Category Archives: PMS (and it’s not the medical one)

Pickles!

Blackberry Crumble CurriedRiceTofuSalad

I opened the veggie bin and stared into the empty space. Until recently it was full of carrots, celery, Jalapeno peppers and onions. I’d checked the inventory earlier in the week, when I did my usual shopping trip. I had plenty of supplies to complete my planned meals for the week and the dishes I planned to take to my husband’s company picnic.

The software company my hubby is currently working for is delightfully social. The office manager schedules many well attended and very enjoyable events throughout the year for their employees and families. The Summer Company Picnic is a highlight on the annual calendar.

Running a bit behind on my agenda, it was 9:30pm and I was about half way through the two recipes when I discovered the ingredient deficiencies in the refrigerator’s storage drawers.

I was signed up to make my Curried Rice and Tofu salad. I needed lots of celery, onions and there was not a single stalk or bulb in sight. My rice was already steamed and in the bowl, dressing well under way.   My trusty Cuisinart, fitted with the proper slicing blade, stood on the counter ready for the stalks of celery to be fed down its chute. All that was missing was that celery!

In addition to my contribution for the shared dishes, there was another fun event, the Dessert Contest! I had entered my EVOO Cake last year in the Most Unusual Ingredient segment and lost out to the office’s baking Diva. Not only did she win the most creative category with an adorable Alligator cake but she beat me out with her “to die for” Guinness Stout Cake with Irish whiskey ganache and Irish Cream frosting.  Oh yeah. I went back for seconds on that one.

I was doubly determined this year.   However this year’s entry for Most Unusual Ingredients would be Just Plain Ordinary Blackberry Crumble without the tiny minced jalapeno peppers lurking amongst the dark juicy fruit under the crispy oatmeal laced crust. Yup, you guessed it. Not a single pepper in the crisper!

Glancing at the top shelf I saw several Quart jars of pickled veggies! My celery, onions and even the Jalapeno peppers, my “unusual ingredient” that I hoped would win the dessert category by the same name, were all floating in pickle brine!

My husband has been on a pickled beet kick. Several weeks prior, he’d filled every available canning jar with wonderful fresh tasting beets and onions. They were truly yummy too! Our deck holds several flats of baby lettuce and chard. A bumper crop of greens this season has supplied us with super fresh salads and smoothies that must brim with extra vitamins that are supplied by the freshly picked greens and mint. His savory beets piled on top of fresh lettuce, topped with walnuts, crumbled goat cheese and a drizzle of Dijon Vinaigrette are a perfect summer meal.

Apparently the enthusiasm and praise for the pickled beets spurred my husband on to greater culinary preservation feats!  He had requested on the “Shopping List”, a magnetized pad, attached to the front of the refrigerator, cauliflower and eggplant.

This is our system for communicating to whoever does the shopping.  Desires for future dish ingredients or the notice of a recently depleted item, like celery or pickling spices, for instance, can be written down on this pad, with the pencil also attached to the front of the refrigerator by a magnet.

Didn’t happen! Hey, no system is perfect.

No worries. Our local grocer is open until 11:00pm every night.  I stomped down the stairs and in my best “Princess Obvious” voice stated “There is no celery! I need celery and green onions for the Curried Rice salad.”

Husband looked up from his book. “Can’t you get them at the store tomorrow morning?”

“I am in the middle of the recipe, right now. The Cuisine art is out and ready to slice the celery. And … this is for YOUR work’s company picnic. You signed me up for this and I am doing my best here…”

His big sigh interrupted my tirade. “Can’t you just go?”

I subscribe to a philosophy similar to that of shopkeepers who display signs that say” You break it, you buy it!”

“You are the one that used up ALL of the celery and onions!”

“OK, OK… Is there anything ELSE, since I am going to the store in the middle of the night, I only want to make one trip!”

“Yes! All of the Jalapeno peppers have disappeared as well, so I will need at least two.”

He returned, almost 45 minutes later. The QFC is about 1 mile from the house.  I could have walked there and back.  On wheels, I could have done the week’s shopping and even had time to gas up my husband’s shiny black V6 Jetta on the return trip.

He plunked down two paper grocery bags. I decided this was not the moment for the Ecology lecture about recyclable grocery bags. I know there cloth bags are on the front seat of his car, I put them there, a subtle reminder. Colored bright lime green and yellow, maybe he is too manly to tote them into the store. I make a mental note to switch out his bags to a more discrete khaki shade.

“Beer was on sale. There was a new one from Elysian, called “Loser”… celebrating 25th anniversary of Sub Pop Records. This stuff is normally $14 for a 6 pack; it was on sale for $7.99!”

I bit my tongue, resisting the temptation of a cheap shot regarding the aptly named beer.

The picnic was wonderful. Held on a park just above a beach looking out to the Puget Sound, the blue skies and sun a perfect backdrop for all the sail boats, soothed any leftover animosity.

Our two Elkhounds took 1st and 2nd place in the Navigating the Dog Obstacle Course.  They were the only two entries, but I can’t fault them for that part! They won fair and square.

Best of all, I won the “Most Creative Dessert” category.

Here are the recipes. Bon Appetite!

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Not the “good” towels!

“No way!”

I leveled what I hoped was a stern enough look at my husband to convey the seriousness of my message.

“What?” he looked genuinely puzzled as he stopped in his tracks.

“No way… are you going to use my brand new pale yellow tea towel to scrub the windows on the deck outside. That is WHAT!”

My trip to Europe this past spring had presented me with many opportunities to support the various local economies I visited.  I’d made space in my already bulging suitcases for these lovely pale yellow linens, purchased in the gift shop at Keukenhof Tulip Gardens in Holland. The design, crafted and woven in Holland, depicted cheeses created by the weave of the fine cotton fabric. Wiping down grime on the deck door outside windows would certainly to ruin that look with indelible stains.

I plead temporary insanity for actually putting the linens on the towel rack in the kitchen. I’d forgotten previous life lessons around males and their utter lack of understanding regarding the use of cleaning apparatus. The universe was providing me with yet another reminder.  This was after all, the same man who’d used the leaf blower to clean up construction mess during our flooring replacement project.

Guys just don’t get it!  It must be genetic. They all seem to have no clue that grabbing the first handy thing to do a grimy job is not the best choice.  They totally ignore the bins of “cleaning rags” that are placed strategically in the same cupboard with the cleaning solutions.

My brother used my brand new champagne gold bath towels to dry off his 1965 Ford Fairlane sedan. This vehicle had spent many years in the Arizona sun. The towel was forever stained with the oxidized teal colored paint that came off with every swipe of the drying towel.

My husband has made a career out of ruining his “good” clothes by refusing to change out of work attire when his attention is sucked into the vortex of a particular gross, nasty mess that demands his immediate attention. This same very manly male has been observed polishing the wood floors of our home by twirling about like a figure skater, in his stocking clad feet!

He claims the dogs do a lot of damage to his socks. In fact I’ve heard the phase “How did they get these anyway?” so frequently that it has become a family joke. The floor of his corner of our walk in closet is littered with discarded stockings. I know from his basketball playing days that if he chose, he’d make a perfect shot every time. Maybe a hoop needs to be installed above his hamper.  I purchase his Merino Wool socks in bulk 6-packs at Costco to counter this abuse.

