Feeds:
Posts
Comments

1
Quite often after I’ve shared stories of my life with someone they’ll say, “you should write a book”. I can’t imagine all the crazy paths my life has led me down would contribute to a best seller, but perhaps I could tap into the rich vein romance novelists have unearthed for themselves. The problem with romance novels, in this humble writer’s opinion, is that many of them follow a similar plot premise.  However, voracious readers seem to be plucking them off the shelves or on-line as quickly as they are published so apparently whatever formula these writers are using is working, and working well. As they say in the south, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

In romance novels the heroine and her prince are often perfect beings devoid of any physical imperfections. Each main character is impeccably named, perhaps Marcus for him or Rachel for her. Their hair never falls out, their knees don’t sag, and their breath, even after a meal of 40 garlic chicken, remains as fresh as a spring breeze. Endlessly alluring and mysterious, the leading lady doesn’t seem to suffer mood swings every twenty-eight days, bloat (or worse god forbid) after consuming gassy foods, or ever prepare a bad meal. From the moment her male counterpart lays eyes on her she is never out of his mind. Towards the end of each story after much unwillingness on our heroine’s part to capitulate she gives in to the hero’s rresistible brand of masculinity and vulnerability and they are one. Did I miss anything? Feel free to step in and fill in the gaps.

The man is generally wealthy beyond means. Either he holds down a job most of us average working drones only dream of, or hales from a royal family or a family so wealthy as to considered obscenely so. Perhaps that’s the draw, I’m thinking. Who would want to pick up a novel about Fred, a slightly paunchy middle-aged man working at the local convenience store in Poughkeepsie or his wife, Edna, with tired eyes and seven unruly kids? How would that be an escape? Not that there aren’t wonderful classics out there filled with angst and sadness. Les Miserables wasn’t exactly a walk in the park for the lead character Jean Valjean and the beautiful Scarlett O’Hara in the end lost both her child and her man.

I’m thinking I need to write that novel about the guy in Poughkeepsie. Probably Rick and my mother would purchase the only copies sold. The pages could be rife with everyday life’s gut wrenching decisions. Should Edna use the laundry detergent with the “lemony fresh” scent or will Fred leave her for a younger woman who’s jogging outfit smells like “sport-wash”? Winding the reader through the housewives harrowing day filled with solving such cliff hangers as where the missing socks actually go once they’ve entered the washing machine? Do they exit through a secret door at the rear? Could there possibly be an alternate universe populated solely by argyles and athletic ankle socks laughing at us as we turn the clean laundry upside down looking for them to no avail. Please do not think in any manner I am denigrating the role of the stay at home mom by any means. I think most of them should receive the Medal of Honor and in some cases even the Purple Heart, but I do not believe most us want to escape by reading about the perils of diaper rash or which market has corned beef on sale. I’m just sayin.

I could also tackle the mystifying case of why Fred can only see his feet when seated, having them disappear completely from view once he assumes a standing position. Could the clues point in the direction of that extra helping of Cheesecake Factory white chocolate raspberry truffle cheesecake he ate at midnight when supposedly going to the refrigerator for bottled water? One has to wonder.

Books are a glorious world limited only by the imagination. Reader and writers come together in a shared experience, sometimes good and sometimes not so much. I’m thinking of taking a class to help me with that extra push to actually commit to doing some research, coming up with a story line, and getting on with it. I’m not getting any riper, as my children are kind enough to remind me.

Storytelling should never become a lost art, or I pray if it does I am not here for its demise. I tell stories to my grandchildren my grandmother told to me. If the wind is right they will continue to be passed down over the dinner table or at bedtime from one generation to the next. A hand-held device can never, or perhaps rather should never, replace a book. Being an old dog I still like to hold my literature in my hand and engage in the age old practice of turning the pages as I delve into the story. When it is time to set it down, I tuck a well worn bookmark in between the last page I was reading so when I pick it up again I can turn to where I left off. There is something gently reassuring about reading. Like finding a friend at your bedside to sit with you until your eyes begin to close.

At any rate I wanted to share this delicious cobbler before the summer fruit begins to be replaced by crisp apples and fall fare.

Peach and Blueberry Cobbler

Fruit Filling

2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
5 peaches, peeled and sliced
1 cup blueberries

Combine all ingredients but fruit in saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and stir constantly until thickened. Mix in fruit.

Crust

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup butter, softened

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in mixing bowl. Cut in butter and add buttermilk.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray bottom of 2 quart baking dish. Place fruit mixture on bottom. Spread crust mixture over top.

Bake for 50 mins. or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly.

