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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These carnitas are so easy to make and taste fabulous.

Corona Crockpot Carnitas

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

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

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

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

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

Serves 6.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cajun Fried Tilapia and Spinach and Veggie Salad

Tilapia

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

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

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

Spinach and Veggie Salad

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

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

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

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

Serves 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Key Lime Margaritaville Bread

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

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

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

Beat in zest, lime juice, tequila and vanilla.

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

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

Glaze

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

Mix well and drizzle over bread.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kentucky Bourbon Barbecue Sauce

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

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

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

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finalThe debate over whether to or whether not to immunize children rages on. This time in the form of commercials warning parents against possible serious, if not deadly, side effects. I don’t know what I’d do if my children were still young. At the time I was raising them you got regular vaccinations as the time arose to do so. There was no will you or won’t you involved. If you planned on sending your children to school, no vaccination records, no school. End of story. I still stand on the side of immunizing as these serums have eliminated many of these childhood diseases. Why expose other children to something your child might be carrying risking infecting many because of your choice?

Perhaps space them out as was the original way of doing things. My daughter, who runs a day care, said the practice nowadays is to give cluster shots with several types of vaccinations rolled into one visit. One of her little guys had such his shots recently and the following day his leg was so swollen at the injection site necessitating a trip to the ER. Nothing serious evolved from that incident but it would be concerning to my mind when the follow-up shot came around.

Three or four weeks ago we had a scary moment with my son’s thirteen year old daughter. While at school she was asked to participate in a science experiment involving flashing LED lights. Asked first if she’d ever experienced seizures she answered truthfully, she had not. Going forward she did in fact have a seizure, passing out on the floor and flopping about in such a way the other students witnessing the event had to get counseling afterwards. Whisked off to the emergency room her frightened parents arrived shortly thereafter. Neurological tests were taken, along with several other general scans. In the end it was determined to be an isolated incident brought on by the lights. This is not uncommon in kids this age it appears, but I had never heard about it. Certainly my son and his wife feel they should have been consulted prior to my granddaughter’s involvement, so they could make the choice themselves. Thirteen year olds would most likely sign up to jump off the La Quebrada cliffs in Mexico if suggested to them, so perhaps need a little guidance is needed when making such a decision.

Hard to know when to step in and when to allow our children to experience life. Both my children tended towards being fearless as kids, so when things got to what I considered a danger point I put the brakes on where they would not have done so for themselves. Even with this protection in place there were accidents and broken bones and childhood illnesses that simply couldn’t be gotten around.  You want to teach them to make intelligent choices without putting a damper on their adventurous spirits. A bit of a tightrope walk that.

During their last years of high school I rented a beautiful house on a man-made water community called Discovery Bay. Builders created homes on a series of canals and inlets that fed into the Sacramento Delta. I gave them the option of either a graduation gift of a trip or living directly on the water for a year or two, and they chose the water. Our house was second in from the main waterway on a lovely cove community with eight docks in a circle leading down to the water. Never doing anything exactly on point, I had sold our boat three years prior. First I had a boat and no dock, then a dock and no boat. What can I say, I like to color outside the lines. Even with no boat the water offered up so many opportunities for fun. Besides several huge rafts and water toys, we had kept the jet skies. One particularly gorgeous summer afternoon I sat in my lawn chair watching the activities on the water. Weekends, people who kept second homes in the area, increased the traffic on the waterways considerably. A jet ski flew by going way too fast. I commented to my daughter whoever was driving it was an idiot. My daughter, always willing to address her brother’s ineptitude, pointed it was him at the controls. Standing up I began waving and yelling. Shortly in another speedy pass he waved hello back at me. Really? I can’t remember dropping him on his head as a baby. Fortunately this didn’t result in any bodily injury to himself or anyone else but his jet ski was dry docked for a few weeks while he thought about his “need for speed”.

