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Time to take a break from my blog for a bit. So much is going on around here for the next few months and it’s too hot to get serious in the kitchen. Hope you’re all having a great summer. See you again in September with new recipes and stories.

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finalSaturday we were invited to a friend’s milestone birthday party. The location, our old stomping grounds, took us an hour and a half to get to. It was a particularly gorgeous summer day so we enjoyed the drive, our time at the party with old friends, and the return trip. On the way back up the hill towards home a huge plume of smoke, not visible when we left, loomed beyond the mountains. A stab of fear nibbled at the back of my neck. Summer is not our friend here in parched Northern California this year. The tree roots are reaching out for water and the ground is easy prey for a stray spark or a carelessly tossed cigarette. Very unnerving. For me, I will be glad when summer closes her books for 2015 come fall. Hopefully the much touted El Nino will swoop down with a vengeance and bring us the much-needed water we are waiting for. Unfortunately an onslaught of rain in drought areas brings with it the threat of flash flooding and landslides, but our reservoirs and springs are dangerously low so this will have to be the bad with the good to bring our water levels back up to where they should be.

It is now nearly six days into the fire and containment is at 50%. The exhausted firefighters are working in steep terrain and the temps today are threatening to soar up above 100 degrees in Sacramento for the third day in a row. Whew. Suddenly I am restless and yearning for a vacation. Definitely I’m putting this on the calendar some time this year. Our last real vacation was too far back to remember.

This week is one of those frustrating weeks where no matter what I am doing, things seem to go south. Perhaps it is that I have my fingers in too many pies at the moment. I can hear my grandmother cautioning me “it is better to do one thing well, than many things poorly”. Ah yes. Well, Gam, here I am busily doing a lot of things half assed. I’m sure you’d be proud. Actually my grandmother would never have said ass, not even if referring to a donkey. Never did I know her to swear, in my presence at least. When totally frustrated she simply said, “mercy”. That’s telling them, Gam.

Sometimes swearing just comes naturally. When you’ve stubbed your toe and stars are dancing in front of your eyes, “darn it” doesn’t seem to adequately cover the situation. I try to use foul language sparingly but every once in a while when the situation dictates my mouth embarks on a rampage without me.

Truth is I love language, foul or not. Sometimes I cringe when I hear it butchered. I can’t figure out when it began but new words or phrases are becoming the norm such as “I seen it” or “tooken”. Tooken is now in the dictionary from what I understand. It is described as a non-standard version of took or taken. “Mercy”, as Gam would put it.

Grammar and spelling are not emphasized as they once were in schools. Not in school myself for some time, this is second-hand information. However, I believe it to be fairly accurate. With the advent of texting, new words, abbreviated words, and a specific texting language have emerged. Certainly geography is not pushed either, or at least not in one of my grandchildren’s school. I asked him if he new where British Columbia was during a discussion of a visit to the province. His response was “north of the U.S”. Pleased he was correct, he went on to call it a state rather than a province and was totally unaware there were any more provinces other than British Columbia existing in Canada. Sigh. Thankfully, most of the world has already been explored so this generation won’t be taxed with taking out any expeditions to discover new lands any time soon. Unless, of course, it involves space exploration and hopefully someone will have included a GPS or Mapquest directions on where to go once the moon is in the rear mirror.

Someone asked me once if I would go on a space ship if the price of a ticket was included in the invitation. Nope. Not because I don’t have the nerve, the interest, or the curiosity. Claustrophobic people are not a welcome inclusion on any trip involving closed doors with no escape. Trust me on this. Back a few years I was far worse. There were times when flying often for my job I had to suppress the urge when the doors were closed to run screaming down the center aisle of the plane screaming “stop this thing, I have to get off”! The first, and might I say last, time I went on Space Mountain at Disneyland I was so freaked out by the time I got off I wished fervently Walt had thought to include bars in his plans for Main Street along with ice cream parlours. Another time in the park I went in to see Captain EO in 3D with Michael Jackson. Doors closed all around me. Darkness descended and suddenly things were flying in my face and my overstimulated mind began screaming “RUN, SAVE YOURSELF!”. Probably I was one of the few people visiting the attraction who left in the middle of the show. Thankfully, a Disney elf took pity on me and got me out a door before I went postal.

