Archive for the ‘art’ Category


Another year is coming to a close, and an interesting year at that. You have to admit wherever your loyalties lie, it has been interesting. Perhaps others have different adjectives to cover what’s going on in our world, but for now I’ll leave it at interesting. From where I sit I could add a few more adjectives to the list. Stressful, chaotic and downright exhausting come to mind. Definitely a year full of memorable moments, some lovely and joyfully carried forward, others darker and better left in the shadowy corners. All in all, I will not shed one tear for 2017 as it makes it way off the calendar making room for 2018. God if you are listening (I realize it is your busy time of year) please concentrate your spotlight on somebody else for a while. I don’t want to be selfish and take up all your time.)

Changes are in the air for sure. Women are taking a stand moving sexual harassment to the front page, rather than where it is usually can be found swept under the mat. About time we planted our well manicured feet firmly on the floor and said enough is enough. Over the years there were many times when a man I was working with crossed the line. I handled it myself. Most women dealing with such unwanted attention back then did. You stayed out of their way, avoided being alone with them, and if all else failed talked your way out of it or threatened to tell their spouse if one was in the picture. There really wasn’t a lot you could do beyond handle it if you needed your job to put food on the table. If you told, as I once did, the response I got was “men will be men” and “I’m sure he didn’t mean anything by it”. Once on National Secretary’s Day I had to take a cab home from a lunch when my boss, after several martinis, put his hand on my knee under the table and suggested we crank our relationship up a notch. I didn’t like the notch we were on prior to his suggestion. Shortly thereafter I updated my resume and found a new company to draw my paycheck from.

Hopefully this won’t tip the scales too far in the other direction as many of these hot button issues tend to do. Tipping too far in the opposite direction might make it uncomfortable for men and women to say good morning to one another without ending up across the table from someone in HR or being escorted out of the building. Hard to know where to draw the line and what constitutes “inappropriate” behavior. Bigger yet, who lays out the rules of engagement? Men may have a different spin on this as is evidenced by what you read and hear on the news, than their female counterparts. Ahhhhh, men and women are always going to be like piranha and catfish. In the same family, but certainly not the same fish.

Whether you agree or disagree with those in charge of manning our government these days, people seem to be having more to say about it. Social media, customers in restaurants, friends, and strangers I meet in line at the grocery store all seem to have an opinion on what is going on. At least there is an active debate in motion and not apathy. That I can applaud.

On a lighter and brighter note, Christmas is twinkling brightly just around the bend in the road. How I love the holidays. The day after Thanksgiving, if a wall of lava is heading down the hillside toward the house, you will find me in the garage digging through the mass of boxes labeled “Xmas”. Downsizing from 4,500 square feet to 1,600 has left many items unused in the mass of boxes lest we look like we’re having a giant holiday sale and Rick has to move into the garage to avoid being blinded by the lights. The cat, Miss Boo, fully participates in holiday festivities spending her time snatching rolls of ribbon out of my wrapping supplies or relieving the lower branches of the tree of what she appears to feel are superfluous ornaments.

Spending more time with my mother has been a plus this year. Well, most days. Insert smile here. I adore my mother but like most mother’s and daughter’s there are days or weeks when we don’t see eye to eye. As the years have gone by and the roles have shifted this has eased certainly. There is no doubt we are different by design. Often I tell her I’m sure she picked up the wrong baby in nursery. My mom is like the turtle, slow wins the race. I am like the hare, wound tighter than an eight-day clock but not always the first one crossing the finish line. A task that would take me five minutes including clean up might take her nearly an hour to complete.

Mother has suffered with OCD most of her life. Why her doctors never suggested anything to help or if they did remains a mystery. The effects of this have shown themselves more severely as she has aged. As an example, last weekend I gave her a head of lettuce to clean. Once clean she was to break it up in a salad bowl, add some tomatoes and veggies, and make a salad. I went off to fold laundry and clean the cat litter (life in the fast lane) leaving her to her task. Surfacing some time later to see how the salad had progressed I found mother standing in front of a ball of lettuce on the chopping board about the size of a softball and an empty bowl. Inquiring as to where the rest of the lettuce had disappeared to, she pointed to the trash can explaining the discarded leaves had some brown on the bottom so she tossed them. Ahhhhh. Exit salad stage left.