Serves 6

1
Went for an early walk this morning. Our neighborhood is situated in a well-forested area perched atop a series of grades and dips. Whew. That first hill nearly required a visit from the paramedics but I persevered. The fitness types say it is important to get your cardio up. My problem is differentiating between cardio and critical. Definitely our hill fits the bill for raising your heartbeat. Straight up without a flat stretch. By two-thirds of the way up the steepest part I began to look like a guppy gasping at the surface of the water for air. Hot out already at 6:30, I passed others hoping to beat the heat on my way up. Many were taking their dogs out for a morning stretch. Most with animals were carrying plastic bags to pick up anything their furry friends might leave by way of a deposit in their neighbor’s yards. This is one thing I enjoy about cat ownership. Boo, the Queen of cats, never wants to go for a walk. As a matter of fact, the animal would be highly offended by the very suggestion. Also, she has a bathroom prepared for her in her litter box on the lower level and uses it every day, no plastic bags required. At one point a young woman dressed in miniscule spandex shorts and a tank top sped by a cluster of older walkers as if they were standing still. I got a friction burn from the accelerated air currents. Right. I watched in admiration as she turned the the corner on those muscled legs her perky ponytail bobbing out of sight.

There is one older man who shames us all. Each day rain or shine, heat wave or snow on the ground, this gentlemen walks down the huge hill to the bus stop carrying an enormous backpack. I see him on his way down early in the morning and on his way back up in the early evening hours. Beneath his floppy fishing hat he sports white hair nearly to his waist and a full beard that practically eclipses his facial features. Always I wonder what this man’s story is. Routinely during a particularly hot day I’ll notice him resting beneath our large tree by the mailbox. I’ve entertained the thought of running up my driveway and asking if he needs a ride up the hill. I don’t because I have no idea how he would respond to a strange woman offering such a thing. Neither do I want to embarrass him nor embarrass myself should he decline my invitation, or worse yet be offended by it. Also, as Rick reminds me when I go off on a tangent, I do not know anything about this human being or what I would be getting myself into should I invite him into the car with me.

What a distrusting world we have created for ourselves. Time back we used to stop and pick up people hitchhiking along the side of the highway without giving it another thought. I can remember leaving the house and never checking to see if the door was locked, or leaving the windows down in my car before going into a store. Now this is not to say there weren’t scary things afoot when I was younger. A friend of mine got married around the same age I first did, nineteen. As is typical, the family published the young couple’s wedding announcement in the local newspaper along  with their plans for an extended honeymoon in Hawaii. Not published was their address, naturally. However, armed with the city they lived in and probably a phone book, someone took the time to find out. A moving van pulled up to their home in their absence. Neighbors knowing the house was to be occupied, weren’t alarmed. So, while the newlyweds enjoyed a glorious vacation in the islands, thieves emptied everything out of the home from the furniture gifted by the grooms parents to all the beautiful wedding presents, most of them still unwrapped. According to the bride they even stole the toilet paper off the holders in her bathroom. Now that really is hitting below the belt, if you will. I’m joking about this, but I remember how devastated they were at the time. Imagine expecting to come home to a beautifully decorated first home to find only a phone sitting on the carpet with a note reading “thanks and congratulations”. Really? Criminals with a sense of humor. You don’t find that everyday.

Today most of us would never think of picking up someone thumbs up on the roadside. News stories of a violent nature have become an everyday occurrence. TV shows and movies show the darker side of human nature on the big screen. Kids play video games with guns firing and body parts flying north and south and are taught early on to fear strangers above all else. Teachers reinforce if you see someone you don’t know, “run, scream, call for help”. Fear truly is more contagious than measles, spreading from one person to another like sparks on a dry hillside. You would think as we all look basically the same once the skin covering our skeletal system has returned to the earth, it would be the natural way of things to move towards one another not away. This, of course, is not the case. Rather than recognizing and celebrating our similarities we choose to focus on our differences. Human nature, I would suppose.

With the presidential race in full swing I’m sure the candidates will come out with even bigger rocks to sling across the party lines. They call it a party, but I have to admit I’m not having all that much fun. Perhaps it’s the hosts. Of all the political campaigns I have lived through this one is the oddest. For me it’s like being asked if I would prefer cows brains or pickled pigs feet for dinner. I believe I’d pass on either. You can’t pass on such an important election as this, however, so one must pick the best of the two to their mind and move forward. Personally I’d stick with a tossed salad, but there isn’t one on the menu. If you don’t vote you really can’t complain about what you end up with. Apathy never gets the barn painted, or something like that.

Soooo, I shall end my tirade for the day with this quick and delicious recipe for stuffed tomatoes. This is a great dish for summer as it looks fresh and pretty on the plate and takes little time in the oven.

Creamed Spinach Stuffed Tomatoes

2 large beefsteak tomatoes, halved
2 pkgs. Stouffers Creamed Spinach cooked (9 oz.)
2/3 cup crushed Texas Toast Garlic & Butter Croutons
1/2 cup plus 4 Tbsp. shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Sprinkle cut side of each tomato slightly with salt. Invert on paper towel for 20 mins. to release liquids. Place cut side up on baking dish sprayed with cooking spray.

Cook creamed spinach according to pkg. directions. Allow to cool slightly. Mix in croutons and 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese. Divide equally on top of each tomato. Sprinkle additional 1 Tbsp. of Parmesan on top of each pile of spinach.

Bake for 25 mins. or until golden brown and crunchy.