I do love Disneyland. Many fond memories were created there when I was young. My son and his brood are going next week. He told me he could go on a cruise for the cost of three days in the park. Wow. I remember, dating myself again, when tickets were lettered A-E and you could do the whole park for $30 a person. To say it’s been a while since I’ve been there would be underlined by the fact I wasn’t aware there was a California side to the park. This is where they’ll be staying. He said the hotel spared no expense in making you feel your money is well spent even including luggage tags with Mickey’s visage on the front. What a great marketing idea. Little touches like that ease the pain a bit. A check would ease it more.

At any rate, in spite of the soaring temps I baked a pie. It was at 4:30 a.m. so much cooler that time of day. This is an old recipe from Rick’s first restaurant. Definitely has a yum factor.

1Brandy Alexander Pie

1 graham cracker pie crust, baked and cooled
3 eggs, separated
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2/3 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1/8 cup brandy
1/2 cup creme de cacao
1 cup heavy cream, beaten
Whipped Cream
Raspberries

Pour water in medium saucepan and sprinkle gelatin over top. Add 1/3 cup sugar, salt, and 3 egg yolks. Stir to mix well. Over lo heat cook and stir until mixture thickens. Do not boil.

Stir in brandy and creme de cacao. Chill over bowl of ice until mixture mounds slightly.

Beat egg whites until glossy. Beat in remaining 1/3 cup sugar and continue beating until stiff. Fold into thickened gelatin mixture. Fold in whipped cream. Spoon into crust and chill for several hours. Top with more whipped cream and raspberries.

Graham Cracker Crust

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup white sugar
6 Tbsp. melted butter

Mix ingredients well together. Press into bottom and up sides of pie plate. Bake for 8 mins. Cool on wire rack.

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1
Politicians are on the move once again. Mud bombs are being fired in all directions with Donald Trump leading the parade. He actually went so far as to give out Lindsey Graham’s cell phone number on national television. Graham reacted by creating a video of his smashing his phone in a variety of ridiculous ways which went viral. Really? Reminds me of a bunch of kids on a playground slinging insults at one another. Actually, I’ve seen kids play better together. I wish they’d stick to the issues rather than getting personal. I remember a counselor saying once that when involved in a debate or an argument, “Stick to the subject when having a disagreement. Do not attack on a personal level.” Words are something not easily taken back once they’re thrown out there. The impact of a verbal onslaught can be equally, if not more, damaging than slapping a person in the face.

It’s not that I disagree with everything Mr. Trump stands for, but definitely I stand on the opposite side on how he delivers his opinion and where he draws the line on expressing it. You cannot say a man so versed on running a business has nothing to contribute to the conversation, but he definitely seems to have boundary issues.

Hearing someone voice an opinion, even an unpopular one is at least taking a stand. I view this as better than having an opinion about how to fight the bull but sitting on the fence waiting to see if someone else is going to jump into the ring, pick up the cape, and take a stab at it.

The mini-series depicting King Tut’s short time in power viewed this week. I wouldn’t give it an “A” but it was entertaining enough to keep us tuned in through all three episodes. It certainly highlighted the perception that politics can be a dirty and backstabbing proposition is not a new concept. Tut, whose death remains a mystery, died at nineteen. According to the story his trusted advisor married the widowed queen, also Tut’s sister, and erased all memory of the former boy king from the records. Tut was buried in his gold sarcophagus in a lessor tomb, and remained unheralded until he was unearthed in 1922 thrusting him into the limelight. If not for this, he would have remained insignificant in Egyptian history books. What is known of him was gleaned from what was written inside the tomb he was buried in.

