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Another holiday has surfaced. Bunnies and chocolate eggs line the shelves in the market, and Easter finery has being purchased and pressed to make a good showing in church on Sunday. Rewind a few years and my mother would have been buffing a sparkling shine on my Mary Jane’s and retrieving the obnoxious flower adorned hat from the box in closet. For this reason, and many others I am glad it is 2016.

Growing up in my grandparent’s house, Easter revolved around the three f’s. Faith, family and food. My mother stopped attending services during my formative years. Mainly, I believe, after a test of her faith when my father passed away unexpectedly at the age of twenty-five. My grandmother, however, could be seen seated somewhere towards the front of the church religiously (if you will) every Sunday morning. Always she wore a hat, dress, and hose. Her zippered bible was held tightly in her gloved hands on her lap, her head slightly bent in meditation. On most visits my small being could be seen shuffling and squirming in the seat next to her waiting for the sermon to end so we could get home to whatever delicious piece of whole meat was cooking the oven. The main meal was served at noon on the Sabbath. A light supper followed around 6:00 p.m. after my grandfather finished his rounds at the hospital. Trays were set up in the family room on the second floor in front of the small black and white television set, a recent addition. It got three channels if I recall, and on Sunday nights was tuned into “I Love Lucy” and “Ed Sullivan”, both shows my grandfather never missed unless called in for an emergency.

It seems funny to think of Lucy as prime time at this juncture in my life. I’m sure both grandparents, gone a long time now, would be amazed at the advances in technology since the days when they were first introduced to the boob tube. Certainly there was no DVR, with only 3 channels it would have seemed overkill. All in all a simpler time to live. With World War II a distant memory, life settled into a sort of a steady pace. Certainly there were heinous events to deal with, but not like we see in our headlines today.

I was reminding my grandchildren recently my childhood was not without boogey men. The cold war came into being while I was still in pigtails. Regularly in school we were instructed to get under our desks during a bomb drill. The “Red Menace” overseas was a ghostly presence and spies populated the movies presented on the big screen as well as our neighborhoods and offices. What we’re dealing with now seems far more sinister, somehow. Although any threat to your homeland and well being can be viewed as such. The intention seemed clearer back in the day perhaps or the enemy more distinct. Whatever the case if I was overseas I would light a candle for those we have lost and remember how precious freedom is during this election year. One has to wonder when watching this political campaign what is to become of us after the election in November. Canada is always a good option for me. I’m still on the roster there.

Today, however, I am thinking happy and uplifting thoughts while my potatoes happily boil in anticipation of being thrown in the bowl with the celery, onion, and pickles to become my Grandmother’s Potato Salad. I have the handwritten recipe still in her familiar script, though I rarely refer to it these days having made the potato salad many many times over the years. Often I am asked for the recipe and have shared it, even going so far as to print it out in handout form so I don’t have to repeat it. Each time I hear back it didn’t come out as tasty as my version. Why that is can probably be explained simply by my familiarity with the ingredients or the weight of my cook’s hand over the bowl. Each cook has their own touch with a utensil. Once a lady gave me a look as if to say, “you withheld one of the ingredients, right”? Wrong. I would never do that for several reasons. One, it isn’t very nice, and secondly my name will come up when someone tastes it at a party or gathering when someone whispers “this potato salad sucks”, and someone whispers back “It’s Susie’s recipe”.

This year Easter coincides with my mother’s birthday which falls on the 26th. We will be celebrating with lobster tails and twice baked potatoes. Yummer.

I hope you and yours have a safe and fun Easter as well as the rest of an uneasy world. This is a repost for friend Amy.

These colorful bites add a little color to your table.

Colorful Deviled Eggs

13 large eggs (1 as a spare)
1 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 Tbsp. yellow mustard, prepared
Freshly ground black pepper
Dash of salt
Bread and butter pickles for garnish
Paprika
4 Food colors

Place eggs in cold water to cover in large saucepan. Bring to boil and remove from heat and cover. Allow to sit for 20 mins. Run under cold water and peel.

Slice each egg in half lengthwise. Scoop yolks into mixing bowl (I use a small spoon to clean them thoroughly). Mash yolks against the side of the bowl with a fork until a coarse crumble.

Add mayonnaise, mustard, pepper and light salt. It is easy to over salt so taste and add sparingly. Set aside.

