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final

Stick a fork in me, I’m done. Been a busy, busy month or two and my mind and body are both loudly complaining in my ear. My feet are saying, “sit down” and my mind has simply quit functioning at an optimum level and is mucking about like a bowl of warm Jello. Today, for example, I realized I’ve booked two appointments at the same time. Unless my muddled mind has perfected cloning something has got to go. On top of this yesterday I woke Rick up bright and early so he could make a 9:00 doctor appointment. He made it all right, unfortunately, the only one in the office was the bookkeeper as his appointment is next week. Sigh.

Characteristically it is hard for me to admit I can’t do everything. I don’t know where that comes from but it seems to be built into my basic makeup. Like an octopus I can fold laundry, carry on a phone conversation, bathe the cat (ach, not really), and install a carbeurator without breaking a sweat. However, and I loathe these words, as one gets older things that came easily when young sometimes take a little more effort. Whew, there I said it.

Last week we drove down to visit my mom. When asked what she would like for Mother’s Day, it turned out to be me. With a lot on my calendar it was not the best week for me to travel. Juggling things around I moved this appointment to that, and the one over there to the following week, and voila a four day travel window opened up. By the time we arrived Rick wasn’t feeling well. Something had upset his stomach. I suggested he lie down and got him some reliable pink elixer and he was off to dreamland. Somehow this set the tone for our visit. By the time we were heading home I was drinking the peppermint pink liquid out of the bottle with a straw.

I can’t prove it but I suspect my mother stores up “honey-do’s” for me between visits. Miraculously her coffee pot’s clean me light commences blinking when I pull up in the driveway and a stack of papers paper clipped with questions needing answering usually awaits my attention on her desk. No complaints here. I’m so thankful my mother is fully functioning and I am glad to help wherever I can. I know so many people who are dealing with aging parents who require so much more personal care, so realize how very fortunate she is, as well as I am myself.

Before I set down my purse, she let me know the television in the kitchen wasn’t getting cable reception. This tv has been around since Lucy was on prime time so I’m amazed it’s still working at all much less hooked up to a cable box. That said, I dialed the number given and went through the usual dog and pony show to get to a customer service person. Mother, speaking loudly in my ear, was telling me to advise them her cleaning lady probably unplugged one of the cables when trying to clean around it. Looking at the mishmash of colored connectors in the back I began to plug and unplug them as instructed concurrently pushing buttons on the remote when prompted. Finally, we recessitated the poor old thing and breathed into life into it once again. I resisted the urge to yell, “it’s alive, it’s alive”. We were, after all, in a retirement community, no matter how lovely the surroundings.

Mother has hearing issues. This is downplaying the situation on a large scale. Our standard mantra in the family is speak, repeat, repeat. Usually by the end of a day with her I find myself hoarse from speaking loud enough to be heard. I believe the suitable decibel for words to get through hovers somewhere around elephant trumpet. Not that she doesn’t have hearing aids, she does. They cost her a pretty penny and spend most of their time hearing only what goes on inside the box they came in. Whether it is vanity or not, I’m not sure, but while there I try to encourage her to use them so people don’t get frustrated trying to carry on a conversation. Recently we got her a phone that is captioned. What a great device. Everything said appears on a large screen making it easier on both parties to communicate. Unfortunately it is a wireless device dependent on the computer modem to perform. The modem, probably produced not long after the kitchen television, also decided to go south right after the coffee pot clean light began blinking. On calling her telephone service provider, I was informed the modem was no longer supported, and after some troubleshooting also no longer working. Goodie.

Further instructions from the customer service rep included going to one of their retail stores in the area to pick up the correct device to replace the old modem. I wrote down the number, grabbed my purse and my mother and drove the twenty-five minutes to the nearest store. Inside I was pointed in the right direction by a helpful sales person and with a swipe of a credit card we were on our way. Back at my mothers I spent two hours trying to get the modem to work before I hoisted a white flag and called the retail store to ask what was wrong. I got a man on the phone who informed me although his job was selling such devices, he had no knowledge about how they worked whatsoever. Really? Is it just me?

Hanging up, I called the phone company back and after circling the wagons in their phone system was once again hooked up with a real person. Explaining the situation I was told the modem I was given wasn’t going to work. Hmmmmm. Okay, so what’s the plan? After some discussion I was told to take this modem back and given the model numbers for two other modems that would work. Fry’s or Best Buy I was assured would carry either one or the other. Okay.

Back in the car we drove the twenty-five minutes to return the modem. Next we went to both stores suggested where the salespeople were unsuccessful in locating either item I was looking for. We were now about five hours into the program and Susie was fraying around the edges.