I have a total fascination with the Egyptians. Rick being from there and his knowledge of the area only adds to my curiosity. Such a rich and interesting culture. The Pyramids of Giza. Those amazing edifices standing the test of time in the middle of the desert are no less miraculous today than when they were erected. How on earth those huge stones came to piled in such a way with such precision of alignment. Wouldn’t I love to have been a fly on the wall during their construction to understand fully how these structures came to be. Pharaohs and their families were buried in the pyramid chambers. Their possessions were entombed with them, to be used in the afterlife. Servants, alive and well, were also sealed up with their masters to serve them as they transitioned from life on earth to the heavens to join with the gods. Hmmmmm. Being handy with a duster or throwing together a pot of fava beans might have been hazardous to your health back in those days.

Politics has continued over the years to hold hands with corruption in most cultures. The U.S. is no exception. Headlines repeat themselves as politicians from this state or that are uncovered dipping their hands in the till or twisting the law to suit their own purposes. It’s discouraging to watch as these people we elect are handed the reigns to our country often guiding it in the wrong direction.

Having a woman in charge might be interesting. I hope to see this someday, maybe even this time. We do seem to be stuck in the Bush/Clinton syndrome. Passing the baton down the line from one family member to the next. Somewhat reminiscent of Robert and Bobby Kennedy had they survived to fulfill the prophecy. John Kennedy’s assassination is one of two days, the other being 9/ll, where I have perfect recall of where I was the moment the news unfolded. When President Kennedy was shot, I was home from school lying on the couch nursing a good case of bronchitis. All day I sat, blanket under my chin, watching as the various news anchors related the events as the day progressed. The Kennedy’s, not unlike the pharaohs, suffered the burdens of public service heavily.

If you compare pictures of men assuming the presidency before they take office with those taken after they leave, it is obvious by the aging occurring during their time served the office extracts it’s pound of flesh for the privilege of holding it. Personally you have to admire anyone stepping up to the plate even if they strike out once they take the bat in their hand. No matter what decisions you make someone out there is going to think you’re an idiot, or worse. A tough hide would be helpful I’m sure to field all the complaints and rising and falling popularity polls associated with holding the office. This, not to mention walking around being a desirable target for someone with terrorist intentions or an unbalanced mind. Somehow I don’t feel all the wonderful food coming out of the White House kitchen would balance all the stuff sitting on the other side of the scale.

Looking at all this I’ve decided not to run. Although a woman and a Canadian at that might really shake up the oval office. Have a great day.

A friend shared this recipe with me. I wasn’t sure how I would like it, but as hot as it is outside it was surprisingly refreshing.

Tomato Orange Soup

2 lbs. Roma tomatoes, halved
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups rich chicken broth
1 cup orange juice
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp. dried basil
4 tsp. orange zest
1 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped fine
1 Tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Sour cream

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line cookie sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Place tomatoes cut side down on foil. Bake for 25 mins. until skins are charred. Peel off skin and discard.

Heat oil in stockpot over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 min.

Add broth, orange juice, tomato paste and thyme. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and continue cooking uncovered 40 mins. Add remaining ingredients except sour cream. Allow to cool slightly. Use emulsion blender or blender to puree. Return to pot and keep warm. Swirl sour cream on top when serving.

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final

I’m suffering through a bad haircut at the moment. For some reason I’m having trouble finding someone since moving to this area who can cut my hair. I admit I was gifted with a crown full of cowlicks which, if left unmanaged, leave me looking like a sprung basting brush. Up until now this minor flaw has been manageable with the salons I’ve had available without having to consult a specialist. Truth is I’ve always secretly held to the belief when they were assembling me they sewed my hair on upside down because it grows in the opposite direction it logically should. I suppose if this is the worst thing I have to deal with, I’m in pretty good shape.

