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

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

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

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

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.

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

finalOn the best of days our cat, Boo, is bizarre. Some days, like today for example, she’s could be deemed certifiable. Early on I was relaxing with my first cup of piping hot coffee enjoying the Sunday paper. As is her habit the cat was canvasing the living room area in search of stray mice to toss about (the stuffed variety) or a piece of leaf to chase. Without any obvious explanation a small picture frame sitting in an easel on our glass TV stand fell over with a resounding crash. The cat, not named Boo for nothing, shot up in the air as if fired from a catapult. Every hair along her spine was at full attention as she bolted across me at rocket speed knocking the arm holding my coffee cup hard enough to spill the steaming contents all over the front of my new tee-shirt. Thank you, Boo. Thank you very much. Nothing I like better than starting off a morning with second degree burns and ruined clothing. Appreciate it. If she is lying on me, as she is prone to do off and on during the day, and a sneeze captures me, if I can’t stop it she is likely to scratch half-inch lines on my chest in an effort to escape. Even if Rick sneezes next to me, the reaction is the same. We feel she was abused in some way as a kitten or very scared. Truth is I can’t imagine my world without her disrupting it. I wish cats could live to be a hundred but unfortunately that wasn’t in the plan.

When Boo gets frightened I can generally locate her under a bed downstairs her behind pointed in my direction. For some reason when frightened she presents me with that end of her anatomy. I offer no explanation for this occurrence other than the cat is odd, very odd. This is why we clicked when first meeting I would most imagine. Both of us have unusual eyes and quirky personalities. Since the earlier strange situation with the picture frame Boo has been seen stalking the TV stand, tail wagging furiously and the well-known cat curiosity at the fore. At one point I saw her checking out the plug with her nose, a practice I discouraged lest she light up like a cartoon cat zapped by a good jolt of electricity.

Perhaps Boo’s strange behavior can be attributed to the change of seasons. Fall is definitely in the air. Leaves litter the ground and hints of others just beginning to change color are scattered about the hillsides. Summer, however, reluctant to give up center stage, keeps insinuating its hot little hands in the middle of it all. Yesterday it approached 100 degrees and today will be the same. Alternating between shorts and jeans I’m still leaning on the side of autumn. I have taken out my fall decorations in celebration of the changing of the guard. Ghosts peer out my windows and goblins huddle about bowls of candy.

Growing up in Nova Scotia the leaves would have turned dramatically by now, reflected in fiery images in many lakes and ponds scattered about (or aboot in Canadian) the province. Our family home sat at the mouth of the Halifax harbor two blocks from Point Pleasant Park, a place I explored often as a youngster. For a child the park offered so many opportunities to run and play. The frog pond inside the gate was where I sat on a rock to watch the busy insect and amphibian population visible on and just below the murky water. When winter arrived and the temperatures dropped the pond froze over and served as the perfect outdoor skating rink for local kids or a place to try out the new hockey stick Santa had placed under the tree.

Fall made it’s presence known dramatically in the heavily treed acreage. Walking along the paths the crunching pad of dead leaves beneath your boots echoed through the canopy of branches overhead. I loved it there. Funny, I don’t remember worrying about boogeymen, though I’m sure there were some lurking about over the years, nor do I remember feeling scared or alone while inside the park grounds.

Rick, coming from Egypt originally, is more of a sun worshiper. Was he a lizard, I can picture him stretched out on a rock soaking in the desert heat. For him the advent of chilly rainy days and darkened skies is embraced with far less enthusiasm than for me. Was I to draw how I feel this time of year in a picture my toes would be twirling, my lips smiling, and my eyes twinkling. Energizing my spirit the change in seasons heading into winter gets me even busier in the kitchen, eyeing my sewing machine for holiday projects, and beginning to look at store sales and seasonal recipes. This George Eliot quote says it all:

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.

