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Sometimes when I see what is going on in our world I wonder how many steps forward women have actually made in recent years. Yesterday I read a jarring statistic asserting one out of every seven female students at the University of Texas is raped. Factor in the number of unreported sexual assaults due to the stigma attached or fear of not being believed this number could be significantly low. Over and over reports of sexual abuse by those entrusted with our children surface in the news. Just this week a trial is being highlighted involving abuse by a doctor in the Olympic community spanning years and many female athletes.

Some say this casts a light on how we are raising our boys. I don’t know if this is the answer. Maybe the problem is fueled by the good old boy mentality prevalent in school governing boards particularly when it comes to the protecting their star athletes. When did eliciting sex from an unwilling partner become the norm or accepted behavior? Why are young women heading off to college campuses not being protected?

Women fight uphill on so many issues. Even after all these years working in the workplace with men women continue to lag behind in compensation when bringing the same credentials and education to the table as their male counterparts. Is it them, or is it us? Somewhere deep in our subconscious do we still believe we are worth less or somehow less deserving? Certainly this message continues to be brought to the fore. A recent picture taken in D.C. depicting a panel of lawmakers discussing women’s issues made it crystal clear this way of thinking still exists. All male faces sat around the table. How does that work? How is a panel fully populated with men likely to come to a reasonable and unbiased conclusion about a subject simply not affecting nor resonating with them? It reminded me of a class I took years ago at the Catholic church before marrying my first husband. The discussion was marriage, with all that entails. The teacher, a priest. Hmmmmm.

When I began my career it was a very male dominated work environment. The company I worked for was a major engineering company employing largely male engineers with women thrown about in supporting roles. The two female engineers with offices in the building both so much men they hardly counted as members of the opposing team. Getting to know them as time passed one explained in order to be taken seriously among her peers it was necessary to dress the part. Again, really? At the time women were expected to make and fetch coffee for their male co-workers. Once I was engaged in a critical phone call with a major client overseas. In the middle of the call one of the engineers came to stand at my desk obviously needing my immediate attention. Excusing myself for a moment I asked what the problem was. The engineer leaned down to explain the coffee pot in the break room was empty.  I had several suggestions for him, both of which I filed away for my own enjoyment.

On another job I was an executive assistant to the plant manager of a metal can manufacturer. I was young, in my mid-twenties. The gentleman I worked for (I’m using this term loosely) recently had celebrated his fortieth birthday. Cresting the hill into mid-life hadn’t settled well with him. To add to his gray hairs his second wife, barely out of diapers, entertained very rich tastes. The man was well paid. I know this because I also did his banking. However, with his first wife siphoning alimony and child support from each check and the second burning rubber on the credit cards every day the man had stress, big stress. Nevertheless, working for him should have come with a larger paycheck on my side. Most of my day, when not making coffee, arranging golf lessons, researching vacation options, or making his children’s doctor or dental appointments was spent running his personal errands. At least once a week I picked up an order at the dry cleaners, took his car to be washed and waxed and stopped for a carton of cigarettes at the smoke shop. Several times I actually gathered his little boy at the soccer field, stopped for a loaf of bread and some lunch meat and dropped both off with the babysitter at home. What exactly did the bride do besides enter a store? Thank God I’d taken the time to get an education so I would be prepared to assume such weighty responsibilities. After enduring nearly two years of such nonsense young or not I’d had enough. Aside from the endless errand running also falling under my job responsibilities was alcohol counselor and facilitator. At least once a week he returned to the office after a serious liquid lunch requiring at least a pot of coffee to finish off the afternoon. Looking back I’m amazed a single can ever made it off the assembly line and onto the truck at the loading gate.

On more than one occasion I’ve been the beneficiary of unsolicited advances from my supervisors or co-workers. One of my bosses took me to lunch on Secretary’s Day. A gesture I thought thoughtful until over coffee he laid his hand suggestively on my knee and indicated we consider getting to know another in the most Biblical sense. He was married as was I. I removed his hand and said I would alert my husband to his proposal and see if he was on board before moving forward. End of conversation. End of job as well. This made for an extremely uncomfortable work day. Not long after the incident I began to look for a new place to work. These days I would have reported such behavior.  Back then you sucked it up and moved on.