Over the years I’ve had some disastrous visits to the beauty salon, not always resulting in the touted end result…..beauty. While living in Alabama I discovered a small salon in my neighborhood. Needing a touch up, I called to make an appointment. It was a salon of the old school variety. Ladies in colorful rollers ducked in and out of a bank of hooded dryers lining one wall. The stylist who was to do my hair wore a handkerchief pinned to one lapel with a nametag attached reading “Min_ie”, the second “n” obscured by time she was to tell me when introducing herself. A well-lived in face had me guessing “Min” to be in her early nineties, though it could have been the cigarette dancing on her lower lip as she spoke responsible for the skin damage. Not that I am saying Min was incapable of doing a good job at her age. It was not the number of candles on her cake but her eyesight that concerned me. Her glasses were so thick the magnification could have picked up a mote of dust on the wing of a gnat. I’m just sayin. In spite of the obvious signs to proceed with caution, I found myself suggesting we veer away from my usual ash blonde and introduce some reddish tones to my hair. Sometimes my mouth turns off its receptor to my brain ad acts on its own accord. Either that or it was the lethal cocktail of all the chemical fumes mingling with the oppressive air inside the building. I believe I lost enough body fluid while under the dryer to make a new person.

Red, of all colors in the spectrum, is the hardest to remove once applied so I’m told. The red in my addled mind was a soft rather bronzy tone. The color I ended up with looked like I’d been left to ferment in a vat of port wine. Even my scalp was magenta. OMG. While it was being applied I commented on how dark the color appeared. I was assured once dry it would be much lighter. So not the truth. I drove home with the windows rolled up and a bag over my head. Hoping it wasn’t as bad as the mirror suggested it was, when my husband walked in the house he stood there speechless. Not a man normally at a loss for conversation, I felt this wasn’t a thumbs up. After a few moments of stunned silence he said, “what have you done”? Nope, not a thumbs up. In the end I had to pay to have highlights put it, and even at that it took several months for my hair to be able to be viewed without sunglasses. Sigh.

Another time I was job hunting in Southern California. Wanting to look my best I made an appointment at an upscale salon in the high rent district of the beach city I lived in at the time. Haircuts were pricey there, but I understood they provided wine and snacks so I was on board. Greeted by a perky receptionist I was asked to take a seat while my stylist finished his last client. Shortly, a tall painfully sparse man with black spiky hair and matching fingernails came around the corner. He could have doubled for Johnny Depp in Edward Scissorhands. Without being introduced, I knew he was heading for me. Telling me a had a perfect oval shaped face for short hair, he suggested whittling my do down and shaping it to my head. Okay. I hoped he wasn’t going to use both hands to snip. An hour later with most of my blonde hair decorating the floor by the chair, I found Annie Lennox looking back at me in my reflection. Ach. More wine please. The bill was $80. The saying “you got fleeced”, would fit nicely here.

No hair remaining and a job interview with a Texas based construction company two days away I was concerned. Having a short, blunt hair cut probably wasn’t going to be a selling point with a group of Texans notoriously supporters of big haired women. It’s kind of like going to a rodeo wearing stretch denims and a red felt cowboy hat with large white stitching. Not good. Thinking outside of the box I borrowed a short blond wig from a friend. Actually it looked real enough to be my own hair so I headed to the refinery for my interview and things went swimmingly. Offered the job I was instructed to show up the following Monday to begin what would be a three year stay working in as a Field Buyer. Along with my paperwork I was given a “dress code” which included steel toed boots and a hard hat. Oh-oh. Hard hats and wigs don’t necessary go together. I would assume every time you removed the hat the hair would naturally go right along with it. Soooo, I showed up for work the first day shorn and grinning. My new boss didn’t recognize me at first and after I’d been there a while I took some good natured ribbing about my original look. Thankfully hair has a way of growing out, so all was not lost, and this hair cut will do the same.

