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final2
As I mentioned in my last post, I recently spent a couple of weeks at my mother’s home in San Jose. Thankfully, she recently replaced the inflatable mattress on the hide-a-bed in the spare room so I wasn’t up at 3:30 as in previous visits refilling it. As with most things my mom buys, the mattress was “top of the line”. However, years of bearing company “top of the line” or not it simply couldn’t bear the load anymore. Air or no air the newer auto inflate units are infinitely better than the original hide-a-bed mattresses. For those of you who have ever slept on the old ones you may still have the scars where the metal springs poked into your body as you slept.

While living in a small one-bedroom beach apartment in Redondo Beach my ex and I had such an animal in our living room. It was rare we slept on it, but occasionally when someone special came to visit we gave up the master bedroom and we unfolded the couch. Once I recall folding it up after a restless night of combat with the mattress only to notice a small furry paw tentatively reaching out between the pillows. Thankfully, the old cat belonging to the paw wasn’t annihilated when I applied the usual sumo wrestler torque it took to maneuver the mattress back under the bed of the couch. A rescue ensued, but Kitty viewed the couch with a jaundiced eye long afterwards.

There were times when I would have been glad to see that lumpy old hide-a-bed as I reflect. For one year when my children were small their dad and I traveled across the U.S. by car. The only bed we had five nights out of seven was a mattress in the back of our station wagon where the kids slept. Rainy nights necessitated sharing that space with my two little ones often resulting in sleepless night with small hands across your face or worse yet a wet spot on your back by the time morning arrived. Our money allotment for the year allowed for two nights a week at a motel along our route. We split the nights up most weeks so that the hot baths came in the middle and at the end. In between we bathed in lakes and streams, rest stops, and even on occasion soaped up in a gas station restroom.

We put the nomad in nomadic that year. If not curled up with our babies, or snug in a motel bed, bed was wherever our sleeping bags hit the ground once we packed it in for the day. For me, one eye perpetually remained open scanning for predators during those star filled nights. Most probably I would have died of a heart attack had a reptile slithered in next to me to get warm. God knows how many small creatures shared space with me over that year, or how many spiders and gnats marched their way down my throat. What an interesting year it was for me, bugs and all. One I will never forget. Was I young and ridiculously idealistic, I would do it again without hesitation. There is something so freeing about turning the wheel in whatever direction you please, with no one to answer to or no place to be. I shall always remember that time as the freest of my life and never for a moment be sorry we set out on our journey.

Beds are such a personal choice. Some people like them hard as cement, with others preferring a mattress they can sink into. I believe I fall in between. Several years ago with stayed with our best friends in the Bay Area. They had recently remodeled a small home in Contra Costa county. Having turned the two spare rooms into a den and an office, there wasn’t a lot of room for guests to camp out. Luckily they had a queen sized inflatable mattress in the garage we thought would work just fine. Not having seen each other for a while my friend and I stayed up well into the night catching up and reminiscing. Rick, tired from driving most of the day, decided to turn in before me. We blew up the “bed” and sent him on his way. Needing my purse from our room I opened the door just in time to see Rick turn over and catapult off the overfilled mattress into the potted plant. To be honest I had no idea he could still maneuver a back flip, so after I stopped laughing I found myself suitably impressed. In the end he slept on one end of their sectional, with me dangling off the other.

Beds are on my mind as we have discussed getting a new mattress recently. Ours is reaching its longevity point, and though turned often is starting to lose its original comfort level. Our pillows also need replacing. For some reason I cannot find good pillows. I’ve tried expensive designer pillows guaranteed to offer a peaceful night’s sleep only to find them either too hard or within months having the filling wad up like a bowl of wet cotton balls. I’ve considered the ones you see on TV, but have a friend who bought two. After trying them out for a month or two she tells me she doesn’t see anything amazing about them other than the price. Hmmmmm.

I am one of those people who likes a lot of pillows. I have three behind me plus one I wrap an arm over. Rick says when he comes to bed (most nights hours after I have) usually only the tip of my pointed head is showing in a sea of cotton and foam.

I don’t know what the answer is. Not looking forward to mattress shopping down the road. Rick is fond of firm mattresses where I like a little give. Maybe we need one of those you can dial “your number” for either side. Things to think about on a Thursday.

These lamb meatballs were so good as a change from beef. Be sure to get a fine mince, or have the butcher do it for you to get the desired result.

Lamb Meatballs with Wine Tomato Sauce

1 lb. lamb mince
1/2 onion, chopped fine
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 Tbsp. parsley flakes
1 egg, beaten
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. dried mint leaves
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup red wine
1 6 oz. can tomato sauce plus 1 can water
1 14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2-1 tsp. salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
pinch of cinnamon

Mix all ingredients well in large bowl. Form into meatballs.

