Confessions on Potato Salad

10844_tart_cranberry_pieI do not have a sophisticated palate; I’m far from a gourmand.  Both of my grandmothers were excellent cooks; they prepared rural, regional cuisines.  My paternal grandmother was the family legend of baking: pies, donuts, blueberry muffins, and cinnamon rolls were her forte.  I knew I’d never learn to make pie crust or breads like hers.

Thus, given my upbringing I never discovered delectable Italian dishes until I went to elementary school.  In fact, I have vivid memories of sitting next to a girl in the lunch room who was eating what appeared to be some variation of bread slathered with tomato sauce and meat.  “What is that?  It’s smells wonderful.”

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“You don’t know?  It’s pizza.  Want to try some?”

“Sure.  I’ll trade you one of my Mom’s chocolate chip cookies for it.”  My adoration of Italian food began.

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Then, horrors of horrors!  I was asked to bring potato salad to a party.  Me?  Every time I tried to make it, it was not edible.  I knew I couldn’t go to the deli and buy it, for those places are rife with creepy diseases.  The last thing I wanted was to be the cause of Montezuma’s revenge!

I fired up the computer and searched the net.  Finally, I found a recipe that even I might put in my mouth.  Of course, I made a “dry run” and served it to my kid.  Both she and I pronounced it the best we’d ever eaten! In case, you want to try my tweaked concoction:

  1. Peel, cube, and boil potatoes.  Remove and drain when still rather firm.  Drizzle one and one-half teaspoons of white vinegar over potatoes and let sit.
  2. Chop celery, one or to two green onions, and one hard-boiled egg.
  3. In mixing bowl, blend equal parts of Miracle Whip, Mayonnaise, with a squirt of mustard and celery salt or celery seed. (The combo of Miracle Whip and Mayo is key!)
  4. Toss and stir everything together and let stand in refrigerator for at least two hours.

Trust me.  It’s a winner!

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On Being 105

 

According to folklore, dog years are multiplied by 7.  Thus, I have a part pomeranian, part yorkie who recently had her fifteen birthday in people years or 105 dog years.  Meet Tessa Marie Jenkins, the centenarian!

Tessa was her original name, but over time, Marie and Jenkins were added.  Why? I don’t know.  In her early years, she was an active, friendly little dog, but then she became a recluse.  She spent the majority of her time under the bed.  So much so, that many of our family and friends asked, “Who’s that elusive dog of which I caught a glimpse?”  She kept her distance even from me.  She ran and hid if I tried to pet her.  I had to feed her in a separate room, as she wouldn’t eat in front of the others.  My kids called her a diva.  “She’s too good for our company.  Such a high-maintenance snob!”

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Then miraculously, two years ago Tessa Marie came out from under the bed.  She ate with my other dogs, and she even came to parties.  I took her to the vet for her innoculations and check-up, and the vet said she was in wonderful condition.  “Sue, you must have just had her teeth cleaned.  Her teeth are immaculate.”  I only nodded–little did he know her teeth had never been cleaned.  (I’m not a fan of routinely putting dogs to sleep for teeth cleaning, unless infection threatens their health.)

These days Tessa is a spry, active and very demanding 105 year-old.  She barks and barks until she gets a dog biscuit or three.  I can’t tell her “no” because she is stone deaf.  Yet, when her internal clock goes off, she barks until her dinner is served.  She barks when she needs to patrol the backyard, and she barks when she sees someone at the front door.

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Tessa has lived in my house for 15 years and has never gone near the swimming pool.  However, this week, during a romp, she fell in the deep end.  I was in shock!  She’s freaking old; she’ll have a heart attack and plummet ten feet down.  No.  She swam to the side, where my cabana boy rescued her.  Though I was sure she’d have some type of injury or side effect, she shook herself off as we towel-dried her.  She sprinted around the yard; I imagined her singing: Hey, now.  I’m a Rock Star!  I was amazed at her energy.

I guess I need to add this to my daily, dietary intake:

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Heart Month

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This month’s blogs will focus on heart; no, I’ve not morphed into Delilah!  My eldest is a nurse practitioner who specializes in heart failure.  When I mentioned to her I was going to get my nails done, her reply was, “Wear red nail polish!”

“Why?”

“It’s national heart month, and one in three women die from heart issues.”

I followed her direction.  (Long ago I learned not to argue with her, as she far more knowledgeable about medical issues, more bossy, and cuter.)

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With that said, I share a poignant story of heart. Two young friends of mine, Mike and Becky, bought a 10,000 square foot, antique mall, Zinnias, and turned it into an eclectic Phoenix landmark.  The couple had many humorous adventures across America “picking” for collectibles, which eventually resulted in my officiating their wedding several years later.  Of course, aptly the venue for their wedding was Zinnias they had decked out with colorful murals of their new life together.  Their Boston terrier, Detective, is one of the mural’s focal points.