Serves 4

1
Watching glimpses of Melania Trump’s speech on the morning news, I can’t help but wonder if her poised and calm appearance secretly housed an inside full of fear and dancing butterflies. Beautiful enough certainly to exude confidence in most any arena, still the woman surely had never been asked to give a politically motivated speech viewed by millions prior to stepping up to the podium this week. This would make a mouse out of many a lion.

Public speaking, so experts say, ranks higher than death among people’s fears. I know it’s right up there on my list. However, faced with choosing between standing before a firing squad or delivering a speech, I believe I would spit shine my writing skills and get on with whatever topic was at hand.

So terrified was I in high school of speaking before my peers, I would read whatever book was assigned for an oral book report, write the paper, and when called on to give my report claim I hadn’t done it. I know. I was a shy kid in those days. For people who know me now I realize this concept seems a stretch, but it was an accurate description of the younger version of myself. Miss Payne, my sophomore English teacher, was an unmarried lady of some years. At the age of fourteen I viewed anyone over twenty-five as having one foot in the grave, but her nickname was “the purple lady” due to her bluish gray hairdo so I would guess her to have been in her late fifties. Miss Payne brooked little resistance from her charges, and due to her iron rule received little. Many times we watched in horror as some poor kid caught breaking a Payne rule of behavior got their knuckles whacked soundly with her ruler for whatever transgression they had perpetrated. The second time I’d admitted not having a book report ready she had me stand in front of the class. For the allotted ten minutes I stood before them reading clumsily from a massive book of Shakespeare. King Lear has never been so sorely abused. I’m sure my words were drowned out by the loud knocking of my bony knees and the incessant drop, drop, drop of sweat beads on the wooden floor. Not good, not good at all.

Ten minutes can be eternity when you’re snared by fear. Once I took a ten minute typing test and my elbows were literally locked in place when on the downhill stretch. There was a boy in our class blessed with a nasty stutter. Talking to him required extreme patience. Each word he uttered struggled to be born and when it emerged was often accompanied by spitting and bizarre facial contortions. The wait between statements often became uncomfortable for both the speaker and the listener. As if this wasn’t enough of a social disaster for a teen, he had also been blessed with a terminal case of acne making the circle of his awkwardness complete. I was talking to my daughter the other day about the fact life is rarely fair. Recalling this kid would have been a great example to use. Hopefully like many social pariahs in high school, he went on to run a huge technology firm or try cases in superior court. High school kids can be a cruel lot, pouncing like pack animals on their weakest members culling them from the herd for ridicule and shame. I can only imagine what goes on with social media at their fingertips these days. Back then they were at least limited to their own turf.

Miss Payne trucked no rebellion in her English class. Everyone participated reluctantly or not. This boy, I wish I could remember his name, sat in the back row. His chin seemed to perpetually to be pointed in the direction of his feet, while his nervous hands worked ceaselessly at the craters on his face. When his name was called to do his report, several cooler kids groaned and snickered making his walk toward the front of room probably as long as an inmate taking his last walk along death row. Standing in front of his taunters wrinkled paper twisted in his fingers he began a report which was to eat up an entire class period. The boy sitting behind me began snoring as this boy worked to get through the torture. Looking back I’m sure Mrs. Payne thought she was doing what was best for him, but to me it felt like some kind of retribution aimed at all the men who had passed her by during her life. Poor guy.

After that day it became somewhat easier for me to appear in front of people. Let’s face it if a kid with a humiliating speech impediment and a face full of pimples could get through it, what had I to fear? These days I rather enjoy basking in the soft glow of the spotlight. Never would I be interested in public speaking, however, or appearing on TV or the stage. That light would be a little too strong for my tastes. People poking their cameras in every facet of your life would have no interest for me on any level. No amount of money or fame is worth losing my privacy.

One of the recent mega lottery winners in California recently stepped forward to claim their prize. The first thing coming to my mind was how life as they knew it was about to change drastically. Media attention, family members crawling out from under the rug, charities pursuing them, and changes in living, working and family situations. Whew. Lottery god if you’re tuning in it is not that I’m adverse to dealing with all this (my ticket is in my wallet if you’re waving your wand), however, I do acknowledge it might be a bit daunting. I’m just sayin.

I do have to say going back to my original thought that Melania Trump’s speech certainly had a familiar echo to it. No matter how much back pedaling their campaign managers do they cannot take away from the startling similarities to Michelle Obama’s speech. Ah well, kudos to her for doing it. This by no means is a political affirmation or nod to the Trump campaign, simply a casual observation about the speech itself.

This is my version of something I saw on a cooking show. Rick gave it an A. I prefer to let the bread rest a day or two so it’s not too fresh and soft.