Heat butter and oil over high heat in large skillet. Add meatballs and brown on all sides. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Deglaze skillet with red wine. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to med-low and add meatballs. Spoon sauce over top. Cover and cook on low for 30 mins. uncovering several times to spoon additional sauce over top.

Serve with rice or herbed noodles.

Serves 4

1
For the last three weeks I have been on the road, getting home finally over the weekend. According to my other half he has tired of conversing with Boo, the Queen of Cats. Apparently she is tiring of his company as well.  According to Rick the cat sits on her footstool with her back to him only turning occasionally to cast him a furtive glance as if to say “okay, where did you bury the blonde”? To her I am her playmate. While cleaning house we play Boo games and sing Boo songs. Rick, as lovable as he is, refuses to reduce himself to playing hide and seek with a feline, nor is he willing to compose songs in honor of her. His loss I say.

This has not been a lovely vacation so do not picture me lounging on a sun kissed beach with a tropical drink in my hand. I am picturing myself there at the moment, so I pause to reflect on what a glorious picture it is.

Instead I have been bobbing about in the rough seas of senior care without a life raft. My mother, though no spring chicken as she will say, is an amazing woman. Those who have achieved her years or far fewer often do not have half the stamina she is endowed with. Shopping I am often the one to raise the white flag saying my feet have signaled it is time to go home before she will. There is a chink in this armor, however. Though she guards her independence fiercely, she does not like to be alone at night. I get that. We all have our demons. Put me in an enclosed space with a bee and my personal terrors will quickly rise to the surface. Once I emptied an entire can of hairspray to kill two wasps in my kitchen. I apologized afterwards to the insects for the overkill but from the looks of what remained I don’t believe they heard me. That, however, is another blog or therapy session.

When Mother’s husband died four years ago it happened at a time a family friend was searching for a place to stay. For us it was a gift for us to fill the spare room with someone we knew. For her it was a comfort to have a friend to take up the empty space at the other side of the table at dinner and engage in a marathon of gin rummy from time to time.

Recently this dear friend went suddenly into an assisted living situation leaving us faced once more with the hole left behind. This time, I knew, finding someone would not be as easy a task. Friends can’t be replaced at will and my Mother, a lovely woman any given day, can be a bit of a fuss pot (I am treading lightly here to be respectful).

As there was no interim solution, Rick and I drove down and stayed a week in San Jose. We then gathered my mother and her incredible entourage of bags and returned home for a week. During our time here I ran ads looking for a roommate, set up appointments, printed the appropriate paperwork such as rental apps, etc., repacked my mother and headed south again. That made me tired writing it. In the middle we explored some down-the-road options with regard to independent living facilities. Surprisingly some of these are beautiful. Others have a clinical look and feel leaving you with a telltale hospital smell in your nostrils. Mother immediately shied away from that and truly she is not ready for such a place at this point. We would have her live with us but she doesn’t appreciate mountain living and we have stairs and keep the house cooler than she likes which is suitable for incubating chicks.

Facilities such as we looked at are tricky. I remember when I lived in West Virginia I belonged to a group of ladies who shared a love of crafting and hiking. At some point it was suggested we participate in a volunteer program at a local nursing home. I was in my late thirties at the time and had never stepped inside such place so had no preconceived idea of what to expect. Being the emissary for my group I made an appointment with the volunteer coordinator. The day of my appointment I located the address to find a single level sprawling sort of structure. At the entrance was a doorbell with a sign above it which read, “push for service”. I wondered if it had been installed keep people from the outside getting in, or those on the inside from escaping. After being inside I suspected more the latter.

Ushered through the doors by a nurse, I was immediately accosted by the overwhelming smell of urine. So strong was it that I found it necessary to take small short breaths to be able to remain in the lobby. The lady with whom I was to meet quickly arrived once I was announced by the receptionist. Following a brief introduction I was guided through a labyrinth of hallways to her small incredibly cluttered office. A sparse somewhat harried women I would guess in her mid fifties, she talked over her shoulder as she seated herself behind a desk piled with two mountains of files. Our interview was conducted peering at one another through the valley in between. Nearing Halloween we discussed plans for our group to come on Halloween itself and bring treats for the residents. It was decided we would dress up in costumes and serve cookies, cakes, and cider to all who were interested in participating. She suggested we might want to sing (obviously she had been breathing the cleaning chemicals lingering in the air a bit to long). I declined. These people were sick enough already.

Everything settled I said I could find my own way out. Turning the corner I found a lady seated in a wheelchair. On her feet were enormous pink slippers, one of which she shot out to stop me. Kneeling down I asked if everything was all right. She asked if I was Becka. “No, Susie”, I replied, asking if I could find Becka for her. A nurse arrived at that moment and after wheeling the woman down the corridor returned to tell me Becka was the woman’s daughter. The family dropped her off eight years prior and though a check arrived to keep her there every month none of them ever showed up again. Tears jumped up as she spoke to me of this. How terribly sad. Now I have no idea what the family dynamics were, maybe this woman was a miserable mother or abusive, but I couldn’t help feel sorry that Becka had left her mother there to die alone.