At the house I once again dialed the phone company. Again I spoke to a representative and explained I would be leaving for home on Sunday and couldn’t find the needed item to install to get my mother’s phone up and running. In the end they have to send an installer out this week with the appropriate modem. I suggested that since the situation wasn’t an error on my end perhaps they should foot the installation cost. They suggested where that foot should be placed. Sooooo, $100 for the modem and $100 for the installation later my mom will once again have a phone. Amazing.

My rant for today. We ate out so much during our trip when we got home I wanted something light. This delicious salad is so refreshingly good. Yum.

Melony Spinach Salad with Ginger Lime Vinaigarette

Salad

3 cups fresh baby spinach, washed and torn into bite sized pieces
2 cups cubed watermelon (seedless)
1 1/2 cups cantaloupe, cubed
1/2 cup blueberries
2 radishes, sliced very thin
2 green onions, chopped
1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles
Freshly ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients. Toss with dressing.

Ginger Lime Vinaigarette

1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. Key lime juice
2 Tbsp. Canola oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/8-1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 Tbsp. poppy seeds

Whisk together ingredients and refrigerate for at least 1 hr. prior to serving.

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final
On the best of days parenthood can be like walking a mine field in a pair of snow shoes. Odds are eventually something is going to blow up in your face. It starts right at inception. On becoming pregnant a woman ends up in an obstetricians office along with other women such as herself in various stages of the birth process. In the examining room your feet are placed in two stirrups and you get the first sense of what a humbling experience becoming a mother is going to be. Over the nine months each expectant mother’s experience varies. The less fortunate spend the first three months perched over the commode praying for release, living solely on soda crackers and 7-Up. Others, seemingly born to wear the suit of motherhood, breeze through one pregnancy after another virtually untouched by swollen ankles, rapid mood swings or midnight cravings for liver and apricot sandwiches. Each pregnancy is as unique as the children they produce.

Humans fare far differently in the parenting department than most of their animal counterparts. Lion cubs, for example, though dependent on their mothers at birth, are usually weaned and on their own some time in their second year. Humans, are likely to share space with their offspring well into early adulthood and with the economy such as it is now, perhaps even longer.

As your children grow, quite often the size of the problems associated with raising them increase accordingly. Certainly the expense of maintaining a pre-teen or teenager is generally much higher than when they were toddlers or in elementary school. Outside activities come into play (if you will) and suddenly bills are coming in for sports equipment, summer camps, clothing and electronic devices. Thirteen year olds without smart phones and tablets, so I’m told, are nearly social pariahs.

There are few jobs more important, yet nothing is given to you by way of instructions or direction when you sign up for it. It’s like putting you in a nuclear reactor and telling you to push a few buttons until you get the hang of it. At the hospital after surviving the delivery (another thing they don’t fill you in on in much detail) you are basically handed a baby and sent on your way. Unless you’ve had a caesarean section, you will most likely be released with your new child before the ink dries on your signature on the admission papers.

The first baby is the worst really. After that you at least have trial and error to guide you through the darkness. When your first born cries on endlessly after you’ve done everything humanly possible to provide comfort, you may or may not end up at the emergency room. Panic taking over on handing the baby over to the nurse, you find yourself secretly wishing she would keep him until he was old enough to drive. After a brief examination by the ER doctor you will probably be assured it is not as feared flesh eating bacteria, but rather a bout gas. $500 and a good dose of humiliation later, you will return home only to find ten minutes after you lay your tired head on your pillow the baby, gas and all, is now hungry. I highly recommend you do not keep any loaded weapons handy during this portion of your training.

Surviving the first year of your baby’s life, you will begin to breathe a little more easily. Sleep for most, at least more than two hours, has returned to your daily routine and life takes on a rhythm just short of steady chaos. It is set up this way, I believe, to give you a bit of a reprieve before your toddler turns two. Otherwise every street corner would contain a two-year old child with a sign around its neck reading, “take me”. Before your child can walk you spend a good deal of time encouraging him to do so. When he finally does you are ecstatic. When the baby is fully mobile you wonder why you were so excited about this prospect. Everything eye level becomes fair game. I knew people who had entire rooms decorated only at three feet and above until their children entered pre-school.

School seems like a time to at least for a brief period assume your life once again. Perhaps even go back to work. Women who choose to work often feel guilty because they are not at home. Personally I don’t think every woman can be completely fulfilled as a full-time mother. Aside from that in many households a second income isn’t a choice but rather a necessity. When I look back at my working parent days I amaze myself that I lived through it. Racing home from a busy job, gathering my kids, shopping if necessary, getting dinner, doing homework, throwing in a load of wash and throwing myself into bed just before the alarm went off. They say there aren’t enough female super heroes. I say they’re just not looking in the right places. All mother’s who dedicate themselves to keeping a home and raising children, whether working or not, deserve a big red “S” emblazoned on their chests. This could stand for super hero or survivor however you choose to look at it. In either case I wouldn’t change a minute of it.