I do think the stores are really getting ahead of themselves this year. Each year they start a little bit earlier. Christmas trees and decorations began showing up in some stores in August. What’s next, bunnies and baskets by Christmas? I like to ease into the holidays. They’re overwhelming enough with all the shopping (I’m not an avid shopper), wrapping, and shipping of gifts to family and friends. To me it’s like being given the whole cheesecake and asked to eat in at one sitting. I enjoy a good cheesecake but prefer to savor each bite and look forward to another piece a day or so later. Well, that made my stomach growl. Going to have to make a cheesecake one of these days.

Comfort food on my mind I decided to make Rick one of his favorites, turkey stuffed pepper soup. Delicious and filling with its mini-grilled cheese. Yum and yum.

Turkey Stuffed Pepper Soup with Mini-Grilled Cheese

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. ground turkey
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 onion, chopped
2 green bell peppers, chopped
5 cups beef stock
1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup cooked rice

Bring olive oil to shimmer in stock pot over med.-high heat. Add turkey and cook, breaking meat into crumbles, until no longer pink. Add garlic and continue cooking 1 min.

Add seasonings, Worcestershire sauce, onion and green peppers. Cook, stirring frequently for 6 mins. Add stock, tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook 30 mins.

Place 1/4 cup of rice in bottom of four soup bowls.Pour 1/4 of soup over top of each scoop.

Grilled Cheese

4 slices French bread, sliced thin
2 Tbsp. butter softened
2 slices sliced cheddar cheese

Butter one side of each slice of bread. Place two slices butter side down in skillet. Top each with slice of cheese. Place remaining slices butter side up on cheese slices. Heat pan over high heat brown on both sides and cook until cheese has melted. Cut into small squares and serve on top of soup.

Serves 4

We had our carpets cleaned yesterday so I was holed up in my kitchen with the cat. I’ve been avoiding having them done because it means pulling everything up off the floor, moving the small furniture, and hanging around for a day watching the carpet dry. Being somewhat of an “A” personality hanging around waiting is not a the top of my list of fun activities as you might imagine.

The bill was just under $200 for the three bedrooms, hall and stairway. All in all around three hours work. While writing the check, we were talking about how expensive it is to live these days. Believe it or not there was a time where you could buy a loaf of bread for less than the sticker price of a Lexus. To really date myself I can remember getting a loaf of bread for around thirty-eight cents. I know!

People seem to be hunting out bargains, flooding on-line sales, cutting corners, and looking for ways to stretch what money they have. I stood in line at CVS yesterday behind a woman with a bulging three-ring binder taking up most of what I call “the baby seat” portion of her shopping cart. Reaching the front of the line she began madly flipping back and forth between pages in the massive volume pulling out coupons from here and coupons from there. Mission complete, she handed the man at the cash register a pile of coupons equal to the size of a small phone book. Why is it I always end up in the line behind someone like this? It’s a gift really. I don’t begrudge anyone their fair time with the checker, but really? There can be ten lines open and I will end up in the only one with the customer waiting for a recently hired bagger to locate an item somewhere in an unfamiliar store. Last week I stood behind a man with broken eggs. The bagger dispatched to replace the eggs came back with the wrong carton and so had to go back to retrieve another. The week before the machine ran out of tape just as they were going to print my receipt. If there’s a customer who either has a complaint or simply enjoys the sound of their own voice, I seem to seek them out and step obediently in line behind them.

