Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

The end of last week I took my trusty leaf blower down from its hook in the garage. Goggles in place I went after the leaves in my yard. By the time I was done I had filled four large leaf bags. I heard on a newscast leaves are actually better left untouched. A bed of 2leaves, so it seems, provides an excellent habitat for a large variety of insects. This being true, our backyard is literally Mother Nature’s playground. There isn’t one square inch of it not topped with a cover of leaves. This year has proved particularly prolific with the dry conditions created by our seemingly never-ending drought. Surrounded by trees on all sides, aside from the abundant leaf population, we worry about the trees toppling over due to dry roots, etc.

Over the weekend a winter storm moved into our area bringing with it much-needed moisture accompanied by some pretty impressive winds. In one area a tornado touched down doing some fairly significant damage to several houses. Outside I watched as a whole new crop of leaves twirled and swirled to the ground erasing any clues of a recent cleanup. Sigh.

On the plus side, fall colors are resplendent this year. The trees in our yard, not to be outdone by their neighbors, have put on a gorgeous display. 3Our maple turning up the heat with bright reds, and the Chinese maples showing a gorgeous second.

When I lived on the east coast I lived in Wakefield, Massachusetts. A sleepy little town surrounding a beautiful lake. Autumn there was the fodder of many a painting with colors so brilliant when reflected in the calm water of the lake the visage could bring tears to your eyes. My children, toddlers then, tucked in their woolen coats and hats loved to walk along the paths by the lake. A canvas bag accompanied us on our fall walks. Particularly lovely leaves were tucked inside. Once home we would press them into books or make designs with them to decorate the walls of their bedroom.

Our house there was of some historical significance. I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, a plaque with a brief synopsis of the house’s history was affixed to the front. Built in the 1800’s. Owned by a prominent family. Often I would step outside to find strangers armed with maps of the area, reading the text written there. On meeting they occasionally asked me questions. Even after research at the library, I knew little beyond what the plaque offered. Some of the house’s secrets the owner imparted to us, like the young wife who died there giving birth to her first child. The rest of the old buildings secrets remained hidden in the dusty corners leaving only what was noted on the plaque as a source of information.

Old houses intrigue me. Details prevalent in the older buildings, are left out in the structures you see today. The Wakefield house had window seats in both the master bedroom as well as the living room. To the right of the window seat in the master bedroom was a large porthole style window with a latch that, when open in the summer, invited a lovely breeze into the upstairs area. The closet in the upstairs hall was constructed solely of cedar. It was the perfect place to store coats and sweaters as moths are not fond of the scent of cedar so are likely to stay away.

Downstairs a large hearth dominated the living area. In the 1800’s, the owner told me, the people living there had cooked their meals in pots hanging over a fire in the hearth. The metal grooves where the bars hung were still visible on either side. Wow, are we spoiled these days, huh? Cooking over a fire, no microwaves, no fast food, frozen food, processed food. Back in the day, if you wanted a chicken for dinner you picked up the axe, chased it around the yard, and thanked it for its service to your table. Most probably I would have been a vegetarian.

My grandmother grew up on a farm. Her attitude was very mater-of-fact about such things. Cats roamed the property to keep rodents and other small critters at bay. Cats earned their keep on the farm. They did not reside on their owners lap waiting lazily for a treat before getting down to preen themselves. The treat, as she would have told me, was my great-grandmother hadn’t deposited the cat as a kitten in a burlap bag and lowered it into the river. With no vets readily available to neuter cats back then nor money to pay them, the litters had to be culled. One feline could turn to two and two to a hundred in the blink of an eye.

Pets among the livestock weren’t encouraged either, I was told. Tom the lovable turkey, or Fred the affectionate piglet might show up surrounded with potatoes and carrots on a platter come the holidays. I would have been a petless vegetarian apparently.

I always pictured myself on a farm. Well, without the getting up at 3:00 in the morning, the endless hard work, the bad crop years, insect infestations and the lack of amenities. Never mind. Let’s leave it at I admire people who choose farming as a way of life. Indeed it is just that. You own the land the land owns you. My experience working on a farm in Manitoba about fifteen years back gave me a brief but memorable glimpse into the life of people who grow the food we find on our supermarket shelves. For one week I woke at midnight to fertilize crops. Bouncing along the uneven furrows in a tractor I believe my kidneys actually relocated to behind my right ankle. I rode one of the farms three wheelers to feed the cows. At one point I helped load cows on a trailer (a procedure they are not in favor of) looking up at the business end of the beasts hoping to avoid being kicked or trampled or worse. The worse being cows when frightened tend to release all their bodily functions (I’m trying to be delicate here). One does not want to get in the way of this natural process if at all possible.

So with Thanksgiving approaching I will be thankful for these hard working humans who plant small seeds in the ground and care for them until they harvested and sent to be part of our feast whether it be turkey, tofurkey, ham, or whatever your traditions are. Oh, and a special shout out to the fine vineyards here in California. What would Thanksgiving be without a glistening glass of wine!

