final final
I’ve been dealing with a rashy spot on my lower leg for a month or so. Seemingly resistant to lotion and not showing any signs of disappearing on its own, I phoned my dermatologist for an appointment to get it checked out. My grandfather was a dermatologist. Back in the day they combined dermatology and urology. I was telling my doctor this and he explained that STD’s, such as syphilis and gonorrhea were less controlled back then and resulted in skin as well as urological consequences for patients. Hence, at the time it made sense to commingle the specialties. Ahhhhhhhhh. Nowadays there’s a specialty for everything. If you go to a podiatrist he’ll tell you he’ll treat your little toe but if your big toe is involved he’ll have to refer you to the Big Toe Podiatrist across the courtyard. Naturally if he only specializes in big toes his fees go up accordingly. You can’t win.

The spot turned out to be more of an annoyance than a threat requiring a topical ointment. I was handed a script and sent on my way with instructions to return if things did not improve significantly within a few weeks. Let me preface this story by saying although coming from a family of physicians, I’m not big on medication. I take what is absolutely necessary, but avoid any additions to the group if at all possible. Rick, unfortunately, keeps the pharmacist in cheeseburgers with his pill case filled and new additions being added on a regular basis. He actually takes some pills to counteract the side effects possible by the other pills he is taking. I’m never sure if we’re cured by all these drugs or they’re actually part of the problem.

Dutifully I showed up with my poorly written prescription at my pharmacy counter. I was told it would be ready the following afternoon. Returning as indicated, I gave my name, swiped my card and waited for the amount. The pharmacy clerk informed me this particular medicine wasn’t covered under my insurance. Apparently a number of skin and optical medications are not covered, she went on to explain. Really? Skin is the largest organ in our bodies, and eyes, in my estimation at least, are fairly essential. Seems like both deserve some respect. “Fine”, says I. What’s the damage?” “Two hundred and ninety-two dollars”, came the reply. WHAT! “Does a vehicle come with that?” I handed over a pharmaceutical discount card and after factoring that in the price dropped to two hundred and eighty-eight. Much better. Right.

Adding the total to a credit card I was handed a small plastic container with a tube inside the size of the end of my pinkie finger. I asked if Vaseline came with it. She was not amused.

This brought to mind a news story I saw recently about a drug for AIDS patients originally costing $7.50 a pill. The manufacturer suddenly raised it significantly to $750.00. I would assume this was done sensing there was money to be made off people who need this medication to survive. Greed at it’s very worst. How do these people sleep at night?

Regulation of the drug industry might be helpful. I have a daily medication I take for asthma. It’s a fabulous medicine that comes in a plastic dispenser with 30 treatments in each dispenser. The monthly outlay, without drug coverage, is $310/dispenser. I have a friend who worked in the pharmaceutical business for years. She told me these cost very little to manufacture and the markup by the time they reach the consumer borders on obscene. It is obscene when you think in an affluent society like ours people who need these medications go without because they don’t have the money to pay for them.

The problem is we’re a captive audience. If you need a medication you have to belly up to the bar and pay the going rate for it. Hopefully you have drug coverage, but certainly like in the case of my skin meds, this doesn’t guarantee you won’t have to pay dearly for it.

Not sure what the answer is here. I know a lot of people turn to Canadian manufacturers to cut costs and some people head to more dangerous places with less stringent regulations on top of what is produced. I read somewhere some of these places produce medicine that isn’t really the medicine it is supposed to be, and one place actually sent pet medication. That’s scary. I might develop a sudden craving for Whiskas.

As usual I don’t have an answer to the problem. It seems to me that in the case of medicine costs should be kept within a reasonable and attainable place in order to provide for all those who need to take it.

At any rate thanks to the car payment I doled out for my skin meds, the spot is making its way off my leg. I often wonder what people did before all this modern medicine was available. Suffered with whatever ailed them or worse I would suppose. I’m thankful we have them at our disposal but hope they work towards keeping the costs down so those of us not in upper 1% can access them.

My rant for the day.

These fajitas are just the best. The bit of sweet mixed in with the spicy flavors takes them over the top. Yum.

