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Watching Good Morning America over the brim of my coffee cup yesterday, I listened while Joe Manganiello discussed the history of his romance with then-girlfriend now-wife Sofia Vergara. Sofia, for those of you who have lived on a desert island with no media access since 2009, portrays the curvaceous hot younger wife of Ed O’Neill on Modern Family on prime time ABC.

Manganiello was asked if there was any truth to the rumor he’d written a forty page book dedicated to his lovely lady. He acknowledged in fact he had created such a book to mark the occasion of the anniversary of their first date. Really? No, I mean it, really? First, amazingly he knew what date they first met, and secondly he’d conceived such a personal and lovely way to show his love for her. Insert awwwww right here ladies. Go ahead, I’m right behind you. During that first year he created a photo journal documenting their travels, where they ate, evenings they shared, events they attended and included all these moments in her gift. Wow. I’m seeing a gold star in his future and much, much more.

Women, at least those who populate my life, love a little romance. A continual diet would be delightful but historically, at least in my world, a whiff here and there can get one by. I have found quite often the overtly romantic overtures get tossed out with the wilted flowers following the exchange of wedding vows or linger on in a paler shade until the first diaper is purchased at Walmart. After that day-to-day life tends to insinuate itself and romance often takes a back seat to bills, work, school, rearing children, taking the dog to the vet and generally everything else that fills the average person’s day.

Romance does not have to come with a high price. Surely in the tax bracket Joe Manganiello’s income falls under the man could afford to give his bride an extravagant vehicle or an obscenely large diamond. Instead, he chose to present her with a gift that took time, thought, and creativity. To me, this is a far richer gift to receive. However, if you’ve put a down payment on my metallic silver Porsche I’ll still accept delivery. Who am I to hurt anyone’s feelings.

I consider myself a low maintenance girl. Rick might tell a different tale, but I don’t think so. Many times while writing this blog I’ve talked about missing the princess line when coming into this world. Some women get handed a tiara before heading down the chute. In my case it was a Hoover and a can of furniture spray. Once after I had surgery I took a picture of my ex-husband vacuuming. When on my feet again I had the picture blown up and framed thinking this to be the only way I was ever going to see him doing it again. Turns out my intuition I was spot on.

There are many ways to show your love not involving a trip to the mall or a shopping spree on-line. A happily married neighbor recently commented on weekends her husband brings her coffee and her paper and on Sunday serves her brunch. Small concessions perhaps, but speaking of them made her smile.

After you’ve cohabited for a while the rules of the game tend to loosen a bit. Once you’re not working anymore these rules become downright loosey goosey. When we first met Rick would show up at my door in a crisply pressed shirt and pants for a night out. In turn, I would open the door wearing perhaps a dress and heels or an outfit appropriate for the occasion and off we would go. Living together day in and day out makes continuing this “dressing up” unless you are going to work every day a bit impractical. No way am I whisking eggs in a silk blouse nor am I chasing dust bunnies from behind the toilet in heels and hose. Not going to happen today, and tomorrow isn’t looking good either.

Don’t misunderstand me I don’t show up at the breakfast table looking as if I have recently been dragged behind a speeding vehicle either. Each morning, unless I’m ill, I put on makeup, do my hair, take a shower, and pull on a clean pair of jeans or shorts and a nice top. Every several weeks we also make a point to go out together and do something fun away from the persistently ringing phone and the household day-to-day. Always when we come home I feel refreshed and our relationship feels refreshed as well.

It’s easy to sink into a rut. Takes some work to keep the bloom on the rose and time to keep a relationship thriving and happy.

When you think about it stopping to pick up on a card when it isn’t a holiday (even better making one yourself), throwing together an unexpected brunch on a weekend, or simply acknowledging how much your appreciate your partner really isn’t asking much.

This fish is moist and delicious.

Baked Tilapia with Cherry Tomatoes

4 Tilapia filets
1/2-1 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning
1/2 tsp. black pepper
Kosher salt
2 Tbsp. butter cut into 12 squares
1 container of heirloom cherry tomatoes, sliced thick or in half
2 zucchini cut lengthwise in thin spears
1 lemon sliced thin
2 tsp. chives
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Lay out four squares of tin foil large enough to make a taco shaped pocket. Pat filets dry with paper towel. Generously season on both sides with Cajun seasoning (more or less depending on preference), pepper, and sprinkle with Kosher salt. Place one filet in center of each foil square. Place 3 butter squares on top of each filet. Top this with one-quarter of the tomatoes and the zucchini. Place a slice or two of lemon on each pile and sprinkle each with 1/2 tsp. of chopped chives. Drizzle a little olive oil on top of each.