This soup is full of creamy deliciousness. It is rich, so I serve it in cups rather than bowls topped with shredded Parmesan.

Spinach and Artichoke Soup

4 Tbsp. butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup dry white wine (I used chardonnay)
5 cups chicken broth
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
1 14 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained
6 oz. spinach, washed and broken into pieces
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper taste
Shredded Parmesan cheese

Melt butter in large deep skillet over med. heat. Add onions and cook 5-6 mins. until soft. Add garlic and cook 1 min. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, for 3 mins.

Deglaze pan with wine. Reduce heat and continue cooking until liquid nearly evaporates. Whisk in broth. Bring to a boil. Cook for 1 min.

Add cream cheese. Cook and stir until cheese has completely melted. Add artichoke hearts and spinach. Cook 6 mins. until spinach has wilted. Add lemon juice cheese, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with shredded Parmesan sprinkled on top if desired.

Serves 4-6

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final2Yesterday while in the market the youngish man bagging my groceries struck up a conversation with me about the weather. Isn’t it funny, how when in a social situation with a stranger many of us turn to weather as a safe topic to discuss. I would guess because when living in an area whether acquainted or not you share a common weather bond. Also, you’re not liable to get in any trouble discussing cloud coverage or the amount of rain on the ground.

Once we’d covered all the bases on the current weather, he went on to tell me he loathes winter. Fervently he expressed his existence is based only on spring and summer. Summer, being his true love with spring coming in as a close second being more of a friend with benefits.  Trying to control my toes from popping up on end and forcing me to dance in a circle, I confessed my deep fondness for this time of year. The crunching of leaves (we hit the mother lode this year BTW with the drought), the glorious colors decorating the hills, pumpkin pies, spiced apple cider. Ahhhhhhhhh, but I could go on.

Thanksgiving is going to be a two party affair this year, Rick and myself. Thanksgiving for our family will be celebrated separately with members of our partners families or friends. To keep my lower lip from developing a tremble, I decided to make it a festive occasion with all the bells and whistles right down to the silver napkin rings and flickering candles on the table. Damn the torpedoes, and all.

Holidays, as families grow and spread out, become more difficult to orchestrate. When we all lived within a reasonable proximity of one another always a large compliment of family members occupied the folding chairs added to tables in the dining room. I miss that, but life changes and you must move with the current so I shall take my lemons and make lovely pot of lemonade.

Following a news story reporting as a nation we continue to grow (our waistlines not our population) and with the calorie laden holidays looming, I began an exercise program at a local gym. Inmates walking their last mile, have done so with more enthusiasm then I had opening the door and signing in yesterday morning. I have friends who tell me they love to exercise. Look forward to it even. I feel this is some sort of personal problem, likely requiring some serious time on a psychiatrists couch and deep probing to overcome. I would rather have a tooth extracted than spend an hour participating in a heavy exercise routine. However, since my body insists on getting older I have resigned myself to get it in shape no matter how much I would prefer not to do so.

Walking, my exercise of choice, is something I do look forward to every day. As excellent as walking is with regard to cardio it doesn’t work as effectively on strengthening your core or building muscle mass. See, I have been paying attention. The man who instructed me on the individual machines available at the gym I would estimate to have showed up about one decade down from mine. Slightly grey around the edges but still working full-time and in excellent shape. Never have I seen the front line people in gyms anything but perfectly cut looking back. I suppose you don’t hire people with pot bellies to encourage people to work out any more than you hire a kid with acne to promote skin cream.

I learned of this gym via their aggressive ad campaign. Every night for a month or so right around dinner time glorious hard bodies paraded across the screen just as I’d inserted a glorious bite of creamy scalloped potatoes into my mouth a telltale line of butter dribbling down my lip. Before and after pictures extolled the amazing results possible when you sweat off the inches at their facility for a low monthly cost. These types of ads seem to show up around mealtime along with ads for diarrhea cures, gas relief, and Viagra. Sometimes I wonder who writes the ads for television. Not to brag, but I believe my five year old grandson could outdo some of these ad writers. You wonder who is sitting in these board rooms approving some of this stuff? The recent ad campaign with Mathew McConaughey interests me. Whatever is it about? I remember him. He is difficult to forget. I know he’s in a car. However, if you asked me what car or why he was playing with his fingers I wouldn’t have a clue.

I rather enjoy some of the “homegrown” ads. The ones made by the owner of a company, members of his immediate family, his dogs and a Canon Sure-Shot. There’s one on our local station with a dad flying in a super hero cape featuring his children. At some point this ad will be viewed as embarrassing as these little boys mature, but for now I would guess it’s pretty cool to see their dad flying around even if he is advertising his skill at unplugging toilet clogs.

When still working full-time a large part of my job was to create ads for the company I represented. Making sure companies present the image they need to publicly in order to generate revenue is a big part of the company’s success. An ad campaign can make or break a company struggling to find their way, and hinder one already there. Look at the recent furor over Starbuck’s holiday cup. It is simply a bright red cup with the Starbuck’s logo in the center. Totally innocuous. Perhaps exactly why people were outraged this was how Starbuck’s chose to represent the holiday season. Personally, I think someone has too much time on their hands, but when seeing it up close I have to admit it isn’t particularly festive. I wouldn’t turn down a free latte however. A girl has her price.

