often. That would definitely be a vacation I’d like to add to my bucket list. This visit won’t be the one to break the chain either as there will be little opportunity for sightseeing. We’ll be landing on a Friday and departing on a Sunday with a wedding and rehearsal dinner squeezed somewhere in the middle.

Yesterday we ordered a suit for Rick. It’s been quite a while since life necessitated him wearing one and when we took his choices out and looked at them we decided they would be better suited for one of those sepia pictures of the old west you can have taken in Las Vegas than father of the bride material. Also, the good life has added an inch or two here or there, well mostly there, so both sides of the waistband refused to merge no matter how much we coaxed them.

My mother, who rarely misses an opportunity to worry about something, suggested I might need a coat. I assured her unless left in the middle of the desert at midnight I’d probably be able to avoid hypothermia without one. Been awhile since I’ve boarded a plane, at least three years. The last was when my mother and I flew into Toronto and on to Guelph, Ontario for a bit of a family reunion. I’ll have to refresh my memory or update it as to what is and what is not allowed to be packed. I took hair spray on the Canadian flight, confiscated at customs. Apparently people remove the insides of aerosol cans and place less desirable things inside. Who knew?

Rick, coming from Egypt originally, always get nearly strip searched before boarding. He handles this good-naturedly, because he understands it is necessary to keep us safe. However, it usually results in us boarding the plane a bit later. The last time I flew with my mother before she became a U.S. citizen, I thought I was going to have to leave her in Canada. Her green card picture was the same one she’d had taken when we originally came to the U.S. when I was a child. Not one to admit her age, I would assume there was some vanity involved here, but customs agents aren’t known for their good humor and understanding natures. All I saw was my mother being whisked into a side room for questioning. Picturing my mother’s mug shot on a police department wall, I followed after her. Questioning the obviously vicious felon, they finally released her in my charge with instructions to get a new picture taken before her next flight. She showed them, she was sworn in as a U.S. citizen before she would go to Canada again.

The push is on for me to become a citizen. I know, I know. I’ve been here since grade school. Why I drag my feet I have no solid excuse for. There’s something about leaving the last of my heritage behind that makes me hesitate. In the end I will probably opt for dual citizenship, allowing me to hold on to what Canadian parts I still have in me. So for now I sit on the fence, or border as it may be. This is something I’ll figure out down the road when I’m planning my trip to the Grand Canyon.

These green beans are absolutely excellent and look pretty on the table.

Garlicky Green Beans and Peppers

1 lb. green beans, trimmed
1 large red bell pepper, cored and sliced thin
1 large yellow bell pepper, cored and sliced thin
1 large onion, sliced thin
3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 Tbsp. red pepper flakes
Pepper and salt
1 tsp. dried thyme
Zest from 1 lemon
1 Large tomato sliced
1/4 cut Feta cheese, crumbled

Place beans and peppers in large deep skillet and cover with lightly salted water. Bring to boil over high heat. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Continue cooking until vegetables are tender. Drain well and pat dry with paper towels.

In same skillet heat oil over high heat. Add red pepper flakes and garlic. Cook and stir until garlic has lightly browned, about 2 mins. Add green beans to pan. Continue cooking, stirring and mixing, for about 3 mins. Add thyme and lemon zest. Mix well.

Transfer into microwavable casserole dish. Place sliced tomatoes on top. Sprinkle with Feta cheese. Place uncovered in microwave and cook on high for 4 mins.

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finalTypically, the media was full of good news this morning. There was discussion about buzz among the scientific community that the end of the world, or big bang theory, is expected to arrive sooner than previously thought. A belief the universe will likely implode rather than explode is floating about. Either scenario doesn’t play well for those of us enjoying our time here. Not good news. Not good news at all. I hope it’s not directly imminent. I just bought a pair of the cutest new sandals I haven’t had a chance to wear yet and have a pricey rack of lamb cooling its heels in the freezer waiting for its debut on Easter.

Truly the good news can usually be jammed in a five minute segment most likely including an animal of some sort. I try to take in as little of the news as possible or I’ll be eying the gas oven as a way to put myself out of my misery. Last night I have to admit there was actually a bit of levity squeezed in between the gruesome murders, home invasions and horrendous accidents which are standard fare around dinnertime. A large bear, well truly the adjective is superlative here as most bears are, in fact, bigger than a breadbox, got stuck up a tree. I can imagine this created a rather nervous squirrel population in the immediate vicinity and probably not something I’m sure the local woodpecker or bee population is used to seeing every day. The bear, referred to by the emergency personnel as “Boo Boo” for whatever reason, lay comfortably draped over a large branch watching with idle curiosity as fire department and police below tried to figure out how extricate the animal.

