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Posts Tagged ‘salads’

Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

In an effort to get involved in my new community and meet some of its inhabitants, I signed to volunteer with a local agency under whose umbrella many of the local volunteer based organizations run.  Once an application is completed, you attend a one-on-one with the volunteer coordinator where your assets as well as your interests are determined. Amazed to find I had several usable talents (who knew?), I was given an extensive list of opportunities from which to choose. As an aside when I mentioned to my mother plans were to take this on she said, “try not to do anything depressing like work in a hospital or places that are sad”.  Adore that woman. I assured her I’d only choose upbeat groups featuring clowns and soft bunnies to affiliate myself with. No point in wasting volunteer hours on people in need or not of good cheer. Truthfully though, I tease about my mom, but she is generous of herself and her time and has always given back to her community. In the past she visited shut-ins or the elderly in the evenings, always bringing a casserole or lingering to play a game of Scrabble. These days she shuttles ladies who no longer drive to the market for groceries or to run whatever errands they need to accomplish.

While reviewing my options, I checked many boxes signing up for everything from grizzly bear scat gathering to rhino tusk polishing.  Before leaving the office I was assured representatives of the agencies I’d shown interest in would contact me by the end of the week.  By the time I arrived home, the first call was on the answering machine. The need for volunteers to man these organizations is great. I have volunteered a time or two previously over the years, but most of my life I’ve worked a full-time job.  Not an excuse, well maybe an excuse.  When not at work, in my younger days at least, I was engaged as chauffeur, chief bottle washer, laundress, dog walker, cat feeder, and personal shopper for two kids, one husband and the parasitical menagerie we loosely referred to as our “pets”.  Between soccer games, school events, skating lessons, and dental appointments there wasn’t much wiggle room for other more altruistic activities. If I found time for a shower and enjoyed toilet privileges I considered myself totally spoiled.

One of the groups I was particularly interested in associating myself with this time was the local food bank.  Although small in scale in comparison to people dealing with survival every day,  I have some experience in what it feels like to be hungry or without a roof over your head.  The place in question was Longview, Washington thankfully late summer. My husband at the time and I arrived in town to begin a ten month job at one of the lumber mills. Unbeknownst to us, the job had been postponed three weeks. Traveling light, including our wallets, we brought with us personal items, the minimum necessary clothes, a case of Vienna sausage, twenty cheese and beef sticks, a box of Saltines, three gallon bottles of soda, a six-pack of Bud Light and a case of bottled water. The essentials. Young, we perceived ourselves at the time as gypsies, free and blithe of spirit. Not having enough funding or good sense to retrace our tracks or explore other options, and too much pride to call our parents, we chose instead to wait it out. Our plan was to get a hotel room once a week during the twenty-one days, leaving the rest of the nights and days either to be spent in the car or in local parks. Food would become an issue. I like a Vienna sausage with the best of them, but for every meal?

After the first week, our days fell into a routine.  Mornings we showed up at a rest stop offering showers, donuts, and coffee gratis to weary travelers.  As a belated thank you to the ranger stationed there, the woman never once made mention of how many times we seemed to be traveling past the same spot, always handing us a steaming cup of hot coffee and a fresh donut with a smile and without question.  The public shower there was not my favorite, but I availed myself of it shoes in place. Sharing a small space can quickly take the bloom off the rose if you have to keep the windows down in order to tolerate each others presence.  After several times showering at the rest stop, we chose instead to drive up into the heavily forested areas to take a dip in the prolific ponds or wade in quick-moving streams to freshen up.  The water was cold, but far less of an exchange of germs than the rest stop.  I found it somewhat glorious, actually, bathing there. Very Adam and Eve.  Afternoons were spent in the park or by the lake, and nights wherever we could park safely.

angels

Enjoying a steady diet of Vienna sausage saltine sandwiches, it was easy to see this would soon become redundant. My digestive track was loudly protesting the lack of roughage coming down the chute.  On accident during the last week I discovered our gasoline credit card also covered items purchased in the convenience store, something we never considered.  Scanning the shelves avariciously we stocked up on apples, bread, peanut butter, cans of pork and beans (might I suggest not the best choice for close surroundings), orange juice and bananas.

We dined under the stars along a side road off the interstate later in the day. Bed came early with our only source of light a flashlight. Finding it difficult to sleep with my husband’s incessant concerto tuning up in the front seat, I got out to stretch my legs. Flashlight switched on, I hiked to the crest of a nearby hill.  Aiming the light at the shadowy pasture below me, I was surprised to discover a number of soupy brown bovine eyes captured in my beam eying me back with idle curiosity . Scanning the light back and forth, mottled shapes appeared, standing or lying along the hillsides. Low moans echoed across the field.  Releasing them from inspection, I sat on the hill in the deep quiet only night can make, until sounds of gravel crunching behind me alerted me someone else was in the area. At the car, an officer of enough stature to be Smokey the Bear and appearing to be wearing his hat stepped out of his cruiser, and approached me.  Identifying himself he explained he was following up on a report made by the rancher owning the property about suspected cattle rustlers. Studying me, he requested my ID. Shifty eyes, on my father’s side. I complied, reaching across my husband nudging him awake. He repeated his request to my other half now peering out of the window looking like an unmade bed and scratching his head.  Returning to his vehicle the officer checked us out for wants and warrants or whatever they check people out for.  Apparently reassured we were not criminal masterminds or concealing a devious plan to cram all the cows in our trunk and abscond with them across the border, he returned our paperwork suggesting we mosey on down the road.  So, we moseyed. It was a long three weeks.

It is humiliating and humbling to find yourself in such a place.  For me it was over before it started and my normal existence resumed, but for some adults and children it does not. One thing is for sure, I never ate another Vienna sausage and I am rarely short on T.P.

This is Hunger Awareness Month. Check out what people are doing to help on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Interfaith-Food-Ministry/155749367813411. SNAP, originally food stamps, provides families needing subsidy for food $4.50 a day per person.  If you’ve been to the market lately that barely covers a loaf of bread.  If you have any low cost recipes you’d like to share, I’ll pass them on.

