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Posts Tagged ‘fish’

final

This morning I woke up motivated. I prep my food for dinner early in the day as quite often I run out of time later or energy. Always I have been a morning person. My favorite time being just before the sun crests the hill. An unfolded day in front of me, no phones ringing, no chores to be accomplished, nothing but blessed peace and quiet and a steaming cup of fresh coffee. Mmmmm.

I digress. Remembering something I needed in the garage refrigerator, I slipped on a coat and well, slippers, and unlocked the outside door. Opening the refrigerator I stared into the gaping maw realizing quickly whatever it was I felt I couldn’t live without five minutes prior had been eliminated by my receptors on the way out to the garage. Straining to see if I could revive the thought, I gave up, closed the door and went back inside. The minute I’d removed my arm from the second sleeve, eggplant popped into my head as clear as “an azure sky of deepest summer” to quote Alex De Large. Sigh. When brains have been around for a few years they seem to develop quirks like refusing to remember that blond guy who was in Rich Man Poor Man or whatever that city was you lived in when you were nine. Most annoying. Rick has taken to using “whatchamacallit or whatshisname” as standard phrases for everything or everyone he’s searching for in his memory but cannot find.

While visiting my mother I noticed she was doing this fairly often. Not enough to be alarming, but enough. What amused me was she commented on a friend saying he repeated himself regularly. This was the third time since I’d arrived she’d told me the same thing.

On the second day of our visit there was a scheduled weekly hair appointment. As I’ve mentioned before my mother has her hair done once and week, has for years, and she will make this appointment if she has to be transported by ambulance. I offered to go with her. It is an old salon reminiscent of the 1970’s. Most of the ladies seated in the chairs are older and the “do’s” pretty much of the assembly line variety, curlers, dryer, and tease, followed by a good coat of shellac.

Deciding to have our nails done while there. Mother said her manicure was set for 10:30 so we should get there a few minutes early because of the holiday. Okay. Getting my mother out the door is a process but somehow we got ourselves there and parked within minutes of the scheduled time.

Approaching the reception desk we were told her stylist, Henry, had gone missing. Apparently there had been a company Christmas party the night before and Henry had disappeared with one of the elves. To add to the mix, it turned out my mother’s appointment wasn’t until 1:00 for her nails with mine following at 2:00. It would seem we had a little time to kill until her hair appointment at 11:30, provided Henry rallied and arrived on the scene. Mother suggested we walk next door and get some lunch. This killed a half an hour.

Henry showed up looking a bit peeked around 11:45. His earlier appointments were backed up at that point so Mother was placed in the queue. The manicurist arriving early and unbooked asked if I’d like to fill the gap. For an hour the manicurist, a lovely Vietnamese woman who at forty-six looked like she was barely old enough to drive, regaled me with stories of her twenty year old son who refuses to go to work and doesn’t respect his parents. Hmmmm. Doesn’t matter where you come from, the story seems to follow the same theme.

I opted for a festive red with a bit of sparkle for my nail color. I have little patience for sitting so squirming usually commences about a half an hour in. Several times she looked up over her glasses as if to say, “really?”. Sorry. Once all coats had been applied, beauty is a process, a small heater was placed in front of me and I was instructed to place my hands inside. I did, both at the same time hitting one hand against the other. Now the glasses were perched at the end of her nose and the look was much intensified. Whoops. “One at a time, Susie”, she said. The “duh” was omitted in case a tip was imminent. Damage repaired, my nails were dried and I was done. I must write that down for next time, “one at a time, one at a time”. Duh.

Mother had progressed to sitting under the dryer, People magazine in hand, and a cup of Henry’s “special coffee” sitting next to her. Asked if I’d like the same, I nodded yes and was shortly handed a latte and offered a hair style magazine to peruse. Since I wasn’t getting my hair done I wondered if this was a hint, but chose another gossip rag instead and settled in the particularly uncomfortable dryer chair to pass the time.

Ladies around me were in all stages of being done. One, whose head was completely covered with tin foil squares looked as if she might be preparing to make a moon landing at any moment. Another had purple dye on red hair, eight earrings crawling up the side of one ear, and 10″ orange nails. She could have explored Cyrano de Bergerac’s nose with ease. Less colorful floats have appeared in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Gossip was flowing like champagne on New Year’s Eve. Bits of it floated my direction allowing me to gather that Janice’s husband was painting outside the lines with a lady at work, and Rene’s son was in rehab again and his mother was supporting his pregnant girlfriend. Some things never change.

Finally at 2:30 with my behind having completely lost feeling and unsure I could stand without assistance, we made our way out the back door and into the Bay Area holiday traffic. Half way home my mother announced she’d forgotten her reading glasses. Back to the salon we went. At home, my other half had unleashed the dogs and alerted the media, but in the end we had a great dinner and a rousing game of trivia which with four people who can’t remember what they ate for breakfast, was memorable. Another day in the life of.

These were just plain finger licking good. I could have eaten four.

Tilapia Baja Tacos with Tangy Slaw

Tilapia Baja Tacos

1 1/2 lbs. tilapia filets, cut in half
1/3 cup prepared yellow mustard
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp. dried coriander
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. Freshly squeezed lime juice
Canola or Grapeseed Oil
Tangy Slaw (recipe below)
8 corn tortillas
Chunky salsa

Slather filets with yellow mustard. In shallow dish whisk together flour, cumin, chili powder, coriander, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and salt. Dredge filets in flour mixture covering all sides. Drizzle lime juice over all. Cover and place in refrigerator for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Wrap tortillas in tin foil, four to a package. Place in oven for 20 mins.

Heat 3″ of oil on high heat in deep heavy skillet. Cook fish in batches until golden brown and floating on top of oil draining each batch on paper towels. Keep batches warm in oven.

Place two pieces of fish on top of warm tortilla. Top with tangy slaw. Serve with salsa.

Tangy Slaw

1 14 oz. bag angel hair coleslaw mix
1/3 cup red onion, chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Place coleslaw mix and red onion in medium mixing bowl. Whisk together remaining ingredients. Add to coleslaw mix. Mix well and place in refrigerator for at least 1 hr. Serve on top of fish.

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Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

While filling out an application to work with the local theater arts group, I came to the CONTACT INFORMATION section.  Under the main heading they had included a sub-heading reading Best way to Contact You. Never have I been faced with so many options for connection.

cell phone
text
blueberry
raspberry
Magic Jack
Jack in the Box
Face Time
footpad
iPad
hologram
telegram
flaming arrow

What was most interesting is the list did not include home phone.  Do people not have land lines anymore?  Good Lord, I’m getting so out of date I’m going to require regular dusting before too long.

Recently I read programs are in place to deprogram those high-tech individuals addicted to their devices. You know who you are.  The symptoms, for those of you texting and playing on-line poker while reading this, may include checking your phone within 10 seconds of opening your eyes, and the last thing before you close them to sleep. Those individuals for whom every facet of their lives revolves around their devices, including creating alarms to keep them on track for appointments during the day. The ones often seen scaling a hedge carrying a running garden hose to catch an incoming call. Mentioned also were the compulsive, if not somewhat narcissistic, people who make an art form of personal picture taking. You find them posting endless personal poses on their social media pages ranging from flossing their teeth to having their callouses filed. It’s epidemic. Researchers were saying that rather than living the moment, we’re capturing it in a lens. Interesting.

My phone issues lean in the opposite direction  Mine can often be found in a drawer. Late at night it wouldn’t be out of character for me to bury it in the back yard, or toss it out of the car window on the freeway. Anything to make it stop its incessant ringing. When we moved in this house I noticed there is a phone jack in the master bathroom, one place I draw the line.  I do not want to speak to someone who is thus occupied on their end, nor would I choose to ask them to bear with me was I in the same position.  Just me.