Brie French Toast with Raspberry Sauce

4 slices Artisan bread, sliced thick
3 eggs
3 Tbsp. 2% milk
1 1/2 tsp. brandy
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. butter
4 oz. French Brie cheese
Confectioner’s sugar

Whisk together eggs, milk, brandy, vanilla, and cinnamon. One at a time soak bread in egg mixture. Melt butter in skillet over high heat. Place soaked bread in skillet and cook until golden brown. Turn over. Place two slices of Brie on top of two slices of bread. When bread is brown on the bottom side place the two slices without cheese on top of the bread with cheese and reduce heat to medium low. Turn over once until Brie is melted. (Like a grilled cheese sandwich). Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

Raspberry Sauce

2 cups fresh raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. brandy
1/2 tsp. lemon juice

Place 1 cup raspberries in food processor with sugar. Puree. Push through fine sieve and discard solids. Add remaining raspberries, brandy and lemon juice. Serve over toast.

Serves 4

2
Since first hearing about it from friends I’ve wanted to watch Downton Abbey. For whatever reason, I’ve never tuned it in.  TV serving up its usual plate of boring summer offerings, I thought it the perfect time to give it a try. With the myriad of cable channels available you would think I could find something to watch in the middle of the night besides programs about growing hair, juicing, or the endless stream of reality shows featuring people I have never heard of. Seriously I keep threatening to start a reality show of my own. God knows I have some good material for it and the players are already in place.

At any rate I went into Netflix and did a search for the series. What came up was Call The Midwife. Knowing only Downton Abbey was a British import and little about the story line, I assumed this to be the title of the first episode. Curling up in my chair with the cat and a hot cup of freshly brewed coffee I pushed start. I have heard of people binge watching a series, but I have never done it myself. Until now, that is. The Brits really know how to build rich strong characters and I was drawn into the story within the first half hour.

I walked with a friend after viewing several episodes, and asked her if she’d seen the series. Saying she had, I went on excitedly about the episode centering around a pregnant woman with twenty-four children who spoke only Spanish while the father of her children only English. To my friend’s credit, she kept nodding her head as if she had any clue what I was talking about. After I came home I noticed something on the Internet about Downton Abbey. Curious, I clicked on it. Along with an article about the show the author included a picture of the cast. Hmmmmm. Didn’t recognize a one of the cast members, and it appeared there was nothing about midwives and delivering babies. Interesting. Could it be I have been watching the wrong series? Why, yes it could. Nonetheless, the series I have been watching is captivating. Every morning with my first cup of coffee I allow myself a new episode before I start my day. Tune in if you get a chance. Mainly for women, I think, with men possibly finding endless scenes of babies squeezing out of the birth canal a bit tedious, possibly putting single men off marriage or certainly fatherhood for a few more years.

On a totally unrelated subject the other half and I took a day off and drove up to Lake Tahoe over the weekend. The weather, totally cooperating, was sunny with temperatures only reaching the low eighties. We booked a room at one of the larger casinos with a view of the lake. The desk clerk amended that description to partial view. Partial view apparently means if you stand on your tiptoes at the very corner of the window you could detect some hint of blue just beyond the treeline.  Rick had told the desk clerk he didn’t mind if we didn’t have a full view of the lake as long as we weren’t looking out at the parking lot. To her credit we didn’t overlook the parking lot. Rather we were treated to a view of the roof and all the vents, but as promised there was not one car in sight. Right. A resort fee is charged for the room. This used to be around $10 but along with everything else has gone up to $25. With people busily depositing their paychecks in the machines on the first floor you would think this might be considered excessive. Also, there is an envelope for the housekeeping staff and the bell captain and the valet area all waiting for a tip. Reminds me of taking a cruise. There were so many envelopes requiring tip money on my last cruise I believe one was labeled The Captain’s Children’s College Fund.

When we inquired about a place to eat the bell boy (actually he was around fifty, so really bell man) suggested the buffet across the street as a great place to have dinner. In retrospect as the hotel we stayed in owned both buildings, it would seem he may  have been coached to provide that suggestion. Squeezed into an elevator filled to capacity, we arrived around 6:30 along with what appeared to be half the town. A man took our phone number and said we would be paged in about thirty minutes. Locating two seats at the bar, we enjoyed a panoramic view of the lake. Rick explained the 19th floor room used to be an upscale restaurant where the rich and famous gathered. Hard to picture such opulence as flip-flops and cargo shorts were the attire of choice on the night we were there. Everything had a faded glory look to it. The main room, probably elegant back in the day, was now crammed with huge banks of banquet serving tables. Chefs carved prime rib and turkey at the central table and people milled around rows of salad choices, a long row of sushi and Asian food, and the pizza bar. I decided prime rib might be good. The cut seems to be hard to find these days in our area for some reason. The chef sliced a piece off the fatty end resting on the cutting board. I asked if I could have another piece as that one looked as if it had been rode hard and put up wet. The second piece looked pretty good but even with a sharp knife defied cutting. I entertained the thought of keeping it and using it to make a strong pair of winter boots. I went back for a baked potato which was both cold and uncooked. Hmmmmm. Do I detect a pattern here? In the end I had a feast of bread pudding and carrot cake and waddled back to the room.