Besides my two teens I had a literal zoo. Sugar the Samoyed, Barnaby the golden retriever, and Sushi the Shih Tzu shared space with us along with Kitty, the only feline. Pete and Gladys our hamsters were eventually eliminated from the mix by cranky Kitty who tired of the wheel keeping her up at night. Moving in I paid $2,800 in pet fees, if you can imagine. Whew. Personally, I would have charged for the kids and let the animals in free. They were far neater.

Barnaby, the retriever, had been my husband’s dog. When he passed the dog was left with me. I felt in his eyes I was a poor substitute for his beloved master, but we managed. One day when home alone I sat on the dock with Barnaby. A beautiful dog, truly, but not the sharpest pencil in the box. A water dog by nature, Barn liked to watch with keen interest the variety of ducks found drifting along the waterways. This particular day a mother duck and about eight ducklings came close to the dock to say hello, perhaps hoping for a crouton or bread crust we often tossed in the water. Barnaby, unable to contain his excitement, took one neat dive and headed south after the retreating ducks. Just before he turned the corner and disappeared I hopped on the huge raft tied to the dock and paddled out after him yelling his name. Finally, the tired dog turned back my way. Once at the raft he climbed up on top. With his claws digging at the plastic it wasn’t long before I heard a ssssssssss sound coming from beneath where the saturated pooch was sitting. Sinking as I paddled, people gathered on a dock next to mine watching and gesturing as I sank lower and lower in the water. A canoe was pushed off and the lone occupant began rowing in my direction. Once next to me, now fully in the water with Barn clopping about my neck with his front paws frantically, the man somehow dragged the saturated animal into the boat. An eighty pound dog when not wet I considered this to be quite a feat. Not able to pull myself up, I held on to the side while he rowed back to the dock. Turned out the man was part Apache. Saved by a Native American in a canoe in 1988. Who knew?

Company came yesterday. As usual I made enough food to satisfy a sumo wrestling training camp. A warm day I came up with this refreshing drink that seemed a big hit.

Fruity Hard Limeade

1 container Simply Limeade
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 lime, cut in thick slices
3 lemons, cut in thick slices
2/3 up sliced strawberries
1/4 cup blueberries
6 shots of vodka (more or less depending on taste)
Sprigs of mint
Ice

Mix together all ingredients but ice. Squeeze lemon ends into limeade with hands before dropping the rinds in. Allow to sit in refrigerator for 2 hours. Add ice to glasses and serve. Top with a sprig of fresh mint.

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1Well, the wedding is behind us. Always filled with emotion, weddings have a way of going left when supposed to be going right and tears often flow like wine from the open bar.

On our way out we left our SUV in economy parking taking the tram to the airport. Rick complained that the one bag he asked me to limit myself to was giving him a hernia. Checking our thankfully underweight bag we headed toward the security area to get that behind us.  Going through security we showed our boarding passes and ID.  As instructed we placed any carry on items on the conveyor belt to be xrayed. Rick turned to me and said, “see you in a ten minutes”. By this he meant I would, as usual, be pulled to the side for carrying something I wasn’t supposed to on board the plane. This time I had thoroughly read what could and couldn’t go and thought I did very well, thank you. Unfortunately, the TSA agents were all wearing Rick’s jerseys and did not share the my sentiment. Sure enough I stood while they went through my carry on bag, “hmmmmming” here and “oh-ohing” there. Darn. Moments later all my items were sitting on the table with my $14.00 shampoo peeking out of the pile in the trash can next to the agent. Perhaps I look like a mad shampooer who when irritated yanks shampoo from my bag and in a screaming rage begins soaping up other passenger’s hair. Anyhow, that behind us we went to the gate to wait to be called to board.

Southwest asks that you go on-line to confirm your flight 24 hours prior to takeoff. Not 24 hours and 1 minute but exactly 24 hours. I know this because I tried it. At any rate, how quickly you type in your confirmation information determines where you stand in line for boarding the plane. Perched over the send button when the clock turned to exactly 24 hours prior I hit send. Yea for me. There was no way to do this any faster. Looking at our boarding passes we were B11. This sounded close to the front. At the gate they called up all those people having “A” numbers. Where did all these people come from? They must have some seriously fast trigger fingers on the mouse. Perhaps I’m missing something here?