Face time draws you into a whole different dimension of phone communication.  Days of answering the phone in your boxer shorts with bed head, or sipping on a glass of wine during a business conference call are behind us.  Now you need to be fully dressed, makeup in place, and the house cleaned before considering engaging in a call.

Day before yesterday I needed to make several calls.  Since we’ve moved I’ve alerted all the principal players in my life, banks, credit cards, magazines, insurance companies, etc. of our new location. Every time, however, I have gone into Social Security on-line to change my address for my Social Security Card, I’ve been denied access because according to their system the information I’m providing them is incorrect. Specifically, where I was born.  Seeing no way to avoid waiting in the endless queue of a government phone system, I dialed the number and got the expected response. “Due to heavy phone volume you may expect an 11 minute wait.  For quicker response please refer to our online site at www…”.  Uh-huh.  Sigh.  I put the phone on speaker and went about making the batter for my fish. Thirty-four minutes later a gentlemen came on the phone.  After explaining my situation, he pulled up my account.  Once we established my SSN, DOB, and location he began with the security questions, four in total.  Mother’s maiden name, check.  First pet, check.  Where you were born, not so fast.  After answering the question with what I know to be correct, I was informed I was wrong.  Okay.  He suggested I pick another big city.  Really?  Could we narrow down to a country, or should I just start at the A’s?

I went and retrieved by birth certificate.  Why I did this I have no idea.  I know where I was born and it hasn’t changed since I arrived kicking and screaming in the delivery room.  I repeated my answer and he repeated this was incorrect and to try again.  In desperation I threw out, “um, New York City?”.  I did not win the car.  In the end he could not verify I was me, and I was beginning to doubt it myself, so I was instructed to visit my local social security office.  Sigh and sigh.

Yesterday we got up early, had our coffee, and headed to the local SS office. Our goal was to arrive a half an hour before they were to open.  This is not my first rodeo.  Last time I had to avail myself of their services I went midday.  I was number 175. They were calling number 46.  Never again.  This time I was 3.  Yea.  Should you have to go take every available piece of picture ID you’ve been issued since kindergarten. Guaranteed the one you leave at home is the one you’ll be asked for.  In my case, being Canadian, I needed my birth certificate and green card as well.  Everything was on a roll until she got to my green card.  It seems you have to renew the damn things every 15 years. I was one year passed the limit.  Ach. As a plus, it was determined although of Canadian Citizenship according to their records I was born in Long Beach, CA. This she attributed to CA also being the abbreviation for Canada.  What more can I say here?  Given a piece of paper with the location of the appropriate office in Sacramento, she suggested I arrive early.  Got it.

The last time I changed my green card I was the first body in the lobby at the Canadian Consulate. I remained there until closing at 5:00 that night.  The problem stems from my personal history. For me this is not new news. My father died when I was one.  For the purpose of clarification, let’s call him Frank Williams.  When I was nine Mother exchanged vows with Frank James who adopted me, changing her name and mine. So far it goes, Frank Williams to Frank James (refer to your chart and handouts).  Taking the plunge for the third but not last time Mother became Mrs. James Martin.  So we have Frank Williams to Frank James to James Martin in that order. It is, at best like trying to untangle a nest of horny water moccasins. Launching into the details of my marry-go-round got my last interviewer so confused I believe he assigned me a new card so he could go home and have a drink before dinner.

So, I may never be able to prove I am who I am. Who knows maybe I’m someone else and have only been kidding myself I’m me all these years.

This fish was lovely.  Honest.

Beer Battered Tilapia

1 lb. tilapia filets
flour for dredging
1 1/2 cups flour
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
pinch cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
1/2 Tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. black pepper
1 1/4 cups ale
3 Tbsp. vinegar

Heat 2″ of oil in large heavy bottomed pot over med-high heat.

Cut each filet in half. Pat dry and dredge in flour.

Mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, cornstarch, baking soda, salt, garlic powder, cayenne (optional), paprika, and black pepper. Slowly whisk in ale and vinegar until mixture is smooth.

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Dip flour dredged pieces into batter with a fork allowing excess to slightly drain off. Drop into oil and cook until golden brown (about 3 mins. on each side). Drain on paper towels. Serve with tartar sauce, malt vinegar and lemon wedges.

Serves 4

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Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

Yesterday was a scorcher and today promises to outdo it.  Heat is not a friend of mine.  When you’re cold you can cuddle under a pile of blankets or add another layer of clothing, but when you’re hot once you’re achieved skin level you’ve covered all the bases, or uncovered as the case may be.

Growing up in Nova Scotia a heat wave was when the temperature achieved any number above eighty.  118 would have had Haligonians predicting the end of the world and heading for points north.  We have one daughter living in Phoenix.  Any area I visit where the soles of my shoes actually stick to the asphalt as I walk, does not build my enthusiasm for returning anytime soon.  A lovely pool decorates their back yard but when the heat drops down during the summer the water becomes too hot to swim in, so in the end it is more of a decorative addition than a functional one.

Unusual for California, we have the added pleasure of humidity with this push of extreme temperatures.  Gathering the newspaper this morning I noticed steam floating off the top of our storage shed and the atmosphere felt more like a summer morning in New Orleans than an hour north of Sacramento.  Our temperatures, like so many other aspects of our world, are shifting and changing not necessarily for the better.

Speaking of not for the better, it seems Paula Deen has stepped in it in a big way.  I can’t help but wonder if there aren’t more pressing issues on our plates so to speak, not to diminish in the least the power of the word she purportedly uttered. Perhaps there are few of us watching this story unfold who haven’t said something unfortunate in the heat of anger during their lifetimes or have moments of regret for something done or said twenty or thirty years ago.  I do wish, however, whoever manages her appearances would at least give her some constructive tutoring before she goes on air.  I keep wanting to say “sssshhh”, every time she opens her mouth.  Truthfully, “I is what I is”, was probably not the optimum response in light of the delicate subject matter swirling around her.

On a lighter subject, I ran an ad yesterday for a “free dishwasher”. We replaced the one installed in the house when we moved in.  The existing dishwasher worked fine, but it had some serious years on it and displayed a well-loved exterior.  Last week I called several agencies known to pick up used appliances in working condition leaving numerous messages with no response. I thought I’d give Craig’s List free section a shot and see what happens.  Whoa!  My phone lit up like the White House Christmas tree.  Even after I went in and deleted the ad I could hear my phone tinkling away in the other room.  At one point my message box was full and the calls kept coming.  Ach.  Well, at least it will be removed from our garage later on today.

Getting used to our new area is a bit of an adventure.  For the first time in many years I not living within arm’s reach of a Walmart.  Ach. Even in the smallest towns I lived in the southern states with only a bait shop, an A & W, and a Piggly Wiggly the Walmart sign could be seen from the highway.  Apparently the town fathers in this area do not want large box stores cluttering up the natural beauty so every time Home Depot or other large stores try to make a move they put roadblocks in their way.  This, I will have to adjust to.  Where or where will I buy my super plush TP?

There is a Target about 18 mins. away and we have fairly close access to all the suburbs of Sacramento have to offer.  I prefer to be a bit out of the fray so this will work for me.  Also, businesses hereabouts seem to support foodies in the area. I have located at least 7 major food stores, all with fabulous meat and seafood sections and huge produce departments.  Yea for me.  I haven’t quite settled into my kitchen as yet, so bear with me until I get moving on full steam as I’m getting used to both a gas stove, well propane actually, and a somewhat smaller area to work in.  It will all come together down the road as I acclimate myself.