This brought to mind the great asparagus debacle of last summer. Company was coming. Behind schedule I asked her to clean and trim a bunch of asparagus while I took a shower and got dressed. When I returned forty-five minutes later there were three stems ready for the pot. It seems she trims each little leaf off every one before cooking. Had she worked in the kitchen of our restaurant we would have open and closed on the first day of business.

Was I to attach a label to this year I would label it patience. Patience is the key when working with everything in life. Life won’t be pushed or ordered into subservience. Like a cat, even if you ask nicely it tends to still do whatever it wants to and you must comply. With my mother I take deep breaths and remind myself that each visit is precious and someday these visits will be my memories of our time together.

I hope the holidays bring you laughter and joy, time spent with family and friends, and that the new year dawns with peace in the air and tolerance on the agenda.

I’m including heartfelt thoughts to those suffering through the persistent fires here in perpetually sunny California and to those brave individuals who step up on the lines and fight them.

I served this salad on Thanksgiving and everyone went on about it. The trick is to slice the apples thin and soak them in 2 cups of water with 1/8 cup lemon juice mixed in. So pretty on a holiday table and worth a second helping.

Red and Green Apple Spinach Salad with Sesame Seed Dressing

3 cups baby spinach, stems trimmed
1 green apple, cored and sliced thin
1 red apple, cored and sliced thin
2 cups water
1/8 cup lemon juice
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup dried cranberries, rehydrated
1/4 cup toasted pecans
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Core and slice apples. Place in bowl with cold water and lemon juice and let sit for 8 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and pat dry. Dry roast toasted pecans in small frying pan over med-low heat watching not to burn. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

Place dried cranberries in small bowl. Pour boiling water over the cranberries to cover and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let sit for 10 mins. Drain.

Add apples, pecans, cranberries and remaining ingredients to salad bowl and toss with dressing.

Sesame Seed Dressing

2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. finely chopped green onion

Whisk together ingredients and refrigerate for 1 hr. prior to using.


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Had to have an MRI this week for a neck injury I’ve been dealing with. Apparently getting on the rowing machine at the gym before I got my shape in shape wasn’t a stellar idea. Would have been nice if someone actually employed by the gym had brought this to my attention. Guess they were too busy walking around looking perfect to think of mentioning it. Funny, I would have thought many of the other machines of torture would have taken me down before rowing. Perhaps it’s because of all of the miserable contraptions available at my local gym I found rowing the most comforting and did it more often. There you go. Exercise can be bad for you. Secretly I’ve always believed this to be true.

With all the advances made in technology over the past few decades you’d think someone would have come up with an MRI technique that does not sound like you’re standing next to a jet preparing for take off. First they put your head in a vice. Next they push you inside a tube. Once you are in there, for twenty minutes they bombard your senses with a variety of noises equal to or at times surpassing a jack hammer tearing at a block of cement. Before I went in they asked me if I was claustrophobic. I pointed to the “x” I’d placed next to yes to that question on the form I’d filled out. Satisfied with my answer, I disappeared into the great abyss with the question remaining on my mind, “why did they ask me that in the first place, if I still find myself in here?”. Picture yourself as a bullet being chambered, then pull the trigger and you can virtually experience this with me as I write.

I did not open my eyes. Should you have to have this procedure and suffer from any form of claustrophobia or panic attacks might I encourage you take them up on the offer of a Valium prior to the procedure or at the very least accept the sleep mask when suggested. Being of a “tough it out” nature myself, both ideas were something I regretted passing on about half way through the imaging. When feeling a bit panicky, I revisited my trip to Paris with Rick in 2002. For ten minutes we strolled through the glorious gardens near Rick’s mother’s home inhaling the intoxicating mingling of aromas from the prolific flowers planted everywhere  you rested your eyes. Done with my walk in the park, I revisited Versailles recalling clearly in my mind’s eye the huge expanse of grass and water leading up towards the ornate castle resting atop the hill. Leaving France regretfully, I then sat alone on a deserted beach. Digging my toes into the damp sand the soft rush of waves washing close to my feet brought calm and peace to my tortured mind. Overhead gulls circled calling loudly to one another as they searched for a meal. Salt air and rotting seaweed smells filled my nostrils. Lovely how the mind can take you on a journey you’ve taken before with so little effort and no long lines or endless plane rides. Abruptly the session along with the incessant banging ended and I was ejected like a clown shooting out of a circus cannon back into the real world.