Maybe this is another sign people want to be politically incorrect and shout MERRY CHRISTMAS instead of saying Happy Holidays. I’m just sayin’.

This pork is so tender and flavorful you’ll find yourself saying “esta comida esta buena” before you know it.

Slow Cooker Cuban Mojo Pork

1 3 1/2 lb. pork loin, trimmed
2 Tbsp. smoked paprika
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
2 onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
4 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. cornstarch
Salt and pepper to taste

Spray 6 quart slow cooker with cooking spray.

Mix together paprika, oregano, cumin, red pepper flakes, kosher salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper. Rub all over pork. Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in large skillet over med.- high heat. Brown roast well on all sides. Place roast in bottom of slow cooker. Add remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil to same pan along with onions and garlic. Cook for 3-4 mins.

Mix together orange juice and lime juice. Deglaze pan with juice mixture, scraping bits from bottom of pan.

Sprinkle potatoes over roast. Pour pan contents over top. Cook for 9 hrs. on low.

Remove roast and potatoes from slow cooker. Pour liquid through fine mesh sieve and discard solids.

Add liquid to saucepan. Skim fat. Whisk together water and cornstarch. Whisk into liquid in saucepan. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and cook 5 mins. until thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve over meat and potatoes.

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I’m sure if I consulted my horoscope for November it would state Scorpios such as myself are having a busy month according to the cosmos. Between my phone, the computer plaguing me with emails with work related requests, and friends and relatives in various states of meltdown it has been a crazy start to the holiday season. Ho, ho, holy cow.

“Take a deep breath”, my subconscious is telling me, “relax”. Being a bit of an A personality, relaxing does not come easily to me. When Rick and I pause to watch a movie I’m usually up and down five times during the first half hour getting or doing something. I believe this trait was passed down to me by my Energizer Bunny of a mother, who has all of her bones intact and not one of them could be described as lazy.

I admire this trait in her. We all have traits to be admired, and those less popular with those around us.  Again, this is what makes us unique in a world of so many like beings. I have certain personality types I know I could not live with. I’m sure there is a list of people out there who have met me and after doing so kept on looking down the line for their perfect match or best friend. Such is life. All of us are flawed in one way or another. This is what makes us human. Those who believe they have no flaws, need to put on their glasses when looking the mirror. I don’t strive for perfection. First, because I have no idea what that encompasses. Secondly, far better people than I have tried to reach such a goal and not succeeded. Instead I aim to be the best version of myself, a task I am not always successful at and is currently a work in progress.

I do have several traits that drive me a bit out of whack. One are people who are always late. I don’t mean five minutes late, or even a half an hour. People who are habitually hours late every single time you plan something with them. According to Dr. Phil (expert or not, your call) being perpetually late is often an indication things in your world tend to revolve around you. When I’m planning a meal, probably including appetizers and a little down time with my guests before getting rolling, I find it extremely irritating when someone arrives hours after the appointed time. Dinner is generally rushed, appetizers cold, and the hostess has lost her rosy glow.

Another personality tic getting on my last nerve is hovering. Once I had a relationship with a guy who followed me so closely I felt like Peter Pan with my shadow sewn to my heels. In retrospect, unless on bright sunny days, my shadow spent less time with me then this man. Every time I turned around I would trip over him, to the point when once I came out of the bathroom I found him sitting outside on a chair reading. This, as one can imagine, was the last encounter I have to recall about the gentleman. Undoubtedly, he is somewhere out there writing a blog about my irritating habits as well as we speak. Smile.

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while the “new car smell” wears off a bit. Couples settle into the business of learning to cohabit with one another on a below the surface level. Tolerance, love, and understanding rather than the original animal attraction come into play. Though you want to retain the animal magnetism while managing the rest for good balance. Our truest selves emerge, I believe, once our relationships progress beyond the first year. The beginning version we display of ourselves is often not the most accurate, at least in my experience.

Perhaps we are afraid to expose the under layers of our being for fear what is found there will not be accepted or loved, if you will. It is stressful to strive to be other than who you are and in the end probably not successful. Sometimes I think we expect so much of one another. Many people expect a partner to make them happy. If you are not happy already, someone else cannot create this for you in my opinion. You must create your own joy. Others can enhance your life but I don’t believe they should be responsible for making it a successful one one way or another. That, most likely, is your job.