Fill four bowls 1/2 full with warm water. Place five or so drops of food coloring in each bowl to create four separate colors. Equally distribute the white halves in the bowls and allow to sit until color sets. Remove with slotted spoon and pat dry with paper towels.

Place yolks in pastry bag or cut one diagonal slice off the bottom of a large resealable plastic bag and squeeze decoratively into colored bottoms. Put a small nibble of pickle on top and sprinkle with paprika.

I like to add parsley to the plate for contrast.

1
Was I to assign an adjective to this week I believe I would go with “weird”. In retrospect, I feel my monthly horoscope omitted some of the pertinent details in its projections for March. According to the writer of my favorite monthly star cast, the planets were aligned to provide a list of wonderful exotic adventures and undeniable riches for those born under my sun sign. I was excited! I immediately purchased a flat of lottery tickets which are now decorating the bottom of my trash can in the kitchen.

Friends far more versed on the nuances of predicting events through the alignment of the heavens tell me my rising sign as well as the time of my birth are important in narrowing the scope of the reading. Okay. My rising sign remains a mystery, to me at least. My exact entry into the world was in the wee hours of November 1st in a time before Starbuck’s, cell phones, and hand held devices.

I view horoscopes purely for entertainment, weighing astrology with an open-minded approach as most things I don’t fully understand. Who knows, in truth, what makes our world go round? None of us yet, as far as I know, have been handed the book with all the answers to the puzzles of our universe. Until such time, I  remain curious and willing to embrace whatever information is floating about as at least a possible clue to the secrets the world holds.

This month, so far at least, the lady at the helm of the horoscope site veered far off course when writing my forecast. Rather than reaping riches, I seem to be tossing money in the air. The adventures missing their mark wandering far from “exotic” leaning more towards “erratic” or “hectic”.

My first week of good fortune, I began with a visit to the emergency room. Two days prior to my visit I began a regimen of thyroid pills. As I have written many times I am not easily coaxed into taking medication. My daily intake of pharmaceuticals includes a small dose of blood pressure medicine and three times a week I pop a pill to keep my cholesterol in check. Other than that I’m a pharmacy free zone. I like it that way. However, after a recent physical it was found my thyroid was a bit “sluggish”. Not a big discrepancy, but enough for my doctor to feel I could benefit by taking something for it. Fine. The pill, a wee pink oval, was nearly invisible nestled in my palm.  How such a tiny thing could pack such a wallop continues to amaze me. For the first day or so I just felt slightly off. On the third day, however, my heart apparently decided to fight back against the new interloper and went on a rampage. The pounding going on beneath my ribs was accompanied by a screaming in my ears that would have drowned out a jet engine. Okay. Not enough weirdness, my feet curled and the calves of my legs cramped concurrently. According to Rick all this plus my beet red face was enough to convince him to either dial 911 or consult an exorcist. He chose the former. Afterwards he did tell me Linda Blair looked better in her worst scenes in the movie than I did when he picked up the phone. Not particularly a flattering analogy, but I digress. Fortunately, the symptoms began to subside after about a half an hour. Still, the ever-vigilant medical people felt I needed to go to the hospital be checked out further.

While en route to the hospital I could see the EMT tearing open plastic bags containing this piece of equipment and that. Not my first ambulance ride picturing the mounting bill which was adding to my discomfort. The last time I was transported by ambulance an item caught my eye when I received the substantial bill. A $50 charge for a heated blanket. I don’t remember seeing the blanket in my bag when I was released from the hospital five days later, so I have to assume the $50 fee was for the heat. I’ll update you when this bill comes in and let you know if there was a charge for the air I breathed while on the road. Once in the ER the usual battery of expensive tests were performed. The diagnosis at the end of the day, an unfortunate reaction to the medication. Ya think? When I called my doctor the following Monday to report the incident she asked if I’d be willing to try the medication again. Uh, let me think. NO!