As expensive as grocery shopping has gotten I certainly applaud people straining to squeeze their money’s worth out of their purchases. While in one of the major grocery stores recently I got in line in the only lane with a light on. People quickly began to line up behind me and the usual muttering began about the lack of available cashiers. I try to avoid this store for this very reason. However, their store brand bottled water happens to be Rick’s favorite so I sacrifice myself for the cause whenever he runs out. As I moved into the number two slot and placed all my groceries on the conveyor belt two lanes opened up on either side. Sigh. Waiting patiently the woman ahead of me began to complain to the cashier. From the gist of the conversation, a number of her store coupons didn’t match up with the in-store price on the items in question. Fine. I finished the afghan I began knitting when I first got in line and moved on to a sweater for my Mother for Christmas. Just kidding, but it wasn’t far from the truth. After the slip was reviewed and corrected, the lady then had a return. Naturally. Also, it appeared the store had moved things around during their recent renovation and she couldn’t locate the aisle with the denture cream for her husband. The bagger was dispatched, and I completed the sweater for my mother and went on to a hat for Rick which was finished by the time she returned. Now there were four people behind me. The rather bored looking store manager watched the goings on from behind the customer service desk. Finally, my eyes boring through his head, he sauntered over and removed all my items already on the belt to a check out area two aisles down and checked me out himself. They need to consider renaming the customer service department something more appropriate, say….. the “We Really Don’t Care, We’re Getting Paid Whether You Are Happy or Not Department”. As I was leaving the manager offered me a free coupon for a cup of coffee at the Starbuck’s on the way out. Coffee in hand I noticed the woman was still at the check stand mouth moving as I left the store.

This is the same store where on my last visit the lady in the deli department gave me trouble with my lunch meat. Lunch meat need not be a difficult order. Rick likes his lunch meat cut thin for sandwiches. I asked the rather put out looking lady behind the counter if I could please have a half a pound of peppered turkey sliced thin. Reaching under the counter to the pile of turkey already sliced, I stopped her saying that the precut meat was too thick and she would have to cut it fresh. From the look on her face one might have deduced I’d ask the woman to go out in the back, chase down a nice bird, wring the poor thing’s neck, cook it and slice it in thin slices. Next I was told it would shred. I suggested we dial one up from shred and give that a try. Leaving it on shred she held up a piece of mangled meat nodding her head as if to say I told you so. I said, once again, “One up from that should work”. Seriously?  Now I’ve gone from being in a delightful mood to somewhat less sunny over a piece of processed fowl. She repeated it would probably still shred to which I responded, “go ahead, I feel lucky”. Good Lord. Give me the slicer and I’ll do it my damn self.

I try to be nice. I really do. If I want me turkey sliced thin at $8.99 a pound, PLEASE CUT IT THIN!!!!!! Sorry.

This is the perfect comfort food to soothe my ruffled feathers. I had a lb. of ground lamb, a lb. of ground beef, and some leftover mashed potatoes. Hmmmmm. Why not? I found I really liked the mix of the lamb and beef. As a note I usually precook my carrots slightly in the microwave to ensure they are cooked through.

Lamb-Beef Shepherd’s Pie

Mashed Red Potatoes

4 red potatoes, skin on, large cubed
2-3 Tbsp. butter, softened
2 Tbsp. sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. chopped chives
1 Tbsp. butter cut in pieces
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Place potatoes in saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil and continue on low boil until potatoes are cooked. Mash with potato masher. Add butter 1 Tbsp. at a time. Using hand mixer whip on high speed until potatoes are fine. Add sour cream, milk and seasonings. Whip until smooth. Stir in chives Set aside.

Meat Mixture

1 carrot, chopped fine
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced.
1 lb. ground lamb
1 lb. ground beef
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3 Tbsp. flour
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 1/4 cup beef broth
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. ground oregano
1/4 tsp. ground thyme
1/4 tsp. ground rosemary
1/8 tsp. mint leaves

Preheat oven to 375

Place carrot in microwave for 2 mins. on high.

Add carrot, pepper, onion, garlic lamb, beef, salt and pepper to large skillet. Cook until meat is no longer pink. Drain. Return to pan. Add flour. Cook and stir over medium heat for 1 min. Add remaining ingredients and bring to boil. Reduce heat and continue on simmer for 10 mins. stirring occasionally.

Spray 2 quart casserole with cooking spray. Spread meat mixture on bottom of casserole. “Ice” with mashed potatoes sealing all edges. Place butter pieces around top of potatoes. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 50 mins. Cool for 5 mins. before serving.