My oldest granddaughter, a gifted writer and blogger wrote a very incisive blog recently about labeling. Placing a tag on people such as fat, stupid, black, white. Stopping at the exterior of a being before ever taking the extra step to explore the being itself. She expressed a fear that if she wrote such things people would not want to hear it or find her opinions objectionable. I told her everything you write will not be well accepted. Many times I have written things on this trusty old blog that have put people off or caused readers to stop reading. The point of writing is to be true to who you are. Debates, such as the ones going on in our country as we speak, are about differing opinions and opposing points of view. Without discourse there would be no harmony. Yin and yang. Our world has not been built on everybody agreeing with one another. Wars would not have existed if we all felt the same way about the world around us. Discoveries would not have been made if someone didn’t have the fortitude to dig below the surface despite those telling them telling them there would be nothing to be found there.12190997_10153270100471089_798124156591747940_nSo for today I celebrate diversity. Our differences and our ability to accept differences in others and leave room in our busy minds for ideas other than our own.

Also, I am begging people who habitually text and drive to think about the other drivers on the road. Twice while out yesterday a car drifted in my lane. When I passed both cars I could see the drivers looking down at their laps busily texting with their phones reflected in their windows. I honked and each driver took time off from their keyboard to offer me the universal signal of annoyance. Sorry, this one is a personal irritant. Was I an oyster I could make a pearl out of it.

These yummy potatoes, however, are never irritating.

Hasselback Potatoes

3 Tbsp. bread crumbs
3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. salted butter, melted
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper

2 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
2 Tsp. salted butter, melted
1/3 cup chicken stock

Sour cream and chives.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan, 1 Tbsp. melted butter, garlic, thyme, lemon zest, rosemary, salt and pepper.

Slice potatoes crosswise in thin slices nearly all the way through. Spray 8 x 8″ baking pan with cooking spray. Place potatoes in pan and gently splay the layers open. Place crumb mixture on top and gently press in between layers. Drizzle butter over top. Pour chicken stock on bottom of baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hr.

Serve with sour cream topped with chives.

Serves 2

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1Snow fell in the Sierra Nevadas over the weekend flushing out the avid skiers and winter sports enthusiasts. I was not among them. Snow is so beautiful to look at. Delicate flakes drifting from the sky draping the trees with white. After a good snowfall the world transforms outside your window. Visions of Currier & Ives and flickering fires in the hearth come to mind. That is, until you have to drive in it, shovel it, or get it off your roof. At that time all remaining lyrics from “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” fly out the window and your inner Grinch emerges.

I grew up in Halifax, Nova Scotia. A fact I’ve mentioned countless times. Winters there lean towards harsh, with snow doled out generously by Mother Nature. During blizzards as a kid I can remember being pressed against the picture window in the living room wind howling beyond the pane. Snow would literally be falling diagonally, visibility reduced to the end of your arm. Brrrr. Closing my eyes to sleep on nights such as those, my thoughts would turn to my sled hanging on the nail in the basement, or the snowman I would build when the winds died down and my grandmother deemed it time to go out and play. Like most kids growing up in heavily snowed areas there was substantial additional clothing involved in going outside. For me it was warm socks and “woolies”, as my grandmother referred to them, long underwear to you. Over the woolies went a heavily insulated one-piece snowsuit zipped tightly around my chubby parts. All this was topped by a fur-lined hat with flaps and accessorized with “idiot mittens” as I’ve always called them. Idiot mittens were attached to one another by a long string which was threaded through your arm holes and slipped around your neck. Like most children I could lose everything I owned within five minutes of leaving the house, so the strings kept the trips to buy mittens down to a manageable place. By the time I was done, I could have led an expedition to the North Pole without any danger of frostbite.

Snow visits us up here in the high country from time to time. The first year we moved in we were ill prepared for winter weather. Overnight a winter storm passed through the area and when I pulled the blinds the following morning surprised to find a world of white outside. As beautiful as it was we had no salt for our steep driveway, nor a snow shovel to clear a path. We stood like two soldiers at the front door, without weapons to fight the war. In the end we stayed inside for three days until the sun removed the snow. Neighbors tell us those of us with steep driveways park our cars on the street when a storm is imminent. Good to know.

People installing chains are cleaning up in the mountainous areas. I believe the going rate for suffering the elements to get them around the wheels runs about $100.00. Not work I’d prefer, but I guess in any business you identify the need, then fill it. I’m not hardy enough these days for freezing weather. I’m afraid if out there too long someone would come by and stuff a carrot  up my nose and throw a scarf around my neck.

My son will be heading for the slopes if this weather pattern holds. El Nino is supposedly lurking out in the Pacific waiting to help us with our drought so I hope it does. Skiing is a big part of my son’s winter program. His two children were introduced to it early and when I see videos of them careening down the slippery slopes I find I have to remind myself to breathe. Though I hail from a climate where skiing is prevalent, I have only snow skied once. I found that one time too many, actually, but I applaud those with the temerity to do it and do it well.

On my one and only snow skiing expedition, Mammoth was the location of choice. A lovely layer of powder (to use skier’s vernacular) covered the ski area. Perfect weather for throwing oneself off the mountain, or so I was told. Equipment had been rented only for me, because the group I went with were all seasoned skiers and had equipment of their own. As it happens throughout my life I’ve ended up learning to do something new around people already well skilled at it. This leaving me to look even more like an idiot in the process than I actually might have if we were learning together. This was to be no exception.

