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Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

1

Summer has arrived with a vengeance here in Northern California, giving barely a nod to spring. One weekend we had snow, the next the asphalt was melting. With all the strange weather going on all over the world it is hard to deny global warming is progressing, though some persist in insisting this is so. Our glaciers are melting, our oceans temperatures are rising. I cannot for the life of me understand how sticking our heads in the sand and pretending it is not happening will make it go away. My rant for the day.

As a kid summer was at time of year highly anticipated. School doors shut for the season, warm sunny days, a glistening pool in the back yard. Life was good. Most of my life I’ve been a sun bunny. Spending my middle school and high school years in Southern California, the majority of my summer vacation was spent at one of the many beaches within driving distance from my house. Those were glorious days looking back. Blissfully innocent about the effects of the sun on our skin, we slathered ourselves with a lethal concoction of baby oil and iodine and spent hours coaxing the sun to turn our bodies a lovely shade of golden brown.

Though I’m sure not much has changed, the beaches somehow seemed safer back then. Other than an occasional incident of a swimmer caught in a riptide or someone getting a serious sunburn, I don’t remember hearing about many incidents of shark sightings or attacks, though I’m sure there were many such events. With no social media to propel stories along the information highway was much slower relying on word of mouth, nightly news, or newspapers to provide information. Southern California beaches lured sunbathers with warm water, miles of sun-kissed sand and, particularly in the Laguna Beach area, plentiful caves and tide pools to explore.

steps

My first child began her descent into the world in Laguna Beach. The first labor pain made itself known half way up a sheer staircase at a beach aptly named “1,000 Steps”. One pain following another I willed my overripe body to continue the uphill climb. By the time I reached street level I found myself praying for a helicopter to whisk me off to the nearest hospital. An hour and a half after I arrived at the hospital by our house my daughter arrived, leaving me to wonder if that last great effort up the endless steps hadn’t helped to hasten the delivery.

No matter whether on the east coast or the west the ocean is where I find peace. The only real regret I have about not finding wealth and fame (not that I looked very hard) is not having the wherewithal to buy a house with a panoramic view of the sea. How glorious it would be to open the door each morning to a salty sea breeze. To sit on the deck with your fingers wrapped around a hot cup of morning coffee and take in the sounds of waves crashing against the shore. Ahhhhhh.

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As a child the ocean was my backdrop. At the first sign of spring I would head down the hill towards the thin strand of rocky beach stretching behind our house. Sitting on a rock I would unlace my shoes and dip my toes into the icy water.

point-pleasant-park-beach

I have had the opportunity to live on the water since, but never again on the ocean. When my children were in high school, my daughter entering her senior year and my son his junior, I rented a beautiful home in a man-made water community in Northern California on the Sacramento Delta called Discovery Bay. The house was second in on the first water cul-de-sac in a series of the same winding about the community. Our boat had been sold several years before so we used the dock mainly for fishing or launching the variety of floats and water toys stored in a massive bin on the middle deck. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mornings I would seat myself in my lawn chair to watch the horizon for the first hint of the sun making an entrance for the day. Usually Barnaby the golden retriever padded down to join me keeping a watchful eye out for a duck in the vicinity or a stray cat sleeping under a deck.

There’s something so calming and soul soothing about being close to water. If responsibilities and family didn’t hold me where I am, I would find a houseboat along a waterway somewhere and drop a line over the rail.On a day such as today where the thermometer is projected to reach record highs, the idea floats around in my brain like a bingo ball bouncing in a cage.

Should reincarnation be an option, I am definitely going to rethink being rich and famous just to allow me to live somewhere with salt in the air.

This cole slaw is positively decadent. I served it with tuna croquettes and a nicoise salad and it disappeared quickly.

Blue Cheese Cole Slaw

6 cups finely chopped shredded cabbage
2 oz. crumbled blue cheese
1/3 cup red onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp. Sriracha sauce
1 tsp. Dijon mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. celery salt

Mix together the cabbage, blue cheese, and onion in large mixing bowl.

Whisk together remaining ingredients to make dressing. Pour over cabbage 1 hour prior to serving and refrigerate.