The next morning we walked down to the beach. Sitting in the warm sun we people watched for a couple of hours. I made my usual turtle sculpture in the sand for posterity afterwards walking down barefoot to wash my feet in the water. Toe numbing cold gave me great admiration for the kids actually swimming further out as I’ve had ice water that was warmer. Tahoe holds fond memories for me. I got my first real kiss in Lake Tahoe, and water skied for the first time there.

All in all it was glorious to get away and nice to get back. Boo, the Queen of Cats, was most glad to see our faces.

This recipe is easier than it looks and really delicious.

Grilled Corn and Margarita Chicken Tostada

Corn

2 ears of corn
1/4 cup melted butter
1/8 cup lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Remove husks and silk. Soak corn in cold water for 1/2 hour. Pat dry and spray with vegetable cooking spray. Preheat grill to med. high. Place corn on grill. Cook for 30 mins. turning often or until lightly charred and tender. Brush with lime butter and use a knife to remove kernels. Salt and pepper as desired.

Corn Relish

2 ears grilled corn, kernels removed
8 oz. drained black beans
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
4 Tbsp. chunky salsa
2 tsp. Sriracha (more or less according to taste)
1/2 red onion sliced thin and quartered
1/8 cup freshly chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and chill while marinating chicken.

Margarita Chicken

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cubed
juice of 2 limes
1 cup Margarita mix
2 Tbsp. tequila (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
Pepper to taste
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 bunch fresh cilantro

If using wooden skewers soak in cold water for at least 30 mins. before sliding on meat.

Mix together all marinade ingredients. Add chicken and allow to marinade turning once for 6-8 hrs. Place meat on skewers. Preheat grill to medium. Cook meat for 3-4 mins. per side or until done.

To Assemble Tostada

Layer in order in two heated tostada shells (heat purchased shells as directed or make your own)

2 cups chopped lettuce
Corn Salsa
Chicken
1 avocado, sliced
Sour Cream
Salsa
Black olives

Serve with extra salsa and ranch dressing if desired.

Serves 2

1
After watching all the clips of people enjoying the beaches and boating over the holiday weekend I am left pining for our boat. In the midst of the chaos of owning the restaurant we sold our power boat. Twenty-four seven devoted to keeping our heads above water with the business left little free time to to do so out on the water itself. Also, there is far more to boat ownership than signing the paperwork at the dealer. Monies need to be set aside for mooring, maintenance, accessories and gasoline.

The day you purchase a boat your list of friends increases simultaneously, peaking at the onset of the first hot day of the year. Acquaintances never really finding time for you before suddenly can’t wait to share your space. Add a pool to the mix and you could run for state office.

When my kids were in high school we had a boat as well as a cabin at Bass Lake at our disposal. The kids friendship pool swelled as this news got around and often when packing up for a vacation at the lake we had three or four bonus children and several extra adults to account for when purchasing food and supplies. I have been known to say a week at the lake was “relocation” rather than “vacation”, at least for me such was the case. All the tasks I did at home simply relocated themselves to a different venue. Admittedly it was more fun doing them because of the “vacation feel” of the trip, but in truth I still cooked and cleaned much as at home only in a more beautiful setting. After several years of doing for my brood on such getaways, Susie’s chore lists came into being. This after a particularly boisterous morning where I’d fed ten people five different breakfast entrée requests, cleaned up the ensuing mess, and prepped for the lunch crowd while everyone else had lathered up with suntan lotion and gone off on their first ski run of the day. Really? I didn’t think so either. On their return new rules were in place which remained as thus until both the cabin and the boat had been sold.

I’m a big fan of “you make the mess, you clean it up”. I explained to my children when they were old enough to understand though I purchased the dishes they ate from, once they took possession of a plate with food on it it was by way of a rental agreement. Use of Mom’s plate in exchange for being responsible for getting it from the table to the dishwasher once they were done. Children, contrary to modern thinking, will not be harmed by the act of actually doing physical labor. By this I do not mean lifting their tablet or other device from the table to their laps. My kids participated around the house. When old enough they washed, dried, folded and ironed the clothes they wore and yet still grew up to be relatively undamaged human beings. I was a working mother, at times a single parent, and for me their participation in our upkeep was not only helpful but necessary. I don’t harbor one ounce of guilt about this as both my kids grew up to be responsible hard working adults.

Owning a boat was a group effort as well. You didn’t just hop into it, throw on a pair of skis and enjoy. There is a responsibility in owning a boat the same as owning a car. If the plan is to use your boat for more than a season, you must help clean it up, store the gear when you’re done, and help load it on the trailer when it’s time to go home. All hands on deck, so to speak.

There have been some boating disaster stories along the way. Wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have one or two. I have watched a newly purchased boat I was in sink to the bottom of the Colorado River, become becalmed on the way to Catalina in the middle of a shark feeding frenzy. Oh yes, my friends, there are stories. The one below always make me laugh ….. well, now it makes me laugh.