A light snow fell as we pulled into the parking lot of the hotel holding our reservations for the weekend. Friday traffic and treacherous driving conditions left us relieved we had added “late arrival” to our plans as we made our way slowly up the icy steps. I was nervous about the following morning. In a new relationship, I was not anxious to place skis on my feet and display my total ineptness to the object of my affection. Assured by him, there would be lessons in place and instructions on how to keep my body parts in tact before sending me out on my own, I closed my eyes for the night sleeping restlessly.

Ski togs in place and boots on, I showed up on the Bunny Hill for my scheduled lesson. Needless to say most of the others in the class still had their baby teeth, making me feel a bit like the kid held behind in elementary school. The teacher, a fresh-faced young woman who put us through our paces on how to stop (really important information for me), how to hold our knees, and how to use our poles. Most of my perspective of the class was looking up from a prone position, but some of the information stuck as I managed to stand up for at least 10 minutes at the end of the class.

Armed with enough information to be dangerous I was talked into going up with the others on the chair lift. Unknowingly I was to be dropped off at an intermediate slope and expected to return to the base of the hill. Pom pom bobbing on top of my ski hat I somehow made it onto the chair lift without maiming myself. Up, up, up the hill I rode my fear rising with the altitude. At the top I was told to keep the tips of my skis up, stand up and exit to the right. Sure. Forgetting everything as I approached lift-off my skis dipped down, the chair lift pushed me to one side and backwards I went over the side of the nearest hill picking up speed as the slope allowed. Help.

My companions were long gone, flying gracefully towards a hot toddy at the lodge. I, on the other hand, amazingly escaped being carried down on a litter by the help of a wonderful man (possibly an angel) who gathered me up out of a hole in a snow pile and guided me down to the bottom. He asked if he could buy me something hot, but I explained, thanking him profusely, I was already hot enough.

Inside I found everybody warm and happy sitting close to the fire. Hmmmmm. That was my last ski weekend and coincidentally the end of a budding relationship. So, for now I remain on my own two feet and I’m likin’ it.

I can’t say enough about how delicious this meal was. I’ll share the pork first and then the delicious potatoes.

Brie Pork Loin with Cherry Sauce

1 1/2 lb. pork loin
salt and pepper
4 oz. Brie, rind removed and diced


2 Tbsp. butter
1/3 cup onion, chopped
1/3 cup celery, chopped
4 slices slightly stale bread
1 tsp. dried sage
Salt and pepper

Cherry Sauce

2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. shallots, minced
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 can sweet cherries with juice
1/2 cup port wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. cornstarch

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat baking pan with cooking spray.

Butterfly the roast taking care not to cut all the way through. Lay flat and cover with plastic wrap. Pound to 1/2″ thick. Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper. Place Brie down the center of the meat.

For the stuffing:

Melt the butter in skillet over med-high heat. Add onions and celery and cook for 6-8 mins. or until tender. In mixing bowl combine with remaining ingredients and toss.

Place on top of Brie in center of roast. (You may have some left over.) Tuck ends of roast in and roll from the sides around stuffing. Tie with string.

Heat oil in large skillet over high heat. Brown roast on all sides.

Place seam side up in baking pan and bake uncovered for 25 mins. or until an internal temperature of 150 degrees. Tent for 15 mins. Slice and serve with sauce.

Cherry Sauce

Using the same skillet you used to brown the meat, melt butter over med. high heat. Add shallots and cook for 1 min. Add sugar and cherries with juice to skillet. Cook 3-4 mins.

Stir in port and broth. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to med-low and cook 10 mins. until reduced to 1 1/2 cups.

Whisk together lemon juice and cornstarch. Whisk into sauce. Stir until thickened. Add salt and pepper as desired.

Serves 4

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Another holiday has flown by, as well as another birthday. Sigh. Yes, another candle was added to the cake resulting in a lava flow of icing and a near catastrophic blaze. Actually, we had no cake. Not because my family was holding out on me, but because I don’t lean towards sweets much. On occasion I simply have to have a bite of chocolate or nibble of cookie but my cravings run more in line with carbs or salty foods I’m afraid. My perfect cake would be constructed of a ring of McDonald’s fries circling a big pile of Carol’s juniors onion rings, topped with an In-N-Out Burger sitting on a twice baked potato, don’t hold back on the toppings. Yum.

I’m not fond of birthdays, truth be told. Not simply because another year has floated down the river, or a wrinkle or two has been added. More I find birthdays a day of reflection. Looking back on what I have done during the last 365 days, and thinking about where I am going on the 365 now lying in front of me. Reflection does not always sit well on me. Being somewhat of a “free spirit” most of my life I have preferred swimming along on the surface, sun in my face, rather than sinking to the depths below to see what’s going on in the dark underbelly. Sometimes, however, in order to grow you must explore the darker sides of you in order to become a better, stronger, and more productive being. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh.