A recent gag gift for my husband was a pair of Evriholder® Slipper Genie for Men. For the uninitiated these are open toe slippers with microfiber fingers on the bottoms that catch hair, dust and dirt; just walking around the house. He thought they were a hoot but I’ve only seen him use them the one time and they disappeared into his home office, never to be seen again. The good part is that he has ceased scrubbing the floors in his stocking feet.

I recently fished them out of his “junk box” from under the desk… I have them handy just in case the sock-skating starts up again!

Back to the towel issue, I recall reading a confession from a similar minded woman regarding protecting the guest towels in her powder room. In preparation for her bridge group’s arrival that next day, she had scoured that sink and spiffed up the area by hanging some of her cute hand towels. As a precaution against the unlikely event that one of her guys would utilize this particular facility, she’d pinned a note to the towels. It read “Don’t you dare touch these with your grubby dirty hands, Mom.” Of course you know she forgot to remove the note much to the amusement of the card playing gals. My friend still gets kidded about her guest towels!

I can’t use notes…my guys do NOT read them. Even on bright colored paper, placed strategically in the center of a completely empty counter top. I will still get inquiries, via phone that could be answered if they’d just read the note!

I do get my revenge. Every once in a while one of my husband’s favorite ratty old T-shirts is “lost in the wash”. After all some clean up jobs are just so ugly one has to throw away the rags when finished.

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Control “P”… for Pissed!

The usual “print operation command”, Control P has changed somehow on my computer. Maybe that last Microsoft update?  Just printing out more than a page is turning this aspiring writer, normally a mild mannered and patient computer user, into a whiny one, who spent hours researching online complaints on printer websites with no results. Now when I press the control key in conjunction with the P key… the only result is that I get pissed!

Mondays usually feel so optimistic, but then the rest of the week happens! Today felt as thought I was off to a great start. I went to my weekly EPIC Group Writers. This is always an inspirational event for me.  We do a timed writing exercise, based on a starter phrase to get our creative juices flowing.

After I left my writing group I felt inspired and focused; ready to begin a week full of great writing.  I took a look at the memoir Monday e-mail which further inspired me to write.  But shoot, I need to schedule an extra DART ride for Nick this week.  Oh yes, I also need to print out a paper invoice copy from Quick Books for his gig this afternoon.

Doing anything with Quick Books is an exercise in frustration these days.  Since the upgrade in 2013, the program has been more difficult to use than ever.  A simple task like finding and printing an invoice for customer turns it into a 15 minute exercise of opening, closing and backtracking through sections of files in the program.  Finally, I locate the correct invoice and push print.

Oh Crap!  I still have issues with the printing program on this computer. It has been a while since I have had the occasion to hit the control button and the P key! I actually avoid, when at all possible, the act of printing out a paper and ink copy of any document.  Trees are being saved… you understand, don’t you? Earth Day is just right around the corner. Emailing around the “PDFs” of a document is truly so much easier and certainly more economical too! Have you priced any printer ink cartridges lately? Wow, I should have bought stock in the company. They practically give away the printers, knowing that they will make back their money tenfold… on the ink!

Currently my computer system will only print one job time. After the first document group cycles through the system, I have choices to make before I can execute another print job.

If I look at the icon in my system tray, it tells me the printer is busy… printing out the job I just executed. Problem is that nothing is actually happening. Why is my computer telling me this giant lie? Clearly there are no pages showing up in the plastic tray beneath the printer. I have been told that computers use pure logic when processing information, so in theory a computer should not be able to tell a falsehood. Maybe I have discovered a new breed of processor! Tempting as it may be to announce this discovery to the World Wide Web… I must first print that invoice.

I pull up Task Manager, and find a line, called Job Status Windows Interface, which is process that I need to cancel.  If I do this step the printer will spring to life and spit out the pages of the job that’s been hanging in the La La Land of the print queue.  Sometimes after searching through the Task Manager, looking for the particular process to cancel and not spotting it quickly, I run out of patience!  It’s easier just to restart the dang computer.

At these times, I really regret my recent purchase of a case of extra large ink cartridges.  They are little, over packaged plastic units and cost almost as much as the printer did. I now have a box full of used and ready to recycle; black ink and individual colors of red, green and blue too. Every so often a pop-up window intrudes into my line of vision on the computer’s screen. It implores me to visit on the company’s website where I could of course purchase more ink cartridges, to return and recycle.

I originally purchased this unit because it was a “high volume ink printer” and more ecologically friendly than the other brands I’d been researching.  This printer has turned into a “high volume” stress inducing piece of equipment! Any savings on printer ink costs have been eclipsed by the increase in my wine purchases for consumption after each printing project is completed!

The manufacturer’s Customer Service has been no help at all.  In fact at one point they stated the problem exists because of a Microsoft update.  They suggested that the wrong print driver had been part of that upload last month. But it came from Microsoft and not from the manufacturer of the printer, so not their problem!  They had no a solution for how to remove this errant line of code which creates a logjam of printing tasks, waiting to be printed each time I turn on my computer.

When those ink cartridges are all used up… I will gleefully take this useless contraption to RE PC.  This facility is handy for recycling old computers and other obsolete electronic equipment.  I hope I can keep my sanity until I use up all of that ink!  It seems these cartridges will only fit this one printer! How wasteful to indulge in trashing the printer before I can recoup the investment in black ink. Maybe it is time to print a first draft of the 300 page novel.

Patience does not run in my family.  My youngest son recently visited and needed to print out copies of some forms he needed for a job application.  I was not here to observe his process but he seemed to figure out turning on and off the computer was a way to get his documents to print.  When I later looked at the printer icon, I started to laugh.  There were several documents waiting to be printed in the queue.  Apparently he did remember what I told him regarding the task manager step.

After struggling with this issue again today, I decided… it would be more satisfying to simply drive to the landfill and heave this printer into the abyss.  After I use up all of those black ink cartridges or maybe find my COSTCO receipt… they will take back almost anything!

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Stunning Surprise!

“Surprise” This chorus of cries came from folks who’d been crouching in the darkness, awaiting my arrival, for quite some time apparently.

I almost dropped the two bags of groceries on the floor, so great the shock of seeing many of my family members and friends jump out from behind the island in our kitchen.  It was three days before my actual birthday, so this was the last thing I expected when I opened the door that led from my garage into our home.

“Wow!” was all I could utter, as I fumbled with the cloth bags and tried to take stock of what I was seeing. I had not noticed that the shades were all closed on our front windows. Nor had I noticed any additional cars on the street. Hubby had asked them to park around the corner.

“Oh you guys! This is truly amazing! How long have you been here?”

I’d just returned from a long series of errands that evening and I was running late. Fifteen minutes earlier, I’d phoned Hubby to ask what he’d like for dinner, given that I was coming home much later than I’d anticipated  I was too tired to cook.

He assured me there was no need to stop. “We have plenty of leftovers that I can prepare. How soon will you be home? I will start warming up food, right now”.

I’d just returned from a three week trip to Brussels and was craving Mexican Food in a big way. I suggested “Fish tacos! There is still a lot of that Red snapper from last night.  I will stop and get some of the hard shells on my way home, Okay?”

“Oh no, no need to stop at all, I bought some tortillas last week when I made dinner for our son. Just come right on home and food will be ready when you get here. You must be starved.”

He sounded so sweet.  I should have known something was up.Hubby hates leftovers! Especially if it is is a repeat from the day before! How could I not have known?

