Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category

1Heinz catsup is asking people interested to sign a petition to have the Monday following the Super Bowl declared a national holiday. Certainly football is a sport revered by many Americans. Personally, I feel it doesn’t carry the weight of say a President’s Day or Veteran’s Day. However, several men I have dated along the way might strongly disagree with this statement. For some fans Super Bowl ranks among the great achievements in history such as inventing the wheel and the ancient brewer who thought to mix grains with hops to get beer. One argument for a Super Bowl Monday would be many of those rooting their teams on to victory will most likely be hung over and hoarse the day following. Having spent a day or two in the office in my earlier years jockeying position between my desk and the toilet I know I would probably have served my employer far better had I remained at home in bed with an ice pack and a bottle of aspirin.

Our team was notably absent in both the playoff standouts as well as the big game. Not that they made a good showing at any point. Generally, they blew the season tripping over their embarrassed protruding lower lip showing up second in the league. Second from  the bottom that would be, not the top. Rick and I faithfully tuned in the 49er’s all season in spite of the fact they haven’t done much to get us out of our chairs.  Don’t misunderstand me. No stones are being cast here. Athletic talent isn’t in my genes. The point here might be, however, no one is paying me millions of dollars to carry a football over the goal line.

High school P.E. was a misery for me. Track and field in particular. Most events I managed without the involvement of any emergency medical personnel, but tumbling, baseball and track and field got the best of me. The worst grade came for, of all things, throwing a softball. Why this was part of track and field still has me scratching my head, but nonetheless. With half my class watching after a dramatic windup the ball landed  approximately two inches beyond the toe of my tennis shoes. A nearsighted gibbon could have done better. This was to be a feat I continued to live down until the day I received my diploma. I set a new record that day for shortest distance a ball had been thrown since the athletic department purchased its first piece of chalk. Swell.

Water sports were mostly where I shined. Also, to be immodest, I was an excellent tennis in player my younger years. For the most part though, even with a group populated by friends, my name was rarely the first one yelled out when picking teams. Hold your pity please. I may not be a talented athlete but I like to think as the years progressed I have developed  other talents equally as noteworthy, thank you very much. Sorry.

Constantly I remain amazed at the salaries these highly gifted athletes command. Someone explained this huge amount of money is needed to stretch over the lean years after the athlete’s bodies no longer can produce or should they sustain an injury. I’ve managed to stretch far less over my lean years and still had food in the cupboard. I rather doubt many of the retired athletes with these lucrative contracts are sweating their next burger, but possibly I am wrong. According to Mr. Rick some have lost their fortunes due to poor management or excessive spending habits. In general, however, most probably move seamlessly into retirement picking up a gig here and there touting insurance or the blessings of aluminum siding.

Most of the pictures of me taken between ninth and twelfth grade reflect a smiling young face with either a black eye, skinned knee or a limb carefully encased in casting material. Had social services been more observant my parents might have had some ‘splaining to do. Let me be clear, my parents never abused me. Rather, when coordination was handed out I must have been out getting a bag of Cheetos from the vending machine. If there was an elephant in the room, I would manage to trip over it or spill coffee on it. My mother actually used modeling clay to glue her valuables to tables and armoires lest Hurricane Susie accidentally sent them crashing to the floor with an errant flick of a sleeve or a poorly placed wave of a hand. Kindly, she said this was in the case of an earthquake, but I knew  with my casualty count rivaling that of WWII, the body count would be diminished somewhat by her efforts.

So, I have my wings in the wings (if you will) awaiting their entrance stage right this afternoon accompanied by ranch dressing. Ripe avocados in the basket to be gloriously paired with lemon juice, onions, and seasonings for my delicious guacamole, and my system is preparing for the unhealthy onrush coming down the chute as the game commences.

I look forward to spending the day manning my armchair and enjoying the best of the best go head to head for the ultimate prize. Why is it I wonder some individuals are culled from the herd for greatness while the rest of us muck around in relative obscurity? Guess that’s another question to be left unanswered. For me, I’m happy to be who I am with all my blemishes and scars and that will do nicely for today.