Serves 4-6




A friend of mine recently confided she is having panic attacks. To allow a secret to drift out from beneath my private pillow, I used to suffer from them as well. For anyone dealing with this affliction, you will understand fully how debilitating it can be. Thankfully, in my case the attacks came during a stressful period and packed their bags once the stress was eliminated. The first attack occurred shortly after my ex-husband and I moved to Muscle Shoals, Alabama. During that ten-year span of my life we traveled as construction sub-contractors for a major engineering company. The nature of such work necessitated employees move as one job was completed and another opened up. Relocating to Alabama was to be our third such move in as many years. Truth is I found it interesting living in so many different parts of this fine country. Certainly it opens your mind to new cultures and scenery also allowing you a brief glimpse into how people live outside of your usual stomping grounds. At times, however, coming into an area and knowing nobody can be a bit off-putting. Such was the case in Alabama. Construction families we knew were due to arrive eventually but we were the first on the scene and settled in for several months before we would welcome a familiar face.

For those first few months I struggled to adapt to my new surroundings. The full blast of summer heat and oppressive humidity had moved into the area. Outside activities were limited to early mornings or after the sun was tucked in for the night. As per usual during that time of my life I applied at a local temp agency. There was no point in taking on a full-time job when I knew I would be leaving somewhere down the road. My first, and as it turned out only, assignment was to be in the contagious disease department of a local hospital. Looking back I was a bit leery of this particular job description as it included supervising urine tests for incoming employees and working directly with the head of the department on getting out the news about preventing the spread of infectious disease. Great work and a good cause but also one could only imagine all the little germs floating about in such an arena looking for a host to set up housekeeping in. Deciding to accept the position in spite of my trepidations, I submitted my arm for the series of injections required to prevent me from becoming a patient in the hospital rather than an employee. Had I gone to the deepest darkest jungles of Africa I believe I would have emerged disease free.

Needing some new clothes for my job I headed to the closest mall. Our car air conditioning labored to overcome the heat outside and I began to feel claustrophobic with the windows closed. Inside a store with some likely clothing choices I was led to a small changing room and once inside began to get undressed. My pants hit the chair just before all the lights went out. I could hear people talking loudly outside and suddenly my heart began to pound and my ears were ringing like church bells on Sunday morning. Feeling about for my pants I heard someone outside say the generators would kick in and shortly a dim light came on in the fitting room. Dragging on my pants, zipping them as I walked, I emerged from the small room like a horse straining at the bit when released at the starting gate. Literally running through the mall I was certain I was either having a heart attack or a stroke and must have looked to those I passed like a guppy gasping for air at the top of the tank. Outside, heat or not, I could feel my heartbeat slow and my body calming down. Driving home I remember shaking and thinking I had surely developed some disease with a three syllable name and likely only had days to live.

Setting up an appointment with a doctor, I related my experience to him and was assured I probably was good for a few more years. Anxiety attack was the diagnosis and therapy was the suggested course of action. Really? An alternate suggestion was what they might call these days “mindfulness”. Mindfulness is basically the art of using your mind to control your reactions. The first part of getting a grip on these paralyzing moments is realizing the reaction you are having to your surroundings is far more accelerated than the situation dictates. This overreaction might be described like a person calling the fire department because someone has lit a match. Too much response for too little reason. At first I simply dealt with it the best I could. When in Costco towards the back of the store I would have to migrate towards the front so I could see the exit doors. For some reason knowing I could get out allowed me to remain inside.

During that time my daughter was in California expecting her first child, my first grandchild. A momentous occasion for both of us, I was on baby alert hoping to get out to the west coast before the baby decided to show herself. The thought of being inside a plane with these claustrophobic panic issues did not occur to me at the time. The due date coming close I booked my ticket and two days later boarded my plane. Hot inside the cabin, I stored my coat and situated myself in my least favorite spot on any flight in between two strangers. Since it was a quick booking the plane was nearly full and the only seats available were in the middle. Fine. I was doing fairly well until the flight attendants closed the exit doors. “WHAT”, my mind began screaming inside my head? “OPEN THE DOORS, I NEED TO GET OUT. NOWWWWW!!!!!” Sitting there wedged in between two total strangers I entertained the thought of tearing off my hot clothes and running naked screaming down the aisle and banging on the door to the cockpit. Next I thought about grabbing one of the incessantly smiling insipid flight attendants and telling him or her to get the exit chute ready because they were going to be one passenger short on their headcount. In the end I chose door number three and began to breathe slowly and chant to my inner self “you are not dying, you are having a panic attack”. Shortly I became calm enough to pull my book from my handbag and open it to the folded page and begin reading. Thankfully at some point an adult beverage was offered and I made through the end of the flight. I am not recommending you use alcohol to soothe yourself, but a body has to do what a body has to do