Twenty years would pass between my first boat and the second. That’s a long time to forget everything you ever learned the first time afloat. Rick and I bought our boat in 2004. I assured him I knew how to load the boat on the trailer and drive it once on the lake and would be happy to teach him. Words to live by, or die by as was possibly more true in this situation.

We picked the boat up and drove the two hours home to our lake where we’d rented a slip. Backing the boat up to the water I quickly realized I had no idea what the boat salesman had said about launching it. After an hour in the sun wrestling with it we hired two kids from the marina to help us get it off the trailer. Sigh. As humiliating as this was it was only a slight ripple compared to what was about to roll over the horizon.

The trailer parked and both of us finally in the boat, the second realization I had was that I’d forgotten how to drive a boat and certainly had not one single clue on how to get it docked once at the marina. Somehow we managed to maneuver ourselves into the back of the marina where our slip was located. As luck would have it our slip was in a tight right angled corner between two huge sailboats. Swell. First I hit the right side of the dock, then the left, then ricocheted from one to the other several times. We backed out nearly sideways nicking the edge of the extended propeller on the sailboat next to us. Rick, at this point had both hands on his head and was beginning to totally panic. I was long past that point. I pushed free of the propeller and noticed two parents pulling their children out of the water on the opposite side of the marina as I continued to be a loose cannon. Coming dangerously close to the ramp, Rick climbed out onto it leaving me circling alone. Chicken. On my next pass he hopped back in and with onlookers watching in amazement we got the boat into the slip without further incident. Someone on the other side clapped but my face was hung too low in embarrassment to acknowledge them. My humiliation was complete.

Fortunately there was no serious damage done to our boat or the sailboat. I did ding our boat slightly but as we took the boat out more often we improved greatly on handling it and had lots of fabulous days on the lake before buying the restaurant.

This is so pretty on the plate and absolutely yummy on the taste buds.

Baked Peaches with Orange Sauce and Caramelized Walnuts

For the peaches

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

4 large ripe peaches, halved and pitted
2 Tbsp. butter, quartered
1/2-3/4 tsp. cinnamon

Place pieces cut side up on baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Place 1/4 pat of butter in center of each peach. Sprinkle cinnamon on top of each piece (add more as desired). Bake in a single layer for 30 mins. Brush melted butter across tops of peaches and continue cooking 10 mins.

Orange Sauce

2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups orange juice (no pulp)

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook for 2 min. Whisk in orange juice and brown sugar and continue cooking until thickened stirring constantly.

Caramelized Walnuts

2 cups walnut halves
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/3 cup maple syrup

Heat dry skillet over medium high heat. Add all ingredients and cook stirring constantly until nuts are browned and caramelized

Place 1 baked peach on each place. Ladle sauce on top and place nuts around the plate.

Serves 8

5The weather has definitely been delivering some one-two punches lately between the extreme flooding in West Virginia and the heat and wildfires in California. No matter where you live there is something to watch out for when nature gets on rampage. A woman walking along a beach in Florida with clouds far off in the distance was struck and killed by lightning over the weekend. The rule according to experts is if you hear thunder, lightning is most likely lingering behind the curtain. I’ve read of people being struck through a window while washing dishes. Some people have been distinguished for being hit multiple times, with one park ranger holding the record for being struck by lightning seven times during his lifetime. Whew. Wonder if is friends enjoyed his company from a safe distance?

While living in the south and on several long stays in West Virginia I have been treated to some spectacular light shows when extreme storms passed my way. I can remember one in St. Albans, West Virgina. The lightning was forking all around us and the clouds moved along overhead as if Mother Nature had adjusted the speed to fast forward. Being young and basically clueless a group of us enjoying a summer party stood beneath an overhang watching the display. All we needed was an arrow directed at our pointy heads saying “we are here”. What is the expression, “God takes care of drunks and fools”? Being covered on both points was probably the only thing keeping us safe during that situation.

Undoubtedly the most spectacular storm I’ve ever seen was in the midst of a move to Arkansas. Our route had taken us across Nevada on Highway 50 (the loneliest road in the U.S. – aptly named BTW). The general lack of scenery across 50 was superceeded by the total desolation of the area surrounding the Utah Salt Flats. Our second blowout of the trip occurred on our approach to the bleached landscape. The dessert floor temperature we were told later by a local probably hit around 130 midday. I don’t ever remember being that hot. At one point I became so disoriented I was flagging down the occasional passing car. My husband at the time kept one hand hooked on my belt loop to keep me from getting into any air-conditioned interior and escaping. We had two cars with us, well one car plus a fully loaded pickup truck. Being from Texas he reminded me regularly a man’s truck is never reduced to being called a car unless you had your fighting face on or a bullet in the chamber. In the car, which I drove, I was accompanied by a rather ornery old cat answering to the name Kitty, and my Shih Tzu, Sushi. As the car got warmer they began to pant and I worried about their well being. After giving them water, I took one of the several bags of ice out of the cooler and covered it with wet towels making them an ice bed. Normally adversarial, both animals climbed on board and laid next to one another in a temporary heat induced de tante. Had there been room I would have gotten up there with them. Instead, I tucked a handful of ice under my hat. So hot was it, rivulets of water immediately began to run down my face and shirt giving me a look as if I was melting onto the road. The Wicked Witch of the East comes to mind. Looking back it would have been a fairly accurate description.