Women are amazing creatures to my mind. Multi-tasking their way through their lives maintaining a strong and resilient backbone for their families. I’m not a bra burner, and enjoy all that comes with being a woman, but when it comes to these issues I could easily pen a poster and fall in line behind others of my kind to fight the good fight.

At any rate, there is no debate about how good this chicken is. It looks like you went all out when really there is not much prep required.

Meyer Lemon and Tangelo Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 Meyer lemons, 1 juiced, 1 sliced
2 Tangelos, 1 juiced, 1 sliced
1 large onion, sliced thin
1/3 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 Meyer lemon
Juice of 1 tangelo
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. dried cilantro
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. rosemary
1/2 tsp. basil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spray 13 x 9″ pan with cooking spray. Place sliced onion on bottom of dish. Whisk together olive oil, garlic, juices, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, paprika, cilantro, and red pepper flakes. Drop chicken in mixture and turn to coat well. Place chicken on top of onion slices. Pour remaining marinade over chicken. Arrange sliced fruit around and on top of meat. Sprinkle rosemary and basil over top. Place in oven for 40-45 mins. basting twice. If liquid gets too low add a little water.

Serves 4

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100
I was down visiting family in the Bay Area over Labor Day weekend. When I drive down I camp with my Mother and get righteously spoiled and then we spread the joy among my son and his family and friends. Recently my son sold his house. While deciding what their next move is to be they are renting. Buying or renting is a pricey proposition these days with the San Jose housing market one of the costliest in the nation. Amazing. I can recall when the San Jose airport was one building. Ach. For my mother and I this was to be our first look at their new digs. Wow. My son said the owner, presently on extended leave in China, is a total techni nerd. As you walk in the front door the house announces your arrival and what door you entered through. The system doesn’t identify you by name, naturally, though it wouldn’t have surprised me, but indicates someone has come in the house and where. This feature can become annoying, I was told over dinner, when the dog lets herself out to pee around 2:00 a.m. I would disconnect this voice. Every time I looked out a periphery door the house told on me. What a kiss up.  Shortly after we got there my grandson rounded the corner on a hovercraft. Suddenly I was reminded of “The House of the Future” displayed in Disneyland back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Located in Yesterland (I know!) the kitchen featured a revolutionary microwave oven. Microwaves were not yet on the market if you younger people can imagine.

futurehouse_entrance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baked Chicken with Vegetables and Fruit

For the chicken

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

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

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

For the vegetables and fruit

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

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

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

Serves 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This chicken is so crispy and moist. Just delicious.

Crispy Baked Chicken

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

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

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

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

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

Serves 4

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1

My mother is in a total panic because she has to renew her driver’s license next month. I’m not downplaying the experience as my renewal is coming up later this year and I’m not happy about it. The last two times it has been mailed to me. The bonus with this is they keep the same picture so you don’t get tickets you never age at the DMV. In my last picture I didn’t look like either a serial killer or an inmate so I was pleased to have it roll over. Since (fingers crossed) I haven’t had any infractions I’m hoping DMV will continue this practice and mail me this one as well.

She and I have discussed the fact at some point she will have to relinquish her license and depend on other forms of transportation to get her where she needs to go. Each time I visit I keep my eye on how she’s doing behind the wheel. I don’t want to be responsible for anything either happening to her or because of her while on the road. There’s no way as we age our reflexes are going to remain as sharp as when we were younger. Her parking aren’t as fine tuned as they were but all in all her performance still seems good enough to warrant a license. How the DMV will view this I have not a clue.

