Posts Tagged ‘Potatoes’

Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

After the football game Sunday afternoon, they aired a spot about a Redskins player who is still driving his first car. The car was originally purchased from his pastor for $2 for at the beginning of his career. The car continues to be his drive of choice eschewing the shiny luxury models symbolizing success often chosen by high paid sports figures.  According to the player the car, with just under 200,000 miles logged, reminds him of how many miles he’s traveled to get to where he is in his career.  I like that.

Many cars have come and gone during my lifetime with my name on the title.  The first was a graduation gift from my parents as a display of their unbridled joy that between my avid interest in boys and social activities and total lack of interest in education, I had nonetheless somehow managed to graduate from high school.  As a vehicle it was a junker really, even by the lowest standards.  A 1960 Plymouth Valiant, quite likely a high contender for taking the ribbon in The Ugliest Car Contest for cars thmanufactured in that decade.  White exterior with a flat roof and plump midsection, it was reminiscent in appearance of a pregnant Carmen Ghia.  Included in the $100 asking price, was an interior smelling strongly of old stale tobacco and a right hand turn signal which when turned on honked the horn rather than notifying the driver behind you of an impending turn.   If it wasn’t for the fact it was a modicum of an improvement over my own two feet I would have driven it off a cliff and put the poor thing out of its misery.

The following year I became engaged. Returning from our honeymoon we invested in a brand new car, a Toyota stick shift.  Up until that juncture I was only experienced driving an automatic transmission. The Valiant was to be kept in service until I learned the ins and outs of a stick, a job my new husband had signed up for. This is an endeavor I do not recommend most newlyweds tackle, as it does a great deal to put the “ewwww” in newlywed.  Seated in the driver’s seat in an empty parking lot, I was given explicit instructions on the workings of the internal combustion engine, where each of the gears was located and how to get there, the function of the additional pedal known as the clutch, and how to balance clutch and accelerator to move the car forward.  Easy peasey.  Uh-huh.

Pressing my foot on the accelerator while slowly releasing the clutch, or holding down on the clutch while stepping on the brake.  What did you say again?  The jerking became so pronounced as the car moved forward my right knee bone ended up under my left ear.  My husband, not widely known for patience, was shouting most unflattering things while gesturing frantically for me to stop.  Sensing this was not the smooth ride he’d anticipated, I did as I was told removing both feet from the pedals. One last bone relocating heave and the car came to rest. Silence hung over the car for a few minutes while his Lordship gathered his composure.

We continued the lesson with the engine in the off position.  I nodded my head to everything and hoped the following lesson would go better.  First gear escaped me for some reason.  I think the fact the frustration in the car was palpable wasn’t helping my concentration. The following day tiring of the parking lot, we jerkily made our way out into the flow of traffic.  Between the “air braking”, clutching of door handles, and sucking of air going on on his side, it’s amazing I made it to the first stop light.  In first gear, I chug, chugged us through the intersection horns blaring and my teacher screaming commands like a rabid drill sergeant.  Three quarters of the way through the intersection when I’d killed the car for the third time, my mentor opened the door and got out leaving me alone with my humiliation. Through the open window he said tight lipped he was walking home.  What?  Now?  Somehow I got it in gear again and continued through the intersection with my husband’s back disappearing down a side street. Fine.

After a couple of blocks without nagging I found I was actually able to traverse all the gears somewhat smoothly and caught up with my husband now nearly jogging down the sidewalk in the hot sun.  Waving for me to pull over and pick him up I cheerily waved back as I passed him deciding to meet him at home instead.  Payback is a, well you know.

Several weeks later I was ready for my maiden voyage. Handed the car keys, I set off solo for work. Southern California was home at the time.  L.A. freeways are the worst, but L.A. freeways in rush hour traffic are just painful. Cars back then were sometimes equipped with a manual choke.  It provides a rich mix of fuel when the engine is first started.  I pulled it as instructed.  Managing the gears like a pro I pulled onto the first of three freeways I was to take to work.  Turning on my right hand signal I merged with other commuters onto the single lane connection to the second freeway along my route.  Without warning the car shuddered, then died.  Several attempts to start to no avail, horns began to honk.  Again?  Stuck, the line behind me grew quickly.  Finally, a man several cars back came to the window and asked if he could help. Traffic helicopters began to circle overhead. I had created a traffic alert.  Sitting in the driver’s seat the good samaritan discovered I’d left the choke on, causing the engine to, well, choke.  Whoops.  My husband, meanwhile, stuck impatiently far behind me said he’d entertained a fleeting thought, “I bet that’s Susie”, and then scolded himself for thinking such a thing.

Now driving a stick is second nature to me, although I haven’t owned one since the 1980’s.  It was my dream car, a brand spanking new 1985 300 ZX with all the bells and whistles.  I don’t have a big love affair with cars like many do, preferring a vehicle that will get me from Point A to Point B without requiring a tow truck to heated seats and in-flight movies. However I would have changed my name for this car.  Long gone now, there was an exhilaration driving that sleek powerful machine on the open road, shifting into fifth gear with the t-top open, hair blowing in the wind, and a tape in the tape drive, definitely special.

Garlicy Potato Fans

Olive oil
3 cloves garlic, roasted and squeezed
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup butter, melted
4 large russet potatoes
1/3 cup Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/3 cup Asiago cheese, shredded
1 Tbsp. chives
1 Tbsp. dried crushed rosemary
1/2 Tbsp. parsley flakes
Sour cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove skin from garlic and coat well with olive oil. Allow to sit for 5 mins. Cover each clove with tin foil and bake in oven for 35 mins. or until soft. Squeeze garlic into melted butter. Add salt and pepper.

Increase oven temperature to 425 degrees.

Slice potatoes in 1/8″ slices making sure not to cut all the way through. Slightly fan and pour butter/garlic mixture over the top of each potato. Bake for 1 hr. and 10 mins. basting with pan drippings every 10 mins.


Mix together cheeses and seasonings. Sprinkle over tops of potatoes. Return to oven for 10 mins. or until cheese is melted. Serve with sour cream.

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Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

Halloween is creeping up on us. Pumpkins are popping up on porches waiting to have their features chiseled into jack o’lanterns. Nights are decidedly cooler and eating slowly into the daylight.  Fall in all it’s glory, is upon us. I really miss my little ones at this time of year and their little ones.  When mine were small the sewing machine usually reamained on the kitchen table for weeks before the 31st. Next to it a pile of costumes half sewn, waited to be finished, tried on and gathered or let out if dogw-bunny-earsthe need arose.  Over the years I’ve created many a mouse, lion, scarecrow, robot, and numerous other alter egos for my pint sized candy mongers.  Trick or treating was fun back in the day.  Neighborhoods decked themselves out in cobwebs, ghosts, pea green witches and grimacing pumpkins.  Garages were transformed into haunted houses, and sounds of creaking doors and clanking chains followed youngsters up candlelit walks perhaps to find Frankenstein or Minnie Mouse at the door waiting to fill their bags or pillow cases with candy apples or sticky popcorn balls.

Like so many things in our world, it’s not a safe practice scavenging for candy anymore.  A caramel apple would most likely be tossed eliminating the possibility someone had laced it with something toxic or inserted a harmful object inside.  No more home-baked cookies, or nut covered brownies.  Even store-bought candies not in their original wrappers often end up in the trash bag.

