Dec 31, 2012


Painting by Ron Monsma
This past year has been a year of rebuilding for me.  After my divorce, I felt like my whole world was falling down around me, not only figuratively but literally as well.  But with much hard work ( and lots of overtime) and unrelenting support from family, friends, and a counselor, I am nearly back to normal.  I have made great strides with the house too.  There were many days that I would look around me and say, "this is not how I imagined my life."  I had dreams. I had plans.  Both were dashed into pieces.  But this doesn't mean that I can't have new dreams or a new life altogether. The dark cloud has lifted and sunshine is able to beam down its warm rays into my soul. The time for weeping has past. I am no longer feeling sad.  Joy has taken up residence and I am happy once again. For all of this I am thankful. For the next coming year I will make a promise to myself.  I promise that I will live my life fully and without reserve, just as I had loved.  I cannot change what happened, even though I wish that I could.  However, I can change my future and mostly how I look at it.  Today, I see hope.

Dec 29, 2012

Moroccan Orange Salad with Pistachios, Dates, and Almonds

This is a very simple salad, yet it is wonderfully refreshing.  It is Moroccan inspired and is adapted from the book Around the World in 450 Recipes by Hermes House Publishing.  


3 oranges, peeled and sliced 
1/4 cup of pistachios, slightly chopped
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
4-5 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
Powered sugar to taste
a couple of dashes of Cinnamon

Peel the oranges and remove the pith and cut into segments. Chop the dates and pistachios then add to the salad. Sprinkle with a little powered sugar. Mix well. Chill for an hour.  Just before serving, sprinkle with additional powdered sugar and cinnamon. Serves about 4.  Enjoy!

Cooks Note:  You can add orange blossom water and rosewater if you like the taste.  You can also add lemon juice.

Dec 27, 2012

A Tale of a Brother Defending his Sister's Honor American Style

Every time my brother, sister and I get together we talk about the past.  We bring up things that have been long forgotten by at least one of us.  Then the memory comes back in full force. Sometimes those memories make us laugh or cry, but then there are those stories that we just feel honored to have such a person in our life. Here is one of those stories.

When I was about 16 to 18 there was a boy name Bubby that wanted me.  I was a naive, church going teenager. I never drank or did drugs. On day I was taking a bath and my brother and Bubby came into the house. I was stranded in the bathroom, which adjoined the kitchen. They were in the kitchen and I was not about to parade myself in front of them. I heard Bubby say that he was going to come into the bathroom while I was still in the tub. Slowly he turned the knob on the door. The thought of him coming into the bathroom caused me to panic. I heard my brother tell him not to do it. From then on I didn't like the boy. Anyone who would violate me would never be considered entering into my life. Eventually, they all left. Then one day the boy made a derogatory comment about me. My brother caught wind of it. I have no idea what was said but my brother saw red and was determined to defend my honor. Bubby and two of his friends painted an obscene remark on our garage also. This all happened within a 24 hour period. Rejection obviously didn't set well with him. My brother drove to the boy's apartment, but he wasn't there. While at the apartment my brother took advantage of the situation and broke a few things, though he later went to court for the damage.  Eventually, the two met by chance at a gas station. My brother beat the crap out of Bubby and the two boys that were with him too.  Knowing Kung Fu helped a lot that day.  A day that I will never forget. It was a day that I was honored.

I know another boy that I would like for him to beat the crap out of too!

Dec 25, 2012

Irish Spiced Brisket\Beef

Oh how delightful the holidays are.  The house is full of people you love the most. It is the time of exchanging gifts. Snuggling in front of the fire. While the kitchen emits the most wonderful aroma your senses can imagine.  This year I made an authentic Irish recipe with brisket.  The meat marniates for a week before cooking.  It is a recipe that I have made for years and each time I make it I am thrilled with the results. I, also, have a new Lodge Dutch oven.  I bought it on Sunday and I am thrilled with it so far. 