I have another bone to pick while I’m at it. Bone, being the optimum word here. According to the latest study (Who’s doing these studies anyhow?) red meat, bacon, processed deli meats, and probably about everything else found in the meat department at your local store without wings or fins is now considered worse for you than cigarettes. Really? Then why did I quit smoking? Apparently the steak I ate for my birthday dinner is going to do me in anyway.

I have one granddaughter who is a confirmed vegan. This little girl is not just saying she’s vegan, she’s living vegan. If there is such a thing. No meat of any kind crosses the child’s lips. When I order a burger she will say, “Nana if you could look into the cow’s eyes would you eat that?”. “Um, yup. Yup, I would.” I might apologize, but most likely the cheese and sliced tomatoes would still not go to waste. Carnivore is my party and that’s how Nana votes. She does get me to thinking about what we put into our mouths. To her, the food we eat with all pesticides, preservatives, unidentifable additives listed on the packages are doing us in. This added to the fact we are the only species who cohabits with our prey prior to eating it, gives you some food for thought (if you will). Quite possibly she has a valid point. Certainly she is not alone in her views. Allergies, such as to peanuts, are clearly more prevalent than in year’s past and many hold to the theory red meat causes cancer.

When I break such thinking down to a really finite point, plants are living things. Do we not eat vegetables or fruit which are born, for lack of a better way of putting it, to living, breathing organisms? I believe I read somewhere plants cry when we cut their limbs. I have to say though cauliflower, not imbued with the same “awww” inducing powers as a brown-eyed heifer in the field, in the end, is still life. If I dwell on such deep thoughts I wouldn’t eat anything an weigh enough to shop in the toddler department. As I said, swim on the top where the sun caresses your face. In some cases ignorance truly is bliss.

I support all manner of thinking. Each of us is entitled to believe as we choose in this wonderful country as long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of others. Whether we agree with a point of view or vehemently disagree is a privilege we are afforded. For me, how dull it would be if we all thought, acted, and looked the same way. Wouldn’t that be a boring party to attend? All the women showing up wearing the same shoes, the same classic black dress, all brunette with brown eyes, 120 pounds with perfectly structured features. The men may be nodding their heads. Certainly would slice a chunk out of that Macy’s bill, but truly who would want that? We would be unable to differentiate one with another and eventually just blend together with no one standing out in the crowd.

So, I will choose to think about life in all forms. Most probably I will give in to my natural instincts and continue to eat meat. I am an old dog and old dogs tend to sniff along the trail where they have already left their scent. However, I respect taking a point of view you really embrace and following it to it’s logical end.

This recipe was sooooo yummy. I wasn’t sure I’d like the white sweet potatoes in it but the little bit of sweet just made it perfect for the rainy day I cooked it.

White Sweet Potato Pot Roast with Root Veggies in Crockpot

1 onion
2 white sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in large chunks
4 carrots, peeled and cut in large chunks
12 Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 3 lb. boneless chuck roast, cubed
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 can diced tomatoes with juice
1 small bottle Corona beer
4 cups beef broth
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. hot paprika
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pkg. herb seasoned gravy mix

Spray 6 quart crockpot with cooking spray. Layer vegetables in bottom in order as written.

Whisk together flour, 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. pepper, and 1 tsp. garlic powder. Place flour mixture in large resealable bag. Add meat and toss to coat. Discard remaining flour.

Heat 2 Tbsp. of oil over high med-high heat in skillet. Add 1/2 of the coated meat and brown on both sides. Add to crockpot and repeat with second batch.

Mix together all remaining ingredients except gravy mix and pour over vegetables and meat. Cook for 9 hrs. on low. Open lid and whisk in gravy mix. Cook for one more hour.

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fiThis has been a busy few weeks at our house. At the beginning of this week I took a day off to visit my daughter, about an hour’s drive from here. Monday through Friday she runs a daycare. As the children in her care progress in age they march off to the various elementary schools in the area and are replaced by a new crop of diaper wearers. Just as I learn their names and various personalities, our time together is done and I wave goodbye. At the moment she is coping with four little ones in diapers plus two rambunctious toddlers. For me this would be about six too many. I adore children, before comments arrive. I have raised two and helped raise several stepchildren. Between Rick and I we have nine grandchildren and I love the lot. However, at this juncture in my life having the energy to chase around six youngsters is far beyond my bandwidth.

The diapers alone would have me running for the exit. Even with my own children diaper changing required a tightly screwed vise pinching my nostrils to get me by with stomach contents in tact. Once, my daughter removed her diaper during a nap.  She then used the contents to paint the wall behind her crib. Surveying the damage, I seriously considered calling a hazmat crew to repair the damage, or possibly moving. Ewwww. Although I salute our maker or makers (whatever your beliefs) and the incredible efficiency of our body with regard to recycling our food, the group in charge of aromas might have done a nicer job. I’m just sayin.

It’s a whole different ball game when it comes to dealing with infants these days. My generation propped a couple of pillows on the bed and nap time was handled. Now, a manual is required, OSHA is involved, and at least one government agency is called in to put a child to sleep. Feeding, I’m told, doesn’t occur until the advent of their first birthday. No wonder babies seem crankier. They’re probably hungry. I caught the nine month old girl sitting in the bouncer checking out my lunch on more than one occasion.