Often in those years after my children had fleeced our own neighbors, we headed to my parents neighborhood to finish off the pillaging for the night.  One Halloween in particular when they were quite small, my son was a gray mouse, and my daughter a diminutive ballerina.  With my sons exaggerated whiskers, and goodie bag shaped like Swiss cheese, and my tiny little girl’s hot pink tutu, leotard and tights, they got the “Awwwww Award” for the evening, at least from their parents.  My parents, being more well established and older, lived in a neighborhood reflecting this status.  Larger homes, longer walkways, and a higher standard of treats.  Once a gentlemen handed each of my two pirates a $5 as he had run out of candy.  I made them return their ill-gotten gains, and just as happy they settled for a quarter and a Triscuit topped with a piece of ripe cheddar cheese.

At one house, they asked if I would wait at the end of the walkway while they approached the door by themselves.  I had an uninterrupted view so shooed them on their way. Screaming in delight they ran up the walk, excitedly yelling “trick or treat” at the porch while ringing the doorbell.  So little they looked to me silhouetted in the door frame.  A tall woman dressed as a black cat bent down, shared a brief conversation with mouse and ballerina, and nodded. In the blink of an eye, both my children disappeared inside, door closing behind them.  What?  Hansel and Gretel suddenly popped into my mind.  I raced up the stone steps nearly bursting through the large door without stopping to knock.  Gathering myself, I knocked loudly.  A man answered this time.  Explaining quickly who I was and asked about the whereabouts of one mouse and a Pepto Bismol pink ballerina.  Smiling he assured me they were fine and asked me in.  Oh-oh.  These two could be working on a family plan.  Dark basements, chains, torture devices could lurk behind the facade of the lovely middle class home.  Once inside I found my son sitting on an enormous tapestry footstool shoving cookies in his mouth, while at the same time loading several in his Swiss cheese bag for later.  My ballerina, apparently, had asked to use the facilities and was doing just that in their guest bathroom.  Sooooo, after introductions we were invited, and stayed, for a glass of mulled cider with a cinnamon stick for stirring.  Such things don’t happen much anymore, I’d imagine, unless in neighborhoods where everyone is acquainted. Many parents opt for school or community functions. Safer.  It was so much fun.  A shame to lose that.

With my birthday falling on November 1st, a Halloween party was usually on the books for the adults in our circle as well. In my garage an entire area of the rafters stored boxes marked “Halloween”.  In one dusty corner, a full-sized wooden casket stood next to the lawn mower.  Once a year we dragged it out, whisked away the cobwebs, and lined it with plastic.  On party nights it was filled with ice and transformed into the perfect cooler for an All Hallows Eve celebration.  Charlie, a full-sized plastic skeleton,  played the part of the dear departed, sitting at the end of the coffin wearing a cowboy hat and smoking a Marlboro light. You might have found any manner of horror in my Halloween boxes running the gambit from shrunken heads, skeletal hands, to full-sized witches.  Usually we welcomed sixty-five or so people into our home. Guests arriving out of costume, as indicated on our invitations, would get a bucket of ice over their heads if they dared cross the threshold.  All in good fun, of course. People when dressed as Abraham Lincoln or Elton John let down their guards for a while and mingled comfortably with strangers dressed as Goofy and The Cat in the Hat.  All in all it’s my favorite kind of party.  One of these days I’ll do it all again, but this year I’m going to a party instead and helping the hostess rather than being one myself.

A clever idea my daughter shared to spice up your Halloween punch.  Take a plastic glove and fill it either with red punch or green liquid.  Tie it securely at the open end.  Hang it upside down in the freezer.  Before putting your punch out, remove the glove and float the hand in the liquid.

In the spirit of fall colors I am posting this amazingly delicious potato recipe.  These are truly the best.  A bit of a project, but well worth the trouble.

One Potato, Two Potato Casserole

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and large cubed
4 russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 Tbsp. butter, cut in small pieces
1/2 cup shredded Mexican style cheese
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. chives

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place each group of diced potatoes in large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil and cook about 15-20 mins. or until fork tender and cooked. Drain.

For sweet potatoes:

1 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup softened cream cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
Salt and pepper

Mash potatoes and 1 Tbsp. butter with fork in large mixing bowl. Add cream cheese and sour cream. Beat on high speed with mixer until smooth and fluffy. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

For russet potatoes:

1 Tbsp. butter
1/4 cup softened cream cheese
1/4 cup sour cream
1/8 tsp. onion powder
1/8 tsp. garlic salt
1 1/2 Tbsp. chives
1/4-1/3 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Mash potatoes and 1 Tbsp. butter on bottom of large mixing bowl. Add cream cheese, sour cream, onion powder, garlic salt, and chives. Beat on high until potatoes are light and fluffy. Add milk. Whip again adding extra milk to achieve desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spray 9 x 9″ pan with cooking spray. Spoon whipped sweet potatoes into bottom of pan spreading evenly to all sides.


Spoon whipped russet potatoes on top of sweet potatoes. Spread gently to all sides.


Dot with slices of butter. Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with mixture of 1/2 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese and shredded Parmesan cheese. Top with 1 Tbsp. chives.  Place back in oven and cook for 15 mins. more or until cheese is melted.

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Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

Fall is lurking beyond the next corner.  Signs of the impending change are everywhere. Yellowed leaves caught up in the afternoon breeze can be seen spiraling to the ground and shadows stretch longer and arrive earlier in the day. Nobody loves this time of year with the associated leaves more than I do.  Lovely to hear the fall-leavescrunch beneath your feet during a brisk morning walk, and the natural cloth of color they throw across the table outside your window. As a kid in Nova Scotia, running and hurling yourself into the middle of a huge pile of newly raked leaves was an autumn right of passage. Like snow, however, leaves are pretty to look at and a pain in the rear to clean up after. Putting aside the negative aesthetics of having a yard full of leaves, fire season is fully upon us here in painfully dry California, and keeping your immediate surroundings free of ready fuel can come down to a matter of survival.

In our last house we had the same gardeners for eleven years.  It was a minimum upkeep yard with a pool in the back, built on the slope of a hill.  Every four weeks the family who tended it arrived in a truck, grandma, mom and dad, and teenage son.  They never missed, never raised their rates, and never did anything but a stellar job.  I miss them.  When we first moved in here we had them come once to do a general cleanup including their gas in the cost.  By the time we were done we could have purchased the adjacent lot.  So, I got a leaf blower. Shall I say we got a leaf blower. I say I got a leaf blower because I have learned over the years when Rick says “we”, it is in the hospital sense of the word. Like, “Have we taken our pills today?”.  He says it is an early Christmas gift, no need to thank him.

Now, I see you shaking your heads.  I’m not a big proponent of the noisy buggers either, but in our area you either blow or rake and our yard is huge and on a decided slope. Not the gazelle of my youth and looking terrible in traction, blow it shall be. I pulled the parts out of the box and assembled them.  Reading the limited instructions enclosed, it says the machine is guaranteed to produce gale force winds with the flick of a switch. Assuming this to be a noisy process and being a polite human, I waited for the virgin run until later morning. I’ve never operated a leaf blower up until now.  Not because I’m a princess I missed that line when signing up for this world, but because the occasion never presented itself I would suppose.

