Archive | November 2013

Planning Around Thanksgiving

Veggiful Pasta SaladYou’re having turkey for Thanksgiving on Thursday, right?  Well, that’s okay.  Most of us are.  What about before?  And after?  Sometimes that gets lost in the shuffle.  Yet  I like to try to make a firm contrast to the menus for the week so that the turkey stands out like crazy.

Pre-Turkey, we go for a veggie day, so while I’m chopping all those ingredients for the turkey dinner, I manage to combine a large Veggiful Pasta Salad (recipe follows).  We live on that for a day or two.  Then after The Day, when everyone’s sick of turkey and the inevitable leftovers, I have all the ingredients ready for a Mexican buffet–just as completely DIFFERENT from Turkey as you can get.

While you’re chopping everything but the kitchen sink to add to the typical Thanksgiving dishes, plan ahead and chop enough for the Pasta Salad and the Mexican buffet; you’ll be so glad you did.

As for the Mexican buffet, I won’t provide exact amounts, but the gist of the idea is this:

Pile up one end of your buffet or kitchen table with a huge bin of tortilla chips, a covered stack of warmed flour tortillas (or whole wheat, or spinach or whatever type you prefer).  That will begin your journey down the row as you select what pleases you from the following selection:

–A pan of browned ground beef that’s seasoned with chili powder, cumin, chopped onion or onion powder, garlic, and if you like heat add smoked paprika (if done ahead this is a breeze to thaw out–put the cooled meat mixture into a zip lock freezer bag, mashed as FLAT as possible and freeze–it will be a breeze to thaw in a pan of hot water in just a few minute when you’re ready for it).

–Grated cheese of your choice

–Chopped onions

–Chopped tomatoes

–Chopped jalapenos

–Chopped or sliced black olives,

–Sliced avocados or guacamole

–Freshly chopped lettuce

and any other condiments you prefer on top of nachos

I recommend you add a bowl of chopped pecans and a bowl of coconut to your buffet–really elevates the usual nachos or taco salad

–Your favorite salsa to top it off and to dip chips in try:

–My favorite dip, a brick of creamed cheese popped into a mixer bowl with enough picante sauce to thin it to your desired consistency.

And as for dessert, you can go elaborate if you’re up to it this close to the holidays, or just place a bowl of chocolate covered mints at the end of the table and allow the food to be the star.

BEFORE Turkey day, we always go vegetarian (actually, no one at my house knows this; but if they will think back, we never have anything substantial other than soup or veggie pasta on the day before The Day).

My Best Dependable Veggiful Pasta Salad

Here again, I’m sorry, Friends, I don’t measure.  I boil a bag of my favorite pasta (the 3 colored corkscrew) according to package directions; drain and then drizzle with olive oil  and toss to combine.   Allow the pasta to cool, covered, while you throw together either 1) all the veggies in your fridge that you wish would go away, and whatever packages in the pantry still have just a half cup left in them.  Or 2) about 1/2 cup to 1 cup of each of the following ingredients, chopped into varying shapes: (all are raw)

Broccoli                                   Carrots                   Cauliflower

Bell Peppers in 3 colors           Onions                    Zucchini

Frozen English Peas                Chopped Pecans (or whichever nut you have on hand, but I like their flavor the best)

Dried Cranberries–or blueberries or raisins if you don’t want cranberries

Chopped oranges or tangerines or apples, whichever sounds good to you

Don’t skimp on the sweet stuff…the twang from the berries and citrus really makes a complete flavor profile with the pungent dressing and the smooth background of the pasta.

When you toss the pasta and veggies, the dressing you’re going to mix into them varies.  Either be a wimp and use lots of Ranch dressing, the boring American favorite (just add extra dill).  Or use a good Italian dressing–if you add in a large spoonful of mayonnaise with the Italian it will coat the pasta and veggies better.

I also like Catalina dressing or Russian by themselves or mixed with mayonnaise to taste.  Now, I say these last three because they’re easiest to describe when someone needs amounts.  The actual dressing that I love to use is:

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup lemon juice

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

plenty of garlic powder (1/2 tsp or hopefully more) , 1-2 teaspoons paprika, a big dollop (1 tsp) of oregano, a shake of  smoked paprika, a teaspoonful or so of sugar, 1 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp of black pepper, then taste and see if it needs anything else.