Seal the foil bringing up the edges like a taco making sure to seal edges firmly. Bake in oven for 20 mins. Open carefully and plate.

Serves 4

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I’m sure if I consulted my horoscope for November it would state Scorpios such as myself are having a busy month according to the cosmos. Between my phone, the computer plaguing me with emails with work related requests, and friends and relatives in various states of meltdown it has been a crazy start to the holiday season. Ho, ho, holy cow.

“Take a deep breath”, my subconscious is telling me, “relax”. Being a bit of an A personality, relaxing does not come easily to me. When Rick and I pause to watch a movie I’m usually up and down five times during the first half hour getting or doing something. I believe this trait was passed down to me by my Energizer Bunny of a mother, who has all of her bones intact and not one of them could be described as lazy.

I admire this trait in her. We all have traits to be admired, and those less popular with those around us.  Again, this is what makes us unique in a world of so many like beings. I have certain personality types I know I could not live with. I’m sure there is a list of people out there who have met me and after doing so kept on looking down the line for their perfect match or best friend. Such is life. All of us are flawed in one way or another. This is what makes us human. Those who believe they have no flaws, need to put on their glasses when looking the mirror. I don’t strive for perfection. First, because I have no idea what that encompasses. Secondly, far better people than I have tried to reach such a goal and not succeeded. Instead I aim to be the best version of myself, a task I am not always successful at and is currently a work in progress.

I do have several traits that drive me a bit out of whack. One are people who are always late. I don’t mean five minutes late, or even a half an hour. People who are habitually hours late every single time you plan something with them. According to Dr. Phil (expert or not, your call) being perpetually late is often an indication things in your world tend to revolve around you. When I’m planning a meal, probably including appetizers and a little down time with my guests before getting rolling, I find it extremely irritating when someone arrives hours after the appointed time. Dinner is generally rushed, appetizers cold, and the hostess has lost her rosy glow.

Another personality tic getting on my last nerve is hovering. Once I had a relationship with a guy who followed me so closely I felt like Peter Pan with my shadow sewn to my heels. In retrospect, unless on bright sunny days, my shadow spent less time with me then this man. Every time I turned around I would trip over him, to the point when once I came out of the bathroom I found him sitting outside on a chair reading. This, as one can imagine, was the last encounter I have to recall about the gentleman. Undoubtedly, he is somewhere out there writing a blog about my irritating habits as well as we speak. Smile.

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while the “new car smell” wears off a bit. Couples settle into the business of learning to cohabit with one another on a below the surface level. Tolerance, love, and understanding rather than the original animal attraction come into play. Though you want to retain the animal magnetism while managing the rest for good balance. Our truest selves emerge, I believe, once our relationships progress beyond the first year. The beginning version we display of ourselves is often not the most accurate, at least in my experience.

Perhaps we are afraid to expose the under layers of our being for fear what is found there will not be accepted or loved, if you will. It is stressful to strive to be other than who you are and in the end probably not successful. Sometimes I think we expect so much of one another. Many people expect a partner to make them happy. If you are not happy already, someone else cannot create this for you in my opinion. You must create your own joy. Others can enhance your life but I don’t believe they should be responsible for making it a successful one one way or another. That, most likely, is your job.

My oldest granddaughter, a gifted writer and blogger wrote a very incisive blog recently about labeling. Placing a tag on people such as fat, stupid, black, white. Stopping at the exterior of a being before ever taking the extra step to explore the being itself. She expressed a fear that if she wrote such things people would not want to hear it or find her opinions objectionable. I told her everything you write will not be well accepted. Many times I have written things on this trusty old blog that have put people off or caused readers to stop reading. The point of writing is to be true to who you are. Debates, such as the ones going on in our country as we speak, are about differing opinions and opposing points of view. Without discourse there would be no harmony. Yin and yang. Our world has not been built on everybody agreeing with one another. Wars would not have existed if we all felt the same way about the world around us. Discoveries would not have been made if someone didn’t have the fortitude to dig below the surface despite those telling them telling them there would be nothing to be found there.12190997_10153270100471089_798124156591747940_nSo for today I celebrate diversity. Our differences and our ability to accept differences in others and leave room in our busy minds for ideas other than our own.