In the store, the salesman said it was easy peasy.  Plug it it, turn on the switch, light as a feather.  I found there are two speeds, 1 – Sub-Tropical Storm, 2 – Atlantic Hurricane.  Being intrinsically blonde I didn’t wear my glasses.  The first of many mistakes.  I began with speed 2 rather than 1, the second.  First, let me explain it is definitely not “light as a feather”.  For a full hour after I turned it off and returned it to the garage the muscles in my lower arms continued to involuntarily twitch.  For you fisherman, picture a freshly caught wide-mouth bass flopping around on the bottom of the boat.  Apparently I do not have the hang of it yet as when pointing the beast in one direction leaves, dust and debris blew everywhere.  There was, I must admit, a clean hole where I’d pointed, and the urgent need for an opthamologist.  The hole remained until I went over to the other side and began to work there.  Then, there was a clean hole in the new area and everything blew back to its original spot taking the new leaves with it.  Sigh.  After an hour it looked pretty good except for the fact that we’d only purchased a 50′ foot extension cord and needed a 100′, my bad .  There was a clearly visible line where the yard clean-up began and where the cord reached the end.  Ah well, I tried. Remind me to appropriately thank Santa for such a thoughtful gift by leaving him a liverwurst sandwich and a big glass of prune juice on Christmas Eve.

Speaking of Christmas, if we must before fall has even jump started, according to the news Kmart has already launched an advertising campaign to encourage shopping early.  Do you think we could at least purchase a pumpkin or change the flowers in our vases from summer to fall before they start with Santa themed ads?  I’m not ready.  That’s all there is to it.  My barbecue isn’t even cold yet and I’m still working on summer birthdays.  Ach.

We had company over the weekend and while out to dinner the conversation fell to the holidays.  Presents, in particular.  With extended families on both sides the cost of purchasing gifts for the adults and children in each family can get out of hand.  Rick said he read somewhere some families finish paying off Christmas from the previous year shortly before they start buying for the one coming up.  We’re not in that category, but it does get expensive.  As the little ones get older, or even once they can walk and talk, gifts on their lists to Santa get pricier.  What ever happened to Barbie or Lincoln Logs?  Gone are the days of a kid asking for a baseball bat, and even if they do, bats aren’t cheap these days, running upwards of a $100.00. Games used to be a go-to gift like Candy Land or Clue, but games for children these days are played on devices or Wii’s which can suck your supply of ready money quicker than Dracula at a Red Cross Blood Drive.

One year I watched in horror as a group of my offspring’s offspring tore into the gifts under the tree like army ants on a trek.  Such shredding and tearing has not been seen since the Watergate papers.  Clothes were thrown over shoulders and toys dumped in a pile.  My mouth dropped and my blood pressure rose.  This has never happened since, as new rules went into effect once the dust had settled.  Each child is handed a present and waits their turn to open it.  Thank you’s are in order whether it’s a crocheted soccer ball from Aunt Fran or an iPad from grandpa.

For me, I’d be happy to have a twinkling tree, the smell of stuffed bird emanating from the oven, Christmas carols playing in the background, and my family around me. A great deal of the joy of Christmas is wrapped in the anticipation. If every day was decorated so, it would make it less special. My humble opinion, again.

I wanted to share this tomato jam with you. A new friend brought me a jar she’d put up and her source and I found both the jam and the source outstanding. I served it on a baguette slice with a slab of cream cheese and it was amazing. A great way to use up the end of the season tomatoes. Visit Jennie’s blog at use real butter for the recipe and directions. You won’t be sorry.


These potatoes are Rick’s No. 1.  The bit of onion adds just the right touch.  It is difficult to put exacts on the ingredients, as I’ve made them so often I fly by the seat of my pants so taste and add as you go, but this is very close.

Light as Air Oniony Mashed Potatoes

6 russet potatoes, peeled and cut in eighths
6-8 Tbsp. butter
4 Tbsp. sour cream
1 cup whole milk
2 Tbsp. grated onion
Salt and pepper

Cover potatoes with water in large saucepan. Bring to boil over med-high heat. Reduce heat and continue cooking at a low boil until fork tender and well cooked but not mushy. Drain well.

Heat milk in small saucepan over med. heat. Do not boil. Set aside.

Place in large bowl. Mash well with fork, reducing to small pellets. Add 2 Tbsp. butter and 1 Tbsp. sour cream and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Beat on high speed for 1 min. Add 2 Tbsp. butter and remaining sour cream. Beat on high speed for 1 min. Slowly add hot milk and beat until mixture is smooth and fluffy, 3-4 mins., stopping to add salt and pepper and to taste.

Add grated onion and additional butter, if desired, and whip again on high. Adjust seasoning. Spoon into serving dish and top with pat of butter and dusting of paprika. Serves 6.

Note: I like mashed potatoes light and fluffy, no lumps. Cooking them correctly is key and also whipping the heck out of the works for me every time.

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Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

My mother is selling her bed. It’s an adjustable bed with a massage setting. Since her husband passed away the huge expanse of mattress is too much for one small individual so she wants to downsize to a full. I ran an ad for her on-line. During my last visit I took pictures of both the bed and the controls. Being the one who usually handles these things, I listed my cell phone as a reference number. As these beds are really pricey if purchased new, we got a huge response from the ad.  I now have ten people on the waiting list and my voice mail keeps filling up. I removed the ad after the fifth call figuring one of the five would take it, but people who jotted down the number when it was first published are still following up.  The last call in was from a gentleman who spoke very little English.  I explained slowly there were people in front of him waiting to see the bed but he kept yelling excitedly, “I come now!”.  Sigh.  Finally, cremating my first batch of caramelized onions trying to explain, I said I was sorry but I had to hang up. Normally I’m not a rude person, or try not to be. This reminded me of people who would call the house when my children were little.  Our housekeeper, Carmen, hailed from Guatemala and spoke little English.  “Hello, thank you, and our names”, were all I ever heard her actually say in English.  Secretly, I believed she understood far more and probably spoke much more, but this was her repertoire when we were present.

My mother is not, nor never will be a linguist.  Besides bastardizing Spanish beyond recognition, no matter how many times I explained to her Carmen did not understand a word she was saying in English no matter what speed she chose to say it, Mother would continue to speak ever so slowly into the phone if Carmen answered leaving a detailed message. Always the message was passed on to me as “Su madre llamó por teléfono“, or loosely translated, “your mother called”.

Every Friday night we drove Carmen to the bus station. Saturday and Sunday’s were spent with her son and his family in L.A. I used to admire the bravery this took on her part with no command of the language, but somehow she and her little duffel bag with the bright pink and yellow flowers returned to us in tact every Sunday night for three years.  At first it was odd having someone else living in our house, more so for the fact we couldn’t communicate.  I found my high school Spanish sadly lacking, as “Yo voy a la biblioteca”, or “I am going to the library”, really had little impact when I was trying to explain how the burners on the stove worked.