And if you have Anti-Vegetarians in the house, throw in a few shakes of REAL bacon bits and you’ve conquered that argument.  A few cubes of Cheddar, American, or Smoked Gouda or a spoonful of Parmesan will do the same thing.

Mix like crazy, then allow it to sit if you can leave it alone for an hour or so.  I’ll cover my Tupperware bowl with the lid, and chill but pick up and shake really hard a time or two over the next few hours till meal time.

ANY substitutions are welcome; after all, it’s YOUR salad.  If you have corn, or yellow squash, or green beans–hey, it all works.  Just toss it in.

A bit of forethought food-wise will help to get your holiday a bit closer to worry-free.  After all, that’s what we want, the chance to celebrate and relax without a lot of work that makes it seem tedious.  So plan ahead, enjoy your Veggiful Pasta Salad, that wonderful Traditional Tom Turkey, and then the easiest Mexican buffet you’ll ever serve!  (anybody for turkey nacho’s?)

Bon Appetit and may God bless you as you give Thanks for all that He’s created and continues to provide.

…His Blessed Kid

Ballads of the 1920’s…Vernon Dalhart

American singer and songwriter Vernon Dalhart ...

American singer and songwriter Vernon Dalhart (1883-1948) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My last post mentioned one of the old 78 rpm records that I grew up listening to, and as I just learned more about the gentleman who sang it, I thought I’d share the interesting growth of his career and his impact on country music and music publishing as a whole.  The following is excerpted from the YouTube website below one of his recordings:

“Vernon Dalhart (April 6 ,1883 – Sept.14,1948)  was a popular United States singer and songwriter of the early decades of the 20th century. He is a major influence in the field of Country Music.

Dalhart was born Marion Try Slaughter in Marion County, Jefferson, Texas. He took his stage-name from two towns, Vernon and Dalhart in Texas, between which he punched cattle in the 1890s. Dalhart’s father, Robert Marion Slaughter was killed in a fight with his brother-in-law, Bob Castleberry, when Vernon was age 10.

When Vernon was 12 or 13, the family moved from Jefferson to Dallas, Texas. Vernon, who already could play the jew’s harp and harmonica, received vocal training at the Dallas Conservatory of Music.

He saw an advertisement in the local paper for singers and applied and was auditioned by Thomas Alva Edison; he would thereafter make numerous records for Edison Records. From 1916 until 1923, using numerous pseudonyms, he made over 400 recordings of light classical music and early dance band vocals for various record labels. He was already an established singer when he made his first country music recordings which cemented his place in music history.

Dalhart’s 1924 recording of “The Wreck of the Old 97” – a classic American railroad ballad about the September 27, 1903 derailment of Southern Railway Fast Mail train No. 97 near Danville, Virginia – for the Victor Talking Machine Company, became a runaway hit, alerting the national record companies to the existence of a sizable market for country-style vocals. It became the first southern song to become a national success. The double-sided single eventually sold more than seven million copies, a colossal amount for a mid-1920s recording. It was the best-selling single to its time, and was the biggest-selling non-holiday record in the first seventy years of recorded music.

Research by Billboard statistician Joel Whitburn determined “The Prisoner’s Song” to have been a #1 hit for 12 weeks in 1925-26. In 1998, “The Prisoner’s Song” was honored with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award and the Recording Industry Association of America named it one of the Songs of the Century.”

Please spend a few moments listening to a few of the hits recorded by Mr. Dalhart on You Tube. There have since been a Broadway musical and several movies showing different treatments of the story of Floyd Collins’ death.  Yet however you think of Mr. Dalhart, the voice is a classic, the music a tribute to our country’s cultural concerns back in the 1920’s.

Like Fishing? Help me Fish Up an Old 78!

Old Congolese 78 rpm records, being the three ...

One of my better memories of growing up in the countryside near Lexington, Kentucky was learning all the words to my parents’ “platters”—their collection of 78 rpm records.

