Feb 14

A Happy Accident

magical buttery basil spreadI love a happy accident.

It’s fun finding a $20 bill in my ski pants.

Not long ago, I learned that a favorite cousin is also an INFJ.  It’s no wonder we click so well.

I happened upon an article about the many uses of Vicks VapoRub and came up with my own use  – no more cracked, sandpaper heels.

The other day, Jen and I were fondling the fabrics at Jo-Ann’s.  A friend from college walked by hunting for something.  She looked up and said, “Hey, I’m back in town.  Let’s get together.”  Now that’s a happy accident – either that or it’s the Universe answering me when I complained about a girlfriend moving and asked, “Could you please send another friend?” Continue reading →

Nov 12

Recipe For Creative Children


  • One pair of Shrinky Dink twin tip skis
  • One enthusiastically supportive uncle
  • One girl’s unstoppable imagination
  • Two peanuts, still in their shell
  • Fuzzy yarn, aluminum foil, a Sharpie, cocktail toothpicks in fun colors, and a hot glue gun
  • One mom who has the good sense to stay out of the way.


Mix together without criticism, judgment, hovering or micro-managing on the part of adults.

Judiciously add laughter, warm-hearted teasing, big smiles and ice cubes for fingers that get in a tangle with the glue gun.

Include dollops of encouragement and one chunk of unscheduled time.


Result:  A kid who finds positive energy and self-confidence when expressing herself through her own creativity.  (She’ll make happy memories with her uncle, too.)


Jun 12

The Secret Ingredient in My Low-Tech Cappuccino


The froth is the perfect warmth as it clings to my lips.   The nutmeg tastes earthy.   The espresso is strong enough without stealing the show from the froth.  And the sugar….  oh…

Starting the day with cappuccino is a fine way to practice a little self-care.  This is indulgence with a kick.


Low-Tech Cappuccino

  • 1/3 C  2% milk
  • 3 T finely ground espresso or dark roast
  • 1 t sugar – rounded and spilling over
  • pinch of nutmeg or cinnamon or both
  • Continue reading →

Jun 12

Recipe For Happy Children


  • 1 large grassy field
  • 1/2 dozen children
  • 2 or 3 small dogs
  • 1 pinch of brook and some pebbles

Mix children and dogs well together.  Put them in the field, stirring constantly.

Pour this brook over pebbles; sprinkle with flowers.

Spread over all a deep blue sky and bake in hot sunshine.

When brown, remove and set away to cool in bathtub.


*Discovered in Rare Recipes and Budget Savers, a compilation of columns from The Wichita Eagle’s Home Town News.  
Published in 1961.
Contributed by B. M. Pittenger. 

Dec 11

Chocolate Pillows

chocolate-pillowsIt would be the closest I’d get to being a real Santa Elf.  I was thirteen and my brother eleven.  Through the family grapevine, we were selected to help the Cookie Lady.

When were arrived, she was wearing a purple flowered frilly apron that belied her drill sergeant attitude.  She greeted us with a tight smile, and handed us plain white restaurant-style aprons.

She wasn’t the wrap-her-arm-around-you, mushy grandma who pinches your cheeks kind of woman.  She was all business.  This was her big event of the year, and she had a system.

I remember feeling intimidated by her fancy house, her proper language, her tall, upright posture and her reputation.  It was a privilege to be invited to help, but scary as hell.

After a minimal amount of “How are yous” and formalities, she delivered the instructions. Continue reading →

Oct 11

Self Care In Stolen Moments

grilled-ham-cheese-and-tomatoIn an unexpected turn of events, both kids ended up at grandma’s.

She could do laundry, rake leaves, return phone calls or unload the dishwasher.

She could clean the cat box, change the water in the fish bowls, pick up the remnants of thread from last night’s craft fest, or run errands.

Without giving it any more thought, she jumped in the car and headed for the wine shop.  She re-filled a bottle with basil-infused olive oil and selected an every-day bottle of red wine.

When she got home, she kicked off her shoes and ignored the mess.

She cued Nora Jones on Pandora and stood at the kitchen sink looking out the window at the crimson leaves waiting for a strong gust of wind.

