Posts Tagged ‘flying’

1Well, the wedding is behind us. Always filled with emotion, weddings have a way of going left when supposed to be going right and tears often flow like wine from the open bar.

On our way out we left our SUV in economy parking taking the tram to the airport. Rick complained that the one bag he asked me to limit myself to was giving him a hernia. Checking our thankfully underweight bag we headed toward the security area to get that behind us.  Going through security we showed our boarding passes and ID.  As instructed we placed any carry on items on the conveyor belt to be xrayed. Rick turned to me and said, “see you in a ten minutes”. By this he meant I would, as usual, be pulled to the side for carrying something I wasn’t supposed to on board the plane. This time I had thoroughly read what could and couldn’t go and thought I did very well, thank you. Unfortunately, the TSA agents were all wearing Rick’s jerseys and did not share the my sentiment. Sure enough I stood while they went through my carry on bag, “hmmmmming” here and “oh-ohing” there. Darn. Moments later all my items were sitting on the table with my $14.00 shampoo peeking out of the pile in the trash can next to the agent. Perhaps I look like a mad shampooer who when irritated yanks shampoo from my bag and in a screaming rage begins soaping up other passenger’s hair. Anyhow, that behind us we went to the gate to wait to be called to board.

Southwest asks that you go on-line to confirm your flight 24 hours prior to takeoff. Not 24 hours and 1 minute but exactly 24 hours. I know this because I tried it. At any rate, how quickly you type in your confirmation information determines where you stand in line for boarding the plane. Perched over the send button when the clock turned to exactly 24 hours prior I hit send. Yea for me. There was no way to do this any faster. Looking at our boarding passes we were B11. This sounded close to the front. At the gate they called up all those people having “A” numbers. Where did all these people come from? They must have some seriously fast trigger fingers on the mouse. Perhaps I’m missing something here?

Finally our numbers were asked to line up and we boarded the plane taking a seat towards the back of the plane. Rick is claustrophobic when flying so he has to be seated on the aisle. Apparently the logic of this is that he feels he can escape if seated there. Where he goes after he takes off running up the aisle is still open to question. I sat like the creme center of the Oreo in the middle seat waiting for someone to ask us to get up again to fill the seat by the window. In short order a lady I would guess to be in her late forties stuffed a huge bag in the overhead compartment and sat down.

There were two legs to our flight. Sacramento to Ontario, then Ontario to Phoenix. A total of 3 hours and 55 minutes as the crow flies. Actually if the crow was plotting this route he’d go directly to Phoenix but the only flight we could get had one stop.

Anticipating falling asleep, I retrieved my book from my carry on bag to help me on my way. There was plenty of room for it now my shampoo was relegated to the recycling bin. Sigh. The lady next to me introduced herself, and I in turn introduced myself and Rick. On her way to Palm Springs to pick up her daughter, I learned they lived on an island in Washington state. Actually, in the hour plus to Ontario I picked up such a massive volume of information about her life I felt I could effectively pen her autobiography without missing any of the pertinent facts. All kidding aside, she helped me pleasantly pass the time and I found her a lovely and interesting person. However, I have to say if she got paid for every word she uttered the woman would be a multi-millionaire several times over. Rick went to sleep, the coward, miraculously reviving when the drinks were being served. So excited was I to be handed a bag of pretzels with my beverage by the flight attendant. I haven’t had this experience in years on a plane. Not much later they passed by with peanuts as well and I nearly fell to my knees.

Both the landing in Ontario and Phoenix were memorable. In Phoenix we came down, bounced a few times, braked to such an extent that my spine relocated up through the back of my head most probably protruding from my skull. Passengers, I believe a little nervous with all the mishaps on airlines in the news were buzzing a bit as they left the plane. Rick and I and one other soul were the only ones left from the original flight going on the Phoenix. The flight attendants busied themselves wiping down chairs and policing the cabin. Catching one looking at me while holding up a cloth, I was hoping the airlines didn’t include dusting in the price of the steerage seats. Never have I flown in such tight quarters. Any less room and you would literally be standing up. If you bring the tray table down it makes it impossible to move.

As the passengers booked from Ontario to Phoenix came on board, the three seats behind us were occupied with a family including Mom, Dad and a chubby faced baby with a springy patch of hair on his head and rosy cheeks. Later I was to learn they were in the States visiting from Japan. The baby was secured to his mother facing forward in an apparatus not unlike a backpack. Maybe this should be called a frontpack? The woman, probably weighing in at under 100 pounds, looked exhausted. Their other son, a stocky nine-year old, took the window seat next to me.