While your checking them out check out this recipe for tortellini salad, liked it a lot.

Tortellini Salad

1 pkg. frozen three cheese tortellini
8 rounds of hard salami, quartered
1 can small white beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 red onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
3 cups baby spinach, rinsed and broken up
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup kalamata olives, sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (I used yellow)

Cook tortellini according to package directions. Rinse well, drain, and allow to cool.

Add all other ingredients to large bowl. When pasta has cooled add to mixture. Toss with dressing 1/2 hour before serving.

Vinaigrette

1/3 cup cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. water
1/2 cup EV olive oil
2 Tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
3/4 tsp. dill weed
1 tsp. dried parsley flakes
1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. celery seed

Place ingredients in sealed jar and shake well to blend. Store in refrigerator until ready to use. Pour over tortellini mix, toss well and serve.

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Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

Well, only two weeks at our new location and I’m already trying to burn it to the ground. A new record. I put eggs on to boil this morning and went out in the garage to work on sorting through things for my upcoming garage sale before it got too hot. Rick still asleep, I brought the phone with me to catch any calls, and shortly got involved in a conversation with my girlfriend in Idaho. I heard a sound in the background but didn’t associate it with anything important until Rick came flying by clad in boxer shorts and a tee-shirt yelling my name. Uh-oh. Grabbing my hand he pointed toward the house. Once inside both smoke alarms were going off, the cat was tearing around the living room like her tail was on fire and my favorite little egg pan was reduced to a molten smelly mess looking like an abstract sculpture with four cooked eggs permanently attached to its bottom. It had gotten so hot the shells burst and flung themselves all over the kitchen floor in an apparent eggiside. Hmmmm. It seems I am a danger to myself and those who dare to call me friend. Egg salad sandwiches for lunch at his point most probably are out of the question.

I have to admit I am not a first time offender. Lock me up and throw away the key, and any and all incendiary devices. When I was married the first time one of my first attempts at a recipe was potato salad. After reviewing the ingredients I realized I needed more than the potatoes I’d purchased to make this happen. Hopping in my car I headed for the closest market about ten miles down the road. Gathering the remaining ingredients the recipe called for, I returned to the car only to find I’d locked myself out. My keys dangled from the ignition tantalizingly just beyond reach, and being reminded to do so often enough, I’d locked the doors securely when I exited the vehicle. No cell phones to lean on back then, I went back to store to get change for the pay phone. Once I stepped into the booth I quickly discovered it couldn’t in all honesty be marked “PHONE BOOTH” because in reality it was only a large glass box with a missing phone book and a dangling cord. Apparently whoever stole the phone book had the forethought to grab the phone as well in case he found the number he was looking for and needed to make a call. Back into the store (the manager and I were now on a first name basis) I asked if I might use their phone to call my husband at work. Unfortunately, I was informed he was in a meeting off site so I was on my own. Ten miles is a long hike on the best of days, but with a “baby on board” even if only four months in the making, and a couple of bags of groceries in tow it felt more like a trek across the Mojave.

By the time I’d made the first three miles carrying the heavy bags my arms were easily three inches longer than when I’d left the house and my concern for the boiling potatoes had reached near panic levels. Spotting another phone in a gas station, this one accurately marked as there was, in fact, a phone attached, I dialed a friend’s number. Thankfully, she answered and true to her word arrived in ten to twelve minutes to rescue me. Now, I was a novice in the kitchen, if I might reference my story about the clove of garlic in the chili. For those of you unfamiliar, it was my first experience with garlic. I bought a bulb and once home assumed one bulb of garlic to be the equivalent of a clove and I made a pot of chili that on a windy day could be smelled in the far reaches of the Australian outback. Novice or not, even I realized I’d been away from the stove far too long and this probably wasn’t going to go well. Not disappointed, we drove up to my apartment to find a fire hose winding down the stairs leading to my door and fireman milling in and out talking amongst themselves. Sigh. I thought of changing my name and moving to Istanbul, but instead I faced the music and took my licks. My husband, I felt, was not going to believe this story, even though over the several years he’d known me he’d become familiar with some that were pretty far out there. That pot, as well, met a sticky end. It actually fused to the burner below it and the entire stove had to be replaced as well as the backdrop. The crisply charred crematorium smell lingered for months, and my family still enjoys telling the story on holidays to entertain themselves at my expense. In my defense, my intentions are generally good but sometimes my mind wanders in so many directions I tend to forget where I was headed when I started my journey, if you get my drift.

Several years later my husband had an incident of his own when it came to turning up the heat. After purchasing a motorcycle against my better judgement, he was tinkering with it on a Sunday afternoon in our garage, or Kirby’s testosterone lair as he referred to it. Our old couch, rescued from the Salvation Army truck, was used for visitors of the male persuasion as a place to share a beer or exchange stories of a manly nature. Kirby perceived himself to be an A-1 handyman. Truth be known he was more of the Cliff Huckstable variety, all tool belt and glitter but no actual talent for the craft. Things he “fixed” often ended up costing more to be reworked down the road, as in the “great flood of ’76”, resulting during the installation of our new dishwasher.

At any rate, while in the lair with friends he fired up a blow torch for what reason I haven’t a clue. While talking and torching, or whatever he was engaged in, he inadvertently set the stuffing in the old couch aflame. Dry as a sand dune in July it quickly ignited the frayed fabric and before you know it the entire garage was consumed as well as the ill-gotten motorcycle which was totally destroyed. Fortunately, when I returned home from shopping they had stopped the blaze before the entire house was razed to the ground. This, I felt, definitely trumped my potato debacle.

Not long afterward we read in the local paper that an arsonist had been nabbed living several streets over. Secretly we felt he’d moved close to us to supplement his having to go out on his own in search of excitement.

This salad was just the best. Truly you have to try it.