She spied a ripe tomato on the windowsill and went to work.

She put a cast iron pan on medium heat; thinly sliced the tomato; thickly sliced the Monterey Jack, grabbed two slices of bread and butter.  She gathered deli ham, balsamic vinegar, Italian Seasoning and a jelly jar.

She layered ham on one slice of bread, added cheese and tomato, and covered with the other slice of bread.  She spread one outer side of the sandwich with butter and placed it in the warmed pan.  She buttered the remaining side.

She kept the heat at medium so the cheese would slowly melt, sealing the tomatoes to the ham while the bread slightly toasted.

She poured an inch of cabernet in the jelly jar.

She turned up the volume on Pandora.

She glanced again through the kitchen window, took a deep breath and didn’t let herself think about laundry, raking, dishes or bills.

She flipped the sandwich and took a sip of wine.

She cleared a place on the kitchen table, moving things aside, not putting them away.

Once the sandwich was toasted and the cheese was melty, she moved it to a plate and separated the sandwich to reveal the warmed tomato slices.  She drizzled balsamic and the basil-infused olive oil over the tomatoes, soaking the toasted bread.  She dusted the tomatoes with Italian Seasoning.

After another sip of wine, she took her first bite.


It’s not often that she has a moment to herself.  She seldom takes the time to fix herself something yummy to eat.

As she savored the sweetness of the tomatoes, the richness of the cheese and the earthiness of the balsamic, she tried to direct her thoughts.

In her mind, she tied a wide, crimson-colored satin bow around the things she ought to do next.

She pushed them all aside.

Instead, she imagined opening a gift.

The gift was a present to herself.  As she unwrapped the package, images began flying out of the box.  The images represented all the things she was grateful for:  her happy, healthy smiling kids; their cozy little home; good friends and family and her own health.

She took another bite as she visualized more images flying out of the package.

There were the projects she’d completed; the trips they’d taken; the book she’d finished; and the new goals lined out.

In this rare quiet moment, she had the space and time to take stock of, and enjoy her accomplishments.  Instead of fretting about what needed to be done, she thought of the tasks and projects she’d managed to complete.

She allowed herself to be proud of those completed projects.

She had set her own goals and standards, and proved that she could meet them.

She could feel the momentum that comes from making changes and completing projects.

There was more to be done.

There would be more to be thankful for.

And then she heard their footsteps on the front porch.

The door burst open, letting in two kids and a flurry of leaves.

“What’s that smell? Mmmm….  Will you make me one?”


Grilled Ham, Cheese and Tomato

  • Italian Bread
  • Deli Honey Ham – thinly sliced
  • Monterey Jack Cheese – thick slices
  • Tomato – from the garden, if you are lucky
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Basil-infused Olive Oil – Extra Virgin Olive Oil will do nicely
  • Italian Seasoning – or Oregano
  • Butter

Layer ham, cheese and tomatoes between slices of bread.  Butter the top and place buttered side down in a cast iron skillet that has warmed on medium heat.  Toast slowly to melt the cheese and warm the tomatoes.  Butter top before flipping.

Once the sandwich is toasted, remove from heat and separate.  Lightly drizzle the olive oil and balsamic over the tomatoes, letting some soak into the bread.  Sprinkle with seasoning.

Take bites of sandwich and sips of wine while picturing all the things you are grateful for.

Jul 11

On Nice Boogie Monsters and Aromatherapy

nice-boogie-monstersJenny made these guys with scraps of fabric, old buttons and polyfill.  She stitches little grins on their faces.  Some have one eye, others have two.  When I asked Jenny what she calls them, she said, “They are Nice Boogie Monsters.”

She made one for me, one for Will and one for our cat, plus some extras, just in case.

They live in a ceramic bowl in the center of the purple dining room table.  The wait patiently, some times all day, for one of us to walk by and stop to pick one up and squeeze it.  I can’t seem to walk by that bowl without smiling.


I know absolutely nothing about aromatherapy, but I do know the sense of smell is a powerful one.  I could Google which scents are recommended for altering which moods and find the perfect combination of essential oils to elevate sad moods, and bring relaxation or a sense of calm into our home. Instead, I looked at the ingredients and combinations and just picked based on what I thought sounded good. Continue reading →

May 11

Asparagus and Cappuccino

He fed her the most tender, slightly salted sprigs of asparagus.  Each bite tasted like Spring.