Earlier that afternoon I missed another clue!  Hubby swept and mopped the floors… without my even suggesting! My 60th birthday was coming up the middle of the next week.  I’d mentioned splurging on The Maids ™ to come to do a bit of “deep cleaning” before the party I was planning for myself.  I was pleasantly surprised when he hopped up and said he wanted to try out our new Dyson sweeper on the upstairs rooms.

Usually it is we women who clean and tidy up before the maids arrive. Men are like… “Cool! Bring it on!”  They suffer no embarrassment what so ever at having total strangers see their dirt and clutter!

I was feeling a bit of jet lag and had flopped on the bed to cuddle with our dogs.  I savored a few horizontal minutes before heading out to drive our son to two different music gigs that afternoon.  I had shopping for some essentials planned at stores close to both of his gig locations. My efficiency truly exhausted rather than exhilarated me.   Saturday afternoon traffic in Seattle was amazingly smooth and a gift I gladly accepted in my efforts to get back home and horizontal once again.

Back to my shocking surprise; I kept marveling at how smoothly my hubby hid all of this from me. I truly had no clue!

When our son chuckled “Enjoy your little party” as he left the car at our last stop, I supposed he’d meant the party I was planning for the actual day of my 60th. He’d known I was shopping for food to be used for that event.  He’d been sworn to secrecy by my hubby…but his Aspergers syndrome got the better of him.  He just could not resist blurting out this secret. Hubby had mentioned several times during the previous weeks, that this was a “Surprise for Mom!” We are not going to tell her about this party, OK?”  Luckily I was still in a funk from flying across the pond and it didn’t penetrate the deep fog of my consciousness.

My hubby was so stealthy that he’d even made a trip to the local Good Will and purchased some inexpensive storage containers. He feared that I’d get suspicious if I noticed that some of my Tupperware® was missing in action. Yes, I am just a bit OCD about my plastic bowls, I admit it.  I’ve been known to hound my kids to get back those pale blue square containers I’ve packed with surplus from a family meal. They swear I have cards on file, like the library, to track them down.

A window of time while I was at the club the evening before the party was utilized by Hubby to prepare most of the party fare.  He even stored all this food in the spaciously empty fridge at our youngest son’s nearby home.  The youngest was also in charge of the cake. He picked a wonderfully decadent chocolate number from the Stone Cold Creamery which was stored in the freezer at his place.

As soon as my car backed out of the drive, they all swung into action. Some of my girl friends were part of the plot! Hubby has my old Droid phone. He had their phone numbers and three whole weeks while I was out of the country, to get all the plans in place.

He was a bit worried initially when he received my email note on the “Day at Home” birthday party I was planning for my 60th.  I knew I’d be spent from my travels. In addition I was facing another out of town gig the following weekend, with our musical performer son. The Southern tradition of having an “at home” day truly appealed for this big birthday celebration!

Distraction with plans for my own event aided Hubby’s execution of his stealthy soiree. He pulled off a “surprise” party that rivaled some of my best efforts!

In fact, for his mother’s 60th I had sent her an invitation to come to our home for an Art Party.  All of her girlfriends were in on the deception. We’d even managed to keep this off my father in law’s radar screen. The look of shock on her face when greeted with shouts of ” Happy Birthday” at our front door was absolutely priceless!  “I do not know what to say to you!” was all she could muster as she stood staring into our home. I was delighted that I’d managed to pull off this party.

Looking at the big grin on his face, I am sure my hubby felt a similar thrill as I swooned at the gathering in our kitchen.ChocCake

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Happy Valentine’s Day

I pulled into the driveway and blinked at the glare of the bright light coming from the open garage door. I glanced over to the front door of our home to see my Hubby and our two Norwegian Elkhound pups sitting in the glow of the front entry lights.

Hubby looks up from his smart phone, “Where have you been? You said you were about a minute away when we spoke on the phone and that was a long time ago!”

This was the not so perfect ending to a disastrous day. Most women’s expectations for Valentine’s Day are filled with lovely greeting cards, boxes of chocolates and red roses. Today was the stellar opposite.

On Thursday evening, I’d already been warned not to look for a card the next morning at the breakfast table.  Hubby came home complaining that evening; “There are just not any good cards this year!” He’d stopped at the grocery on his way home; “They had no selection at all!” He remarked that he saw the same guys in the aisle, when he’d circled back around a second time.  “The Hallmark section had the same stupid cards as the regular stationery aisle and none of us were having any luck.”

“Well gee, wait another day and you could have purchased at half price!” I voiced aloud the chagrin that more than one woman has experienced when the man of their dreams doesn’t exactly plan ahead for the biggest card and chocolate holiday of the year!

“And no one could deliver any flowers tomorrow either”. Hubby reported how shocked he’d been, when he’d phoned the local florist.  “They said that the soonest they could deliver an arrangement to our home was Saturday afternoon!”  Clearly other men in our locale had similar luck. The grocery where Hubby was shopping for a card must have been completely sold out of flowers suitable for a Valentine’s Day bouquet.

Valentine’s Day this year was clearly not going to be the swirls and curly accents atop premium truffles nestled in a satin ribbon wrapped box. Nope, not even the cello Red Heart overwrap on a box of Russell Stover’s was likely to appear on Friday morning with my name on it!

Lucky for my Hubby I wash my car frequently! The folks at the Pink Elephant Car Wash are extremely retail savvy and know their customers well. Women who patronize deluxe car wash businesses will undoubtedly browse and purchase from the wonderful selections of gifts and cards displayed in the lobby. On the rare occasion that men visit the car wash, they will be checking Fantasy Football scores on their I-Phones. Just in case the car wash gift center also stocks green pine tree shaped air fresheners and rotate through various “holiday” shapes too. This time of year they featured red hearts scented with vanilla or cinnamon.

Giving idle women opportunity and access to tempting goods is always great retail strategy. What better way to spend the time while waiting in the lobby? By the time the shiny clean and waxed cars with sparkling windows arrive at the other end, I have added to my stash on hand of Birthday Card. In fact I have loads of cute greetings for various holidays and just about any occasion, due to my penchant for a clean car! Hubby did thank me for the pretty card I left by his computer that morning. He finished off the box of 16 truffles by noon the next day too! Unfortunately my planning and execution, delivering on time only highlighted his lack and clearly did not score any points, despite the efforts I’d made.

To say the day had not gone well was the understatement of the year. In an attempt to make up for no card or flowers, Hubby had decided he’d take me to lunch. He was working from home today, so it would be convenient to do lunch. He had phoned our local favorite restaurant only to discover that they were completely booked. “Shocking that so early in the afternoon, on Valentine’s Day they would not have a table for two!”

We’d settled on a quick bowl of Udon soup and the Sushi special at our favorite local spot, Sushi Moto. I managed to coax the pups into the car and promised them an outing to the Off Leash Park if they were well behaved while we had our lunch.  I pushed the button on my Prius and nothing happened!

“What is wrong?”  Hubby has now joined the pups in the rear seat and is peering over at the dash which is now displaying a series of flashing warning lights.  He likes to ride in the back with the pups to reassure them during a car ride and keep them calm.

“This has never happened before” I explain. “It was just fine when I came home last night!”  I am now searching for the little tag that has the phone number of Toyota Care.  Hubby tries in vain to convince the pups to leave the car and get into his Volkswagen Jetta.  Nothing doing… they were promised a trip to the Doggie Park and were not going to be short changed!