Songs I learned included Blueberry Hill by Fats Domino, The Death of Floyd Collins sung by Vernon Dalhart, (see my next post) hits by the Andrews Sisters like Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, big bands numbers like Tuxedo Junction, just a really eclectic mix of all my parents’ favorites.

Mom let me spend hours in my chair.  A slightly hyper three year old, I loved hanging sideways in the old maple Boston Rocker, head hanging off the edge, turning the world upside down, playing the 78 RPM records (and later 33 RPM albums) on the victrola.

I was careful with them, almost never let one get scratched, and didn’t play tem too loudly for her comfort.  In point of fact, I think she loved it when I turned them up louder occasionally. I’d sing along to my heart’s content, the little performer in training unaware of the young housewife listening in.

One record, black with a red label, was titled, “The Fishing Song” and was sung by a female, possibly a black woman by her inflection.  She had a trio of back-up singers who were all guys.  I don’t know if my brother has the records now or not, but I haven’t heard the song played in 30 years or so.  I’ve tried googling it, searching through ITunes too, to no avail.  So we’re going on my memory here.

I could sing it for you, but I’ll spare you the pain.  The tune sounded like a swing number, you know, a big band type of sound.  I remember a bass fiddle emphasizing the beat, and the words to the tune went like this:

Once upon a time a little boy was going fishin’ and he asked a little girl to come along,

She said, “Wait till I run and ask my Mommy.’  Presently she came back and sang this song:

‘Mama told me I couldn’t go fishin’ with you.

‘Mama told me I couldn’t go fishing with you.

‘She said us women get the blame when men start playin’ that fishing game, that’s why

‘Mama won’t let me go fishing with you.’  (here the guys echoed “fishin’ with you”)

The trio of guys sings,

‘Hey, Girl, don’t you hear what your Mama say,

‘We’ll do this thing our way,

‘We’ll drive down to old Cape Cod,

‘Cause I’ve got a real nice fishin’ rod,’

(next phrase simultaneous with the girl’s) ‘Hey, Girl, why don’t you let me go fishing with you’

Girls’ line intermingled with the guys’: ‘Oh, no! Unh Uh!  I cain’t fish with you today!’ (echo) ‘Not today’

‘Papa took Mama fishing on the Rio Grande.

‘Papa took Mama fishing on the Rio Grande.

‘He said we’ll catch us a big walleye, well,

‘The fish got away but here am I, that’s why Mama won’t let me go fishing with you.’

‘Mama told me I can’t go fishin’ with you,

‘Mama told me I can’t go fishin’ with you,

‘She said those lines ain’t always made of twine, and

P’apa had more than fishin’ on his mind,’

The whole group ends with a descending trill: “That’s just why I can’t go fishing today……”

I know for sure the song’s title is “The Fishing Song”. I’d like to know the singer, the record label, and where to get a copy of it if possible.  So if you have any idea who sang this please let me know.  Otherwise…beware that Fishing Game!

Erma Bombeck, Move Over. Please.

Me? The new Erma?  Think again.  I’m not nearly as full of sass, not nearly as wise.  I have had the occasional funny blurbs that happen to all of us, but that’s about it.  Not a spectacular life.   Just a meaningful and well-intentioned one, doing the ordinary things that we all do.

Finish high school, go to college, get married, have kids, try to raise them without actually killing them, healthy doses of Gentile guilt, (well, we weren’t Jewish, but I had to use something) and lots of love.

I always told my kids that I would one day be the new Erma Bombeck.  Meaning, I admired and looked up to her, hoped to one day entertain through the printed word and offer my own little insights for what they’re worth.  Yet while raising the kids, attending to all the busyness that becomes our daily existence, the time for writing never seemed to be permitted.

There were always dishes or laundry or a bathroom to clean, or church work to attend to.  I enjoyed cooking for the crowds that we entertained constantly. With volunteer help, I fed 250 each Wednesday evening before prayer meeting, Sunday morning Easter Breakfast (that was my tops in attendance, we fed 555 the last Easter that I was responsible for the  meal).  I surely didn’t accomplish it alone, in fact I had tons of qualified and willing volunteers who made me look pretty good.  So where was the time that I was permitted to devote to writing?