Tilapia is a favorite on our dinner table. This is crunchy and yummy served with a bed of Jasmine rice or your favorite side. Yum.

Sindhi Masala Tilapia Dry

4 tilapia fillets
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. tumeric powder
1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ground fennel
1 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Oil for frying

Whisk together flour, spices, salt and pepper. Dredge fish in mixture.

Heat 1/4″ of oil over high heat until shimmering. Add fish to pan and brown on both sides until flesh is light and flaky. Serve with lemon wedges.

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2I began adding floor exercises to my walking last week. This came after doing a knee bend to fill the cat’s bowl and realizing unless Rick had come to give me a hand up, I would still be crouching there. Starting slow is important. Rushing into exercise when you are somewhat out of shape leads to injuries. Also, if I kill myself the first time out, there isn’t liable to be a second time. To begin, I decided on leading off with twenty jumping Jacks. When I was in my teens I could do 100 jumping Jacks, play two sets of tennis, and participate in the triathalon and have energy left over to do laps in the pool. Those days, my body would suggest, have passed. Always in P.E. we had to warm up with 30 jumping jacks and other vigorous cardio type exercises before playing whatever sport was on the agenda for the semester. Do they still have P.E? I don’t think in the structured way we had it when I was in school. Fourth or fifth period Physical Education showed on my schedule every day during high school. One of my granddaughters said at their school they have the students walk the track three times a week. Technically, from what I understand, they’re supposed to jog, but no one does. Mostly they tap, tap, tap on their cell phones and visit. That gets my heart going, but I’m sure there’s is just plodding along.

Not being a particularly coordinated being, I won’t say I loved pulling on my gym shorts and heading out to whatever field I was playing on. Baseball, in particular, was my nemesis. Twice I got hit on the head with the ball suffering a concussion both times (this explains a lot), and once I got hit full swing with the bat across the center of my face resulting in a broken nose. The universe was trying to tell me something, and definitely it was not that I was headed for the major leagues. Basketball wasn’t my thing either. A girl about two feet taller than myself stepped soundly on my big toe while making a shot jamming my nail into my skin. Pain shot up through my spine and exited out my mouth. I’m sure that scream was heard by a peasant herding goats somewhere in Sicily. That toenail continues to come and go at whim since that day. Good news though, I didn’t have to play basketball the rest of the semester. In my defense I was fast on my feet and quite good at football. Not a sport much taken up by women back then, but I often played at the local park with friends getting by without embarrassing myself. Swimming and tennis were more my style. I was on the tennis team and took up space at the local courts often during the summer. Another sport of a sort I loved was roller skating. Surprisingly I was quite graceful at it. After showing continued interest my mother purchased skates, a case, and toe stops and I was off and running. For four years I spent weekends skating, then high school came along and new things captured my interest, but many times during adulthood I’ve tied on skates and been surprised that my feet continue to remember the experience.

In elementary school we had recess and lunch to get our energy out. When the bell rang students poured out of classrooms like roaches out of a burning building. A teacher with a whistle around her neck passed out all variety of balls from a shed by the gymnasium. Excitedly we hooked them up to tether ball strings, or played four-square or dodge ball until the bell rang calling us back to class. Hopscotch was another popular pastime during breaks. Girls carried lucky lagers used to pass from one square to the next. I’ll have to check with my grandchildren to see if such things still go on. My guess is not. I think the sound I’m hearing is my bones creaking. Sigh.