Finally our numbers were asked to line up and we boarded the plane taking a seat towards the back of the plane. Rick is claustrophobic when flying so he has to be seated on the aisle. Apparently the logic of this is that he feels he can escape if seated there. Where he goes after he takes off running up the aisle is still open to question. I sat like the creme center of the Oreo in the middle seat waiting for someone to ask us to get up again to fill the seat by the window. In short order a lady I would guess to be in her late forties stuffed a huge bag in the overhead compartment and sat down.

There were two legs to our flight. Sacramento to Ontario, then Ontario to Phoenix. A total of 3 hours and 55 minutes as the crow flies. Actually if the crow was plotting this route he’d go directly to Phoenix but the only flight we could get had one stop.

Anticipating falling asleep, I retrieved my book from my carry on bag to help me on my way. There was plenty of room for it now my shampoo was relegated to the recycling bin. Sigh. The lady next to me introduced herself, and I in turn introduced myself and Rick. On her way to Palm Springs to pick up her daughter, I learned they lived on an island in Washington state. Actually, in the hour plus to Ontario I picked up such a massive volume of information about her life I felt I could effectively pen her autobiography without missing any of the pertinent facts. All kidding aside, she helped me pleasantly pass the time and I found her a lovely and interesting person. However, I have to say if she got paid for every word she uttered the woman would be a multi-millionaire several times over. Rick went to sleep, the coward, miraculously reviving when the drinks were being served. So excited was I to be handed a bag of pretzels with my beverage by the flight attendant. I haven’t had this experience in years on a plane. Not much later they passed by with peanuts as well and I nearly fell to my knees.

Both the landing in Ontario and Phoenix were memorable. In Phoenix we came down, bounced a few times, braked to such an extent that my spine relocated up through the back of my head most probably protruding from my skull. Passengers, I believe a little nervous with all the mishaps on airlines in the news were buzzing a bit as they left the plane. Rick and I and one other soul were the only ones left from the original flight going on the Phoenix. The flight attendants busied themselves wiping down chairs and policing the cabin. Catching one looking at me while holding up a cloth, I was hoping the airlines didn’t include dusting in the price of the steerage seats. Never have I flown in such tight quarters. Any less room and you would literally be standing up. If you bring the tray table down it makes it impossible to move.

As the passengers booked from Ontario to Phoenix came on board, the three seats behind us were occupied with a family including Mom, Dad and a chubby faced baby with a springy patch of hair on his head and rosy cheeks. Later I was to learn they were in the States visiting from Japan. The baby was secured to his mother facing forward in an apparatus not unlike a backpack. Maybe this should be called a frontpack? The woman, probably weighing in at under 100 pounds, looked exhausted. Their other son, a stocky nine-year old, took the window seat next to me.

It was hot in the cabin and noisy. Soon the baby, freed from his carrier began to gurgle and fuss. Rick just looked at me. What? I didn’t pick these seats. Once the plane began its assent the baby went into full voice. Oh Lordy. His brother seated to my left inserted his earphones (apparently this wasn’t his first rodeo) and began playing a video game. Thankfully the little one settled down once we’d reached our altitude and straightened out and was quiet for the remainder of the flight.

The boy removed his headsets once the beverage service started. We talked conversationally while he ate his pretzels. Little blue men, sheep, and other animals bounced up and down on the screen of his device. I asked if they were Smurfs. This produced a look as if to say, “What’s a Smurf?” and “boy are you out of date”. Ah yes, I suppose I am. I was informed somewhat impatiently of the characters correct name which I immediately forgot and wished I had some headphones to put on.

Phoenix airport is a madhouse. Sacramento looks nearly empty in comparison.

Nice to be back.

This lamb is just finger licking good. The only real work involved is shelling the pistachios but from there on it’s smooth sailing.

Fabulous Pistachio Encrusted Rack of Lamb

1 rack of lamb, Frenched
1 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
1/2 Tbsp. Fines Herbes
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/3 cup pistachio nuts, chopped fine
1 Tbsp. plain bread crumbs
1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. butter, melted
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Mix together tarragon and fines herbes. Rub all over the meaty part of the rack. Salt and pepper both sides. Heat oil over high heat in large skillet. Brown lamb on both sides, about 4 mins. per side.

Remove from heat. Place lamb on prepared baking sheet. Slather fatty side of rack with mustard. Mix together remaining ingredients until they form fine crumbs. Rub on fatty part of lamb on top of mustard. Sprinkle with lightly with salt and pepper as desired.

Bake for 30-40 mins. depending on desired doneness.

Serves 2

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finalAs mentioned in my previous blog, last weekend we flew to Arizona to attend Rick’s daughter’s (I consider her one of mine as well). The accommodations were amazing. The hotel itself, oddly called the Valley Ho, was originally built in the 1950’s. Investors, obviously seeing potential there, painstakingly renovated the hotel holding firm to the original retro style. The attention to detail evident everywhere was mind-blowing. Seated outside poolside, Johnny’s Angel could be heard playing the background, or perhaps The Beach Boys cooing Little Surfer Girl.

Two pools as well as a hot tub decorated the beautifully landscaped grounds. The larger of the two pools mainly attracted the younger group also prevalent in the outside bar areas at night. Afternoons this pool was well populated Photo_RmSpa_04with well tanned abs. Umbrella bedecked drinks passed by on round trays and a band, playing mostly country rock, helped set the party like mood. Towards the back of the property was a large lap pool where families with children and the older crowd slathered on suntan lotion and reclined in the luxurious chairs provided for guests.

It’s been a long time since I’ve said something excellent about customer service, but if asked to grade this hotel I’d give them an A+. Whatever you needed seemed almost to appear in a Disneylike fashion at your fingertips.

Small touches in the rooms such as a silver tray of high-end liquors available at a price naturally, chrome racks with rolled fluffy towels in the bathroom, a spa robe for your use while there, and brightly colored walls with complimentary accents on the bed made staying there fun. A large private patio overlooking the pool was a great place to open up a book or enjoy a quick nap. Room service, if you wanted it, arrived quickly and the food was excellent and the coffee hot. Truly not one complaint from this guest, who would stay again in a hot minute.

On the day of our arrival we were instructed to meet downstairs at 3:00 for the wedding rehearsal. The weather, for Phoenix, was ideal. Hovering in the mid to high eighties with a slight breeze, it was desert living at it’s best. Phoenix at this time of year lures you to relocate. However, go there in a few months when the asphalt is so hot midday your shoes stick to the surface, and at least I will rethink any such thoughts and shelve them for another day.

At three we hopped on the elevator with other wedding party members and took it to the 8th floor. Doors opened onto a beautiful deck with a panoramic view of the city. The wedding, scheduled for 6:15 the following evening, promised to be Photo_Mtg_01spectacular. The minister, also the stepfather of the bride, put the wedding party through their paces. I sat with a glass of ice water enjoying the breeze against my skin and taking in the interesting rock formations all around me and the general hustle and bustle of the city traffic below us. Gorgeous.

Rehearsal over, we were told to meet once again in the lobby to carpool to the groom’s mother’s home for the rehearsal dinner. I have to say I was totally looking forward to the “dinner” part of this statement as nothing had passed my lips since breakfast and my stomach was starting to complain. The home where the event was held was incredible. A rambling ranch style home in Scottsdale, Arizona, reminiscent of homes you see displayed across glossy pages in magazines such as Sunset or House Beautiful. Each room was perfectly attired, walls lined with fabulous artwork, huge vases overflowing with unusual floral arrangements. Happily I would have settled in in the massive kitchen and made myself at home. Asking if there was anything I could help with, I was told the hostess was a little stressed because her housekeepers were off for the day. Hmmmmm. That must be stressful. Since they’re off perhaps they could head to my house. There’s work to be done.

Outside through French doors leading off the kitchen a massive covered patio made way for a huge expanse of well manicured lawn. To the left a fire pit flickered and off to the right a bartender stood behind a fully stocked bar waiting to fill your glass. Music coming from two incredibly small, but powerful, speakers helped to set the mood.

As the clock pushed forward and appetizers dwindled guests began politely inquiring about dinner. News came out the caterers had experienced plumbing problems and dinner was not, as originally thought, on it’s way to the table. Ach. I should have accepted that second prawn when asked. People gathered around the appetizer table as though the earth was on twenty-four hour alert and there was no more food to be had.

The hostess, now looking a bit the worse for wear, announced pizzas would be arriving in 30 minutes. There is a God. Crowds dispersed, weapons were holstered, and peace ruled the land once again.

In the end it was a glorious night. Unfortunately, I am one of those people who sends out signals to mosquitos in the area that the dining room is open and seating is available. Like a bear I kept rubbing up against whatever was handy trying to stop the infernal itching. By the next morning my skin looked like a relief map, but after a quick trip to the pharmacy calmed down a bit.

After lunch we grabbed ride from Uber to the Scottsdale Fashion Square. First time on Uber. Other than the driver getting lost coming to get us it was a good cheap way to get around town I have to say. The mall was impressive. OMG. I could have stayed there for hours, possibly days. I’m not a born shopper, but even I was enticed by the heady aromas of expensive soaps and perfumes and gorgeous window displays. Every elegant store yet created was represented. The trip, however, was to get Rick a shirt. The one we’d brought with us was cutting off his air. At Macy’s we located the right neck size but couldn’t pair it with the proper sleeve length. In the end we grabbed the one that allowed him to breathe and decided he’d hike up the sleeves the ceremony. If you’ve heard the expression, what a dog and pony show, please insert it here.

On to the wedding.

Yesterday Rick requested a homeland dish for him. Koshari is a traditional Egyptian dish. A bit of work but in the end proves to be an excellent meal with layers of flavors. This can be made ahead of time and pulled together at the last minute for serving. Yum.

Koshari

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Pita bread

For the rice

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup medium grain rice
2 cups vegetable broth

Heat olive oil in large skillet over med-high heat. Add rice and cook and stir until rice is a light golden brown (about 4-5 mins.) Add vegetable broth to skillet. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and cover. Cook for 15-20 mins. or until rice is cooked. Remove from heat. Let sit for 5 mins. Fluff with fork. Keep warm.

For the lentils

1 cup brown lentils
4 cups water
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced

Rinse and sort lentils. Place in medium saucepan and add remaining ingredients. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and partially cover. Cook for 25-30 mins. until lentils are tender. Drain. Keep warm.

For the macaroni

2 cups dry small elbow macaroni
1 Tbsp. butter

Cook the macaroni in boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain. Add butter and mix. Keep warm.

For the sauce

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 15 1/2 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
1 6 oz. can tomato sauce
2 tsp. Baharat spice blend (see recipe below)
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion. Cook 6 mins. or until onion is translucent. Add garlic. Cook until lightly browned.

Using food processor emulsion blender puree tomatoes with juice and 2 Tbsp. tomato paste. Add to skillet. Add tomato sauce, Baharat spices, red wine vinegar, and red pepper flakes. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook on simmer for 20 mins. Salt and pepper to taste.

Fried Onions

2 onions sliced thin
oil for frying

Heat oil in skillet over high heat. Add onions in batches and fry until crispy. Drain on paper towels.

Baharat Seasoning Blend

1 Tbsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 1/2 Tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
4 cardamon pods ground

Whisk together in small bowl. You will have seasoning left over. Keep for later use in sealed plastic bag.

Directions

Mix together rice, lentils and macaroni. Top with generous dollop of sauce, a sprinkling of chickpeas and the crunchy fried onions.

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