Halloween arrived and so did our group of 20. Dressed as cats, maids, dragons, and circus performers we handed out plates of cookies and mugs of cider to the grateful patients. What an appreciative and interesting bunch there were. So many years of stories all gathered in one room. We returned many times while I lived in the area. The lady in the wheelchair was often out front and when I arrived and on each visit she called me Becka. I never denied or confirmed, but rather left it at that and spent some time with her until one day she was gone.

We come into this world alone and often exit it alone. If we can I think it is important to be there with our parents during the transition and help them on their journey as they did when we arrived.

Parchment Lemon Tilapia

2 large tilapia filets
1/2 small zucchini julienned
1 tsp. Montreal steak seasoning
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus two grinds
1/4 tsp. paprika
1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 lemon sliced thin

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Season filets on both sides with Montreal, black pepper, and paprika. Place in center of pre-cut parchment squares. Top with zucchini dividing equally between both pieces of fish. Grind pepper over top. Sprinkle filets with olive oil. Melt butter and add lemon juice. Pour over fish. Top with slices of lemon. Pinch and fold parchment together to form an envelope. (http://www.cookinglight.com/cooking-101/techniques/fish-cooked-in-parchment/fish-in-parchment-fold-paper.)

Place on baking sheet. Bake for 15 mins. of until fish is flaky.

final

Well, the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos are warming up to make some Super Bowl history. Tickets are going for as much as $7,000 for the choice seats, and as low (if you consider it low) as $3,000 for the nosebleed seats. At that price guaranteed my face will not be captured on the stadium camera. Whoa. Up until the last few years the Super Bowl passed without much fanfare for me other than enjoying the delicious food available at the myriad of Super Bowl parties I’ve attended. For some reason, perhaps self defense, several years ago I found myself sitting in front of the TV with Rick on a Sunday afternoon watching whoever was on the field. Being a curious being by nature, before long I was asking why this was happening, or what that penalty meant. Over time I began to notice without asking I knew what was going on and actually had begun to be familiar with players names and nuances of the game. Oh-oh. Now I have not gone so far as getting a paint roller and decorating my body or dying my hair to support my team (the 49ers) but I do look forward to Sunday afternoons to see what they’re going to do once they’re suited up. Along with Rick I suffer their defeats and cheer their successes. This year proving to be more the former than the latter for our Bay Area team.

Rick of course could coach the team far better than those actually paid to do the job. I know this because he says so about fifty times whenever they’re screwing up. Sometimes I become involved in appreciating the color combinations of the uniforms (for example I like the lime and blue of the Seahawks). When I admire such things out loud he throws me a look like “you are such a girl”. Why yes, I am, thank you. One day I got to commenting on the various sizes of behinds facing the screen and he simply threw up his hands and rolled his eyes. What?

The amazing salaries these athletes command blows my mind. I can see the logic, however, in gathering all the goodies while they can. The tremendous beating applied to their bodies during every game cumulatively amassed over the years must be painful when it catches up with them. Also, they live with the knowledge that one bad tackle or fall could result in the end of their career leaving them to fall back on hawking insurance or staring dreamily at the model most likely decorating the other side of their bed. As they probably net more in one year than most of us do in a lifetime I am not going to worry about where their next hamburger is coming from any time soon.

It’s not a game for lightweights. I heard a commentator say the other day they are taking the edge off of the game with all the restrictions imposed to prevent or at least diminish player’s chances for head injuries. At one time players hit the field with leather helmets and far less protection so I would suppose it might feel that way to those longer in the tooth. No matter how protected these players are the chance remains for injury or long-standing health problems. I would assume players signing up are either intensely passionate about the game or what it will bring to them financially to play it.

Sometimes when I watch how the players behave on the field it is reminiscent of boys in elementary school. Football seems to bring out the child in the man with all the posturing and dancing going on when a touchdown is made missing only the “neener neener” to make the picture complete. All the testosterone and team rivalry mingling on the artificial turf makes it not surprising fights break out and an extra elbow or unnecessary kick is thrown in on occasion once a player is down. The exchanges going on between the players when in formation waiting for the play to begin might be an interesting share. Somehow I don’t think they’re exchanging recipes or asking one another how the wife and kids are doing.

The fans are fascinating as well. Rain, snow, heat, or hail the sit in the stands faces painted, team colors displayed, beer in one hand rubber hands covering the other. If their teams is doing well they’re fully engaged and if they suck they’ll let them know that as well.

