an early thanksgiving…

(Written yesterday…)

I’m celebrating a couple of days before everyone else, as my daughter makes her way home from Pittsburgh, and before that Houston.

Hubby and I finished off decorating her bedroom after having it recently remodeled…stripped the 70s “popcorn” from the ceiling…replaced that yucky white-turned-dirty-beige carpet

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…relocated  the closet across the room, and enlarged it. Before, the side of it greeted you as you entered the room. It was difficult getting large furniture in and out.

Now I’m in the kitchen cooking up a pot of stew. Portuguese bean soup to be exact. 

My daughter’s looking forward to returning to hearth and home after a couple of months of…eating on the run in Houston…and bunking on an air mattress in Pittsburgh. Mind you, she loved it since she got to do what she loves best…dance!

However, my daughter’s no shrinking violet when it comes to mom’s good-old-fashioned, home cooked meals. She gobbles them right up. (Holiday pun.)

The other thing she’ll be doing is catching up on some much needed shut-eye. Rehearsing and performing for shows, not to mention the daily dance classes to warm up, are wearing on the body. 

Eat. Sleep. Watch old movies on TV with mom. And play Bananagrams with her old fogey parents, will fill my daughter’s calendar…at least for a few days. After that, back to exercise and keeping in tip top shape in order to dance.IMG_4296

And who knows where the wind will blow her next. My daughter plans to audition for contemporary dance companies here and abroad. 

So as long as we’re blest to have her in our midst, her dad and I will make the most of the time we have with the daughter who is…

…our sunshine…and our moon...

………hugmamma.IMG_5171

PORTUGUESE BEAN SOUP…yummy in your tummy! (ham hocks, short ribs, smoked sausage, kidney beans, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, watercress, onions, and papaya)

“Good Morning!”

…can we ever have enough SCONE recipes?…especially when I have…zero!
……..hugmamma.

"On Dragonfly Wings with Buttercup Tea"


Weekly Photo Challenge 19 - Good MorningScones, Devonshire Cream and Jam
Not just for mornings!


WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge:
“Good Morning!”

______________________________________________

Recipe for Best-Ever Scones

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup whipping cream, divided
Wax paper

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 450°. Stir together first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender until crumbly and mixture resembles small peas. Freeze 5 minutes. Add 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. cream, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened.

2. Turn dough out onto wax paper; gently press or pat dough into a 7-inch round (mixture will be crumbly). Cut round into 8 wedges. Place wedges 2 inches apart on a lightly greased baking sheet. Brush tops of wedges with remaining 2 Tbsp. cream just until moistened.

3. Bake at 450°…

View original post 260 more words

common sense…business sense

As I was returning home from exercise class this morning, I overheard chef Tom Douglas, a Seattle fixture, speaking on NPR radio. He was in the midst of an interview with the station’s host.

_MG_9096

_MG_9096 (Photo credit: rwoan)

It was no surprise that the main discourse centered upon food, recipes and Douglas’ several restaurants, of which there are many…

Lola
Palace Kitchen
Dahlia Lounge
Dahlia Bakery
Etta’s
Serious Pie Downtown
Seatown
Brave Horse Tavern
Cuoco
Serious Biscuit
Serious Pie Westlake
Ting Momo

Douglas was also promoting his recently published…The Dahlia Bakery Cookbook.

While I did salivate at the mention of…flaky pie crusts piled high with homemade coconut cream filling…made-from-scratch whipped cream…soft, fluffy, buttery biscuits…it was Douglas’ talk about something else that I found most intriguing.

The news has been rife with talk about businesses that are planning to adopt drastic measures with regards to the Affordable Health Care Act, should President Obama win a second term. Among them…firing employees, or cutting hours so that full-time employees are made part-timers without benefits.

Chef Douglas spoke with disdain for a particular restaurant conglomerate that is opting for the part-time solution. The crime in this, as Douglas sees it, is that the conglomerate has just purchased a large chain of restaurants for $567 million…IN CASH!!!

A throwback to the good old days, Douglas places great value upon his employees. He takes pride in providing a workplace environment in which his workers are productive. And for their efforts, Douglas pays them well and provides them with good health insurance.

It was my sense, that how he managed his employees was a…no brainer. Interesting how some businessmen get it…and others haven’t a clue.

When asked how much his labor costs were, Douglas indicated it was 45% of his business. He went on to say that with revenues in the millions, he felt it was a fair price to pay. Douglas admitted to a thin margin of profit, but explained that it was enough for him to live well.

HHHEEELLLOOO???  Could we please clone this man…Chef Tom Douglas???

I’ve been to two of his restaurants, Etta’s and Dahlia. Having been enlightened about Douglas’ management practices, I plan to patronize his establishments more regularly.

Seattle chef Tom Douglas and staff in front of...

Seattle chef Tom Douglas and staff in front of his restaurant, the Dahlia Lounge, on Second Avenue in, Seattle, Washington, doing a sort of pre-Thanksgiving Day stunt of giving away food. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…we can make a difference…one decision at a time…

………hugmamma. 

in need of a chocolate fix?

Hubby and I had a deliciously, quiet Thanksgiving this year. Owing to the fact that I had just visited with our daughter for an extended stay the end of October, our family decided we’d forgo our usual celebration in her neck of the woods and stay put, she there, us here.