Have a great day. If you’re anywhere out west keep cool. Nice to be back and writing again. Missed it. Tomorrow I will check in on you and see what you’re up to. Thanks to my Pinterest friends as well who have really been busy. 🙂

Bleu-Cheesy Pasta Salad with Spinach and White Beans

6 oz. baby spinach, washed and stems removed
1 15 oz. can white beans, drained and rinsed
4 oz. crumbled bleu cheese
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
3 thick slices provolone cheese, cut in cubes
1 carton grape tomatoes, halved
5 button mushrooms, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/3 cup red onion, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
12 oz. farfalle pasta

Mix together all ingredients in large bowl but pasta and season to taste and set aside.

Prepare pasta in salted water as indicated on package. Drain and add immediately to salad ingredients. Toss well. Serve with additional Parmesan if desired. Serves 4

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Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crispy Shrimp Salad with Lime Vinegarette

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

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

Lime Vinaigrette

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

Whisk together all ingredients and chill until ready to use.

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raspberry salad final

The days are flying past me like the brass ring on a carousel.  Yesterday I unloaded fifteen boxes which provided me with enough bending and standing exercises to compete in the next Olympics should box emptying get the recognition it deserves.  My stomach muscles are as tight as a bow string and the back of my legs feel like I’ve been mauled by a mule.  I am, however, smiling as I can begin to see how nice our new home will look once unearthed from all our belongings.  Where did I get all this stuff?  I’m sure it’s not all mine.  Some of these things I haven’t seen in so long it’s as though I’m seeing them for the first time………and wondering where on earth they’re going to go.  I can see a garage sale in my future.

I’ve been dealing with the process of trying to hire contractors to help with some of the immediate projects needing to be done before the furniture actually arrives in the van.  Three rooms need to be painted.  The master bedroom, a lovely, airy room with three large windows has one wall painted an unfortunate burgundy color that as far as I can tell doesn’t represent any known hue existing in the present color spectrum.  Bright colors are the current designing palate I understand, but grapele or whatever this color might be, cannot be found in my bedroom or I will not be.  My dreams are already vivid enough. Many houses we looked at had vivid color schemes. One house had an entire bedroom painted in vibrant turquoise with a purple ceiling.  This, I guarantee, would never in my wildest imagination work as a place for me to find myself if in search of a peaceful night’s sleep.

Contractors, I find, are an elusive group of beings.  They make appointments which they often never arrive at, promise estimates which never appear, and generally seem to have so much business they don’t need any new jobs so arent’ sweating yours.  I’m not saying there aren’t excellent contractors out there.  I’m simply saying that every time I need one I seem to have to tap dance across the moon to get one to show up.  As a female I have also taken note that whether it’s the work they do or the type of men the work attracts, on the whole they are very pleasant to look at when they do show up, and that at least is a bonus whether or not they decide to do the job.

When living in Southern California I hired a contractor to put in a koi pond in my back yard.  The house sat in the middle of a large block with houses on either side and behind. It was fenced with chain link allowing neighbors access to the goings on outside our back door.  Plans were in the works to install fencing to provide more privacy but at the time the koi pond was going in everyone in the neighboring houses was privy to its construction phases.  The contractor, Pasquale, was a man so perfectly chiseled as to be decorating the pages of GQ.  His creator had taken extra time with him. Thick luxurious hair with enviable soft curls was kept in check with a rubber band cascading in a pony tail down his beautifully muscled back.  Eyes like chocolate pools and a smile generously adorned with straight white teeth, although truly I barely noticed the man, completed the package. In the heat of the afternoon his tank top often laid on the ground by the hole he was digging. Laboring, his tanned upper body flexed and pulsed as he dug out the hole. As I said, I hardly noticed, but to my recollection this was what transpired. Before long it became patently obvious my female neighbors also appreciated his workmanship.  Women sunbathing in chaise lounges or watering their plants materialized in the connecting yards shortly after Pasquale’s truck pulled up in our driveway.  First there were only one or two but before long it became so blatant I considered setting up a hot dog and lemonade stand and selling tickets.  Truly I have never seen women behave in such a way.   Shameful.

Another contractor I had when I lived in the Bay Area we called “2 weeks”.  This because no matter what you asked him, two weeks was his standard response.  The job in question was renovating a guest bathroom.  New fixtures, flooring, wall covers and shower were part of the original job description.  He was licensed and his quote within the reasonable range so we awarded him the job.  Initially it was to take eight weeks but once the eight weeks past and we were still living with a toilet in the corner of our bedroom and no shower in the hole in the bathroom, two weeks became the pat answer to every question we asked him as to when the work was done.  Finally, one day we couldn’t get hold of him at all. After tracking him down via his family we found out he had fled the state with our money and several other people whose toilets also resided in the same room they slept in never to be seen again.

Finally I have solved my painting dilemma and the painters start tomorrow.  According to them the job should be finished in two weeks. Now it’s on to the garden which, though beautifully landscaped, is in need of drip systems, etc.  When you first get the house the thrill is simply that you’ve got it.  Once you begin the business of settling in what it takes to maintain your new living quarters kinds of sneaks in the back door and back out with your ready cash.

As you might imagine I’m not equipped to be doing anything extraordinary in the kitchen for a few weeks but this salad was a keeper so I thought I’d share.  Have a great weekend!

Very Berry and Mandarin Cole Slaw with Raspberry Viaigrette

Cole Slaw

1 pkg. tri-color cole slaw mix
1/3 cup blueberries
1/2 cup strawberries, sliced
1 small can mandarin oranges, drained
5 thin slices red onion, quartered
1 container raspberries, cleaned
Salt and pepper to taste

Raspberry Vinaigrette

1/2 cup prepared lite raspberry vinaigrette
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. poppy seeds
1 tsp. granulated sugar

Whisk together all ingredients and refrigerate for 30 mins.

Toss together all cole slaw ingredients. 1 hour before serving add dressing and toss well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Just before serving gently toss with fresh raspberries.

