Happy Birthday Baby Sister!

Rather startling to think your little baby sister is 50!  Seems like only yesterday she was a wee little thing with Shirley Temple curls and the longest eyelashes in the www (whole wide world!)  What a cutie-pie!

When she was a couple months old, I found the perfect poem to describe my adorable baby sister in a kid’s magazine (that I’ve forgotten the name of) and I’ve remembered it (the poem, not the magazine!) ever since:

Tiny fingers,

tiny toes,

tiny mouth

and a little pink nose.


The Shirley Temple curls are gone, replaced by thick, gorgeous, waist-length tresses, but the eyelashes are as long as ever.  Stunning!


Happy Birthday kiddo!  This one’s for you . . .

and this one . . .


Okay, I’ll stop there.  I could go on, but I won’t.




Just one more?


Well . . . . okay.


But just one, got it?




Happy Half Century Squirt!



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Mary Margaret McBride Encyclopedia of Cooking, Deluxe Illustrated Edition

My latest acquisition. Purchased this past spring. I’ve been keeping it a secret because I was supposed to be weeding out my old cookbooks, not buying more of them. Old, and sometimes new, cookbooks are my one weakness. And I just couldn’t resist this one.

The “Mary Margaret McBride Encyclopedia of Cooking, Deluxe Illustrated Edition”. It is a monster, over 3 inches thick. The cookbook to end all cookbooks (of course, that’s not true. As long as there are new cooks, there will be new cookbooks). Over 1500 pages of recipes, hints, tips and more. The General Index alone is 31 pages, with 5 columns in teeny-tiny print on each page. Cross-referencing everywhere. This is going to be a fun read (can we say “sarcasm”?).

The poor old thing has had a hard life. The front cover has come off completely, duct tape notwithstanding, and the back cover will soon follow suit unless someone (moi, naturally) rescues it.

Needs some work to get her back in shape.

Needs some work to get her back in shape.

I love the very back pages that are marked “Personal Recipe Notes”. The previous owner wrote in her favorite recipes from the book and on what pages they could be found. I’d like to go through and see exactly what those old favorites were and if any of them appeal to my modern tastebuds. I may even try to make some of them.

Favorites from long ago

Although….just looking around, I found several recipes for hamburgers. They are seriously plain, bland and boring. Considering the book was published in 1960, it is safe to assume that the recipes are all from the 1950s or earlier. Few, if any people put things like avocado, bacon, pineapple, onion rings, sprouts or any of the hundreds of additions we now use. My own mother used to prefer her burgers plain. Just some ketchup, a little mayo and, on occasion, a slice of onion. No lettuce, no tomato, no pickle.

In contrast, I like lots of goodies on my burgers. The more the merrier. The only problem I’ve ever had with piling everything I like in between the two buns is trying to sink my teeth into it. I either need a hinged jaw or a burger squasher.

As an accidental Mid-Westerner living in a small Wisconsin town, I don’t often find local burger joints with much in the way of additions on their menus. But I feel it is a challenge to myself to discover what is out there for me.

So, in light of that challenge, and because tomorrow is a special day (more later), I will sally forth this evening and see what I can discover. Hopefully it will be a tad more interesting than the recipes Mary Margaret offers.

Just the way Mom liked them!

Just the way Mom liked them! (sans the “sauce”)


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Wine Fest!!

Winefest 2015 rolled around this year with a bang!  A bit of a long fuse getting started, but once it did…BANG!

I missed last year’s event, and to me it seemed that this year we were busier than ever.  I got just a quick peek now and then to observe all the merry-making, wine-tasting, foot-stompin’ and brat chompin’.  I did get a few pictures on the fly, and I do mean “fly”.  Flying back and forth from main kitchen to counter.  Almost 10 blocks apart!  (Okay, maybe it only seemed that far while I was dodging dancers, grape stompers, grannies and gramps.)

Anyway,  by mid-afternoon the grounds were jam-packed with partiers, many of them in costume.  I got a photo of the dancing wine bottles again this year.  Couldn’t miss that!  Lovely ladies!

Human wine bottles

The “Nuns on the Run” were also noticeably present, even to joining in on the grape stomp. (I think the one on the right with the pink feather boa was the winner.)


Dozens of groups were wearing their own designed wine themed t-shirts.  I liked this one:


TGIF – Thank God It’s Fermented

Towards the end of the day we had a drawing for prizes.  I missed the first winner (blocked by crowd) but did get the next two.  Prizes were handed out by the ever effervescent Miss Jane.