I walked into the house to be able to hear the options being presented by the automatic voice answering system on the line that would provide me with “excellent service at Toyota Care today.”  Several selections later I finally was speaking with a real person.  After repeating back the VIN for my Prius, she assured me that someone would be calling me, “within the next hour” to schedule a local tow to the nearest Toyota dealership, where they would of course “provide me with excellent customer care.”

I relayed al of this to Hubby who finally picked up the 50 pounders and lugged them into his back seat. He was not happy to have lunch further delayed by the wait for a call from the local towing company. We agreed that in the essence of getting some food anytime soon, that he would drive over to Sushi Moto and order takeout. The pups were clearly not going to get out of his car willingly, so they went along for the ride.

By the time he returned with Styrofoam cups filled with hot noodles and plastic trays of salmon rolls, I had yet to hear from the folks at the “local” towing company.  But finally as I was slurping the last of my Udon, the phone rang and help was only a few blocks away.

In the midst of all of the car chaos, a DART bus appeared at the curb in front of our home, bearing our son Nick.  Nick is returning from his first of three gigs for Valentines’ Day this year. Nick is totally blind and so blissfully unaware of the presence of the paralyzed Prius parked in the garage.  My vehicle was not actually needed until his last engagement around 7:00pm. With an individual who is “on the spectrum” it is wise to sometimes not share details that will not impact them. Rather than introduce a new worry into his day, I decided not to burden him with the knowledge of the current motor malfunction until we’d determined a cause and an outcome for transporting the needed equipment later that evening.  His ride to the 2:00pm performance was on schedule and hopefully by the time he returned we’d be all set with either a functioning automobile or a loaner from the Toyota dealer, suitable in size to hold his keyboard and sound equipment.

As luck would have it the tow company’s truck arrived at the exact time as Nick’s driver for gig number two. Fortunately we were able to convince Nick that the best use of his time was to quickly get into the driver’s car and get onto his next engagement. We promised to fill him in upon his return home later that afternoon and assured him that this would not cause any problems for him at his last gig.

Toyota did turn around the car repair in record time. I returned home in less than two hours which was amazing for a Friday afternoon, going into Presidents Day holiday weekend! This was a good omen that the day was not a total loss after all.

The Elkhound Pups were still shortchanged on their outing and Hubby volunteered to walk them before dark. He mentioned a quick walk to our town’s center… coincidentally the location of a new local brewery and pub!  I had some errands left to do and while they were on their stroll I had a brilliant idea which might just salvage the day. The brewery only served their various ales, but no food permits were completed just yet. They graciously allowed patrons to bring in food to go along with their quaffs.  I phoned Hubby and when he didn’t answer, left a message that I could drive by our local Pagliacci’s Pizza which now featured “by the slice” servings.  “No longer do we need to wait to get our teeth into gooey cheese and crispy crusts to go with that Porter you are probably slurping down about now,” I said playfully.   I drove on and waited for a callback. After a few more minutes I redialed.

“Where are you?” I asked, wondering if he’d taken a different route that went into the dead zone of no cell signals.  “Did you get my message?  I am almost to the Pizza place.”

“No, I didn’t hear the phone and where are you anyway?  I am at the front door of the house. It’s locked! I don’t have my key.”

“I am literally just around the corner. I was headed to get your car filled with gas, but I can swing by and open the door. I will be there in just a second.”  I make a quick turn back into our neighborhood. As I slowdown in the front of the house, I spied my Hubby sitting on the porch, both pups at his feet.  I waved and hit the garage door button. Seeing the light come on as the door started rolling up, I drove off to fill Hubby’s almost empty tank and complete the last of my errands.

Turns out that Hubby had not actually seen me wave and was oblivious to the noise from the garage door opening. Whatever he was viewing on his Droid-RazorX, had completely captured his attention.

About 40 minutes later I returned to see Hubby still seated at the front door, oblivious to the gaping garage door and the bright lights piercing the darkness. From his seated position at the front door, he could not see the light beaming out from the garage and did not realize that the door had opened.

I was astonished and amazed! He knew from my phone call that I would be there in less than a minute, yet here he sat.  My first reaction was “Oh my gosh! I am so sorry that you are still stranded at the front door!”

Almost an hour had passed. I started to think aloud, never a good idea in this sort of situation… “Why,” I asked Hubby “Did you not call me back to ask where I was?” In a similar situation, I would have been frantic with worry, but he was remarkably calm as a cucumber!  “Were you not worried about me at all?”  This incited guilt and angry comments of denial ensued.  “Whose fault was it that he’d been stuck out front?”

Continuing on my collision course of discord, I pointed the obvious. He’d been so glued to his Droid that he hadn’t walked around to the rear patio and let himself into the house via that unlocked door. In fact he’d surely have noticed the gleaming lights from the garage door which was of course still wide open.

Yikes! This was a doomed day and I was pouring gasoline on the fire and fanning the flames!  Each time I opened my mouth to comment on the situation only increased the air supply to what was becoming a 3 alarm fire.

I took a breath, stopped talking and went into the kitchen to see what I could put together for a quick dinner. Hubby went to the rec room to watch his favorite Friday night program, which started right at 7:00pm. He was a bit anxious about missing the opening monologue, but I soon heard laughter floating up the stairs. After a bit he returned to the kitchen with a container of frozen Spinach Ravioli as a peace offering. He asked if I’d like help with preparation to complete the meal.  I was in the midst of making our favorite Dijon Vinaigrette recipe. I let him off the hook by saying I’d take it from there.

By now our son had returned from gig number three, slightly miffed that he and his performance partner had not been offered any of the special goodies served top residents during their performance at the deluxe residential facility for retirees. He may be blind but his nose is amazing at detecting all the wonderful aromas that swirl around in the air.

I let him know what we were having for our dinner. Vegetarian fare is not his favorite. He chose a leftover entrée containing sausage from the night before instead. He was still worried about his favorite part of any meal…dessert. I let him know that I had saved him a slice of the special cake I’d made earlier in the week. His smile lit up the entire kitchen.  “I love you Mom!”

I am sure glad that one of the men in my life felt kindly toward me on Valentine’s Day!

Readers… how did you fare this year?

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Girl Cars

Girl Cars vs. Boy Cars

“Girl cars always have great stuff.” This comment came from my youngest son while a passenger in my car after his simple request for a tissue was immediately fulfilled.

“What do you mean by Girl Cars?” I asked, trying to decipher his label. He is the owner and driver of a vehicle too, so I was intrigued by his comment. “Do you mean a particular color or model of car? Or just a car owned by female verses an auto owned and driven by a guy?”

“I mean when girls drive cars, their’s or even someone’s they borrow. Girls always have stuff that you might need while on the road.” He explained: “Girls always have Chap-stick and Kleenex. Girls have something to drink, like  water bottles in their cars.”

I laugh: “The Kleenex box actually has some fresh, unused tissues in it too, right?”

 The back seat of my Hubby’s car typically has so much tissue litter that one cannot see the floor! If we are going to use his vehicle to transport our two Elk hound pups, a major clean up of the back seat has to occur before they are allowed access.

“Well being a Mom myself I can attest to the fact that my car is usually well stocked with emergency items.”  I sigh about the fact that my kids are grown but the old habits still persist.

“Yeah, kind of like a Diaper Bag on wheels!” He snickered.

“These days I would call it a Mobile Emergency Kit.  My childcare days are long gone. Even the grandchildren are passengers these days! They are old enough to drive themselves.