Also, I am begging people who habitually text and drive to think about the other drivers on the road. Twice while out yesterday a car drifted in my lane. When I passed both cars I could see the drivers looking down at their laps busily texting with their phones reflected in their windows. I honked and each driver took time off from their keyboard to offer me the universal signal of annoyance. Sorry, this one is a personal irritant. Was I an oyster I could make a pearl out of it.

These yummy potatoes, however, are never irritating.

Hasselback Potatoes

3 Tbsp. bread crumbs
3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. salted butter, melted
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper

2 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
2 Tsp. salted butter, melted
1/3 cup chicken stock

Sour cream and chives.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan, 1 Tbsp. melted butter, garlic, thyme, lemon zest, rosemary, salt and pepper.

Slice potatoes crosswise in thin slices nearly all the way through. Spray 8 x 8″ baking pan with cooking spray. Place potatoes in pan and gently splay the layers open. Place crumb mixture on top and gently press in between layers. Drizzle butter over top. Pour chicken stock on bottom of baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hr.

Serve with sour cream topped with chives.

Serves 2

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My oldest granddaughter is old enough now to explore dating seriously. I know! When did that happen? It seems I was just holding her for the first time and introducing myself. Now she’s up and moved to Phoenix as an independent woman. Whoa. Pause the movie. I didn’t even have time to finish my popcorn.

Dating, in particular first dates, can be an arduous process. For me, whether I wished to pursue getting to know someone further usually became fairly clear by the end of spending that first evening in their company. Not always true, certainly, because we’re all showing our best sides in the early stages of a relationship. Let’s face it none of us arrives for that first dinner date in sweats and a “I Have Mixed Drinks About Feelings” tee shirt. We save these little surprises for somewhere down the line. If we posted profile pictures of our mouths gaping open with a hint of drool sliding down the side of our faces probably our mail boxes wouldn’t lighting up. I’m just sayin.

My granddaughter was asking probing questions during our last conversation about how you know if someone is “the one”, and what the difference is between infatuation and real love. You are asking me these questions? If I knew the answers to those questions I’d have written a best seller and won a car on Oprah. Speaking for myself describing love is such a personal thing. What I might deem as being in love with someone, another person might consider chemistry or simply attraction. Love, like most of our senses, is unique to the ones experiencing it. For instance, I might get positively euphoric when smelling coffee brewing in the morning (which I do), while someone else might find the smell of Starbuck’s obnoxious or off-putting. These people need to be put down, but anyhow.

Individual tastes certainly vary dramatically. The old adage tells us, “there’s someone for everyone”. True or not, finding this person in a world overflowing with people seems to be the dilemma. I think we should be tattooed with a number with an opposite number suiting us perfectly issued to another human. This would narrow the search significantly, particularly with social media and the advent of the Internet. Like all things I feel, if we were sure of our perfect match wouldn’t it take some of the excitement out of looking for him or her? Kind of like knowing you’re going to win at a game before you play it. What would be the point of setting up the board?

Caught in the tenuous grasp of attraction and excitement, it is easy to overlook differences in lifestyle, perspective, money habits, goals, and whether the person wants children or not.  No one wants to waste time while lost in another’s eyes dissecting whether they like hot climates while you like cold, or they are morning people where you like to bring in the dawn. However, if these questions are shelved until the wedding cake is in the freezer, there might be trouble down the road.

For example, I was married to someone whose job required relocating frequently and often without much notice. In such a situation you have to leave your family behind, and find your life in a state of upheaval most of the time. For some people this would be disruptive or unsettling. In my case, I found it interesting and exciting seeing new parts of the U.S. and meeting the people living there. Had I not, this definitely could have created a problem in our relationship.

Married at First Sight, a television reality show where couples agree to get married without meeting each other prior to the ceremony. The cameras then follow their journey once they’ve said “I do”. Interesting concept. I suppose it’s not a far reach from arranged marriages, which though less common, are still a practice in many cultures. In the 90’s I worked with a lovely young woman from India. Her biggest fear was that her parents, holding to very traditional values, would marry her off in such a way to someone she did not love. Having watched her parents struggle with a somewhat loveless marriage, she did not want suffer the same fate. Several prospective men were brought over from India for Pooja to be introduced to.  Rejecting each as they arrived, in the end she married a man of her cultural background of her choice in a beautiful ceremony. Happily a mother of two now, things worked out for her as they should have in the end.