It took us up until a few days ago to get our Internet functioning.  According to the tech who visited on three occasions our computer is old.  He went on to explain slowly as though I didn’t have a full grasp of the English language any equipment older than six months could really be considered obsolete and in need of replacing.  This being the case, I don’t have much time to finish this blog. It may just be me, but my budget isn’t going to be happy to get this news, nor can I replace my computer every six months because it isn’t the newest and shiniest on the market.  At any rate we got the old girl moving, but most likely not for long so we’re off to spend some Yankee dollars on a new one later in the day.  I’m sure before we load it in the trunk and start the engine it will be listed as obsolete somewhere.  This guy was totally flabbergasted we didn’t own a “smart phone”.  If I was a rare bug, he would have pinned me to a board.  It’s not that I don’t admire them, but I find I already feel more connected than I want to so why expand my connectivity until even going to ladies room requires either a text or a quick email?

As to social media, I found it interesting that the high school girl who posted her picture on Facebook in a bikini was suing because a teacher used the picture as an example of what not to do when using these sights.  I’m all for social media, don’t misunderstand me, but if you choose to post a picture of yourself in a clown suit, you really can’t be surprised if Barnum and Bailey gives you a shout out.

At any rate, my news and views for today.  Keep cool.  This salad was the perfect solution to a hot night and keeping the kitchen cool. It was light and crunchy and delish.

Crispy Shrimp Salad with Lime Vinegarette

Two heads of Bibb lettuce, halved
1 container of grape tomatoes, halved
1 large avocado, peeled, seeded, and cubed
1/3 cup red onion, sliced thin and quartered
1/2 cup English cucumber, peeled, sliced thin and halved
1/4 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1 lb. salad shrimp, rinsed
1 Tbsp. parsley flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Toss together all ingredients except lettuce. Add dressing as desired and mix well. Serve on a bed of lettuce. Serves 4

Lime Vinaigrette

1/2 cup olive oil
4 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. lemon pepper
4 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice

Whisk together all ingredients and chill until ready to use.

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There are tells early on in a day if it’s going to be an odd one. You forget to put the pot in the coffee maker before you turn it on, your other half actually remembers to close the lid to the toilet before you decide to sit on it.  Those kind of tellsl. Fridays of late seem to be that day for me. It’s gotten so bad even my mortgage broker issues “Friday Updates” on the progress of my loan, a courtesy he informed me reserved only for myself. Whether by chance or by unconscious intention my appointments, errands, commitments suddenly seem to be piled under Friday on my calendar, making it a busy, busy day for me. Even when I’ve purposely made appointments for the other four days in the week I have to chose from, circumstance seems to redirect them to Friday without my being able to stop it.

Yesterday, being Friday, defined my point exactly. The day started off with a bang and continued popping until my blond head hit the pillow around 9:00. Really it began the day before. Boo the Queen of Cats had an appointment  Thursday at the pet clinic for her annual tune up and necessary vaccinations. As you might imagine, this is not a trip the cat either enjoys nor does she participate in without encouragement falling just short of the use of brute force. A smart feline, after her first encounter with the cat carrier rendered her both unconscious and barren, when she sees it now her disappearing act makes David Copperfield look like a rank amateur. The first few times this happened I found myself lying on the carpet offering treats and speaking in purring tones, while the cat sat in the corner out of reach under the bed looking at me as if I’d finally blown my last brain cell. Tiring of the game, and losing it, I learned to hide the offending cat carrier in the bathroom and sneak up on it with her when she wasn’t looking. Initially this worked quite well, but as I mentioned earlier, the cat is smart. Once she realized what the new rules were she initiated a plan to offset them. On facing the open end of the carrier she simply braced herself on the sides of the carrier or turned herself inside out, refusing to be shoved in. It’s amazing how strong a ten pound cat can become when they don’t want to do something. As I outweigh the animal by a hundred and ten pounds, it would seem I had the advantage, but if you were a fly on the wall during this dance, I would bet the big money would be on Miss Boo.

Once we actually get her in the carrier and the door shut, she goes to Plan 2, which would be moaning. It begins as moaning really, then amplifies to yowling once in the car. I must admit she is tenacious about this. On arriving at the vet’s, however, miraculously she becomes a perfect angel. Comments after our appointments always lean toward what a sweet kitty she is and how they want us to come back soon. Right. I’m watching you little cat, and I am on to you. On inspection this time they discovered she had a mild case of conjunctivitis, or pink eye. To be honest I didn’t know cats got pink eye, but then that’s why I’m not making the big bucks putting on elbow high gloves and retrieving calves from bovines, or cropping boxers ears. Ointment, I was told, was the preffered treatment. One half an inch in each eye twice a day.

So, first thing Friday morning we began the treatment. First, I wrapped Boo tightly in a bath towel. My other half placed the called for 1/2″ of goo on his finger (in case you’re trying this at home). Approaching her from the back Boo sensed movement and by the time we were through wrestling, her face, ears, whiskers, and nose were well dosed, as well as my hand, but as far as we could see not one ounce of goo was deposited in either eye. Boo 1, humans 0. I called the vet and asked if there was an alternative treatment, say gas. Getting a negative response, the receptionist suggested I bring Boo in and they’d show me how to administer the meds or to try scruffing her. Really? I was upset, but I didn’t think I was ready to scruff her yet. Turned out scruffing meant to grab her by the nape of the neck like a mother cat would. It apparently calms the animal and allows you to control them.  That would be a pleasant change.  A printout was available in their office I was told showing the proper procedure for doing this. I was welcome to pick it up any time.  Silently I prayed Boo had read it, because I felt this wasn’t going to go well.

Now late for my appointment, I ran a brush through my hair, grabbed my keys and purse, threw on glasses and headed out with moaning Boo to the garage. I deposited the cat carrier in the passenger seat and went around to the driver’s side. Opening the back door I tossed in my purse, hopped in after it and closed the door. It took a moment to realize I was the only one in the car with a valid driver’s license (since Boo had that unfortunate incident after getting behind the wheel after too much catnip), and, although I’ve been accused of being a back seat driver from time to time, I’ve never really tried it actually sitting in the back seat. Isn’t it funny when you do something that incredibly stupid, you always look around to make sure nobody saw you do it. Like when you trip on the street, you always turn around and look back as if to say there must have been something on the sidewalk causing you to do this, rather than your own natural clumsiness. Fortunately only Boo noticed, and she wasn’t talking, but I had a feeling she was thinking something though I didn’t have any proof.

Situated where driving is the easiest, the driver’s seat, I poked the key at the lock and discovered I’d picked up the wrong keys. Now, I was getting late. Running back into the house to retrieve the right keys, I found them missing from our key drop. Crap. I ran back out to the garage and transferred the moaning Boo to the other car, threw my purse in the back and stopping myself before I climbed in, shut the door and sat in the driver’s seat. Yea for me.

Down the hill we went Boo yowling along to a possibly prophetic Taylor Swift’s “We are never ever getting back together”.  After all the appointments were behind us, I decided to make a quick stop at the store for a few items before heading home. Leaving the windows cracked for Miss Cat, I hurried into the store not wanting to leave her too long in the car. As usual my list had 7 items on it but my grocery cart, having a mind of its own, added another 8 or 9 for good measure. While searching for a couple of artichokes I pushed my cart along the vegetable aisles. A woman I did not know tapped me on the shoulder and asked what I was doing. Why she felt what I was doing was in any way her business I had no idea, until she pointed out that I was in fact pushing her cart and not my own, which also had her purse sitting in it, and not my own. My cart was still sitting where I’d left it by the artichokes, thankfully with my purse still in it. At least I hadn’t stolen her child as well.  I’ve done that once already.  By accident naturally, although in hindsight he was better behaved then mine was being at the time so perhaps I should have kept him.