Certainly while you’re pregnant a glass of wine is out of the question. I find it amazing any of us born in earlier decades survived at all. Women in the 40’s and 50’s drank and smoked while pregnant. Who knew? I didn’t do either during my gestation period though the dangers were being identified by the time mine came along. I didn’t abstain because I exercised amazing restraint, but because I was nineteen and twenty when expecting and as it happened didn’t drink or smoke at that time in my life. Rest assured, I made up for this oversight in later years though never when pregnant.

The day care at my daughter’s house runs seamlessly. When the there is unrest in the ranks a time out occurs. She tells me this form of punishment, an addition to child raising techniques added to the book after I’d apparently already ruined my children, is now being reexamined. Time outs, according to some child experts, can create a feeling of isolation in children, and bring up abandonment issues. Really? When mine were little we sent them to their rooms. Undoubtedly this was totally mind altering. Also, someone better alert Supernanny because she wears out the time out chair during episodes of her show.

Then what is the discipline solution? Perhaps we should just hand our children the keys to the house on the day they are born and get a hotel room until they’re of age? There was a case in the news recently of a teen from wealthy Texas family provided such a luxury. Before he was of age he was given a house, a car, provided all the amenities a wealthy family can bestow and set loose on society. Shockingly, (I know), this led to the kid getting involved in drugs, alcohol, and whatever else he could get his pubescent hands on resulting in an accident taking four innocent lives around Fort Worth. His defense for driving under the influence was “affluenza”. The term is loosely based on having too much money, too little supervision or tutelage, basically leaving you not responsible for whatever reckless and unconscionable acts you choose to commit while under its influence. Interesting. I’m suffering from pnumoneya. Not a rare disease by any means in the present economy. I don’t believe there’s a cure, other than a transfusion of funds directly into the patients savings account. I believe if I tried to use this as a line of defense for robbing a bank I would still be found wearing orange coveralls. Sigh.

Animals in the wild don’t have books to read or videos to watch. Babies are born, protected, taught to survive, and sent out into the world. Perhaps we should watch the gorillas. They take a communal parenting approach with many adults watching over the children in the group. There is a lot of physical contact. Gorilla mom’s are rarely seen texting or taking a selfie. Babies Baby-snow-monkey-taking-a-selfie-in-Nagano-Japan-by-Jack-Reynolds.cling to their mother’s backs and chests and hang off them as they walk along. Grooming is also a big part of their bonding rituals. Most of us don’t have ticks or fleas to be tended to (I can’t speak for everyone), but we brush our children’s hair and bathe them much in the same way they do. When their kids misbehave a cuff might ensue or a gentle whack as a reminder of whose boss.

I don’t know who’s right and who’s wrong. In my child rearing days Dr. Spock was in full bloom. By the time they realized what a disaster that was his self-indulgent brood had already been released on an unsuspecting world.

As each generation progresses old ways of parenting are sluffed off and new ones adopted. In the end lots of love with a balance of structure and guidance would seem to continue to make sense.

Thoughts for today.

Eggplant is always a bit time consuming, but in the end so well worth it. This is delicious, and certainly lends itself to whatever your favorite pasta might be.

Hope your Halloween is a real howl. Sorry. Anyhow, I’m off for a few days to the Bay Area. Rick and Boo, the Queen of Cats, will be manning the candy.

Eggplant and Rigatoni

2 small eggplants, sliced in 1/4″ slices
4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 1/2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
2 15 1/2 oz. cans diced tomatoes with juice
1 lb. cooked rigatoni
1 Tbsp. butter
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in large skillet over med-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for 3-5 mins. Add wine and cook for 2 mins. Add remaining ingredients through tomatoes. Bring to boil. Lower heat and cover. Cook over low heat for 1 hr. stirring once or twice.

Slice eggplant and put in large deep dish (discard ends). Salt and cover with water. Allow to sit for 1/2 hour. Rinse well.

Line two cookie sheets with foil and spray well with cooking spray. Place eggplant in single layer on both sheets and brush with oil. Bake for 15 mins. or until tender and browned. Cut in quarters.

Add eggplant to skillet after it has been simmering for 1 hr. Cook an additional 30 mins.

Cook rigatoni according to package directions. Toss with 1 Tbsp. butter. Spoon sauce over top and serve with Parmesan cheese.

Serves 4

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An old friend, when she calls, always asks, “what’s for dinner”? After twenty-five years of association, she pretty well knows there’s something cooking in my kitchen. I’ve been asked if I’ve always liked to cook. The honest answer here would be “no”. The stove and I have had a rocky romance. With working parents and no formal training as a kid, I was less than an accomplished chef when newly married. As a matter of fact, for the first year we survived on scrambled eggs, dry cereal, In-N- Out burgers, and Arby’s roast beef sandwiches. Without several chickens, General Mills and the two fast food joints we might well have faded away to nothing.