Love is capricious. For some of us it eludes us completely, for others it comes later in life, and in some cases, like a friend of mine with nine children, it arrives in high school and remains in tact throughout a lifetime. Perhaps it’s how our cards read, Kismet, or fate, however one believes. Some of us destined to explore life alone, other with partners. As with most things in life love remains a mystery. An intangible emotion, with no rhyme or reason, yet as lusted after as the most perfect of diamonds.

This hamburger is a sum of the whole. Each part of it adds to the enjoyment of the next. I make the bruschetta topping and the buns ahead of time and then the onions, keeping them warm. All that’s left is the burger and you’re good to go. Gooey and delicious on their own they don’t require any condiments at all to be absolutely mouth watering.

1Mushroom Bruschetta Burger

Mushroom Bruschetta

1 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz. cubed mushrooms
1 tsp. thyme
1/4 cup dry white wine
3/4 cup heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
3 green onions, white and green parts sliced
Pinch pepper and salt

Heat butter and oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic. Cook 2 mins. or until garlic just starts to brown. Add mushrooms. Stir and cook for about 5 mins. Add thyme. Deglaze pan with white wine and continue cooking until most of the wine has disappeared.

Add cherry tomatoes and green onions to pan. Reduce heat to med. low and continue cooking about 6 mins. until tomatoes have slightly wilted. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Buns

2 Tbsp. softened butter
4 hamburger buns, halved
2 tsp. garlic powder
4 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat broiler.

Butter both sides of buns. Sprinkle each with 1/4 tsp. garlic powder. Sprinkle each with 1/2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese. Place under broiler until browned and bubbly. Keep Warm

Fried Red Onion Rings

4 3/4″ thick slices red onion
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Oil for cooking

Beat egg in one shallow dish. Mix together remaining ingredients in second shallow dish. Keeping rings together dip each slice in egg and then dredge both sides in breadcrumb mixture.

Heat 1 1/2″ of oil in deep heavy skillet over high heat. Add onion rings to hot oil and cook until golden brown on both sides (about 3-4 mins. per side). Drain on paper towels. Keep warm.

Hamburgers

1 1/2 lbs. ground chuck
3/4 pkg. of Lipton onion soup mix
1/3 cup water
4 slices Meunster cheese

Mix meat, onion soup mix, and water together well with fingertips. Form into four patties. Cook over high heat on grill or stove until fully cooked and brown on both sides.

Top with cheese and continue cooking over medium heat until cheese has fully melted.

To serve

Place burger on bottom of bun and top with bruschetta and fried red onion. Serves 4

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Looking at our world I see it divided at the most basic level into two types of people. Realists and romantics. Some may straddle the fence between the two, but for the most part I see a clear division. Realists see the world in stark black and white, while romantics view it in muted shades and varied hues. Truly, I am a romantic. Realists might see a bad situation as just that and love as an illusion. No matter how dire the situation I imagine it improving down the road, and no matter how bad the break-up, I can envision another, better relationship forming after it. Go figure.

A friend is going through an extremely rough patch of water in his relationship. Amazingly he comes to me from time to time for counsel. Not the first time I’ve been called on for romantic advice certainly. It happens on a surprisingly regular basis. Why people would assume a woman with four marriages and numerous relationships has any clue about how to proceed on this subject is beyond me. Perhaps they ask me, listen to whatever wisdom I might impart, and then move in exactly the opposite direction from where I have pointed my finger to go. I have no answers for this.

What makes for an enduring relationship? If I knew the answer to that my latest book (of which there is none) would be featured on Oprah’s Book Club, book signing gigs lining up as we speak. What do I think makes for an enduring relationship? Endurance. Those of us willing to stay the distance. One of my aunts remained with the same partner throughout her life. Three sons were born during their time together. My uncle traveled a great deal with work. Perhaps absence does make the heart grow fonder? I cannot speak with the truest knowledge on the subject not being a fly on the wall. They shared a strong belief in family. Over the years, though living on opposite sides of map, I had the opportunity to come together with them and their growing brood. Observing them through my eyes I would say it was endurance that bound them together, with tolerance providing the glue to keep those ties strong.
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Neither my aunt nor my uncle were perfect by any standard. Both were good people, I believe, or at least good intentioned. Imbued with all the basic flaws we humans seem to possess, I would describe both parties as strong-willed people with often opposing views sharing common goals. As I said, family was important to both of them. My uncle was successful at his chosen profession, and my aunt outwardly at least seemed satisfied with her role remaining home with her children to guide them into adulthood. I’m sure there were fights and bumps along the way but whatever occurred once the doors were closed and the lights out, they still chose to remain together until his death a decade ago which in and of itself is something to said.