It was hot in the cabin and noisy. Soon the baby, freed from his carrier began to gurgle and fuss. Rick just looked at me. What? I didn’t pick these seats. Once the plane began its assent the baby went into full voice. Oh Lordy. His brother seated to my left inserted his earphones (apparently this wasn’t his first rodeo) and began playing a video game. Thankfully the little one settled down once we’d reached our altitude and straightened out and was quiet for the remainder of the flight.

The boy removed his headsets once the beverage service started. We talked conversationally while he ate his pretzels. Little blue men, sheep, and other animals bounced up and down on the screen of his device. I asked if they were Smurfs. This produced a look as if to say, “What’s a Smurf?” and “boy are you out of date”. Ah yes, I suppose I am. I was informed somewhat impatiently of the characters correct name which I immediately forgot and wished I had some headphones to put on.

Phoenix airport is a madhouse. Sacramento looks nearly empty in comparison.

Nice to be back.

This lamb is just finger licking good. The only real work involved is shelling the pistachios but from there on it’s smooth sailing.

Fabulous Pistachio Encrusted Rack of Lamb

1 rack of lamb, Frenched
1 1/2 tsp. dried tarragon
1/2 Tbsp. Fines Herbes
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/3 cup pistachio nuts, chopped fine
1 Tbsp. plain bread crumbs
1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. butter, melted
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Mix together tarragon and fines herbes. Rub all over the meaty part of the rack. Salt and pepper both sides. Heat oil over high heat in large skillet. Brown lamb on both sides, about 4 mins. per side.

Remove from heat. Place lamb on prepared baking sheet. Slather fatty side of rack with mustard. Mix together remaining ingredients until they form fine crumbs. Rub on fatty part of lamb on top of mustard. Sprinkle with lightly with salt and pepper as desired.

Bake for 30-40 mins. depending on desired doneness.

Serves 2

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finalAs mentioned in my previous blog, last weekend we flew to Arizona to attend Rick’s daughter’s (I consider her one of mine as well). The accommodations were amazing. The hotel itself, oddly called the Valley Ho, was originally built in the 1950’s. Investors, obviously seeing potential there, painstakingly renovated the hotel holding firm to the original retro style. The attention to detail evident everywhere was mind-blowing. Seated outside poolside, Johnny’s Angel could be heard playing the background, or perhaps The Beach Boys cooing Little Surfer Girl.

Two pools as well as a hot tub decorated the beautifully landscaped grounds. The larger of the two pools mainly attracted the younger group also prevalent in the outside bar areas at night. Afternoons this pool was well populated Photo_RmSpa_04with well tanned abs. Umbrella bedecked drinks passed by on round trays and a band, playing mostly country rock, helped set the party like mood. Towards the back of the property was a large lap pool where families with children and the older crowd slathered on suntan lotion and reclined in the luxurious chairs provided for guests.

It’s been a long time since I’ve said something excellent about customer service, but if asked to grade this hotel I’d give them an A+. Whatever you needed seemed almost to appear in a Disneylike fashion at your fingertips.

Small touches in the rooms such as a silver tray of high-end liquors available at a price naturally, chrome racks with rolled fluffy towels in the bathroom, a spa robe for your use while there, and brightly colored walls with complimentary accents on the bed made staying there fun. A large private patio overlooking the pool was a great place to open up a book or enjoy a quick nap. Room service, if you wanted it, arrived quickly and the food was excellent and the coffee hot. Truly not one complaint from this guest, who would stay again in a hot minute.

On the day of our arrival we were instructed to meet downstairs at 3:00 for the wedding rehearsal. The weather, for Phoenix, was ideal. Hovering in the mid to high eighties with a slight breeze, it was desert living at it’s best. Phoenix at this time of year lures you to relocate. However, go there in a few months when the asphalt is so hot midday your shoes stick to the surface, and at least I will rethink any such thoughts and shelve them for another day.

At three we hopped on the elevator with other wedding party members and took it to the 8th floor. Doors opened onto a beautiful deck with a panoramic view of the city. The wedding, scheduled for 6:15 the following evening, promised to be Photo_Mtg_01spectacular. The minister, also the stepfather of the bride, put the wedding party through their paces. I sat with a glass of ice water enjoying the breeze against my skin and taking in the interesting rock formations all around me and the general hustle and bustle of the city traffic below us. Gorgeous.