Serves 6

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final

It’s been a month since I sat down to write a story. Where does the time disappear to these days? I feel like I’m chasing my life as it speeds by me like an express train and I’m not a scheduled stop along the line.

Sensing I was itching to get out of the house last night, Rick suggested a date night. Movie perhaps and a bite to eat afterwards? As going to the Caribbean or boarding a ship for a trip around the world weren’t listed as options, this sounded good to me. Scanning the paper he reminded me it was his turn to pick a movie. The last movie we saw was Beauty and the Beast (my pick obviously). Now, it was my turn to defer to his tastes which lean in a completely different direction. Damn his excellent memory. Giving me a choice between the newest Pirates of the Caribbean or the most recent Alien sequel, I chose the latter. As much as I enjoy a couple of hours of large screen Johnny Depp, I haven’t seen a good alien up close and personal since Arrival. In hindsight should have gone for Pirates I believe. Hear it’s great.

I loved the original Alien movie. Sigourney Weaver facing down a truly fierce and formidable alien. Jam packed with lots of action, a lot of Hollywood magic, plus a great script. What’s not to love? This new one was a bit of a different creature, if you will. There was definitely action but I didn’t find much of a story line. If you’re a fan of gory evisceration scenes, however, this is the film for you. According to Rick I spent two-thirds of the movie with my hoodie pulled over my head (probably a slight exaggeration). The scenes I did see were enough to haunt my dreams for a long while. Ewwww.

Getting out of the movie past our usual feeding time, we followed the herd to the local Cattleman’s Steakhouse. Rick was on a quest for liver and onions one of their menu items, yet another taste belonging only to him. Amazingly for two individuals who are soooooo vastly different we manage to come together beautifully.

The restaurant was humming for a weeknight. The slogan on the server’s aprons read “the restaurant where the big boys go to eat” or something of that nature. They offer generous portions which even for big boys most likely need to be accompanied by a defibrillator if you order dessert. I chose the smallest of their burgers with a side of potato salad. Settling into a conversation about the movie, Rick was a thumbs up while my thumb was pointed toward the floor.

Waiting for our entrees to arrive a lady, perhaps in her early seventies, eating alone at the table behind us got up to use the facilities. Passing our table she stopped. After an uncomfortable pause she commented “this is being taken off tomorrow”. Having not one single idea what the woman was talking about but not wanting to be rude, I replied, “I’m so glad”. As soon as the words left my lips I was hoping she wasn’t discussing an unsightly wart or skin lesion. What? I don’t know. Rick was looking at me as though I’d just taken my shirt off and was working on the hooks on my bra.

As the woman continued I noticed a huge boot on her right leg which I came to understand was what she was referring to. Whew. The story was she had visited a doctor in our area with a sore foot who diagnosed a broken bone. Going to another source for a second opinion it was determined it was not, in fact, broken and the boot was to be removed. Probably more information that I needed but she was friendly and perhaps a bit lonely so I listened attentively nodding my head at the appropriate junctions.

Heading on to her destination she stopped once again on her way back to tell me about the YMCA’s classes in our area. Why I have no clue. Perhaps when she saw Rick’s plate arrive with an entire loaf of white bread perched on one side of a pile of liver and French fries she thought the information might be beneficial. The odd thing, if you wonder why I’m leading you down this convoluted path, is the day before I had been on line searching for a Y in our area. Missing the pool we left behind I thought I might find one at a Y and I want to try my hand (and the rest of my body if they insist) at yoga or Zumba. The closest Y I could locate was at least forty minutes away so to find out there was one closer was the information I needed. Weird.

For me this puts a lot of truth in the belief people weave in and out of our lives for a reason. Some come to remain at your side, others stay for a while then move on, and some only visit for a moment or two to provide us with something we might use on our journey. Happens to me so often I’ve dismissed the thought this is mere coincidence. Sometimes I will wish I had a particular item or that a certain person would call and somehow what I needed comes to me or the phone begins to ring with that person on the other end.

In the end the boot lady was lovely. We spent a short time sharing the events of our day and information I needed came my way. On another note both the burger and the potato salad were noteworthy. Thank you to the universe on both counts.