Some relationships can be patched and remain seaworthy. Others have been patched and tarred so many times when tested on choppy waters they cannot remain afloat no matter how much bailing is done to keep them above the water line. When to cut the lines and abandon ship is always a difficult call. When I have had to leave a relationship it has never been easy. Both parties, whether the one wanting to leave,  the one left behind, or if it is a joint decision, suffer the loss. Divorce or severing a relationship is high up on the stress scale with death of a loved one and loss of income or job. Figure children into the equation and the loss is on a larger scale adding another level of hurt feelings and a deeper need for soul searching before making a final split.

At best, relationships are puzzling. Love is like an incurable disease which causes us pain yet we endlessly desire to be infected by it. Psychologists spend hours with patients on their couches examining it, dissecting the parts of it, and leaving much on the table when all is said and done to still be understood.

Would I want to be twenty again and begin the journey in search of it anew? I don’t think I would. Love has brought me so much joy balanced with some real darkness. Would I rather be in love than out of it? Sign me up for the latter.

Hearts are showing up on the card stands. Love, love, love is in bloom as spring lurks around the corner.

These fish filets were absolutely lovely (to quote Canadian). Light breading and soooo flavorful. Yum.

Baked Cajun Tilapia with Spinach Romano

Baked Cajun Tilapia

4 tilapia filets
3/4 tsp. paprika
3/4 tsp. dry mustard
3/4 tsp. onion powder
3/4 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. basil
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 1/2 Tbsp. chives, chopped
1 Tbsp. parsley flakes
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter
1 1/2 lemons

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Spray casserole dish with cooking spray.

Rinse filets and pat dry.

Mix together all ingredients through cayenne pepper. Reserve 4 Tbsp. and place rest of seasoning mix in small bowl.

Place filets in prepared pan. Using 4 tsp. reserved seasoning mix sprinkle 1/2 tsp. on each side of filets.

Mix together the rest of the seasoning mix, breadcrumbs, chives, parsley flakes, and olive oil until well blended. Dredge filets in crumbs.

Place in pan. Top with 1/4 Tbsp. butter. Bake for 8 mins. turn over. Top with 1/4 Tbsp. butter and 1 slice of lemon. Bake for 8 mins. or until flakey. Squeeze 1/2 lemon over all.

Spinach Romano

2 pkg. chopped spinach, cooked and drained
1 Tbsp. butter
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/3 cup freshly grated Romano cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix together all ingredients. Place in microwave on high for 1 min.

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This morning my daughter called to discuss my second oldest granddaughter who’s been testing the waters of obnoxiousness and finding herself worthy for about the last six months. Unemployed at the moment, she helps out in my daughter’s day care in the afternoons for an hourly wage. As much as I love this girl, she has a highly developed level of entitlement. What’s hers is hers and what’s yours is hers is her mantra. If there’s something she desires like her mother’s new makeup or a new blouse she’ll hole it away like a squirrel would a large walnut.

Yesterday my daughter decided to give my granddaughter a “moral test”, if you will.  Remembering she owed her forty dollars, she slipped a ten-dollar bill in between the two twenties and sent her on her way, quite sure she would never recoup the loss.  Instead, Miss P. stopped halfway down the hall, turned and said, “Mom, you gave me fifty dollars instead of forty”, and handed her back the ten.  Feeling reborn as a mother and proud of her offspring she couldn’t wait for my son-in-law to come home to relate the story.

After her husband walked in the door and changed, she handed him a glass of wine and excitedly told him of their daughter’s sterling character.  After she was through he took a sip of wine and said, “Sweetie, we only owed her twenty.” Ah well, in the spirit of optimism, she could have pocketed the ten.

As I have explained to both my children and my grandchildren, trust is a delicate and precious commodity. Initially it should be given freely and without hesitation. However, if it is found to be misplaced and taken away, getting it back can be like trying to plug a hole in a bucket with a cotton ball, it takes a lot of work and the bucket’s never quite the same.

In the year of my thirty-ninth birthday, or BM, that would be “before ma’am”, as I refer to those carefree years before the bagger at the market began to ask if I needed help carrying a loaf of bread to the car, I found myself single once again.  It’s an interesting phenomenon when you find yourself disenfranchised in the married sense, the invitations to social functions from your married friends seem to mysteriously dwindle.  I believe this to be due to the fact that they are protecting what is theirs. Since I had seen what was theirs, and they had shared most of the faults and shortcomings of their men with me on numerous occasions, outside of the threat of bodily harm, their men were safer with me than stranded on an island with Mother Teresa.   As my neighbor in Arkansas put most succinctly while plucking the feathers from a purloined turkey, “Even if my stomach’s growlin’ bad I’d never stoop so low as to go poachin’ on ma friend’s propaty”.  Words to live by.