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When the Arizona legislature passed SB 1062 (later vetoed by the governor) that allowed any business owner, based on religious reasons, to deny sales to gay and lesbian customers, Mike and Becky posted: Open for Business to Everyone signs.  With their technological expertise, they pioneered a cloud inventory and created international sales of vintage items via social media.

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Sadly, the NYC absentee owner of the property recently raised their rental fee to an unconscionable amount and refused to sell them the building, unless they offered an exorbitant amount of money.  At the end of the month, Zinnias will close.  However, Mike recently reflected: We wanted to create a place where people of all races, religions, socioeconomic standings, and ages felt like they belonged.  Zinnias was the Cheers bar for Phoenix antiques shoppers.  Mike and Becky accomplished it.

Best of luck to great for with big hearts!

Gullibility: $

 

 

New-Small-Designer-Slim-Women-Red-font-b-Wallet-b-font-Thin-Zipper-font-b-LadiesMe thinks there is a substantial percentage of American consumers, who are so gullible they pay outrageous prices for routine items.  Of course, my daughters are in that group. To me, a handbag or wallet fulfills a need.  To them, it is a fashion statement.  So I ask you: when was the last time you ogled someone’s wallet at the store checkout?  When was the last time you coveted someone’s choice of paper towels or toilet paper?  When was the last time you envied someone’s plastic bottle of water?

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This week, I was early to an appointment, so I entered a designer grocery–the kind which caters to folk with more money than sense.  I perused the inflated prices: boneless, chicken breasts at $5.99 a pound, broccoli crowns at $4.99 a pound, and the deli was serving $10 a cup coffee.  I found this curious as the day before I paid $1.47 a pound for boneless chicken breasts.  Obviously, something is seriously wrong with my palate.  Chicken is chicken.  Beef, however, is another matter.  (Ribeye steaks are far superior to round steak.)

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Yet, the most outrageous item I saw on my adventure was one, peeled navel orange in a plastic container. It’s price: $6.00!  Had I known folk were so gullible, I would have picked my plentiful oranges, peeled and contained them, and undercut the price by one dollar.  Damn!  I’d be wealthy!  Maybe, next year.

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National November Writing Month

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Familiarly known as NaNoWriMo, is an internet opportunity in which both professional and amateur authors attempt to write a 50,000-word novel in thirty days.  Now if November isn’t busy enough with Thanksgiving, holiday shopping, and decorating, thousands of folk embrace this endeavor.  I have a friend, who teaches full-time, has a family, and has engaged in this foolishness for the last three years.  Quite frankly, I admire her stamina because I personally couldn’t stand the pressure.  After all, timed tests freak me out.

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Early in July, I decided to write a novel.  Believe me, it’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.  It has consumed me, kept me awake at night, and even driven me to speak in dialogue.  Sue admonished her labradoodle, “Lexy, Sue doesn’t like when you bark.”  At first, I thought I was crazy; then, I realized I was still scripting in my head.

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I’m a tad over four months into my novel, and to date have written 77,199 words.  Though loosely based on my experience, I’ve spent hours researching and reading to give the book a bit of authenticity.  Thankfully, my brother, who conceived the original idea has provided invaluable assistance in forensic dentistry and tweaking and twisting the plot line.  We anticipate the first draft will be completed by mid-December, necessitating another three months or so of revising and editing.

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Believe me, this is not the great American novel.  It won’t make the best seller’s list, nor will it be picked up by a TV producer or professional publisher.  It may be read by five or ten of my family and friends.  Yet, my attempt has broadened my experience; it’s pushed me out of my comfortable, lazy existence and kept me off the streets!

Whether I’ll ever work this hard again, I doubt it.  But I certainly know I will not be a participant in NaNoWriMo.  Dr. Suze lacks self-discipline and persistence.

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The Cicada and The Tortoise: A Curious Tale

Admittedly, I’m a technological immigrant.  Further, I’m technologically challenged.  I belong in a special class with any 10-year-old teacher.  Even five-year-olds today, know more than me.  My daughters and the school board folk have drug me into this new arena, and I know just enough to be dangerous.  While I enjoy that the world is now just one arrow key away and adore my cell phone convenience, I abhor “auto correct”  and the feature of speaking rather than typing. Lord knows, I sent far too many incoherent messages and emails.  A heinous crime, when the author is an English major!

On the other hand, I laugh uproariously when I receive one of these messages.  This week I received the following:

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Hmm.  A large cicada, which looks like a desert tortoise.  I was engulfed in laughter.  A family pet?  Even funnier.  Did they clip its wings so it wouldn’t fly off?