Chicken Fajitas
2 onions, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced in strips
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and sliced in strips
1 yellow or red bell pepper seeded and sliced in strips
4-5 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
10 grapes, halved
2 Tbsp. lime juice
8 large flour tortillas
Sour cream


2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. lime juice
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. hot paprika
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (or to taste)

Whisk together marinade ingredients. Flatten chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic with a mallet to 1/2″. Slice lengthwise into strips. Place in large resealable plastic bag and add chicken. Squish around to cover all pieces and allow to marinate at least 2 hrs. in refrigerator or overnight.


Place onions in bowl of ice water.

Add Tbsp. of olive oil to large skillet. Over medium high heat add chicken to hot oil working in three batches brown chicken about 3 mins. on each side until nicely browned and just done. Add oil as needed for each batch. In last batch add grapes and cook and stir until just brown. Keep warm.

Drain onions, patting dry with paper towels. Heat 1 Tbsp. of oil in same skillet and add onions. Cook for 2 mins. Add garlic. Cook for 1 min. Add bell peppers and cook and stir for 10-12 mins. or until onions and peppers are tender but still crisp. Put chicken back in skillet and add 2 Tbsp. lime juice stirring to combine. Should be sizzling.

Place tortillas on microwavable plate. Cover with damp paper towels or damp clean kitchen towel. Heat on high for 1 1/2 mins. Wrap in tin foil to keep warm.

Serve with salsa and sour cream if desired.

Serves 4

final2The heated campaign for the presidential seat is in full swing. Mud is flying, insults are on the rise, and who’s standing on the right of the photo and who is on left becoming clear. As an aside, is it my imagination or does the press take the absolutely worst pictures of Hilary Clinton and use them in their articles? I’m not necessarily a Hilary camp follower, standing in line at the market and having this horrendous likeness of Mrs. Clinton staring back at me off the front page of the National Enquirer or some other trash can liner makes me want to defend her. It’s like someone taking your worst DMV picture and posting it as your profile picture on Facebook.

On Good Morning America yesterday they were saying kids today might take upwards of 1,000 pictures of themselves every day to capture the one perfect shot to post on their public media pages. Really? I’m amazed they find time to nourish themselves. Wow. I have spoken to this many times, but I can’t imagine that other people besides myself don’t find this a bit self-focused. No pun intended.

Also they were talking about school stats slipping, and teens interest in sports diminishing. The stats pointed more towards technical devices but they credited the lack of interest in sports to the over zealous parents standing on the sidelines during their kids games. You know the ones. Crimson faced, screaming at the players, the umps, their own children, with flecks of spittle foaming at the corners of their mouths. I wouldn’t want to play either.

My son was in soccer and other organized sports most of his young life. This was his choice certainly. I never pushed him to participate in anything rather encouraging his interest if he showed any. He was born with so much excess energy we actually had him tested to see if he fell within normal limits. He did. Sports turned out to be the perfect avenue to capture all this energy and use it in a constructive manner. Where he got his sports acumen from I haven’t a clue. Neither his father nor I could pass a footstool without falling over it and I actually set a school record for throwing a softball the shortest distance ever recorded. Winding up my arm the ball land approximately 3″ from where it was thrown. I could run, I have to say. Track was something I excelled at. Perhaps since running was the only thing I did really well in the sports arena it was thrown in by means of self-preservation for all the missed swings in baseball and catches on the football field.

Looking back I was an excellent runner in football as well. Had to be. I could neither catch nor throw the ball, but if one accidentally remained in my grip I could move that puppy into the end zone. In spite of my athletic challenges, I spent many a summer weekend player powder puff football at the local parks with my friends. Whether you excel, or simply enjoy playing being outside and participating in a team sport, it is energizing for the soul. Somewhat alarming lately is how many young football players are getting seriously injured. Four high school players died from head injuries sustained while participating in a game in the past month in our area. I’m not sure whether it is more players are getting injured, or we’re more informed with news coming in at our fingertips every few seconds.

Personally I admire anyone with the intestinal fortitude to get out on the field, hunch down and look into the faces of some of those massive players without emptying their bladders on the spot. I would be running for sure, but most likely in the opposite direction.

Parents perhaps need to lighten up. It is a game after all with sportsmanship meant to be taught by those older than the players. The outcome of the game does not determine the destiny of man, simply stats on a board and a trophy somewhere down the line. I have observed some parents heaving insults at their offspring, embarrassing them with poor verbal marks on their playing skills, and generally making annoying asses of themselves. You cannot live through your children for heaven’s sake. Remember you are purportedly the adult in the group. Yes? Just because you scored a goal for the other team during your senior year does not leave you the option to push your child to complete your career aspirations. It makes me mad, as you might have noticed.