At this point, I bought some tonic, and a lime. Once home, Boo released and screaming down the stairs to all who would listen about what a terrible person I was, I poured my first vodka tonic of spring, and sat outside to enjoy the afternoon. Fridays, go figure.

This salad was just right for a warm spring evening.  Lots of crunch and a nice mix of flavors.  I whipped up some deviled eggs, added some sliced tomatoes and a few spears of asparagus and it was delicious.

Crunchy Shrimp Salad with Tangy Cocktail Sauce

Crunchy Shrimp and Cucumber Salad

1 lb. salad shrimp
1/4 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
1 cup English cucumber, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup yellow or orange bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped fine (optional)
1/3 cup Seasoned Rice Vinegar
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp. Lawry’s garlic salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
Leafy green lettuce

Mix shrimp, celery, onion, cucumber, bell pepper together in large mixing bowl. In small bowl mix together rice vinegar, lemon, garlic salt, and black pepper. Sprinkle shrimp and vegetable mixture and toss with dressing. Salt and pepper as desired. Refrigerate until ready to use. Serve on bed of lettuce with suggested garnishes if desired.

Tangy Cocktail Sauce

1 1/2 cups catsup
2 Tbsp. horseradish, or less if you prefer it less hot
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp. sweet pickle relish

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate for 1 hour.

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Photo by Susie Nelson

Our thirteen year old granddaughter spent the night with us last night.  Normally, if we had a kidlet in the house I would assign them our spare bedroom, but since everything is in a state of flux sleeping downstairs isn’t an option, unless I wrapped her in newspaper and tucked her in a U-Haul box.  My other half is a creature of the night making her sleeping on our couch, however comfortable, an unlikely option.  For lack of other avenues, I handed Rick a pillow and blanket and the kidlet bunked in with me. As little people, my two always slept in their own beds.  At the time, the “family bed” did not come into play unless it was the only bed you could afford, and children for the most part slept in the room designated for them. If ill or frightened, however, one or the other would show up, teddy bear or blankie in tow and climb into bed with us.  In most cases that was the beginning of their good nights sleep and the end of mine, last night was no exception. Children, or so it would seem, are incapable of being still when they sleep any more than when awake.  Between the mumbling, thrashing, all out combat for a piece of the covers, and feet twitching, I believe I managed to log at least 20 minutes of restful shuteye before the alarm went off.

As she had school today, apparently it was necessary to begin preparing for the event two hours prior to leaving the house.  My other half having gone to bed just before 3 a.m. woke to find the noise level in house hovering just below jet take off.  Blow dryers, showers, coffee pot, and lights made sleeping about as likely as picking Saturday nights lottery numbers.  Pouring a cup of coffee he wandered the house muttering something under his breath about the eradication of the female gender, and repeating “we should never have given them the vote”.

I have to say, the girl comes with more electrical equipment than the space shuttle.  In one bathroom a crimper and blow dryer were plugged in, and, a curling iron was blinking in the other.  Pink lace tights, which I was ready to veto if going for a solo flight, were covered by a pair of jeans displaying a series of shredded holes traveling in intervals up and down both legs, allowing the pink lace tights to peek through the gaps.  I was informed these jeans were more expensive than those without holes and very popular with the kids. Who knew?

My other half was fascinated in even such a young version of a woman so much face time in the mirror was required, particularly for a day at middle school.  When going to an office every day I spent a good deal more effort getting ready to leave the house than is required now. Forty minutes at the outside for me to shower, wash my face, brush my teeth, apply a little war paint, and brush my hair. I simply do not have two hours to devote to making myself totally irresistible every morning.  The world, will simply have to manage with the visage of Susie Nelson in her natural state of being.

Things certainly have changed since I was in high school or middle school.  To date myself, girls back in the day couldn’t wear pants to school, much less low riding shorts and midriff bearing tops.  Boys wouldn’t have been allowed on campus with their underwear more on the outside than on the inside, and a backwards ball cap on their head.  As I pulled into the school parking lot I was surrounded by a sea of color when it came to hair, everything from neon green to competition orange, some having a sort of rainbow snow cone effect.  It’s funny kids over the years have chosen different ways to express themselves for their generation.  They’ve swung as far to one side at this juncture as they can without showing up at school actually in their underwear, so I can’t help but wonder where they’ll go from here.  Another thing I find interesting are ear plugs. Holes are stretched in their ear lobes by inserting increasingly large plugs. This is certainly not an original behavior.  Many African tribes stretch body parts with rings or jewelry.  In Brazil the Suya tribe stretches their ears to hear the spirits better. Tattoos, also very popular these days, date back some 5,000 years.

Getting a head start – Smile

I suppose looking back, I wore hot pants and mini skirts when popular, and even owned a set of love beads. Each generation has demonstrated some form of rebellion from their less age challenged members.  Perhaps it is a right of passage from childhood into adulthood where you will be handed many rules and standards of living to keep you in line.  A last grasp at freedom before life expects you to own up and pay the bill.

It will be interesting, if I have the privilege, to see what’s coming next.  I must admit at times I have a hard time picturing the president of the United States twenty some years from now being sworn in wearing a hoodie, lime green highlights, and a pair of pants with the crotch residing just above the knee cap, whose speech is “OMG, this is fly, gotta bounce cause I’m chillin’ with my homeboys”.

Blackened Tilapia with Tomato and Caper Salsa

4 tilapia filets
3 Tbsp. hot paprika
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1/2 black pepper
1/2 tsp. lemon pepper
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2 Tbsp. grapeseed or olive oil
1 lemon, halved

Combine ingredients 2-9 in small bowl (spices). Wash filets and pat dry with paper towel. Press rub into both sides of filets and refrigerate for 1 hr. Allow to rest for 15 mins. at room temperature before cooking.

Heat oil over med-high heat. When oil is begins to smoke, add the filets and cook 2-3 mins. per side. Squeeze 1/2 lemon over top and plate. Quarter other 1/2 lemon and serve on plates. Serves 4

Tomato and Caper Salsa

1 cup chopped Roma tomatoes

1/4 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped fine
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. capers, drained
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 1/2 Tbsp. EV olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Mix together all ingredients and chill for at least 1 hr. before serving with fish.

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Photo by Susie Nelson

I enjoyed Susie’s ridiculous version of a normal day yesterday once again.  Having a doctor’s appointment at 1:15 I got organized early. On scheduling the appointment originally, the receptionist indicated I would need to arrive a half an hour early to fill out paperwork.  Ach.  Armed with my novel and I.D., I arrived and signed in at the appointed time.

After sitting there for twenty minutes, it occurred to me that I hadn’t been handed any paperwork to fill out.  As interesting as my book was, reading another chapter would not get me any closer to getting out of there before bedtime.  Approaching the front window I found myself behind a very expectant mother who looked like she had about one minute to countdown.  Not eavesdropping but close enough to hear, I was privy to her exchange with the receptionist indicating that there was more than one mouse in the cupboard, if you get my drift.  Not surprised at all, as she needed a back brace to hold up what was blocking her view of her sandals.  My feet were swelling just looking at her.

My turn at the window, I inquired about the paperwork to find that I was already in their system.  She further explained that actually I shouldn’t have been asked to get there early, but early I was, so I returned to my seat and picked up my book where I left off.  An hour later, now numb from the waist down from shifting in the hard chair, and nearly comatose from boredom my name was called.  A lovely nurse with a pleasant smile apologized for the wait and explained that the doctor had just left to perform an emergency surgery and I would need to reschedule my appointment.  Another day in the life of.