So, I wish all of you who have signed on the dotted line and made a human or two a Happy Mother’s Day. You deserve it.

This soup is dinner in a bowl. Sooooo yummy.

Chicken Taco Soup

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cooked
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/3 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1/3 cup orange bell pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 can Ro-Tel tomatoes with juice
1 14 1/2 oz. cans diced fire roasted tomatoes with juice
1 6 oz. cans tomato sauce
2 cups water
1 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. taco seasoning mix
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can whole kernel corn, drained
1/3 cup chunky salsa
Tortilla strips
Grated Mexican blend cheese
Sour cream
Ripe olives

Cover chicken with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking for 20 mins. or until thoroughly cooked. Shred with two forks.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add peppers and onions. Cook for 8 mins. until vegetables are tender. Add garlic and cook for 1 min. Place onion mixture, cooked chicken and all remaining ingredients through and including salsa in stockpot. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat and continue cooking partly covered for 50 mins. stirring frequently.

Serve with sprinkled cheese, tortilla chips, sour cream, and ripe olives.

Serves 6

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With the drought here in the Golden State keeping a parched dry grip on the land, firefighters are likely to be kept busy this summer. This weekend I’m going to spend some time getting “fire ready” if you will. Important papers are going to put in boxes easily accessible to the car and family pictures either stored digitally or packed away in boxes in the garage. I don’t believe one should summon disaster, however not looking it in the eye isn’t a good plan either.
1
Recently we had a fireman in our area get badly wounded falling through the roof of a fully engulfed home, accenting once again what a dangerous job they do. Fire, as I’m sure most sane people, terrifies me. I can’t think of a more unpleasant pursuer and find these men and women who sign up to do battle with it really courageous.

My first experience with a fire station was when I was five. A different world back then. Children played outside unattended, seat belts in cars a thing of the future, and if one ran an errand in the store leaving a child for five minutes without supervision wasn’t out of the ordinary.

Halifax, Nova Scotia where I made my home at the time had a small town feel in spite of being the capital of the Province. When walking down the street people nodded and pleasantries were exchanged. Neighbor watched out for neighbor, and crime, at the time, wasn’t the main source of news.

Both my grandfather and two of my uncles chose to pursue the medical profession. My grandfather and his son, my Uncle Gordon, were both urologists and shared a practice. To add to the medical mix, my grandmother was an RN and my aunt’s husband a pediatrician so when one of us kids sneezed I guarantee it didn’t go unnoticed. So much cod liver oil was shoved down my throat I’m surprised I didn’t sprout gills.

Living in a house with my mother and two grandparents in attendance I didn’t lack for attention. Both my grandfather and Gordon held to the practice of house calls. Nowadays this seems absurd the thought of a doctor coming to your house, but back then it was what a physician did. Often this was to geriatric patients, but certainly not limited to them as they visited patients of all ages. On a day when Gordon was heading out to see patients I asked to tag along. My mother and grandmother were not totally excited about the prospect but Gordon, feeling I was a bit overprotected, suggested it might be a good idea. Off we went in his black car with me seated next to him on the bench seat carrying my stuffed dog.

At several houses I went in, but being five the excitement waned quickly and before reaching the next residence I’d curled up in the front seat and gone to sleep. Covering me with his jacket Gordon went in to see his patient leaving me in the car with the doors locked and the windows cracked. Waking up to find myself alone I began to cry. A resourceful little kid I figured out the door lock and let myself out of the car. Standing in front of a long bank of houses I had no idea which one Gordon had gone into.

Tears dripping down my face I walked along the street dragging my furry dog behind me. Shortly a very tall man, well to my perspective at least, bent over to ask what was wrong. Nowadays this would produce an Amber Alert, but back then he was being kind. Explaining I was lost and would like my lunch, he took my hand and said he would help. Down the street we walked and around the corner. At the fire station we stopped and went in. As it turned out he was off duty but this was where he hung hat, if you will, while working.

I was thrilled. In the middle of the large room were two huge red fire trucks, one of which I was set upon. A small fire hat was popped on my head and questions thrown my direction about where I lived and my name. Sensing I was most likely in trouble at this point, I suggested I would spill the beans for a two scoop ice cream cone which came my way after being shown the inside of the truck. While enjoying it I watched a man come down the fire pole and heard the siren roar.

All in all it was an exciting day for this little girl. My uncle, not so much. He had to explain to my grandmother and mother he had somehow misplaced me along his route. This news was not well received. Police had been alerted and once my ice cream had been consumed I became tired. The information requested was given up. A police car picked me up and dropped me off in the arms of my worried family. The usual lecture ensued and I was sent to bed without dinner. At intervals during the evening both my mother and grandmother showed up with a plate of food so the lesson wasn’t entirely a difficult one.

These oranges are so pretty on the plate and taste delicious. I serve them with a wedge of chocolate or pound cake or a scoop of vanilla ice cream or both. Yummy.