Rehearsal over, we were told to meet once again in the lobby to carpool to the groom’s mother’s home for the rehearsal dinner. I have to say I was totally looking forward to the “dinner” part of this statement as nothing had passed my lips since breakfast and my stomach was starting to complain. The home where the event was held was incredible. A rambling ranch style home in Scottsdale, Arizona, reminiscent of homes you see displayed across glossy pages in magazines such as Sunset or House Beautiful. Each room was perfectly attired, walls lined with fabulous artwork, huge vases overflowing with unusual floral arrangements. Happily I would have settled in in the massive kitchen and made myself at home. Asking if there was anything I could help with, I was told the hostess was a little stressed because her housekeepers were off for the day. Hmmmmm. That must be stressful. Since they’re off perhaps they could head to my house. There’s work to be done.

Outside through French doors leading off the kitchen a massive covered patio made way for a huge expanse of well manicured lawn. To the left a fire pit flickered and off to the right a bartender stood behind a fully stocked bar waiting to fill your glass. Music coming from two incredibly small, but powerful, speakers helped to set the mood.

As the clock pushed forward and appetizers dwindled guests began politely inquiring about dinner. News came out the caterers had experienced plumbing problems and dinner was not, as originally thought, on it’s way to the table. Ach. I should have accepted that second prawn when asked. People gathered around the appetizer table as though the earth was on twenty-four hour alert and there was no more food to be had.

The hostess, now looking a bit the worse for wear, announced pizzas would be arriving in 30 minutes. There is a God. Crowds dispersed, weapons were holstered, and peace ruled the land once again.

In the end it was a glorious night. Unfortunately, I am one of those people who sends out signals to mosquitos in the area that the dining room is open and seating is available. Like a bear I kept rubbing up against whatever was handy trying to stop the infernal itching. By the next morning my skin looked like a relief map, but after a quick trip to the pharmacy calmed down a bit.

After lunch we grabbed ride from Uber to the Scottsdale Fashion Square. First time on Uber. Other than the driver getting lost coming to get us it was a good cheap way to get around town I have to say. The mall was impressive. OMG. I could have stayed there for hours, possibly days. I’m not a born shopper, but even I was enticed by the heady aromas of expensive soaps and perfumes and gorgeous window displays. Every elegant store yet created was represented. The trip, however, was to get Rick a shirt. The one we’d brought with us was cutting off his air. At Macy’s we located the right neck size but couldn’t pair it with the proper sleeve length. In the end we grabbed the one that allowed him to breathe and decided he’d hike up the sleeves the ceremony. If you’ve heard the expression, what a dog and pony show, please insert it here.

On to the wedding.

Yesterday Rick requested a homeland dish for him. Koshari is a traditional Egyptian dish. A bit of work but in the end proves to be an excellent meal with layers of flavors. This can be made ahead of time and pulled together at the last minute for serving. Yum.


1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Pita bread

For the rice

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup medium grain rice
2 cups vegetable broth

Heat olive oil in large skillet over med-high heat. Add rice and cook and stir until rice is a light golden brown (about 4-5 mins.) Add vegetable broth to skillet. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and cover. Cook for 15-20 mins. or until rice is cooked. Remove from heat. Let sit for 5 mins. Fluff with fork. Keep warm.

For the lentils

1 cup brown lentils
4 cups water
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced

Rinse and sort lentils. Place in medium saucepan and add remaining ingredients. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and partially cover. Cook for 25-30 mins. until lentils are tender. Drain. Keep warm.

For the macaroni

2 cups dry small elbow macaroni
1 Tbsp. butter

Cook the macaroni in boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain. Add butter and mix. Keep warm.

For the sauce

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 15 1/2 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
1 6 oz. can tomato sauce
2 tsp. Baharat spice blend (see recipe below)
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion. Cook 6 mins. or until onion is translucent. Add garlic. Cook until lightly browned.

Using food processor emulsion blender puree tomatoes with juice and 2 Tbsp. tomato paste. Add to skillet. Add tomato sauce, Baharat spices, red wine vinegar, and red pepper flakes. Bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook on simmer for 20 mins. Salt and pepper to taste.