Since our team will not be represented we will be on hand to watch those who are stuffing ourselves with chile con queso at half time and cheering loudly along with the rest of the nation. When life seems to be full of chaos it is nice to see one thing still on track.

This soup is an easy meal to make, and truly is a meal in itself only needing a nice hunk of crusty French bread to round it out. Note: You want your veggies fully cooked but not mushy.

Tuscan Cauliflower and Potato Soup

1 lb. bulk Italian sausage, hot
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 cloves garlic minced
3 medium red potatoes cut into large chunks
8 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup grated Asiago Medium cheese
2 cups baby spinach, stems removed and broken into pieces
1/2-1 tsp. black pepper depending on taste
Salt as desired

In large skillet cook sausage, onion, mushrooms, and garlic until sausage is no longer pink. Drain on paper towels.

Place potatoes in microwave and cook on high for 4 mins.

In large pot cover cauliflower and potatoes with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking until vegetables are cooked but still slightly firm.

Add sausage mixture and continue cooking for 6 mins. Whisk in cream and then add cheese. Cook and stir until blended. Add spinach and pepper (I add more pepper if needed) and cook until spinach has just wilted. Taste before you salt as cheese will add salt to pot.

Serve with additional cheese if desired.

Serves 4

final1

The east coast got hammered with a major winter storm over the weekend. Makes me glad to be tucked away inside my warm house, a light rain falling outside my door, and a cup of hot coffee sitting on the table next to me. The last time I lived in a snow belt would have been in the early 1990’s. My husband at the time was a construction roadie. Pipe foreman jobs during those six years on the road would take us from Washington to Arkansas, east to West Virginia, south to Alabama and back to West Virginia before returning California. Our time in West Virginia totaled a little more than three years, one first time and a little over two on our second time around.

What a gorgeous state West Virginia is. The Mountain State, as it is so named because of the gorgeous span of Appalachian Mountains to the eastern side of the state. The Appalachians offer endless vistas, impressive gorges, and prolific hiking opportunities. Once I hiked up to Hawk’s Nest State Park Museum on a trip through that part of the state. By the time we reached the top I was convinced I was going to be on the afternoon news being air lifted by helicopter to get back down. The views once we reached our destination were worth the hike, but I wasn’t taking in enough oxygen to really enjoy them.

On our second stay we rented a house in St. Albans. St. Albans is a small town on the western side of the state nestled against the banks of the Kanawha River midpoint between Charleston and Hungtington. The house was typical of homes in the area, older, well constructed, with a generous lot. A railroad track lay beyond the property line at the back of the house. So thrilled were we to have found a house close to the job site where my husband would be working, we didn’t give it much notice. Our first night in our new home we collapsed into bed around eleven. Half filled boxes were scattered about along with piles of clothes and household items. As with many older homes the bedrooms were relatively small. The king sized bed with its massive headboard had to be shoved up against the far wall in order to leave any room for maneuvering when getting in and out. As I slept on the wall side of the bed this meant I would have to climb over the foot board if I woke up before my husband did.  Deep in dreamland the midnight special passed by precisely on time whistle shrieking. The house shook to such an extent the bed actually moved toward the door across the freshly waxed hardwood floors. “Lucy, I’m home!” I was perched on my husband’s shoulders like a frightened cat. The following day we fused the headboard to wall mount to keep from repeating the experience.

As the months passed we settled in. The train’s whistle became so familiar by the time summer melted into fall our sleep went uninterrupted. A week before Thanksgiving a major snowfall captured the state. Having not seen snow in years I was the first one out of the door followed by my Shih Tzu, Sushi, a snow virgin. Excited by my antics the small dog plowed through the unfamiliar drifts gathering enough white on her muzzle to look like a canine version of Santa. How beautiful the landscape is when covered with a recent snow. Stark shadows and woody images contrasting with the purity of the land have contributed to many a memorable work of art. However, once you add a vehicle to the picture, the picture becomes far less attractive.

The river soon iced over and winter officially made itself comfortable in our part of the world. I became fairly adept at maneuvering the icy streets, managing myself through several skids and a near miss or two. Being a one car family, if I needed the car it was up to me to drive my husband to work. Not that it was far, about 15 miles as I recall. The worst of it was he worked ten-hour days so his day began at 6:00 a.m. meaning when I took him to work my day began much earlier. On one particular morning planning to use the car I woke late. In my hurry to get ready on time I pulled on a bunny fur jacket and a pair of leather boots over my leggings and nightshirt. Who was going to see me anyhow? Right? Right.