We have three of our grandchildren in sports at the moment. Rick’s grandson (I call him mine as well) is in football and my son’s children. My son keeps his son and daughter well immersed in activities. To his mind this keeps them busy. “Idle hands are the devil’s playthings” and such. They excel at sports. Again, I must recheck his birth certificate to see if somehow I received the wrong baby. I have videos of them barreling down icy hills on skis, skimming across water on knee boards, snorkeling in the Caribbean and screaming as they traverse enormous water slides. No fear. As a kid I suppose I had little fear as well. I can recall diving off cliffs into rock lined waters with little thought as to how easy it would be to break my neck or cause myself bodily harm.

Once I tried hang gliding. Yes I did. Lessons were held atop a high cliff in Southern California overlooking a particularly gorgeous strand of coastline lingering far below the edge. Graceful gliders ran to the edge and floated off like lovely birds soaring over the Pacific I would assume enjoying the wind in their hair and the freedom of flying. The lessons were to last most of the morning and I was told children as young as four enjoy the sport. Fine, shaming before I’ve even made a fool of myself. Nice.

We were not to shoot off the high cliff but rather to begin with dunes. As usual I took the monumentally simple and injected my spin on it. Running down the hill with all the equipment feeling my “wings” flapping like an ungainly stork I took a direct dive into the sand ending up hanging from my harness. This brought about much laughter from my friends and anyone else observing the travesty. I completed the lessons and managed several escapes into the air but never actually went back to take the plunge over the cliff. Chicken, yes. Alive, yes. Check, and check.

This salad is as nice to look at as it is once it reaches your taste buds. The ribboning takes a bit of elbow grease, but it’s worth it.

Ribbon Salad

1 carrot, peeled and shaved
1 English cucumber (medium) shaved
1 zucchini, shaved
3 green onions, chopped
3 cups of baby spinach, torn into pieces
1 can mandarin oranges, drained
2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

Using a vegetable peeler shave slices lengthwise off the vegetables and place in mixing bowl. Rinse spinach and break into bite size pieces. Add oranges and sesame seeds and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss with red wine vinaigrette just before serving.

Red Wine Vinaigrette

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. honey
2 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup olive oil

Place all ingredients in the blender but the oil. Mix well. Slowly add oil with blender running. Chill for 1 hr. prior to use.

In the morning paper, yes I still get real paper paper, there was touching story about a horse named Raphael recently relocated to an animal rescue in our area. The article detailed the 12-year-old quarter horse’s journey from Juarez, Mexico and his life prior to being rescued. There are few things that will move me to anger more quickly than the abuse of any creature, human or otherwise, who is unable to defend themselves. As the story unfolded it said the equine had lived in forced labor most of his life in Juarez under the heavy hand of a master who beat him and cared little, if at all, for the animal’s well-being. Had it not been for a well-meaning tourist intervening after seeing the horse kneeling in the street unable to go on Raphael would have ended his days with that yoke around his neck. The yoke, never removed, had to be extricated in pieces. The leather had insinuated itself in the horse’s skin over years of wear. Makes me cry.

After much red tape, several wonderful vets, and caring volunteers Raphael, purchased for $200 from his owner in Juarez, has finally found a loving home in which to spend his remaining years. According to the article he follows his new caregivers around like a puppy, happy for any attention they can spare or an apple or two. Tortilla chips and other fast food items were his diet staples until coming to the U.S. leaving the animal both unhealthy and underweight.

Sometimes we humans are sorrowful creatures. I have to rekindle the fire I have for our more admirable traits after reading such a thing. However, the random acts of kindness will have the glow going in no time and I’ll be back to singing our praises again.

On the subject of animals, we had an incredible thunder and lightning storm pass through here night before last. Boo, the Queen of Cats, needed a therapy session once it was over. She traveled the area between the bedroom and the living room meowing loudly and requiring much reassurance the world, as she knows it, was not about to end. It rolled over us leaving much debris and piles of leaves strewn in its path. I spent a good part of the morning sweeping leaves, depositing them in the already full bin out front. Living up here in the tall trees nature takes over most of the time making it futile to try to keep everything pristine. Part of the beauty of living here is that it is a natural setting, but if you let it go too long catching up the leaves will always be three steps ahead of you.