6 lbs brisket or beef

Spicing ingredients:

3 bay leaves, crushed
1 tsp whole cloves
¼ tsp mace
1 tsp peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp whole allspice
2 tbs brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tsp saltpeter (optional)
1/4 to 1/3 cup coarse rock salt, I used sea salt and it was too salty

Mix all of the above ingredients thoroughly in a small bowl.  Place the meat in a large dish and rub the mixture all over, including the sides.  Wrap the meat in plastic or place in a plastic bag.  This can be done up to 1 week before cooking.  Each day turn the meat and rub the meat spices into the meat as you turn it over. At the end of the week, rinse the beef with water and tie it for roasting.  (this year I was only able to marinate for 4 days)

Cooking ingredients:

1 stalk of celery, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, quartered
2 medium carrots, sliced
3 whole cloves
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground all spice
½ pint stout beer

Tie the meat so that it will not come apart during the cooking process.

Place the celery, onion, and carrots to the bottom of a large pot. Use a pot that will accommodate the brisket.

Add the whole cloves, ground cloves, and allspice to the vegetables. 

Place the meat on top of the vegetables and add enough water to come half way from the bottom of the pot. The meat will produce a lot of water.

Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer and cook for 4-5 hours or until the brisket is cooked through and is tender.  Add the stout to the pot during the last hour of cooking. 

Place on a platter and carve.  Serve warm.  Enjoy!

Cooks note:  You can bake this instead of boiling.  Place the oven at 300 degrees.  Place the meat in a large glass dish.  Cover with foil. Or you can use a Dutch oven, which is what I did.  

Dec 21, 2012

December 21st and the Mayan Calendar: Are you still here?

Photo by Gilderm/
 I am writing this post just in case something catastrophic happens today.  I hope not, because I have to go to work so that I can pay for my car that keeps breaking down. Well, wait a minute. If the world does rock on its axis and there is a catastrophy, then I won't have to pay for that car or any other bill. Let me re-think this...Jeannie

Dec 20, 2012

Polio, Pakistan, and Havoc


In 1994, Pakistan had 20,000 cases of polio.  After a vigorous campaign of immunization, the number of cases dropped down to 56 in 2012.  Several health care workers administering the vaccines were killed this week because the Taliban (they are suspected for doing this) thought it was a western conspiracy to sterilize or spy on muslims.  Apparently, the CIA used a fake vaccination campaign to try and obtain information on Osama Bin Ladin before he was found and killed.  However, the vaccines have been going on for some time. 

It is hard to connect with this kind of thinking.  Culture and religion has caused a great chasm between the east and the west.  We all have to agree that Osama Bin Ladin was not a good man.  By using vaccination as a ploy to get information on him was not a bad thing. The world is free from one more evil man. 

 Polio can paralyze or kill in a very short amount of time passing from one person to the next. This disease has a strong foothold in Pakistan, along with Afghanistan and Nigeria. For this reason world health workers have been working tirelessly.  It is a shame to gun down defenseless women over suspicious thinking. Again, it is a shame.  

To date, the health care workers have stopped with the immunizations until the situation comes under control.  This isn't a case of religion, nor is it about culture, but a healthy future for children.  Children who want to grow up and have normal lives.  Children are the future of this world of ours. They just need a chance.

Dec 18, 2012

Children of Paraguay making music from recycled materials

Picture from Paste Magazine
At least 25,000 families in Cateura, Paraguay make a living by rummaging through the garbage dump.  Life is bleak at best for those so impoverished.  Maybe there is a way out of this dire place with music.  Music is said to calm the savage beast.  Poverty can push people into debilitating activities such as alcohol and drug abuse when one feels that their life has no hope.
Picture from Paper Blog

Favio Chavez, a social worker and a music teacher, started the chamber orchestra of about 20 children called, "The Orchestra of Instruments Recycled from Cateura." He opened a small music school at the landfill about five years ago.  He wanted to provide a way out of the landfill for the children.  Chavez asked e of the the trash-pickers, Nicholas Gomez, to help with making the instruments.  The instruments are made with cans, forks, bowls, and a myriad of discarded items.  Things that were considered useless became of use again by shaping them into musical instruments.  These children are finding the meaning of life through music. Bringing hope when there didn't seem to be any. It is not material things that matter the most but the knowledge we have gained through our life experiences.  This is a beautiful story.