Once we climbed the first hurdle, communication, cohabiting came much easier.  It was interesting to learn about her life in Guatemala, certainly not an easy one, and her escape with her young son to the States.  From what I could glean her husband was in the military police.  Not a man of much humor, it seemed, and prone to spending many hours at the local “barra”.  Spurned on by cerveza, he often came home and took his frustrations out on his wife and child. Carmen explained there were holes for windows in her small house but no glass. Floors were raked dirt with small rugs thrown on top.  Clothing was washed out in a large metal tub and hung on a makeshift line to dry. With no way to keep them out, flies would buzz around her head while she cooked over the small stove.  Flies or not, she was an excellent cook.  Beans, or a pot of bits of this and bits of that which would become beans, were always cooking on the back burner in our house.  My daughter remembers them fondly.  Homemade tortillas were created on a small round grill, the best I’ve ever eaten.

Often she would try what I cooked.  It was fun to watch her face as new flavors were introduced to her taste buds, sometimes well received, other times not so much.  Her cooking was far afield from what you might find in a Mexican restaurant here.  Black beans,  not pintos and a delicious savory rice with vegetables.  Yum.  One she asked me if I could get yucca.  Didn’t think so, as I believe harvesting yucca in California is illegal.  In fact, I know from first hand experience, it is.  When in high school my friends and I “harvested” one from a state park.  The only way we could fit it in the back seat of my VW bug was to hang part of it out the window.  Exiting the park we were pulled over and our contraband confiscated by a park ranger.  In my defense, I did not know taking a yucca was an offense, and fortunately this guy was on his third cup of coffee and didn’t fine me.  My track record with my parents for serious offenses was already teetering on the brink.

Often I wonder where Carmen is now and hope she’s doing well.  During her stay with us I learned to appreciate how fortunate we are to live where we do and to try different foods cooked in different ways and not always settle for what is familiar. I find it interesting to explore new foods and new people.  Since meeting my other half, I’ve definitely expanded my food choices.  Being from Egypt, he definitely has different ideas about food preparation and ingredients than this Canadian.

Anyhow, I’ll leave you with this totally “white bread”, as he calls it, dish.  It is full of cheese and gooey potatoes and terrible for your waist line.  I even eat these the next day for breakfast.  Cya soon.

Bleu Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes

3 large russet potatoes, scrubbed and sliced very thin
2 onions sliced very thin
2 cups half and half
1/8 tsp. prepared mustard
1 cup crumbled bleu cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup asiago cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat oil in large heavy skillet over med.-high heat. Add sliced onions and cook about 5-6 mins. until beginning to brown. Reduce heat and continue cooking 12 mins. until lovely golden brown color. Set aside.


Whisk together half and half and dry mustard.

Place sliced potatoes in bottom of deep saucepan. Pour half and half over the top. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool.


Spray 2 quart shallow baking dish with cooking spray. Place 1/3 of the potatoes on the bottom of the pan using slotted spoon. Reserve half and half in pan. Top potatoes with 1/2 of the caramelized onions. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the bleu cheese and 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.


Add another layer of 1/3 potatoes, 1/3 onions, and 1/3 bleu and mozzarella cheeses. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with last layer of potatoes and finally last 1/3 of bleu and mozzarella cheeses. Pour reserved half and half over all. Top with asiago cheese. Sprinkle lightly with paprika. Cover with tin foil.



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Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

It feels like I haven’t been on the Internet in weeks, largely because I have not. Send up the balloons, we are moved! Truly I thought it was never going to happen. Characteristic of my choices in life, I picked the hottest day of the year to relocate. The outside thermometer read 108 degrees at 5:00 in the afternoon and inside the garage where we were working you could have whipped up grilled cheese sandwiches on the cement. At 8:00 a.m. we picked up the truck and we made our last trip around 3:00 a.m. the following morning still needing to be unloaded.

One truly life saving plan I put in place was a reservation for the first two nights at a motel about ten minutes from the new house. Blessedly they had a meal delivery service with catering available to the rooms from four local restaurants otherwise we might have been found the next day blubbering in the corner fighting over a crumb or a dead insect. It was a “Susie Motel”, as Rick is prone to refer to them. Somehow I have developed a sixth sense for choosing a place with character to stay for the night. Each seems guaranteed to offer up something blog worthy to report about. This, was no exception. Knowing beforehand we were going to be prostrate from the heat, I checked the website for indications there was a pool on the premises. Finding a picture of a lovely poolside scene, I thought at least we could look forward to a cool dip after a long day.

Boo, the Queen of Cats, not the least bit pleased at being uprooted from her favorite chair and deposited into a cat carrier voiced her objections at least once every mile of the trip. Once the movers were well, moving, at the house we quickly drove the few miles to check into our room and let Boo out for a drink and a bowl of kibble before heading back to supervise the goings on. The air conditioner in the room, though it could compete with the roar of a jet engine when switched to high, threw out cold air with abandon so Boo, at least, was languishing on the bed in comfort cautiously eying her new surroundings.

We worked with the movers long into the night and hit the bed in droopy sweaty piles in the wee hours. After a refreshing three hours sleep we got our wake up call. A coffee pot and filters had been provided for our use so rather than get dressed and go to the lobby, I threw a pre-measured filter in the appropriate place and added water to the well. If possible, the coffee pot was even louder than the air conditioning unit, making me want to say “all systems are go for liftoff”. The plan was to get the majority of the work done at the house before the heat once again made it impossible. Unfortunately, the heat hadn’t gotten the memo regarding our agenda and hadn’t really gone home the night before so outside had that just stepped into the oven feel even before breakfast. I inquired at the office as to the location of the pool. A helpful sort pointed to a well-forested glen behind the parking lot with what appeared to be a suspension bridge leading down into the brush. This was to give it that “tropical ambience”, I was informed. I told him I was looking forward to grabbing a machete and looking for it when I returned only to be told a sink hole of some sort had opened up nearby and the pool was temporarily closed until they determined it to be safe to use. Now that was reassuring news. Immediately I had a mental picture of our entire strip of rooms disappearing overnight, never to be seen again.

It took three or four more trips to the old house to gather the last of our belongings after the initial “big move”. Once everything was actually here rather than there I slung ropes from the ceiling fans so we could repel from one room to the other. Up and down the stairs I went carrying empty boxes up and full ones down. Ten years of belongings were strewn wherever there was a vacant spot and I had serious doubts that any of it was every going to find a home in the available storage space.

Storage space continued to elude me, particularly with no pantry. Not one to run from a challenge I searched the newspaper for a handyman. It never ceases to amaze me that contractors, etc. will pay for expensive newspaper ads looking for work but when you actually answer the ad they either never call you back or make an appointment and never arrive to give you an estimate. My solution for finding space for a pantry, as I always have too much food to store, was to turn the coat closet into a storage area by adding shelving and putting Rubbermaid storage units on the inside of the doors. After considerable searching we found a contractor who tendered a reasonable bid and set up an appointment for the first of the following week to begin work. Meanwhile our canned goods and cooking supplies resided in the living room on a huge fold out table we kept from our restaurant catering days. It made a nice conversation piece when people stopped by. Two hours before he was to arrive to begin work on our list of repairs, he called saying his mother needed him on the coast and he wasn’t going to come. Assuring me he’d call when he returned, we left it at that. Fortunately, this was not my first rodeo when it came to matters of this sort. Had I waited to hear from him we’d still be entertaining with our canned corn stacked by the fireplace.

This is our new dining room and the view from same. It’s like eating in a tree house.


