Posts Tagged ‘Great soup recipes’


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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Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

As I’ve said before, ancient civilizations and their doin’s fascinate me. How they created the massive structures still found standing across the world remains a mystery, and a fascinating one at that. As of this writing despite all the probing researchers have done on the subject, their hands remain firmly fixed atop their heads scratching their scalps as to how these edifices came to be built. How people existing long before machinery, at least of any advanced nature, had been invented to help them perform such feats. Rocks used to form these massive edifices weighing tons, the odds mere mortals were able to move them into position seems unlikely. The fact they are often laid one on top of the other sparking speculation ancient men had help, extraterrestrial help.

When my mind travels to this subject, and it will now and again, I prefer to think of beings from other worlds E-T-The-Extra-Terrestrial-et-the-extra-terrestrial-928616_1024_768more in the form of E.T. rather than Ripley’s overly aggressive protective mother in Alien, or the spindly legs metal apparitions of War of Worlds. A cute little creature with a penchant for Reese’s pieces, whose goal is to help not to harm human beings. That’s the one I vote for.

The mystery surrounding Roswell captured the imaginations in 1947 when a purported spacecraft crash landed on a New Mexico ranch. An occupied spacecraft. To this day the mystery continues to linger on with the mere mention of the name Roswell conjuring up images of balloon headed men with large eyes not of this world.

From the beginning of time men have looked to the skies, as if the answers to so many unknowns lay in the vast blackness of the expanses beyond our atmosphere. How did we get here? Are we alone in the universe, or do others dwell somewhere out there?

Sightings of unusual lights in the sky, flying discs, and hovering objects are reported often usually explained away as a kid’s prank or something more earthbound then visitors from a planet or galaxy far away.

The ruins of Puma Punku, part of what remains of the ancient city of Tiahuanaco in South America have left researchers baffled to this day. The massive stones composed of granite and diorite, would have had to be carved with tools capable of cutting diamonds. Each stone was cut with finite precision and holes of equal depth. Did this ancient culture wiped from the earth as far back as 500 B.C. by some cataclysmic event such as a massive flood, have been privy to an advanced technology erased by the event? Did they have help from a life form more advanced?

The Nazca Lines in the high deserts of Peru are another mystery left unsolved. A vast puzzle laid out on the land containing more than 15,000 geometric patterns. Purportedly the Paul Bunyon sized drawings were made by Nazca indians populating the land around 200 B.C. Anthropologists believe in the possibility that these nazca-linesintricate drawings could have been created over generations, but as to the how, this remains lost in hypotheses and conjecture. For those more willing to embrace all that could be in the world, it has been theorized ancient aliens used this as a landing spot when visiting our planet. Could it be? Only the heavens know, and they’re not talking.

Depictions of strange beings often showed up in the drawings of ancient man lining caves throughout the world. Man has chronicled his comings and going since standing erect and obtaining the tools to do so.

Ancient Egyptian legends tell of Tep Zepi, loosely translated “the first occasion”. Gods in flying boats came to install societal laws and bring the first of a line of pharaohs to rule the land.

uaxwond3So many interesting things to dig up about those who came before us. It brings to mind “Planet of the Apes”, when at the end of the movie the Statue of Liberty is found sticking out of the sand.

A shroud of mystery continues to swirl around our existence on this earth. Nasa’s Curiosity Rover exploring mars recently caught a light visible on the horizon. Could that be E.T. phoning home?

For now we continue to gaze to the stars and wonder. If they’re out there why don’t they stop by for a neighborly cup of coffee? After all there’s a Starbucks on every corner. I wish I could be a fly on the wall when they do. Now that would be a party.

Happy Cinco de Mayo. This recipe has nothing to do with the holiday, but it’s delicious none the less.

Cream of Asparagus Soup

1 bunch of asparagus, ends trimmed
2 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. shallot, chopped fine
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 potato, diced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. dried dill
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream

Cut asparagus spears into 1/2″ pieces, keep two spears for garnish if desired.

In large pot heat butter over medium heat. Add onion and shallot and cook 5 mins. until onion is translucent. Add asparagus and cook an additional 5 mins.

Add chicken broth, potato, salt, dill, cayenne, and black pepper. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 25 mins. or until potato is soft and asparagus is cooked.

Remove from heat and allow to cool. Place in food processor and puree. Pour into bowl and whisk in cream. Serve cold or hot.

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Yesterday while in the doctor’s office the doctor, who I had never met before, asked me what I preferred to be called. Let’s see, intelligent, funny, perhaps attractive would be nice. Oh, if you mean my name, Susie works well. Looking up over the thick black rims of his reading glasses he said, “really?”, as though I’d asked him to call me Desdemona Lemongrass. What’s wrong with Susie? It’s a perfectly good name. It originally belonged to my great-grandmother and she did very well with it, thank you. If Susie is the strangest name he’s heard lately he hasn’t been watching the news. Kate Winslet recently dubbed her new baby boy Bear Blaze. Now that deserves a “really?” Bear Blaze? Moon Unit and Dweezil weren’t punishment enough? Jessica Simpson called her son Ace Knute with Gwyneth Paltrow naming her little angel Apple. Beyonce chose Blue Ivy as the perfect name for her daughter. At least she could have gotten the color right.

Names, I believe, are important. They follow us throughout our lives and often help shape who we are. Once I read about a women in a maternity ward naming her infant daughter, Private (pronounced pre-vaah-tee). This, because she couldn’t think of a name so used the word on the sign over the door across the hall from her in the hospital as a guide. PRIVATE. Nice. What’s next, Cafeteria or Radiology?