Dec 15, 2012

Meatloaf with Bob Evans Sausage and Lea & Perrins Steak Sauce

My mother was a wonderful cook and I enjoyed most of the dishes that she created. However, my mother would make meatloaf and it was lathered with ketchup. I must confess something.  Ketchup is distasteful to me. Yep, I just don't like it. I don't keep it in my house either.  So, what I did was trade ketchup for steak sauce. Oh, what a difference that made. Then I traded the traditional all ground beef version for hot sausage and ground sirloin. The sausage gives it quite a nice flavor.  Sometimes, I use Italian breadcrumbs too or get fresh bread crumbs from a local bakery.  I have been making my meatloaf this way for years and really like it. 


1 lb ground beef, I use ground sirloin or ground round
1/2 pound of Bob Evans hot sausage or whatever sausage is your favorite
1 small onion, chopped
sal/pepper to taste
1 egg
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1-2 cloves of minced garlic
4-5 dashes of  Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce or your favorite brand
3-4 tbs of Lea & Perrins Steak Sauce or your favorite brand

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, place all of the ingredients and mix well.  Spread the beef mixture in a loaf pan.  Pour an additional 2-3 tbs of the steak sauce on top and spread across to the edge.  I used a 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 loaf pan.  Bake about 1 hour or until done.  Remove from pan and serve.  Enjoy! 

Dec 13, 2012

The Alluring Sitar..the Sound of India

The sound of the sitar is like a sari, fine, silken, swirling, and exotic, it can break your heart with its beauty.  I am so grateful that my musical world has opened up to include those far off exotic places such as India and the Middleast.  I love the beat of the drums and the intoxicating sound of the sitar, loude, horn and other instruments.  Ravi Shankar was the guru of the sitar.  Unfortunately, I had never heard of him until yesterday while listening to NPR. Sadly he passed away on the 11th.

While growing up I was never exposed to music outside of my own culture and country.  Now I am venturing outside of my borders. Shankar said that his music is like worshipping God. It is absolutely like prayer. I can believe that. The music is calming, beautiful, and somehow touches the soul.  I imagine myself dressed in traditional clothing while dancing rhythmically to the beat, losing myself in the music.  The video below is of Ravi with his daughter Anoushka. 

The second video is of Anoushka with a traditional dancer, which is very lovely to watch.

Dec 11, 2012

Richard Heisler: 100 Views of Tokyo

 I looked at the picture, I thought that it was a photograph.

but, upon further examination
Shinjuku Sunset II
I was totally wrong
Ochanomizu by Richard Heisler
This could be Chicago or any large city 

or bowls in a restaurant.

The artist is Richard Heisler.  He was born in New Jersey in 1973 and currently lives and works in Seattle, Washington.  A young and upcoming artist. His first exhibit was in 2001 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  When Richard first began his career, he painted a lot of the countryside and the Amish but has since turned his focus on Japan in a new project called "100 Views of Tokyo".  He has a meticulous eye for detail. It amazes me that someone can look at a scene and then capture it by painting or drawing it.  I am speechless about the detail of all of the pictures.  I saw a few of his paintings here at the museum and thought that I would check out more of his work.  I like what I see.  Would you display this kind of art in your home?

Dec 7, 2012

Nutmeg: The Spice of the Wealthy

I go to an Amish store to buy my spices.  Generally the prices there are very reasonable.  However, when I needed nutmeg just recently, I was astonished at the cost.  I looked at the unit price and it was $21.29 a pound.  Of course is it not as pricy as saffron, but it is still expensive.  Fortunately the spices at the store are sold in bulk, so, you get more for your money buying it this way.  