“Not true! Your puppies are your new grand kids!” He chuckled pointing to a small bag of Maggie’s Yummy dog treats nestled in the center console of my Prius. To further drive home the point he opened the glove box and pulled out some of my “extra” plastic bags.

“Hey… Poop Happens!   A good dog owner must anticipate the need for picking up the waste that occurs on walks or at the Off Leash Park.” I am proud of the fact that I have never knowingly left dog shit lurking at the edge of a sidewalk like an organic I.E.D. for waiting to blow on some unsuspecting pedestrian’s foot wear.

“Guilty as charged!” I guess he is right. “The stock is still on hand, only the nature of the merchandise has changed”.

“But not just in Moms’ cars.” He clarifies “Most females have well stocked and clean cars too.”

“When Girl Cars get cleaned, their female owners actually use the vacuum devices at the Car Wash.”

Remembering the one time I actually saw the floor mats in my Hubby’s car in the dating phase of our relationship; “Yeah, guys mostly clean their cars to impress girls on first dates!”

“Or if they have to pick up a female relative up at the airport.” My son chuckles about his Dad trying to convince Grandma that a ride home on the Shuttle would be more convenient. “Yes, the Shuttle saved him major time… by not having to clean the car, not the 2 hour round trip to get her at SeaTac.”

My son continued to lavish praise; “Girls’ cars usually something to eat in the glove box besides a very old and crumbly package of saltines. There is almost always a water bottle in their cars.”

“The Water Bottle is actually full of potable liquid, not some cloudy murk that has probably passed the expiration date?” I laugh out loud. “I’ve seen seeing water in bottles that I would not even use to clean my windshield, let alone drink!  By the way, are you hungry? There is a bag of organic raw almonds in the glove box.”

I remember opening the passenger door on a City Utility work truck to a wave of water bottles and soda cans crashing onto the driveway. Granted this was after a road trip for Hubby’s work in the field.  “I certainly would not want the job of managing the Motor Pool fleet at the City!”

“At least the motor pool has electric vehicles.” I reminisce, “When was the last time you borrowed any guy’s car that had more than a quarter of a tank of gasoline?”

I recall the starving student days of our early marriage when we had little cash. “It was a luxury if we could fill the tank with more than five dollars worth of gasoline at the pump at any given time.”

I certainly have shaken off that practice. “Most women I know would rather spend an extra five minutes to completely fill the tank than go back every few days to partially do the job.”

I could totally relate to a recent conversation. A female friend stated; “I always have to build extra time into the schedule if using my Hubby’s car.”  Inevitably she’d need time for a stop at the gas station before traveling very far!

I have a much bigger list to go over before an outing involving the use of my  Hubby’s car! Well before the scheduled departure time,  I check not only the gas gauge but also tire pressures. I do that little “walk around ” one sees at the Car Rental places, before they turn you loose in their cars.  I glance at the little clear plastic sticker that indicates the date of the last oil change too! Thank God for those stickers! I am sure a woman must have invented these… otherwise how would we ever know? I do draw the line at popping the hood and pulling the oil stick.

I have  been known to stealth his car out of the drive way for a quick spin.  Better to hear those unusual noises, like the squeal of a loose belt or the screech of metal on metal from the brakes, before a trip begins for real!

All of this data suggests a few things that we women could do to “help out” our guys with cars. Gifts could be so simple. Here is my suggestion list for the coming birthdays and holidays.

1)      An Eddie Bauer car kit! These Olive Green canvas bags are totally geeked out with everything that one could ever possibly need in the event of a breakdown! I’ve seen Red Cross Emergency Medical kits that pale in comparison! Another product surely developed by a female! Maybe Eddie’s Mom?

2)      Gift Card from the local car wash! Bonus if they have “vacuum interior” as part of the deal.

3)      Gift Card from the Oil and Lube place! Love those little stickers!

4)      Gift Card from the guys favorite FAST-GAS Station!  (…and that would be the one on their way to work! Right next to the Drive-Thru Coffee kiosk with girls in Bikinis!)

5)      Flashlight / Key chain embossed with the TOWING COMPANY phone number. Bonus if you can get one that is approved by your Auto insurance company!

6)      If you are really feeling generous… spring for a membership to AAA! Remember that AAA covers the member, regardless of whose car they are traveling in… and it might be yours!

Happy Motoring!

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Shopping Lists

Our luncheon companion excused herself yet again.  “My husband is grocery shopping” she sighs rolling her eyes as she left the table with her smart phone held out in front of her face.

The remaining women chuckled and a lively debate started about the recent joke circulating on Face Book; a woman’s tale of her well meaning man, volunteering to do the grocery shopping but utilizing a list that was not current. The punch line as delivered as her hubby strolls out the door answering his wife’s’ query.  “Do you have the grocery list?”

“Oh yes” the husband affirms. He proudly displays a wadded slip of paper from his pocket, “I saved the one from last time.”

Our companion rejoins us, quizzically looking at our animated faces. “What is so funny?”

“Does your hubby have the right list?” We chuckle as we relate the joke in discussion.

“Oh this is even better than the last week’s list story!” She slides her phone across the table to me.  It shows a man’s arm, holding up an orange. He is clearly in a grocery produce department of the grocery store.

“Keep going!” She encourages me to scroll through the recent shots on her phone’s picture gallery.  There are several more photos, each of slightly different types of citrus.

“Now read his text.” She reaches back for her Droid and quickly opens the text screen for all of us to view.  Her hubby is clearly confused about the difference between Navel and Valencia oranges.

“You have to hand it to him, he is eager to get it right.” I dish out some praise for the hubby. “Smart phone photos and text technology has possibly saved many a modern marriage!” chimes in another woman.

A well coiffed silver haired woman in the group laughed aloud. “I wish my husband would get a smart phone!” “I have to decide, based on his verbal descriptions, which items to have him bring home.”

“If I can’t decipher his clues well enough, it’s my fault if he doesn’t bring home the right item.”

I’m proud to say my Hubby is pretty savvy on the grocery shopping trips. He does cook a good percentage of the time and is usually in charge of procuring his ingredients. A cute demo chef with a totally awesome recipe can alter his menu plan, but he is a guy after all.

Our biggest challenges happen when he raids the pantry for one of his dishes. He forgets to let me know that he just used up the last container of tomato paste, emptied the curry powder jar or some other ingredient that I had plans for I another meal or recipe.

We do have a magnetic grocery list pad and pencil too, stuck right on the front of the fridge. Sometimes it gets utilized. I am just as guilty on this omission as he. Actually, the dogs did just abscond with the pencil, which is now in splinters down in their dog run. No matter… there is usually something within reach to scratch down an item on the shopping list if we will just pause a moment and jot it down.

We have a distinct advantage in obtaining all the items we need for our household, if either of us in accompanied by our son, Nick. He may be blind but I will tell you he has a great recall of what is in the pantry. His inventory of the contents of the fridge and both freezers is equally amazing.  He is a bit OCD about making sure that we are ALWAYS in stock on any of the items he eats or uses in any way.

He knows the exact quantity of frozen orange juice cans on the bottom shelf of the freezer downstairs.  He can advise me of the count on the bagels he loves for his favorite breakfast item; smoked salmon and cream cheese on toasted bagels. Want to know how many slices of Tillamook cheddar or Deli style boneless sliced turkey are in the refrigerator’s Tupperware containers, just ask Nick.