In high school I learned history (or at least attended the class) in the seat behind Robin Hood (a girl), and briefly dated John Johann Johnson, who we simply referred to as J.J. Thinking back it should have been, J.J.J. Charlie Chaplain was the drum major in my Junior year, and if being in the band wasn’t enough of a social gaffe, his name was an endless source of ridicule. Fortunately Charlie went on to graduate from medical school and a successful career in gynecology. Sometimes names hinder a person in business. I was once referred to a surgeon with the last name of Hamburger. Most likely this was linked to German heritage, but in his profession I can imagine it’s not a plus.

When I was a dental assistant, there was a dentist listed on the local roster of dentists by the name of Dr. Sugar. Hmmm. This could be a good or a bad thing depending on your point of view. Once in his office to deliver some films I noticed there were bowls of candy strategically placed in the office. Obviously drumming up new business.

I babysat as a kid for Harry Orange and his wife Ann Orange. He fit the description to a tee, being a rotund man blessed with his and someone elses share of body hair all the color of a ripe persimmon. Someone was thinking ahead when he came into the world. At fifteen I painted a local bakery’s windows for Halloween, appropriately given a check for the job from Mr. Baker, the appropriate owner of the establishment.

Pregnant with my daughter, we searched, argued, debated, and changed our mind about names right up until I entered the delivery room. Muriel, my grandmother’s name, was suggested by my parents. I adored my grandmother, a wonderful woman by anyones standards, but wasn’t it enough she had to go through he life with that moniker, did we have to repeat the mistake? Being Susan, which was shortened to Sue, Susie, Suzy, Sus or lengthened to Suzanne, Susie-Q, and God knows what else, I wanted a name which couldn’t be cut off at the knees. In the end, Heather came to live at our house, shortly known at Heath. Sigh.

All this came to mind because of a young lady working behind the counter at Target the other day wearing a name tag reading, Shy-low. I couldn’t help but inquire about the origin of the name. She explained it was a version of Shiloh. I didn’t have the heart to explain I’d gotten that far in the riddle prior to asking the questions. Her mother, it seemed, wanted to add some originality to the original. Success was definitely achieved.

There are some odd ones circulating at the moment, Crispian, for example. Sounds like a snack cracker. Breezy, for a girl’s name brings to mind fabric softener or perhaps a light-headed girl, and I do not mean hair color. Names come and go, I would suppose. You don’t see many Ethyl’s or Gladys’ these days, and I can’t remember the last time a man introduced himself to me as Harvey or Stanley.

It’s good to infuse some new names into the mix for a little variety perhaps. I do wish they’d at least spell them so we could pronounce them, however. My second husband’s last name was Smallwood, which became mine once I said I do. For the years we were married I was constantly asked to spell it. Our realtor’s name was spelled Rene, but pronounced Rainey. I had to write it phonetically on a piece of paper before I went in the office. When living in the southern states, I met many people with two first names like Billy Bob, Mary Lou, etc. Our insurance agent was Bobby Ray something or other, and never went by Bobby that I knew off. Once a month Ina Mae performed wonders on my hair, and our neighbor Patsy Jane, in Alabama, stopped by often for coffee and a bit of gossip.

So it remains a quandary what to name our offspring. Not for me, of course, I’ve done my damage. If I was to do it again, I’d believe I’d go for something original like Rhino or Topaz. Perhaps if I come around again, I’ll spend some time writing some ideas down so I don’t end up with Private or something as plebian as John.

Anyhow, food for thought on this glorious spring day. This is my last salute to my leftover corned beef. It was really good with the bit of hot in the topping.

Corned Beef Colcannon Soup

3 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup dry pearled barley
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
4 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
8 cups beef stock
3 cups cooked corned beef, diced
3 slices cooked crisp bacon, crumbled
4 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 bay leaves
1 sprig fresh thyme
4 cups packed fresh spinach


1/2 mayonnaise
1/2 sour cream
1 Tbsp. prepared horseradish
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. dried thyme
Salt and pepper

In large saucepan boil water over high heat. Stir in barley and mushrooms. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 45 mins. Drain reserving all liquid. Set aside.

Place onion, carrots, and celery, and garlic cut in chunks in food processor.


Pulse until chopped.


Melt butter in stockpot over high heat. Add minced vegetables and tomato paste to pan.

IMG_5817 - Copy

Cook until liquid disappears. Deglaze with wine an continue cooking until wine is nearly evaporated.


Add reserved stock, corned beef, potatoes, bay leaves, and sprig of thyme. Lower heat to simmer and cook for 15 mins. or until potatoes are fork tender. Stir in barley and spinach. Continue cooking for 10 mins. Remove bay leaves and thyme sprig. Adjust seasonings if needed.

For topping combine all ingredients. Serve in dollops on top of soup.

Serves 8-10

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Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

Spring is definitely in the air. My nose is running, and the garden is in full bloom. For us our garden is a bit of a wonderment, with everything planted there done so by the former owner. We didn’t move in the house until early in the summer months last year, so each day brings with it a lovely surprise. On the far hill, beds of sunny daffodils are waking up alongside purple irises and dark pink tulips. Directly to the front of the house the terrain is covered by a lovely pale lilac ground cover , and sprouting green leaves are popping up everywhere not having revealed themselves yet. The yard directly below the deck is resplendent in baby pink roses, and buttercups and the Japanese maples have begun to show off their lovely magenta leaves. Achoo. Excuse me.

Bears are waking up from their long winter’s sleep and rubbing their eyes. The earth is reawakening after a long hibernation and celebrating. Personally I would have been happy if nature had completed the picture with spring and fall, but I would suppose we have to have their two harsher playmates to fully appreciate their beauty. Today it’s supposed to hit eighty. Usually I would be out sitting among bags of potting soil about this time, digging holes in the earth and planting seeds for my garden. With the water situation in our area being so dire, I can’t see a point in starting something growing I can’t nurture along the way.