Erma said she would get up early in the morning, before her family arose for the day, and write in her laundry room so she would have privacy.  I totally understand the concept; I just didn’t think I could DO that; my writing seemed like an addition, like having my nails done or reading a magazine—I just wasn’t able at the time to place a high priority on it. I lost hundreds of hours of sleep writing, so I guess I sandwiched mine in after bedtime.   I craved it, always felt as though it was silently, patiently waiting on me to get through with the necessities of a mother’s harried life so that I could devote to it the quantity of time it deserved in order to thrive.

That’s not the appropriate attitude for someone who was born to write, but that’s what I was stuck with.  And now, thirty plus years later, I find myself in a situation that is supremely designed to allow me to focus solely on writing.  No other priority comes before it.  I find myself jealously guarding my writing time, even avoiding simple opportunties to hang out with friends in order to pursue my private heaven of writing writing writing.

So at this point the question is, what’s the value in what I’ve written, and who is ever going to get to read it?  Good question, that.  I’m not sure I can assess a value to the writing; I only know that I feel called; I have to do it.  I find peace in writing.  Not in stream of consciousness, spill-your-guts writing, but in seriously working to convey the experience that I’ve lived so that the reader can experience the same outcome, the same emotions that I found when I lived through the events.  Tall order.  But it’s what I’m driven to do. So, move over, Erma.

Humble Pie

The qualities listed in Galatians 5:22 are called “fruits” of the Spirit, fruits as I see it being the yield or result of a plant (life) that’s growing in the right direction with the aid of being planted in the best location, constant feedings of nutritious food, sufficient waterings, necessary prunings, etc.

A bit of food for thought about virtues…I’m sure you’ve heard about the problem with humility…such an elusive virtue. Like the guy they awarded the big fancy gold pin that said Modesty Award, but then had to take it back because he actually wore it, I’m trying to determine how I know that my efforts toward becoming a better person are succeeding. I’m not talking about a superior attitude or making a show of magnanimous gestures, but solemn effort spent of my own resources.

In that regard, I spend time wondering at the virtues I strive to master; to imbue, instill, to become so much a part of me that (on a lighter note) my picture is beside that word in the dictionary. That’s not an egotistical desire; there’s certainly nothing wrong with striving to be kind, gracious, generous, giving, loving, in fact all of those are basically the things we’re instructed to pursue in Galatians: “…Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

There’s a fine line though, between striving to become that virtue and wanting to be noticed for acting that way. It sickens me to see those who (you can read it on their faces and in their attitudes) are ‘Super Christians’ who can do no wrong…they remind me of the old cliché from Bible College days, (chanted with sarcasm) “we don’t smoke or drink or chew, and we don’t go with guys that do.” That attitude surely smacks of the old Pharisee, doesn’t it? That’s not at all what I’m looking for, in fact that’s exactly the trap I’m afraid of falling into if I’m not very careful!

As far as actions, one proven way to gain a practice is to fake it till you make it. Right? The old ’21 days repetitively a new habit doth make.’ After all, a common counseling technique says when you’re working on caring more for someone than you do, simply acting as though you do will usually cause that feeling to grow…because doing kindnesses for another person leads your heart to caring for their welfare, their happiness. And also makes you feel (for lack of a better word) virtuous, that you’ve accomplished something commendable.

So a part of wanting to serve others ends up in pride and satisfaction at my own accomplishment of good works on their behalf. And that’s where I get confused.

The only time I’ve come to realize that I’ve really accomplished the change in personality that I’ve been striving seriously for is when someone would be surprised that I would bother to do whatever it was that touched them…giving to them, yielding my right to a position or advantage, etc. When they were pleased that it was second nature to me to give of my time and efforts, then I realized I’d accomplished my goal.

Oops. Here, somebody take my Modesty button. Darn it. Start over.

2013-08-08 21.41.34

Sugar Sense


A while back, I was offered the opportunity to learn.  This little Opportunity was discovered in the snow-covered parking lot of a local church, either abandoned or lost, traumatized–and nearly frozen to death.  You can see by the photo at right that most of her fur was gone; she was scratched and battered, one hip tender, and terrified of every noise, every moving object.  Her ribs testified she was nearly starved to death–who knows how long it had been since she was fed.  She wasn’t more than six to seven weeks old, the vet said.