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final salad

Men, although in many cases physically stronger than ourselves, do not seem to manage as well as we do when ill. This is not just one writers opinion, on researching the subject I find there have been actual studies conducted on the subject. Even as a child, my son would take to his bed over a hangnail and moan and groan as if I’d covered him in honey and set him on a nest of fire ants. Perhaps this is why we ladies were chosen to bear children. From what I’ve seen that first strong labor pain shuddering through a man’s body might have signaled the extinction of the human race.

At around twelve, my son and his best friend, Rob, apparently lacking in anything of consequence to do on a beautiful summer afternoon, came to the bright idea of playing what they referred to later as “roof football”. Do not try this at home. The rules, it seemed, involved one ball and two players. One player positioned himself on a roof and the other on the ground. The player on the ground threw the ball upward with the other player attempting to catch it and visa versa. Pretty basic. Certainly no urgent need to patent this idea before someone snapped it up and ran with it. Having had his turn on the ground, my son climbed the ladder set out for such a purpose and took his place on the roof. Ball into play, he ran back for the pass. Unfortunately, he did not take into account the restrictions of his playing field. Although completing the pass, he sailed off the edge of the roof landing spread eagle in a bed of rose bushes. The good news was the bushes broke his fall, resulting in only a sprained ankle. The bad news was they were, in fact, rose bushes, and he was completely covered with scratches and thorns.

An eight-hour emergency room visit and a down payment on a Maserati later, I took my wounded player home to recover. On the drive home we had a brief discussion on the soundness of playing football on a surface with a two-story drop on all sides. Obviously I did not have his full attention, as several months later he had sixteen stitches in the front of his head after diving in the shallow end of the pool with both hands behind his back. In case you are wondering, the answer is no. No, I did not drop him on his head as an infant. We choose rather to think of him as having an adventurous spirit. Instructions from the doctor involved rest, medication, regular icing, and an ace bandage to keep the swelling down. Working full-time, this necessitated my taking a few days vacation to nurse him back to health. Lying prone on the couch his young face was contorted in a constant grimace of pain. I waited on him hand and, well, foot. A bell was provided for my patient’s use to summon his nursing staff. Put into use so frequently, it’s clanger blessedly finally fell off in protest. “Mom”, became the dreaded word of the day, it was spoken so often.

Too weak apparently to use his words, but strong enough to push the numbers on the remote, we passed the days together. Getting him settled in the morning on the couch I would inquire as to his breakfast order. With a look as though his last breath was surely lurking around the next corner, “I’m not hungry”, came the whispered answer.

“Not even a piece of toast?”, says I.

“Well, maybe I could eat a bite of toast…. with a little butter and jelly. Oh…. and could I have a couple of poached eggs on top of the the toast to keep up my strength?” Sigh and muffled cough.

Sigh, again (that would be me).

“Bacon or sausage?”

“Could I have both?”

To this day my son still calls when down with the flu or ill, and I can almost hear that little bell clanging away in the background.

The men I married were worse. A cold required full bed rest, treats from the store, heating pads, and possibly traction. My second husband suffered from hypochondria. If someone at work got sick, by the time he got home he could be found shoving vitamin tablets in his mouth with the same enthusiasm a chubby theatergoer might approach a tub of double buttered popcorn. Reviews of his throat via flashlight were conducted at regular intervals to ensure nothing had grown there since the last look a half an hour before. God forbid I got sick. Conversations were engaged from behind a handkerchief held over his mouth. I was repeatedly bombarded with a heavy mist of disinfectant spray and food was shoved along the floor from across the room as though I was under the protection of Father Damien. Once he had minor surgery to remove a small growth on his knee, totally benign. The doctor instructed him to watch for infection and apply salve and he would be back at work the following week. So intense were the precautions put in place to protect against germs once he was home, I could have been asked to gown up and report to surgery without having to wash up.

The funny part about this phenomenon is that when I was sick, even after major surgery, somebody was still needed to man the pots in the kitchen. The general assumption, if I remember correctly, was that it would be me . While I was up why not toss in a load of whites and clean the toilet?  After all, once the anesthesia wore off what was I going to do with all that spare time?

This comes up because I have a friend nursing her husband back from recent surgery. It was not a fun surgery, but as yet I haven’t heard of one where people are fighting for position in line to have the procedure. Apparently he has been such a bad patient she is considering performing a follow-up procedure of her own to suture his lips together. Bringing him home after a three day stint in the hospital, his moaning became so pronounced the neighbors dog commenced howling to commiserate and his owner stopped by to make sure they weren’t being attacked by a band of mutant marauders.

Fortunately all is well in our house today as the move progresses. It has been nice to have taken a few days off for the holiday weekend as my body was giving me a harsh talking to for asking it to do things normally not required of it.

This salad is simply yummy. I could make a meal of it.

Fattoush (Mediterranean) Salad

final salad without dressingSalad Ingredients

2 cups romaine lettuce, torn
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 large English cucumber, peeled and diced
1/4 large red onion, sliced thin and quartered
1/2 large green pepper, sliced thin and quartered
1 small jar of artichoke hearts packed in oil, quartered
1/4 cup garbonzo beans, drained and rinsed
Pita chips (recipe below)

Mix together all salad ingredients in large bowl. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Pita Chips

2 pita bread rounds, cut into 1″ squares
olive oil for frying
Salt

Heat 1/2″ of oil in large skillet over med-high heat. Cook squares in batches avoiding overcrowding until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt.

final pita chips

Dressing

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tsp. white wine vinegar
2 tsp. dried mint
1/2 tsp. lemon pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup parsley, chopped

Mix all ingredients together in food processor. Process until smooth. Refrigerate at least 1 hr. before serving.

To assemble salad, just prior to serving toss mixed greens with pita chips and dressing.