These delightful little bites of flavor will happily blend in with whatever else you’re serving for your Super Bowl party.

Lamb Koftas

1 lb. lamb mince
1 onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. crushed mint leaves
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (desired heat)

Oil for frying

Mix all ingredients with hands in large bowl until well blended. Form into small balls.

Heat oil over medium heat in large saucepan. Brown in two batches, turning often to keep from burning. Continue to cook until browned on all sides and cooked through.

Makes 24

Cucumber Yogurt Dip

1/2 English cucumber, peeled and chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup plain yogurt

Mix together and place in refrigerator for 1 hr.



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I have been so bad about posting lately. This is to say I picture any one of you reading this have been seated in your recliners tapping your fingers thinking if Susie doesn’t post another blog soon I’m going to throw myself out the window. However, part of having a blog about cooking is actually filling it with colorful stories and interesting recipes on a regular basis. This past few months life simply keeps getting in the way. Recipes and stories keep piling up with no voice to move them off the shelf. Today is the day.

My daughter shared a funny story with me I thought I’d pass on. Over the weekend she and her best friend went to see the production of The Lion King currently on stage in San Francisco. Yesterday I got a phone call with an update of her experience including a critique of the show, what she wore, and the situations they got into while traveling to and from the city. San Francisco, from their location north of Sacramento, is 104 miles as the crow flies. On a weekend, or any day really, you have to factor in weather (it was raining), traffic (a given), and on this particular Saturday, Santa Con. Who knew?

After hearing her out I couldn’t help thinking the acorn doesn’t fall from the tree. She seems to have inherited my penchant for going directly from the frying pan into the fire. The story began with what she wore. As the description unfolded it appeared she was going for a look not unlike a colorful bird. The outfit began with a canary yellow dress with a feathery hem, topped by a cardinal red flowing jacket (I’m sensing a theme here), and to complete the ensemble a pair of over the knee peacock blue suede boots. So different are we when it comes to dress. Since my girl was small, clothes held a fascination for her her mother never shared. In first grade the child would scan her closet the night before a school day choosing a perfectly coordinated outfit for the following morning from hair band right down to shoes. Amazing. For me give me a pair of gloriously faded jeans molded to my contours over years of use and a wooly boyfriend sweater and I’m good to go. Perhaps the love of clothing skipped a generation, as her maternal grandmother has been a clotheshorse since she exited the womb. I believe she slid down the birth canal reading the latest copy of Vogue. Ideally Mother’s home should have an additional room to house the copious shoe boxes stacked ceiling to floor in her many closets.

The original plan had been to drive into the city and park in a parking garage close to the venue. The weather being weepy, my daughter’s friend who was doing the driving came up with Plan B. Plan B was to drive to Walnut Creek and take BART under the bay to their destination. My daughter in heels and with a bad shoulder was still voting for Plan A as they boarded the train. For those of you having ridden BART or any form of public transportation you know if you are left standing the only option is to cling to either a rope overhead or a pole if you are lucky enough to be standing next to one. On Saturday the train was jam packed with all manner of pumped up Santa’s, and holiday shoppers headed for a big spending day in the City. Hanging precariously to the end of the rope my daughter told her friend should her shoulder dislocate during the trip she would be responsible for manipulating it back into the socket. This news sinking in the friend announced to those nearby her friend had a bad shoulder. The news resulted in a lot of eyes of the people seated to begin surveying the floor or peering more closely at the devices in their hands. Believe me, for three years I commuted in the belly of Boston along the subway lines. Had you begun to deliver a baby on the floor of the train no one would have offered you a piece of newspaper to swaddle the baby in. A tough crowd those commuters. During many trips I was inappropriately rubbed up on, and I mean seriously inappropriately, had a man whisper sweet nothings in my ear, and had my pocket picked on several occasions. You learn to stand up for yourself fairly quickly and keep your possessions close if you find yourself hanging off a loop routinely. With all those occurrences happening not once did any gentlemen (and I use this term loosely here) ever say “here take my seat”. I believe if I’d tried they might have fought me for it.