While in the market the other day, the checker was telling me grocery prices are going to go up. That’s a surprise. When was the last time someone said they were going down? Put your thinking caps on. I can’t remember either. In particular she targeted milk, eggs, and meat, and I believe avocados are to be scarce this season as well. Guacamole will be a black market item by the time Cinco de Mayo rolls around.

Sometimes I think a move outside of California is once again in order. Hold on, hold on, for you Californians I’m not saying California isn’t a glorious place to live but you have to admit it’s getting expensive to live here. Come on now, you know it is. My other half suggested such a move while we were looking at houses in this area, but with my mother getting up in years I felt it wasn’t the best time to put a lot of mileage between us.

If I was to move outside of California again, I believe I would head north. Can’t go too far up the coast as my other half finds rain and gloomy weather oppressive and you can’t live in Northern Oregon or Washington if you’re not fond of galoshes. If I had my druthers, I would buy a houseboat right by the ocean, on it preferably, and wile away the rest of my days watching the sun dance across the waves by day, and lulled to sleep by the gentle swells at night. Ahhhhh.

We’re headed south to the Bay Area for my mother’s birthday in the next month or so. On the calendar while there is a trip to the beach, in particular a favorite Mexican restaurant in the Moss Beach area, El Gran Amigo. Beach real estate has always been my first choice. Growing up on the coast leaves a firm imprint on your soul, and a yearning only sated by gulls circling overhead, warm sand squeezing between your toes, and the gentle reassurance of waves rushing and ebbing along the shoreline somehow adding a rare bit of certainty to an unsettled world.

Butterflies dancing outside my window brings to mind cleaning house. Not that my house isn’t clean during the rest of the year, it is, but I mean getting rid of clutter and unused items. I was amazed to find about one-third of my possessions can be lived without when they sat in boxes over the year prior to our finding this house. It’s amazing what you accumulate over time that ends up spending most of its existence gathering dust in the back of a closet somewhere on a shelf.

My mother called early today to announce she was embarking on the same voyage of discovery at her house. In her words, “so you won’t have to sort through all my things when I’m gone”. I wish she’d concentrate on sticking around and quit preparing for her untimely demise. It is most unsettling. Those of us who love her dearly would prefer to have her stay among us for many years to come. I would suppose as time passes you can’t help but get around the inevitable thoughts with regards to the end of your time on earth, but on this beautiful spring day I would prefer to address the butterflies and dust bunnies and leave deeper subjects for a rainy day down the road a piece.

1Took a four mile hike by the covered bridge, a historical area in these parts. I have not done so before and found it incredibly beautiful walking along the trail looking down at the river rushing by. Wildflowers were blooming everywhere and we encountered numerous red colored newts along the path. Interesting little creatures, slow moving and slick. The river itself was full of fish. Made me wish I had a line to drop in. Thought I’d share some pics.

This soup is a really nice starter before your corned beef shows up at the table. Cool and refreshing anytime.

1011In the pic above can you see the sleeping crocodile in the middle? Below, if you look closely you can see the fish milling about in the water.8

The bridge itself is being renovated.

166Minty Chilled Pea Soup

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
2 16 oz. bags frozen peas
2 1/2 Tbsp. dried mint
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Sour cream or plain yogurt to garnish

Heat oil in large pot over med. heat. Add onion and cook until translucent, 3-5 mins. Add garlic and cook for 1 min.

Pour in chicken broth and add peas. Increase heat to med.-high and bring to boil. Boil for 5 mins. Add mint and parsley. Remove from heat. Add lemon juice, salt, white and black peppers.

Cool slightly. Pour into food processor and pulse until smooth. Chill at least 2 hrs. prior to serving.

Add dollop of sour cream, or pipe shamrock on top.

Serves 6-8

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Photo by Susie Nelso

Photo by Susie Nelso

One of my granddaughters was recently gifted a car. Not a new car by any means, but in great condition for an older one. The vehicle was provided for her by her parents so she would have transportation back and forth to the local junior college, where she is enrolled in a heavy schedule of two courses, one being volley ball.  The child doesn’t work, does not pay rent, doesn’t contribute to the household in any way, is given money for expenses, and basically is Peter Pan’s female counterpart, Wendy. Let me preface this blog by saying I love my granddaughter and want her to be happy, but when one is not meeting up to their responsibilities I do not think gifts are in order. However, I keep my nose out of my children’s affairs unless asked, then contribute my opinion in small doses and with decided restraint. I raised my children with the usual bag of mistakes and triumphs accompanying parenthood. In spite of this they turned out to be fine human beings. Saying this, I trust them to do what they believe is best for their offspring as I did for mine. This does not mean I don’t reserve the right to maintain an opinion on the subject from the sidelines.

Probably I would be considered a proponent of “tough love”.  My mantra, if you asked my children, was “no reward for bad behavior”. You can’t hold the reins too tight or the horse will resist, but if you allow the reins to flop and muck about, pretty soon the horse will have control of the wagon, if you get my drift. At sixteen I purchased a car for each of my kids. My daughter, a year older, was the first in line. As with in granddaughter’s case, I selected a good quality used car which was clean and safe. At the time she was doing well in school and had a part-time job to earn extra spending money. At first the car was a novelty doted on more than the current boyfriend. Over the ensuing months I watched as progressively the “new old car smell wore off” and Sunday afternoon washing and waxing sessions tapered off, eventually stopping altogether. By the middle of the first year the boyfriend was definitely winning the race. Hmmmm.