My mother, both grandmothers, and my two aunts all excelled at cooking. Aunt Barbara, my mother’s youngest sister, made legendary shortbread cookies every Christmas. Even after we relocated from Halifax to California the colorful holiday tins would arrive each year from Ontario with her familiar handwriting on the front. Inside would be the delicate, buttery cookies, each most probably containing enough calories to satisfy an average daily requirement for sumo wrestlers. I can still taste them if I think about it. When you put one in your mouth it simply dissolved on your tongue. Yum.

I do not profess to be a baker, although coming from such stock I should be. Rick still reminds me of the infamous yeast rolls of 2002. The recipe called out a yield of three dozen rolls. I produced ten. Had I accidentally dropped one on the kitchen floor it most likely would have sunk right on through to the floor below and continued on to Tibet. To describe them as hard would be nothing short of kind. Nearly impenetrable by human teeth, I believe even a crocodile with its massive incisors would have been forced to swallow one whole. Had the creature done so most likely it would have been its last act as I can see these doughy clay balls being the perfect instrument to permanently block a reptilian intestinal track. It wasn’t pretty. To achieve the ten rolls took two trips to the grocery store for yeast. I went through 8 packs before I got one batch to rise. Expensive and inedible. Can’t ask for much more than that in a recipe. All in all not one of my more memorable days at the stove. You will not find a blog titled “Delicate Yeast Rolls” among my repertoire.

As with all things, if at first you don’t succeed….. In my twenties I had many meals end up lining the trash can. Once we had invited several friends over for dinner. One guest in particular, a gifted cook, made me a nervous wreck. We had been to her house on several occasions. She could take shoe leather and weave it into something delicious. For a wedding present we had been gifted a deep fryer. Up until that point, it had remained boxed without a splatter of grease tainting its shiny stainless steel. One thing I might suggest before continuing, the night you are having guests as it is not the time to introduce a new recipe, neither it is it the time to experiment with a tool you haven’t used before. I’m just sayin’. Scanning my recipe book I decided on beer battered chicken. It seemed simple enough. Make the batter. Dip the chicken in the batter. Put the chicken in the fryer. Easy peasey.

The batter appeared thick. I had no cooking chops back then so wouldn’t have known to add a little milk. (Chops as in talent here, not the cut of meat.) Even at that larval stage of cooking acumen, the batter appeared to my inexperienced eye a bit glutinous. Having no choice but to press on I took my chicken pieces and dipped them. Into the fryer they went all at once. The rolling oil rose up accepting the sacrifice and after the allotted time the chicken took on a lovely golden brown exterior. Success was mine. My husband took the tongs and removed the chicken from the fryer. It only took one attempt because somewhere during the frying process the pieces had melded into one unit giving the poultry the appearance of what might have been Picasso’s interpretation of fried chicken. Hmmmmm. There it sat draining on the paper towels a wing poking out here, a drumstick there. Not good, not good at all.

Our company due to arrive within the half our my husband, a creative being, grabbed the car keys and headed for the KFC around the corner. Back in flash we put the purloined chicken in the oven on warm, tossed the evidence (the box and lid) and waited for our guests. Dinner was a rousing success. Each woman at the table asked for my chicken recipe. I said it was a family recipe. Well, it was, just the Sander’s family. Ahhhhhh, what a tangled web we weave. One friend told me years later when I confessed my sin, she had tried to recreate that recipe so many times never fully succeeding. Mia culpa.

There were many other disasters of the pallet to follow. The microwave oregano green chicken debacle in the 80’s, the frittata missing the two cups of cheese necessary to make it edible. There was also the turkey cooked with the giblet bag still in the cavity, and the frozen pie shell put in the oven without the protection of the tin plate provided to keep it from oozing through the grids. I could go on here but it might put me off my feed.

We love stuffed peppers at our house and I often experiment with new recipes. This one was a keeper.

Two-Step Hungarian Stuffed Peppers

4 large bell peppers, various colors if desired
1 lb. ground chuck
1/2 lb. ground pork
1 onion, chopped fine
1/2 cup uncooked rice, rinsed
1 egg, beaten
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. hot paprika
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
12 oz. tomato sauce
1 tsp. sugar


1 6 oz. can tomato sauce
1 15 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
1 tsp. sugar

Slice the tops off the peppers and seed. Chop the tops finely. Into a large mixing bowl add chopped tops, onion, meat, rice, egg, minced garlic, paprika, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and Worcestershire sauce. Mix well with fingers to incorporate ingredients. If you have extra filling form into meatballs and put in slow cooker around peppers.

Sprinkle the insides of the peppers with salt and pepper.

Spray the bottom of a 6 quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Pack each pepper lightly with meat and rice mixture. Mix together 12 oz. tomato sauce and 1 tsp. sugar. Put peppers in slow cooker and top with sauce. Cook for 8 hrs. on low.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Remove peppers with slotted spoon. Set aside. Mix together sauce ingredients and add any meat/rice mixture left in the slow cooker. pour into bottom of large casserole dish. Place peppers on top and bake for 35 mins.

Serves 4

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