Finally back on the road the blessed cool air blowing across my red face, I found myself thanking the mother of Willis Carrier, inventor of air conditioning, for conceiving him undoubtedly on a sweltering hot day. According to what I’ve read the original concept of cooling air came from the Egyptians who hung reeds in the windows moistened with water. From what Rick has told me about the temperatures achieved in that area I am not surprised they came up with something first.

Passing the stark white desolation of the salt flats I viewed them with a mixture of fascination combined with a hint of fear. After our ordeal, being surrounded by humans and stores with humming air conditioners was comforting once we arrived at the nearest city. Gassing up both vehicles and washing our faces in the restroom, we ate at a truck stop late in the afternoon. Over dinner we discussed a plan to drive for two hours more across the valley floor indicated on the map and then stop for the night. Pulling onto the highway my my eyes caught a sign reading “no services for the next 125 miles”. Clouds moved in as we descended onto the valley floor. A row of lightning hung in the distance like an electrified curtain beneath the increasingly menacing looking sky. Sushi cuddled close to me on the seat, with Kitty choosing to retreat under a blanket on the floor. “Into the Valley of Death rode the 600” kept repeating in my mind as I turned the car in the direction of the storm. “Mommy”.

Rain, beginning slowly, soon taxed the rapidly moving wipers. Visibility was reduced to a small window. Lightning was all around me and it became nearly impossible to see my husband’s truck in front of me. A huge splash of mud thrown by a passing truck had me pulling to the side of the road. The wipers smeared the goo across my windshield. No choice but to get out and wipe the glass, I grabbed a pair of shorts from a pile of clothes on the seat and stepped out into the storm. Ozone assaulted my nostrils. As I wiped the window a huge flash to my right had me literally richocheting back into my car. Both animals were now under the blanket probably holding paws. Adjusting the rear view mirror I realized my hair was standing straight on end and a slight burning smell filled the car. Swell, fried brain.

My husband backtracked to find me. Never was I so glad to see that old beater truck in my headlights, except when we saw a road exit two hours later with a hotel and food sign attached. Never underestimate the weather. Nature will always have the home field advantage.

The heat being what it is we’re cooking on the grill more often than not. This eggplant sandwich was a treat and easy to pull together.

Grilled Eggplant and Roma Tomato Pocket Sandwich

Marinade

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
12 slices eggplant
12 slices mozzarella cheese

Mix together marinade ingredients. Place eggplant in single layer in shallow dish. Cover with marinade for 4 hours, turning once. Place on preheated hot grill sprayed with cooking spray for 3-4 mins. per side adding cheese for the last 2 mins. of cooking.

Tomatoes and Onions

4 Roma tomatoes
4 1/2″ thick slices of red onion
2 Tbps. olive oil
1/2 tsp. ground basil

Halve tomatoes and place in resealable bag with olive oil and basil. Toss to coat. Allow to marinate for 1 hour. Add onions just before cooking and turn to coat. Place directly on hot grill or in vegetable grill pan (spray with cooking spray) for about 4 mins. per side or until tomatoes are slightly charred and onions tender. Keep warm.

For the sandwich

4 slices Pita bread
1 cup fresh spinach washed and trimmed
1 container prepared pesto
4 1/2″ slices fresh mozzarella

Place pita bread on grill until heated. Cut in half and open pockets. Spread pesto on inside of each pocket. Add spinach, tomato, onion and eggplant.

Serves 4

1Relationships truly are a series of compromises. Rick wants to go go see futuristic flicks or horror while I lean towards sappy romance movies. To accommodate one another, one time he will suffer through my three hankie movie so on our next visit to the theater I can do a silent scream peeking through my fingers while watching lifeless zombies drag their remaining body parts through two hours of gore.

Rick and I are as different as ice cream and beets. Oddly enough for us this works. Our opinions run on the opposite end of the stick on almost everything and when it comes to food where he will happily lap up a plate of sauteed liver, I would sooner crawl on my knees through a field of cow patties than be asked to dredge a piece of the organ meat in flour.

It’s not that I was not exposed to exotic flavors growing up. I can remember standing on the kitchen stool next to my grandfather watching in fascination as frog legs danced in a sea of butter in a pan on the stove. This, in the end, served to inspire me to cook them rather them actually introduce them to the interior of my mouth. As I’ve been told he enjoyed a variety of organ meats from sweetbreads (please) to tripe. I can recall beef steak and kidney pie being served at my grandmother’s table. I can also recall picking out all the pieces of meat (whether steak or kidney – didn’t want to take a chance) and storing them in my napkin for disposal after the meal.