Fried Onions

2 onions sliced thin
oil for frying

Heat oil in skillet over high heat. Add onions in batches and fry until crispy. Drain on paper towels.

Baharat Seasoning Blend

1 Tbsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 1/2 Tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
4 cardamon pods ground

Whisk together in small bowl. You will have seasoning left over. Keep for later use in sealed plastic bag.


Mix together rice, lentils and macaroni. Top with generous dollop of sauce, a sprinkling of chickpeas and the crunchy fried onions.

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As a kid I loved fly, actually looking forward to the hustle and bustle of the airport and soaring high above the clouds in the friendly skies. That was back when airlines spent time wooing potential customers with acceptable food choices, free drinks, blankets and pillows, and even pleasant flight attendants walking through the aisles with offers of magazines or newspapers to pass the time. Anymore you’re lucky if you have enough room to squeeze into your seat if in coach, and will find not so much as a peanut tossed in your direction while in flight.

Aside from the amenities virtually disappearing of the map, it seems every time I turn on the news there’s another airline related disaster or near miss to report. This morning was really the kicker. A pilot en route to Las Vegas found himself locked out of the cockpit after taking a bathroom break. Really? I can’t think of anything that would get my sweat glands operational more quickly than finding the pilot seated next to me fastening his seat belt on a commercial flight. Las Vegas is often a rough place to land prone to desert crosswinds, but without the pilot at the controls, I believe I’d be looking around for a parachute and revisiting my connection with my maker.

Even prior to all the recent airline incidents I had become a white knuckle flyer as the years passed. As a twenty-something I applied, and was accepted for a position as a flight attendant. Unfortunately my husband wasn’t as enthusiastic as I about the prospect of me flying about without him so in the end I settled down and raised a family instead. Although not a fan of my aviation career, he eventually chose one of his own in a way. After joining a friend in his private plane on a trip from L.A. to San Diego he was severely bitten by the flying bug. Small planes are not my thing. Hanging precariously from a propeller high above the ground, placing my life in the hands of someone who may or may not know what they are doing does not bode well for my lunch passing pleasantly through my digestive system.

Before I knew it flying school brochures were turning up on the coffee table, discussions about saving for a plane were initiated, and after several months a deal was in place for flying lessons to obtain his private pilot’s license. Ach. Before the ink was dry I made it clear I did not share his enthusiasm about this venture. Not that I didn’t support his choice to learn to fly, I did. I did want it clear I did not have any intention of making such a lofty goal for myself, if you will. Love, I know means never having to say “I’m sorry”. However, in this case, “I’m sorry”.

Secretly I hoped this new found passion was but a passing fancy. Similar to his loss of luster for the Harley Davidson with the for sale sign in our garage, the flat-bottomed metal boat in our back yard yet to be repaired, and the in-line skates gathering dust in the back of the closet. He surprised me, however, persisting in his lessons. Each Saturday I dropped him off at the local airport and watched as he climbed into the cockpit of the small Cessna with dual steering used for lessons. When I picked him he would excitedly relate his lesson for the day and enthusiasm for the solo flight coming up once he’d completed his hours. I smiled, then I prayed. Then I prayed, and I smiled, wondering if it was against the law to duct tape your spouse to a dining room chair for his own protection.

As the day of the solo flight approached an idea took form in his boyish mind. What if I went with him? “Wouldn’t that somewhat diminish the solo portion of the program”, I would argue? As the idea grew and mushed around under his skull it gained momentum. Young people do ridiculously stupid things, and looking back we were no exception. Insisting we had toddlers who needed at least one parent he persisted. Let me preface this paragraph by saying my first husband was a very charming man. Irish by descent as well as temperament, he was blessed with dark curly hair, twinkly brown eyes, a well chiseled face, and truly the man could have sold a flat of blow driers in an Alopecia ward. Also, he convinced me he’d had a premonition if I didn’t accompany him on th<span e flight from the L.A. area to Santa Barbara things wouldn’t end well. As I said, I was young.

How could we do this, you ask? Dropping him off as usual at the appointed spot, I parked far down the runway and waited. I couldn’t help but wonder if his instructor wouldn’t notice him taxiing to another location before taking off but somehow he accomplished gathering me up and preparing for takeoff. To say I was questioning my decision as the runway sped by outside my window, would be a gross understatement.