Crossing the bridge it was dark. We turned right and drove through the town on the other side making our way along a six mile span of country road heading toward Nitro where the plant was located. Half dozing I jerked awake when my husband yelled “hold on”. Gliding across the icy patch we moved as if in slow motion up and over the bank to one side. The car leaned to the right, creaked and came to rest on the passenger’s side. Above me my husband was suspended from his seat belt. Shaken up, either of us appeared to be hurt. The temperature outside twas several degrees below zero and nobody was on the road. Do we stay or do we go was the elephant in the room. The car, as was obvious, was staying. Experts tell you to remain with the car. Unfortunately, there weren’t any experts with us that morning so we climbed out through his side and began to walk.  After a while I began to complain I’d lost all feeling my feet and legs. My husband assured me we wouldn’t freeze if we kept walking. Whether or not that was true didn’t matter, I needed to believe it was.

Just when I felt my frozen toes had surely fallen off and were rattling about in the toe of my boots, a red truck crested the hill. Angels really are out there. Thankfully he stopped and welcomed us into the warmth of his cab. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. Never have I been so glad to see anybody. I can picture his face in my mind as I write this. Explaining our situation, he kindly drove me home to call a tow truck and my husband back to the car to wait with him for their arrival. Once my toes began to thaw pins and needles such as I have never experienced before or since attacked my toes with a vengeance. Fortunately, they were all still attached to my feet and functioning.

Winter leaves little room for idiots, but unfortunately we hadn’t read the memo on that subject at the time. Guess it wasn’t our time to go. So, if you’re stuck going out in snowy conditions dress appropriately, bring water, blankets, and flashlights. Trust me leggings aren’t going to do it.

These tuna melts are a favorite go to on busy days. I had some leftover cooked asparagus which was delicious on top. Vary the cheese as you like but whatever you use you won’t be disappointed. Yum.

Horseradish Tuna Melts

1 6 oz. can albacore tuna, drained and flaked
1 hard boiled egg, chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp. chopped red onion
2 Tbsp. chopped celery
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
3 Tbsp. mayonnaise (more or less)
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. red wine vinaigrette
2 hamburger buns
1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
4 slices of beefsteak tomato
4 slices horseradish cheese
4 cooked asparagus spears sprinkled with lemon juice

Preheat broiler.

Mix together tuna, egg, onion, celery in bowl. Salt and pepper to taste. Add remaining ingredients thru red wine vinaigrette adding mayonnaise to desired consistency.

Place halves of buns in toaster and toast on Bagel setting. Spread 1/4 Tbsp. of mayonnaise on each cut side. Top with tuna mixture. Place 1 slice tomato on top of tuna and top with 1 asparagus spear on each. Cover with cheese and place under broiler until bubbly and golden brown.

Serves 2

1

Yesterday Rick and I had a date night. We try to fit one in every few weeks sort of like hitting “refresh” on the computer. This time we went to see The Revenant (literally “a person who returns”). Touted as a powerful movie I wanted to see it on the big screen . Whoa. Old Leo really did himself proud in this film. It was long, pushing three hours, but I was never bored for even a moment. Quietest group of theater goers I’ve ever seen. Like ice sculptures we sat heads directed at the screen. No one seemed to move even to visit the snack bar or use the loo. As a caution, however, if realistic violence bothers you, this is not the movie for you. Lots of raw scenes.

On another note, I was sad to hear Glenn Frey of the Eagles passed away yesterday. Sixty-seven. The Eagles had me at “Take it Easy”.  Sad these gifted beings only stay with us for whatever time they are allotted, but how wonderful to leave behind such a legacy of work. When I go I will leave as my legacy a cook somewhere saying, “where did I get this yummy recipe for stuffed mushrooms anyhow”? Well hopefully they will be saying that. Sigh.

I like most types of music to some extent, except perhaps rap, though I can appreciate it. Classical music is something I have to be in the right place to enjoy. There is a concert on Mozart’s music coming up in Sacramento. I don’t imagine he could have conceived his music would have been played and enjoyed centuries after he first sat at his piano to compose it. When the mood strikes I can get lost in classical pieces. Some seem to me to be dark and angry. Clair de Lune by Debussy on the other hand brings to mind a restless spirit and an endless sea. Always I find the music moving me greatly in one direction or another.

Last night I had a dream I was selected to play the lead in a stage production of “Mary Poppins”.  This not happening any time soon in my life I feel unless the intended audience is a bus load of people who are severely hearing impaired. I do love the theater. Lately I’ve been missing live productions rather than movies. There is something exhilarating about the low buzz in the theater before the lights dim and the actors actually before you on the lit stage. I have seen many such performances in my life time, although most prior to the past decade sadly. Not because there is any lack of local theater, rather our paths have taken us in other directions for the past ten years.