I digress…..

They finally arrived at their stop in San Francisco arriving at the theater with only ten minutes to spare. No time for beverages or a pit stop they were ushered to their seats before curtain call which if missed means you also miss the first half of the show. The seats according to my girl were higher up in the theater allowing them only a view of the tops of the actors heads. Just before intermission, the two lattes she’d consumed prior to arriving at the BART station necessitated leaving before the act had ended. In the end she enjoyed the show and spending time with her best friend but didn’t have any immediate plans for getting on BART again.

To me all days provide an opportunity for adventure. It may not turn out exactly as originally planned but if there had been no Santa’s on the train would the story have been as colorful?

This dish is so flavorful and delicious and not difficult to pull together. I serve it in burritos, tacos, and even in taquitos. As pictured I served the meat in soft flour tacos with avocado, lime wedges, sour cream, and Mexican rice mixed with black beans and red onion. Yum and yum. Adjust the heat as desired by the number of chiles you toss in.

Crockpot Barbacoa

1/2 cup apple cider
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
4 Tbsp. lime juice
3 chipotle chiles in adobo
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 lb. chuck roast
1 large onion, sliced thin
1 cup chicken broth
3 bay leaves

In blender puree all ingredients up to chuck roast. Set aside. Trim roast and cut into large chunks (about 6-8). Heat oil over high heat. Brown meat on all sides.

Line bottom of 6 quart crockpot with onion. Top with browned meat. Spoon adobo sauce over meat. Pour in chicken broth and add bay leaves. Cook on low for 10-11 hours. Shred meat.

Serves 4-6

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Boy this election really blindsided me. Normally I steer clear of highly controversial subjects such as politics but this was such an unusual event with such an unlikely conclusion I feel I have to speak to it. To me it’s similar to the sensation you get when you take a big spoonful of what you believe to be mashed potatoes only to find out it is creamed horseradish. I use this particular analogy because I did this at a holiday party once leaving me both with a bad taste in my mouth and the urge to drink and drink. Same feelings today.

I live in California. By our overwhelming endorsement of one candidate over the other it is obvious where many in the state, including myself, stood on the issue of who was to sit in the oval office. People were calling and texting me struggling, like trying to find my footing atop a bowlful of Jello. People obviously want change, I only hope this in the end they find this to be the change they want.

Good news, however, California has legalized marijuana. Those of us left feeling at loose ends now have a legal solution to the problem. There are a lot of growers up in our area as is common in many less populated mountain communities. Logically it is the ideal place to plant a crop, as there is less exposure and a lower percentage of law enforcement personnel. Where Rick goes to the dentist is back in the hills. The office happens to be the only one offering a particular specialist he needs for his dental problems. Driving through the area the smell of pot is sooooo prevalent by the time we pull into a parking spot at the dentist’s office I’m craving a stuffed crust pizza. I have no issues with this particular. As it happens I’m weird enough without the help of a controlled substance so don’t use it. However, much like alcohol, people are using it legal or not so the state might as well generate revenue from its sale. I do hope they’ll figure out how to iron out the regulation wrinkles so we don’t struggle like Colorado dealing with how to manage impaired drivers and generally keep on top of it. Also, I hope they target our school system with the revenue gained. I watched a man on the street interview of college students the other night and it was truly frightening how little they knew about our government or even what the capital of the state they live in might be.

The reality is, I am afraid, other than moving to Canada (Really not a viable option. Shhhh, they don’t want us.), democracy is still the name of the game here in the U.S. so we move on with what we have voted for. I hope for all our sakes Donald John Trump turns out to be good for our country, but that remains to be written as it doe with any newly elected official.

When I am in a wad about something you’ll usually find me in the kitchen throwing flour and eggs together. Cooking helps me to sort my mind and feel relaxed. I’ve been attempting to add some meditation to my daily schedule but have found completely clearing my mind a more difficult task then those who know me might have anticipated.