Mimosa Oranges

4 large navel oranges, peeled
3 cups champagne
1 1/2 cups orange juice (no pulp)
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole allspice
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1/8 cup sliced orange peel

Peel oranges reserving 1/8 cup of orange peel sliced thin. Using a sharp knife cut between the sections in each orange being sure not to cut all the way through to the bottom.

In deep sauce pan add remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Add oranges and continue cooking for 6 mins. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Place in deep bowl in refrigerator covered for 24 hours. Serve with sauce.

Serves 4.

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final2
Craftsmen, true craftsmen I’m referring to, are fading into history. Today they are replaced by electronic devices or updated technology requiring different skill sets all together. Often the niche these craftsmen filled has disappeared without fanfare into obsolescence.

While walking downtown last week I passed a set of stone stairs leading down from the street. Curiosity getting the best of me, my eyes followed the railing leading to the basement level. A simple etched wooden sign hanging by the front door of a small shop read “Shoe Repair”. Really? Though I had no shoes with me, nor any needing mending at home, I was compelled to go in. A doorbell tinkled above my head as I entered. An old building, the windows in the small shop were opaque not allowing much light to filter through. What light had squeezed in illuminated a cramped room dominated by banks of interconnecting wooden counters. There was no wasted space on any of the counter surfaces leaving little room for business to be conducted. Wooden shoe forms in all sizes and shapes lay on their sides as if tossed about by a strong wind. Beyond the counters on a back wall were rows of cubbies filled with shoes waiting for their owners to claim them or to be repaired. Atop the rest of the clutter, piles of wadded oily rags and an assortment of tools and polishes made the picture complete. Truthfully, it’s been a long while since I’ve resoled a pair of shoes or had a broken strap repaired. Shoes have become disposable items since not working full time anymore. Other than several pairs of boots and dress shoes, I now pick up everyday shoes at outlet store sale bins or off pharmacy shelves. The Queen hasn’t accepted my invitation to tea so I feel I’m covered.

Moles would have done well to run the place but it turned out to be the gentlemen sitting on the stool behind the counter looking for all the world like Santa. I resisted the urge to mention I would really enjoy a trip to Bali in my stocking this year if he wasn’t too busy. Had an elf walked by with a tiny hammer in one hand it wouldn’t have surprised me a bit. Asking if he could help me, I explained I was browsing. Realizing this sounded a bubble short of ridiculous, I said it had been a while since I’d seen a shoe repair shop, adding I had a pair of shoes that I needed to bring in. The latter was complete fabrication, but after the browsing statement I found him looking at me as though I was planning on robbing the place. Lovely it was to take in the familiar smells of polish and leather cleaner associated with the business of tinkering with shoes. Continuing polishing the handsome brown leather boot in his hand, he told me any shoes needing repair should be brought in before the end of the year as he would be retiring around Christmas. Appropriately, I thought, I’m sure he has lots of work to do around that time of year. No one, he said, had stepped up (so to speak) to take his place so there would be no shoe repair in town once he was gone. A third generation of shoe repairmen, he acknowledged with a note of regret his two boys showed little interest in shoes other than the colorful soccer cleats popular in the stores. For some reason this made me sad.

As a kid I can remember standing next to my grandmother in a similar store. The smells then were more of grease and oil. My hand rested in hers while she discussed fixing the “Hoover” with a man with a handlebar moustache wearing a floppy brimmed fishing hat. Hoover was how my grandmother referred to our sweeper. As a child I believe I actually thought this was the machine’s given name. Whether it was actually a Hoover, or a generic name for vacuums of the time, I have no clue. However, Hoover it was and Hoover it would be until my grandmother passed. Perhaps it’s like Xerox. No matter what the make of the copier, I lump them all under the term Xerox machines. I would think no matter what you deem them they will all be obsolete before long as well.

Many old and familiar occupations and handicrafts are on their way out. Farming, such as the family farm of old, is moving away from individual management and becoming big business run by corporations and conglomerates. Young boys growing up on farms are migrating to the cities to pursue more current ways of bringing home a dollar. Always as a child I was fascinated with farming. A hard life for certain, but it seemed like it would be wonderful to work in the soil and bring things to life.