Our house was often a gathering point for teenagers, particularly girls. They seemed to enjoy hanging out with us, doing a bit of cooking, checking out a rented movie of a Saturday night, or enjoying a swim in the backyard when the weather permitted. I was happy to have there because I enjoyed their youthful energy, but also knew where they were and what they were doing. With teenagers that note should be pinned at the top of the list to promote sanity and come through at the other end with your original hair allotment.

At any rate we had a discussion about the condition of the car. The usual discussion between teens and parents, they nod their heads while you talk. You can almost see the information go in one ear and proceed out the other. Promises were made about improving the situation, but I didn’t see a lot of follow up over the next months. One weekend she left it parked out front without even bothering to lock it.  Further, both front windows were left down. The next morning when I went out to gather the newspaper I noticed it looked even more forlorn than usual, if this was possible. I was amazed the neighbors hadn’t taken up a petition to have the car removed as an eyesore. On closer inspection, I could see the front bumper was missing. Curious. Sighing, I wandered over to investigate. Peering in through the driver’s window the inside was a total trash scene. The steering wheel was still in place, probably because whoever did the job couldn’t figure out how to get it out without dismantling the vehicle. The gear shift was gone. A hole remained where the stereo had been and both back speakers had been ripped out of their sockets leaving only gaping jagged holes in their place. The lovely lambs skin seat covers given to her by Grandma on her birthday were no longer covering the seats. The thieves had even taken the time to stop and take the fairy hanging from the rear view mirror, but that would make sense because they’d also taken the mirror itself before moving on to the glove compartment and ripping that out. It sat on blocks, as tires no longer held it up. I’ve seen footage of bombs in a war zone inflicting less damage. Interesting. Oddly it sort of blended in with the old French fries on the floorboard and the half empty fast food cups wedged in the door pockets.

Sitting in the kitchen nursing my coffee my sweet teen walked in wearing her usual “morning face”. Heather is not a morning girl. To this day if you catch her pre-caffeine before 9:00 you need a cattle prod and a shark cage. After downing a quart of orange juice and toasting several pieces of bread slathered with peanut butter she acknowledged my existence in the room as if I’d just beamed down from the Enterprise. Uh-huh. I asked if she was planning to wash the car today, to which she replied “yup”. Uh-huh. I asked when she last drove the car and she said the day before. I felt like a fat cat playing with a defenseless little grey mouse. Tiring of the game I suggested we walk out front and take a look. The horror on her face made me feel bad for her no matter how infuriated I was. Funny, her first question was how she was going to get to work or school. I summed that up with a simple four word answer, “can you say bus”? I thought you could. After calling a local wrecking yard, I paid $50 to have it towed.

It was a life lesson which served her well. We agreed if she worked and contributed to the purchase of a new car we would talk down the road (no pun intended) about my participation. With dignity she boarded public transportation and suffered little damage for the use of it for a year and a half until she graduated and had money saved up.

As to my granddaughter, her vehicle lasted a sum total of two weeks. Total being the optimum word here. Coming home late she drove through a fence and took out a copse of trees. Uh-huh. Thankfully, she was unhurt. The car did not fare as well. I don’t know how my daughter and son-in-law will choose to resolve this situation, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find “Can you say bus?”, fitting somewhere in the equation. Life truly does often go full circle.

My grandmother always told me people appreciate something more if they either have to work for it or contribute to it in some way. I believe this to be true. If your sweat and money goes into an item, most likely you will think twice about taking care of it. My lecture for today.

This soup is a meal in itself. With the pesto on top, a total delight. If you want to make it totally vegetarian, omit the ham.

Minestrone Soup with Pesto

1/4 cup olive oil
3 oz. Pancetta, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, cut in half lengthwise and chopped
2 ribs celery, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
2 potatoes, diced
3 tsp. tomato paste
1 14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes
8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. Italian Seasoning
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 bay leaves
2 zucchini, sliced thin
1/2 cup green beans, sliced in half lengthwise then cut in short lengths
1 cup spinach leaves, stemmed and torn in half
3 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1/2 cup ditalini pasta (uncooked)
Prepared Pesto
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Freshly ground black pepper

In stock pot heat oil over med-low heat. Add pancetta, onion and garlic. Cook for 5 mins., stirring frequently. Add carrot, celery, and potatoes. Cook for 7 mins. Stir in tomato paste, tomatoes, basil, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Add stock. Increase heat to med. high and bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat to simmer, and cook for 1 1/2 hours.

Add zucchini, green beans, spinach, parsley and pasta. Cook for 20 mins. or until pasta is fully cooked. Serve in soup bowls with a dollop of pesto on top, freshly grated Parmesan, and ground black pepper (if desired).

Serves 6

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Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

This week is shaping up to be one of those weeks. According to my spiritual advisor and guide to the stars, my friend Carol, we’re in the middle of a mercury retrograde. I still don’t have the full skinny on what that is exactly, but I do know when one is in place your day is likely to be turned upside down before you’ve enjoyed your first cup of coffee. Yesterday I had a list full of errands to run. Never knowing what the weather is going to do lately, mornings require a parka and by noon you’ve stripped down to a string bikini, I pulled on a white sweatshirt over my jeans. I know, I know you’re not supposed to wear white before Memorial Day, but a sweatshirt would be a little hot by then. Besides why do they make winter garments in white if you’re not supposed to wear them that time of year?