These little nests are so pretty on the table and filled with whatever you might like. I served them with marscapone and strawberries last weekend to rave reviews. Got the idea from a recipe in Cuisine at Home.

Tomato Cheese Tarts

2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp. water
8 oz. Rondelle garlic and herb cheese
2 Tbsp. milk
16 cherry tomatoes (mixed colors are most appealing visually), halved
2 Tbsp. minced basil
Salt and pepper
Basil leaves to garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Remove pastry from refrigerator and allow to sit at room temperature for 30 mins.

Cut one sheet of pasty into four equal quarters. Cover cookie sheet with parchment paper and arrange quarters on top.

Cut second sheet of pastry into 8 3/4″ strips. (You will have pastry left over.) Cut the strips in half.

Place two strips on two sides of each pastry square. Then place two strips on the uncovered sides of each square overlapping the ends.

2

Whisk together egg yolk and water. Brush lightly over the borders and the ends of the squares. Bake for 25 mins. or until golden brown.

Remove from oven and cool for 5 mins. Using a fork gently pull top of center piece of pasrty out of each square and discard.

Mix together cheese and milk. Divide equally among the squares spreading around the bottom. Top with sliced tomatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Divide basil among the four and return to oven for 5 mins. Garnish with whole basil leaves.

Makes 4

 

 

 

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1
Premarin is a hormone replacement therapy available for women of a certain age or any woman no longer producing estrogens naturally. I called it my “princess pill”. A tiny purple capsule that when introduced into the body creates calm where there was chaos and balance where none existed. Ahhhhh.

At the age of thirty-two I underwent a hysterectomy. There were strong indications at that young age such a surgery was necessary, so I checked myself into the hospital and gave up my reproductive organs to a glass lab jar. There was little talk post surgery about what to expect once these organs were no longer in place. Looking back, any information might have proved helpful during the year following. A year my children refer to with horror as “Mom’s Dark Ages”. At best a hysterectomy is a surgery incorporating both physical loss as well as emotional upheaval. For many women being told they can no longer bear children can make for a difficult transition. A supportive mate and family can help to make this an easier time, but like many journeys in our lives, this  is one traveled by yourself.

During that year my emotions ran the gambit from crying for no reason, lapsing into unexplained bouts of hilarity, or suddenly being angry.  My family, alarmed at the changes in my personality, approached me cautiously in the morning not knowing whether they might be greeted by “The Good Susie” or her evil twin Suselzabub. Most unsettling.

To add to the myriad of emotional issues that befell me that year hot flashes arrived with a vengeance. For men, or ladies not yet there, these fiery episodes send heat crawling like a blanket of lava up your body. Your face approaches melting temperatures causing you to want to rip your clothes off and throw yourself in a bed of ice. Often they are accompanied by profuse sweating leaving you looking for all purposes like an overripe tomato left too long in the sun. Good news, once one eases up you become so chilled you need a parka to warm you up. Lovely.

Doctors, to my mind, often dismiss ailments in women as “emotional” or “imagined”. For nearly a year between fanning myself and losing my mind I explained my symptoms during my doctor’s visits. Usually this was dismissed as either non-existent or unimportant enough to pursue further. Finally, at the end of a frustrating year I went to a woman doctor who immediately wrote me a prescription for Premarin. Three weeks later life as I knew it had returned to nearly normal (or as normal as my life gets).

Once I had no prescription for two months during an out-of-state move. My husband at the time announced that if that ever happened again he would happily crawl across a field of cut glass to get me my meds. Nice.  Thus was born the term “Susie’s princess pills”. Ah yes.

Up until three years ago once  day I took my little pill and life rolled along like a calm sea on a balmy summer day. I went to my doctor for my yearly physical and was told Premarin had too many side effects and that she would no longer be prescribing it. Really? So I’ve been taking it all this time with the side effects and suddenly it’s a problem WHAT?

Sure enough before long the dreaded heat from within began once again to make its presence known followed shortly by my hair molting in the bathroom sink. Then came a bout of dry eyes attributed to the lack of hormones in my system. Thankfully that was three years ago and all but the misery of hot flashes have somewhat abated. Still, I miss my little purple pill with its blessed healing powers. Ah well.