I can tell I’m feeling a bit wobbly about the world as my mind, preoccupied with bigger issues, wouldn’t allow me to pull breakfast together this morning. Not that it was a difficult task. Open package of instant oatmeal, add water, push “2” on the microwave and stir. Doesn’t take a brain trust to get this accomplished.  While my oatmeal was transforming I went downstairs to feed the cat circling my feet. Returning to the kitchen I opened the microwave to find a hot coffee cup sitting there. Now it’s not odd to find a hot coffee cup in the microwave. Many times I reheat my coffee just that way during the day. However, it is helpful if you actually have poured coffee inside, and the larger question, where was my oatmeal? I opened the refrigerator, but found nothing there other than what you might expect. Hmmmmm. After searching every cupboard I located my bowl of water and uncooked oats in the cupboard next to the coffee. Even the drug dogs wouldn’t have found it there with the grounds masking the aroma. What a clever girl.

I have a busy day ahead of me. Lately I rarely find myself twiddling my fingers looking for something to do. On my to do list is baking some cookies to appease Rick’s sweet tooth and running errands. Is is just me or have you noticed that every time you think you’re caught up when it comes to groceries you find you are out of the one thing you really need to complete a recipe? Happens to me all the time. Today its fresh spinach I’m missing. Unless I can grow a hearty crop by mid-morning it’s going to mean getting in the car and going to where they have a steady supply, namely Raley’s.

Lately I’ve been availing myself of all the coupons showing up in the newspaper or on-line for groceries. Rarely do you find a coupon for the produce department but since I cook a lot if it’s something I use anyway why not cash in on a little savings here and there?

As the holiday season approaches everywhere you go there are extra donations open to you for helping others perhaps having a hard time. I do my best to keep up with them but if I gave to every one there might end up being one with my name on it by the time I reached Christmas.

Ebay and Craigs List are contributing to our Christmas this year. I keep gently used items I don’t use, or new items I don’t want, flowing through my sites on both on a steady basis. Very helpful when it comes to bringing in extra cash. Also, I purposely make change even if I have it in my wallet and deposit it in a large glass container on my window sill. Every two months that pulls in well over a hundred dollars which goes in our vacation fund. Sort of a self-imposed savings fund.

At any rate, whether this election turned out the way you wanted to or left you disappointed, or perhaps you have just realized Christmas is just around the corner and you haven’t even bought a candy cane, this potato dish will help make your day a little bit better.

Fingerling, Brussels Sprouts. and Sweet Potato Bake

1/2 lb. fingerling potatoes, cut in half
3 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in large chunks
1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh chives, chopped
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp. crushed rosemary
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 13″ x 9″ casserole dish with cooking spray.

Place potatoes and Brussels sprouts in microwave save dish. Cover cook on high for 4 mins. Combine remaining ingredients. Pour over vegetables and toss well.

Pour into prepared baking dish. Bake for 1 hr. turning and stirring every 15 mins.

Serves 4





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finalCurrently I am engaged in fighting an uphill battle with the leaves in my yard. They are one of the downsides to living among the gorgeous trees prolific in our area. In autumn dry leaves blanket the ground, stop up the gutters, litter the roofs and decorate the vehicles if parked outside. Don’t misunderstand me, I enjoy walking along the road hearing them crunch beneath my boots. However, when they gang up on me I pick up my rake and prepare to do battle.

The backyard simply goes to mulch. I got an estimate once on what it would cost to clear it. Several times I caught the man giving me the estimate glancing at me as if to say “You want me to clear all the leaves?”. What? After handing me a quote of nearly $1,000, he suggested it might be better simply to let nature take its course and allow the downed leaves to remain where they fall. For $1,000 I’ll let them stay there and serve them dinner.,

Rick finds it amusing, so he tells it, to watch me outside with my weapons of choice, a rake and blower, cleaning up one huge pile of leaves as more fall all around me.