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dressing final

I’m writing this in shorts and a tee-shirt. My flip-flops are sitting on the floor by my feet and the fly fan is turning over my head.  Unless I’m mistaken, this is still March, yes? According to our weather person our lack of rain does not bode well for the months to come with hot-tempered summer looming behind the skirts of her lighter spirited and more colorful sister, spring.  As the heat moves in, our beautiful lake will begin to sink slowly as water is sold and pumped down to our neighbors in the south to nurture those nortoriously well manicured Southern California lawns.  For me, it’s fire season that’s worrisome.  Some years ago we experienced a summer entirely shrouded in a red haze.  For three months the lake was never visible from our deck and we wandered the smokey streets wearing masks like denizens of the streets of China.

As far as I know, there is no place in the world that doesn’t come with its share of possible natural disasters.  In the south we lived under the shadow of tornadoes.  In Alabama, two weeks after we moved from Muscle Shoals to Hurricane, West Virginia a tornado touched down two streets from our house, completely obliterating a trailer park.  California with its perfect climate and glorious beaches, shakes like a corpulent belly from time to time and lights up like a holiday tree in Time Square during the dry season.  When I lived on the east coast hurricanes hovered offshore during the warmer seasons, and in the winter, blizzards buried us under blankets of snow.  I guess as with all aspects of life, there is balance.

Spring and fall are my favorite seasons, as they seem less fraught with disaster.  When I think of spring, my thoughts often turn to Alabama. It was early spring when I first crossed the border.  Wildflowers were blooming profusely in the swaying pastures along the roadways, as I remember, and in the rural areas herds of cows dotted across the pastures like raisins on an oatmeal cookie.

Having depleted the contents of our cooler hours before, we stopped at a small diner with a sign reading “best burgers in Alabama”.  Conversation was lively at the counter, the only available seating. As usual I was odd man out, lacking a drawl of any consequence. In spite of my shortcomings I found the locals friendly and the burger, dripping with sharp cheddar, lived up to its touted reputation.  The tall iced glasses of tea passing by looked refreshing, so I ordered a glass. Tea down in that region, I discovered, tasted more like lemonade. It was heavily sweetened and syrupy.  When I asked if I could have my tea unsweetened, I could see by our server’s face this confirmed for her my lack of southern heritage as sure as if I’d waved a union flag under her nose.  Shortly I was served  a hot cup of water and a tea bag. I took this as a statement.

The first night in the state we stopped in Decatur. Decatur, Alabama, a city of 50,000 plus inhabitants is also known as “The River City”.  It rests on the banks of Wheeler Lake an offshoot of the Tennessee River. Once thriving due to its waterways, it has since been overshadowed by Huntsville and now is largely supported by very visible manufacturing plants.

I have had the pleasure of enjoying some fine accommodations in my travels, including all the luxurious amenities included in the price of the rooms, but while on the road during the construction years, we kept our budget low when it came to housing.  After twelve hours behind the wheel I would have gladly slept on a blow up mattress had one been provided. Often we found ourselves in small motels off the beaten path with the only prerequisite for comfort being the room included an air conditioner or a heater depending on the season, a bed, and a place to wash up.  Other than a bar of soap and clean towels this was all the pampering we got.

Such was the case when we pulled into Decatur.  The sun was slipping beyond the horizon as we passed the city limits sign. A bright blue strip mall type motel came up on the right with an orange neon sign flashing “Vacancy”.  It had a pool, so to speak, although from its appearance nobody had taken a lap for quite a while.  A sign with an arrow indicated the lobby was to our right. On entering we were greeted by the overwhelming aroma of chili and behind the curtains a TV was tuned to Jeopardy. A short man with a broad handlebar moustache emerged carrying a soda. Without much interest he handed us the registration paperwork.  Running the credit card, we were given a huge plastic key ring with the number of our room on it and the key. With the point of a finger we were directed towards our room at the end of the farthest building.

Parking was available directly in front of our room.  In truth, parking was available in front of all of the rooms except two.  Inserting the key in the door and turning, the door remained firmly shut. After several tries it didn’t give any indication of moving any time soon. We returned to the lobby. Not looking any too pleased, as surely he was missing the bonus round, after hearing our dilemma our proprietor walked back to the room with us. Banging several times on the door then ramming it with one beefy shoulder it finally gave way and pushed open. Seemingly satisfied, he handed us the key once again and headed back to Alex Trubeck.  Each time we entered and left this was to be the procedure we would have to follow.  We stayed one night.

The room itself was clean but spare.  There was a bed, a TV with dials, two night stands with lamps nailed to the top, one with a Gideon bible next to it, exactly two large towels, two hand towels, and two wash cloths.  Needless to say the Ritz Carlton was not stressing this competition.  Either for romance or economy, each light socket was equipped with one 25W bulb.  A mole would have felt right at home in such surroundings.

Tired, I felt my way to the bathroom and ran a bath, looking forward to settling in with the book I was reading. My husband reminded me when I emerged I wouldn’t be able to see the pages in the dim lighting.  TV being the other option I switched it on. When I turned the dial to change channels it came off in my hand.  Really?  Once again I spoke to the gentlemen in charge and was assured someone would be right out with a replacement dial.  True to his word, I opened the door not long after to find a younger version of the owner carrying a box of assorted TV dials.  The entire box was handed to me with expressed hope that one of the dials in the box might work.  Never mind.

The following morning I went to open the drapes so I could see to put on my make-up to find they had stapled the drapes shut.  Now I’m all up for economy but enough is enough.  Perhaps they felt that if anyone really got a good look at the room they’d turn and get back in their car. The next night I picked the motel.  It was all good until I tried to use the shower only to find three million ants staging a march on the interior walls.  Life was full of adventures on the road, some good and some bad. The quirky days made it fun and provided me a wealth of information to write about.

This is such a nice dressing.  I even like it with pork.  It looks pretty on the plate as well and offers something a little spicy and different on the buffet table.