Deciding on the SUV as I would be coming home with more than I left with, I hopped in and pulled on my seat belt. The first stop was the bank so I could afford to make all the stops following. As usual there was a line. Next I had to stop and have my blood drawn. There was a 12 hour fasting requirement so I hadn’t had my coffee or breakfast and my stomach was growling. At this particular bank branch they have a bank manager, or someone who rides a desk, who does a meet and greet with customers standing in line. It’s a nice gesture of customer appreciation, however this woman goes a bit overboard, asking chirpily how your day’s going, would you like a cup of coffee, could she carry your money for you? At 9:00 a.m. having had no coffee and unable to do so, I resisted the urge to stuff my bank deposit between her lips to stop her from bubbling on. Sorry, I get grumpy when I can’t start my day with caffeine.

I noticed several people staring at my sweatshirt. Now, I know white isn’t until Memorial Day, but really? Stepping up to the counter, the young woman behind it leaned in towards me conspiratorially whispering, “you have a little something on your shirt”. What? Looking down I had a perfect strap mark of fuzzy black lint spanning the entire area where my seat belt would have rested. Lovely. I could have knitted together a standard poodle with the available yarn. Where or why this was there I had no idea, but I completed my transaction and with my head held high turned and faced the people still in line and exited the building. Naturally this is the only bank of its type in town so I’ll be remembered the next time I’m in. Damn. Looking under the seat belt I found the rest of the dog attached. Rick has a new black hoodie, which I believe he picked up on sale for almost nothing. From the looks of things he still got fleeced (sorry it’s a disease with me). For twenty minutes I painstakingly picked the lint as best I could of both my sweatshirt and the back of the seat belt. Smelling coffee smells emanating from the shopping center next door I amended my list to include a stop at Starbuck’s for a latte. Fuzzy or not a girl needs her coffee. “Not so fast”, I reminded myself, “can’t have coffee before I allow the vampires at the lab to siphon a pint or two”.

Not having been to this lab before, one of four around town, I loaded the address into the GPS and the lady who lives inside the device instructed me on which way to turn. Winding up into the hills behind town I finally located the building in rather a remote area. Good news! According to the sign posted on the door, they’re remodeling. That is good news. However, they’re not open during the process. Sigh. As I naturally forgot the card with the other three locations, I said the hell with it and went to Starbuck’s and ordered a much-needed latte. Opening my purse to pay for my purchase, I found my wallet missing. Are you kidding me here? Thinking back, I realized I’d left it on the counter in the bank. The barista eying my black lint laden shirt as I explained the situation, gave me a look like “right, I know you have a shopping cart hidden somewhere out there in the bushes”. Man.

Back to the bank I went. Once again I stood in line to be greeted by the overly plugged in bank manager. Fortunately for her I do not carry a weapon. Explaining my situation largely to get her to stop asking inane questions about my life, which wasn’t going particularly well at the moment, she retrieved my wallet. I suppose if you’re going to lose such a thing, a bank is the perfect place to do it.  Kind of like losing a goldfish at an aquarium, or something like that.

Back at Starbuck’s I retrieved my coffee, casting an “I told you so” look in the clerk’s direction. Most probably she concluded I’d panhandled the five dollars outside of Safeway before coming back. Ah well.

On to Safeway. Really getting hungry I overloaded my cart. Normally I make it a practice never to shop on an empty stomach. I’ll head out for cauliflower, brussels sprouts and milk, and come home with Chunky Monkey, pork rinds, and chicken wings. Not a good thing. At any rate, with a storm coming in tomorrow I stocked up on the basics, eggs, milk, etc. Only one check stand was open with people lined up behind it.  When it was my turn I unloaded my groceries on the conveyor belt striking up a conversation with gentleman behind me about the incoming weather front. Turns out he was there for the same purpose. Distracted (I’ll blame him – it’s so much easier), I gathered the two cartons of eggs, each holding 18, with one hand. Don’t try this at home. Yup, all thirty-six. What a mess. “Clean up on Aisle 4.” Eggs drooled all over the remaining groceries, the cart and floor. Eeuuwy dripping glutenous mass of eggy goodness oozed everywhere. There I stood in my fur flecked sweatshirt literally with egg on my face holding my gooey package of cheddar cheese making omelet jokes. The store employee having to clean up the mess was not amused.

On that note, in a rare salute to cholesterol I stopped and loaded up on a fast food breakfast with the works. Yum.

thSorrels aren’t easy to come by these days up here in the beautiful tall trees. Even when living in the Bay Area, the pickings were scarce. A friend brought me a lovely bright green bouquet of them from her garden and I quickly made them into soup to enjoy over the rest of the winter months. You can substitute watercress or even spinach if needed.





Savory Mushroom Sorrel Soup

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter
3 cups mushrooms (assorted or one type), chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup scallions, chopped
3 cups sorrel, rinsed, stems removed and coarsely torn or chopped
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Bay leaves
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
4 cups chicken broth
3 Tbsp. flour
3 Tbsp. water
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup cooking sherry
Pinch nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cover sorrels with salted water. Bring to a boil over high heat. When wilted reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 10-12 mins. Drain and reserve.

In large saucepan or soup pot heat oil and butter over med. heat. Add garlic and scallions and cook for 1 min. Add mushrooms, Worcestershire, bay leaves, thyme, salt and white pepper and continue cooking about 6-8 mins. or until moisture from mushrooms is released.

Add chicken broth. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 12 mins. Add sorrels.

Mix together flour and water to make a paste. Whisking constantly add to simmering broth. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens.

Add cream and milk to mixture, whisking constantly until thick and bubbly. Whisk in sherry. Adjust seasoning as necessary.

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final carrot soupMovies come and go lately without garnering much interest from this writer. I’m sort of an old movie buff, still immersing myself in the classics on a Saturday afternoon stuck manning the ironing board along with Humphrey Bogart or Cary Grant. However, “The Monuments Men” is one I’m definitely lining up to see. Not just because George Clooney’s perfectly chiseled features will be displayed across the big screen, but the subject matter captures my attention.