I am by nature a neat person. I prefer things to be in order and tidy. Working in a chaotic environment, say the kitchen, for me leads to experiments gone bad and take-out bags in my trash can. My grandmother began my habit of cleaning up as I go I think. Her kitchen, though well used, was never a disaster. A place for everything and everything in its place.

Nature does not conform to such rules, instead adhering to its own way of doing things. Thus, no matter how many times I fill up the yard waste bin with nature’s castoffs it will continue to toy with me by sending down a new lot to be picked up.

An upside of living in the high foothills, one of many really, was the sight outside my window yesterday. A six point buck stood majestically beneath my blazing red Chinese maple sniffing at the air. Close by, a doe was helping herself to the last of the purple flowers blooming on my hanging vines. I tried to get a picture of the buck out the front door. Every time I lined up a shot he lowered his ears and moved aggressively in my direction. I ended up with several unclear pictures taken from behind my window and one blurry one as I ducked back in the front door.

Not that I’m chicken really. Well, perhaps it is exactly I am chicken. When we lived in the Bay Area we had deer in our yard every day. Not just one or two, but whole families showed up to pick at the grass or enjoy an occasional apple thrown their way. My stepson was working in the yard one afternoon in close proximity to a buck, several does, and some younger deer still sporting their spots. Pointing out the buck to Rick and I standing on the deck, the animal decided this was enough familiarity. Laying it’s head down it began to run in my stepson’s direction. Throwing the rake, my stepson began a mad dash towards the house. Looking back it made for quite a picture. Reaching the house he vaulted up the steps. Amazingly the animal ran up after him. Rick got the door closed just before we had an uninvited guest for lunch. The animal remained guarding the door for some time before deciding he’d made his point (no pun intended). After that I choose to keep a respectful distance from our animal visitors.

Rick went out in the garage in our last house to retrieve something. Opening the door he startled a large buck helping himself to a snack from the cat food bag. Hard to tell which of them was more scared. Rick nearly beat himself to death trying to retreat. Meanwhile, the deer, in a frenzied effort to escape, slipped on the cement floor and fell. Struggling to right itself, it managed to squeeze between the two cars parked there without harming itself or the paint jobs. He did leave a mess by the cat food leaving me to locate a new storage place for Boo’s food.

When I was living in the Bay Area, Martinez to be exact, my washer and dryer were located in the garage. I went out to put a load in the washer one weekend only to be confronted by a baby possum. For a little creature he was equipped with a large set of teeth, and wasn’t afraid to display them. Deserting my clothes I bolted back inside to alert my husband of the intruder. Grabbing my favorite throw from the back of the couch my hero went into the garage to confront the wee beast. I was instructed to open the garage door so he could shoo the little guy out. The possum apparently hadn’t read the definitive book on how to behave when in someone else home and decided not to cooperate. It ran up a large wrapped vent pipe leading to the ceiling. Possum’s are very near-sighted so when cornered as a defense mechanism it made snarling sounds and barred its spiky teeth. A ladder was employed to reach the critter. Once my husband had him wrapped in the throw the possum began to fight vigorously wriggling and squirming while being carried to the driveway totaling my blanket. Last we saw of him he was hightailing it towards the border a piece of fabric still dangling from one paw.

To digress here before closing, yesterday they were speaking on the news about the new birth control for men. The side effects are being found intolerable by many of the men opting to take the medication.  Women are up in arms on social media declaring they have been enduring birth control side effects for years and men should “man up”. One woman made a comment telling women to lighten up on the guys as who are they going to call when they find a spider in the bathroom. I felt this didn’t serve either sex, but that is just my humble opinion. I have to admit I get Rick immediately if there is a bug in the house, or an unexplained smell, noise, or happening.  Most certainly this is not the only reason I keep him around. However I do appreciate him answering the call to arms when I need him.

Today is at last election day. Hopefully we can enjoy an end to all the mud-slinging and accept the results graciously. Go out and vote. You can’t complain if you don’t participate. Have a great day.