More music, more drinks, more eats and Wine Fest wound down.   Fond memories of wine, women and song will warm the cockles of my heart.

For about 364 days.


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My Mom’s Vegetable Salad Mold

I originally posted this in March, but I want to keep recipes all together under one page heading, so I’m putting it up again.  “Bear with, bear with.” 

This weird recipe for a vegetables-jello-tomato-soup-cream-cheese-salad-mold needs a better name.  It is a recipe given to my mom by her aunt, an old-maid-schoolteacher, who couldn’t cook but who liked to tell other people how to cook, most especially if they were cooking something she was going to eat.  

Mom made this quite a lot when we were all still kids at home.  None of us actually ever ate it.  Think about it…jello and tomato soup? Vegetables?!  The idea was pretty repulsive to us kids.  Add to that the fact that I could not (and still can’t) eat bell peppers because they give me heartburn.  The minced celery didn’t seem too bad an idea, but the onions and cream cheese were iffy, if you know what I mean.  Don’t forget, we were just kids, and to us this was a pretty “out there” dish.  So, mom would make it to take to potlucks or to work for sharing with grown-ups. 

Fast forward a bazillion years to one morning last spring.  I was doing all of the cooking for her, so I asked if there was anything special she wanted me to make for her dinner and she handed this to me. 

 Handwritten recipe

I was going to have to make the dreaded VJTSCCSM. 

Gathering all the inner strength I could muster, I gathered all the ingredients,


Ingredients, more

did a bit of mincing and dicing,


and boiled the water.

water boiling

Assembling everything was all that was left to do. 

Add the boiling water to the lemon Jell-o,


mix in the whipped cream cheese


and the tomato soup (which I forgot to get a picture of, naturally). Then chill until partially set.


Add onions and celery (at this point, I put some of the mix in a small bowl for myself),


and bell pepper.


Mix well and put back into the fridge until completely set.


I have to say that after trying this without the peppers, I discovered it was not as bad as I’d led myself to believe.  It was quite good, in fact. So much so that I made a second batch a few days later just to be sure I wasn’t mistaken.

I wasn’t.

My personal little bowl without the nasty bell pepper . . .


Not bad, not bad.

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Happy Hallowee-e-e-e-e-n!!!

Well, with no little ones around these days to take Trick-or-Treating, I think I’ll just “treat” myself to a night in watching the scariest movie I have, “Hocus Pocus”, and a special Halloween dinner: a bacon-wrapped weenie with all the fixin’s. I may even go out and get myself a chocolate pumpkin to go with my movie-theater-style popcorn.

Horror movies have never been my thing. My family sometimes makes fun of my reluctance, nay, downright refusal, to watch anything even remotely scary, but I stick to my guns. And they should consider themselves lucky that I do. Otherwise, they’d never have another good night’s sleep.

Let me explain….many, many moons ago, when I was young and single and carefree, I was dating a guy who wanted to see “The Exorcist”. Being young, naïve, and in love (“Whatever ‘in love’ means”, to quote Prince Chuckie – another movie I refuse to watch!), I giddily said yes. Huge mistake. Monstrous.

I spent nearly all the rest of the evening in a semi-fetal position, not as easy as it sounds when you’re wedged into one of those puny movie theater folding seats. During that time, while poor Linda Blair was hovering over her bed and projectile vomiting over all and sundry, I mostly had my fingers in my ears and my eyes clamped firmly shut. When I did listen and/or look, I was, as you might imagine, properly horrified. The second feature wasn’t much better, although the details escape me now. Something about witch hunts and dungeons and torture. But only when I looked.

The date over, my boyfriend escorted me home and the usual goodnights were said. At the time I was between roommates. As I got ready for bed, the apartment seemed eerily quiet. After tossing and turning for hours, I finally fell asleep for a whole 32 seconds only to be jolted back into consciousness by a nightmare featuring tiny little devils with pitchforks running around my bed. Go figure.

Bolting upright in bed and grabbing my trusty landline (back then it was called “the telephone”), I called not my boyfriend, not anyone in my family, but a woman for whom I used to babysit. In the middle of the night. The wee small hours. The time of night when a phone call means only one thing….really bad news.