I have given some thought to the upcoming holidays. Christmas is to be at our house this year. Not to bring the subject up before we’ve even carved pumpkins. I saw my first Black Friday ad yesterday, which struck fear in my heart. Each year the holidays seem to creep up on me a little bit earlier than the year before. In our family we’ve really limited the spending we do among the adults. Little “I love you’s” serve nicely. Particularly as the younger members of our clan are growing up quickly and asking for gifts of a far more expensive nature then when they were younger. A doll or a box of Lego’s used to be the perfect choice. These days they have moved on to electronic watches and cell phones which require a far deeper reach into pockets than in years before. We’ve learned to collaborate on these pricey items, each of us tossing something in the pot. Works much better than trying to handle it alone, especially with nine photos lining our grandchildren album.

This soup is one of my favorites. I haul it out about this time each year. It is a full meal really, not needing much to accompany it but perhaps a slice of crusty bread.

Hearty Crockpot Pepper Soup

1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
4 small yellow and orange bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
4 cups chicken broth
1 15 1/2 oz.can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 15 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes with garlic and olive oil, with juice
1 6 oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. basil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. hot paprika
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 small chub of hard Parmesan cheese (optional)
2 bay leaves
1 cup cooked corn kernels
1 pkg. Boil in bag white rice
Croutons (optional)

In large skillet brown meat with onion, garlic, and chopped peppers. Drain.


Spray bottom of 6 quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Add meat.

In large bowl combine all remaining ingredients but rice and croutons. Pour sauce ingredients over meat. Mix well. Cook for 8 hrs. on low. Add corn. Cook for 1 hr.

Dancing with the Stars, I have to admit, is one of my guilty pleasures. Somewhere deep in the depths of me there’s a dancer struggling to emerge. On many occasions during my life this tiny dancer has attempted to extricate herself, never with any success. The first, and most notable attempt, was in ballet class at the tender age of five. Chubby for my age, the extra pounds were well-defined by the pink spandex leotard and tights my grandmother had dressed me in for the occasion. If she’d thought to top the ensemble with a tutu I could well have been picked up as an extra for Fantasia.

My partners in crime in dance class were my two best friends Katherine and Victoria. Kitty and Vicky, as they were known to their friends, were mirror image twins. Always their alikeness proved a source of confusion for my mother who invariably called one twin by the other one’s name. This was always odd to me, knowing them so well. One a tomboy and the other a princess I thought them as unalike as raspberries and bacon. The three of us were inseparable at that age. If trouble was in the air we generally got on its scent at the head of the pack. My grandmother felt that at five, being a young lady from a respectable family, I could use a little polishing when it came to the fine arts. Like many little girls I dreamed of dancing gracefully about on my toes in lovely satin shoes. Surely, looking back, as I came through the processing center to make my appearance on earth there had to be a line marked “Dancers” I missed on the way in. Meaning to stand alongside the other long-necked, pencil thin girls, oval faces perfectly framed by tightly pulled buns. Girls whose legs began at their waists and ended somewhere outside of Charleston. Instead it seems I apparently found myself beneath a sign reading “Squatty Little Girls with Lazy Eyes”. Life, even at its beginnings, is dotted with small disappointments.

Dance class was held in a large old building in downtown Halifax. In truth such a description would have aptly served to describe most of the buildings in Halifax at the time. Though modern buildings have moved in it remains historical place to live no matter when you visit.  We were led to the second floor and introduced to the instructor for our age group, Miss Leger. Miss Leger was a tall lanky being with her hair pulled back so tightly she looked as if she smiled broadly her lips would explode off her face. The room had a shiny floor, large windows to one side, a wall of mirrors, and on another wall what I was soon to learn were the barres.

Our first lesson dealt with foot positions. For me this proved a little more taxing since I hadn’t actually seen my feet since I was three. Unfortunately for me the instructor had a perfect view of them and wasn’t particularly happy about what she was seeing. After an hour of shifting our feet into the various configurations we were dismissed. Instructions to our parents were simply to practice, practice, practice.