Fifteen years ago I flew to Manitoba to work on a farm two hours north of Winnipeg. My plane landed early evening. My ride was there with a sign bearing my name and when introductions had been made and the luggage loaded it was well into the night when we arrived at the farmhouse. In spite of my lack of sleep I awoke literally with the roosters the following morning. Although barely after sunrise I found the cozy kitchen a beehive of activity. Having already met the farmer himself, I was now introduced to the rest of the family including the paternal grandparents, the farmer’s son, his wife and their toddler, busying himself with a bowl of cereal. Bob, the farmer, was a widower of ten years. A man of medium height, with eyes the color of the sky he had a handsome if somewhat sun worn face. Thinking they had just gotten up as had I, was told the men had been out in the fields while the women stayed behind to have breakfast on the table when they arrived home. What a breakfast it was. Homemade buckwheat pancakes with Canadian maple syrup, fresh butter, a lacey strawberry rhubarb pie made with harvest from their garden, and a rasher of crispy thick sliced bacon. Yum. Later when introduced to the dozen or so snorting pigs in the fragrant pens in the far barn, I had the nagging sensation one of them had joined us in absentia for breakfast.

Never will I forget my experience there. Bouncing along in the cab of the tractor with the rich smell of the fields all around me. The comradery around the dinner table and the ties that held them close sharing a common love of their land.

There is always something to be embraced as new inventions and technology replace the old, but the true craftsman can never be replaced by a machine or device.

These carnitas are so easy to make and taste fabulous.

Corona Crockpot Carnitas

1 3 lb. pork shoulder or butt
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 Tbsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
2 16 oz. tubs hot, chunky salsa
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 7 oz. bottle Corona beer
6 large flour tortillas
Sour cream
Avocado slices
Lime wedges
Salsa

Mix together garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, chili powder, coriander, salt, and pepper. Rub well into meat. Spray 6 quart crockpot with cooking spray. Place rubbed meat in crockpot. Mix together salsa, lime juice, and jalapeno. Pour over top. Cook on low for 9 hours.

Open lid and pour Corona over meat. Continue cooking for 1 hr. Open crockpot and shred meat with forks. Cook for 2 more hours on low.

Place tortillas on microwave safe plate. Wrap in damp cloth. Cook on high for 1 min. Wrap in tin foil to keep warm.

Serve carnitas with sour cram, avocado slices, lime wedges, and salsa if desired.

Serves 6.

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final2Had company over the weekend. An old friend whom I haven’t had a chance to visit with in about four years. It was great to catch up. As Rick would say, there wasn’t any stale air during the 48 hours she was here. Old friends are the best. Not that I don’t enjoy the new ones in my life. I certainly do. Fun to get to know their stories and learn more about them as your friendships progress. Old friends, however, know where all the skeletons are buried and continue to love you in spite of this. That’s a nice thing.

My oldest friend, Pattie, also my first sister-in-law, has been in my life since I was eighteen. Often in a leaky boat, she and I have weathered some impressive storms together. Over the years we have said goodbye to my husband, her oldest brother, shared quarters on two occasions, watched each other’s children, reveled in good times and survived the bad along the way. There is little she doesn’t know about me, other than what is still to be written. When we are together there is no necessity for pretense. We are, as they say, who we are.

Our youngest children, both boys, were born two weeks apart. At the time they were born between us we had a four year old, a two and a half year old, a one year old, and two newborns. Living in Southern California when I conceived, five months into my pregnancy my husband was offered a job in the Seattle area. Bellvue, Washington to be specific. A lovely place to be, if rainy. When he accepted the position we were unaware our timing was off. The aerospace industry providing jobs to Seattle and surrounding cities was about to hit a rough spot creating massive layoffs and a sinking economy. People were abandoning the Puget Sound like lemmings bailing off a cliff. Signs outside apartment buildings with too many vacancies read “free stereo when you sign a lease”, or “three months free rent”. Landlords were practically paying prospective renters to move in.

Already established with an obstetrician and a toddler at hand, we decided my husband would relocate first. Arrangements were made for my daughter and I to stay with my parents until the baby was born. At the time this seemed like a plan. However, having my mother fussing about me like a bee tending a freshly bloomed daffodil proved a bit daunting particularly with the mood swings prevalent when pregnant. If I burped she dialed 9-1-1.Both my children were born in the heat of summer. Those of you planning on conceiving in an area known for hot summer months need to think about this when orchestrating such an event. Contrary to rumors pregnant women do not blossom or glow in extreme heat. I’m just sayin. Well, your body blossoms. Oh, and your feet, though you rarely see them, would serve adequately as flotation devices. No glowing is involved in 100 degree heat other than if you count the glistening sweat extruded while extricating your bulbous frame from wherever you might be seated.

As the due date rolled around I found I was well past ready. Two weeks later I was eying the salad tongs. Perpetually late once born, my little guy didn’t disappoint when he was due to arrive. Three weeks to the day beyond his projected arrival date he issued the first signal he was ready to make an appearance. Thinking it was the brussels sprouts from dinner the night before rather than a labor pain, I tagged along to the market with my mother. Standing in the vegetable department my water broke. Mother, losing her mind, ran about the fruit bins screaming, “a baby’s coming”, “a baby’s coming”. Paul Revere couldn’t have alerted the citizens any better. True to her shopping gene she stopped at the cashier on the way out and asked if they’d hold her basket and it’s contents until later. Okay.