I walked with a friend this morning. Several times a month we walk, then go to lunch. Sort of a two steps forward, one step back kind of thing. Smile. She has nine-children. Whew. Definitely needed a hobby when she was younger. I have four, if you count my two step-children, and I do. Her nine children have four children combined, and my four children have nine. My oldest granddaughter, Breanna, or Bre to those of us who hold her dear, was born not long after my forty-second birthday. Being a grandma before you go through menopause is sort of a treat. Lots of needed energy left to draw on to crawl about the floor or go for bike rides. Bre is studying to be a yoga instructor and is a strict vegan. When we are together meat is not a subject I throw down on the table, if you will. If I do she is liable to ask me if I pictured the cow’s face when adding catsup to my burger. Since hamburgers are up there with the manna of the gods for me, I prefer to keep meat and vegan separate when enjoying my time with her. Sometimes it is best to agree to disagree. I respect her views on making a better and healthier earth, however. Even if I don’t choose to follow the same path where my food is concerned, I can admire and support her passion for standing up for what she believes in. One thing I will say about processed food is that it most likely is doing us in, but other than limiting my diet to nuts and berries, I don’t for the life of me know what to do about it.

While living in the south I have to admit I don’t believe I met any vegans, not even any looser vegetarians. Meat was pretty much a mainstay on tables where I lived while there and I wouldn’t suggest bringing up the “have you pictured the animal’s face” query to your host before sitting down to dinner. Number one most likely he has seen the animal’s face, and number two you may find yourself eating a bowl of raw corn out behind the barn.

Last night was meatloaf night at our house. I have made so many variations of meatloaf over the years it always surprises me when a new one crops up that I can file in the “keep” file.

Mediterranean Meatloaf

1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 cup finely crushed Saltine crackers
1 onion, chopped fine
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. ground oregano
1 small can chopped black olives, drained
8 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
1 medium zucchini
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbsp. olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients together well. Spray loaf pan with cooking spray. Put meat into bottom of pan.

Mix together cherry tomatoes, zucchini, garlic and olive oil. Spoon over meat. Cook for 1 hr. and 20 mins. Drain if necessary.

1

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final
I’ve been traveling this week. Yesterday I spent the day with my daughter in her day care. For me this is always a treat, but I can imagine on a day to day basis it must take a great deal of patience and dedication to keep up with the six little pirates she cares for every day. The baby of the group, just a year, is so cute. It would be difficult to be mad at her. Funny isn’t it how babies of all species are precious no matter how cute or not cute they might be considered. To a mother wart hog, I’m sure her little one is the pick of the litter, so to speak. Aside from the children present, three dogs make their home at my daughter’s along with one huge orange tabby cat answering to Cassanova. Cassanova weighs in at twenty-five pounds. Pita, the largest of the three canines is a golden lab. Ebony, a chow mix and the middle in size of the group, is a sweet animal suffering from dementia. Jasper rounds out the trio, a small hyper hybrid who requires a daily dose of Prozac to keep him from dancing on the ceiling. The noise level, as you might imagine, can keep your ears ringing.

My mother has announced she is lonely for animal companionship since her cat, aptly named Susie, passed away. The thought of finding another feline with a similar disposition may be a difficult task. The two of them cohabited well together. As with humans, simply getting another like being doesn’t often fill the void of the one no longer there. However, with so many cats needing homes in shelters, I will endeavor to find the perfect match adding this to my growing summer list of to-do’s scrawled across my calendar.

Susie, a rather self-centered cat I must say, whiled away her days seated atop her “princess pillow” waiting for her minions to do for her. In her defense, she never wasted enough energy to scratch the furniture or jump up on things, preferring to keep her fat and sassy behind as inactive as possible. When moved to ask for treats she truly could be the cutest animal on earth, rolling about the floor or sitting up on her hind legs looking beseechingly at the Kitty Treats bag sitting on the counter. I encouraged my mother not to overdo the treats as they are fattening and most certainly Miss Susie needed no help in that area. Ah well. She lived out the last days of her life in the lap of luxury and passed on at the ripe old age for a cat, sixteen, so I guess it wasn’t all bad.