The really bad news was that I begged her to come and get me and take me to her house for the rest of the night. I absolutely could not, would not, spend one more minute alone with those little devils all over the place. I made the right call. She was always a good sport and this time was no different. She woke up her husband, also a good sport, and sent him to get me.

Back at their place, I was directed to the kids room where I crawled into the bottom bunk and fell into a dreamless sleep wrapped in the arms of a little angel. Devils be damned!

In the morning I got a good breakfast and a good deal of ribbing, but that was okay. Naturally, the story made the rounds in the neighborhood, got a lot of laughs, and no one ever let me forget it. And that was okay, too.

So, in the interest of my family getting a good night sleep without the spectre of a dazed and crazed woman clawing her way into their beds for protection from poltergeists, demons and devils, I’ll stick to Hocus Pocus and the like. It’s better for them. Much, much better.



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It is far too soon for this!!!

As an accidental mid-westerner, I usually love the first snowfall of the season. Not this time. After last winter held us in it’s tenaciously icy grip for so long, and the lackluster spring followed by a cheap imitation of summer, this is not a sight I wanted to see for at least another month! Two, even!!

Luckily, it will melt by noon and with a little more luck it won’t be back for the aforesaid month or two.

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Three Peas in a Pot

Okay, make that three thousand peas. Split peas. And some carrots, onion, a couple of seasonings, plenty of water and a source of heat. Wait impatiently for a few hours and you have yummy split pea soup. That’s what I did last night. Especially the impatient part.

I’d been on a cemetery crawl yesterday afternoon and on my way home I saw a flock of wild turkeys in a field. Went home quick to get my camera (because, as usual, I didn’t have it with me) and grabbed a few snaps. Of course, by the time I got back to the field those turkeys had moved farther back and the photos came out blurry and pretty much unrecognizable as turkeys. You’ll have to squint a bit and use your imagination a lot. But trust me…those are turkeys.

More Turkey Shoot Turkey Shoot

After my “turkey shoot”, I came home and wondered what in the world I was going to have for dinner. Soup came to mind first thing, and a good thing, too! It’s been getting colder here in N.E.W. (North East Wisconsin), and soup would absolutely hit the spot! Last week I made a cheater’s version of Cheesy Cream of Broccoli soup by using canned cream of celery as a base. I still have some broccoli in the fridge and another can of base, but I wanted something different. So, out came the split peas, etc.

One advantage of cooking soup, or anything, from scratch at this time of year is that it warms up your outsides as well as your insides. It wasn’t too long before the kitchen got all lovely warm and steamy. And the tempting odors issuing forth from the gently bubbling pot assured me of a dinner worth the wait.

I have no recipe for my homemade split pea soup. I used what I had on hand, and was perfectly content with the results. I will say that instead of diced celery I used celery salt, and I had to omit the ham because I didn’t have either of those ingredients. But it was okay without them.

I have enough split pea soup for a couple more meals. Just enough so I won’t tire of it before it is all gone. But it has me thinking…what will I make next?

Any ideas?

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7 Weeks

Seven weeks ago today my mother died.

I’m still feeling more than a bit shell-shocked. Everyday some little thing reminds me she is gone. Last night while I was picking up a few things at the grocery store, I found a reason in each and every aisle to get teary-eyed. Here is the produce department where I bought raspberries for her. There is the honey mustard she loved so much. Oh, look, that’s the raisin bread she liked and over there is the deli roasted chicken she craved. I could feel my lower lip start to tremble in the paper goods aisle when I got to the kleenex. I kept it together until I got out of the parking lot. Then I burst into tears.

For the last couple of years I was Mom’s primary caregiver. In the beginning it was just a couple days a week helping with her shopping and errands, going out to lunch now and then, and the occasional doctor visit. As time went on, she needed more help with cooking and personal care. Then, last summer, thin as she already was, she began to lose weight. And it was at one of those doctor visits early last fall that she told him she found a lump in her breast. Her doctor examined her and suggested a mammogram and some other tests for the following days. Mom agreed to those tests and then dropped her bomb shell. She had already made up her mind to refuse any sort of treatment. No surgery, no chemo, nothing. She was going to be a “Refusenik”. She’d been reading an old Time Magazine article about it and was adamant. No treatment. She refused.

It was the first I heard about the lump and the first I heard the term refusenik. She kept repeating it over and over at the same time insisting I not try and talk her out of it. My brain began wobbling, my throat closed up and my tongue went numb. All the while she sat there almost glaring at me and daring me to speak. I didn’t say a word. I recognized that look and knew better than to try.