Really?  I see no likeness in the least.  Yet, I was sad I have no artistic talent.  Can you imagine the joy of creating such a creature?  I bet Dr. Seuss would have drawn and made millions on this hybrid character.

My neighbor and I had several hilarious conversations discussing the email.  We concluded the sender must be whacked.   Twas, not the case.  Damnable auto correct was at fault.  Behold the sulcata tortoise.

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Columbus Took A Chance Redux

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Six weeks ago, my blog was titled: Columbus Took a Chance, which concerned my venture to my ‘hood, dive bar.  Far outside my comfort zone, but I did it.  Many of you encouraged me to go back again for Tuesday Trivia Night.  Some of you were gracious enough to express your interest in forming a trivia team.

Finally, folks’ schedules matched, and this week we met as a team.  Cheap food, cheap drinks, and no entry fee.  Just fun.  Our team was comprised of Brittany’s father, Ken; Brittany, and her husband, Matt; my eldest, Annie; and me.  Three, thirty somethings and two, well-seasoned adults. Given the beach decor of the bar, Matt and Brittany chose our team name as “Wilson.”  I thought they were talking about Wilson sports equipment, but no.  It was some character from a beach movie.  Clueless Sue.

Thankfully, the disc jockey noted we were new to the game and explained in detail the rules.  Three prizes would be awarded: $25, $15, and $5 in bar money.  Since there were only four teams that night, we felt confident we would win a prize.  Matt commandeered our team, kept our score tally, and pronounced, “We’re in it to win it.”  OK, I thought.  Doubtful.  Whatever.

Unlike the first time I sat on the sidelines during Trivia Night and knew all the answers, I was a veritable, non-contributor.  Rap and Country Western music, current movies, and pro sports are not in my brain bank.  I was stunned by Ken’s absolute brilliance  when he knew the Dallas Cowboys were a $4.3 billion franchise.  Annie shone in Country Music, Brittany and Matt knew every movie, TV show, and Rap artist.  I just sat, rooted them on, and paid the tab.  The least I could do for my overt lack of knowledge.

The disc jockey totaled the scores, “And first place goes to Team Wilson!  Twenty-five dollars in bar money.”  WTF?

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Matt tossed the bar bucks at me.  “See, Sue.  I told you we’d win.  Brittany and I’ll see you next Tuesday.  Team Wilson will buy!”

This is NOT a dive bar.  It has immaculate restrooms, nice patrons, and an attentive wait staff.  Unfortunately, Annie can’t be there next week.  So if you’re a Country Western music expert, take a chance and join Team Wilson!  We’re buying….

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Bon Vivant…Not

I’ve never been a gourmet cook, perhaps because of my upbringing.  Both of my grandmothers were simple, country girls who prepared simple, country meals.  Each had their strengths.  My maternal, Tennessee, grandmother’s fried chicken and green beans were delicious.  My paternal grandmother’s homemade cinnamon rolls,  blueberry muffins, and fruit pies were spectacular.  Beef, pork, or chicken with various potato dishes were my staple.  On rare occasions, fish was served.  My mom never mastered the art of anything that tasted like spaghetti sauce, but to this day, her banana cakes light up my palate!

As a mom, I tried to introduce my kids to different foods.  As toddlers, they abhorred baby food carrots and peas.  Who wouldn’t?  For years, my youngest ate only chicken fingers or a hot dog smothered with ketchup.  The thought of ingesting a piece of lettuce, a slice of tomato, or a green bean gagged her.  In contrast, my eldest was more daring.  She loved spaghetti, stuffed peppers, prime rib, and baked potatoes and sour cream.  Today, she’s a sushi addict.

However, when we’re together and want to venture out for dinner, we frequent Mexican or Chinese restaurants.  I accepted long ago I’d never be able to duplicate their culinary expertise.  When we’re in NYC, we eat cheese cake.  Yes, we have compiled a list of best to so-so.)

Admittedly, I’ve never prepared veal, lamb, elk, javelins, deer, nor pheasant.  Further my thought of preparing brains, liver, or mountain oysters gags me.  So you can imagine my reaction to a high-end magazine’s feature story: Welcome to the New World of Eating Insects.

Dragonflies, ants, grasshoppers, cicada, water bugs, and…freaking scorpions and tarantulas!  According to one source, “over 2 billion people regularly rely on one of the 1,900 edible species of insects as a source of protein.”  Cricket-flour chips are the new rage. Frankly, I can’t think of anything more revolting than a fly whose just sat on one of my dogs’ poop ending up in a casserole.

And to those of you who’ve been invited to my dinner party next week, the evite read: BYOB.  I’m well-stocked with booze.  Bring Your Own Bugs!