In the air we hung on the whirring propeller and turned our nose north. I was hoping all my affairs were in order as we headed up the pass. Wind had picked up. The wings dipped from one side to the other in the currents. Jokingly he asked if I’d like him to show me how the plane reacted to a stall. Really? Why did I marry this man, my mind inquired? He was far less charming hundreds of feet above sea level. My fingers gripped tighter on the door handle and I reassured myself there were parachutes on board if the need arose.

Amazingly we made it along the pass and leaving the turbulence behind us headed in towards Santa Barbara. A bank of fog moved in making visibility difficult. My husband picked up the radio and carried on a dialog with the flight tower. According to the man in the control tower the airport was pretty well socked in so they were going to talk us in. “Mama”. Flying virtually blind, the voice on the radio issued instructions. Suddenly the voice became agitated telling us to abort the landing. We were coming in sideways it appeared. A suspicion I had already entertained as I was basically hanging from my seat belt.

My guardian angel must have been sitting on my shoulder that day as somehow that small plane’s wheels located the ground below and held the landing. Never was I so glad to step out onto the earth. Nursing a cup of coffee in the small cafe on the grounds I informed my pilot to be I would be taking the bus home. I suggested he do the same, but he insisted on going back and finishing his “solo” flight. As I said before, “I’m sorry”.

In the end he was a good pilot. Unfortunately, he passed away not long after his thirty-third birthday before ever buying his plane, but he enjoyed soaring up there in the clouds and I even joined him on occasion white knuckles in place.

Arroz (Mexican Rice)

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup uncooked long grain rice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup chopped onion
2 green onions, sliced
1 14 1/2 oz. can chicken broth
2 Tbsp. chunky salsa (I use hot)
1/3 cup tomato sauce
1 Roma tomato, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and sliced thin
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. salt

Heat oil over medium heat in deep skillet. Add rice. Stir and cook until rice turns golden brown. Add garlic and continue cooking for 1 min.

Add broth, salsa, tomato sauce and all remaining ingredients to pan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for 20-25 mins. covered until rice is tender. Allow to sit for 5 min. Fluff with fork.

Serves 6

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Over the past few weeks there have been three reported incidents of leg room rage on airplanes. Passengers who either wouldn’t allow the person in front of them to put their seats back or passengers so cramped they lost it with a passenger either in front of or in back of them while trying to claim what little area comes with their ticket. It is ridiculous how tightly the airlines are willing to confine us in order to serve their Screen-shot-2010-10-21-at-10.49.56-AMbottom line. I found the diagram to the left showing what the future could hold in store as airlines attempt to squeeze more and more people into the same cabin space. Sort of half sitting half standing. Really? And we’re okay with this? Why not suspend us from hooks on the ceiling like sides of beef? Maybe freeze us before take off so we don’t require any attention during the flight. If things get this extreme I’ll take a boat, bus or a train before I’ll fly. Seriously. I realize my not flying have little impact on the carriers. Also, I can see where other means of transportation less expeditious won’t work for many people. Time holds us hostage to the airline companies, but I will definitely fight standing up in my seat to promote their profit margin.

A friend of mine recently returned from a trip to British Columbia. Customarily she will pick up something at the airport food courts to take with her on the plane. On this trip she was late arriving at the airport. With no time to stop for food she barely made her flight. On the plane she was offered a snack menu from which to choose from. For $8.00 she opted for cheese and crackers assuming they couldn’t do much damage to that. Unfortunately, the airline outdid themselves. Amazing how you can completely ruin four slices of cheese and a package crackers. According to my friend the cheese resisted all attempts to be cut. Tearing it, pulling it, slicing it, proved fruitless. Chewing definitely wasn’t an option. I believe this could be a new secret weapon. A micro-fabric so invincible to outside forces it could be adopted by NASA to create spacesuits or to reinforce the walls on future space stations. After a while you just have to laugh.

Besides the obvious comfort considerations, there are health issues associated with sitting in such cramped positions for long periods of time. Diabetics, for example, often have leg circulation or foot issues. Strokes and heart attacks can actually be induced by such conditions, and certainly if you’re traveling with small children it can make a sometimes bad situation nearly unbearable.

Once, flying to the east coast, I got seated in the very last row of seats. This was interesting. Not only are you forced to sit perfectly erect during the entire flight, the bank of toilets are located directly behind you. A steady flow of customers either pass by or stand in line directly over you. I made one attempt at trying to sleep but found no matter how I shifted, my mind couldn’t wrap itself around the fact I expected my body to sleep in such a position. Even if I did drift off, I would jerk myself awake to find some waiting restroom patron watching me to see if I slept with my mouth open or snored. I ended up sitting straight in my seat for the five-hour flight. Fortunately, they had a beverage service.