Practice or not, grace was not woven into my chemistry at conception. In later years I was to discover my artistic side but my feet were never to perform as instructed even as they aged. Not progressing at the speed of the more gifted dancers in the class, and after one unfortunate incident with a chubby leg wedged between the barre and the wall reducing the class to pandemonium, I was excused without prejudice from dance and enrolled in piano lessons. Sigh.

I was to be taught to tickle the ivories in the house of the tickler herself. Miss Hoyt, as indicated by her name, was a maiden lady somewhat past her prime. She lived in a small house not far from ours with a very fat cat answering to Whiskers and a maiden aunt who also had never found her prince. Whiskers lay draped across the piano idly watching the metronome as my lessons commenced. For two years once a week I sat on the long bench next to Miss Hoyt, a well cushioned woman with huge bosoms nearly reaching her waist. When seated on the piano bench there was more of her body off of the bench then on. For two years I learned my scales and various musical pieces, inhaling the underlying aroma coming from her side, sort of a mix of mothballs and Brussels sprouts. At home I practiced, practiced, practiced. To this day the only song I can play with any acuity is “We Three Kings of Orient Are”. I find there isn’t much call for this at Carnegie Hall.

As we travel through our lives our talents unfold. I was to unearth a love for drawing and writing that has brought me so much. Dancing however, will be left to quiet moments in the kitchen or on the lawn with my grandchildren. Watching and appreciating the amazing dancers who did stand in the right line on the way in will have to be my vicarious enjoyment of the art. Ah well, such is life.

This chicken is so crispy and moist. Just delicious.

Crispy Baked Chicken

4 chicken leg quarters bone-in, skin on
1/2 cup soy sauce, divided
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. hot paprika
1 tsp. seasoning salt
1 tsp. dill weed
1 tsp. black pepper
2 Tbsp. butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a large casserole dish with cooking spray.

Mix together dry ingredients. Set aside. Gently lift up the skin and run your hand beneath it. You want to lift it from the skin but not tear it. Divide 1/4 cup soy sauce between the four pieces pouring under the skin. Take 1/2 of the spice mix and sprinkle under the skin over the soy sauce.

Rub the other 1/2 of the seasoning mix into the outside of the legs. Sprinkle remaining soy sauce over top. Divide butter into 4 pieces and set one piece on top of each chicken section.

Bake uncovered for 1 hr. Increase heat to 400 ad continue cooking for 15 mins. Allow to rest 5 mins. before serving.

Serves 4


Last week I sent an email to my granddaughter asking a question. When I didn’t receive an answer I called her and asked if she’d gotten it.  Exasperated the child explained she rarely checks her email account, although she reluctantly admitted she still has one. From her tone I assumed I had suddenly become as old as dirt in her estimation and obviously not where I should be to survive in this technically driven world. Is email out-of-date as well I asked? A text was suggested in the future if I needed an immediate response. Ahhhhh, the universal language. Excuse me while I heat up my pterodactyl stew for lunch.

The Pope arriving on U.S. soil was the big news last week. Not being Catholic myself, I admire the man for what he stands for. Certainly not a personal friend but from casual observation he seems to be a kind, humble, and a being who sincerely cares about the flock he presides over as well as those milling around its circumference. In the past I have had some experience with the religion by marriage. My first husband hailed from a large Irish Catholic brood who arrived for mass every Sunday taking up nearly a whole pew towards the front of the church. As with many Irish families members of the immediate family were involved deeply in the church. In my husband’s case it was an uncle, A monsignor, as well as a great-aunt, a nun living in Hawaii.  My second stepfather was also from an Irish Catholic family, arriving in the number 10 spot out of 11 children in a New York based family. His group included a priest living in San Francisco,  a nun living in Marin County, and a policeman protecting the streets of New York. You really couldn’t write it better than that.