Not only are the jars of his favorite sandwich sliced pickles inventoried before any given shopping trip, he usually knows how many slices are remaining in the currently open jar on the top shelf of the  Maytag Plus refrigerator in our kitchen.

We recently faced a perceived emergency on the supply of toilet paper at home. Nick keeps a pretty close count on the individually wrapped rolls we use in our household. He is the one who carries in the bulky packages of the bathroom tissue, distributes and organizes all the rolls in both bathroom cabinets.

He announced one evening “We are out of toilet paper in my bathroom!”

“Truly not a roll left?”  I seemed to remember purchasing this item recently so I ask” Did you look in our bathroom?”

“It is all gone Mom.”

I get up and trod down the stairs to the bathroom on the lower level of our home. This is primarily Nick’s domain. Unless we have guests, he is the main user of this bathroom.

“I see two rolls here which means you still have enough for a few days or maybe even the week, certainly enough to last until tomorrow morning. The store closes very soon so we need to wait to go shopping first thing.”

He reluctantly agrees that tomorrow will be soon enough to shop for replenishment. He cannot argue with the logical fact that the store is closing in 5 minutes.  It is a 15 minute drive, with good traffic, so there is no possible way we can obtain the desired big 40 count container this evening.

As I write this I have to share; I heard rustling behind me and have stopped typing to investigate.

Oh, oh! Someone didn’t get the door completely latched on the powder room just outside my office. I swivel around in my chair just in time to see our two Elk hound puppies absconding with not one or two, but three rolls of the individually wrapped toilet tissue that were stashed on the pretty wire rack that sits in that extra bathroom.

The game is on! Can I catch them before they destroy all three rolls? I manage to get between the dogs and the master bedroom door. If I could not have cut them off, they’d be under the California King bed, out of reach and free to shred all three rolls. Clever pups, they seem to know just how far I can reach under that bed!

“Bad Chew!” I say this sternly and offer several toys that are “Good Chew” items.  I retrieve the rolls, which are only slightly damaged and firmly close the powder room door. Click goes the latch; a” good sound!”

Back to the supply issue at home last week, it is tabled until the next morning.  We get to bed and all is well for the rest of the evening.

Next morning I am awakened by the pups growling at a sound. It is still early enough that I can’t see the alarm without turning on the light and waking my Hubby. He seems to sleep through all but the most violent canine disturbances.  I swear the slightest whimpers can catapult me out of the bed. Must be my mother’s ear or maybe it’s the fact that I have to clean up accidents that might happen if little puppy bladders get beyond their capacity, who knows?

I crack open the door of our bedroom. There is someone in the kitchen! Nick is already up and has begun assembling his breakfast items.  He is determined to get to the COSTCO as soon as possible.  Eating breakfast is all that stands in the way of his ability to restock the supply and feel the comfort of knowing his cupboard is full again.

Sighing, I throw back the covers and swing into morning mode. Our curly tailed Norwegian elk hound pups scamper out into the hall, down the stairs, to dash out into their well fenced dog run via their dogie door.  “Whack, whack” the vinyl flap slaps to and fro as they rebound right back to our bedroom. Our canine alarm clocks hop up onto the bed, waking Hubby with wet kisses and cold noses on any extremity that is poking out of the covers.

With an early start today at least my Hubby will be up and on schedule to catch the bus at his usual stop.  IF he dawdles a bit too long, there is one last park and ride he can hit before the Community Transit bus hits the interstate for the express lane to travel directly downtown.

Monday is “THE” day that Nick restocks his vitamin container. This will use up approximately half an hour, as he carefully and meticulously counts out each of his supplements and installs them in the Daily Dose container he uses every morning.  This allows me a block of time to get going on the Smoothies without dodging my blind son as he navigates to and from the cupboards and precariously close to my work space. It is truly amazing that he manages to not step on pups or run into counters, chairs or the occasional cupboard door that is ajar. We all do our best, pups included, to keep a clear path for Nick.

Finally breakfast is consumed, puppies are fed and Hubby is backing out the drive routed to his usual bus stop. Enough time has elapsed that we will be arriving just about the time that the early wholesale shoppers are admitted to our COSTCO warehouse.  We select a cart, Nick folds up his long red tipped cane and we travel toward the entrance.  Since the main purpose of this trip is obtaining more bathroom tissue, we go straight for the aisle where the household supplies are located.  Facial tissues are also on the list, so this big plastic bundle of 250 ct. boxes is tossed into our cart, along with the paper towels.

Oh rats! I do not see any big bundles of the individually wrapped single rolls of the Kimberly Clark bath tissue. I scan the aisle for COSTCO personnel but to no avail. During “early wholesale member” hours there is not the usual staffing in the warehouse.  I am reluctant to share this news with Nick just yet.  He is rarely persuaded to switch to another brand or package configuration. His need is not only to restock the toilet tissue in his cupboard. There are a certain number of rows of individual packages, stacked to a certain height, that fit just so in his cupboard.

“ Let’s walk down a few rows” I say,  hoping that the game of musical merchandise played by this big volume warehouse means the desired item has just been relocated to a new spot.  The TP gods are not smiling on us today. We locate the new home of all bath tissue products but do not see the desired brand. I finally locate an employee who informs me that this item is now only sold at the COSTCO “Office Supply” location. It seems most of the household type shoppers at this warehouse location did not purchase significant quantities of the individually wrapped products. It is all about the numbers!

Fortunately this other location is only 20 minutes from our home… in the other direction of course! Nick is happy to hear this news and we are back in the car motoring toward the location up north. I feel as though I am on a scavenger hunt, homing in on the final prize.

Nick is still fairly calm and this is good news. If he doesn’t hear an absolute “No” he is a pretty patient guy. Singing is one way to keep his brain occupied while on the road.  This morning we are in conversation about favorite childhood items he enjoyed long ago.  Many family members and friends took the time and effort to give Nick gifts that “made noise”.  These ranged from the well intended gifts of mugs that would play electronic music when lifted from the table surface to the talking Mattel toys like “the Farmer Says” or the “ABC Bee Says”.

Here is a helpful hint for those of you who have received those musical cups. Running them through the full cycle of the dishwasher usually disables them! The clue is the sticker on the bottom with instructions that say “hand wash only”. One can only hear the chirpy electronic version of Happy Birthday or Merry Christmas so many times without screaming. This is especially true in families that already have that quote filled by other behaviors from their special kids.

Nick is fluent in both Spanish and English. I turned his usual recitation of the entire alphabet via the “Bee Says” by asking him “Nick what would this toy sound like if it were a Spanish version?”

He started out on the very first item.” A is for manzana!  Oops! This doesn’t translate.” Nick was momentarily stumped. “Okay, let’s try A for agua” he said beaming with pride.  We spent most of the rest of the trip figuring out what words would fit the alphabet using only Spanish.  He even included the extra letters, like “ll is for llama” that would be found in the Spanish version. This was actually lots of fun and detracted him for worry about the bathroom tissue for the remainder of the trip.

The good news is that our shopping trip ended well. Cupboards are restocked with the necessary paper goods again. If the future tsunami threat ever occurs, our home’s paper supply could probably stop that wave in it tracks and save our community on the Puget Sound.

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Carpet Cleanup Caper

The Carpet Cleanup Caper

I bargained hard when Hubby wanted to get a second dog. We already had one Norwegian Elk Hound. These dogs are notorious for shedding. I even have a T-shirt that says “EMBRACE THE FUR” above a silhouette of an Elk Hound Dog.