I’ve always loved going to the movies. Captivated from the first time my mother dressed me up in my Mary Jane’s and bought me a ticket and a buttered popcorn at the old theater in downtown Halifax to see Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Beyond the obvious entertainment aspect of film, there is learning to be had when watching movies taking into account facts are often prettied up or slanted to generate box office revenue by the Hollywood movers and shakers.

The Monument’s Men is based on the true story of a group of men who went above and beyond to rescue beloved artifacts confiscated by the Nazi’s during World War II. Historically we have not always been the best caretakers for treasures left behind by previous civilizations. The tombs of Egypt, for example, have been stripped bare of their gifts since antiquity, leaving many keys to unlock what went on before us lost forever in time.

In truth, I am fascinated by ruins. So many hints to worlds existing long before I drew my first breath. Beneath the surface there is the soul of an archaeologist inside me struggling to get out. If I had the wherewithal, I would make a trip diary, grab the other half, crate up Miss Boo the Queen of Cats, and use my time visiting the sites up until now I’ve only read about in National Geographic or depicted in pictures in my history books.

Mist shrouded Machu Picchu, erected by the Inca’s early in the 15th century before they mysteriously disappeared, would be first on my list. Located high on a peak in the mountains of Peru steeped in enchantment, you can reach it by foot, take a bus, or catch the train. Having seen the terrain, unless there is a paramedic for a guide, I’d be doing one of the two latter options.

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Rick visited Chichen itza, the Mayan ruins outside of Cancun, in the 1990’s. He reports it to have been a particularly sizzling and humid summer day in Mexico, tho in my experience this would be the norm rather than the unusual. Staying in Cancun at a resort, it was necessary to take a tour bus to the ruins. The ride itself, apparently was more of a thrill ride than something you’d find at Magic Mountain, only without the seat belts and safety precautions in place. So glad to find himself still among the living on his arrival, and excited to explore the well touted ruins, he took off in a dead run mounting the steps up thefront of the largest edifice two steps at a time. About half way up he realized he’d reached the nosebleed section and stopped to check his progress. Looking back over his shoulder he found he was high above the valley floor standing on a very thin step covered with moss. Being afraid of heights and unable to look down, he had no choice but to continue up to the top. Once on top, as he tells it he remained there until even his well tanned skin began to take on a bit of a rosy glow and he was forced to seriously consider his descent. After all, the Mexican government would most likely frown on his homesteading up there, and his stomach was sending signals it was well past time for the noon meal. There were thick rails towards the ground next to the steps. Seeing no other option, he basically held on, closed his eyes, and seated on his backside bumped his way back down the rough stone steps one at a time until reaching ground zero. At the base of the structure his then wife, noticing he no longer had a seat installed in his cargo shorts, had to walk behind him tandem style to the tour bus to avoid full disclosure of his nether regions. Sounds like something I’d do. No, really.



I would head to Turkey, once getting my fill of Peru. The ruins of Ani, also known as the City of One Thousand and One Churches, are to be found there. Then on to the Buddhist temple of Borobudur, located in Central Java. Abandoned in the 15th century and buried for centuries under volcanic ash until the 19th century, today the temple remains a yearly pilgrimage for Buddhists and Indonesia’s most visited tourist attraction.

There are so many bits of history dotting the globe, left behind by those gone before us. Growing up I played at war in the cannons guarding Halifax, long silenced by time and visited the museum at the Citadel to view the cases filled with artifacts from battles fought long ago.

When we visited France, in particular Versailles, centuries peeled back like the layers of an orange as I walked through the ornate halls peeking into the lives of the lavishly spoiled gentry of the time. Huge waterways stretched out beyond the windows, a staging area for pompous lords and ladies to float about lazily while the lower classes toiled and starved.

Really interesting stuff what brought us to this point. Generations preceding us leaving behind traces of their existence and amazing innovations such as the Roman aqueducts, for us to learn from and protect.

I made this curried carrot soup with dubious excitement about the outcome. I love carrots, but I’ve never tried carrot soup because I wasn’t sure if I loved carrots quite that much. Surprise, surprise, this was delicious.

I love this particular quote from Pooh. He was a very wise bear. “Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.”

Curried Carrot Soup

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups carrot juice
5 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 Tbsp. curry powder (adjust according to heat level desired)
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. cumin
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup sour cream

In Dutch oven or stock pot heat oil over med. heat. Add vegetables and cook 10 mins. or until tender. Add garlic to pan and cook 1 min.


Add all remaining ingredients except sour cream. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring frequently.


Allow to cool. Strain vegetables and place in food processor. Add 2/3 of the liquid (you may have to do this in two batches). Puree until smooth. Whisk back into reserved liquid in pan. Bring to boil and continue cooking for 15 mins. Remove from heat and whisk in sour cream. Adjust seasoning as necessary.

Top with additional sour cream and garnish with freshly chopped parsley.

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Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

I have my first cold of the season. Most probably directly related to my crawling around in the recesses of the chilly garage trying to locate my Christmas decorations.

Prophetically, I made turkey soup yesterday so dinner is ready for tonight as well as a natural cure for the common cold. With a fifteen pound bird to dispose of between the two of us, we’re looking forward to turkey soup, turkey shepherd’s pie, turkey Benedict and a host of other clever ways to disguise leftover yard bird. My eyelids are getting heavy already. Whether turkey makes you sleepy, from what I understand, is based in both myth and fact. There is tryptophan in turkey which can cause drowsiness when taken directly, but most likely the drowsiness following a huge holiday meal is your body trying to process appetizers, alcohol, turkey with all the trimmings, and three pieces of pie with whipped cream. Burp.