Before marrying a Catholic, if you as the intended are not, you and your prospective spouse are required to attend a series of classes called Pre-Cana. At the time we attended this included three Saturday’s spent in class. The first class, hosted by a married couple, guided perspective marrieds through the pitfalls and highs of wedded bliss. The second was presided over by a very Irish chain smoking priest discussing relationships (is it just me?). On the last Saturday we participated in a discussion on how to properly raise the children created from your union. Once Pre-Cana was complete, showers come and gone, and reception plans in place it was on to the wedding itself. We were to have a mass in the huge Catholic church in our area. It was on the calendar for the 7th day of September, which my luck holding turned out to be the hottest day of that particular year. The air conditioning in the massive building struggled to overwhelm the oppressive heat lurking just beyond its doors. Guests seated in the pews fanned themselves with hymnals or whatever else they could find to move the still air. Tucked into layers of silk and lace I had taken on the appearance of a cube of butter placed under a heat lamp. Mascara drooled down my lower lashes and my hair, perfectly together on leaving the house, clung to my head beneath the large veil sending rivulets of water slithering down my back. Whew. The Society Gazette’s headlines might have read, “The Dennis-Deegan wedding was one of the hottest social events of the year”.

There were two hundred plus people seated on one side of the aisle or the other. Having few relatives not living in Canada, our side definitely fell short of the grooms when it came to attendance. The ceremony involved getting up several times from our kneeling position before the priest and moving around the altar for different rites. For me in a long train and with a history of making a fool of myself every chance I got I felt there was a 9 in 10 chance the bride would end up on the floor, in the pulpit, or lighting the table on fire when lighting the candles. Thankfully the universe gave me a pass for the day and other than resisting an impending urge to rip off my clothes and take a bath in the water by the door, we made it through the hour and exchanged rings.

I have always felt one’s religion to be a personal pursuit, encouraging people during a party who embark on a conversation about the subject to do so at their own risk. Few things can create such passion or ignite such heated debates. Over history wars have been won and lost in the name of religion and no matter where you sit on the matter you cannot deny those who believe, do so vigorously.

As humans we tend to want to believe we are right in our opinions. Perhaps we should agree to disagree. In the end our goal is united in the end.

At any rate, I shall step down from my pulpit and introduce you to this delicious grilled shrimp. It never fails to make you a believer.

Barbecued Shrimp

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. hot paprika
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. lemon pepper
1 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
2 lbs. large shrimp, tails on

Combine marinade ingredients and pour into resealable plastic bag. Add shrimp and mush together. Marinate for 8 hrs. Remove shrimp and place skewer (about 8 skewers) inserting The skewer twice through each shrimp as you thread them on. If using bamboo skewers be sure to soak in warm water for 30 mins. prior to grilling.

Cook on high heat on preheated grill for 3-4 mins. on each side. Serve with sauce.

Cocktail Sauce

1 cup catsup
1/8 cup finely chopped celery
1 1/2 Tbsp. horseradish
1 Tbsp. sweet pickle relish
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 dash pepper


Fall is right around the corner. My favorite time of year. The weather gurus are suggesting we might see a hint of it this week, though you’d never know by today with the air conditioning humming away to keep the temperature tolerable in the house. Autumn puts me in the mood to be in the kitchen. I have pulled most of my early fall decorations out and distributed them around the house. A pumpkin candle is poking out of the candle holder in the hall and life, as they say, is good.

September has been a weird month most definitely. Seems in my life after periods of tranquility everything unsettling happens at once. To begin with Rick has been sick. Whatever bug he was sheltering decided to hop across and check out my system so now I’m down. Neither of us has felt like doing anything which makes forward movement less than energized. Instead of our usual meals, we’ve leaned more towards bowls of soup and grilled cheese sandwiches or eggs most of the week. The thought of anything more exciting seeming beyond our interest level or capability. Thankfully, today I feel a little more like me and Rick is on the mend.

Two members of our family are huge animal activists. I too am a big fan of our furry cousins and worked at the local shelter for a year mucking about cat cages. A house without a pet, to me at least, always feels like it is missing a heartbeat. These two girls, however, go the extra mile. Both actually advocate for abused animals or those needing a home. One such fat, furry, beast is presently living in Lake Tahoe. Not a far piece from us, as the crow flies, so it happens. It was suggested that we might have room to house Chubbs, a mid-size mix, and perhaps would like to either foster him or offer him forever home. I am definitely on the yea side of the vote here, but Boo, The Queen of Cats, was quick to put her paw up with the opposition. In her spoiled little life only once was she faced with sharing her space and her people and the result was other than positive for all concerned. Trying to imagine a huge black dog being welcomed by our snotty feline goes beyond what I can conjure up in my mind without special effects thrown in from Hollywood. I cannot think this will end well.