He’d shown her how to snap the ends, rather than using a knife.  He left the thin shoots in the pan of boiling water just long enough to turn bright green.  He drained them and ran cold water over them and placed them on a towel to dry.  He said that when they were cooked and chilled, just so, they wouldn’t need butter.

He was right.

He’d also introduced her to the ritualistic steps of making a good cappuccino without the hissing and drips and mess of some new-fangled machine.  He slowly warmed whole milk in a saucepan.  As the milk warmed he made strong coffee in a French Press.  He put a teaspoon-full of sugar in the bottom of a sturdy mug.  Just before he poured the dark coffee and hot milk together into the mug, he whisked the steaming milk to a froth.

They sat across from each other, at the tiny two-person kitchen table next to the window, in the cramped little apartment he shared with a roommate, who was – conveniently – never there.

He never made her feel like she was uncultured or inexperienced. Continue reading →

Mar 11

Goulash, Good Books and Colin Firth

red-potMy grandma called it goulache (goo-lah-key).  She didn’t use paprika like they do in a genuine Hungarian Goulash.  My version is more of a whatever’s-in-the-kitchen-pantry variety.  It’s a take on spaghetti sauce only the vegies are chunkier and the sauce is wetter.  I always make a big batch so as to have some to put in the freezer.  It’s great to have extra on hand for ski days or those days when I’m not wanting to go to the store, which happens to be just about every day.

Goulash is my ultimate comfort food.  Since Winter doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to turn to Spring, I’m fixing Goulash and reading by the fire.

To the kids, I’m reading more in the Merlin series – The Seven Songs of Merlin, by T. A. Barron.

For my own enjoyment I picked up a copy of Molly Ringwald’s, Getting the Pretty Back.  It’s light and funny; she references lots of the stuff from my high school days; and she doesn’t take herself too seriously – just what this weather calls for.  Reading her book is like spending the day at the spa with a girlfriend, sipping lattes, and then wrapping up the day with wine, dinner, freshly painted toes and a cheerier outlook.

Goulash in the Red Pot Continue reading →

Dec 10

Spritz Cookies and Other Customs

spritz-cookiesWe made Spritz Cookies on Sunday.  They’re my favorite Christmas Cookie, and my brother’s, too.  And now, they are Jenny’s favorite.

Forever, the tradition has been to only have Spritz at Christmas.  They are special, and they should be saved for a special time of year.

A couple years ago, Jenny asked, “Mom, can we make Spritz other times of the year?”

I started to tell her that Spritz were only made at Christmastime and that is what we do, but I stopped myself. I couldn’t think of a good reason for not making them other times of the year.

I don’t have good china, but I think it must be like using your china for special occasions, and then realizing you hardly ever pull out the china, or the good silverware or the fancy linens or the other special stuff. Continue reading →

Jul 10

Chicken and Broccoli Fettuccine or… Recipe For Those Who Don’t Follow Rules or Recipes

chicken-and-broccoli-fettuciniI would classify myself as someone who doesn’t follow rules well.  However, I am not a rule breaker.  There’s a difference.  A rule breaker intentionally sets out to take an action that flies in the face of a particular rule.  I have a tendency to dance around rules, skirt them, avoid them, or even go so far as to pretend to follow, while all the while completely ignoring a rule.

I’m not talking about stringent rules like stopping at stop signs, filing taxes by April 15th, paying bills on time and brushing my teeth twice a day.  I’m talking about societal rules that we take for granted – rules that are designed to help us all live together and cooperate – rules that direct conduct and behavior.

I don’t like writing on lined paper.  Lined paper reminds me of my third grade teacher, hands on hips, nagging us to keep our writing between the lines.  I prefer a clear blank sheet of paper, where letters are free to stretch their legs and go where they want to go.