IMG_4149At last we found a wonderful helper in a local contractor. He installed strong workable shelves and our groceries found a home. So, we begin a new chapter in our wonderful house in the trees. I should have taken before and after pictures but who knew where the camera was? At any rate, I’ll share some of the afters with you once I get settled and begin cooking in earnest once again.

Hope all is well with you. Have missed “chatting” with you all and hope you’re still out there in my world.

Let’s start out with something easy for the upcoming holiday. Too hot to get elaborate today. These were just good. Let me know what you think if you try them.

Hot Dogs with Baked Malt Vinegar Potato Chips, Peppers, and Onions

6 hot dogs
6 hot dog buns
Dill pickle slices
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 large russet potatoes, skin on sliced thin
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced thin
1/2 yellow bell pepper, seed and sliced thin
1/2 yellow onion, slice thick
1 1/2 Tbsp. hot paprika
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (I like a lot!)
Cooking Spray
Malt Vinegar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Place sliced vegetables in large bowl. Toss well with olive oil, paprika, salt and pepper.

Line a baking sheet with tin foil and spray generously with cooking spray. Place in oven while preheating.

Remove baking sheet and place vegetables in single layer on sheet. The sheet should be hot enough that the vegetables will sizzle when placed on foil. Bake for 30 mins. or until crispy, turning once. Sprinkle as desired with malt vinegar and salt. Serve on top of boiled hot dogs in buns with pickles and your choice of condiments. Delish.

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Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

My mother is a rock in my garden.  Always has been.  At the age of one when my father died, she took my small hand in hers and since that time we have faced the good and bad in our lives, the birth of my children, her grandchildren, the marriages left behind and those coming up, together. 2013 did not start out well for our small band with the passing of my stepfather.  Will, a decorated World War II pilot, commercial pilot, jazz pianist, tennis player extraordinaire, and father of three is much missed in our circles.  For my mother, this was the end of yet another chapter in her life, and the opening of a new one.  Encircled by a ring of friends and loved ones she struggled with her loss after the activities involved in saying goodbye to one who has passed are over, and the business of getting on with living without them must be faced.  It is a lonely place to find yourself.

As is often said about aging parents, the rolls can subtlety shift between parent and child as the years progress. At some point adult children may be required to take the baton from their parents and find themselves in the position of caretaker rather than visa versa.  It has been a difficult time this transition.  Mother, fiercely independent, while at the same time fearful in some ways, wants to maintain her life in the home she shared with Will.  Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is although the house is the same, and she the same in it, the fact that Will is not there makes everything vastly different.  Grief is something none of us can escape. If we exist for any amount of time on this earth, no matter how much wealth we have amassed, our standing in the community, or how good or giving a person we are, we cannot avoid facing loss at one point or another. No aide, friend, family member, or paid associate can assume this burden for us. It is a personal journey.

Usually I am the one in the family carrying the solution book. This time I have to admit I don’t have all the answers. We speak four times a day. I visit as often as possible, as there are four hours driving distance between us.  I encourage outside activities, having friends over, getting a roommate (already tried unsuccessfully), moving in with us, and taking up a hobby.  The truth is, for the last ten years my mother focused on taking care of her husband and now he is gone she is trying to figure out where her piece fits in the puzzle without connecting to his piece. Each day, however, things seem a little brighter for her.  Time, as it will, has a way of taking the edge off of memories, allowing us to view them with less pain, even embrace them with joy.

As the Baby Boomer generation moves up in the ranks this conundrum is going to become a familiar one.  Living longer as a rule, the scenario I’m describing above will repeat itself over and again.  Unless by an act of God, one parent is going to leave before another and some parents either by choice, or providence will have no partners entering their golden years.  I feel extremely fortunate my mother is here with us in all ways, her batteries fully charged. I learn from her every day about how I want to be when I reach her age and what I want to do now to plan ahead.  Hopefully I inherited some of her strengths, undoubtedly some of her weaknesses, nearly all of her stubbornness (and I passed that on in spades), as well as undeniably bearing witness to the fact every time I see my reflection in the mirror I am carrying her genes forward as will my offspring and theirs.

One thing I have noted, it is important to create your own happiness.  The world will not stop to dry your tears and the harsh reality is that once the dust has cleared after someone has passed on, others return to their lives, which is as it should be.  Attitude and willingness to continue learning and exploring have a great deal to do with, I believe, the success of full life once you have reached the golden years.  Waking up each day with a positive outlook and making use of the time allotted you constructively and with enthusiasm rather than sitting on the couch waiting for your arteries to harden or living in a past which is exactly as described, passed. Not simply filling time, but actually living.

People are remaining in the work force longer than before.  Work, as I continually remind my grandchildren, will not kill you.  Perhaps in the case of older citizens if can even be a catalyst for keeping a person involved and vital. This is not a credo I have been able to successfully drum into my grandchildren’s heads as yet, but then if you can’t get them to look up from their iPad, what really is the point of wasting the air?  One granddaughter recently took an after school job at a dollar store.  Her work schedule requires her to be on site three days a week for four hours.  After the first day she informed her mother the work was excruciatingly hard, she was misunderstood, totally stressed, and took to her bed.  Further, she described the position as practically slave labor where employees weren’t permitted to receive or send phone calls or texts, and there was no lunch break, only a ten minute break mid-shift.  This made me smile.  Perhaps I need to ship her over to India or China to work alongside children far younger than herself who toil in the sweat shops for pennies a day. Stooped over for a  twelve-hour day in a hot warehouse, often without benefit of a chair to sit in, the cell phone issue may take on far less importance.

All generations have their issues.  It has been said of the younger generation since the first group of elders they would amount to nothing, and yet we continue to progress.  So, this Mother’s Day, I am saluting my Mom the best Mom/Dad combination going, all the mom’s to be, and those already signed up.  Take the time to remember Mom, it is always appreciated. Mom’s come in all shapes and sizes, their loves transcends one species to another, and is endless and unconditional. Hope your day is special and the love abundant.

This potato salad is creamy and delicious. Do not undercook potatoes as they will be like pellets, and overcooked like mush. Keep an eye on them. A fork should be easily inserted.

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A Dilly of a Potato Salad

15 medium russet potatoes
1 red onion, chopped
3/4 cup celery, chopped
4 dill pickle spears, seeded and diced
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. whole-grain mustard
2 Tbsp. dill
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Place the potatoes in jackets in large pot. Cover amply with water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and cook on high simmer for 20 mins. or until potatoes are fork tender. Remove with slotted spoon and allow to cool.

In small bowl mix together milk and 1 tsp. lemon juice. Allow to sit for 10 mins.

In small mixing bowl whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, milk/lemon juice, Dijon mustard, whole-grain mustard,dill, salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.


When potatoes are cool, peel and dice into large bowl. Add onion, celery and pickles. Incorporate dressing into vegetables until well mixed and desired consistency. You may have some dressing left over. (I used extra dressing for dipping slices of cucumber.) Season to taste.


Spoon into serving bowl and sprinkle with paprika or decorate with a slice of red onion and thin slices of dill pickle spears as shown above.

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Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

The first wasp of spring is hovering under the eave outside my dinner room window.  I’m not a fan. Bees, wasps and any manner of stinging beasties have followed me, as I’ve said before, throughout my lifetime leaving little furry bee footprints all over my psyche.