Along with all the other craziness in the air I have been managing a small business on EBAY. Certainly the word “mogul” has never been mentioned in the same sentence when discussing my little store. However, it ambles along happily depositing a little jing here and there and I get the side benefit of cleaning out my closet and making room for more unneeded items I’m sure I’ll purchase down the road. I am learning the ins and outs of such an enterprise. For instance, after several sales where I ended up eating shipping costs to the point of barely clearing a profit, I have learned to evaluate the size and cost of mailing an item before considering selling it. This week I sold a large witch, 26″ tall to be exact. I had a box that appeared perfect for her to travel in, but it turned out to be slightly short. Manipulating her into one corner her head popped off in my hand. Oh-oh. Somehow I felt she would be less valuable to the buyer on the other end without it. Damn. Sooooo, one email later and a little Crazy Glue and the witch once again took up residence in my closet. Sigh.

In the middle of all this fun I got a phone call from my mother saying her roommate was in the hospital. Mother is one tough lady in most instances, but when it comes to staying alone at night she sprouts feathers and begins to cluck. With nearly four hours separating us, both of us sick, a large dog headed my way, and God knows what else I was at loss as to what to do. In the end my mom turned on every light in the house, both TV’s and slept on the couch. Fortunately her roommate returns to the fold today so I can cross that off my list and go on to whatever the universe has in its pocket next with my name on it. Ach.

Funny isn’t it how so many of us fear the dark? When the sun dips below the horizon all manner of sounds and shadows, not the least alarming in the daylight, suddenly assume a far sinister meaning. As a kid I can remember having to take the trash out at night. I would walk quickly to the trash bin and then run like my feet were on fire back to the house as if the devil himself was nipping at my heels. There was nothing there to frighten me except my own active imagination, but that was enough.

Our fascination with the eerie and macabre is evidenced in our love for Halloween, the Zombie craze, and the endless stream of slasher and horror films flowing out of Hollywood studios. Let’s face it, we love to have the snot scared out of us whenever the opportunity arises.

While living in West Virginia I had the opportunity to go through a corn maze just before Halloween. It was a clear fall night. A full moon shone down on us diminished only by an occasional fast moving cloud passing through the area. Voices could be heard in the distance screaming as monsters of all types reached gory hands out to grab arms and legs of people passing through the labyrinth of passageways. On one occasion I turned to find a huge man, or what had been a man, standing nearly on top of me. Blood ran down the front of his white robe and his head, no longer attached to his body resided under one armpit. I believe I set the record for exiting that cornfield and haven’t set foot in another maze or haunted house since that time. Perhaps this year is the time to stick my toe in the water again and see if anything takes the bait.

At any rate I made soup for the infirmary at our house. This is a delicious French soup usually made with cabbage. As I had a ready supply of Brussels sprouts I popped them in instead and they were a perfect match. Enjoy.

Garbure (French Ham & Bean Soup)

2 ham hocks
10 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 leeks, sliced thin (white part only)
1 onion, chunked
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used chardonnay)
3 large red potatoes, chunked (skin on)
3 large carrots, sliced in 1/2″ slices
1 lbs. Brussels sprouts, halved
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. Herbs de Provence
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 Bay leaves
1 15 1/2 oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups chopped cooked ham
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
Salt to taste

In stock pot bring broth, water and ham hocks to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour partially covered.

In saucepan heat olive oil over medium heat. Sweat leeks and onion for 6 mins. Add garlic and cook for 1 min. Add white wine and reduce until liquid has nearly disappeared.

Add leek onion mixture to pot with all the remaining ingredients through bay leaves. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer partially covered for 90 mins. stirring occasionally. Add beans and ham. Continue cooking for 15 mins. Add white wine vinegar and djust seasoning as desired.

finalIt has been a busy summer. I miss this old blog when I’m not writing on it, but summer this year hasn’t been dedicated to either kitchen time or quiet moments. When time permitted I sat down in front of the TV to catch up with the most recent remark Donald Trump was making on the news. Got to give him this, he certainly knows how to keep the spotlight positioned directly on his face. I watched the Republican debates. Looked like a football lineup with the fifth quarter team in tow. So many players on the field this go round. Should be an interesting campaign season. I hope the mudslinging is kept to a minimum. Stick to the issues and you have my attention.