Lemon Chicken Pepper Soup

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 chicken breasts, cubed
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. scallion, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups chicken broth
2 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3/4 cup orange bell pepper, sliced 1/8″ thick and halved
3/4 cup red bell pepper, sliced 1/8″ and halved
1/4 cup frozen peas
1 cup cooked angel hair pasta (drained and cut in half)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

In small skillet heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil over med-high heat. Sprinkle cubed chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to skillet and turn and toss for 3 mins. or until chicken is browned.

In stockpot heat remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, scallions, and garlic. Cook and stir for 6 mins. until onion is translucent.

Add all remaining ingredients through frozen peas including browned chicken. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 30 mins. Remove from heat and add pasta and lemon juice.

Serves 4



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What a long week. So busy. When I visit my mother aside from throwing in a little shopping we spend a good deal of time clearing her desk and organizing whatever paperwork she’s amassed since my last visit. The woman gets requests for donations from every organization from Haitian Relief Fund to Flying Fur Rescue. I keep suggesting perhaps she choose one or two to target because most of them sound to me like someone sitting in their BVD’s in an apartment somewhere sending out a mailing. Ralph’s Childrens College Fund, or Gail’s 25th Anniversary Fiji Holiday Fund. Thanks to her generous heart she has more address labels than Santa. If she used fifty a day for the remainder of her life there would be no danger of running out. At one point as I was instructing her to toss an envelope in the trash, she pointed out that if she sent a donation they would return the favor by sending her a tote bag. Hmmmmm. Let’s do the math.$50/donation = $.75 tote bag. Not.

Aside from the mail she accumulates, the phone calls come in on a regular basis from this organization and that asking for money. I have finally convinced her not to answer any calls with unfamiliar names, though not fully convinced once I’m back home she doesn’t begin again.

While there her credit card bill came in the mail. After noting the high amount, she brought it to me indicating she had never had a bill of that size. Mother lives on a small trust fund created for her by her late husband as well as her retirement. Most of her expenses are handled via several credit cards which are paid off at the end of each month. This particular bill was $4,800. WHAT! That isn’t loud enough, but it’s the best I can do with the bold at hand. They really should have a Bolder Bold. This credit card slotted for household expenses usually runs around $1,500. Putting my glasses on I went through the items one by one finding fifteen items not charged by my mom. Whoever insinuated themselves into her account enjoyed several flings at Amazon, did some business on the Universal Web, and opened an account on several different APPS. They even stopped by Harry & David’s to order a lovely gift basket of seasonal pears. Thoughtful criminals really are the best. I have power of attorney so I called the credit card company and we spent some time sorting the good from the bad. The bill would be forwarded on to their investigators for further attention and a new card was issued for my mother to use.

I can’t tell you how disgusting I find people who prey on others vulnerable like my mom. I hear about it all the time and it’s right up there at the top of my list with poor customer service, and you know how testy I get about that.

I found a version of this soup in a magazine and put my own spin on it. Perfect for a fall table.

Lentil Pumpkin Bean Soup

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
2/3 cups dried lentils, rinsed and sorted
1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground oregano
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 pkg. Sazon Goya Seasoning (optional)
1 15 oz. can of black beans, rinsed
1 15 oz. can pinto beans, rinsed
1 15 oz. can solid pak pumpkin
2/3 of a 15 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes with green chiles
4 cups spinach

Heat oil in stockpot over medium heat. Add onion and cook 5-6 mins. until translucent. Add garlic. Cook an additional minute. Add broth water, lentils, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and cover. Cook for 30-35 mins. or until lentils are tender. Add remaining ingredients up to spinach. Bring once again to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and continue cooking uncovered for 30 mins. Add spinach. Cook 3-5 mins. until wilted.