Courtesy of the Guardian Newspaper
 Nutmeg grows on trees and once harvested it could take up to two months for the fruit to dry. The nutmeg tree is evergreen with oblong egg shaped leaves and the fruit is light yellow with red and green markings. The nut is dried until the inner nut rattles, which is the edible nutmeg.

The British East India Company brought the nutmeg tree to Penang, Singapore, India, Sri Lanka, the West Indies, and Grenada (nutmeg is the national symbol for this country). In 1760, the price of nutmeg in London was 85 to 90 shillings per pound, a price kept artificially high by the Dutch voluntarily burning full warehouses of nutmegs in Amsterdam. The Dutch held control of the spice islands until World War II.  The poor were excluded from using this spice because of the cost. Luckily today anyone can afford a majority of the spices available or a similar substitute. 

Now that the holidays are upon us we think about all of the sweet dishes we can make with this nutmeg.  But, did you know that you can use this spice in savory dishes too?  I use a large pinch of it in the asparagus and leek quiche pictured above.  Here is the recipe if you would like to try it.


Dec 4, 2012

Italian Sausage with Spinach, Artichokes, Tomatoes, and Farfalle

For Thanksgiving, I made a meatless version of this recipe.  I really enjoyed it and thought that I could make a one dish meal by adding some sort of meat.  I chose Italian sausage because it is mild and thought that it would go great with the rest of ingredients.  This is so good. I am sure that you will want to make it often. I plan to. 


1- 1lb box of farfalle (bowtie pasta)
1 lb sweet or mild Italian sausage (optional)
3 tbs olive oil
2 cups of cherry tomatoes, split in half
1 onion finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves minced
salt/pepper to taste
4 cups of fresh spinach or 2 cups of frozen that has been chopped
1- 6 oz jar of marinated artichokes or 1 cup frozen and chopped

For the Sauce:
2 tbs butter
2 tbs flour
2 cups of milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 oz of cream cheese, cut into cubes
1 tbs prepared pesto (optional)

Boil water and cook the farfalle according to the directions on the box.  Once done, keep the pasta in the hot water until the rest of the dish is nearly done, but the heat has been turned off.

In a large, deep saute pan on medium to high heat add the sausage.  Cook until the meat is cooked through.  Break up any large pieces with a spoon.  If you decide to use meat, such as sausage, then omit the 3 tbs of olive oil.  Push the meat to the outer edges of the pan and put the onion and garlic in the middle.  Saute until the onion is translucent.  Then add the artichokes and spinach. Continue to cook until the vegetables are tender.  Lastly, add the tomatoes and toss.

In a sauce pan on medium heat add the butter.  Once the butter has melted add the flour.  Stir quickly and then slowly add the milk.  Use a whisk, it will help with the lumps.  Once all of the milk is in the pan, add the cream cheese and grated Parmesan. Stir frequently to keep from burning. Add salt/pepper to taste.

Drain the pasta and return to the pot.  Next add the cream sauce and toss well.  Finally, add the meat and vegetables and toss together well. Adjust seasonings.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy!

 Cooks Note:  I didn't use pesto in this recipe. You can use light cream cheese instead.

Dec 2, 2012

Holiday House Hopping and Big House Envy

Yesterday a neighbor and I went on the annual Holiday Home Tour in a neighborhood close to where we live. I live in the older part of town.  Around me are very large and old homes.  Have you ever driven by a house and wondered what it looked like on the inside?  Oh I have.  So, early in the evening we set out on the tour.  We climbed stairs and took elevators to reach our intended destination. Overall, we had a wonderful time. At first, I had a small case of big house envy. You know what I mean if you live in a small house with less than 1000 square feet. I dreamed of large kitchens and master bedrooms. Once I came back to earth, I started thinking of all of the changes that I could make to my small cottage.  Most of all, it gave me ideas for my house.  I have a plan in mind, you see. All I need is a few connections and I will be well on my way. 

This door is marvelous and caught my eye right away. It is so grand and elegant. 