Bears seem to be in the news lately. A local man reported having hit a bear in our area. Perhaps the animals are coming down in search of food with warmer weather arriving early. Maybe this bear simply was enjoying the limelight on a warm spring afternoon. Who am I to say? Bears also permeate my dreams of late. Emergency crews were on hand to relocate the treed bear to safety. I wish I had an emergency number to dial to get the bears out of my sleep. I would be most interested to understand their significance of their persisting presence in my subconscious.

In the midst of chasing bears while I sleep, or rather having them stalk me, I continue to prepare for the upcoming nuptials. Rick’s daughter, the bride in question, is a dog rescuer of sorts so I can imagine animals will figure in my time in Phoenix as well. Most likely we will find a plethora of furry friends in need of temporary rescuing at their house when we arrive in Phoenix. In our absence friends will be house sitting. They have an event to attend not far from here so the timing was perfect for them to move in while we are gone.

House sitting can be fun. During my lifetime I’ve taken the opportunity to do so on several different occasions. While living on the east coast I filled in for friends while they traveled abroad on several occasions. The home in question was a shingled somewhat weather worn cottage. The structure sat atop a sand dune on a long strand of beach in Massachusetts. My presence was required the first time during a particularly balmy week in July. Two bedrooms were inside but with the humidity high the rugged deck was where I chose to sleep with salty air, sea smells, and gulls calling beginning and ending my days while there. Along with its eclectic interior decor, ranging from rusted anchors to treasured china dolls, the airy dwelling offered up a glorious view of the deep dark Atlantic just outside the French doors. Loved it. I stayed there two more times before the house changed hands. Looking back I wish I’d snapped it up when it came on the market, but hindsight as always is 20-20, and money as always is an issue.

While living in California I’ve house sat twice. Once in Southern California. A lovely home belonging to a dentist and his wife taking a second honeymoon in Bali. Another time I obliged for a couple I worked with in Silicon Valley. The Silicon Valley house was more modest than the dentists home by far. A cozy little tract home with a backyard butting up against an olive orchard. Peaceful and serene surroundings for a weekend away. I shared space while visiting with the couple’s corpulent Samoyed, Gracie, and Mitch, their tuxedo cat. Gracie was a lovely old dog, though prone to flatulence and suffering from arthritis. I assumed her well rounded physique to be due in part to her preference for doggie treats as well as movement causing her pain. Mitch, for the most part, minded his own business climbing on my lap a time or two to check me out. Apparently finding my company less than stimulating spent his time on the window sill or outside most of the day. Along with retrieving the paper and keeping an eye on the house I was tasked with keeping Gracie mobile, lest she stiffen up like the Tin Man, and keep the kibble flowing. There was little to do while there. Sometimes having nothing to do is a gift. Though it was explained to me, I never did get comfortable with using any of the sophisticated equipment occupying the impressive tower in the living room. Five remotes on the coffee table were required to maneuver your way through the equipment. With my luck I assumed I could take the entire unit down with one flick of a button. With no television or stereo to occupy my time, Gracie and I shared space in the padded lawn chairs out back. I caught up on my reading while Mitch scanned the sky for birds. Cell phones and computers not the rage back then, it’s amazing how much time you find on your hands when electronic devices are eliminated from the mix. In the end I enjoyed my stay there and the company of Gracie, gone now, who asked little of me other than an occasional piece of doggie jerky and a pat on the head.

So, we prepare to hit the friendly skies once again. With all the recent publicity about air travel, I hope this is only a metaphor.

This pie is a delightful way to use up leftover turkey. Certainly you could use chicken, but I had turkey on hand. This makes 4 pies. Reduce by half if you only need one or freeze the filling and make another at a later date.

1Turkey Pot Pie

3 carrots, sliced
2 large baking potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup frozen peas
2/3 cup butter
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large onion, chopped
5 large mushrooms, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp. coriander
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups turkey broth (or chicken)
1 1/3 cups milk (I used non-fat)
4 cups cooked turkey meat, cubed or shredded
4 unbaked pie shells
1 egg plus 1 Tbsp. water (egg wash)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place carrots, potatoes, and and peas in large deep skillet. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and continue cooking until vegetables are tender. Drain and set aside.

In same skillet melt butter over med. heat. Add onion, celery, and mushrooms. Cook about 8 mins. until vegetables are tender.

Mix together all seasonings. Sprinkle over onion/celery mix in pan. Add flour and stir to mix well. Continue cooking for 2 mins. stirring constantly. Whisk in turkey broth then milk. Increase heat to med.-high and cook whisking constantly until mixture begins to bubble and thicken. Add carrots, potatoes, peas, and turkey to mixture. Combine.

Place 1 shell in the bottom of each of two pie plates. Pour one half of the filling mixture into each pie. Top with remaining 2 shells. Pinch top and bottoms together and trim if necessary. Add four slits to center of each shell to vent.

Mix together egg and 1 Tbsp. water. Brush over tops of both shells. Bake for 1 hour. If crust becomes too dark around edges cover with tin foil.

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