Rick, bless his heart, got up with the chickens to go with me to my very early appointment. Being a creature of the night, he finds the early morning  hours a brutal place to spend any amount of time in with your eyes open. I left him in the waiting room while I took my test and returned to find him doing a jigsaw puzzle with another man waiting for somebody or other. We couldn’t leave until Rick finished the tail on the cat. Really? Standing up he nearly collapsed on the floor. Seated in an awkward position for a half an hour his legs had decided to take a siesta and were as useless as a wooden spoon at a bonfire. Again we sat, and Rick completed the body of the cat before we got up and went out the door. Another challenge met and answered. Life is good.

To continue along the hospital vein (sorry for the pun), I got news from my prescription coverage my inhaler was now going to cost me $164.00 a month after the insurance company’s contribution. Good Lord. If my asthma wasn’t already in place that would be enough to keep me from taking a breath. I asked if there was an equitable substitution that was less money. The women I was speaking to suggested I get a recommendation from my doctor. Being obedient, I placed a call to my primary care doctor. While on the phone with her she informed me she is retiring at sixty-two. Frustrated with insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and the medical profession in general she feels she can no longer provide needed health care for her patients. Hello? Wishing her well I asked if she might have a solution to my inhaler situation. She suggested I call my insurance company and ask them for a suitable replacement. Thank you for that sageiant advice. Sigh.

My days, to say least are always interesting. It’s not that I’m doing anything wildly interesting in particular, but whatever I’m doing always seem to take on a life of its own. Perhaps its the writer in me that I tend to observe all the nuances of my day, but somehow I find something to write about as evident by this blog several times a week. You’re probably shaking your heads and thinking, “Susie this really is not that interesting.” Thanks anyway for continuing to show up and sign on. Writing and cooking are my passions so it is nice to have a venue to share them with other people with like passions or interests.

Before we owned the restaurant I worked for a newspaper. During the three years I worked there my job was not writing. Ironically, however, when in the restaurant business I wrote a weekly column in the same newspaper with recipes and stories that continued on three years after I no longer worked in the office. I guess I’ll always write. If you’re reading this I’m glad to see you here. Thanks for continuing to show up and sign on as I meander about this and that. I hope you enjoy the recipes I post. For me being in the kitchen is therapy for my soul.

I love pears. Bags have them are disappearing from our fruit bowl as we get deeper into fall. This salad so beautiful on the table is refreshingly delicious.

Pear and Golden Beet Salad with Pear Vinaigrette

Spring mix
2 pears, halved and sliced thin
2 golden beets, cooked and sliced
3 heirloom tomatoes, sliced
4 large mushrooms, sliced thin
Red onion
Goat cheese (optional)
Candied pecans

Beginning with your greens plate salad attractively. Serve with vinaigrette.

Serves 4

For the Beets

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Wash beets well. Trim off ends. Wrap loosely in tin foil. Place on cookie sheet and bake until tender, about 60 mins. Allow to cool slightly and use knife to remove skin. Slice and serve.

For the candied pecans

1 3/4 cups pecan halves
1/4 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp. butter
salt (to taste)
1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or to taste
1 tsp garlic powder

To caramelize pecans:

Melt butter in non-stick skillet. Add sugar, pecans, cayenne, and garlic powder. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, on med-low until sugar begins to melt and stick to bottom of the pan (4-5 mins).

Lower heat to low and continue stirring constantly until sugar liquifies and pecans are fully coated – 3-4 mins.

Remove immediately from heat and spread on foil lined cookie sheet to cool. Sprinkle with salt as desired.

Pear Vinaigrette

1 large ripe pear, peeled and cored and cut in chunks
Juice of one small lemon
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/8 cup pear vinegar
1/4 cup walnut oil
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Place pear and lemon juice in blender and puree until smooth. Add sugar, salt and pepper. Add vinegar and blend well. With the blender running, drizzle in the oils until you have a nice, thick well blended dressing.

Shake well before using.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fingerling, Brussels Sprouts. and Sweet Potato Bake

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

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

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

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

Serves 4





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lemon Chicken Pepper Soup

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

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

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

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

Serves 4



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

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

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

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

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

Lentil Pumpkin Bean Soup

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

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

Serves 4-6


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brie Wrapped Mummy

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

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

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

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

Serve with crackers or bread.