We saw a closet for the king and queen

An elegant dining room...

with a dinner service fit for royalty.

Bathe or shower in romance.

Belt out a song or two if you like.

Stained glass adorned many a window...

and fireplaces galore

 The simplest of items made beautiful with lights.

Isn't that what home is all about?  Creating a home so that who we are is visible to those around us. Your house doesn't have to be big to be grand.  It is really the owner that makes it so. Imagine. Believe. Create.  

Nov 30, 2012

Lincoln and the "Elective Franchise"

Abraham Lincoln will forever go down in history as the President who set the slaves free.  In his last speech, President Lincoln thought that if the black man is free then he should be given the right to vote as well.  He mentioned the "elective franchise" several times as I read through the speech.  Why not?  A country fighting against itself over slavery and the treatment of a race of people should be given all rights as the rest of the citizens of this country. They were entitled to those rights.  But radical confederates thought that this was too much.  First there was freedom and now the vote? John Wilkes Booth thought that if Lincoln was stopped then the black man would never get the vote. Booth was so very wrong. Abraham Lincoln is said to have had a nightmare about being assassinated, a few days before his death. He described seeing himself in a casket, with inconsolable people mourning around his dead body. This was Lincoln's destiny, his life purpose.

There is so much that I don't know about the history of my country, which is very sad to say.  History class was the most boring subject for me in school.  But when I started tracing my family history and found that my relatives fought in the Civil War (among many wars) is when I became interested. The subject was no longer those people but "my people" fought in those wars.  My family is from Tennessee and Georgia and the men who fought joined the confederate army when they enlisted except for one man.  It makes me wonder why they fought?  Was it for the money or the cause?  I sure would like to know. 

Anyway, there is a wonderful movie in the theaters now called, Lincoln.  Daniel Day-Lewis does a wonderful job as the President. The movie shows Lincoln not only as the President but a man fighting for something that was morally wrong.  If you get the chance, go see this movie.  

Nov 28, 2012

English Cottage Pie...English Comfort Food

Since there were so many leftovers from Thanksgiving, I thought that I would try something new. This dish has been also referred to as shepherds pie. But shepherds pie is traditionally made with lamb and cottage pie with ground beef. I have an English neighbor who put me straight about this.  Anyway, it is comfort food in every way and very easy to make.  I cannot believe that I haven't made it before. 


1 lb lean ground beef
1 onion chopped
1 stalk of celery chopped
1 tbs parsley, chopped
1 tbs fresh thyme or 1 tsp ground
1 tbs tomato paste
salt/pepper to taste
2 bouillon cubes
1 tbs flour
2 tbs butter
1 cup of water or milk
1- 12 oz bag of frozen mixed vegetables to your liking
3 cups of mashed potatoes
1 cup of cheddar cheese, shredded (optional)

Place a large skillet on medium to high heat.  Once the skillet is hot, add the ground beef.  Saute until the meat is cooked through. The meat should be broken up into small pieces.  Next, add the onion, celery, spices, salt, pepper, bouillon cubes, tomato paste, and parsley.  Cook until the onion is translucent.  Once the onion is tender, add the mixed vegetables.  Saute for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. 

In a sauce pan, melt the butter.  Then add the flour. Mix well. Then add milk or water.  Stir on medium to low heat until it becomes thick.  You don't want a lot of sauce. Just enough so that the dish is moist when done. Pour the sauce over the meat/vegetable mixture and mix it well.  Set aside.

Mix 1/2 of the cheese with the mashed potatoes.  Set aside.

Preheat the oven at 350 degrees. Now it is time to assemble the pie.  I used a 2 quart glass casserole dish.  Use butter, oil, or cooking oil spray and coat the inside of the dish.  Pour the meat/vegetable mixture in.  Then add the mashed potatoes on top.  Spread it around like you would frosting on a cake.  It should be about 2 inches or more thick.  Sprinkle on top with the remaining cheese.  Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until bubbly.  Place under the broiler for a couple of minutes to brown the cheese.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy! 