Kids are looking towards school again. How quickly this summer is flying by. I can’t keep up. I have gifts I’m working on that sit half made for parties I’ve been asked to attend for which I haven’t shopped for anything to wear. Ach. This morning I heard that Target has come up with a terrific marketing strategy for making parent’s jobs easier when shopping for school supplies. You enter your kid’s school and class schedule and they come up with a supply list. Somebody was wearing their Tom Terrific thinking cap in their marketing department.

Looking back with my kids, school shopping was always tinged with angst. New clothes needed to be bought, shoes purchased, along with the basic things a kid needs like backpacks, paper, writing utensils and notebooks. My son was always involved in one sport or another so this usually meant hitting Big 5 or one of the other sports suppliers for cleats and whatever else he needed. Cleats cost me a fortune over the years. Naturally you can’t wear soccer cleats when playing football or baseball cleats for soccer. He would end up with a variety of different types of cleats sitting in his closet which he would grow out of before the next school year rolled around.

As for my daughter her interest lay more in equestrian lessons or ice skating. I guess I should consider myself lucky. These days my son pays something like $2,500 for his thirteen year old to participate in a seasonal volley ball league. Whew. That would have been out of my league, pardon the pun, for sure. My grandchildren are involved in so many activities. This is good for them, I believe. Busy hands, etc. When my daughter’s girls were younger she participated in a pioneer camp of some sort for two years in a row. The idea was for the children to learn how things used to be done before we had the tools available to them now. The parents were asked to dress in pioneer garb and live like pioneers for the three days they attended. From what I hear it was hot and wearing those hats that tie under the chin tantamount to water boarding. Sounds like a fun time.

I went to Girl Scout camp when I was little. Two weeks of glorious water and sun was how my parents sold it to me. For them I would suppose it was a kid-free zone for fourteen days. For me it was a ride up a mountain in a rickety old bus singing camp songs for three hours. At first we were all so homesick everybody laid on their beds writing letters to our parents begging to come home. Soon, however, we were seduced by the glorious lake beyond our tents, the canoes available for our use, endless craft classes and nature walks, and the surprisingly excellent food served in the camp cafeteria. As my mother always says, I remember everything as to how it relates to my appetite. In hindsight it was one of the highlights of my transition from elementary to middle school.

At any rate. Soup is served at our house no matter what the weather. Having a lot of summer squash on hand, this was a nice way to put it to work.

Summer Squash and Orzo Soup

2 Italian sausages, cooked and sliced diagonally
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 cups beef broth
1 14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
1 tsp. dried basil
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 large yellow summer squash, sliced 1/2″
1/2 large zucchini, sliced 1/2″
1/2 cup orzo pasta
Parmesan cheese

Cook sausage in bottom of stockpot. Remove and slice. Add olive oil to same pot and heat over med.-low heat. Add onion and green pepper and cook 6 mins. or until vegetables are tender. Add garlic and cook for 1 min.

Add broth, tomatoes, basil, parsley, salt, pepper, and pepper flakes. Bring to boil. Add squash and orzo and continue cooking for 25 mins.

Serve topped with cheese if desired.

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There’s a lot of talk in our area at the moment about texting and driving. Californians, it seems, particularly the 18-24 age group, are still doing it in record numbers. Even though it is a ticketing offense if caught doing it while behind the wheel, it doesn’t seem to be doing much to deter people from continuing the practice. A man and his eighteen year old son were bicycling in Sacramento over the weekend when hit by a thirty-three year old man distracted by his latest text message. The father was killed and the boy is now fighting for his life. Wow. Really? On some level I could understand if the text read, “Your family is being held captive. Get me a helicopter and a million dollars in an hour or their lives will be in danger”. The reality is, the text he looked down for was probably something far less earth shattering and inane. Couldn’t these social messages wait until you’re parked to read them? My daughter and her family enjoy bike riding on the weekends. Even though they have helmets and are careful I worry a lot about them when they’re on the roads. Truth is they are one unread text away from harm, and that makes me nervous. People charged with driving public transportation are even getting tagged for this, causing accidents because their eyes are distracted instead of focusing on the road. Whew.