As with all things one day at a time. As human  beings we all suffer from frailties and imperfections over our lifetimes. The human mind holds so many secrets yet to be uncovered. Happy endings for me were leaving this behind. For those of you still dealing with them Google “mindfulness” and check out some of the beliefs associated with it.

Martha Stewart hit the nail on the head with the title pie quote. If you pile everything bothering you on the plate it will appear overwhelming. However, if you break it up and tackle each item in order of importance it will be much easier to manage. Just breathe, breathe, or drink whichever works.

This salad is so beautiful on the plate it’s a shame to eat. It is fresh and delicious with a light vinaigrette dressing and a dab of fig balsamic.

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Fig Balsamic for Two

1 cup of fresh spinach, stems removed and torn into pieces
2 heirloom tomatoes (preferably different colors) sliced thin
4 thin slices red onion
1 large mushroom, sliced thin
4 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 plum cut in wedges
4 grapes, halved
Feta cheese
2 Tbsp. fig balsamic vinegar (regular balsamic can be substituted)


3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (use good quality for best results)
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. pear vinegar
1/4 tsp. basil
Pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper

Whisk together and refrigerate for 1 hour.

To plate:

Divide the spinach between two salad plates. Arrange remaining salad ingredients on top. Sprinkle with feta cheese. Put 1/2 Tbsp. of balsamic vinegar on either side of each plate. Serve with vinaigrette.


I was down visiting family in the Bay Area over Labor Day weekend. When I drive down I camp with my Mother and get righteously spoiled and then we spread the joy among my son and his family and friends. Recently my son sold his house. While deciding what their next move is to be they are renting. Buying or renting is a pricey proposition these days with the San Jose housing market one of the costliest in the nation. Amazing. I can recall when the San Jose airport was one building. Ach. For my mother and I this was to be our first look at their new digs. Wow. My son said the owner, presently on extended leave in China, is a total techni nerd. As you walk in the front door the house announces your arrival and what door you entered through. The system doesn’t identify you by name, naturally, though it wouldn’t have surprised me, but indicates someone has come in the house and where. This feature can become annoying, I was told over dinner, when the dog lets herself out to pee around 2:00 a.m. I would disconnect this voice. Every time I looked out a periphery door the house told on me. What a kiss up.  Shortly after we got there my grandson rounded the corner on a hovercraft. Suddenly I was reminded of “The House of the Future” displayed in Disneyland back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Located in Yesterland (I know!) the kitchen featured a revolutionary microwave oven. Microwaves were not yet on the market if you younger people can imagine.


I’m not a big fan of such digitalized voices. I had a 300 ZX back in the day that came equipped such a voice. Looking back on my times with my Z makes me melancholy. Cars for me up until the ZX arrived were mainly a way to get from Point A to Point B.  What a gorgeous car that was. Bronze on the outside with an interior swathed in rich creamy leather. The T-top, always open during the warmer days, allowed the sun in and the impressive dashboard display signaled the driver’s every move as they were cruising along. If you can truly love an inanimate object, this car would have been my first. Driving down the coast to L.A. in fifth gear with the wind tossing through my hair, glorious, truly glorious. The one drawback to the car was the resident android living in the computer system. We called her “Regina”. I don’t know why. Put there to guide the driver away from mishaps such as running out of gas or leaving a door open, for me she simply served to drive me crazy. When low on fuel, the computer would signal Regina to announce in her syrupy electronic voice “Fuel Level Is Low” every five minutes until the situation was rectified. After about ten miles of this I’d find myself yelling “FINE” or worse into the air with people passing me shooting odd looks in my direction as if fearing I was a danger to myself and others. My mother was less annoying when trying to get me up for school.