Serves 4-6


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I’m down visiting my mother and getting suitably spoiled for my birthday. Nobody spoils you like mom, and if you’re an only child you get all the goodies. There are pluses and minuses attached to being the only pup in the litter. You get your parents full attention whether you are doing well, or if your life is in the bucket. Also, you assume the full responsibility when it comes to your parents care, or parent in my case, as they get older. This is a task I take on with pleasure. My mother has always been there for me, and I hope I have always been for her.

My daughter and her husband have been taking care of his mother for the past months during her illness. Watching a loved one fade away is never a task easy to take on, nor the end result of a serious illness easy to accept. Yesterday was the end of their journey together and I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge Judy’s passing and say goodbye in my own way. For nearly thirty years we have shared space at family dinner tables. With pride we have watched our grandchildren come into the world and grow up to be the lovely people they are. Over the years we attended benchmark events such as birthdays, graduations and weddings, and became a part of each others family unit. After a hard fight with cancer, an opponent so often holding the upper hand, her body simply ceded defeat. We stand together left to wish her well on her way to wherever her travels take her from here.

Her face will continue to smile at us out of picture frames on walls, and those gathering dust on dressers as is the case with loved ones who have departed. However, the memories she carved will remain firmly affixed in our hearts and minds. People leave us in their physical sense, but if they’ve used their time well while here much of them remains intact with those they have touched.

So I find myself not in my kitchen putting together this dish or that, but rather in my mother’s kitchen feeling reflective. Thank you for allowing me to say my goodbyes in the way I know how. Another recipe and hopefully more upbeat story to follow when I return home to Mr. Rick and the Boo, the Queen of Cats.

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1Halloween is lurking just around a dark and dusty corner waiting to unleash all manner of ghosts and goblins upon unsuspecting neighborhoods. Fall, as I’ve mentioned, is my favorite season and Halloween. That being said Halloween is the whipped cream on fall’s sundae. Having been born on November 1st perhaps makes the date more significant to me. However, my passion for getting dressed up in costume probably would have held true had I been born in July. Growing up nearly every birthday party was a masquerade party. Peeking in my closet today you would still find an array of wigs and costumes from years gone by. Why I keep them I can’t answer, except that one day I might be called upon once again to be Minnie Mouse or the fried egg portion of bacon and eggs and I want to be prepared when the invitation arrives in the mail.

These days birthdays come and go with little fanfare. Balloons are rarely inflated, elaborately decorated cakes have been replaced with apple crisp and parties are for the most part a thing of a past. I don’t mind adding another candle to my apple crisp. Always glad to welcome a new year with all that it holds. The two weeks prior to my birthday often finds me reflective. Perhaps it’s because the pages of the calendar seem to be turning at a more steady rate, or that I miss my family more at certain times of the year. This year in particular with all that is going on in the news and in general, it sometimes takes a little more work to keep positive and upbeat.

I’ve said before I like to be scared. Not terrified, mind you. I do not enjoy a gore fest, but prefer the kind of scared that rises bumps on your arms and causes the hair at the back of your neck to stand at full attention. Fun scared. I understand from my friends who are fans of “The Walking Dead” the season premier left them reaching for their wastebaskets or whatever receptacle was handy as the gore factor ran up over the top and oozed down the other side. Nice visceral visual, yes?

Haunted buildings really catch my attention. Finding myself in purportedly haunted locations is not new to me, including the restaurant we owned ten years ago. Ghosts peak every curious bone in my body. Humans are fascinated with the afterlife, most probably because whatever faith a person holds gives them the what little information is available. Aside from heaven there is also whatever lies in between. Do tortured souls populate some dimension just beyond our consciousness? These questions plague us in the same way we desperately want to know if somewhere in the vast expanses of the universe, a spaceship piloted by ET’s is hurtling through the dark unknown in the direction of earth. I hold to all theories until unproven. How can we say no with conviction if we have no concrete proof of yes?

As a kid I was positive crocodiles lived beneath my bed, the toothy creatures hiding only when adults leaned down to disprove their existence. Waking in the middle of the night to find my hand dangling beyond the covers precipitated a mad counting of all my fingers to make sure each one was still firmly attached.