Every day I see drivers pass me looking down at their cell phones. Yesterday we were nearly sideswiped by a guy not paying attention who kept coming into our lane. If not reading a text they’re talking with the phone to their ear. For the man who hit these two people, I’m sure this unguarded moment is something he’ll carry with him the rest of his life. I can’t imagine if you asked him, he would feel whatever was in that message was worth the price paid to read it.

Patti Lupone, an actress presently appearing on Broadway, took a stand last week by stealing, if you will, a cellphone from an audience member texting during the show. Really it is rude. Aside from the light emitted, the constant keying it is annoying to people around you. When interviewed she asked, “why do these people buy a ticket”? No kidding. Tickets on Broadway aren’t cheap. Why would you sit and look at your phone during the entire show? I don’t get it.

Not long ago we went to the movies. Two kids in the seats several rows in front of us played video games during the entire first half of the movie. Several times they were asked by people in adjacent seats to stop. Finally, an employee had to come and ask them to leave. Don’t misunderstand me, I have no gripe with cell phones, I have one. However, as with everything there are limits and manners involved with using one. As I used to assure my children, not everyone in the world was put here for the sole purpose of making sure your day goes well.

Sometimes it is good to be disconnected, even not to be entertained. Babies left to their devices, no binky stuck in their mouths to make things better, or no adults clucking and cooing after their every need, will use their minds to entertain themselves. Fingers and toes will become fascinating, the mobile spinning over their crib, or the glistening lights on the ceiling made by the sun’s reflection on the pool water outside the window will become more interesting. Learning to soothe oneself without benefit of outside stimulus is an early lesson and, I believe, an important one.

A friend of mine recently went to a basketball game. He won the tickets on a radio station, but the face value of the ticket was $250.00. People all around him, so he tells it, spent most of the game taking pictures on their cell phones rather than actually watching the game in progress. Now I love to take pictures, as would be obvious by how many of them are peppered throughout this blog. However, the fact remains no photograph of a cup of steaming hot freshly brewed coffee will ever equal the actual aroma emanating from the pot while its brewing. Nor will a picture ever mirror the taste of that first sip. As lovely as a picture might be of your child it will never be as good as the warmth of their small hand tucked in yours, or the “feel” of their small body in your arms as you carry them up to bed. Living virtually, in this humble bloggers opinion, will never surpass actually going through the visceral process yourself.

They were discussing on a talk show the amount of screen time children are logging, some upwards of six hours a day. A psychiatrist speaking to the subject said they are actually considering classifying extreme dependence on devices a mental illness. He suggested putting a power bar in a central room in your house. Before going to bed each person, including the adults, must plug in their devices before turning in for the night. Having the phone in the bedroom while you sleep or whatever else you might be up to in there is distracting and the time after you retire should be time to rest your brain not offer it stimulation.

For me, I think we need to be aware of how much time this is stealing from our lives every day. I can’t imagine it’s going to get better as devices morph and provide more sophisticated options. What you do with your time is your business certainly, but when you are on the road and doing behaviors endangering others around you it becomes the business of the people who’s lives you potentially may affect.

On a lighter subject, these potatoes are an excellent side with a rich Mediterranean flavor. Yum.

Mediterranean Potatoe

5 medium sized red potatoes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
1 small can of drained black olives
1/2 cup Feta cheese

Cover potatoes in water in large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover and lower heat to med.-low. Simmer until nearly tender. Remove from water and cut in quarters.

Heat oil in large skillet over med. heat. Add onion and green pepper to pan and cook about 6 mins. Add garlic and cook an additional minute.

Add tomatoes, tomato paste and seasonings to pan. Simmer covered for 6 mins. stirring frequently. Add cooked potatoes and olives and stir well to coat. Continue cooking another 10 mins.

Remove from heat and stir in Feta cheese. Serve immediately.

Serves 4-6

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