Six weeks after my son, a healthy 6 pound 13 ounce boy, came into the world my husband arrived to gather his new family and take us to Washington. A two bedroom apartment with a view was waiting for me. Just settling in, a pink slip arrived with his paycheck and fifty other employees three weeks later. There we were. Jobs at a minimum, moving once again had to be considered. Fortunately he had not signed a lease so our options to move were open. But where?

Once again I packed up a house, two babies, and hopped in the car. With thirty-seven moves to my credit now, though I did not know it at the time this was to become a familiar experience during my life. Not sure what our next move might be we accepted an invitation to stay temporarily with Pattie, her husband, and their three children in the Bay Area. While there we were to share expenses, look for work and a place to hang out hats.

Arriving at the small house in Sunnyvale, California it became quickly evident the job and the hat hanging better be sooner than later. For three months four adults and five children, four and under, cohabited the small three bedroom home. The noise level at feeding time rivaled a jet engine before takeoff. Pattie, a Tupperware dealer, had every kind of container known to man. We devised a system of feeding and shared housework that actually would have served a commune well.

Her husband, a police officer, worked the night shift. When he went to work, we took over the bed. Pattie, came to bed with him when he got home and I watched the babies while my husband scanned the want ads. Looking back at it now I get anxiety thinking about it, yet when we talk of those times it is with affection.

Three months after we arrived we all breathed a collective sigh of relief as the last of our belongings were packed into the car. Oddly enough I missed the crazy days there for a while before settling into my own life once again.

I have been fortunate enough to have friends over the years who I have received help from and been able to offer help to.  People having your back make life a little easier when going through tough times.

This tilapia is crispy and delicious atop the greens. Yum.

Cajun Fried Tilapia and Spinach and Veggie Salad

Tilapia

4 tilapia filets
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1 1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4-1/3 cup yellow mustard
Oil for frying
Lemon wedges

Pat fish with paper towels. Whisk together remaining ingredients except mustard. Slather each filet on both sides with mustard. Coat with flour/cornmeal mixture. Place in refrigerator for 1 hr. to set breading.

Heat 1/2″ oil in large heavy frying pan over high heat. Add fish to hot oil and crisp to light golden brown on both sides (about 4-5 mins. per side depending on thickness of filets). Fish should be flakey but not dry.

Spinach and Veggie Salad

1/2 lb. fingerling potatoes, halved
1/2 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed
1/2 lb. fresh asparagus
3 cups baby spinach
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup green onions, sliced
Salt and pepper as desired
Red wine vinaigrette

Cover potatoes in large pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and cook uncovered for 20 mins. or until fork tender. Drain and keep warm or warm up prior to assembling salad.

Cook asparagus and green beans in covered water until fork tender but still crisp. Drain. Keep warm or warm up prior to assembling salad.

In large bowl combine spinach, tomatoes, green onions, cooked vegetables and as much dressing as desired. Season with salt and pepper and toss well. Arrange on plate and place fish on top with lemon for squeezing.

Serves 4

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1Job searching isn’t what it used to be. When I first stepped into the work force typing tests were still being given. I know! Five minute tests were grueling, but the ten minute versions were right up there on a pain level with Chinese water torture. By the time the annoying little egg timer went off my hands were curled like a squirrel clutching a tree branch. Nervous already, applicants were told three typos were the max during the course of the test to be considered for the job. That’s like telling someone on a boat the restroom is broken. Looking at all that water you’re immediately urged to go, go, go. Along with keeping your typing letter-perfect, a certain speed level had to be maintained. At one point I typed at around 98 wpm. Back then that was fairly impressive. Unlike computers, if you made a mistake on a typewriter there was no backspace or delete. Carbon paper was used when typing multiple copies. Correcting a mistake in this case meant each page needed to be corrected individually. For those of you scratching your head thinking, “typewriter?”, “carbon paper?”, carbon paper involved placing black inked sheets between each copy needed. You typed on the first page, and it was copied via the carbon paper onto the papers beneath. White Out or Liquid Paper was the typists joy juice. One brush of the liquid across the correction, blow, and you were good to go. This could not be overdone, however, or when the page was folded all the corrected letters would fall off like confetti at a wedding.

Now prospective employers ask applicants personal questions especially designed by HR specialists or psychologists to get at the deepest roots of your personality. “Use one word to describe yourself?”, for example. Dangerous territory this. Like a mine field with words. Don’t announce loudly and proudly you are humble. Humble people generally do not tout their own strong points. Also, watch your social media pages. If applying for church secretary, posting pictures of yourself doing Jello shots at a strip club isn’t going to move you up the line.

Background searches are far more efficient than in years past, and what you’re involved in outside of the workplace more accessible information. Dirt, if you will, is easier to stir up. Everything you do these days is posted somewhere easily discovered by the touch of a finger.