There are pros and cons regarding Premarin. Heated discussions continue in medical circles on whether to or not to prescribe it. On the con side it increases the chance of a stroke. On the plus side a happier patient with stronger bones, higher libido and lusher hair. Certainly your body sings a more joyful song when your hormones are in balance.

Last week I was waiting in line at the prescription counter. A package marked Premarin sat on a shelf behind the counter. I considered scaling the counter, grabbing the goods and running.  After weighing Premarin or jail I picked up my order and left. Looking back I’m not convinced I made the right choice. Ah well. Life is full of hurdles. I will survive this one as well.

This dessert is sinfully easy for how it presents itself and is my Mother’s number one request when she visits.

Cherry Crisp

2 cans cherry pie filling
3 tsp. lemon juice
1 pkg. deluxe yellow cake mix
1 cube butter, melted
1 10 oz. pkg. crushed pecans
Whipped topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray 13″ x 9″ pan with cooking spray.

Spread both cans of cherry pie filling along bottom of pan. Sprinkle with lemon juice.

Mix cake mix, butter, and pecans together in large bowl until well blended and crumbly. Sprinkle over cherries.

Bake for 25-30 mins. until browned and bubbly

Serves 6-8

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Sometimes when I see what is going on in our world I wonder how many steps forward women have actually made in recent years. Yesterday I read a jarring statistic asserting one out of every seven female students at the University of Texas is raped. Factor in the number of unreported sexual assaults due to the stigma attached or fear of not being believed this number could be significantly low. Over and over reports of sexual abuse by those entrusted with our children surface in the news. Just this week a trial is being highlighted involving abuse by a doctor in the Olympic community spanning years and many female athletes.

Some say this casts a light on how we are raising our boys. I don’t know if this is the answer. Maybe the problem is fueled by the good old boy mentality prevalent in school governing boards particularly when it comes to the protecting their star athletes. When did eliciting sex from an unwilling partner become the norm or accepted behavior? Why are young women heading off to college campuses not being protected?

Women fight uphill on so many issues. Even after all these years working in the workplace with men women continue to lag behind in compensation when bringing the same credentials and education to the table as their male counterparts. Is it them, or is it us? Somewhere deep in our subconscious do we still believe we are worth less or somehow less deserving? Certainly this message continues to be brought to the fore. A recent picture taken in D.C. depicting a panel of lawmakers discussing women’s issues made it crystal clear this way of thinking still exists. All male faces sat around the table. How does that work? How is a panel fully populated with men likely to come to a reasonable and unbiased conclusion about a subject simply not affecting nor resonating with them? It reminded me of a class I took years ago at the Catholic church before marrying my first husband. The discussion was marriage, with all that entails. The teacher, a priest. Hmmmmm.

When I began my career it was a very male dominated work environment. The company I worked for was a major engineering company employing largely male engineers with women thrown about in supporting roles. The two female engineers with offices in the building both so much men they hardly counted as members of the opposing team. Getting to know them as time passed one explained in order to be taken seriously among her peers it was necessary to dress the part. Again, really? At the time women were expected to make and fetch coffee for their male co-workers. Once I was engaged in a critical phone call with a major client overseas. In the middle of the call one of the engineers came to stand at my desk obviously needing my immediate attention. Excusing myself for a moment I asked what the problem was. The engineer leaned down to explain the coffee pot in the break room was empty.  I had several suggestions for him, both of which I filed away for my own enjoyment.

On another job I was an executive assistant to the plant manager of a metal can manufacturer. I was young, in my mid-twenties. The gentleman I worked for (I’m using this term loosely) recently had celebrated his fortieth birthday. Cresting the hill into mid-life hadn’t settled well with him. To add to his gray hairs his second wife, barely out of diapers, entertained very rich tastes. The man was well paid. I know this because I also did his banking. However, with his first wife siphoning alimony and child support from each check and the second burning rubber on the credit cards every day the man had stress, big stress. Nevertheless, working for him should have come with a larger paycheck on my side. Most of my day, when not making coffee, arranging golf lessons, researching vacation options, or making his children’s doctor or dental appointments was spent running his personal errands. At least once a week I picked up an order at the dry cleaners, took his car to be washed and waxed and stopped for a carton of cigarettes at the smoke shop. Several times I actually gathered his little boy at the soccer field, stopped for a loaf of bread and some lunch meat and dropped both off with the babysitter at home. What exactly did the bride do besides enter a store? Thank God I’d taken the time to get an education so I would be prepared to assume such weighty responsibilities. After enduring nearly two years of such nonsense young or not I’d had enough. Aside from the endless errand running also falling under my job responsibilities was alcohol counselor and facilitator. At least once a week he returned to the office after a serious liquid lunch requiring at least a pot of coffee to finish off the afternoon. Looking back I’m amazed a single can ever made it off the assembly line and onto the truck at the loading gate.