On a brighter side, did you see the “super moon”?  What  a sight.  Sometimes the world as it is, without Photoshop enhancement or special lenses, offers up beauty that simply cannot be captured by the most gifted camera buffs although many produced amazing shots around the globe.

With the Mayan Calendar ending in 2012, I think a lot of citizens are getting a little squirrely as the year moves forward. News casts filled with strange weather occurrences and constantly reportable happenings of a bizarre nature. Everywhere I go on my trips around town someone adds to the list of odd weather forecasts and unusual undercurrents circling in our atmosphere lately.  Headlines state that 1 in 7 people worldwide believe that we are on the precipice of the end of the world. If true, an incredible statement standing alone.

While purchasing cat litter and cat food the other day, the lovely lady pushing mice, gerbils and rabbit pellets tossed another thought in the pot, that, God bless her, hadn’t yet entered my mind. Along with the other disturbing happenings globally she mentioned the passing of Dick Clark has a lot of people on edge.  Not that he was a young man, nor certainly not one without health issues, more that this, of all years, he left us to celebrate the upcoming New Year’s Eve without his familiar face standing in Time Square. Okay I’m mentioning this because I’m not going to be studying the ceiling by myself late into the evening.  I need company, and lots of it.

My mother tends to grab these items and go berserk. I’m surprised we didn’t have a bomb shelter when that was swelling in popularity back in the day. Dwelling on what was, could be, or even at times, is, can make you crazy.  Better to compartmentalize life like a family size pizza.  If you try to eat the whole pie at once it will definitely result in a stomach ache. If you break it off a slice at a time and concentrate on a single piece, it will be easier to digest and more enjoyable.  You’re probably staring at your screen at this point and thinking “what the hell is she talking about”.  Can’t say that I blame you, and on top of that you’re probably pushing the “Papa Murphy’s” number you have on speed dial.  Basically I’m trying to say that sitting around worrying about something happening, or feeling guilty about what has really gets in the way of living in the moment you are in.  I’ll have pepperoni, mushrooms, sausage and extra cheese please and I have a coupon.

Today I have to concentrate heavily on finding a spot to relocate, so will put thoughts of half of Japan’s coastline floating in our direction, global warming, wars heating up here and cooling down there, and put my energy into facing another life change with an open mind and staying on the positive side of my world.

Our fans are already circulating as spring is pushing into summer quickly and we’ll be dipping into the 90 degree bin today.  For me spring and fall are the perfect seasons and although I love being in the water when the temperatures start to accelerate, not so much heating up without it.

Last night I was looking for something cool and refreshing and came up with this.  My granddaughter asked me often during her time with us why I fussed so much about the “look” of my plates as well as the taste of the food served on them.  For me there is an art to food that when it is presented beautifully actually enhances the pleasure of the food itself.

At any rate, give this a try and let me know what you think.  The dressing is to die for. We love shrimp so this worked for the two of us.

“I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I have just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.” Diane Ackerman

Shrimp Louie

1 lb. cooked shrimp
2 hearts of romaine, chopped
6 small tomatoes, halved
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 lemons halved
2 hard-boiled eggs
8 spears of cooked asparagus

Arrange your ingredients artfully on a bed of lettuce divided between two plates. Serve with Louie Dressing.

Louie Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. ketchup
2 1/2 Tbsp. chili sauce
2 1/2 Tbsp. sweet pickle relish
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Light squeeze of half a lemon

Mix well and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Night before last I handed an apron to our granddaughter, pointed her towards the stove, armed her with utensils and a pan, and gave her her first official cooking lesson.  This in answer to her request to be taught. It came as a bit of a surprise to me I must admit. Up until this week the only interest I had observed from her with regards to cooking was watching me from time to time in the kitchen, and an avid interest in consuming what appeared on her plate around dinner time. However, this was the first time she’d asked to participate in how the food actually came to arrive in such a place.

Coincidentally, this would come to tie in with conversations we’ve had lately on an entirely unrelated subject or so one would think, her education. Up until the past several weeks she indicated upon graduating her intentions were to dive directly into her chosen profession, working at the drive-up window at Taco Bell.  More recently, however, she seems to be leaning more toward hair stylist or esthetician. Personally, I have no issues as to what a person does, as long as they pursue doing something.  Ideally it could be hoped that on some level it makes them happy (it is work after all), doesn’t require posting of bail, and provides a fairly decent living that has no cardboard sign involved. A bright and lovely girl, I’m sure her direction will become less muddied with a few more years under her belt.  At fourteen I wanted to be a nurse, a psychic or an archaeologist and look at me now.  Smile.

A bonus occurred while in pursuit of knowledge about cooking, in that it inadvertently slopped over (sorry) into other facets of her education. The fact has concerned me that hovering on the precipice of high school next year parts of her education seem to be incomplete for approaching this level, and even more shocking, she is not the only one.  Is it just me or is our educational system falling down like a drunken sailor in an alley? They seem to have no need to tell time in the conventional sense, as every device provides it digitally.  Also, they seem to view math as a completely unnecessary skill unless aspiring to be a CPA or mathematician, a point of view to which I’ve interjected some thoughts from an opposing side of the coin as often as possible without shifting into lecture mode.

Lecturing is a waste of air. Often when talking to kids her age, or any age really, you become aware that your words are just dancing about without an audience in an empty hall without much notice as to how the sentences are being put together or the meaning thereof. From what I understand from teachers, upon repeating your thoughts for emphasis, teens will store them in the snore drawer, most probably never to be retrieved again. I see this phenomenon daily.  In my mind, an object lesson can be a far more meaningful than a lecture and produce more beneficial results.

Even after stressing that taco emporium employees require math skills to make change and better serve their customers, I still didn’t get much enthusiasm.  Cooking, the great leveler, actually made my point for me.

I gave her the task of selecting the menu, writing the list of needed ingredients, choosing which tools to work with and who would be invited to “Dinner with Lizzie – Part Un” (her best friend and younger brother).  Tacos were to be the main attraction with sides consisting of rice and frijoles prepared by her excellent assistant sous chef, Susie.

In my humble estimation, to entice a teenager (other than money, of course, which always commands their immediate attention) you must present a project that incorporates their interests (in this case Mexican fast food), is an easy concept to grasp (reducing the boredom quotient), and brings the most results with the least amount of effort.  Tacos, verdad?

Before she came home from school I laid out a working surface.  To expedite the proceedings I purchased 2 pounds of ground meat and got 2 prepared packages of taco seasoning mix to get her started and make it fun.  On a cutting board I put the tomatoes, lettuce, onions, and avocados to be chopped.  Tortillas were laid out to be warmed or quick fried and the sides were in the warmer.  Santa Maria, life was muy bueno.  I thawed salsa and put it in the fridge and filled small containers with sour cream topped with chives.

Her young guests arrived to mark the momentous occasion, and sat on a bar stool while our debuting gourmand got busy getting dinner on the table.  In my mentor role, I suggested reading the directions on the taco seasoning packages and preparing the necessary additions while the meat was browning.  Pretty basic, it was taco seasoning and 2/3 cup water per package. At the time I did not perceive this to be a stumbling block. It did present itself surprisingly as a perplexing problem to said nouveau chef.  Math reared its ugly head and there was no one in the room to slay the beast except grandmum, and she was mum.

Quickly it became clear that in order to make the best tacos on the universe, which was the stated goal, she would need to crack the code and the code could only be worked with math.  Was life as we knew it over?  Could tacos, as with so many other things, lie in the obsolete file gathering cobwebs along with libraries, newspapers, land lines, and Blockbuster.  OMG.