On one occasion my roommate and I were taking Regina for an evening out in San Francisco. Buckled in and on our way to the city Regina began to interrupt our conversation signalling “Right door is open”. Really? At the next convenient opportunity I pulled off the freeway and checked the doors. A quick process as there were only two. Finding nothing I hopped back into the driver’s seat and looked for the on ramp headed in the direction we wanted to go. Shortly after pulling on the freeway once again Regina began her “right door is open” at intervals and would not stop. Had I had a gun, well that’s another story. Again we pulled over and inspected both doors to no avail. Figuring the computer had gone rogue I turned up the radio and for the 45 minute drive into San Francisco and the return trip we listened to eardrum rupturing tunes trying to drown the woman out.

The following day I took the car still making the annoying announcement to the gas station. I asked one of the guys working in the bays what could be wrong. After inspecting both the passenger and the driver’s door and finding nothing he walked around to the tailgate door. Feeling around the bottom he found it barely open. Looking up he tossed me a condescending “aren’t we blonde” smile. What? The woman never uttered “tailgate”, she specifically said “right door”. He just looked at me. FINE. The following week I went to the Nissan dealer and had Regina permanently silenced. I have no regrets.

I digress as usual. Back at my son’s house I continued to be fascinated by all the gadgets at hand. The high-end electric stove top has more bells and whistles than the North Coast Limited. Pans must be set on the designated burner areas, for example, before the burners will become operational. For the first three days they were in the house my son said they stood and screamed at the burners because they would turn them on and no heat would arrive. Finally he located a manual and a light went on both in his brain and on top of the counter. Yea. Also, you can’t use square pans on this stove top. Seems it only recognizes round bottoms. Hmmmm. I think I was married to its cousin in the 80’s. Again, that’s another blog.

The downstairs bathroom has an interesting feature, several actually. The huge shower stall is equipped with three shower heads. A large round one dominates the center of the stall and the other two protrude one from either end. Interesting. Either they were attempting to get at their bodies at all angles or company was coming.

The toilet, I left the best for last, was my favorite. The toilet, unlike the television, has a remote. There is User 1 and User 2. I will refrain from commenting on the obvious pottie humor lingering in that statement. The toilet has a bidet which you can program to be body specific as to where you wish the water to go (if you will). It also self cleans and has a bum heater for those cold winter nights. I tried to get it out the front door but the damn house ratted me out.

This baked chicken came out of the oven moist and delicious. The addition of the fruit to the vegetable mix really made it stand out in the crowd. I made gravy out of the pan drippings which was the perfect addition.

Baked Chicken with Vegetables and Fruit

For the chicken

1 roasting chicken 3 1/2 lbs.
2 Tbsp. butter
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 large onion

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Wash chicken inside and out. Pat dry. Sprinkle cavity with salt and pepper. Place peeled onion in cavity. Spray large roasting pan with cooking spray. Place chicken in center. Rub butter over chicken and sprinkle with kosher salt and dust liberally with pepper.

For the vegetables and fruit

6 carrots, peeled and cut in large chunks
2 red potatoes, cut in chunks
10 Brussels sprouts, halved
1 onion, quartered
1 Granny Smith apple, cored and cut in chunks
2 peaches, cored and cut in chunks
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
pinch garlic
1 Tbsp. olive oil

Place the prepared carrots, potatoes, Brussels sprouts and onions in microwave dish. Microwave on high for 3 mins. Place in large bowl and add remaining ingredients. Toss well to mix. Refrigerate for 1 hour or longer.

Bake chicken for 1/2 hr. at 400 degrees. Add vegetable/fruit mix to pan distributing all around chicken. Sprinkle vegetables with olive oil. Continue baking 1 hr. and 15 mins. tossing vegetables once until internal temperature of chicken reaches 165 degrees. Slice and serve with vegetables and fruit.

Serves 4





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