My first job was working for a major moving and storage company. Eighteen I was at the time. Armed only with typing and dictation skills I started work on a Monday at 8:00 absolutely sure I would be fired before 5:00. Workplaces were different then. Smoking was allowed. Half filled ashtrays could be found on the majority of desks. The buyer for the company kept a bottle of whiskey in his desk drawer for particularly stressful afternoons. Finding he considered most days stressful, I learned not to approach him after 2:00 if I wanted to get anything ordered.

Dress codes were certainly different. In the 70’s no jeans, no casual Fridays, and for women no pants period, other than those worn beneath the dress you were wearing. Men wore shirts and ties. One company I worked for, a particularly fussy engineering company, required male employees to wear only white shirts, dress pants, and ties. A sports coat or suit jacket was expected at meetings. No wonder everyone smoked.

Truthfully I’m glad I’m not polishing a resume right now. With the market so competitive you really have to be on top of your game. Employers want a short resume, rather than a tome. Tell them briefly what you bring to the table that makes you more qualified than the other candidates to fill the spot open in their particular company. How do your skills make their puzzle complete?

Older workers, living longer and needing to fill their time or bank accounts, are moving into lower paying jobs as the Baby Boomers fill the retirement statistics. I believe I read somewhere that 50% or more of this sizable population are ill prepared for their golden years and Social Security income surely will not fill the gaps.

Looking at my grandchildren who will be moving forward into the existing market, I have to say I worry. College is a good stepping stone but certainly doesn’t guarantee finding the job you were aiming for when you enrolled. Also, student loans can linger long into your thirties making getting ahead a rockier road.

I heard an HR specialist speak several weeks ago. She said you should try to insert yourself in a career you enjoy because you are going to spend the majority of your time pursuing it. I can probably count on one hand the people I’ve known in my life who have achieved that goal. Certainly it wouldn’t be me, in the beginning at least. However, in spite of the fact I ended up meshing my high school secretarial skills with my artistic side to become a graphic designer, the early years were filled with jobs that were relatively unsatisfying personally, even downright tedious. Perspective is important when faced with 8 hours of day doing something unexciting. Look to the people you work with, your work ethic in doing a good job in the best manner possible, and providing your family, as goals to make whatever job you are performing more rewarding if the job itself cannot provide this for you.

Work, in the end, is a four letter word. Most of us would rather be sucking on a straw sitting on a tropical beach than pulling together a flow chart. Those few lucky enough to have found their niche are blessed with being paid for doing something they most probably would do anyhow because of their passion for it.

Sooooo, when asked to use one word to describe myself I would say “silly”. My other half always says this of me and I have to agree with him. Life is too serious to take seriously, so I prefer to find the humor and see the beauty. I’d rather dance in the moonlight in my bare feet than ponder all that is wrong in the world. Went to a tulip garden at a commune near home called Ananda. The garden itself sat atop a mountain overlooking a canyon. Too beautiful not to share.

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What’s the one word you would use to describe yourself? Let me know.

This is a refreshing cake I like to pull together during the warmer months. Luv the bite of lime – yum. Makes two loaves.

Key Lime Margaritaville Bread

2/3 cup butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 Tbsp. lime zest
2 Tbsp. Key lime juice
1 Tbsp. tequila
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup 2% milk
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two loaf 9 x 5 loaf pans.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Beat in zest, lime juice, tequila and vanilla.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to creamed butter and sugar alternately with milk, beating well after each addition. Fold in nuts.

Divide equally between the two pans. Bake for 50-55 mins. or until toothpick comes out clean. Allow to sit for 10 mins. Remove from pans and set on wire rack. Drizzle with glaze (Put tin foil under rack to make cleanup easier.) Cool completely.

Glaze

1 cup confectioner’s sugar
3 Tbsp. Key lime juice

Mix well and drizzle over bread.

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final
I’m up again in the middle of the night. Must have been the garlic. Don’t get me wrong I have nothing against the fragrant bulb. As a matter of fact, I use garlic in most savory dishes I prepare. Sometimes, however, garlic will cause me to reach for the pink bottle under the sink if I overindulge.

Sunday night we had company. As often happens once the dinner dishes are cleared, we settled into a post dinner conversation. Cooking came up. Being somewhat of a foodie it often does. I told the story of the first time I used garlic in a recipe. I was nineteen. I remember this because that was the year I got married, also for the first time. Prior to the wedding, gifts began arriving at a steady pace. With no internet available, perspective brides and grooms registered at a store for items they liked or friends and relatives sent traditional gifts like sterling silver serving dishes or linens. Sometimes you got unpleasant surprises such as velvet paintings of bullfighters or gaudy sculptures usually ending up in future garage sales or in the donation bin. More practical gifts were thrown in as well. As memory recalls, I received three ironing boards and two irons. I must have looked like an unmade bed, for someone was definitely sending me a message. Fortunately there was a store in town, a bridal exchange of sorts, where brides with an over abundance of one thing or another could swap an unwanted gift out for something else they’d rather have. I spent a good deal of time there after the ceremony.