The dust settled on that incident. An eerie quiet descended, allowing me to take a breath for a day or two. Having had a life full of craziness, I have learned from experience if the buzz of life tends to fall silent, it’s time to put on my hard hat and wait for whatever is on its way. I didn’t have long to wait. Yesterday round mid-afternoon my son called to chat. We were enjoying a rare uninterrupted conversation when a sudden huge crash from the back of the house brought things to a halt. Rounding the corner in the master bathroom I found Rick, last seen taking a shower, sprawled across the bathtub both legs straddling the rim. Time to hang up. He is telling me he slipped while reaching for a towel but didn’t appear seriously hurt. Inside the tub was the glass shower door pulled off when he fell thankfully still intact. The door had him jammed up toward and underneath the faucet. Every time I attempted to pull the door up, it jabbed into his side. Darn, darn, darn (or worse). “Okay”, I said to myself, “think”. I couldn’t get into the tub to get a better angle because the other door was up against his legs. Do other people find themselves in similar situations, or is it just us? I handed him a towel and stroked my chin with one hand.  This was not going well, Ollie. Other than redialing 911, I was out of options. Rick outweighs me by 100 pounds so just hoisting him up was not on the table. Being a helpful partner I said, “is there anything you need”? Thinking a moment he replied, “is there any corned beef left”? Really?  Finally, after several unsuccessful attempts to extricate him, I went off to see if I could locate a neighbor.  Finding a willing victim to help me, the bruised Rick was hoisted out and his pruney body dried off and dressed. The neighbor, most likely traumatized, headed home.

Thinking this was surely the end of my good luck, this morning I was running late for a meeting. Grabbing my keys I pressed the button meant to open the car doors  and nothing happened. Getting later by the minute I inserted the key in the lock (been awhile since I did that) and voila. Inserting the key in the ignition not only did the car not start but now the key was stuck. Goodie. Dialing road service I reminded myself to get some sage while out to remove the evil spirits from the house. Well, there might be some.

The handyman is here fixing the shower stall and contrary to my horoscope he’s not paying me for the privilege. So, I write this hard hat in place wishing you good luck on your day.

Another day in the life of Susie, thank you very much.

This is my go-to sauce for spaghetti. Sometimes I add meat and other times, like the recipe below, I like the vegetarian version.

Spaghetti with Tomato Basil Sauce and Zucchini

Tomato Basil Sauce

l large onion, chopped
1/2 cup virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry red wine
32 oz. crushed tomatoes
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

Heat olive oil in large deep saucepan. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic and continue cooking for 3 mins. Add remaining ingredients. Cook on med-high for 15 mins. stirring often to keep from burning.

Spaghetti with Zucchini

1/2 lb. thin spaghetti
1 tbsp. butter
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, sliced
1 orange bell pepper, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced thin
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Mix in 1 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. butter. Keep warm.

Heat 2 Tbsp. of olive oil in large skillet. Add onions and bell pepper. Cook and stir over medium heat for 6 mins. Add garlic and cook for 1 min. Add zucchini to skillet. Cook and stir another 6-8 mins. or until zucchini is slightly browned and tender but not mushy. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve sauce over noodles an top with zucchini mix. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Serves 4

2
It’s 4:00 a.m. and I’m drinking my first cup of coffee. Welcome to my insomnia. The cat and I are watching “Must Love Dogs” for the 964th time, understandably not her favorite flick. There’s something comforting about an old familiar movie. Perhaps it’s that you already know the flow of the film. If you need to use the facilities or make a snack while the movie is playing you can pick right up where you left off when you plop back into your seat. Being already aware of the beginning, middle, and end, there are no unexpected surprises. You are assured you will like the ending before it ever plays out on the screen. Nothing like life itself where each day holds its own mix of mystery laced with an unsettling dusting of the unknown. Must Love Dogs, if you’ve seen it, is about the pitfalls of reentering the dating world after a breakup and the missteps when starting a new relationship.

Dating is such a murky pond. I am glad I’m not tossing my line over the side anymore. A friend of mine asked me recently what I’d do if I found myself once again on my own. Interesting question. I’m usually the one asking her about the men in her life. Generally a short conversation. Widowed twenty years she hasn’t dated since her husband passed nor shows any interest in doing so in the near future. As to what I would do if single again, I didn’t have an immediate answer. The question did trigger a line of debate in my mind after I hung up. Would I or wouldn’t I look for love again? With Rick sleeping peacefully in the other room this seems an unlikely scenario for me. Life has a way of throwing you curves, however, so I have learned never to say never. The thought of beginning anew with another person at this juncture in my life is daunting. Truly you never replace someone you love deeply. Another person can share your heart in a different way, but they cannot fill the exact same spot held by the person left behind.