Kids are already back in school. When I was enrolled we were let out running in mid-June and dragged back through the doors in mid-September. Glad I attended class when I did and not now. Our educational system on the whole is in the tank. Kids are pushed through from one year to the next without regard for whether or not they’ve earned the privilege or have taken with them a modicum of knowledge from the year behind them. Makes me sad.

I moved to Southern California when I was nine from my home in Halifax, Nova Scotia. So far ahead was I from the other fourth graders in my new American school I could have successfully taught the class. In Canada at the time twelfth grade was the first year of college. What we learned to get us into college, provided that being the life plan, was crammed into our brains in the eleven years prior to that. I knew much about the U.S. when entering fourth grade here but found my classmates knew little if anything at all about Canada. Until I acclimated, I endured countless questions about polar bears, penguins, and if I got cold living in an igloo. In hindsight pointing those fingers back in my direction, I suppose I perceived California as a golden state with sunny beaches, Disneyland, and movie stars parading up and down the street. The first two proved true. Certainly to my recollection I never saw one star walking down the streets of Santa Ana. As the years passed I met several notables while in Hollywood or Palm Springs for this event or that. Met would be a stretch. Perhaps saw a better description of the experience. Once I sat next to Phil Everly at a blackjack table in Las Vegas. Most of you scratching your heads and thinking “Phil who?” are far to young to recognize the name. For those of us with some years under our belts you will remember him as half of the singing duo The Everly Brothers. In high school their hit “Wake Up Little Susie” was my mantra.

Education should be high on our candidates list of vote getting agendas, I believe. We are lagging far behind other major players in this department. I didn’t graduate from college. Looking back I wish I had. Now with competition for middle income jobs so high, a college education is almost a necessity to live above the poverty line. States keep moving the minimum wage up the ladder to help those working in lower paying jobs, but unfortunately the cost of living marches right up the steps behind it.

Life got in the way while I was pursuing my college degree. With two children and a mortgage my educational goals kept moving further off in the distance until finally they disappeared from view altogether. Fortunately, I had clerical skills which provided, if not a palatial house on the beach, a roof over our heads and a good income. Several times in such jobs I worked in manufacturing plants. The first produced tin cans and the second made sump pumps. Interesting stuff huh? Take a sip of coffee if you need help in keeping your lids up. Both jobs were interesting in truth. In the can plant, I worked for the Plant Manager. The administrative offices were situated in heart of the manufacturing area itself. Huge windows captured the view of the assembly lines and general hubbub associated with producing metal cans. Danger lurks in any assembly line, and with sharp edges associated with tin any line worker has to remain alert in order to keep all fingers and limbs attached in their original spot. Several times while employed there I saw first hand what not keeping your mind fully on your job could result in.

The plant manager, a man recently having unhappily beckoned in his fortieth birthday, was going through a mid-life crisis. Working on his second marriage to a woman roughly the same age as his oldest daughter from the first, he was struggling to keep up. Aside from my administrative duties I served in the capacity of “work wife”. The young wife didn’t sign up for any household duties it seemed when slipping the over sized diamond on her finger. Thus, loosely in my job description a number of these duties had been written in. Often my days at the plant were spent running errands of a personal nature such as dropping off and picking up dry cleaning, going to the car wash, dropping papers off at the attorney or the insurance company, banking and generally everything else of a domestic nature from grocery shopping to picking up the newest member of the family at day care. Why the little guy was in day care when his Mama didn’t hold down a job wasn’t my question to ask, but it lingered in my mind when gathering his belongings from his cubbie on the way out to the car.

Aside from this the man drank from the moment his eyes opened in the morning until he passed out at night. Being young I stuck it out for a while, but after a year I filed for a “work divorce” and went about finding a job more suited to my skills. No alimony was forthcoming.

Anyhow, I am glad to be back. I will share with you this delicious end of summer salad. A nice change of pace.

Avocado & Cucumber Salad

2 large avocados, pitted and chunked
2 English cucumbers, seeded and sliced
1/2 red onion, thin sliced and halved
3 radishes, thin sliced and halved


1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
3 drops Sriracha sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice cucumbers in half. Run a spoon down center of each half to remove seeds. Place cucumber in colander and sprinkle with salt. Allow to sit for 10 mins. Rinse well and pat dry. Put in mixing bowl and add remaining vegetables. Whisk together dressing and combine. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.


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