Once the dust had settled on our marriage license and the honeymoon was behind us, I surveyed the spoils. Pots and pans, dishes, silverware, and cooking utensils were admired and stored in the kitchen. At some point it occurred to me that someone was supposed to be utilizing these items. For the life of me I couldn’t imagine who. My repertoire at that point, as far as kitchen skills, was limited to cold cereal and toast. For the first few months we survived on love, then we got hungry. Tired of grabbing a burger or opening a box of pizza, it became obvious one of us was going to have to learn our way around the kitchen. Not long after I made the decision this was to be me, I learned I was expecting my daughter. Whoa. A mother and a cook? Looking back at nineteen I was simply too naive to be scared. Thus, armed with a wedding gift from my father-in-law, The Joy of Cooking, and an open mind I began my journey into the world of culinary delights. That cookbook still sits downstairs with the inscription clearly readable. It’s splattered and road worn but I defer to it often.

In spite of the fact for the first three months of my pregnancy the very thought of food had me sprinting for the bathroom, my cooking skills showed some improvement. Eggs were added to my menu selections, both scrambled and fried, and hamburgers and hot dogs also made the list. With the help of Chef Boyardee’s sauce, I managed to put spaghetti on the table one night, and my mother came over several weekends and introduced me to cooking with potatoes and how to manage rice. After a fire scare with unwatched boiling potatoes, life was good.

Friends, around the same tender age, invited us to dinner. Also newlyweds (everyone got married young back in the day), she had learned to cook at her mother’s side and had a decided edge on me when it came to putting something on the table. Being well brought up, I knew our invitation would have to be reciprocal so I scanned recipes deciding what to make when it was my turn at bat. I decided on chili. How hard could it be? According to the recipe it involved beans, sauce, and meat. Easy peasey.

Standing in the market, I surveyed my list. I did all right in the aisles, but when it came to the vegetable section I was a complete novice. Had I been the last person on earth left with only an eggplant, artichoke or a fennel bulb I would have starved to death. A clove of garlic was listed among the ingredients for chili. Not sure what a clove of garlic looked like, I was forced to ask for direction. A gentleman wearing a store apron pointed to a pile of what appeared to me to be small white pumpkins. Told this was garlic, I picked one up and tossed it in the cart.

According to the recipe, the meat was browned along with the garlic and onion. Simple enough. Circling the bulb of garlic, I found no instructions on how to proceed. Fast forward to now I would have searched for a video no problem, but back then one sort of flew by the seat of their pants. Peeling the garlic I was surprised to find sections inside. Hmmmmmm. Interesting. So, I peeled all the sections, like an orange basically. Chopping was mentioned, so I chopped them all up and tossed them in. Yes, the entire bulb of garlic. Later my husband was to tell me he could smell garlic when half way down the block. Who knew? I’m amazed it didn’t blaze a hole through the bottom of the pan. Simmering for the hour called for the aroma literally permeated the entire apartment. Months later I could still detect the lingering smell of garlic in my throw pillows.

Seated at the dinner table I dished up the deadly brew to my guests and my husband. My husband should have been awarded a purple heart for culinary bravery. Gingerly he forked up a biteful and inserted it his mouth. Looking at his face, it became quickly obvious something was amiss. For twenty minutes he drank water and when able to speak asked me what I’d put in the chili. Explaining I’d followed the recipe, it took my guest to straighten out the mystery. Ah well, without trial and error how would we learn? Pizza was ordered and we made the best of it. I did note, however, the next time I mentioned getting together for a meal it was suggested we go out. Fine.

During my time in the south I came to understand that for many living there grilling is an art form rather than a pastime. My husband at the time had been born  in Texas and could produce dishes on the grill that drew people from all around with the enticing aroma alone. He used to tell me if was good already it could only be improved with bourbon. This sauce is wonderful on about everything.

Kentucky Bourbon Barbecue Sauce

2 cups catsup
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup Kentucky bourbon
6 drops Liquid Smoke
5 Tbsp. granulated sugar
5 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp. onion powder
1/2 Tbsp. garlic powder
1/2 Tbsp. ground mustard
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Whisk all ingredients together in medium saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook uncovered for 1 hour, stirring frequently.

For the babyback ribs, massage your favorite rub into the meat. Wrap tightly with foil. Bake at 250 degrees for two hours. Remove from oven, open foil, and slather fatty side of ribs with sauce. Increase heat to 350 degrees. Continue cooking with foil open for 1 hr., basting with sauce every 15 mins. Serve with a side of sauce.

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