How would I find someone who would accept the quirky parts of me as seamlessly? I sing to the cat, celebrate Clean Sheet Day, raise my hands in the air and dance in place when surprised, and generally am a rather silly composite of tissue and bone. Conversely, Rick has his own oddities and nuances which I find enchanting where someone else might not. That settles it. He and I will each have to live to be 108 and die hand in hand while cliff diving in Acapulco. I’ve always wanted to try cliff diving, and if I did I’m quite sure that would be the outcome.

According to news sources millennials aren’t stepping into marriage at the same pace as their predecessors. This is not to say they don’t enter into serious or meaningful relationships by any means, rather they don’t seem to have the urge to sanctify these relationships with marriage as often as generations before them.

There are so many things to consider when choosing a new person to share your life with. In a society where divorce is not uncommon, children can be a huge consideration. How will the new partner integrate with your offspring or you with theirs should the relationship take a turn toward serious? Being a step parent is a big responsibility. I’ve done it twice. Both parties having children adds a whole new dimension to the program. Will your kids blend well together? Then there are the exes. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Even if you haven’t any children, does the person you are dating want a family? Do you long for children where he would prefer it to remain just the two of you? This, when staring into his endlessly fascinating blue eyes, may not seem important when the relationship is newly blooming, but I guarantee as the years pass will definitely take on more importance.

There are a lot of things we don’t think of when getting to know someone. For example, Rick is a night person. I, on the other hand, shine when the sun does. This could pose a problem for some couples. In our case it happens it does not. For us, it allows both of us alone time and when we meet in the middle of the day we really enjoy each others company.

Money, is another issue which should not be ignored. Are you a lady who can’t resist a shoe sale at Nordstrom’s going with a man who still has his untouched piggy bank from grade school? This may work when you have separate bank accounts but when the monies are co-mingled this could easily become a point of contention. Are you holding on to the first penny you ever earned and into saving for retirement, while your partner is a free spirit who espouses the theory that tomorrow a truck could take you out while crossing the road? While you are pushing for saving for retirement, the free spirit may well be shopping for the best deals for a flight to Bali leaving day after tomorrow.

People get together for a myriad reasons, not always visible to those around them. Seriously don’t you ever look like an outwardly mismatched couple and wonder how on earth they ever got together. She looks like a guard for the Lakers while his nose reaches just below her breastbone, or he’s a non-stop talker where she’s a head nodder who rarely opens her mouth. In the end all the matters is how you view your life partner because living with someone 24/7 is no walk in the park if it isn’t someone you love unconditionally.

As I said dating is not for the faint of heart. Internet dating is another way to increase your odds. Problems here are obvious. Dating sites are not limited to just the nice people looking for love. For predators it is like a killer whale coming across a vast expanse of ocean inhabited by lethargic sea lions. That six-pack ab, 30 something executive you’ve been communicating with on Facebook, could well turn out to be an unemployed ex-con looking for his latest mark. I have explored this option myself, met Rick on such a site, but you do have to be cautious about where you meet and use common sense when exposing yourself to it.

So, I reiterate. I’m glad I’m not out there again. For those of you who are, I wish you good trolling.

This is a lovely upgrade from regular French toast. You can use whatever fruit you have on hand. Rick likes it with butter and syrup but that is up to a vote from your pants.

Banana Strawberry Pain Perdu

4 thick slices of slightly stale bread
1/8-1/4 cup cream cheese
1 banana, sliced
1 tsp. brown sugar
6 large strawberries, sliced (leave 4 whole for garnish)
2 large eggs
1/2 cup low-fat milk
1 tsp. brandy
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 Tbsp. butter
Confectioner’s sugar

Spread cream cheese on one side of each piece of bread. Top two of the four pieces with sliced banana and some of the sliced strawberries, reserving what fruit is left over. Cover with remaining bread (cream cheese side to the inside).

Whisk together eggs, milk, brandy, vanilla, and cinnamon in deep flat dish. Place each side of the bread packages in the eggs mixture for 30 seconds.

Heat butter over medium heat until frothy. Place bread in pan and cook until nicely browned (about 5 mins. per side). Just before you remove from the pan add remaining banana slices to butter and brown. Serve along with remaining fruit with toasted bread.

Serves 2

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

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