The Phantom would rank among my favorites along with Equus and Elephant Man.  Both had either music or stories or both I found compelling. There have been disappointments as well. I saw Camelot in L.A. at the beautiful Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in the 70’s. Ticket holders used to dress back in the day, gathering to clink glasses around the bar in all their regalia during intermission. These days unless it’s a state dinner about anything goes from flip flops to beach attire at most events. This production was truly a mess largely due to the big named lead actor playing the lead. The man was so intoxicated he nearly took a fall down the castle steps in mid song.  The Pirates of Penzance was another one that didn’t strike a chord with me (if you will). Gilbert & Sullivan are a little too wordy (this coming from a very wordy being) for my taste. I liked Cats, but wasn’t in love with it as were many of my friends. Memory was a beautiful song, but for me the only true high high point of the evening.

Looking back I wish I had taken theater in college. I have enough ham in me to perform a long run and have enough left over to make an excellent showing on an Easter buffet. Opportunities to explore this facet of my being never seemed to present themselves nor did I pursue making it happen. College is something I would have done a lot differently had I any intelligence at that age. Back then I toyed with my education and still landed good jobs. Today college is really a necessity if students moving into adulthood are to survive in our present economy. That being said I found it disturbing news that when asked, 10% of college students polled in a recent survey thought Judy Judy presently sits on the Supreme Court. Also it appears millennials are displaying little interest in how our government was conceived or runs, or U.S. history in general.  I will hope that is not the case, as that would make me question where our future will take us, but that is another blog.

When I graduated from high school I was served college on a platter as part of my grandfather’s estate. Though I enrolled taking enough classes to have a two-year degree at least in sight, sadly I did not finish. Hindsight being twenty-twenty I wish I had gone to a four year college and experienced living on a college campus before creating a family. But one must look forward with enthusiasm not backwards with regret.

Sooooooooo, in spite of my lack of degree I am pleased to state that I did, in fact, know that Judge Judy was not a supreme court justice. This, for today, will have to do.

I like this recipe for creamy broccoli soup. Still butter but no cream but you don’t miss it. My daughter shared this – and I loved it.

Broccoli Soup with Blue Cheese & Garlic Toast

1 large bunch of broccoli
5 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1/2 cup water
4 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup freshly cut parsley
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
salt as desired
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
Crumbled blue cheese
Crisp bacon (optional)

Cut off florets from stems of broccoli and break into bite sized pieces. Remove outer hard shell from stems and chop insides. Set aside.

In large saucepan bring broth and water to a boil. Add florets, reduce heat to medium and continue cooking for 3 mins. until tender but crisp. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside.

Melt butter in large pot. Add onions, celery, garlic and broccoli stems. Cover and cook until softened about 5-6 mins.

Whisk in flour and cook for 3 mins. Whisk in broth/water mixture. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 mins. until thickened. Add parsley, scallions, 1/2 of the florets and simmer for 3 mins.

Also to cool slightly. Puree in food processor in two batches. Return to pot and mix in remaining 1/2 florets. Season with black pepper, lemon juice, nutmeg and salt as desired.

Serve topped with a piece of garlic toast sprinkled with blue cheese and crumbled bacon.

Garlic Toast

4 slices of rustic French bread
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat broiler. Spread butter on one side of bread. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Top with Parmesan cheese. Place under broiler butter side up under golden brown. Turn over
and toast the unbuttered side.

Serves 4

2

Our phone rings a lot. There are days when I’d like to throw it in the lake and others when I’m glad I have people who care enough to take the time to call. Yesterday, was the the former. Calls rolled in like waves crashing against the shore. One after another, each requiring my attention with one seeming to link to the one coming in after it. By 5:00 I suggested to Rick he get me out of here before I began to unravel. The errant device was left plugged into the wall forced into submission by it’s power cord. Yea.

The amount of scam calls we receive seems to be on the rise as well. A woman left me a message last week stating not only had I won $5,000,000 but I also could claim a new car if I returned her call. Immediately I told Rick to move the Fusion out of the garage and slap a for sale sign on it, our new Porsche was moving off the showroom floor and headed in our direction.  Do people really fall for these ridiculous calls? I would suppose had I called back I would be asked for personal financial information or money. As quickly as we block one number they call back under another. Infuriating. We’re on the “do not call list” about as effective as taking an aspirin for a gunshot wound.

On my Facebook page people in our area gather to discuss events and goings on in their lives or what’s going on in general hereabouts. Yesterday they spent some time commenting on the fake calls coming into their houses as well. Makes you wonder if there isn’t some way to regulate this, but I guess if you live in a free society that umbrella embraces a lot of freedoms some not as desirable as others.

A man was bothering my mother. Mother carries on a love affair with her phone, racing to answer whenever it beckons. In a way it is a life line for her bringing in news of what is going on in her community, what friends near and far are up to, and family who are at the heart of her life. Try as I might it is difficult to keep her from picking up when unwanted calls come in resulting in more of the same once they realize someone is answering.