Single people tend to gravitate towards one another.  It’s just natural.  Married girlfriends lives, for the most part, revolve around their husbands and families.  That is how it should be.  Thus, most of my socializing revolved around a strong group of single women of varying ages whose friendships I treasured, a couple of tried and true guy pals, and my best friend, who still holds the title, who was my partner in crime.

In that year prior to my fortieth birthday she had been seeing a man, Mike for the sake of this writing, for about a year and a half.  They were committed in the sense that they exclusively dated, but were not sharing housing nor had there been any plans discussed involving tiered cakes and Spanish lace.  However, the understanding was they did not fish in other streams, if you follow my drift.

Every other Saturday, Mike played poker with his college buddies, a tradition which had held true since they were in school.  On those nights she and I often got together to catch up or share a pizza.  On one particular night she was obviously upset when she arrived at the restaurant.  It seemed that she’d found a phone number on a cocktail napkin in Mike’s jacket and that he had been acting strangely over the past few weeks.  Also, she usually called him to say that she was on her way home from our evenings out, but this night he had said he’d call her instead.  Curiouser and curiouser.

Joining us that night was a mutual girlfriend, Lee.  Lee never imbibed so was handy both because she was incredibly funny, but also she could drive when others should not.  Pulling her into the conversation about the errant Mike, and several martinis to the good , a plan was hatched. I might interject here that probably other than some notable exceptions, for the most part good ideas are rarely hatched in a vat of gin.  I’m just saying.  On the next scheduled poker night the three of us decided we would do a little private investigating of our own and see if we could beat Mike at his own game, pardon the pun.

On the night in question we parked a block away from Mike’s house in Lee’s sister’s car. I wore a ball cap, and Lee and my best buddy wore wigs, one red and the other curly gray, respectively, looking like the cast from Mama’s Family.  Miss Marples would have been proud.

Mike backed out of his driveway and Lee pulled in behind him.  The game’s afoot.  Instead of heading in the direction of his poker game, he turned his truck into the driveway of the local Notel Motel.  Oh-oh.  Now, to understand how this could end badly you must first understand that my girlfriend is a passionate blend of Sicilian and Greek and to say she has a temper would be like Mike Tyson hits pretty good for a guy.

Before long a blonde, (Why is it always a blonde?) pulled in next to him in a red Camaro.  After the couple shared a brief embrace my girlfriend leaped from the car, and ran the length of the parking lot in what might well have earned her the Olympic gold. Mike, seeing her coming, did the only thing a man could do when cornered, he hid in the bushes. Not to be dissuaded, my friend wrenched him out by his hair and began to plummet him with her purse. Then she turned to the blonde who was now frantically trying to open her car door. Lee and I managed to arrive just before the blonde was headed for a better place and brought the situation under control.  Mike, however, was no longer in the game.

Trust to me is everything. It’s the bottom block in the foundation and if you remove it, all the blocks placed above it become unstable.  Ah, my thoughts on love over Valentine’s week.

Double Dipped Fried Chicken

1 whole fryer, cut up (3 1/2 – 4 lbs.)
2 tsp. plus 1 Tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. coarse sea salt, divided
1 1/2 tsp. Hungarian paprika
3/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs, beaten
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
Oil for cooking (peanut or Canola)

Whisk together 1 Tbsp. sea salt, 2 tsp. black pepper, Hungarian paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder, and white pepper. Rub over chicken pieces. Place in covered bowl in refrigerator overnight.

Remove from refrigerator and let stand on counter, covered, for 1 hr. prior to cooking.

In large flat container, whisk together flour, cornstarch, 1 Tbsp. pepper, and 1 Tbsp. salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, buttermilk and 1/2 cup water.

Heat 1″ of oil in large deep skillet. Lightly dredge chicken pieces first in flour mixture tapping to remove excess, then in egg/buttermilk mixture, and again in flour mixture.

Don’t crowd skillet and cook in batches as needed. Fry chicken, turning often, until crust is a deep golden brown, and internal temperature is 165 degrees (12-15 mins.) Place on rack over paper towels to drain. Yum.

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