I was explaining to Will that it is important to make eye contact with people when you are engaged in conversation.  He said, “I can hear what they are saying, why do I have to look at them, if it makes me uncomfortable?”  My explanation was that society expects this kind of behavior.  People (not all cultures, but many) believe that if you aren’t looking at them when you are conversing, then you aren’t paying attention.  Will said, “But what if I’m not comfortable with that?”  And I heard myself say, “Well, honey, I guess you have to make yourself uncomfortable, so as to show respect to the  person you are talking to.”

Huh? Continue reading →

Apr 10

Pounding Garlic

pound-garlic-1Sunday is a great day to pound garlic.  I probably pound garlic at least three days a week, but Sunday seems to be all about pounding garlic.  I’m not rushing to put dinner on the table; I have the time to create in the kitchen, and I’ve got the time to vent and visualize while I cook.

I’m more into cooking than baking.  That means I like to work with a big pot, some meat, some vegetables and some tomatoes.  And lots of garlic.  I hate doing dishes, so I try to use the least amount of tools when I cook.  I’ve tried garlic presses.  They suck.  Most of the precious garlic is left in the gadget, and then you have several parts of the tool to wash.  I could use garlic powder (gasp) but I have too much pride.  And I won’t use the stuff in the jar that’s already minced.  I don’t care what they say the shelf life is on that stuff.  That can’t be good after it’s been opened for awhile.  It might taste okay, but I bet it doesn’t taste like garlic.

Pounding garlic is easy, fun, therapeutic and theatrical.  How can you beat that?


I assume you are all savvy in the kitchen, but then I’ve also assumed that everybody drinks coffee.  I have been wrong on those counts before.  A clove of garlic is one of those sections that separates from the big bulb.  If you’ve never bought garlic before, I probably won’t be able to share a bottle of wine with you.  (Actually, I can share a bottle of wine with anybody.)  But you really ought to buy garlic.  When you have a bulb of garlic in your cart, it fools other shoppers into believing that you know your way around a kitchen. Continue reading →

Apr 10

Mexican Salad and ‘The Good Witch’

mexican-saladWhat is worse – having a narcissistic father that fights for custody and makes the kids’ lives miserable on a daily basis, or having a narcissistic father who wants nothing to do with his children, if they won’t do things his way?  I think Will and Jenny have it better.  While they will certainly be hurt by the fact that their dad can so easily walk away, they won’t have to deal with the day-to-day dismissals of who they are.  They won’t have Mark belittling them or using them as extensions of himself.

In Mark’s lengthy email, he had asked me what I proposed as a solution to this problem – like he’d actually entertain any of my suggestions.  He hinted at the possibility of resorting to calling lawyers again, and forcing visitation.  I speculated that things would go something like this:

  • He wouldn’t call the attorney because, after himself, and above all else, money is the most important thing to him.  Attorneys cost money.
  • He would not agree to adapt his behavior in an effort to have a better relationship with these two precious people.
  • I guessed that he would not address any of the kids’ requests.  I was pretty convinced that he’d tell them he was trying his best and that he loved them.  Then, as per usual, he would not call a couple days and wait for the dust to settle.  Then, on about the fifth day of no contact, he’d call, and with his sing/song voice, he’d invite them to do something, pretending like nothing had ever happened.

I did not guess that he would walk away from his kids.  I did not let myself believe that he was as low as he apparently is.  I did not see that coming, even though I have written about the fact that, if the accommodator stops being the source, the narcissist will completely dismiss her, and search for a new source.  And there lies the trap in all this.  As schooled as I may think I am in all this narcissism stuff, there is still something (frickin’ Lizard Brain) that makes it hard to comprehend that another individual – someone I thought I knew, and loved – is capable of such things.

__________ Continue reading →

Mar 10

On Pancakes and Love

blueberry-pancakesWe eat a lot of pancakes around here, and I never make any of them.  I’m decent in the kitchen, but I’ve never been good at breakfast.  I do make great toast.  Will has been making pancakes since we moved to this house.  First, he started with Bisquick, then it was Krusteaz and then some kind of fancy, healthy buckwheat mix, and now he makes pancakes from scratch.