You pay for every little perk these days. Gone are the days when wee bags of peanuts or pretzels were handed to you with your beverage of choice. Also gone are the days when flight attendants wandered through the cabins offering newspapers or magazines to read or a blanket and pillow if a nap was what you needed. If you want a pillow or blanket on many airlines they offer you one for around $7.00, and reading material is limited to the map of the exits or the in-flight magazine in the seat pocket, also benefiting the airlines.

All these are only the obvious extra charges. There are also a myriad of “hidden fees”. Are we having fun yet? If not, let’s take a look at what’s happening to that over weight allowance bag you coughed up $75 for at the check-in point. It’s highly possible baggage carriers are either sifting through your underwear or tucking that tablet into their jacket before throwing your suitcase on top of the pile.

Personally I’m not adverse to a little spoiling. The original Orient Express stopped running in 2009 I believe. You can still book a suite on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express for $5,000 plus a person, however. Sign me up please. Before you leave you are given a bottle of wine and served champagne. Lunch is a three-course affair in the dining car. Afternoon tea follows later in the day served in your cabin. The day is summed up with a four-course meal created by talented French chefs, and then off to bed which has been turned down, undoubtedly with a chocolate on your pillow. Mornings breakfast is served in your cabin, with an attendant pouring steaming cups of coffee or tea and seeing to your every need. This sounds way better to me than having a pillow/blanket pack thrown at me for an exchange of funds.

Malaysia Airlines recently came up with the incredibly bad taste campaign to enter a “bucket list” contest to win airline tickets or prizes. Considering their recent track record in the air, having a contest based on all the things you’d like to tick of your list before dying seems rather bad form.

I’m off on the train to San Jose this afternoon leaving Rick and Boo the Queen of Cats to man the oars. Made this soup to keep him going. Yum.

Savory Rotisserie Chicken Noodle Soup

1 rotisserie chicken cut up
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped sliced
3 carrots, sliced
3 ribs celery, sliced
1/2 green pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic
4 baking potatoes, peeled and diced
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. rosemary
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 tsp. chicken bouillon granules
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. white pepper
8 cups chicken broth
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can water
1 cup 2% evaporated milk
1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1/2 cup cooked peas
2 cups cooked egg noodles
Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in stock pot over med. heat. Add onion, carrots, celery, and garlic. Saute 6-8 mins. until onion is translucent and vegetables are tender. Stir in seasonings, broth, and bouillon granules. Add potatoes, mushroom soup, and water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to med.-low and simmer for 45 mins. partially covered.

Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

Add chicken, milk, and peas. Continue cooking for 15 mins. Add parsley.

Place 1/3 cup noodles in bottom of each of 6 soup bowls. Ladle soup over top. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

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2Today I am suffering with a terrible case of wanderlust. It’s nearly 100 degrees outside and not a day to go exploring, which is probably why I feel like doing exactly that. Further contributing to my tapping feet I enjoyed a conversation with my son this morning mostly devoted to his upcoming trip to Cancun. The tickets include himself, his wife, and their two children one boy and one girl, eleven and twelve respectfully. Detailing the highlights for me and directing me to a site on-line showing pictures, my skin turned a deeper shade of green the longer we spoke. By the end of the conversation you could have thrown me in the pot with the delicious soup noted below and not been able to tell me from a leaf of spinach.

The resort they’re visiting is all-inclusive, so once you lay down your money for the tickets the food and beverages are included in the overall price. Naturally, if you want to visit the nearby ruins or enjoy other side trips they come at an extra cost, but while in the resort you can order one brightly umbrella bedecked drink after another guilt free. Other than any messages your liver might be sending up. However, as an aside if visiting one of these resorts do not pillage the mini-bar in your room unless you have the cash to cover it. From what I understand the all-inclusive umbrella extends only to restaurants and lounges.

ZipCruises are structured the same way, with the exception of the ones I’ve been on at least charging for alcoholic beverages. Back in the 90’s I took a ship from Miami to Key West and then on to Cozumel. Luckily for us it was spring break and so we shared quarters with hundreds of fun crazed college students bent on consuming as much alcohol as possible on their parent’s dime. One kid who we’d seen vomiting in the potted plants in the pool area the night before was presented with a $700 bill for alcohol from the same night. If I was his mother he’d really be sick by the time he got home.