Days later, back in his office, after the testing was done and she would go no further, Dr. H. suggested she let him make the call to get her on hospice. “I’ll think about it”, was her reply and we left. He had the office staff follow up several times over the next couple weeks for which I was truly grateful. No amount of begging, pleading, whining or wheedling on my part had any effect. But those women wore her down and she finally agreed to sign up for hospice. And that is another story for another day. Meanwhile, I’ll go dry my tears.

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O, to be in England . . .

“O, to be in England                                                                                                                          Now that April’s there”

The words of Robert Browning jumped out at me the other day from the pages of a book I was reading.  I was looking for some poetry that would be uplifting, inspiring, or anything warm and fuzzy.  Mr. Browning’s “Home Thoughts, From Abroad” (read the full poem at the end) makes me just a little jealous of an English spring.  Temperatures in London this week are up in the 60s.  We’re not even going to break 40 degrees and a Winter Weather Advisory is in effect for tonight.

O, to be in England.  It’s warm, if not exactly fuzzy.  Unless foggy counts as fuzzy.

Here, we’re all thinking about our gardens and wondering if we’ll get them in by May (or June!).  The recent rains have melted a lot of the snow and there are nice big patches of lawn and garden showing where ten days ago they were covered with at least a foot of the white stuff.

Bare Naked Lawn

Bare Naked Lawn

Garden Patch

Garden Patch

The sidewalks around the houses are ice-free (yippee!) as are the gutters out in front.  No more “slip-n-slide”.   Or broken bones.


Ooopsie! Fall down, go boom.

Now that I am thinking about gardening, I’ve decided I won’t take a plot, or what the English call “an allotment”, at the Community Garden  this year.  Instead I have some packets of herb and veggie seeds for a kitchen garden.  I want to step outside my back door, snip a few fresh basil leaves, twist off a perfectly ripe tomato and rush them back inside for a Caprese Salad or plateful/plate full of bruschetta.  Fresh baby peas, pencil thin green beans, a variety of herbs, and cherry, grape and Roma  tomatoes…everything I want within an arm’s reach.  That’s the general idea, anyway.  This week the little seeds go into little pots and onto the windowsills.  With a little TLC and a lot of luck I should have my little kitchen garden in full swing by June.

Or July.

No later than August, surely.

O, to be in England.  Or at least to have a British accent . . .

If I had a British accent I'd never shut up!

If I had a British accent I’d never shut up!


Home Thoughts, From Abroad                                                                                           Robert Browning

Oh to be in England
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England – now!

And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark! where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops – at the bent spray’s edge –
That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children’s dower
– Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower

Posted in Food, Garden and Home, Gardening, Poetry, Quotes, Spring | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Colour Purple

I love hearing about young people getting involved in or starting organizations that help others.  This morning I found another one that certainly deserves some attention.  “Purple Day”, March 26.

Purple Day” was started by a young girl in Nova Scotia, Canada, Cassidy Megan.  She was nine years old when she began her quest to increase world-wide awareness of epilepsy.  I wish she had been around when I was younger.

In my teens, I went to school with someone who had epilepsy.  She was beautiful, smart, talented and, because of her epilepsy, she scared the living daylights out of me.  Like so many others, I was ignorant about epilepsy.  My fears were unfounded, but back then people didn’t talk about “things like that”.  It was spoken of in whispers.  Decades later, in 2008, Cassidy came along to stop the whispering.

It is now six years since Cassidy started Purple Day and there is a wonderful website, www.purpleday.org, with links to partner organizations that can help people understand epilepsy. The Epilepsy Association of Nova Scotia website http://epilepsyns.com has information for those who have epilepsy, and important information about what first aid to give someone having a seizure. It is crucial to know what to do and what NOT to do in these instances.  Please click on the link above and take a look at how you can help someone in distress.

Another Purple Day partner organization is The Anita Kaufman Foundation, http://akfus.org/.  Their goal its to educate people about and  eliminate the fears associated with epilepsy.  Take a minute to check out their site.  It’s well worth your time.

Thanks to Cassidy, there are Purple Day events all over the world. Dances, dinners, walks-a-thons and runs, purple cupcake sales, purple popcorn sales, raffles, seminars…the list goes on and on.  

I’ll be wearing purple on Purple Day, Wednesday, March 26, in support of Epilepsy Awareness and hope some of you will, too. 

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