On more than one occasion I’ve been the beneficiary of unsolicited advances from my supervisors or co-workers. One of my bosses took me to lunch on Secretary’s Day. A gesture I thought thoughtful until over coffee he laid his hand suggestively on my knee and indicated we consider getting to know another in the most Biblical sense. He was married as was I. I removed his hand and said I would alert my husband to his proposal and see if he was on board before moving forward. End of conversation. End of job as well. This made for an extremely uncomfortable work day. Not long after the incident I began to look for a new place to work. These days I would have reported such behavior.  Back then you sucked it up and moved on.

Women are amazing creatures to my mind. Multi-tasking their way through their lives maintaining a strong and resilient backbone for their families. I’m not a bra burner, and enjoy all that comes with being a woman, but when it comes to these issues I could easily pen a poster and fall in line behind others of my kind to fight the good fight.

At any rate, there is no debate about how good this chicken is. It looks like you went all out when really there is not much prep required.

Meyer Lemon and Tangelo Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 Meyer lemons, 1 juiced, 1 sliced
2 Tangelos, 1 juiced, 1 sliced
1 large onion, sliced thin
1/3 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon
Juice of 1 tangelo
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. dried cilantro
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. rosemary
1/2 tsp. basil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spray 13 x 9″ pan with cooking spray. Place sliced onion on bottom of dish. Whisk together olive oil, garlic, juices, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, paprika, cilantro, and red pepper flakes. Drop chicken in mixture and turn to coat well. Place chicken on top of onion slices. Pour remaining marinade over chicken. Arrange sliced fruit around and on top of meat. Sprinkle rosemary and basil over top. Place in oven for 40-45 mins. basting twice. If liquid gets too low add a little water.

Serves 4

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asked2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This fish is moist and delicious.

Baked Tilapia with Cherry Tomatoes

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

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

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

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

Serves 4

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2Well the Oscars are in the bag, a Gucci bag I’m sure. Last night was as usual a star filled performance. So many awards shows fill the air this time of year by the time the Oscars show up I am somewhat award show weary. Weary or not, however, I still tune in as I do every year. Not only to see which movie, song, director, etc. gets the nod, but to see the impeccably made up faces, perfectly styled hair and lovely fashions that make the show a much watched event. Sometimes the outfits that show up on the red carpet have me wondering if the wearer is devoid of mirrors in their home. Best dressed or worst they’re always interesting to be on the sidelines for. Surely I have missed my chance to ever wear a $60,000 dress accessorized by $1,000,000 worth of jewelry. Looking back I don’t think I missed my chance, rather it never presented itself.

Many of the movies nominated I have yet to see. Arrival is the only one I can check off the list. Interesting movie. Though the story line kept me involved beginning to end, as the credits ran I was scratching my head wondering what it was I’d just seen. Apparently I’m not alone. A movie reviewer during a critique of the movie said he had to see it several times to get the jist of the film, and still wasn’t sure he’d gotten it right.

I rather enjoy alien movies and I don’t mind a little horror now and again. There are so many gruesome horror films in the theaters of late. Not my favorite. Too much gore or weirdness such as films like Hellraiser, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Pumpkinhead leave me checking my door locks for weeks and silently screaming in my sleep. I prefer a gentler scare, if you will, along the lines of Alien, Contact, Poltergeist or Silver Bullet. Still scary, but not life altering.