At any rate my kids are going on several side visits. My son, Steve, is a hands on dad and has provided his kids with a rich background of sports, education, and experiences to take with them into adulthood. Makes me most proud. They swim like fish and both of them snorkel skillfully and havexel-ha-park some minimal scuba training. To be honest I’ve stayed away from scuba equipment as of this writing. Being claustrophobic the ideal atmosphere for me isn’t hundreds of feet below sea level with a mask covering my face. I’d be likely to take a great white on while trying to get out of the water. Watching documentaries on the ocean floor fascinates me but the idea of going down, down, down, not so much.

xelha_011One place he mentioned specifically was Xel-Ha Park. This is a lush park devoted to water lovers with something for everybody. Mayan ruins, jungle trails, bike riding, underwater caves, and swimming with the dolphins are just some of the fabulous attractions in a park touted as being the most beautiful aquarium in the world. I’ve got one flipper on and I’m ready to roll. Swimming with the dolphins is high up on my bucket list. Also walking with the penguins on the beach in New Zealand. The list seems to be growing as my bank account is dwindling.

Bank robbery is an option, but orange washes me out and I don’t like guns. Did you see the bank robber on the news who cleverly disguised himself in a see-through plastic bag? There’s a guy who stood in the stupid line a bit too long.

As delighted as I am that my kids are living the dream, I’m not as enthused about flying these days. Aside from everything in the news I watched a movie with Liam Niessen titled Non-Stop which sealed the deal. To take my mind of of it, and since I was ironing I turned on another movie. This one titled, The Impossible. A true story about a doctor and her family swept away by a tidal wave in Thailand. It’s not beyond the scope of possibility I may never leave the house again. That’s it for me. No more disaster movies.

Company is coming and I haven’t seen any hands when I called for volunteers to peel the eggs for the deviled eggs so I’d better run. Have a safe and happy day.

Even in the heat, this soup got an A+++++ from my other half. To quote him exactly, “I could keep eating this until I throw up”. Not delicately put, but I believe there is a compliment cleverly buried in there somewhere.

Crockpot Italian Sausage, Zucchini, Roasted Pepper and Tomato Soup

6 plum tomatoes, halved
1/2 green pepper, seeded
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
salt and pepper
1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Italian sausages, hot
2 cups diced zucchini
1 ear of fresh corn or 1/2 cup canned corn
1 15 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 cups water
8 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. Italian Seasoning
1 tsp. basil
1 bay leaf
1 pkg. Sazon Goya (or 1 tsp. hot paprika)
1/2 bag spinach
1 cup cooked ditalini pasta
Parmesan cheese and fresh basil for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover a cookie sheet with tin foil and spray with cooking spray. Toss tomatoes and green pepper with 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place tomatoes and pepper on foil cut side down. Bake for 15-20 mins. or until charred. Place in plastic bag for 15 mins. and peel off skins. Coarsely chop.

Cook Italian sausage and slice into 3/4″ slices.

Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over med. heat. Add onion and celery and cook 6 mins. until translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 min.

Spray 6 quart crockpot with cooking spray. Add tomatoes and peppers, sausage, onion/garlic mixture, zucchini, corn, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, water, stock, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, basil, bay leaf and Sazon Goya. Mix well.
Cook on high for 1 hr. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking for 7 hrs. Add spinach (stemmed and broken into large pieces) and ditilini. Cook for an additional hr. Adjust seasoning as necessary. Serve topped with shredded Parmesan and fresh basil if desired.

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I haven’t been able to write this week because Murphy showed up again and unleashed his minions on my computers effectively shutting down both my desktops and my laptop all at the same time. He’s good when he’s bad. Once again, I placed a call to the nerd police. I now have their number on speed dial. Finally, the tech came out, did his hardware magic, and here I am again. It always surprises me how umbilically tied I have become to my devices. The first day without the computers I just sat around looking like a frog on a lily pad waiting for a passing fly. The following day, I found that I accomplished a huge amount due to the fact that I had little diversion. I did, however, miss writing my blog. Thank you to those of you who read without me 🙂

I woke up very early this morning. Planning on walking across the dam when the sun came up, I poured my first cup of coffee and settled in to watch a bit of tube before tackling my day. After determining that “paid programming” seems to be the only television offered in the wee hours of the morning, I selected a documentary on migratory birds. This was so beautifully filmed that the cinematographers actually communicated to the viewer the feeling of effortlessly soaring above the clouds with the geese or diving down towards the water to snag an unsuspecting lunch participant with the pelicans. Penguins, as always for me, are my favorites. With their puffy chests and stilted gaits they remind me of a group of little old bocce ball playing men wearing suspenders that hike their pants up under their armpits.