From the beginning, I figured that he couldn’t do a lot of damage, so I didn’t give him many tips, other than, “Don’t burn yourself.”  He likes the fact that he handles the whole project from start to finish.  I ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ a lot.  I talk about how the caramelization on this batch is perfect.  Mostly, I give him strokes, eat a couple pancakes, and clean up the mess.  Jenny doesn’t like pancakes.  Every time he makes a batch, Will asks Jen if she’d like one.  She always politely declines.  I like that Will always offers.  I like that Jen politely declines.  He isn’t bummed that she doesn’t want any; she doesn’t feel like she has to have one.

And because absolutely everything reminds me of relationships, I got to thinking about how Will’s pursuit of the perfect pancake is a lot like the work involved in a healthy relationship.  I realize that, given my track record, I may know absolutely nothing about healthy relationships.  With my complete lack of credibility in the relationship department, you may want to scroll down to the bottom for Will’s pancake recipe.

Bisquick makes a decent pancake.  It’s quick and easy and it fills you up.  Krusteaz may have a little more flavor.  They are just as simple to make, so since they have more flavor, they seem like the logical choice.  The buckwheat mix is a little harder to find, but they don’t require a lot more work, and they are healthier to eat.  Throughout the experimentation with these different pancake mixes, Will has learned the constants.  The batter shouldn’t be too thin nor too thick.  The pan has to be hot.  Butter the pan a bit before pouring in the batter.  Wait until the bubbles start popping before you flip the cake.  All of these constants apply to each type of mix.

After mastering these pre-made pancake mixes, he was ready for the big leagues.  He asked if he could find a recipe and make some from scratch.  He’d already learned that the wet things are added to the combined dry things.  He just needed a listing of what those wet and dry things were.  He’s been making scratch pancakes for over a year now.  We all marvel at how much better the from-scratch pancakes are.  They are more moist and tender.  They have this delicate sweetness and a nice crust.  There is an amazing difference, and we’re only talking pancakes here.  The scratch cakes make you want to have more than one. Continue reading →

Mar 10

Survivor Chocolate

lucky-number-4So it’s one o’clock in the morning and I am sitting in front of my laptop, in my cat hair covered robe, with an Ocean Breeze scented candle burning, eating the best fudgy brownie cookies I’ve ever tasted.

I’m not really a scented candle person.  I get tired of the same  smell by the time the candle burns down.  But, I’m on a very tight budget, and I wanted something, in addition to coffee and chocolate, to cheer me up.  So we went to Pier 1 and I picked out some candles – Ocean Breeze, Patchouli (to remind me of my college days), Asian something or other, Vanilla and yada yada, and one other.  I picture these folks in lab coats, in some white room full of beakers over burners with little flames mixing scents and one of them actually thinks they have put together the right chemicals to smell like an Ocean Breeze?  I also bought this little round ceramic ball with my lucky number on it.  It can’t hurt.  Between the candles and the number four, and my cooperation with the rest of the universe, I’m sure to get my train headed in the right direction again.  Maybe.

Jenny came in my bed again and then, as usual, I couldn’t get back to sleep.  My head fills with thoughts of John.  How is it that some people (mostly men) are so good at turning their brains off?  I try to make myself think of things that I don’t like about him, but since that’s fruitless, I switched to thinking about Phyllis and Annie and this blog.  Phyllis sent a comment that I want to write about, so I figured now is as good a time as any.  Only I came out to write about her comment, and grabbed a cookie, and after one bite, I forgot what I was going to write, so I’ll share this recipe with you all instead.  I changed the name of these cookies.  Will was craving some kind of dark, fudgy brownie/cookie combo (he’s his mother’s son) and we discovered this recipe and tweaked it a bit.  I’m calling them Survivor Crownies because we all deserve a crown for surviving, and because the ‘c’ is for cookies and the ‘rownies’ is for ….    Nevermind.  I think you get it.

Survivor Crownies

  • 2/3 C butter – softened
  • 1 1/2 C brown sugar – packed (have you ever come across a recipe where the brown sugar isn’t packed?)
  • 1 T vanilla – it seems like a lot, but it’s right
  • 2 eggs – room temperature
  • 1 1/2 C flour
  • 1/3 C cocoa powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t soda
  • 1 1/2 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Continue reading →