Creamy Mustard Dressing

1/4 cup Canola oil
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup scallions, chopped
1/4 cup whole grain mustard
1 1/2 tsp. dill
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients but salt and pepper in food processor and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Best if refrigerated overnight. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

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Photo by Susie Nelson

I enjoyed a great visit with my daughter and her family. What a busy household! Between their two girls, an eighteen year old with an entourage of colorfully appointed friends, her older sister by two years and her boyfriend, three dogs, two cats, plus a fully functioning day care on the premises, there is not much down time to prepare for the next likely catastrophic event.

The tiniest member of the clan would be Jasper. Jasper, a designer breed Affenhuahua or Bichonaranian or something, a hybrid of the minutest proportions, is my daughter’s shadow and self appointed guardian when she is home. The dog takes this position very seriously. Unphased by his diminutive stature he is a fairly aggressive little man, and is extremely protective of interlopers threatening to steal a moment of my daughter’s attention he feels takes from his allotted share. Animals and I have always maintained a special bond.  I have bought and sold more Habitrails, cages, litter, kibble, dog food, cat food, hamster food, rabbit food, and toys for one species or another then the average Pet Smart buyer. That being said, it was unusual to find myself despised on sight by such a formidable enemy wrapped in an economy sized package. On setting down my overnight bag the gauntlets were drawn. In his mind it was obvious it was him or me. If I entered a room the wee warrior issued a warning growl. Hugging my daughter was treated as grounds for a full on attack. Below I am including what would have been the cutest picture of the tiny tyrant but for the fact that I lopped off his head, perhaps a Freudian “whoops” in retribution for the tear he left in my new shorts while trying to remove my leg from my torso.

Jasper

On my first day there plans were in the works to see “Ted” at the movie theater. This not by way of a clandestine rendezvous, but rather a movie currently showing in the local theaters. Ted, for those of you who may not have not seen the trailers, appears on the surface to be a sophomoric comedy revolving around an adult man who wishes life into his teddy bear when a small boy. It is. Reminiscent of Pinocchio, the bear comes to life and the two form a bond making them BFF. Ted is a foul-mouthed, irreverent sort of bear who would put Pooh off his honey and send Piglet scurrying for an exorcist. In truth this was a movie, or so one might assume, that might be expected to attract a viewer demographic of college aged males still deriving joy from sucking beer out of tubes in their hats and exchanging bodily noises.

We signed over the registration to my car for a family sized tub of popcorn with extra butter, three bottles of water and a Snickers bar, and located our seats in number 11 of 12 viewing areas on the premises. An hour and half later, plus or minus a bit, to my surprise I found I had left some serious laughs on the floor. At one point the people behind us asked us to keep the giggling down which hasn’t happened to me since I saw Hanky Panky with Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner years ago after two margaritas. For those of you easily offended by off-color humor this is one movie you need to cross of your list. At times it is so incredibly inappropriate it makes you cringe but being somewhat irreverent myself, it made me laugh out loud far more often then expected.

A movie lover since I first saw Bambi holding my mother’s hand, I don’t go the theater often any more.  In high school the local theaters were magical places where couples got to first base in the balcony, elementary boys threw popcorn at one another, and Elvis sang his way into our hearts.  Drive-in marquis advertised double features for $1.50 a carload, and on the weekends teens maxed out the seating capacity cramming bodies into their Chevy Impala’s, GTO’s, or dad’s family sedan.  Animated characters pushed cardboard pizzas, and Dr. Pepper on the screen before the movie began and many a high school ring changed hands once the windows had steamed over.

After I was married and two children had been added to my tax deductions, the drive-in was an inexpensive place to take our toddlers on the weekends.  Dr. Denton’s snapped in place, and a lunch packed they would swing on the swings until the movie started, and generally be asleep in the back of our old station wagon by the time the credits had played.  You don’t see drive-ins much anymore.  Thinking back I can’t remember the last time I placed a speaker in my window, but there was something fun about being in your own car watching a movie on the big screen wearing your fuzzy slippers and eating a chili dog brought from home.

Years ago I attended services at a huge church in Southern California. Aside from the massive size of the structure, it was quite unique in the fact that it had a full drive-in like set up in the parking lot complete with speakers.  Purple haired ladies with huge rollers in their hair, the infirmed, and families with more children then good sense, could park and enjoy the sermon without having to interact with the congregation gathered inside. I remember finding that peculiar at the time, but I guess if you build it they will come. Even more strange, at least to me, is the church by my daughter’s house with a Starbuck’s in the lobby and a snack bar.  Really?

At any rate, I am home and busy in the kitchen.  During my visit, the North Woods Inn in Southern California was brought up.  For my birthday while living with my parents this was my restaurant of choice for celebration and we went there every year from eighth grade until I graduated from high school.  It was a rustic cabin like atmosphere with snow on the roof, a stuffed grizzly in the lobby, and peanut shells tossed about the bar floor.  Steaks were the draw on their menu alongside huge Idaho potatoes slathered with a fabulous cheesy sauce and all the trimmings.  Salads were served family style and their signatures were a rich bleu buttermilk dressing served over fresh greens paired with a delicious red cabbage salad.  I’m serving both tonight with a hot pastrami and a cold beer.  The combination is so good together that I’m providing both recipes.

This is a pic of Cassanova, who enjoys helping himself to the contents of the refrigerator if left to his own devices. When I caught him he looked at me as if to say, “what?”.

Tangy Red Cabbage Slaw

1/2 large red cabbage, thinly shaved
1/2 red onion thinly sliced and chopped
3 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Lawry’s Seasoning Salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. celery seed
3/4 tsp. onion powder

Whisk together all dressing ingredients and pour over red cabbage and onion. Allow to marinate overnight and even better if left several days. Add additional salt and pepper to taste if desired.

Bleu Cheese Buttmermilk Dressing

1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 cup sour cream
3 cloves garlic
1 tsp. minced onion
1/8 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. Hungarian paprika
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. crumbled bleu cheese

Combine buttermilk, sour cream, garlic, minced onion, sugar, paprika and salt in food processor. Pulse until smooth. Add blue cheese and pulse several times leaving some small chunks of bleu cheese. Refrigerate for 3-4 hrs.