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November Moth (Epirrita dilutata)

A Timely Tale of Bullies

 

 

th-1A few weeks ago, I shared the story of Bob, my current cabana boy.  Bob and his burly dog, Max moved into my guest house over a year ago.  For a year, Max only ventured outside when my dogs were in the house.  If they happened to see him, they’d chase him back through his doggy door.   They’d gnash their teeth if they spied him through the sliding glass door.  I would go and visit Max; I felt sorry for him, for his dad was gone much of the time.  He spent endless hours alone–unhealthy for a pack animal.  Dogs want to belong.

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Like some of our children, Max was a victim of bullies.  He was lonely and afraid.  Even though, I made numerous attempts to introduce him to the group, they refused…unless his dad was present.  Surprisingly, two weeks ago, Max wandered up on my patio and came through my doggy door.  Given the mid-afternoon, Phoenix heat,  my five were all asleep in various locales.  No one took notice.  And on that very afternoon, Max moved in.  He quickly adapted to our routine.  He knows his dinner is served in the laundry room, as each dog has an assigned space, i.e. office, powder room, playroom, kitchen.   (Yes, with six dogs, I need separation at meal time.)

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Further, like the rest of the pack, he understands I am the Alpha.  It is my way!  (Wish my own children understood I run the pack!). Curiously, though, Max quickly assumed another role–chief body guard of Sue.  I can not walk from room to room without him beside me. He follows me around the pool as I brush grit from the walls.  When repairmen come, I must banish him back to his own abode, as the hair raises down his spine and his teeth are in full display.  No doubt, he is my protector!

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Certainly, I was hesitant to bond with Max; he is Bob’s dog.  Yet, most of us want a haven to belong.  We don’t like being made fun of or ostracized.  Each of us has something to share; each of us wants to further the greater good.  So for the most part, the rest of the pack is relieved to not be #1 in guard duty of the old witch.  All is well.

I shall never understand why Max ventured into my house two weeks ago.  Perhaps his loneliness fueled his instinct to just belong.  Hmm.  Wonder if there’s a lesson here?

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Columbus Took a Chance

 

Screen Shot 2013-10-11 at 9.22.15 AMThe mantra of my maternal grandmother, probably my clone.  She lived to be 99.5 years, had a great sense of humor, and was overtly willing to try most everything–even a second marriage at 80 years old.

Granted it’s taken far too many years to embrace my single status, but it was time for me to take risks, e.g. go to a movie alone, go to a restaurant alone, etc.  And so, it began.  I ventured to safe havens; I didn’t get my hair and face all made up.  I’d no desire to be some old man’s purse, nor nurse.

Then I decided to do something edgy–something outside my comfort zone–something quasi-dangerous.  I took a chance and obviously survived.  I stop short of saying it was a great or an exhilarating experience; it was fine.  And I DID IT!

I’ve lived in my ‘hood for over 26 years and was always curious about a nearby bar and grill.  It looked tacky from the outside–the kind where there with lots of cars parked in front at 8:00 AM.  Once I asked my savvy daughter about it, “Mom, it’s a dive bar where they serve underage kids.”  Hmm.  Wonder why she knew that.  On another occasion while standing in the grocery store line, I heard the gal in front of me say to the cashier, “Come over tonight.  Hot roast beef sandwich special.”  Hmm.  One of my favorites.

All this data was stored someplace in brain.  Would I retrieve it?  Would I venture into this elusive, dangerous place?  Again, another several years passed.  This week Phoenix was overwhelmed with sweltering heat.  I’d spent two weeks awaiting a cooktop replacement.  It was far too hot to turn on the oven, or to cook on the outdoor grill.  I was tired of microwaved food.  I was hungry, but it was taco night.  Damn, the last thing I needed was a spicy taco to ignite my hair.  I assessed my ‘hood options; none whose cuisine appealed.   Perhaps, I should go to the sketch bar.  Don’t clean yourself up; go as you are.  You’re not looking for the proverbial love in all the wrong places.  Suck it up and go.

As I drove the two miles,  I weighed my decision.  My inner voice echoed, “Sue, are you sure you want to do this?”  I struggled.  What would my kids say?

I walked into this supposed dive bar, which wasn’t dive at all.  Lord, I’ve been in worse.  Over 90% of the folk in there were my age, and fortunately, I didn’t see anyone I knew.  I ate my dinner, listened to the DJ, and silently played his trivia game.  Silently?  Yes, they had formed teams hours ago. Though I knew the answers, I wasn’t on a team. No need to be rude.

I smiled in my short trip back home.  I slew a dragon; I conquered my fear of the unknown; I survived.  I took a chance.

If there’s a next time, I will clean myself up and join a trivia team.