She was rescued, delivered into the arms of a kind veterinarian who worked with her for most of what they expected was her last night of life.  The vet offered her to me, asking if I wanted to nurse her and see if she lasted more than a day or two.

I cuddled her shivering cinnamon-colored mass in a tiny quilted doll’s blanket; she quivered at my touch, those giant brown eyes staring me down, imploring me to be trustworthy.  I drove home cradling her in my arms (it wasn’t more than a mile and a half of small town neighborhood streets).

“Brought you something, Sweetheart,” I said as I opened the front door of my house.  I gently dropped her two bony pounds into my husband’s lap and watched her dive into the crook of his elbow, hiding from the world.

“What’s this?” he asked, holding her up to study those two gigantic brown pools of need and love.

“An experiment,” I said, pouring a small helping of dog food into a dish and placing it on the sofa nearby, “and if it works, your Valentine’s present.”  Lifting her from his grasp, I placed her onto the sofa, kneeling down beside her to make sure she didn’t dive off the sofa in her new environment.

She wobbled a bit, lurched overNeenees New Baby  Sugar Bear 021410 to the dish and shakily took a mouthful of crunchy little bits.  She crunched the noisy bits with an effort, and began to eat faster and faster, wolfing down every bite with relish.  I wasn’t sure if I should limit how much she got at first—but decided to let her have at it until she was full.  She ate until every bite was gone, and licked the dish thoroughly.

As the little bulging tummy with legs waddled over and crawled onto my lap, I knew.  We had a future.  And it was sugary.  “Welcome home, Sugar Bear.”


Peace– It Was Just Around the Corner All the Time

New Directions--We're On Our Way!

New Directions–We’re On Our Way!

We had enough.

For way too long, we went along to get along.  Ever done that?  It was so subtle we didn’t even realize we were doin’ it.  This wasn’t right, and that seemed a bit odd.  Should we complain?  Nah, don’t make waves.  You see, we’re new at being Conservators, and had no idea what was expected, or how quickly things can go wrong.

Our son was a successful student at Kings Daughters Center for Autism, and graduated with great pomp and celebration.  He learned several new skills, in fact learned to communicate with others in the public…a major feat in our eyes.

At that point he became an “adult” and was moved with the help of his State advocates to a new home, I suppose you could call it a “group”  home but he was the only resident for several months.  He was soon joined by a young roommate, and they were both supervised by a new provider of care, growing faster than was healthy for it.  For a time things were fine.  Then little details began to slip here and there.  Nothing major.  But definitely on the increase.  We were appointed Conservators…and were supposed to…what?  I knew how to care for him myself; but how to direct others?  We were located out of state; not sure how to proceed.  That Conservator responsibility was a bit beyond us…and he nearly paid dearly for our inexperience.

Before you know it, my stepson was ill.  Hospitalized.  With SEPSIS.  That’s not just sick.  That’s neglected sick, folks.  Life threatening.  And the deeper we checked, the more discrepancies we found.  When you find a few things that don’t fit, you can’t help but wonder how many have escaped your notice already.

So we had enough.  We put into motion the steps–most of them taken by others at our request, we didn’t do all the work.  Don’t get me wrong; most of this very necessary and urgent change was brought about by those who are experts in their field, and tremendously dedicated.  We insisted that the great State of Tennessee help us to help our son by moving him into a safe and secure environment, and quickly.  And more than one dozen people basically moved heaven and earth for us, to get this young man ready to transition into a different home, cared for by a different company of caregivers who are supremely trained, carefully screened, continually monitored.  They have so many checks and balances in place it’s a bit tedious…but thank goodness it’s there, and it’s working like it’s supposed to work.

We went shopping, collected furniture and furnishings, and drove to Tennessee and installed his new belongings in his new location, and Friday morning, we joyously collected him with all his clothing and incidentals and moved him into his new home with a kind young roommate that is delighted to have him, anxious to challenge and engage him, and help to elevate his quality of life.

Today I can say that I’m at peace.  I know that our son is receiving the best care that he could possibly have.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not saying that all is perfect and nothing can go wrong.  I’m simply saying that we’re striving for excellence and accountability.  And I believe we’ve found both.  And that’s enough.