I handed her a 1/3 measuring cup and a 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup.  As she measured out each 1/3 increment, I had her place it in the Pyrex cup until she had the called out for 1 1/3 cups. For a moment I saw a light go on in the interest zone.  Afterwards I pointed out that even if hair styling was to be her chosen profession, when measuring hair color and product you needed to know what you were doing or someone wishing to be blonde, could leave the salon a lovely shade of lilac.

Truly, it was a lesson for me.  Where are the teachers and the guidelines for moving kids through our educational system?  Two girls going into high school that cannot figure out what 2/3 and 2/3 equals?  That’s just scary.  However, the tacos were amazing, so it was fun and hopefully a bit educational for both of us.

My other half and I are on our own tonight so we’re doing “euuuwee night”.  I’m cooking scallops which he can’t stand and he’s manning the flame under the calf’s liver which I consider put the revolt in revolting.  Always fun.

Sauteed Lime Butter Scallops

1 Tbsp. EV olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
12 sea scallops, cleaned, muscle removed and patted dry
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 tsp. white pepper
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons Lime Ginger Butter (recipe follows), chilled
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

For the Lime Ginger Butter

4 Tbsp. butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. grated lime zest
1/2 tsp. freshly ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Lime wedges

For lime butter, mix all ingredients in small bowl. Refrigerate 2 hrs. prior to use.

Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over high heat. Add garlic and cook until just fragrant. Add the scallops, sprinkle with white pepper and stir until lite golden brown (about 2 mins. – do not overcook).

Add lime juice to skillet and cook 1 min. Reduce heat and stir in the Lime Ginger butter 1 Tbsp. at a time. Cook just until a sauce forms. Sprinkle with cilantro.

We had watermelon for dessert!

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Every once in a while I strike a serious pose.  While living in Arkansas my ex and I took a day trip to Hope.  This story grew from a moment where I found myself parked on a sparsely populated country road in that city across from a piece of overgrown property. From my vantage point it appeared the property housed a trailer in such ramshackle condition I was amazed to note it was inhabited, the carcass of an old pick up truck, and a rusted out toilet with no seat.  A very pregnant young girl, looking barely old enough to understand how she came to find herself that way, was gathering tomatoes from the garden and placing them in the pocket she’d created in the bottom of her shirt.  It was unbearably hot and she looked so miserable I made up a story about her while waiting for my husband.

OPE, Arkansas

Even in the early morning hours the heat was relentless.  The old swamp cooler labored loudly in the front room waging a valiant if futile fight against a far stronger opponent.  Maggie sat Indian style on the kitchen tile wishing for redemption for whatever evils she had inflicted on the world to find herself baking in this double wide oven, floating in a pool of her own making.

Groaning, she laid back on the cool tile to let what little air there was to be had circulate over her swollen body. A yellowed strip of fly paper swirled overhead turning right, then left, and back again. Both sides of the strip were dotted with the small corpses of its unsuspecting victims. Those who had escaped a sticky end, circled like a minute dog fight over the dirty dishes piled in the sink. They’d better eat their fill today, she thought, because the empty syrup bottle was sitting in the recycle bin next to their last box of biscuit mix.  If Drew’s job interview didn’t pan out today, they might well be fighting the flies for a left over morsel.

A small kick beneath her ribcage reminded her to take her vitamins.  Grunting, she heaved herself to her feet and reached for the oversized pill bottle on the counter. “Could they make these pills any bigger?”, she said disgustedly, popping two in her mouth while filling the only clean glass with water to wash them down.  More for something to do than a sense of order, she turned her attention to rinsing the dishes. Drying them she cast a wistful glance at the old TV set in the living room. Last week they’d turned the cable off.   Calling to ask for an extension, the chirpy female voice on the other end of the phone said, “Y’all haven’t made a payment in three months, Sugar.  Send in a payment and we’ll get you turned back on in 24 hours.”  Before hanging up the woman had told her to “have a nice day”. Why do folks say that kinda stupid stuff anyway, she thought? They don’t mean it.  Besides if you haven’t paid your bill in three months, likely you’re not having a nice day, not having a nice day at all.  Maggie wished they’d just say, “Hope that lottery ticket you blew your last dollar on hits all the numbers, or Publisher’s Clearinghouse knocks on your door with a film crew wavin a big assed check in your face”. Anything would be better than “have a nice day”.  Right backatcha.

Another kick, this one much stronger brought her hand up lovingly to pat her swollen stomach.  “Three more weeks, old son, and you won’t be able to kick your Mama anymore, at least not without getting a swat on your behind”.  The thought made her smile, the first one her face had managed to produce since she’d rolled herself out of bed.

Taking an absent swat at the small brigade of insects now forming by the kitchen window; she pulled back the curtains to glance down the road.  Nothing there but the same ol’ clay colored dirt. Down a ways she could see the neighbors lazy assed blue tick hound lying in his usual spot beneath the Eucalyptus tree. The only thing to indicate he was breathing was an occasional flick of his tail to discourage an annoying fly.  Useless dog couldn’t catch a coon if it was handed to him in a bag with a twist tie on it, she though testily.

Beyond the bridge a puff of smoke was visible above the familiar faded green roof of Jeb Miller’s old tractor affectionately referred to as Norma Jean, for reasons known only to Jeb. Beyond that, the water tower stood above the treetops with only the letters “OPE” of visible from her angle.  OPE, standing for Hope, Arkansas, population, 11,150.  Soon to be 11,151 she thought, absent mindedly resting her hand on her stomach once again.

Hope was something her Mama always held close to her heart.  “Maggie Lynn”, Mama would say often, “you can’t fill yer cup with enough hope, it’s free, and cain’t nobody take it away from you, exceptin yourself”.

This brought her thoughts to her daddy.  Maggie had last seen him when she was eight. His lanky, perpetually drooped frame walking through the screen door to fetch a pack of his beloved Camel unfiltered at the corner store. Memories fading now, she did clearly remember his favorite expression,  “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”.  Most probably because it was repeated so frequently during an afternoon of drinking, which for him was most any day of the week ending in “y”.  Thirty-four that year, and the sixth baby occupying the well-used bassinet in her parent’s bedroom, the man got tough, got going, and never looked back. Word around town was he’d been spotted at a Motel 6 in Hot Springs the following summer with Mavene, a clerk from the Piggly Wiggly who had suspiciously disappeared around the same time.  Good luck to Mavene, already showing a swell in the stomach region. If her daddy was good at anything, it seemed it was that.  Mama, well she had hope, and God knows it was free, and there was plenty of it.

Maggie wished she could see her Mama now.  Wished she could smell the vanilla scented hand lotion she rubbed into her chapped dry hands every day.  Once a month she and Drew visited the head stone at the cemetery where they’d laid her to rest two years ago, twenty odd years too soon. Micah, or Joshua, they hadn’t decided on a name yet, would never know his grandma, the brown eyed lady with her eternal optimism and easy smile.  A woman who no matter how tired always found the time to stop and give the attention to whichever of her offspring needed it most at the moment.  Mama who bought a new pair of shoes maybe once in five years and worked at the mill and the coffee shop to keep food on the table often falling asleep at it with food still on her plate. Not once, not even once, had Maggie heard her mother complain.  Christina Anna Bennett,  1948 – 1996. Beloved Mother of Six.

Looking at her feet Maggie thought they looked curiously like inflated plastic gloves. Her once delicate toes were hardly recognizable beneath their puffy exterior.

One o’clock.   It had been three hours since she’d handed Drew a freshly pressed shirt and a manila folder with his resume inside.  They had agreed if he got the job he would hang his red handkerchief out the window of the old Ford truck.   What he lacked in background, Maggie hoped he’d make up for in enthusiasm. Bassett hound puppies lacked less in the enthusiasm department than her husband did.  Two years her senior at twenty-four, it often felt more to her like he was six years her junior.   Until he’d seen his son on the ultrasound, he’d pretty much relied on his big blue eyes and engaging ways to get him out of trouble and get him what he wanted in the world.  It had certainly worked well on her.