La La Land is one film I am looking forward to purchasing a ticket for. Rick, most probably, will not be my date. Rick is more of an action movie or science fiction kind of guy. Guns, detectives, fast-moving cars and cyborgs are right up his alley. Thankfully, I enjoy those types of movies as well (though you can leave the cyborgs at home) or we’d always end up sitting in two separate theaters on date night. Action movies rank among my favorite fare. I remember seeing Bullitt for the first time. According to many critics the footage of Bullitt contains one of the best chase scenes ever filmed. The movie started out running and kept up the frantic pace until the final scene was over. Being young and stupid we choose the movie’s debut week to go and see it. By the time our group of six arrived at the theater long lines had already formed beyond the ticket booth. Wanting to sit together, we were told the front row of the theater was to be our only choice. Fine. To say it was slightly loud would be like saying the Pope is slightly Catholic. As it turned out the volume was not to be our main problem, viewing a movie of that type from that angle was going to be the main problem. Literally during that chase scene through San Francisco it felt as if we were going to exit the theater with tire prints stretched across our faces. Sometimes I had to close my eyes to keep myself rooted in my seat.

My favorite movie genre truly is comedy. Not many great ones are being produced these days. I miss the  older comedies with great comedic men such as Gene Wilder, Richard Pryor, John Candy, Chevy Chase, Dan Ackaroyd and Robin Williams. The women back then were standouts as well as far as I’m concerned. Doris Day got things kick started in the 60’s and Goldie Hawn, Gilda Radner, Julia Roberts and a host (or hostess) of others carried the baton down through the decades to follow. The last “laugh out loud” movie I saw was Heat with Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock. I keep hoping to see a new crop of gifted comic actors showing up but as yet a good split your gut comedy seems to remain out of my reach.

Jimmy Kimmel stepped into the host shoes easily I thought. My favorite part of the night was when he brought a group of unsuspecting tourists into room. Imagine finding yourself in the middle of the Oscars after getting off your bus for a scheduled stop. Hilarious.

As usual there were unexpected moments. Perhaps the most notable was when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway inadvertently called out La La Land as Best Picture when actually Moonlight had taken home the gold. No small boo-boo that. Someone’s head will be lying across the chopping block I would imagine. Not the stars fault. A case of the wrong card in the wrong envelope at the wrong moment . I’m sure for the La La Land group felt like being thrown in ice water after a warm bath but with live television anything can happen and often does.

All in all another great Hollywood moment put to bed. Thank heavens for movies to take our minds off the unsettling world swirling about us. I was so sorry to hear that Bill Paxton unexpectedly passed at 61. So many fine actors lost last year.

I couldn’t take a picture that seemed to do this flavorful sandwich justice. Pretty or not it delivers on taste. Yum.

Shredded Beef with Horseradish Cheese and Cole Slaw

1 onion sliced
1 4 lb. chuck roast
1 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2-1 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 garlic cloves minced
1 1/2 cups beef broth
4 slices Horseradish cheese
4 Kaiser rolls, halved

Spray 6 quart crockpot with cooking spray. Place onion slices on bottom of cooker. Whisk together salt, pepper, basil, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder, and red pepper flakes. Rub into all sides of roast. Place roast on top of onion and sprinkle with garlic cloves. Pour broth in pot. Cook on low for 10 hours. Shred pork with forks removing any fatty sections. Return to liquid in pot and continue cooking for 1 hour.

Preheat broiler. Place Kaiser rolls cut side up under broiler and cook until deep golden brown. Take tops out and keep warm. Place 1 slice of cheese on each of the bottom halves and return to broiler until cheese is bubbly and light brown.

Remove meat with slotted spoon from crockpot reserving liquid. Pile meat on the bottom of each roll. Take roll tops and dip face down in liquid. Serve with cole slaw either on top or on the side.

Cole Slaw

1/3 Cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 Cup milk
1/2 Cup mayonnaise
1/4 Cup buttermilk
1 1/2 T white vinegar
2 1/2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 Pkg finely shredded cole slaw mix

Whisk the dressing ingredients together and refrigerate. About an hour before serving toss dressing with chopped onion and coleslaw mix. Serve chilled.

Serves 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rotisserie Chicken Taco Soup

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

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

Serve topped with cheese and garnished with tortilla chips.

Serves 4

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