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Just as a rule I can manage to mess things up, but yesterday I really pushed my foot down on the accelerator. No matter what the situation I found myself in it seemed to go to hell in a hand basket. As I mentioned in my previous blog we recently bought several new chairs for the living room. My birthday is around the corner so the two IKEA chairs were what I asked the birthday fairy for.

Once the new chairs were here I ran an ad on Craigs List to sell the two they were replacing. One of the old chairs was a Papa San chair we’ve had for years. Still in good shape, though well loved, I thought somebody might find a place in their home for it. For some reason it never occurred to me a Papa San chair would generate much interest. Paint me WRONG. Maybe it’s retro or something kitschy. The emails began piling up in my inbox at an alarming rate five minutes after I hit “publish’. Help. The first three were from Rita, Tina, and Gia. Really? Say that fast three times. Trying to keep these three ladies straight with all the forthcoming emails was like juggling bottles of nitro glycerin; eventually something is going to blow. The end result is that one or all three of these women are arriving at the house today to gather this apparent prize. The other thirty waiting in line are chomping at the bit lest they decide not to take it. Who knew? I had to take the ad down to stop the bleeding.

As the day went on I realized it was time to organize Rick’s pills for the week. My poor guy, he’s single handedly keeping the pharmaceutical companies afloat. Three bottles up for refill, I called the prescriptions in to the automated system at the pharmacy. The phone rang almost immediately after I’d hung up. According the pharmacy assistant I had already called these in, and worse yet had picked them up. Are you sure it was me? Of course it was me. I forgot, I left my mind somewhere back in the fall of 2014. Damn. Hanging up I realized I didn’t know where they were. I tore the closet apart looking for them. No luck locating them, I called the pharmacy and said I’d misplaced them. I’ve never done this before. They offered to call the insurance company and explain the situation. Quite possibly they would replace them. Another call later from the pharmacist was good news. The insurance company agreed to refill the prescriptions at cost. Well it was good news up until I actually found the prescriptions in the drawer with the checks I’d received in the mail on the same day I’d picked up the pills. Sigh. Will somebody visit me when I’m in the home? If you can’t don’t worry about it, I probably won’t remember I asked. So, my red faced self once again called the pharmacy to report my commitment to a facility was undoubtedly on the horizon and to please cancel the order.

Next, trying to save what was left of the day I decided to work on the recipe for lamb shanks I was planning for dinner. To pull it together I needed two cans of tomatoes. Turned out the two remaining in my cupboard were diced tomatoes with chipotle. Definitely chipotle does not pair with the Mediterranean ingredients needed to complete the recipe. Never mind. Soup and sandwiches it is. Forgetaboutit.

Rick had asked me in the morning if I would have time to pop a cake in the oven. Sure. What am I doing after all? Realizing as the day passed the cake wasn’t going to happen, I searched for another dessert option. Hurriedly looking in the freezer I found a box leftover from a shipment of Omaha Steaks my mother had given me a while back. The only items remaining were potato puffs and apple turnovers. Reaching into the box I pulled out two turnovers, switched on the oven on to the instructed degrees and popped the little buggers in. Ahhhh. That’s one thing that worked out for the day.

When I woke up this morning I found the turnovers, one half gone, sitting on the counter with a note from Rick. “I love you and appreciate your effort to give me dessert, but these turnovers taste like potatoes for some reason. Perhaps they have turned.” Oh-oh. 0 for 3. I can now write yesterday off as a total loss and hope to see improvement today. Hopefully only one person will show up to claim the chair otherwise you can find me hiding under the bed with the cat.

The best part of yesterday was this soup. Made me glad the tomatoes didn’t work out.

Cheesy Potato Cauliflower Leek Soup

1 Tbsp. oil
1 leek, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large cauliflower florets
2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
4 cups vegetable broth (homemade or purchased)
2 Tbsp. chopped chives
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. paprika
2 1/2 cups fat free milk
3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in stockpot over medium heat. Add leek, onion and garlic and cook 6 mins. Add cauliflower and potatoes. Mix well and continue cooking for 5 mins. stirring several times. Add broth and seasonings. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and cook uncovered for 40 mins. or until vegetables are cooked. Cool slightly.

Place mixture in blender and puree until smooth. Return to pot. Whisk in milk and Parmesan cheese. Heat until hot. Serve with a sprinkle of paprika and chopped chives if desired.

Serves 4

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