When I was about four months pregnant with my first child the opportunity came up to take a private flying lesson free of charge. After determining that this was safe for me to do in my condition, at least within the parameters of the medical profession, I decided to accept. My pilot/instructor was a co-worker who was an ex crop duster as well as an accomplished stunt pilot and licensed instructor. On the day of our scheduled flight, repeatedly assuring me that he would not take a woman with a baby on board through any loops or stalls, I climbed in the cockpit of the Cessna. After a short prayer on my part and the pre-flight check completed on his, we taxied down the runway and lifted off. Flying in a small plane as opposed to flying in a commercial jet is like equating riding a tricycle to strapping on a Harley. In a jet you feel safe to some extent and not so small in comparison to your surroundings. In a small single engine plane you feel as diminutive as a pimple on a rhino’s behind. Really. There’s a feeling that you’re just suspended in midair from the propeller most probably because you are. I found myself extremely sensitive to any hitch or change in the sound of that propeller as, although not perfect, I like my body in the configuration in which it came into this world.

The plane was set up specifically for training purposes with controls on both sides. After running through the basics of how the plane could be controlled both with foot pedals and the steering column, he suggested that I might take the controls with him at my side. Really? Looking out my window at the ground far, far, really far, below I questioned my decision to go up with someone who would even entertain a suggestion like that. Had he completely taken leave of his senses? He’d worked with me for two years and surely realized that describing me as uncoordinated was simply a polite way of saying I was an incredible accident magnet and anyone within ten feet should have their affairs in order.

After some serious coaxing, I took the wheel and placed my feet on the pedals. Following his instructions I felt the plane respond to my commands as depending on my actions the wings would dip from one side to the other, the nose rise and fall. What a rush that was. I could understand at that moment why the lure of floating high above the earth has so captured our imagination since early man first perched on a rock and watched fascinated as a hawk circled high above his head.

My husband at the time also took a lesson and really caught the bug.  Not long afterwards he began taking private lessons with the intention of getting his license.  I, on the other hand continued to expand like an overfilled water balloon and five months later delivered out first child.   In the following year between working, parenting an infant, and trying to catch an hour of sleep here and there my husband completed the required hours in the air to allow him to go on his solo flight.  To preface, my husband was not a good “rule follower” if you will, and also we were young and mindless.  He got it in his mind that I should accompany him on his “solo” flight, which in my thoughts kind of skews the definition of the word “solo”.

After some nudging, I somehow got talked into this scheme, which in my younger more malleable years I often did.  The plan, according to him, was that he would pick me up on the runway and off we would go.  If you’d asked me then if I thought this was possible, I wouldn’t have thought so, but soon found myself soaring north with my husband piloting the plane and me questioning why I had ever signed up for this insanity.

The day was overcast and the ride was anything but smooth.  After navigating the route to the destination airport, my husband contacted the tower for landing instructions as the layer of clouds made a visual landing impossible.  Great.  Parachute and divorce lawyer, please.  After several failed attempts where at one point it seemed we were approaching the runway sideways with one wing down, he somehow managed to land.  After regaining the use of my shaking legs I headed for the coffee shop for a much-needed shot of caffeine and a phone book.  I called a cab and drove back home, while he safely piloted the plane back to where we started.  After that convincing me to get involved in his great ideas came a little harder.

Tangy Gazpacho

2 Tbsp. green bell pepper, chopped
6 Tbsp. English cucumber, peeled and chopped
2 Tbsp. carrots, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp. scallions, sliced thin
3/4 cup tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
4-8 drops of Tabasco sauce according to taste
4 cups chicken stock
1 tsp. lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Mix all vegetables together in large mixing bowl. Whisk in tomato paste, olive oil, Tabasco, cayenne, Worcestershire, and chicken stock. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill for 3 hours. Serves 6-8.

Serve chilled with crusty bread and garlic butter. This is a very lite and refreshing soup perfect for a starter on a warm summer evening.

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