Facebook was buzzing with turkey pics, family pics, and updates on family gatherings all day. Facebook is probably a fun outlet, but personally it scares me to death. Bullying is so accessible on this type of site, and particularly attractive to young petty little minds with the destruction of another teens self-esteem at the touch of a well-painted fingertip. Yesterday I read an article about how often Facebook is showing up in the courtrooms. The site itself is not being sued, or not that I know of, but litigants on either side of cases are accusing the other side of maligning or misrepresenting them on the well-populated social media giant. I find it truly fascinating what people casually write on these updates. Often they are things I wouldn’t be comfortable saying on the phone to a person I trusted with my innermost thoughts, much less write openly to an audience of millions. It reminds me of people who adjust their body parts while standing on a street corner, whisper something offensive loud enough for Hellen Keller to hone in on, or explore their nasal cavities at a stop sign. WE CAN SEE AND HEAR YOU!

It is suggested you do not post “Leaving for a week on Maui tomorrow”, for example. Not only might your friends be celebrating your impending departure, but someone casing your house hoping to find it empty might be popping the cork on a champagne bottle as well.

Posting your personal status as “single” when you’ve tucked your wedding band in your pocket for an evening on line might not be the best strategy either. If you are tracking hundreds of people it stands to reason someone most likely is tracking your cheating behind as well.

Employers are looking potential candidates for jobs over on line. That hysterically funny selfie posted of you and your gal pals half-naked showing your latest tattoos in front of a strip club in Vegas, bottle of JD in one hand and joint drooping off one pierced lip, gets a thumbs up from your friends. Possibly, if you’re applying for a teaching position at a local parochial school, not so much.

Email can also be a dangerous tool, and voice mail. Knee jerk reactions to a situation left in either queue can come back to haunt you later. Particularly in the case of email where with no intonation on the words, the words often are left to stand alone and can be misinterpreted.

In a world where we all seem to have so much to say, possibly we need to be more discerning about what we say and where we say it.

Humblebrags, a word it seems actually included in some dictionaries, is another interesting social media offspring. It is a way of saying something seemingly self-effacing when actually patting yourself on the back or apprising people of your successes or recent high-dollar purchases. Hmmmm. Sort of like, “I never knew when I bought this enormous house with twenty-nine bathrooms we’d use so much toilet paper”.

Are we becoming a country hooked on instant gratification? The most results for the least amount of effort expended? Can’t help but wonder. Sometimes the thrill of something comes in the waiting. If you go out on a first date and before desert your date puts a ring on your finger and the waiters start singing “Today I Met the Boy I’m Going to Marry”, wouldn’t that diminish the excitement of your first kiss, your first fight, and all the things filling in the middle? Falling in love is part of the journey, not just the actual act of getting married.

Working hard to achieve a goal is extremely rewarding, at least for me. If you’ve set your sights on something in the distance and climb the hills in between and tough out the rainstorms and the hot dry days to get where you want to go, there is an exhilaration accompanying such an accomplishment that can’t be equaled by having it simply handed to you.

For me it’s “all things in moderation”. I love the Internet and use it regularly. It’s a magical wonderful tool as are all the gadgets and Space Odessy like technology coming our way, but we’re an addictive society as a whole so perhaps using these tools wisely is the key. As usual, I’m full of questions, or full of something.

This soup was a great way to gobble up the leftover turkey. Yum.

Spicy Southwestern Turkey Soup

5 cups rich turkey broth
2 cups cooked turkey, shredded
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup green pepper, chopped
1 4 oz. can chopped green chiles
1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
3/4 cup cooked corn kernels
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 pkg. Lawry’s taco seasoning mix, hot
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Salt (as needed)
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
3 avocados, chunked
1 1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
Sour Cream
Lime slices

Place first 12 (through black pepper) ingredients in large stockpot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 45 mins. on low.

Place 1/4 cup of cooked rice in the bottom of six large soup bowls. Ladle soup over top. Top each bowl with 1/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, chopped avocado, and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and lime slices.

Turkey Broth

1 turkey carcass, meat left on if possible
5 quarts water
1 onion, peeled and quartered
2 celery ribs, quartered with leaves
2 carrots, peeled and chunked
3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
2 cups white wine (I used pinot grigio)
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/3 cup parsley flakes
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Place turkey pieces in bottom of large stockpot. Add water, vegetables, garlic, wine, and bay leaves. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer over med-low heat for 2 hrs., skimming fat during cooking.

Add thyme, parsley flakes, and black pepper. Continue cooking over med-low heat for 2 hours. Strain large pieces and discard, reserving meat for future use. Cool and refrigerate or freeze.

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Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

Colorado is under water according to the news, and the New Jersey Boardwalk is burning.  Nature is certainly exacting her pound of flesh this year between the flooding, fires and tornadoes.  This brought to mind my flooding experience.  Yes, I have one of those to recall as well.  When it comes to disasters I started at A and worked my way through the alphabet.  If there’s ever a zephyr in the area, however mild, I’m probably in trouble.

We were living in Massachusetts at the time, the children still wearing Dr. Denton’s.  Wakefield was a small, typically charming New England town replete with all the perks afforded such a title.  Church steeples peeked through the trees and graveyards held markers recording history several centuries gone.  I loved it there.  It was a slow pace, the sidewalks tidily rolled up when the sun slid behind the hills. Sunday’s were reserved for worship or baking pies, or for the less pious, a chance to mow the lawn or dip a line in the beautiful lake which was the centerpiece of the town.