Living in Arkansas, as I’ve said many times, was like going to a different planet for me. Once acclimated to the oppressive humidity, I was struck by the amazing beauty and dramatic scenery surrounding me. The water was the first of many differences. Almost clay like in color, the ponds and rivers appeared to be filled with creamy milk chocolate rather than water. Jutting tree limbs shrouded in lacy fauna cast shadows across murky lagoons like ghostly figures watching over an eerie domain. Buzzing insects were a given, ranging from extraordinarily persistent oversized mosquitos to chiggers, fleas, ticks, bees and a entomologist’s happy list of so many others. Not to be outdone, the slithering and reptilian species stuck their scaly heads up from beneath the browny depths from time to time, others sunning lazily on the smooth surface.

Hailing from that area, my husband at the time owned his first fishing pole before he tasted his first jar of baby food. Waterways thereabouts offered up an abundance of riches for those adept at casting a line, catfish being a local favorite. Before I moved to the south I viewed catfish as bottom feeders. Fish you threw back over the boat if you happened to haul one in. After tasting the delicate flavor of a freshly caught catfish dredged in a half mix of cornbread and flour then deep-fried, I was as hooked as that well whiskered fish.

One weekend with nothing on the calendar, we packed our fishing gear and my sketch pad, stopped at the bait shop in town and drove a piece to a state park set on a river.  Our little corner of paradise was located in the tri-state portion of the state. The tri-state area encompassed parts of Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. In the blink of an eye you might find yourself across a state line without even noticing it.  This particular day we crossed into Texas.

It was hot that day, but then you could say that most days there during the summer months. In the heat of the day the fish don’t bite, and soon I became disenchanted watching the bobber moving up and down on the end of my line. Casting our lines once again far across the water I anchored mine in the dirt, and began to draw. It was seductively warm and after awhile I leaned back on both elbows and just let the sun have it’s way with me. “Hold still”, were the next words I heard. Never one to take directions well, I opened my eyes catching movement to the right of me. About two feet beyond my bare feet a cottonmouth snake was slithering up the bank. I’m not sure if I wet my pants, but I’m quite sure I thought about it. Stopping to give me a once over and appearing to find me lacking, it lifted its head as if to say hello or strike then moved on. Everything inside my body had already moved on.  It was explained to me afterwards though cantankerous, and capable of delivering  a fatal bite they are basically docile and such occurrences do not occur often with humans.  Sincerely hope the snake had a bead on that information.

Now I needed to use the restroom. Nothing was available except for the park facilities which hadn’t been updated since Lincoln freed the slaves. It had stone walls, and was broken up into a side which said “MEN” and another for the ladies, but as far as amenities it was just one rung above a portapotty.   I had bib overall shorts on that day. I only remember this because not long after I entered the building I recall dragging the bib portion clinking behind me all the way back out the door. Perched on the commode I noticed a very loud buzzing. Letting my mind wander, I attributed this buzzing to telephone wires or machinery of some sort. Following the sound upwards my eyes rested on a huge brown mud-like looking mass with bees circling around it. An inquisitive scout dropped down to take a look at me. From what I understand, they’re called mud dobbers. Because I am what I refer to as “beephobic”, this was tantamount in my world to having a hungry tiger circling the room. Heart beating and in mid-stream I ran screaming from the restroom dragging my bib overalls in the puddle left behind. Running straight past my astonished husband standing outside waiting for me, I didn’t stop to say hello on my way to the car. I’m sure I gave the people standing in the parking lot a lot to talk about over dinner.

Often during my time in the south the locals would say to me “You’re not from around here, are you?”.  How could you tell?

This is an excellent way to use up the St. Patrick’s Day corned beef still lurking in your freezer. The broth keeps the dish from drying out and adds a nice flavor. My other half likes the olive oil basted eggs from time to time. A subtle difference from cooking them in butter, also really good over a bed of lemony spinach as a change of pace.

Corned Beef Hash with Olive Oil Basted Eggs

Corned Beef Hash

3 Tbsp. butter
1 onion chopped
1/3 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cups leftover corned beef, small cubed
1 1/2 cups cooked, skinned potatoes, cubed
1/4-1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt 2 Tbsp. of butter in large deep skillet over med. heat. Add onion and green pepper to pan and cook until onions are translucent and peppers are soft, about 5 mins.


Increase heat to med.-high. Add 1 Tbsp. of butter to pan and corned beef and potatoes. Pour 1/8 of a cup of vegetable broth overall. Continue cooking, lifting with spatula to test for browning, until bottom is golden brown. Turn over gently adding additional broth as needed to keep from drying out.


Season well with salt and pepper. Stir in parsley and serve hot.

Olive Oil Basted Eggs

Olive oil
8 large eggs
Salt and pepper

In large skillet bring 1/2″ of olive oil to shimmer over med. heat. Cooking in batches, place each egg in a ramekin and slide into oil. Baste top of egg repeatedly to cook to your liking. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with parsley.

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Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

Several news stories of interest from across the pond this week.  Kate is expecting, and the Pope now has an active twitter account.  I find the first exciting and the second, well, disturbing.

Yesterday I was cooking on all burners, literally, all day.  For neighbors, friends, and family I usually bring a plate of something home-baked over the holidays when visiting which, truthfully, isn’t always a blessing as I’ve mentioned before I’m the first to point out baking is not my forte.  It’s not that I’m abysmal at it, but I’m certainly not going to win the Pillsbury Bake-off any time in the near future nor be sought out to submit an entry.  Most probably this stems from the fact that sweet foods are not the ones that call to me in my dreams, rather lovely golden potatoes crisp from the fryer, or salads piled high with fresh veggies and a big dollop of something white and cheesy, undoubtedly full of cholesterol and totally bad for you.  Ay, there’s the rub, eh?  Everything you like to eat, especially this time of year, is on the forbidden side of the food list.  Why were these foods provided to us, if we can’t eat them I ponder?  Perhaps I’ll tweet the Pope on this. Smile.

I believe I spoke to the fact a few blogs ago my son-in-law, an insulin dependent diabetic, recently had a heart attack.  Thankfully, he’s out of the hospital and back to work but with two stents in his body and a whole new set of rules to live by provided by his medical team.  For those of you either diabetic yourselves, have diabetics in your immediate families, or have acquaintances that are diabetic (Which is nearly everyone reading this blog and most who are not, I might add which is most of the population.) you will not be surprised to know that the proper diet plays a huge part of managing the disease.

Since the heart attack his whole way of eating had to be examined and modified.  Everything, it seems that goes in his mouth needs to be accounted for. Counting carbs, sodium, and weighing, measuring, time of day you eat, all thhelp to achieve balance which is key. How to do this is the puzzle. Interesting enough with a disease so prevalent in our society these days their aren’t many guidelines out there to follow.  I was amazed to note that lettuce actually has carbohydrates.  Who knew?  In the end, I would suppose food could actually become  your enemy, which as the obesity rates continue to move upward on the chart, would not make this an isolated case where this is true.

When I was in my early twenties I had a habit of passing out.  Did it regularly.  It happened first while working for moving company.  My desk was at the front counter, with the customers entering through the front door and standing at the counter to ask me questions, place a move order, or offer a complaint.  Back then donuts were a familiar sight on our break room table.  Truck drivers, on the road the majority of the time, often got quick sugar snacks to help them keep their eyes open on long nights beating the pavement looking at the yellow line sprawled out along the highway.  Every once in a while I would partake of a cinnamon roll or an apple fritter as I passed by.