I asked Rick, my muscle, to call the man back as there was an actual number to be retrieved off of my mother’s call list.  Rick is a lovely sweet human but when called into action is the “pit bull” of the over fifty set. Getting the man on the phone he began asking him questions rather than the other way around. Suddenly the man became irate and disconnected the call in mid sentence. Rick was disappointed. He said it was like training for a big fight and having your opponent take a dive after the first punch. I believe this is a guy thing.

On another note, we didn’t have the winning Power Ball ticket. This is equally as surprising to me as not having my new Porsche parked in my garage. As a matter of fact we didn’t match one number. Truth be known I find the thought of managing that amount of money terrifying. My children, each of them, offered to take over for me should my ship come in any time soon. Both of them know me well enough to know that I would give most of it away. How much do you need? Really? How many shoes can you wear, or toilets can you flush? I’m always interested in these huge mansions with fifteen bathrooms. Do you rotate? Imagine having to keep fifteen bowls clean and sparkling? No thank you. I love my house so would want to stay here. It’s cozy and in the woods and makes me happy. Probably I would travel. That is something I would love to do more of. I must admit I would like a plane of my own to do it in. Commercial airline travel gives me hives these days. Last year I flew to Phoenix. I spent most of the trip pressed up against the lady  next to me with my knees practically under my chin. Sadly, the most exciting part of the trip was being handed a bag of pretzels with 5 small twists inside. Yes, folks, they actually gave me something to eat with my tomato juice. Film at 11:00.

Another downside of winning the big money would be the spotlight pointed directly on you. People would be oozing out of the woodwork with schemes, ideas, requests. Begging and pleading would ensue. Everyone would know your business. As it is our lives are basically transparent these days. You can find out what color underwear a person is wearing by going on Google. For myself I keep as much as I can of my life my own. Someone told me recently there are satellites listening for “key words” and people monitoring our moves at the bank, the convenience store, or wherever a camera has been mounted. Not long ago I received a ticket in the mail. Enclosed with the citation was a picture of me clearly in distress going through a FastTrack while crossing a bridge on my way home from the Bay Area. Not a particularly flattering picture as I was terrified, it was pre-dawn, rain was sleeting down, and I wore nothing on my face but, well, skin. I certainly couldn’t deny it was my face staring back at me. Also I couldn’t deny I was going through a FastTrack area without a pass. There were circumstances in my defense. Yo soy innocente!  That morning the rain was coming down so fast it was bouncing back up and meeting the next round of drops on their way down. Semis were passing me on all sides with my little car dwarfed in between their mammoth visages. As they passed their tires flung gallons of water on my windshield making visibility nearly impossible. I would have pulled over but I couldn’t see well enough to do it safely and I was on a bridge. Sooooo I moved forward and before you could say “snap” there I was being caught in the camera’s lens. I threw myself on the mercy of the court, which in fact I did. I wrote a letter explaining my situation and miraculously they excused it. Wow, there’s a vote for the squeaky wheel theory if I ever heard one.

Well, enough conspiracy theory for today. I made this chicken last night and it was one of those dishes where you want to lick your fingers when it’s gone. Yum.

Crispy Baked Chicken Legs with Fingerlings & Peppers

2 chicken leg quarters, skin on
1/4 cup soy sauce, divided
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. dill weed
1/2 tsp. seasoning salt

Vegetables

2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
10 finglerling potatoes, cut in half
1 red onion, chunked
8 large mushrooms, chunked
10 small red, yellow, and orange peppers, seeded and sliced in half
1 1/2 tsp. dill
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Place vegetables in bowl with lid. Add olive oil and seasoning. Shake to coat.

Spray 9 x 11″ baking dish with cooking spray.

Gently slide fingers under skin of chicken. Divide 1/8 cup of soy sauce between the two legs, rubbing in with fingers under the skin. Sprinkle 1/2 of the dill and other seasonings beneath the skin. Place legs in center of prepared dish.

Pour vegetables around legs but not on top. Pour remaining soy sauce over legs and remaining seasoning.

Place uncovered in oven for 45 mins. stirring vegetables twice during cooking time. Increase the heat to 400 and continue cooking 15 mins.

Serves 2

final

The first few weeks of a new year always leave me a little depressed. Not weepy, or anything, but rather with a letdown feeling such as might set in after going to a much-anticipated party or event once it is over. Perhaps it’s not having the Christmas lights twinkling on the tree, or the anticipation of family and friends coming and going, or simply a new year opening up before me and not knowing all that it might entail. People seem to hibernate a bit during January. The weather, usually on the blustery side during the earlier months, encourages inside activities with people holing up with a good book or a project. Unless, of course, you have snow on the ground and a pair of skis strapped to your feet. As much as I enjoy seeing snow falling in our yard, the idea of heading up our steep driveway and onto the slippery streets keeps me closer to home during winter months.