Aside from reptiles populating the waters beneath my day bed, during electrical storms the massive trees beyond my window sprawled wild shadows across my wall. Fingers on spiny hands reached out to capture the little girl watching through the folds of her blanket. My grandmother told me on many such nights she would find me snuggled up next to her without even knowing I’d sneaked into bed.

The popularity of mediums and fortune tellers further evidence our willingness to believe there is something beyond the facts we have at hand. I have been to see seers three times in my life. I saw seers? Whatever. One lady totally freaked me out. She had a dog, a black lab as memory serves. Wherever this woman went this dog was on her tail (so to speak), never leaving her side during my “reading”. At one point she spoke of a handsome young man with dark curly hair wearing a blue uniform who watched over me. The young man, she went on to say, died at a very young age. The room, warm up until that point, became so icy cold I shivered in response. The dog lying quietly on the floor stood up abruptly and began to whimper. The woman told me there was someone in the room. All I could think of was I hoped they’d brought a toilet because I had a feeling I was going to need one. Now, this would have been less strange if it wasn’t for the fact my father died at 25. At the time he was in the Canadian Air Force and was buried in his blue uniform. Pictures on my bureau depict a handsome man with a mass of glossy black curls. The dog began to furiously pace and the woman, releasing my hand, suddenly said she couldn’t continue. Now that, my friends, was weird, very weird. When I left the house I noticed a cauldron in the middle of her yard with perky looking daffodils peeking over the top. Enough said.

Another time I was given the gift of a reading from a noted numerologist in the Bay Area. To be honest I knew little about numerology at the time. I haven’t gathered much more information since. According to Wikipedia the definition of numerology is:

Numerology is any belief in the divine, mystical relationship between a number and one or more coinciding events. It is also the study of the numerical value of the letters in words, names and ideas. It is often associated with the paranormal, alongside astrology and similar divinatory arts.

To break it down into manageable parts, I would say it is a pattern of numbers derived from the time you were born, the day you were born, the year you were born and your birth name. I had to provide such information prior to meeting with the numerologist himself. On the big day I pulled up to a gorgeous restored Victorian home in the hills behind Lafayette, California. The man answering the door, a handsome gentlemen in his early fifties or so, wore an easy smile and had a welcoming demeanor. Once inside I was offered a cup of delicious tea and some shortbread biscuits. Made me wonder if my being Canadian had anything to do with the tea and biscuits.

The coffee table by the couch where we sat had a pile of neatly arranged magazines and a pile of 3 x 5 cards. The pile, I was to be told, was my life in cards. Interesting. Why was it nine feet tall? I was only in my thirties at the time. Although I’d packed quite a bit into my life up until that point I didn’t feel I had a whole volume yet. Apparently, I was wrong. As it turned out it was an interesting afternoon. I will recall the fine points in my next blog.

I found this yummy little appetizer in a magazine at the doctor’s office. Easy and delicious. Yum. I’ve made this several times, first with apricot jam and the second time with red jalapeno jelly to add a Halloween feel to it when you cut it. Too cute.

Brie Wrapped Mummy

1 pkg. puff pastry, thawed
1/4 cup jam (I used red jalapeno jelly)
1 16 oz. Brie round
1 egg
1 Tbsp. water
2 small half moons of apple
1 dried cranberry, halved
Sliced baguette

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Flour cutting board. Roll pastry into 14″ square. Round corners to make a circle. Cut milk off brie. Spread jam in center of circle. Place brie on top. Bring corners up over top and pinch to seal.

Whisk together egg and water. Brush brie with egg wash. Take remaining pastry and roll into 14″ square. Cut four 1″ strips. Cut strips in half. Place five strips across round leaving space in between. Take remaining three strips and crisscross across front to make it look like the head of the mummy. Bake for 25 mins. until done. Allow to cool slightly. Place two half moons where eyes should be. Top each with 1/2 of dried cranberry.

Serve with crackers or bread.

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