The morning I passed out, I believe I had two.  At twenty I had the metabolism of a gazelle, so I could have downed that with a double chocolate malt and an In ‘n Out burger and fries with no visible change in my body, but that’s another blog and these days at least a two-hour stint on the treadmill.  At any rate, an older couple (probably in their forties – I know, ouch) came in to order some boxes.  Facing them at the counter I directed their eyes to a box display the wall behind them.  They turned to look, turned back, and Susie was no longer standing there.  I was told they waited some time for me to come back, until finally another employee walked in to discover me prone on the floor with powdered sugar still clinging to my unconscious fingertips.  Whisked off to the hospital, after some tests and poking and prodding it was determined that I had hyperglycemia, which is low blood sugar.

Before being released from the emergency room, I was handed a two page diet to follow which virtually eliminated every food I liked leaving basically fish with no breading, broccoli with no butter, and a bowl of cottage cheese with no salt pepper on the “foods you can have” side of the list.  At twenty, for me a foodie of the highest magnitude, this was like saying you can still breathe, but only once an hour.  Sigh.  It was a sad few years for me.  When I fell off the wagon I could often be found passed out on the rug clutching a half eaten bag of biggee fries or a piece of Kentucky fried chicken, so I do understand and have total empathy for how difficult it is to have to sacrifice all the feel good foods but sometimes we’re faced with no choice.

Luckily for me this condition miraculously righted itself in my thirties.  A miracle, truly.  My sugar seems to have regulated itself somehow but those years of living virtually without carbohydrates and processed sugars have left scars, my friends, and they run deep.  In my mind, I still feel a huge need to eat in a healthy manner.  I’ll never quite enjoy a BLT, the way I did in my misspent youth but I did give my full attention to this light egg salad sandwich with this delicious soup.  If you wish to make this low carb, as a note, you can also make it with a whole cauliflower rather than the potatoes without sacrificing any flavor.

Leek, Potato and Mushroom Soup

1/4 cup butter
3 leeks, white and some green, halved and sliced thin
6 large button mushrooms, halved and sliced thin
1 large onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 large russet potatoes, peeled and sliced thin
6 cups rich chicken broth
1/4 cup parsley flakes
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. white pepper
Pinch ground nutmeg
1 egg yolk, beaten
2 bacon strips, cooked crisp crumbled for garnish
Sour cream for garnish

In large skillet melt butter over med. heat. Add leeks, onions, mushrooms, and garlic to skillet. Saute until vegetables are tender but not browned, about 8 mins. Remove from heat.


Add potatoes, broth and parsley to large stockpot. Add leek/onion/mushroom mix to pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Cook for 30 mins. or until vegetables are tender.


Let cool slightly. Strain broth reserving vegetables. Place vegetables in food processor and puree. Return both broth and pureed vegetables to stockpot. Add seasonings.


Beat egg yolk. Add 2 Tbsp. of soup to yolk and whisk into soup in pot. Continue cooking over med. heat for 15 mins.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream if desired and top with crumbled bacon bits.

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Photo by Susie Nelson

There is definitely frost on the pumpkin this morning. When you exist in a house that has 33 windows, guaranteed your heating bill will exceed your car payment. In an effort to keep our propane costs down we bought space heaters several years ago. Surprisingly, they’ve done a stand up job, if you will. Unfortunately, as with my winter clothes, warm socks, shoes, and cuddly pj’s Susie, in her infinite blondness and believing we would be moved long before the advent of winter, packed them all in boxes at the beginning of the summer. Somewhere in the mountains of boxes stacked in the garage and in a spare bedroom are my warm feet waiting to be discovered. I suppose I will have to brave the elements and start sorting through the piles lest we be described by a local reporter after our passing as a lovely couple found seated on the couch their hands frozen to the handles of their coffee cups. Sigh.

It’s Tuesday, sort of a day stuck in between the first day of the week and the middle, with nothing much to make it stand out in the crowd. I like Sundays. Historically, they are a day of rest and reflection and for me, not one to be found seated too often, are composed of reading the paper, enjoying several cups of coffee, cooking a substantial breakfast, attending to my spiritual needs, and entertaining myself in pursuits that give me pleasure. Basically a narcissist’s day at the fair.

Outside my kitchen window three deer are grazing, all does. From the size of them I think they might be a young mother and her two teenage girls. Mom, has one game leg and comes every day for an orange or a piece of carrot. Feeling she needs more help than the average bear, I hope when we’re gone, someone will still offer her a small treat from time to time.

My other half, my biggest supporter and worst critic, informed me after reading my past two blogs I had some typos and a misspelling or two. What! Spellcheck must be suffering from a malfunction. Sometimes when I hit “Save Draft” while writing, I think WordPress doesn’t catch up and I lose the most recent corrections. Oooooooor, it could be user error. 🙂

I took typing in high school, not because I had dreamed since the age of four to type in an office for the rest of my life, but because knowing my track record even at that age, I thought it prudent to have a back up plan lest that millionaire prince didn’t show up immediately after graduation. In the end my prince showed up right on time, but in the form of a junior draftsman and college student with his net worth totalling two nickels and some student loans. Dreams of flying the friendly skies and saying “coffee, tea, or me” for myself, flew out the window when a little over a year after we were married there was an occupied crib in our second bedroom. This being the case, other than twirling an excellent baton, typing turned out to be the only marketable skill I had. Bummer.

Looking back I’m glad I chose that elective as over the years my typing, now keyboarding skills have managed to keep me and mine fed and clothes on our backs.

Back in the day, there was no Spellcheck other than whatever proofreading you performed on your work, or the bleeding your boss did on it after proofing it himself. At eighteen I accepted my first job offer, a dispatch clerk for a moving company. Three hundred big ones a month and all the bad coffee you could drink.  Typing bills of lading and shipment logs on three-part NCR forms, made up the majority of my job description. What a pain in the behind NCR forms were.  One mistake necessitated correcting it in triplicate. To do this you either slathered on a load of White-Out leaving it looking messy or used a straight-edged blade to shave the mistyped letter off on all three copies. Consequently, we were all fairly accurate as no one liked to stop and clean up an error.

My second job I was part of the secretarial pool in what they called “executive row” for a huge enginnering conglomerate.  Basically a long complement of well appointed offices occupied by vice presidents and their senior engineering advisors. One typist in our pool was a particularly striking girl and very well put together. However, there was not much going on under her bonnet, if you get my drift.  Although nicely decorating the office, she made so many typing errors the engineers awarded her a gallon jug of Liquid Paper with a spray nozzle when she moved on to another job. After she left I found several pieces of correspondence she’d produced in the files. There was so much correction fluid applied to the sheets of paper, when folded all the corrected letters and numbers cracked and sloughed off in a pile on the floor. CSI would have loved that crime scene.

For myself when reading my own writing I can often read and reread and still miss what is lying directly in front of my eyes. It is most helpful to have a second pair to catch what I do not.