I was soooo sad to hear that David Bowie passed over the weekend. Always it amazes me that with so many like beings on this planet there continue to be those individuals whose lights shine a little brighter than the rest of the bulbs. It puts me to wondering why some come into the world armed with such natural musical talent while others, like myself, can’t read a note. Even if I could read it, guaranteed I’d empty a room if I attempted to sing it. If someone had a gun to my cat’s head saying “write the notes on the scale on this piece of paper or the cat gets it”, Boo, sadly, would be a goner. Sorry Boo.

Speaking of Boo, the old cat is starting to show signs of wear, sleeping more and playing less. I try not to notice because the thought of not seeing that silly kitty face over my coffee cup in the morning is too much for me to bear. 2006 was the first time Boo and I shared space. I had been looking for a furry adoptee for months scouring the rescue centers in our area. For some reason, as many sweet scared 7f74ae549237ce937e6fd124aaf3e35f_180faces as I’d looked into I hadn’t found exactly what I was looking for in a companion. On the prowl again (if you will), I visited the SPCA in my town. As luck would have it (for me not the feline population) business was booming in the kitty room. All the available cages were occupied and extra cages had been set up towards the back of the building for the overload. I peered into each cage as I passed. Curious faces stared back at me as if to say “pick me, pick me”. Deciding to take a peek out back before making a decision, I walked along a dark bank of cages. Standing beside the last group a white paw reached out and touched me on the arm. The cage was in the center of a stack of three. Leaning down I found inside the prettiest white cat with muted gray and tan calico markings. One huge slightly crossed blue eye winked at me. Without another thought I signaled the attendant I would be taking “Snowball” home with me.

After filling out the appropriate paperwork and posting bail for Snowball, I loaded her in my cat carrier and put her in the passenger seat. All the way home she howled, telling me her sad story and expressing her doubts about going to a new home. Once released in the house she disappeared to the lower floors. It took me nearly a day to locate her. Such a scaredy cat. I knew she was around because the dish of food I left out would diminish from one day to the next and the food eaten recycled in the litter box nearby. Tentatively she began to show herself to us, venturing out a little longer on each visit. Snowball morphed into Boo Boo as her easily spooked personality emerged. Soon she was eating on the upstairs floor where we spent 90% of our time. At the end of the first month she had claimed the comfortable chair by the window as her own and if not curled up there spent much of her time on the sill behind it watching the hummingbirds swarming around the feeder on the deck.

Since then we have become fast friends, and I use friend exactly as it was meant. She finds my lap when I’m sick, and wakes me up in the morning with a friendly lick to have coffee with her while she enjoys her first treat of the day. After that I sit in my chair reading the paper while she takes up her place in Rick’s chair right next me. A creature of habit she never varies from her behavior unless something external causes a change in plans.

Of all the cats I’ve owned, and there have been a few, she is the only one who actively engages in hide and go seek. Also, the only one who participates in what we call “clean sheet day”, getting under the new sheet while I’m making the bed and while tented generally making a nuisance of herself.

I worked for several years at our local shelter in the “cat house”. Sad to read the stories posted on their cages, often chronicling poor treatment by the humans tasked with their care. I could have adopted them all. In Boo’s case her owner gave her up because she had white hair and shed on her furniture. Ummmmm, she’s a cat. To avoid this problem in the future adopt a Sphynx, or hairless cat. Problem solved. Of course, you have to look at the cat every day without hair. A bit unnerving on the best of days. Cats are likely going to scratch, Sphynx_Catoccasionally bite, definitely shed, and if male probably spray. If you’re looking for one expecting it not to exhibit any of these qualities I suggest you head for the stuffed animal section at Toys R Us. Like humans their personalities range from lovable to ornery, but certainly when you get a good one they bring far more to the table then they take away. So many are waiting for “forever homes”. If you find you have room for one more, be sure to take a look.

This curried cauliflower is a lovely change of pace. A little heat or a lot, it’s up to you. I like a dollop of plain yogurt on top or a squeeze of lime as well.

Curried Cauliflower with Red Potatoes

6 small red potatoes, sliced in 1/2″ slices
1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup scallions, sliced
2 cloves, garlic minced
2 Tbsp. curry powder
1/4 tsp. coriander
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 cup vegetable broth
8 oz. fresh spinach, trimmed
Plain yogurt and lime wedges

Boil potatoes in salted water for 5 minutes until soft. Add cauliflower and continue cooking 6 mins. Drain and set aside.

Heat oil in large skillet. Add onion, scallions, and garlic and cook for 8 mins. on med. low heat. Add curry powder and corinader and cook for 1 min. Add chickpeas, coconut milk and vegetable broth. Cover and simmer for 15 mins. or until tender. Add spinach in batches until wilted. Serve with a dollop of plain yogurt and lime wedges.

Serves 4

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