Summer brought with it stifling humidity in sharp contrast to the bitter cold winter would likely deal out.  Sultry days my hair, hanging towards my waist at the time, would curl the minute I stepped out the door and remain in ringlets about my face most of the day.  Both my husband and I worked in Boston, about a forty minute commute depending on the weather.  A data processing major hired by a huge hotel firm, he often pulled long hours toiling to bring their antiquated systems into the current decade making it necessary for us to use creative planning to find time to spend together.

On this particular day it was steamy early on.  I had the day off, so my hours were filled with games in the yard and laundry and whatever a young mother busies herself with when her children are present.  The house, built in the 1800’s, was airy.  Fans rotated in nearly every room. An old building, air conditioning had never been installed.  It was hot, and still. Still, yes, unnaturally so.  Plans were made with a babysitter several towns over to free me up late afternoon for a “date night” in the city with my hubbie.  Not sure if I would recognize him in a crowd, I suggested he wear a clown suit and carry a bottle of seltzer so I could locate him in the restaurant.

Durgin Park  was to be our meeting spot.  A favorite of mine.  You ate fresh Yankee fare at tables seated next to everyone from theater goers in full finery to people just getting off work for the day.  The servers were hired for their acerbic personalities and could literally dish it out as well as they could take it.  Fun. Excited, I chose my outfit carefully, opting for a lovely summer dress of delicate voile in robin’s nest blue with sheer sleeves and an empire waistline.  Shortly after four, the children dressed in PJ’s were buckled in the back seat, their overnight bag tucked between them. Once secured myself, I backed the car out of the driveway.

On the road the sky took on a menacing demeanor, black clouds replacing puffy white ones present earlier in the day.  Pulling onto the Interstate a large drop of rain splashed across the windshield.  Wishing I had brought an umbrella, I switched on the A/C in the car.  Worn out from the day, my little pirates nodded off from time to time in the rear view mirror.

Lightning flashed outside the car and a thunder-clap followed loud enough to vibrate the steering wheel.  Both children’s heads popped up, not ones to miss excitement, just as rain spewed forth from the heavens.  Awed by the lightning flashes and rolling thunder, both children fell uncharacteristically quiet, my daughter inserting a well sucked thumb into her mouth.  Twice in my lifetime I have been caught in a deluge of this magnitude.  It came swiftly and with no mercy.  Cars simply stopped on the highway, lights blinking as the rain obscured them from view. For a while we all sat, and waited. Getting worse rather than better, I started the engine. Creeping at a snail’s pace I pulled over to the right hand lane, eventually exiting at an off ramp.  Water was cascading in a natural waterfall from the overpass bridge, and on the roadway branches of trees and debris rushed by.  Not wanting to alarm the babies, I made a game of it, but a hint of panic began to form below the surface.

Afraid to keep moving forward I pulled over to the side of the road behind another car parked with its lights on.  Water was rising outside the car. Pushing the door open I waded to the car in front of me.  Knocking on the window, it opened revealing man I would guess to have been in his fifties and his female companion.  I yelled over the wind I needed help and amazingly he came with me.  Inside my car he explained there was a Holiday Inn about a half a block up.  He suggested we each take a child and make our way there.   As I didn’t see any other immediate solution, I nodded in agreement.

Stopping at his car, after a brief conversation we retrieved what I learned later was to learn was his mother-in-law.  Not able to walk in the heels I was wearing, I abandoned them.  Barefoot and toting a wet baby, my lovely diaphanous dress now clung to my frame like cellophane might to a raw filet. Struggling against the wind and current, our strange band of travelers finally reached the hotel, and entered the lobby. As luck would have it, the lobby was filled with Shriners overflowing from an already packed and rowdy bar. Glasses in hand, most were already well on their way to a good time.  Suddenly noticing a young woman standing before them bare feet puddling on the carpet wearing a see-through dress and carrying a wet baby seemed to immediately catch their attention.  Quiet fell over the room.  Sloshing forward passed the stares, I held my head high and stepped up to the desk. Summoning what dignity remained, I inquired about a room.  Fortunately, I had a credit card with me.  The clerk explained there were two rooms available, a single and one with two queen beds.  The single went to my rescuers and the other I signed up for.  Exchanging contact information, thank you’s and hugs we parted company heading to our separate floors.

Phone lines were down and no communication possible to Boston.  I ordered huge cheeseburgers, fries, hot coffee and steaming chocolate from room service. Wrapping the children in towels after a warm bath, I fed them on the bed.  Around two the following morning I was able to get a hold of my husband, now frantic.  He joined us in the morning for breakfast.  I’ll never forget the look on those Shriner’s faces when I walked in that lobby.  It was like the sequel to Nell, for those two of you who actually saw that movie.

This soup was perfect.  There was a bit of nip in air last night so it hit the spot.  Usually my pics are better than this, but I was hungry and the hour was late.

French Onion Soup

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
6 onions, sliced thin
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup port
8 cups beef broth
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. thyme
1 cup Gruyere or Swiss cheese, grated
garlic bread (recipe below)

Heat oil and butter in Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions. Cook for 8-10 mins. until tender, stirring often.


Reduce heat and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, 45-60 mins. until onions are a lovely golden brown color. Add garlic and continue cooking 1-2 mins. until fragrant.


Add port and bring to boil. Cook until liquid is reduced by 1/2. Add stock, salt, pepper, and thyme. Reduce to med.-low and cook for 40 mins.


Garlic Bread

4 slices of baguette or Artisan bread
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese, grated

Generously butter bread. Sprinkle equally with garlic powder and top with Parmesan cheese. Place 6″ under broiler until bubbly and browned. Leave broiler on.


Place one slice of bread in bottom of dish. Ladle soup over top. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese. Place under broiler until cheese is melted and lightly browned. Serves 4.

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