The DMV and I did not get off to a cheery start. My driving career as a whole began badly I’m afraid. I passed the written test the first time. The behind the wheel exam was a whole other ball game. The first time I got a gentleman armed with an enormous clipboard. The man brought more paperwork on board than an IRS auditor at tax time. By the look of the permanent grimace on his face it appeared what he had accrued in office products he lacked in good humor. Seated in the passenger seat, hat in place, body stiff as a freshly starched shirt, he instructed me to start the engine and exit the parking lot. Each time he asked me to perform part of the test and I complied, his fingers began frantically writing on the sheets on his lap. Between the frenzied writing and the incessant clearing of his throat if my knees had symbols strapped to them I could have knocked out the national anthem. Instinct told me all this did not bode well for the final outcome of the exam.

Parking was my nemesis. Perhaps its hereditary? I’d practiced with my parents. I could park in a lot but was abysmal at executing parallel parking. After twenty minutes of maneuvering I managed to get th car between the pylons only managing to pin one beneath a back wheel. The fact there was no loss of life, I felt to be a plus. Getting out of his seat the examiner extricated the pylon, tossing it in the back seat. Marking on the paperwork accelerated at such an alarming pace the pen ripped through the paper.

At a stop sign I made up for not killing anyone while parking by nearly cutting short the life of a young mother pushing a baby carriage. With that, I was handed the marked up paperwork and instructed to come back, or for humanity’s sake not, when I’d garnered a little more experience. Fine. Practicing every chance I was allowed behind the wheel, my mother again took an afternoon off and I signed up for the second driving test. Odds being what they are in my life, the same grumpy gentleman hopped into the car carrying the same pile of paperwork. Writing ensued before I’d even turned the key to start the engine. Failure on this test I was told was due to the fact I hadn’t looked over my shoulder when executing a lane change. What? There wasn’t anybody sitting in the back seat I needed to advise before making such a maneuver. Why did the car manufacturer put in rear view mirrors if they weren’t to see what was behind you? Apparently there’s a blind spot. Oh. The pinched look on my mother’s face told me she was not going to pleased to have to take yet another afternoon off for me to humiliate myself any time in the near future.

My friends, promised a cruise around town if I passed, waited patiently for news of the results. Advised I was still unlicensed signaled the teasing to begin. Single handedly I was setting a record in my peer group for under achieiving at the DMV. I again began practice sessions. No longer with my mother, thankfully. Insisting on air braking when I approached an intersection or grabbing the hand rail and yelling “LOOK OUT” every five minutes she was making me a nervous wreck. Wreck being the optimum word here. In her place my stepfather stepped in for guidance. A high school principal with a love of distilled products he’d usually had a beer or two by the time we hit the road and didn’t much care what I did with the car as long as he didn’t have to drive it.

On my third try, Murphy stayed home and a young woman occupied the seat beside me. Patient and helpful I breezed through the test with her grading system and once I’d passed the eye exam was handed my temporary license. Mother took me to Orange Julius for a celebratory drink and I was handed the keys to fly solo for the first time. What a euphoric feeling it was that taste of real independence. I could feel the umbilical cord loosen slightly around my waist.

My exhilaration was to be short-lived, unfortunately. Picking up my friends in my mother’s Ford Falcon convertible I headed towards the downtown area. Giddy with success I failed to look over my shoulder when making a lane change. As the officer was writing out the ticket for causing him to veer off the road and take out an unsuspecting picket fence I could see the grumpy man at the DMV writing madly on his paper. Six months later my license was returned to me. I’ve done much better since getting it back, apparently a slow learner in my early years.

This chicken is just too good, and the carrots, yum. If you’re having more than two just double the recipe.

Oven Baked Blood Orange Curried Chicken and Vegetables

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup prepared yellow mustard
3/4 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 blood orange
1 cup of cooked carrots
1/3 cup green onions, chopped
1/4 tsp. hot paprika
Cooked rice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray bottom of casserole dish with cooking spray. Slice orange in half. Slice one half in two slices. Squeeze other half of orange into small bowl. Add honey, melted butter, mustard, blood orange juice, and seasonings and whisk.

Place chicken in pan. Sprinkle carrots and green onions around meat. Pour honey mixture over top. Place one slice orange on each piece of chicken. Sprinkle with paprika.

IMG_7159

Bake in preheated oven for 50-60 mins. or until juices run clear basting every 10 minutes and turning once. Serve over rice.

Serves 2

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