We did indeed have dog hair all over the place.  Dogie Fur “dust bunnies” were overrunning the house the way real rabbits would overpopulate a community in the absence of predators to keep their numbers down. Dog hair covered the carpet, the sofa, the upholstery in the car too. We purchased a Dyson vacuum as the cost of replacing dust bags in the old Sears canister unit was costing us a fortune. But vacuuming was almost a daily chore and Hubby was not sharing the work load here. We started a discussion about what would need to happen if a second prolific shedding machine was added to our household.

It was a given that the fur would increase. So how to make it less of a challenge to keep cleared up? If fur stuck to the carpet and upholstery then we could replace it with wood flooring and leather covered furniture and car seats. I bargained hard. All of this needed to be done before the second puppy arrived in our home.

Hubby decided his first task was to remove the old carpeting and replace this with wood flooring.  As newcomers to the Great Northwest, we spent a few weekends down at the local IKEA store.  There was no store like this in Arizona, although I hear there is now one location out in Tempe. I can only imagine how the locals there are enjoying the IKEA cuisine! I doubt the hardy pioneers of the Southwest been daunted by the recent “horse meat” stories. I seem to recall a shop called “Ye Olde Meat Market” that sold horse meat.  The shop garnered much business when local beef prices went through the roof back in the “seventies” they put a limit on how much one could purchase at each visit.

Anyway we’d spent many weekend afternoons, down in Kent looking at the new fangled IKEA store, specifically at the varieties of manufactured flooring. Of course one developed quite an appetite wandering through the maze.  Inevitably we dined on the Meatball Special in the cafeteria located conveniently at the middle of the maze, so that shoppers could refuel and continue on with their shopping quests through the rest of the store.

Hubby decided the Pergo laminate  flooring would be a relatively inexpensive way to replace the gray carpet that was currently installed in our recently purchased home in Seattle. Anything we could do to brighten up the coloring in the home would be welcomed. We made it through our first winter of no sun but saw the need to improve our surroundings artificially when at all possible to add more light and improving the color scheme.  The blond wood flooring seems to be a solution to our darkness issue as well as provide smooth surfaces to be easily vacuumed of dog hair.

For some reason many of Hubby’s Home Improvement Projects take place when I am out of town on business trips. This is probably due to the fact that it would be quieter around the house with me out of screaming range.  My youngest son’s room walls would probably not have been painted bright blue if I’d been home at the time. Oh well.

 

The carpet replacement job was well underway when I left town for a Gourmet Foodie convention in San Francisco.  The old grey carpet was stripped away and safely at the local dump. The dump is called the sanitary landfill up here, but it is still the same scenario as Phoenix. You drive in and they weigh your car before and after and charge for the weight lost. Hmmm, I wonder if that would work for a weight loss clinic. The work of cleanup and preparation for replacement with the new flooring seems a fairly benign activity to happen while “Mom was gone”.

Upon my return I saw that the floor debris was completely gone and the sub flooring not yet in place.  I could actually admire the cleanup work and rejoice that finally he had completed a job without leaving a monumental mess for me to clear away!

Back in the kitchen, inspired by the Gourmet Foodie offerings at the convention, I looked for a favorite saute pan. I started to whip up a tasty treat to reward my hard working Hubby. I reached up to retrieve the pan hanging on the pot rack in the kitchen.  As I pulled it down I noticed it was a bit dusty.  I chalked this up to not cooking with it for a few weeks.  Later on I needed a strainer which was also located on the pot rack. This item was equally dusty and upon closer inspection was covered with dog hair as well.

All of the pots and utensils were coated with dirt and hair. What had happened?

I went to the closet that held various cleaning equipment meaning to grab my vacuum and do a bit of clean up of the area.  I glanced over at the Shop Vac® and clearly it had not been used in a few weeks, the cord was still wound up neatly from the last time I had deployed this equipment.  However the leaf blower was there cord sprawled all over the floor, the attachment still in place too, indicating that Hubby had recently used it.

Even though I knew it was the wrong time of year to be blowing fallen leaves I could not resist asking what the heck he’d been doing with that leaf blower. Sure enough the answer I received more than explained the dust and dog hair that covered all of my cooking equipment on the pot rack.  In a brilliant ploy to save time and be efficient, Hubby had literally blown out the back door, all of the construction debris. Of course he never looked up! Obviously he didn’t cook using any pots or pans during this time. In my head was a cartoon-like image of Hubby screaming “Woo-hoo!” as he waved the leaf blower.  He opened the back sliding door to our deck and proceeded to blow, through the kitchen, all of the accumulated dust, wood scraps and contributions of hair from the family Norwegian Elk Hound, into the back yard.  Did I happen to mention the dog is a male? They probably did a  high-fiver (or pawer) each other in congratulations on the job well done.

Happily the wood flooring went down without further incidents. Leather sofa and chairs were purchased. Our new puppy was driven home in my newly upholstered car. Clean up of fur was easier and we enjoyed living with two Elk Hound pups, fur and all.

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Channeling Erma

I believe I channel Erma when I cook.

I refer to Erma Bombeck, the American humorist whose columns included a piece called “Substitutions, A Piece of Cake”.

Erma started out her career writing for Dayton Journal Herald. Very quickly her articles were nationally syndicated and loved by readers all over the world.

I believe Erma and I are kindred spirits, especially when we tie on the aprons and pull out the pots and pans.  I too grew up in the Midwest not far from Dayton, Ohio, where she was raised.

In the column I mention above, she substitutes ingredients with reckless abandon. Her hilarious results did not remotely resemble the finished product described in the original recipe. When you live out in the country, a good 30 minute drive from the local Kroger grocery, you may have to improvise… just a little bit.

Tonight I made “White Bean and Chard Soup”. This is a family favorite, made frequently.  It can be thrown together in about 30 minutes. It’s one of those “Go To” recipes that I have in my plastic green recipe box.

The avocado shade of green gives it away; it is an old box. The top hinges are broken.  I have to keep sliding them back into the grooves on the bottom half of the box. It is treasure trove of irreplaceable recipes. Some are so old and faded that if I did not already know them by heart I’d be searching the internet for similar recipes.

A favorite is my grandmother’s recipe for Spaghetti Sauce. Ingredients include “one 5 oz can of tomato paste; to be rinsed out and refilled with red wine”. This is to be added to the sauce and simmered for an additional 30 minutes.

Priceless! Just for the nostalgia factor alone.

I received this recipe box as a Betty Crocker promotional give away. I loved it because it was much bigger than regular recipe boxes. My Mom had a little white enamel box, decorated with red fleurdelis. It was rusted at the edges, from years of use in steamy Midwest kitchens.

I was in my “Earth Mama” stage of life.  I cooked from scratch with whole food ingredients. I immediately tossed all of Betty’s preprinted recipes that involved use of canned soup or boxed cake mix. The alphabetized place holders came in handy. The extra blank cards were put to use. I filled the box with my tried and true family favorites.

Prepping for the evening meal, I was in trouble.  I looked in the pantry. No cans of white beans! There was certainly not time to soak and cook the dried ones.  Going out to the store was not the least bit appealing.  We were in the middle of a drizzly, Seattle winter day. At 4:00pm, it was already dark.

Lucky me!  I found 2 cans of Black Turtle on another shelf. The rest of my ingredients were pretty close to the original recipe. Who would truly notice that I substituted Kale for the Swiss chard?