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Photo by Susie Nelson

Another month and a half or so and the moving van will be pulling up out front.  Yesterday the donation van packed up our surplus items and last week the shredder van whisked our unneeded paperwork off to be made into confetti.

Short of trying to cross their palms, I couldn’t convince the drivers of the donation van to disassemble the enormous albatross of a desk my other half has in our downstairs office and take it with them.  It has room to land a small plane on the surface, and enough filing space to satisfy the needs of the Oval Office.

Deciding what to keep and what to move on with you is quite a project.  Often I find myself sitting cross-legged on a bed or on the floor digging through old pictures, and things the children and grandchildren have made me over the years and having to make the difficult decision on whether to throw them back in the container they were living in or deposit them in the “dump me” bag.  You can’t keep everything, and if you do “Hoarders” will find a spot for you on an upcoming episode.

My first in-laws were of the genre of people who simply could not let go of anything.  It’s a strange phenomenon. I would surmise it stems from doing without at some point in your life, or being afraid of not being able to replace lost items. I’m not a psychiatrist. At times after talking with my friends I feel I could put out a shingle, but as a layman it would appear to me it might be an explanation for holding tightly to your possessions.

I like familiar and lovely things about me, but overcrowding makes me claustrophobic. Once in Texas visiting my ex-husband on a job he was doing, I met a man in his late eighties who I don’t believe had given away anything since donning his first pair of long pants.  What a character.

Bert, his name was, fancied himself somewhat of a ladies man although his dazzling days remained far behind him.  He made his home in an old ranch style home with a double wide trailer next to it on a several acres of land on the outskirts of Houston.  Self described as a “long drink of water”, he breathed the atmosphere at well over six feet, admitting to having shrunk some over the years. Reed thin, if the man turned sideways he needed to stick out his tongue to make his presence known.

The land his home rested on, as well the trailer next door rented by my ex, had been passed down family to family over the generations. Other than the two living areas and the outbuildings, the acreage, once farmed by Bert’s predecessors, wasn’t used for much anymore except to graze cattle and grow wildflowers.  A herd of cattle lazily chewed on blades of grass tails flicking at the flies buzzing around them, in the pasture beyond the gate.  Bert explained the cattle belonged to a neighbor, who paid for the privilege of having the animals partake of their meals on his land.

In comparison to my ex husband’s trailer, which which was furnished with an old couch whose better days had come and gone twenty years prior, a mattress on the floor in one bedroom and a television set that still had the rabbit ears attached to the top, Bert’s two-story home was a labyrinth and a tribute to the power of accumulation.  Makeshift aisles had been established to make moving from room to room doable if not easy.  On either side of the walkways “needful things” were piled high one on top of the other with no apparent system visible. In one corner of the kitchen magazines and yellowing newspapers were stacked in towering piles. Bert explained these were in case he needed a good read in the terlet.

Barbecue was his passion, so he told me. Since being diagnosed as an insulin dependent diabetic, he could only partake of his special sauce with artificial sweetener. Sweetener or no, he said it would stick to your fingers like flypaper, just like his Daddy’s had.  Ushered to the rear of the house, I was shown a mammoth grill on the deck looking more like a locomotive than a device for preparing food. Huge huge pipes protruded from the top of the unit and gauges were screwed here and there for monitoring the internal temperature.

On my first night there I stood in the tall grass at the fence, and fed the cows pieces of lettuce torn from several heads Bert had provided for that purpose.  Cows have an affinity for me as I mentioned in my post earlier about working the cattle ranch in Manitoba.  It seems my pheromones are conducive with enticing bovine desire.  Ah, the gifts I have been given.  After I returned home, I got a scribbled note from Bert saying that he and the cows were still looking to find me standing at their fence.  Ah, still a dazzler.

Bert meanwhile was busy tending the grill.  Brisket was the menu offering and it had been cooking since the sun came up. If the smells wafting in the breeze were any indication, the long wait was going to be well worth it.

In spite of the smell of food attracting any number of buzzing intruders, we ate “al fresco” that night. Heat was oppressive and the humidity so thick it was like breathing broth.  The brisket was the best I’ve ever tasted. Bert served it with ears of fresh corn and an enormous salad of fresh vegetables from a neighbor’s stand.  After the dishes were done we sat on the porch. Bert told stories of his youth while indulging in a rare treat of a shot or two of J.D. and a cigar from the box on the mantle.  “As a young man”, he said wistfully, “Jack Daniels went in my coffee in the morning and in my shot glass at night. Back in the day, I smoked likely three packs a day.  Kids won’t let me nowadays.  Say the damn stuff’s going to kill me.  Hell, I’m old as dirt anyhow. Think they’d let me go with a smile on my face.”

Bert passed on at ninety-five.  My ex went to the funeral.  As was the custom in his parts there was a viewing.  Two elderly ladies stood looking down at the deceased while my husband waited to pay his respects. After a moment of silence, one lady turned to her companion and said,”I knew one day the cigarettes and booze was gonna kill him”. Smile.

This was a really good spinach salad.  I seem to crave salads this summer.

Bacon and Egg Spinach Salad

1 6 oz. pkg. baby spinach
4 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
2 eggs, crumbled
5 large mushrooms, slivered
1/4 cup red onions, thinly sliced and halved
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Freshly ground black pepper

Wash spinach and remove stems. Tear into bite sized pieces. Toss with remaining ingredients.

Dressing

1 cup white wine vinegar
4 Tbsp. EV olive oil
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. fresh chives
2 Tbsp. freshly chopped parsley
1 tsp. Hungarian paprika
2 tsp. yellow mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 ice cube

Put all dressing ingredients including ice cube in tightly closed container. Shake vigorously until ice cube has dissolved and dressing has emulsified. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Toss desired amount with salad.