Once again she tugged at the curtains, only to find the dusty road and the tower.  OPE, because OPE was free and there was plenty of it.

Slowly she made the bed, her bulky frame making it more difficult to bend and the heat encouraging her not to. Outside the bedroom window,  her tomato plants were heavy with fruit.  In sympathy feeling the same, she reluctantly put on a straw hat, slipped on her old flip-flops, and went outside to relieve their burden.  If things didn’t go well, tomato pie might be on the menu for dinner.  Mama’s three ingredient pie crust could be filled with about anything and taste like a feast. Growing up Maggie had learned the recipe at her mother’s knee and tomatoes, or whatever she might find in her garden and a little flour, butter, salt and water, and they would eat well tonight.

Picking the ripe tomatoes in the warm sun made her sleepy.  Another small nudge from her internal tenant and the sweat moving like a river beneath her clothes moved her back towards the house and whatever relief the swamp cooler might provide.

Standing at the sink she washed what she’d picked and left them in a sieve to dry.  Desperate for any sound besides her own thoughts she turned on the small turquoise radio on the coffee table.

Tired, Maggie lowered her body into a chair near the swamp cooler.  Before long, the day washed over her and she closed her eyes.  Dreaming of crystal blue seas and cool waters her sleep was interrupted by honking and the squealing of tires out front.  Through the faded rooster curtains she saw Dru waving his red handkerchief and behind him HOPE was now clearly visible on the water tower.  Christina Anna Bennett’s spirit was alive and well.

Shrimp and Vegetable Tempura

I used:  red bell peppers, broccoli, scallions, mushrooms,  and zucchini.  Also good red onion, yams, carrots, string beans etc.

Tempura Batter:

1 cup plain flour
1 cup rice flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk
1 cup ice water (this is a must – don’t use tepid water)
1/3 cup pale ale beer
Oil for deep frying (grapeseed or peanut oil is best)

Prepare vegetables and put in a large bowl. About 1 hour before cooking lay vegetables out on a clean kitchen towel and place another towel on top to dry
them out.

Rinse and devein shrimp. Keep chilled. Before cooking pat dry with a paper towel.

Place oil in a deep heavy pan. (I used a small wok). Do not fill more than 1/3 full with oil.

Sift together the dry ingredients in medium mixing bowl and set aside.

In another bowl, beat the egg slightly and mix with the ice water.

Stir in the dry ingredients. Stir only until mixed. Mixture will be slightly lumpy.

Heat oil until hot (375 degrees). Dip vegetables first in batter in batches allowing excess batter to drip off. Drop in oil. Fry ingredients a few at a time. You will want to cook in moderate size batches. Do not crowd or put too many in at a time. Cook about 3 mins. or until golden brown and vegetable is cooked.

Fry shrimp last also for about 3 mins. until golden brown. Do not overcook.

Line a cookie sheet with paper towels. Lift cooked items from oil with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to dry.

Serve immediately with sauce. I serve with a bed of white sticky rice on the side.

Tempura Sauce

1 cup light soy sauce
1/2 cup mirin (Japanese rice wine)
2 tsp. superfine sugar
2 tsp. finely grated fresh ginger
Tops of three scallions, sliced thin

Mix together all ingredients but scallions and refrigerate until ready to use. Add scallions before serving.

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I heard a discussion the other day on a talk show about parents who are actually having their offsprings school pictures altered to correct what they perceive to be defects in their children’s looks.  Good God.  Are we truly becoming that obsessed with our physical appearance?  It must be really ego boosting to know that old mom had that mole you’re self-conscious about deleted from your right cheek, or your nose digitally altered.  How on earth would that make a child feel about themselves?

When I was fourteen I got hit full swing with a baseball bat while playing softball in the street.  Up until that day I had a perfectly straight nose but after the ER physician, who I believe slept through his bone setting course, got through with it it was slightly crooked.  My eyes, which are large and dominate my face, are two different colors, hazel and light blue. Often I am stopped in a store and asked about them.  I like that.  These are imperfections that I find make up the character of who I am. I didn’t opt to change them even when I got my first set of contact lenses, choosing untinted over tinted because what happens when you take them off?  What happens when your silicone slips, your fake eyelashes fall in your soup, your hair extensions get eaten by the cat, or you remove your underwear and that perfect little behind you’ve been showing off is sewn into the seat?  What happens?  Do you just yell, “surprise” and hope this guy has a wicked sense of humor? Also, if you don’t like who you are, how can you expect others to, and if they don’t like who you are, why would you want them in your life?

Joan Rivers, I believe I heard her say, has had over two hundred procedures.  Are you kidding me?  When she falls asleep her eyes probably don’t shut.  I’m still going with my original idea of inserting a drawstring under the skin around the face at birth and as you age you can just keep pulling up the skin like you would tighten a hoodie or pull in a corset back in the day.  I’m going to discuss this when I make my way upstairs, and I do not mean to the second floor.  That is, of course, if I actually make my way upstairs, somehow I’m afraid with my track record the elevator might get stalled before it reaches the penthouse. I’m just saying.

As a little girl if someone would comment on my cutitude, my mother would always reply “I wouldn’t have an ugly child”.  Go, Mom.  Can I assume from this statement that unattractive children should be drowned at birth or dropped off by the side of a road with a sign around their neck saying “will work for plastic surgery”?  Really? Who defines the words ugly or homely exactly?  Is there an elite group of people born to this world to delineate who the pretty people are from those who should have a bag dropped over their head as soon as the doctor cleans them up after delivery?

People that we view as different have a rough time in our beauty propelled world.  Let’s face it having Danny Devito leaning against a Ferrari wearing a Speedo isn’t going to boost sales of that fine automobile significantly.  Rail thin models stroll down runways in the world’s fashion meccas wearing heals that are wider then they are and the average woman is asked to emulate them or be found lacking.  What if you weren’t born with a terrific metabolism or choose not to live on four carrot sticks, an olive, two packs of cigarettes, and ten Starbuck’s grandes a day?  Chic nightclubs have bouncers stationed at their doors who select the lovliest people from the line to be allowed to enter their clubs and grace their dance floors. Pretty is in.

Perhaps this is where the bullying is coming from in our schools.  Kids who are not mainstream, perhaps shy or unsure of themselves, too thin, too fat, too short, too geeky, or too whatever to fit in.  I can remember in high school we had a kid who was tormented, truly.  Funny, I can still remember his name, although I won’t share it here, we’ll call him Walter.  He was a tall, gawky kid with pasty white skin and a falsetto voice .  In the school plays he was always chosen to sing the female leads, and performed them better for the most part then his female counterparts .

Although this was well received by the parents in the audience, not so much by the macho guys with letters on their jackets, or a good percentage of the male population of his class in general.  One day while my girl’s gym class was out sweating on the basketball courts, a naked Walter was shoved out the back door of the gym and the door pulled closed behind him.  In full view to us was the entire white visage of Walter, with the exception of his face which was the color of a vine ripened tomato.  To add insult to injury, if indeed possible, they hung his underwear from the flagpole in the quad, and made him walk around to the front door to get back in. Poor Walter.  To add to his miseries, he was brilliant, which in high school standards ranks about as high as a bad case of head lice.  As it turns out, he won a scholarship to an ivy league school and I would hope after much therapy went on to contribute greatly to our world, or be one mean son of a *#@D! In either case I’m sure he does not look back on his high school years as his finest hour.