Nov 21, 2012

Daring Red Wallpaper and the Office

Those dreaded cream colored walls at every working establishment have always bothered me.  I know that beige fits into every decor and will not clash with any other color.  But, honestly,life is all about color.  Red is the color of boldness.  It draws attention to itself like no other color.  Back in the early 90's, I worked at a moving company.  We sat in little cubettes, which is what I called them, they were half of a cubical.  All of the workers were lined up like sardines in a can.  Each desk a copy of the next.  A friend and I decided to put wall paper up in our work station with a stapler. (she now works with me at my current job and reminded me about this) It was red with small white dots. It looked beautiful!  We neatly arranged our papers on top with that lovely red background.  People would walk past our area, point and then laugh.  You know what? I didn't care.  I was trying to be an individual.  I wanted to break away from the blandness of everything and bring color into my world of work. 

When I bought my little house, the living room was a dull cream color with taupe carpet.  It was like walking into coldness. There was no warmth or pizazz. The first thing I did was paint the living room red.  It is still red to this day. I am very happy with it.  Have you ever done anything knowing that others might make fun of you? 

Nov 19, 2012

Moroccan Inspired Chicken with Chickpeas, Raisins and Couscous

This is another version of sweet and savory pairing together.  I found this recipe on the Grannies on Safari web site.  I added a few more spices and I like the results. It is a light meal and is good for you.  I think it tastes better the next day too.  


3-chicken legs\thighs (6 pieces), cut at the joint and skinned or 1 lb boneless thighs
3 tbs olive oil or vegetable oil
Salt/pepper to taste
1 onion chopped
3 tbs cilantro chopped
1 ½ tsp cumin
A pinch of saffron
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp paprika, optional
2 tomatoes, skinned and chopped or 1/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
2 ½ cups chicken broth or 2 bouillon cubes and 2 ½ cups of water
2 cups of couscous
1 tbs ghee, optional
1 medium zucchini, shredded
3 tbs raisins
1 can (15 ½ ounces) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
3 tbs honey, optional

In a large Dutch oven add the oil.  When hot add the onion.  Cook until the onion is translucent. Next, add the cilantro and the spices. Simmer for a couple of minutes. I  like to use Knorr cubes and crumble the cube and add along with the spices. Next, add the chicken.  Brown the chicken on both sides. Then add the water or chicken stock ( if you choose to not use bouillon cubes), garbanzo beans, zucchini, and raisins.  Cook on medium heat until the chicken is tender.  Final step is to add the couscous. Remove pot from heat.  If you have a lot of liquid in the pot use more couscous, use 1 cup at a time until you get the consistency that you want. Pour the couscous in the pot and stir. Cover for about 5-10 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings.  Fluff the couscous mixture and serve. Enjoy!

Cooks Note:  I added some honey to give the dish a sweet and savory taste, which I have grown to like since cooking Moroccan food.  Also, you can use salsa instead of the chopped tomatoes or sun-dried tomatoes.  We have a place here in town that makes it fresh everyday.  I used about ½ pint, but you can use as much as you want.

Nov 17, 2012

Herb's Got Wood...Fences and Such

As a friend and I were coming back from our shopping trip, my eye caught an elaborately decorated yard.  We have all seen those yards where there are a lot of things displayed.  Sometimes it is tacky and sometimes it is just wonderful. As we passed by the property, I lamented the fact that I didn't have my camera. A few hours later I returned and luckily the owner was there.  I told him how much I admired what he was doing and asked to take pictures.  Herb Niblick is an artist in a true sense.  He graciously showed me his creation.  As we walked through his various outdoor rooms, I admired the fact that this man loved his yard and what he was doing.  I couldn't help but feel the same way he does. 

Herb chops wood and sells it.   

He builds walls until the wood sells.

Everywhere that I looked there was wood and decorations.

His property roared with creativity

it was also his home

Each room with a view of another.

He set up an ancient marker letting the world know that
He, Too, is Here.