Thinking back to when you had to prove yourself on the typewriter before being hired, I can recall taking five and ten minute speed typing tests. Under pressure, your hands would cramp trying to maintain speed and preserve accuracy while typing unlikely paragraphs full of symbols and odd words designed to make you do exactly the opposite. Once I took a test next to a lovely young girl with only one arm. Sitting at a long desk we struck up a conversation. One arm was lost just after she was born, she told me, but she had never let it stand in her way. Typing, as with most things in her life did not pose a problem for her. When the woman came in to set the timer and begin the test, I assumed, mistakenly I might add, I would far out type someone with one arm. Another example of how easy it is to perceive people with handicaps as handicapped when they themselves do not .  Her one arm pivoted back and force across those keys so quickly I’m surprised the plastic didn’t melt and fuse together in a puddle. How humiliating. Kind of like losing a hurdle race to a runner wearing a hobble and a blindfold. The handicap in this case was only in my mind.  Lesson learned.

Sooooo, I will endeavor to check and recheck, or Spellcheck and re-Spellcheck before I publish.

I love these potatoes.  They are as at home tucked in next to several slices of roast beef as they are paired with fried eggs.

Potatoes Boulangere

5 slices bacon, diced
1 Tbsp. olive
1 clove garlic, minced
2 onions, sliced thin
2 lbs. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled, halved, and sliced in 1/4″ slices
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
3/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups chicken broth

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cook bacon in Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Drain all fat except 1/2 tsp. and add olive oil to pan. Heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions, thyme, bay leaves, drained bacon bits, salt and garlic to pan. Allow to cook, stirring occasionally until onions caramelize and turn a lovely golden brown, about 15 mins.

Bring chicken broth to boil in small saucepan. Cover and remove from heat.

Add potatoes to pan and cook for 5 mins. stirring often. Pour hot broth over all and bring to a boil.

Place in preheated oven for 20 mins. covered. Remove from oven and remove cover. Cook an additional 40 mins. or until potatoes are golden brown. Discard bay leaves before serving.

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Photo by Susie Nelson

With another holiday put to bed and summer once again fading  into the background, the two holiday big hitters are now squarely in our path.  In a pre-holiday mood, I celebrated yesterday by adding another candle to my birthday cake.  Yes, humflumgiber years ago I came sliding head first into this world. Weighing in at a robust 9 lbs. 9 oz., and sensing my food source for the previous nine months left behind me, my mother says I arrived carrying a menu and signalling for a waiter.  A foodie from the first breath of oxygen.

Boo the Queen of Cats Seal of Approval

Two weeks prior to my birthday I typically experience an odd kind of melancholy. This is guided I believe by the Ghost of Birthdays Past. In my life at least, the caprice of the birthday fairy might find the boa skirted nymph sprinkling me lavishly with birthday happy dust one year and dropping me head first in a tub of fish guts the year following.  That being said, I approach my big day with a feeling better described as trepidation than elation.

This year I must definitely award a thumbs up to the old girl. Lovely flowers showed up at a steady pace to the point where it began looking like we were either burying or marrying somebody on the premises.  What a treat fresh flowers are!  Nay Sayers will insist sending flowers represents a lot of money shelled out for something that,  in eventuality, will end up stems up in a garbage bag next to the leftover chicken salad. True perhaps, but still they make my heart smile. Snap dragons, 100 of them (buds not stems) were the first to arrive from my daughter.  From my mother, a vivid bunch of marigold mums, red carnations and white daisies sprouting jauntily out of the top of a widely grinning pumpkin. My other half outfitted me for winter, and my son and his family created a photo book of their year, and it went on…..

In my lifetime I have become engaged on my birthday and said goodbye to the same marriage four years later.  One birthday I spent in a hospital bed mourning the loss of my gall bladder and on another toured the Canadian Rockies in their pre-winter glory.  This year, Dear Diary, was a red-letter day with much spoiling and a plethora of happy moments all tied up in a large fragrant red bow.  Loved it.  Seriously spoiling is definitely underrated.

It is amazing how a simple act of thoughtfulness can make an ordinary day extraordinary.  Sometimes, to this writer, it feels like simple acts of thoughtfulness and common courtesy have somehow fallen by the wayside.  The little niceties that make a person feel appreciated. Perhaps acknowledging an act of kindness from a friend,  sending thank you notes showing appreciation for a gift received, or at least phoning and expressing thanks in person, if writing is not your choice of expression. I think it’s generational.  I am constantly searching for note cards and thank you notes for my mother because she writes so many of them she quickly exhausts her supply.  As a child I can picture my grandmother sitting at her writing desk and penning notes to friends for this and that occasion.  It was not only courteous, but back in the day it was considered extremely rude not to do so.

Several days ago I was in town and an elderly lady in the car to my left signaled and gestured to the space in front of me in my lane.  I slowed slightly and waved her in.  The man behind me, obviously feeling having that one space taken up had ruined his entire day, showed his displeasure by acquainting me with the configuration of the middle finger on his left hand as well as a machine-gun display of his sadly lacking vocabulary seeming to consist of only four letter words pertaining to bodily functions.

Yesterday I was in the market.  Yes, again, they are making me a gold member and dedicating a shopping cart in my honor.  It was the first of the month thus the lanes were bee hive busy as were the lines to check out.  Two men in paint splattered coveralls got behind me and my fully loaded cart in line.  Noticing they had a bag of apples and two coffees I offered them a cut in line.  They went on about this as though I’d just given them a winning lottery ticket or introduced them to Jennifer Lopez.

Last night we had reservations for dinner.  After a busy day I decided I’d rather do take out so I called to cancel.  The gentlemen answering the phone thanked me profusely saying that most people don’t bother and it surely makes their job easier.  Really?

Not just the obvious courtesies like opening a door, or giving a deserved compliment, but simple “pleases” and “thank you’s” seem to be becoming passé.  In our house if a member of the four-foot and under set demanded a cookie or a drink without including those words in their request they would find themselves holding a bag of trash to take out rather than chocolate chips and juice in those greedy little fingers.

It takes so little time to do something that means so much. Offer a smile as you pass someone or say “hello”, “good morning”, whatever. Even if they don’t respond in kind, it is amazing how good it makes you feel to have done it. In this vein, not having much time on my hands these days, I decided that I have enough time to do at least one “random act of kindness” every day between now and Thanksgiving as my way of giving back. So far, it has been a most rewarding experience I must say that makes me feel better every time I do it. Give it a try. Definitely food for the soul.

These French fries, or I guess French bakes are the best. So much less grease than deep frying with all of the flavor and more. I doubted I could duplicate it but in the interest of my cholesterol and my love of papas fritas, I had to give it a go.

If you give them a try, let me know if you agree! Um, thank you for stopping by. It is much appreciated and I am glad to have such nice readers to share my thoughts with.

Best Spicy Baked Potato Wedges

4 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 to 1/2″ wedges
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
Lawry’s garlic salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place potatoes in large bowl with lid. Pour olive oil over them and place the lid on tightly. Shake to coat. Mix all spices together and sprinkle over coated potatoes. Place lid on again and shake until evenly coated.

Cover large cookie sheet with foil. Spray liberally with cooking spray. Place coated potatoes in a single layer on pan.

Bake 40 mins. turning once until lovely golden brown. Sprinkle with Lawry’s garlic salt if desired. Serve immediately with your favorite dipping sauce.

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