“Is this KAAALE?” Hubby’s exaggerated pronouncing of the word gives anyone within earshot a clear idea on his lack of affection for greens.

I strategically first suggested a different entrée; Hearty Pumpkin soup. Hubby likes his pumpkin in the form of pie.   He was happy to hear the 2nd choice would be the White Bean and Chard recipe.  Good thing he voted for that one right away. I did not have a third recipe to offer that would not involve a major shopping trip.

Our middle son, dining with us on this evening, happens to be totally blind. He certainly would not notice the bean substitution. Black turtles are about the same shape and size as White Canella beans. If you cut the black ones in half, guess what? They are white inside!

This soup is so full of veggies that it makes a great entrée. I love it topped with a poached egg. Add some crusty whole wheat bread to dip into the egg yolk and the broth, there is no need for more than a glass of wine and maybe some dessert.

Hubby enters the kitchen and lifts the lid of the pot. He loudly announces the obvious; “There are black beans in this soup!”  I confirm “yes, indeed these are Black Turtle Beans.”

Hubby stirred suspiciously through the liquid mixture simmering on the gas burner. He replaced the lid on my Le Crueset® soup pot.

“What recipe is this?” he asks.  I assure him that this is the usual recipe with a substitution with the type of bean only.

Well just another slight change. I used Sun Dried tomatoes in EVOO. I normally would use canned Organic S&W roasted and peeled tomatoes that for this recipe.

And of course there was the Kale. But when greens are cooked they pretty much all look the same. I didn’t trouble him with this additional detail.

My son, now alerted to the switch on the beans, is asking all sorts of questions about the soup and dinner in general. I assure him this will be great and he will enjoy every spoonful.

It helped to remind him of the Flourless Chocolate Torte topped with Caramelized Pears that was for dessert.

Dinner went off without further challenges. I grated lots of Parmesan cheese over the servings.  Subterfuge needed to distract my diners from the fact that we didn’t have Aged Balsamic vinegar. Recipe called for vinegar to drizzle on top of the servings.

Hubby was delighted to try out Tabasco sauce on his poached egg topper. Tabasco and Sirracha Hot sauce are his usual condiments of choice on most entrees anyway.

Erma would be proud! Thanks to the chronicles of her adventurous culinary spirit, I certainly have little inhibition when the need to improvise arises.

I wish the Erma Bombeck Cook Book existed.  I’d love a quest to cook my way through all of her recipes? I’d substitute ingredients freely and blog about the results. Maybe write a cookbook? Hmmmm …

My recipe substitutions rarely result in “Erma Bombeck recipe disasters.  Not many of my entrees get tossed onto the compost heap.  My meals are not fed to the “In Sink Erator” garbage disposal. My culinary experiments turn out great!

I write down those “amended” versions on one of the blank cards and file in my big green recipe box.

PS: here is my recipe: Chard and White Bean Stew

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What’s For Breakfast?

What’s For Breakfast? Such an innocent question! NOT!

Me to Hubby: “What would you like for Breakfast this morning?”

Hubby:  “I don’t know, what are my choices?”

Me: “Well it is Sunday, so I could cook something more complicated.”

Hubby: “I don’t know, tell me what the choices are, please.”

Me: “OK, there are eggs and bread so I could make something like French toast. There is yogurt and granola, or I could make hot cereal…”

Hubby:  “I’ll just have raisin toast.”

Me: “That was not one of the options I just listed.”

Hubby:  “Oh, now you are going to be difficult.”

Me: “You obviously WANTED raisin toast, why didn’t you just say so in the first place?”

This is going to go south fast and I have choices.  I can put raisin toast in the toaster oven and walk away. Or I can continue the conversation. I grab the bag of Ezekiel 4:9 Organic Sprouted Wheat Cinnamon Raisin bread from the freezer. There are four slices, counting the heel of the loaf,  in the bag. Here is another “choice situation” for Hubby. How many slices does he want this morning?

For those who are not hip to the whole “Sprouted Whole Grain Bread” product scenario, this is pretty special stuff. There is a reason it is kept in the freezer. At almost $5 a loaf it is ridiculously expensive and I do not want to have a single slice go to waste! The grocery department at our local health food co-operative is also cognizant of the potential loss of value on the product. The store stocks all of the Ezekiel 4:9 types of bread and other similar short shelf life bakery products in the frozen food section too. This is where I got the inspiration for maximizing the life of the raisin toast in my home.

So you can see the potential for waste of a perfectly good slice of this rather expensive product begs the question I ask; “How many slices?”  We’ve had days when Hubby only wants one slice and I’ve toasted two. He is too full to eat the second slice or in too much of a hurry to get catch the bus, etc. Once toasted, the extra slice moves quickly into the status of a pariah.  It can’t be put back and served up later. Hubby is way too picky for that trick to work.

He hates dry toast. Hubby will not consume any toasted product that has been in the toaster oven too long for his delicate sensitivities to tolerate and consume. Not burnt mind you, just in there a little too long. The inner portion of the slice has lost its soft texture and is therefore no longer acceptable for Hubby to chew and swallow without the possibility of gagging.  It is almost impossible to reheat the “extra slice” rejected by him on a previous morning without his detecting this trickery and rejecting it outright.

So Hubby elects for two slices this morning. After all it is the weekend and he has leisure time to consume it with several over-sized mugs of Organic Sumatra freshly ground coffee which is heavily laced with his favorite Dari Gold Hazelnut flavored creamer.

I leave the kitchen to go work on some laundry needing immediate attention in its cycle. Upon my return I see that Hubby has taken his two slices from the toaster oven at just the right time, slathered them with Sunflower butter and has eaten one slice already.  I have returned to the kitchen and retrieved my two slices from the toaster oven, spread on some Almond butter and taken a seat beside Hubby at the table.

“Oh, oh.” He has grabbed the “end piece” of the loaf from the depths of the toaster without seeing the other two slices further back on the rack. The heel pieces sits on the plate, barely spread with any of the Sunflower seed butter, growing colder by the minute, clearly NOT going to be consumed by Hubby this morning.

Me: “Why did you take the heel? I know you do not like all that extra crust.”

Hubby:  “I thought there were two heels in there and I was trying to be nice.”

Me: “But you don’t eat the heels, you don’t like them. Would you like to trade with me?”

Hubby: after about 2 seconds of hesitation, “Yes, I’d like to trade.”

At least now all slices of that expensive toasted Ezekiel 4:9 Cinnamon Raisin toast will be consumed by the humans in our family and not  by the gaping maw of the In Sink Erator®  Badger 500 garbage disposal in our kitchen.

Hubby used to simply toss his unwanted and uneaten slices of toast directly into the trash can, on his way out the door. I caught him a few times and rather than listen to me complain about wasting food, he became stealthier.  The subterfuge now enacted when Hubby’s toast becomes inedible for whatever reason, is to “disappear” the dried out or over toasted piece by stuffing it into the garbage disposal. Of course running the unit would make noise and give him away. Hubby hopes that I won’t notice the toast hiding in the dark depths. The toast will simply disappear under the onion peelings or other refuse fed to the metal monster under out sink later that day. Kind of like those dead bodies that are hidden in the trunks of cars at the junk yard awaiting their turn on the crusher belt. The evidence of the crime is disposed of and no one is the wiser after the smashed metal hunks hit the smelter.

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