Bullying makes me mad, any kind of meanness, just for meanness sake gets my Irish up.  As evident by what we’re hearing in the news lately it’s more serious than just hurt feelings.  My rant for the day.

“There is no gesture more devastating than the back turning away.”
Rachel Simmons, Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls

Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.  ~Kahlil Gibran

I made these for dinner last night and we loved them.  The remoulade recipe is from the restaurant.  Literally, I could eat it with a spoon.  I put it on green beans, eggs, whatever.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.  Smiles for today.

Zucchini and Tuna Cakes

2 6 1/2 oz. cans albacore tuna packed in water, drained
2 cups zucchini, shredded and squeezed dry
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 cup Italian blend shredded cheese
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup finely chopped scallions
1 1/2 cups Italian bread crumbs
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
Dash of cayenne pepper
4 Tbsp. olive oil for frying
Arugula, or spring greens with a squeeze of lemon for bed if desired

Rinse tuna and flake with fork. Finely grate zucchini and squeeze dry in an old tea towel (this will stain) or use multiple folds of paper towels. Put both in a large bowl and mix well with all remaining ingredients except oil. Form into somewhat flat, oval patties.

Heat oil in large saucepan over medium to high heat. Cook patties in batches until golden brown on both sides (about 3-4 mins. per side). Drain on paper towels. Serve over a bed of greens, if desired, with remoulade sauce. (Kids might like these better with Ranch Dressing, but my granddaughter went for the remoulade.)

Zesty Remoulade

1 medium stalk celery
1/2 large onion
1/3 green bell pepper
1/4 cup prepared horseradish
1 1/2 Tbsp. Tabasco sauce
3 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup ketchup
1 cup mayonnaise

Pleace the onion, celery and bell pepper in food processor and chop finely. Slightly wring in paper towels to strain. Whisk until well blended in a medium mixing bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

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I heard this morning they’ve found arsenic in certain brands of lipstick. Let’s see baby food, cereal bars, God knows what else. Why not just make arsenic a new food group?

Last week I had a doctor’s appointment. It seems that in order to get my prescription refilled, the same prescription I’ve taken every day for some time, I needed to be eye to eye with the doctor in order for his pen to work. As usual, I waited an hour and a half in the waiting room followed by a half an hour in the examining room. Once the door opened I spent exactly ten minutes of time with him, most of it while he was on the computer. Time, actually, that I would rather have spent doing something infinitely more pleasurable. Maybe I should bill him for my time? After a cursory look in my mouth, both ears and a couple of deep breaths he refilled my prescription. For $120.00 I felt lunch should be included. Feeling a bit peckish, I commented it seemed as if they schedule these unnecessary visits to be able to bill out more often. Unbelievably, he looked up from his keyboarding and said, “pretty much”. I can’t be sure but I think I noticed a paw print below the insignia on his college diploma. Even more surprising he informed me that he didn’t have health insurance because he couldn’t afford it. Really? If a doctor can’t afford medical insurance where are we headed?

Several months ago I wrote a blog about discovering my neck very swollen after eating a grape a couple of weeks ago – death by fruit. Suddenly looking like a blow fish, my other half freaked out and I ended up in my most dreaded of all locations, the ER. Unless suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, I will endeavor to avoid the emergency room waiting room at all costs. However, the thought of my throat closing up provoked enough fear in me to sign up at the front desk. Ushered in quickly, a doctor arrived in near record time. After a brief examination she determined that I had a stone in my salivary gland. Already on antibiotics for a sinus infection I was instructed to complete the dosage and hope this other thingy would cure itself.  Thingy being, according to the dictionary, “something unspecified whose name is either forgotten or not known”. At last a true healer. Yesterday, I received a bill for that thingy for $1,125.00. That, as I don’t have full coverage only hospitalization, will be my out-of-pocket cost. Good luck with that. I hope hell is due for a good freezing over pretty quick.

Also, I was told because I’d been given repeated doses of a particular antibiotic, I had developed tennis elbow which would require having my arm in a stretch brace for an unspecified. One might expect this if one played tennis, but since I haven’t owned a racket since the 1990’s it was a bit of a shock. In addition, I needed to purchase a probiotic, which in layman’s terms are bugs, that eat the bugs that eat the bugs, to reverse some of the havoc all the antibiotics have done to the good bacteria in my digestive system. Wouldn’t it be simpler just to order me a new body? Didn’t I see a codicil about that on page twenty-five of my insurance policy, under A) Full body replacement? If so, I would like to invoke A) 1. the larger chest option, while I’m at it. Thank you.

What a racket. Sorry, no pun intended. I’ve had so many organs removed to date that if it wasn’t for my skeletal structure remaining in place, I probably wouldn’t show up on an x-ray at all. My gall bladder was the last to exit in 1988. My physician referred to it as a relatively easy surgery. Hmmm. Reminded me of the male obstetrician who told me labor pains didn’t really hurt. I couldn’t help but wonder if he gleaned this knowledge from his last experience in the stirrups or just made it up as he went along. Observing the woman writhing in the bed next to me ripping her husband’s hair out one strand at a time, I had my reservations as to the veracity of his claims.

I checked in for my gall bladder surgery early in the morning. After getting settled a male nurse came in and asked me if I needed anything. I told him a diagram of the nearest exits would be helpful. Pulling my chart at the end of the bed he went through the series of pre-surgery questions, including known allergies. Listing my allergies, the main ones being penicillin and atropine, he went on his way. Shortly afterwards he returned with a buzz shot. I like those, they’re almost worth the surgery. As he inserted it into my upper arm he said “you’re not allergic to anything are you”? Funny, he looked so much like the same man who was standing at the end of my bed not ten minutes before. Repeating the list to him once again he yanked the needle out of my arm like it had backfired on him. Within seconds a huge hump appeared at the insertion point that if filled with water would have allowed me to last longer in the Sahara than your average dromedary. Got me to wondering if he was possibly in cahoots with the local funeral director and was paid according to the number of fresh bodies he delivered.

While exploring the mysteries of my innermost regions, the offending gall bladder was located and laid to rest. Unfortunately, while probing around with those sharp little tools they accidentally nicked a piece of bowel. The little nick extended my stay from three to eleven days and my bill from unreasonable to somewhere around the national debt. Fortunately, I had full coverage that time but the itemized bill provided by the insurance company blew my mind. One aspirin was $10.00. That seems fair considering you can purchase 100 of them in a handy plastic container at the pharmacy about $3.00. For those prices maybe they could afford to hire a cook in the kitchen whose specialty was something more exotic than jello and cool whip.  Another patient and I thought they should run a contest every night to see who could identify the meat lingering beneath the pasty sauce.  Winners could receive an extra shot of demerol.

Okay, my rant for the day. My blood pressure is rising and I can’t afford it.

This makes the most delicious, light fish. Luv it.  Serve it with malt vinegar and tartar sauce.

Beer Battered Fish and Chips

Fish

4 (6 oz.) fresh cod fillets
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
10 oz. beer (I like Miller’s)
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp. Hungarian paprika
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. crushed thyme
Canola oil for frying

Mix all ingredients but oil together in large bowl. Heat oil in deep heavy skillet to around 375 degrees. Dip fish in batter and allow excess to drip off. Fry fish until nicely golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towel. Salt if desired.

Chips

4 potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
salt
pepper
Lawry’s garlic salt

Peel and slice potatoes and place in large bowl. Cover with water and add ice. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Drain potatoes in colander. Dry well with clean dish towel. Heat oil in deep saucepan over med-high heat. Drop potatoes in in batches. Cook until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and Lawry’s garlic salt. Keep warm in oven, if necessary, until fish is done.

Simple Tarter Sauce

1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sweet pickle relish
2 tsp. lemon juice

Mix well and chill.

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