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How do you spell relief?  No, it’s not R-O-L-A-I-D-S.  It is, however, A/C, swimming pools, and tall cool drinks with plenty of ice.  It is going to hover above the hundred degree mark for a while out here on the west coast.  I’m not good in extreme heat.  Could be growing up in Nova Scotia, or living in the South in the perpetual sauna that passes for summer in the region.  Living there provided me with my lifetime quota of moist upper body parts and thick viscous air.  Any place such as Arkansas where I was once told I needed to learn to sweat properly, could most likely be deemed too hot for my delicate temperament.

Even though the house was cool last night, I put in a restless eight hours fighting with my pillows, and wrangling my dreams.  I’m a prolific dreamer, dreaming every night.  I remember the details vividly in the morning, and often they are so real that I wake myself up to release myself from their clutches.

Freud believed dreams were portholes to our subconscious, exposing our deepest fears, desires, and feelings.  Some people, so I understand, do not dream, or if they do, do not remember them.  Mine are so real, at times I wake up angry at a participant in my dream, even though they did nothing at all in reality to illicit such a reaction.  I attribute these nighttime escapades to an active imagination and the constant storytelling my brain insists on participating in awake, it would appear, or asleep.  Einstein felt that imagination was more important than knowledge.  If inclined to agree with him on that statement, I would be in good standing with the world.

At around 2:00 a.m. a loud bang brought me out of my subconscious wanderings, thankfully, as this one contained a spider dredged up from events earlier in the day. Outside my bedroom window was a beautiful display of fireworks.  Not the kind you find in the Family Pack Assortment at the Kiwanas fireworks booth, but huge streaming bursts such as you would see at an arena.  Who was setting these off over the lake, I have no idea, and I’m sure if caught they would be handed a huge fine as it is high fire danger season.  However, safety and good sense aside, it was a lovely way to wile away the time in the wee hours of the morning, and allow the spider to fade in my memory.

Yesterday was a particularly warm afternoon. Even the animals were suffering.  Mouse, our only inside/outside player, was lying in the shade out front in a shallow pool of sprinkler water wearing an expression as if to say, “Laud, I’m sweatin’ like a prostitute in church.”

When I brought her in, I accompanied her to her apartment on the second floor, affectionately known as The Mouse House, to do some weekly cleaning.  Mouse demands a nice environment, and I’m well paid with slow eye blinks and loving stares to maintain her high standards.

I do the litter box first, because indicated by the use of the item, it is not my favorite job.  Afterwards I approach her room and vacuum the accrued cat fur and small indications of her existence there.  On the floor under the desk we keep her favorite blanket, which gets shaken outside.  Mouse lies in the corner while the big doings are going on maintaining her supervisory veto should things not be done to her liking.  I pulled up the blanket to clean beneath it and on the floor towards the back sat the biggest spider I have ever seen outside of tarantulas I’ve seen on TV.  In my free hand were two plastic bags for trash and soiled litter.  It took a minute for my mind to grasp what I was seeing.  Incredibly the spider showed no fear whatsoever, but actually squared off as if to run towards me.

As I have mentioned before on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the most adored, I rate spiders, bees, and crawly eewy things, at a minus 30.  Mind clicking into gear displaying a face much like Munch’s painting “The Scream”, I took off running past the astonished cat, bags fluttering behind me like wind socks in a stiff breeze.  Mouse, assuming I had either gone momentarily insane or was possibly going to provide her with some treats, followed closely at my heals.

My other half was in the kitchen when I ran past at Olympic tryout speed.  Stuttering “spi, spi” in his direction. Calming me down, he determined there was a spider downstairs and he was tasked with doing the manly thing and getting rid of same.  I followed him down with a large glass bowl.  This to put over the top of the spider and a manilla folder to slip underneath it to deposit him in the yard.  Until we were standing in front of the spider I believe he thought I was exaggerating, but once confronted by it staring back at us, he approached more slowly as if it was a live grenade.

Normally, I’m not a euthanizer of living things, but the idea of waking up and finding this guy perched next to me on my pillow definitely neutralized any feelings of guilt I might maintain after putting him down if it became necessary.  Something told me if we didn’t get him right then, he’d locate us at a later date.

Corralling him inside the glass bowl and slipping the manilla folder underneath it my other half gestured for me to open the door. Giving them both a wide berth, the resilient arachnid pushed one lip of the folder down and jumping through the air, scurried off under the bed.   That’s what I was told he did later.  I was on my way to Deluth.  In the end, I suppose he did get me later as we met again in my dreams.  Hopefully, that will be the only place I run into him again.

This salad has a nice crunch and a good bit of spice to it.  My kids ate it straight without bread or salad but I like it on a bed of lettuce or tucked in a pita wedge with lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber slices.

Barbecued Mojito Lime Cajun Chicken Salad

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 pkg. McCormick Grill Mates Mojito Lime marinade
1/4 cup oil
2 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. white vinegar

Mix pkg. of marinade with 1/4 cup oil, 2 Tbsp. water, and 2 Tbsp. vinegar. Pour into large resealable bag and add chicken. Mush to cover meat and place in refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight, turning several times.

Discard marinade and grill until chicken is thoroughly cooked and juices run clear. Allow to cool and then cube. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Dressing

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp. prepared mustard
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. Hungarian paprika (or hot paprika of choice)
1 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. prepared horseradish
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/3 cup green onion, chopped
Tabasco to taste
Salt and pepper

Mix together in large mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add to cooled chicken until completely covered and desired consistency.

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I decided to do a little change for the holiday weekend.  I’m going to publish my dishes as we use them and pull out a little of my graphics background to illustrate them just to stick my hands in the fire again lest I forget how.

Clouds are creeping across the sky out my windows.  Thunderstorms in the foothills today and snow in the mountains.  Weird weather for approaching June but the weekend is supposed to be glorious.

Leigh at bluegrassnotes has been kind enough to nominate my site for the Illuminating Blogger Award and wanted to give her a nod for including me on her list and will publish something about it over the weekend.

This salad is fun and festive as well as tasty.  Nice easy idea for a grilling holiday weekend.

Photo by Susie Nelson

 

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