Coming from Egypt, Rick has introduced me to a lot of interesting new flavors, so far none of which I’ve added to my “eeeeeuuw” list. Before I met him I had never tried falafels, for example, and now I serve them at least once a month. When my mother and her roommate visited recently he commented she was resistant to any new flavors he attempted to convince her to try. Perhaps it is that she was a housewife and mother (not that she isn’t now, but full-time) during a time when aproned housewives served standard American fare to their families at dinner time. During my teenage years I could predict our meal selections from a group of popular favorites such as tuna casserole, macaroni and cheese, meatloaf (luv meatloaf), spaghetti, chicken pot pie, and other artery clogging delights. At mother’s parties accompanied by background music compliments of the Tijiuana Brass (really?), you might have found party mix, deviled eggs, cheese balls, and creamy spinach dip. I never understood party mix but it was hugely popular at that time. Basically, cereal, nuts, seasonings and Worcestershire sauce.

Mother always enjoyed entertaining. Probably she inherited it from my grandmother who, when hosting a party, went all out to make a showing. I can remember sitting in her large kitchen with it’s window overlooking the Halifax harbor and watching as she put together intricate finger sandwiches with multicolored breads. The delicate bites were stuffed with delightful fillings such as lobster, egg, or tuna salad as well as lighter versions packed with watercress and butter. Always my fat little fingers were searching for a sample here or a nibble there. No wonder I was a wide as I was tall at a child. Who could resist?

It is told that when our neighbor’s housekeeper baked her amazing bread I was the first one to pull up my chair to the table to give her a review. Looking at pictures of me at that age, I can’t help but believe the rumors are true. As much as I love fiddling in the kitchen, bread escapes me. The last time I attempted yeast rolls I used two six-packs of yeast and never saw one bubble, I believe yeast sees me coming in the store and immediately goes dormant, sort of like those goats that faint when frightened. Once I actually got a package to rise sufficiently to use in a yeast roll recipe I wanted to try. According to the recipe the yield was two dozen light and fluffy rolls. Hmmmm. I managed to get ten rolls, each tensile strength. Rick, after bravely taking a bite, said I should immediately contact the War Department because he felt I had developed a recipe for a new secret weapon. The perfect tool, no fallout but plenty of clout. It took two of us to carry the bag with the casualties to the trash, lest someone got a hernia. Often I have considered taking a class in bread making, but my ego works hard enough to keep me above the surface without adding extra weight to the load.

Thankfully, I have had the opportunity in my life to travel across the U.S. on several occasions and live outside of California. Not that California isn’t a lovely place to live (if you remove the cost of living from the equation, it is heavenly). However, like all locations around the country, restaurants tend to cater to the tastes of the local clientele. Moving to the southern states, or to the east coast gave me the opportunity to expand my food choices and try a variety of new foods and even new ways of preparing food I was familiar with. Cajun food has become a staple at our house, and I remember fondly the rich chowders and mouth watering seafood I consumed while living in New England.

I remember when “California Cuisine” was all the rage back in the day. The first time I ate in a restaurant featuring this style of cooking, essentially healthy food beautifully presented, was in the 80’s. I was at a loss when presented with an enormous white plate with the only food to be found on it’s surface in the center. Basically, a haystack of greens atop a minute piece of fish with some veggies placed like a piece of art around it. This, I should mention, was not an inexpensive piece of art at that. The only other thing on the plate was a squiggly line of seafood sauce. Truthfully, it looked too pretty to eat. I assumed the entrée was to follow, but was told this was the entrée. Oh. Had I existed on that much food on a daily basis I could have hit the runway in Paris in a month. We stopped for a burger on the way home.

The difference between my Mum and I when it comes to food is that I will ask her if she likes something. She will shake her head no. I will ask her if she’s ever tried it and she again will shake her head no. I will try everything, well most everything, once or twice. If I just don’t enjoy it, then I won’t choose it a third time.

This is a great way to enjoy shrimp during the summer, and lighter than the traditional fried shrimp found in a Po Boy.

Shrimp Salad Sandwiches with Zesty Remoulade

2 sweet French baguettes
1 1/2 lbs. large cooked shrimp
1 stalk celery, finely diced
3 scallions, sliced thin
1/4-1/3 cup of remoulade (recipe below)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tomatoes, sliced thin
Cucumber slices, sliced thin
Red onion slices, sliced thin
Lettuce

Zesty Remoulade

1 medium stalk celery
1/2 large onion
1/3 green bell pepper
1/4 cup prepared horseradish
1 1/2 Tbsp. Tabasco sauce
3 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup ketchup
1 cup mayonnaise

Place the onion, celery and bell pepper in food processor and chop finely. Slightly wring out veggies in paper towels to strain. Whisk until well blended in a medium mixing bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

For sandwiches:

Mix together shrimp, desired amount of remoulade, celery, scallions, and salt and pepper to taste.

Slice both baguettes in half widthwise, then each half lengthwise. Heat dry skillet over high heat. Place bread halves face down on hot skillet and cook until golden brown. Spread each toasted side with a generous amount of remoulade. Top bottom half of each with shrimp mixture. Place tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and lettuce on top.

Serves 4

%d bloggers like this: