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1

It’s official……my brain has given notice. Like so many political figures these days, my gray matter is longer in line with official policy and has decided to move on. This morning I found the leftover watermelon salad from last night’s dinner on the front seat of the car and the GPS in the fridge. Surprisingly I wasn’t shocked. This year hasn’t stopped for a stress break since the calendar turned the page on January 1, 2017. Never have I needed a vacation more and found myself less likely in a position to take one.

Next week is the planned move for my mother, the second since the beginning of the year. Although we downsized her cache considerably with the first move, still there are china cabinets packed with family treasures and endless boxes of shoes, miscellaneous household goods, and general household items needing to be wrapped and boxed. Last week was scheduled as the first of several packing days. I drove down in our SUV to get things rolling and bring her up here afterward for a few days. On the way down the car began to pull awkwardly. At first I thought it was the well rutted road but by the time I reached her place I knew definitely it was the vehicle behaving badly. The temperature was moving up. After several hours of filling boxes I decided to wrap things up (no pun intended) and get on the road early in case we encountered trouble.  Normally I might have taken this in stride. Certainly this is not the first car I’ve had that developed a problem. However, our second car, a Ford Fusion, had begun making a noise the day before and was scheduled to go into the shop the following day to be repaired. Should this vehicle need the same that would leave us without wheels.

Murphy’s Law, in my case at least, would be that things malfunction at the time you most need them to work. Murphy was alive and well, seated on my right shoulder getting a real charge out of himself. About thirty-five minutes into the drive with another twenty minutes to go, I began to wonder if we were going to make it. My mother chattered on happily in the passenger seat blissfully unaware of the fact there was a strong possibility we were going to be stranded on the side of the road at any moment thumbs pointed toward the sky.

Murphy or not, we finally reached the safety of our driveway. Once unloaded and inside, Rick and I formulated a plan to get both vehicles to the shop as well as return my mother to her home. Hmmm. Plan A was to get a rental car the following morning. Next to take the car under warranty, the Fusion, in first and get that one running. Then we would use the rental to get around and get my mother home. As an aside on my last trip down to gather my mother a rock hit the window on the Fusion. First a tiny hole, now had spread to a long line stretching across the windshield. Included in Plan A was calling our insurance company to get the windshield replaced. For those familiar with Munch’s oil, The Scream, you get some idea of how I was feeling.

Plan B, should Plan A fall by the wayside, was I would marry a wealthy sultan with a fleet of cars and keep Rick on the side as my driver and confidante. This, might I add, was beginning to work for me.

I scheduled a pick up from the rental car company. The driver arrived early the next day and I signed a contract for three days. Originally I’d ordered an economy car which was all I needed. A sudden surge of renters left the dealer out of economy cars so they offered me an upgrade to a Ford Explorer at no extra cost.  Yea for me. The Explorer is a much larger SUV than ours. Equipped with every bell and whistle from cooled seats to in dash GPS and video capabilities it was quite a technologically sophisticated ride. I used up half the first day trying to figure out how to adjust the side rear view mirrors and use the radio. When you back up there is an excellent in-dash camera system equipped with an alarm when you get too close to an object. John Glenn had less equipment to train on before departing for the moon. Ach.

Yesterday we returned the rental car. It was a sad farewell fraught with shed tears and wrenching of keys from unyielding fingers. Sigh. Despite clever negotiation tactics on our side the Enterprise representatives were in the end unwilling to make an even exchange of our failing SUV for their shiny new Explorer. Such is life.

On our final trip I dropped Rick off at the auto shop and continued home by myself. Pulling into the garage I opened the car door and stepped out. A flash of movement caught my eye. Heart pounding I turned to find a pit bull inside the car. Rick often says you just can’t make up stories such as those that happen to me and I believe there is some merit to this. The large brown and white animal sat panting and drooling in the seat I’d just vacated. Hello? Stepping back I suggested to the animal (politely as I have respect for the breed) he vacate the vehicle. Amazingly he did. Following me to the front door he appeared hot and thin. Pouring him a cold drink of water I went in the house to decide how to proceed. Rick came home shortly after followed by a neighbor curious about the dog. With Boo the Queen of Cats peeking out the window holding a sign “No Canine’s Allowed” after some deliberation our neighbor took him home to post a notice on the Internet looking for his owner. Bless the woman. I could have kissed her direct on the lips. What a day!

Finally having a minute or two to relax, I dropped a couple of slices of bread in the toaster with the intention of using some tomatoes freshly picked from my garden along with some crisp bacon to make us a couple of BLT’s. Our toaster, barely three months old, popped the yet untoasted bread right back up when I depressed the lever and refused to do anything else. Really? Never mind. I’d have a turkey sandwich instead. Opening the refrigerator I found the package of turkey afloat in a sticky pool of pickle juice. On further inspection pickle juice had also leaked into the vegetable bin out of a baggie of pickles I’d placed in there after burgers cooked over the weekend.

At that point I went into the closet, shut off the light and stuck my thumb in my mouth. I’m considering having my mail forwarded there.

This is an easy weeknight throw together meal that shows up on the plate looking like a star. The light lemony sauce makes it especially refreshing during the summer months.

Pan Seared Scallops with Fettuccine with Lemon Sauce

10 large sea scallops
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Kosher salt
Black pepper

Remove “foot” from each scallop and pat dry. Heat butter and oil over high heat. Place scallops in pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook around 4 mins. per side until golden and crunchy on bottoms.

Fettuccine with Lemon Sauce

8 oz. cooked Fettuccine
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
4 cloves garlic
Zest of one lemon
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp. chopped chives
1/2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions.

For the sauce

Heat 3 Tbsp, butter in medium saute pan over medium heat until foamy. Add garlic and continue cooking 2-3 mins. or until garlic is fragrant (be careful not to burn. Add lemon zest and juice and continue cooking for one minute. Remove from heat and mix in chives and parsley. Toss with pasta and top with scallops and Parmesan cheese.

Serves 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

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1

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

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

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

steps

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

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

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

point-pleasant-park-beach

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

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

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

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

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

Blue Cheese Cole Slaw

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

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

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

Serves 6

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final

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomato Cheese Tarts

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

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

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

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

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

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

2

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

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

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

Makes 4

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cherry Crisp

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

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

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

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

Bake for 25-30 mins. until browned and bubbly

Serves 6-8

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1

Friday was “euuuuwwweee” night at our house. Every few months we both man a pan and cook a dish each of us enjoys that the other does not. On such occasions Rick often indulges his passion for organ meats (hence the euuuuwwweee) while I break out the scallops, a seafood not on his list of favorites.

Growing up in Nova Scotia seafood was a mainstay at our house. As a child often I accompanied my grandmother to the fish market. Walking hand in hand along the pier, fishing boats would be lined up one after another many still unloading their catch of the day. Inside the massive market area itself, fish of every color and description lay on beds of ice, some so fresh they still showed signs of life. A huge bank of aquariums lined the back wall housing lobsters of all sizes. Once a selection was made, your purchase was wrapped tightly in butcher paper or newspaper and tied with a piece of string. The overwhelming smell of the sea often lingered in our clothes hours after leaving the building.

I digress (as usual). As I was saying, euuuuwwweee night was on the calendar. I had decided to bake my scallops to make life easier. Company was arriving over the weekend so there was much to do outside of the kitchen. Rick had an appointment in the afternoon but assured me he would arrive home in plenty of time to get his half of the program on the road. Yea.

At around 5:15, the time I expected Rick to roll into the driveway, the phone rang. An unfamiliar number around dinnertime was probably a robocall so I waited  to hear the caller identified. It was Rick. Picking up, he told me he was calling from a massage parlor (a discussion we’d have later) because he’d forgotten his cellphone. The SUV, it seemed, had gotten hung up over a curb in Nevada City. The streets in the historical mining town are narrow and when he’d backed up the rear tires dropped over leaving them spinning. Our insurance company had been alerted and a towing company was on its way.

Shortly after hanging up the towing service called. A snippy sort of woman explained they had been trying to call Rick to have him verify his ability to cover the $80 charge for sending a truck out. I explained he had forgotten his phone and road service is covered under our insurance. Apparently deaf as well as difficult she again asked if we could pay.  Politely (no really) I suggested they send someone out to find Rick and he would straighten out the payment situation on their arrival.

In the interim my potato was cooking in the oven and Rick wasn’t due in for some time. Hmmmmm. Easily a half an hour later the tow company number showed up again. Really? On answering the same woman informed me her driver couldn’t find Rick at the location given. She asked me to call him and get further details. Hello? Once again I explained he’d forgotten his cellphone (a concept she couldn’t seem to process) and I could not call him. Nevada City is a small town with about ten streets in the downtown area. How many irritated looking men pacing in front of a red SUV hanging over the curb could there be? My potato at this point was beginning to look a bit prunish and my stomach was beginning to growl.

Twenty minutes later the woman and I were once again on the phone. One more call and we were going to be picking out china patterns. Still no Rick on the horizon. Outside it was turning to cold and beginning to get late. Hanging up, I pulled on a pair of jeans, grabbed my cell phone and waved goodbye to my potato now completely imploded in the oven. Sigh.

Not having been to this location before I programmed the address in my GPS and headed north. Twenty minutes later I turned up a street to find Rick as expected pacing in front of the SUV obviously listing to one side. “How did he do that?”, I wondered, but decided this along with the massage parlor issue would be a question best left for later.

Finding a parking place outside of the building I noted on the plaque the exact address I’d given to the tow company. Rick explained no tow truck had ever shown up. Grabbing my cell phone to dial the road service number it powered down out of juice before I could complete the call. Are you kidding? Luckily two twenty somethings were walking by. What nice guys they were, though they made me cold in shorts and tank tops. I swear if there’s a hint of spring in California people rub on suntan lotion, pull on flip-flops and throw themselves on the ground waiting for the tan lines to show up. Anyhow they were good enough to loan us a phone. Once again on the line with road service it appeared the original tow truck company had cancelled the call, unable to locate Rick. Now how did I go directly to his location with my GPS if their driver whose business it is to find people couldn’t seem to do so? Another time.

Sure enough a sign reading “Massage Parlor” hung to the left of the building. One question answered. Shortly the proprietor came out and handed Rick his phone. Apparently his was the number Rick had originally called the road service company from and they were calling back. Secretly I hoped nobody was half massaged inside.

Finally just before dark and nearly three hours into the program a tow truck showed up. By this time both twenty somethings had joined us as well as the massage parlor proprietor. A guy with an enormous dog had stopped by to offer suggestions for dislodging the SUV on his way out to walk the beast and on his way back. A myriad of walkers and passersby stopped to chat along their route. It takes a village.

In the end the car got towed, we got home, new friends were made, and the scallops the livers remain untouched and uncooked waiting for tonight.

This was my first attempt at asparagus soup. A friend gave me four bunches of beautiful fresh asparagus. We have seen it in every way but on a burger this past week. This was smooth, creamy deliciousness.

Creamed Asparagus Soup

1 lb. fresh asparagus, trimmed
1 onion, chopped
2 1/4 cups vegetable broth, divided
2 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup non-fat milk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp. lemon juice
Crumbled crisp bacon for garnish (optional)

Add asparagus and onion to deep skillet and pour 3/4 cup vegetable oil over top. Bring to boil and then reduce heat partially covering. Cook for 6-8 mins. or until asparagus is tender (check often and add water if liquid gets to low). Cool slightly and then puree in blender.

Melt butter in same pan. Whisk in flour, salt and pepper. Cook for 2 mins. stirring constantly (do not brown). Whisk in remaining 1 1/2 cups of broth and bring to boil over med-high heat.

Whisk in asparagus puree, half and half and milk. Add sour cream and lemon juice. Continue cooking 3 mins.

Top with crisped bacon bits if desired.

Serves 4

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h4>1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meyer Lemon and Tangelo Chicken

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

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

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

Serves 4

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asked2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This fish is moist and delicious.

Baked Tilapia with Cherry Tomatoes

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

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

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

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

Serves 4

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