Because of Nutcracker rehearsals, our ballerina daughter is unable to travel home until sometime during the Christmas holidays. So with Costco’s assistance she provided the turkey breast and fixings for the pot-luck dinner with other dancer friends who were also unable to be with their families. From the sounds of it all went well, and our daughter continues, unwittingly, towards happyily-ever-after domesticity. Little does she know… 

I opted for the help of Trader Joe’s on Thanksgiving Day. It was they who provided all the neat, little boxes filled with delicacies that only required my assistance in reheating, whether in the oven or the microwave. Doing it up in style, I transferred all the goodies into my lovely Portmeiron serving dishes.Portmeirion Botanic Garden Amazon Exclusive 20-Piece Starter Set, Service for 4(amazon.com)

 If my hubby hadn’t been in on the game plan, he might’ve assumed I’d cooked everything from scratch. I guess I would’ve been outed since I hadn’t slaved away in the kitchen all day, while he relaxed watching football on the tely. If memory serves me correctly, I was probably decorating the house for Christmas. I’m not one for sitting still…unless I’m writing, of course.

One dish I knew I wanted to make with my own two hands, however, was a chocolate pie for my husband. It is one of his favorite desserts, as it was one of my father-in-law’s…a loving and generous man…whose soul now rests in heavenly peace.

Shopping for a box of chocolate pudding, among other things, I happened to glance at the recipe on its side. “Oh my gosh!” I thought, “I’m making this dessert!” Needless to say it was a huge hit with my husband, and me, as I’m sure it will be with you.

candy crunch pudding pie

1-1/2 cups cold milk*
1 pkg. (5.9 oz) JELL-O Chocolate Fudge Flavor Instant Pudding
1 tub (8 oz) COOL WHIP Whipped Topping
2 milk chocolate English toffee candy bars (1.4 oz each), chopped**
1 OREO Pie Crust (6 oz)
Chocolate syrup***

BEAT milk and pudding mix with whisk 2 minutes. Stir in 1/2 COOL Whip and all but 3 Tbsp. candy. SPOON into crust. TOP with remaining COOL WHIP and candy. Drizzle with chocolate syrup.

*I’m lactose intolerant so I used almond milk. It worked just fine.
**SKOR bars are a god option.
***Easier to use than melting BAKER’S Semi-Sweet Chocolate, as recipe said.

…from my sweet tooth…to yours…buon appetito!!!(photo by Cat Cindy Lady @ allrecipes.com)

………hugmamma.  😉

365 photo challenge: trading

trading places?

trading stocks?………sorry………none to trade……… 

trading baseball cards?………will a photo do?……… trading lives?

trading jokes?  

how about…trading recipes?

“meatloaf maui no ka oe“……………….interested?

click on “recipe exchange” at the top of the blog, beneath the header…………..

take mine………in exchange for one of yours…….meatloaf, if you like………or something else………just link to your posting………

anyone can join the recipe exchange……….the more, the merrier!!!

can’t wait to check out other deelish dishes………hugmamma.  🙂 

weekly photo challenge: hot

When this was done it was still toooo hot to eat………………….         

…but sooooo delicious when it cooled down…………………………………

You might want to save the following recipe for a wintry day. I don’t think there’ll be too many takers in the sweltering temps that had the south, and now the midwest, in a stranglehold. But the seasons change in the blink of an eye, so keep it handy. 

Click on Portuguese Bean Soup, recipe and enjoy a hearty, flavorful meal with your favorite bread. And when you dine, imagine that you’re in Hawaii, where I learned to make it as a young bride, or Seattle, where I’m still making it after 41 years of wedded bliss.

from our home to yours…with hugs……………..hugmamma.

quench your thirst…and make some $$$

Sen. Joe Biden buys lemonade at the 2007 Itali...

Image via Wikipedia

Have you ever sold lemonade from a makeshift stand as a child? I have. Those were the good old days, when making a living was simpler. When I needed some spending money, my best friend and I would just throw together some cardboard boxes, from which we’d sell our freshly-made beverage.

In my time, we probably sold a cupful of lemonade for no more than a nickel. Maybe some kind adult would spend a dime so we could sell out faster, and get down to the real business…of playing. This recipe reminded me of my childhood and some of the fun times my friends and I had. Of course, in those days lemonade was…well, lemonade, made with lemons, water and sugar. I don’t think my mom would’ve pitched in for some fancy, schmancy fruits to add. She’d have probably asked “What are you making? Watermelon Raspberry Lemonade?!?” I don’t think she would’ve followed it up with “Are you crazy or something?!?” But you never know…you never know.

So go help your kids set up a lemonade stand, and do pitch in for the extra ingredients. After all these are not the “good old days,”…these are the “better than ever days.” And have a cupful yourself. Then get out there, enjoy the day with your kids…and play!!! Take the opportunity when you can, for one day you’ll be reminiscing like me…about the “good old days.”

Watermelon Raspberry Lemonade

Raspberries (Rubus Idaeus).

Image via Wikipedia

6 cups watermelon cubes (seeds removed)
1/4 cup raspberries
1 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 lemon juice

Place watermelon, raspberries and water in blender
container; cover and blend until smooth. Strain
through fine-mesh strainer into pitcher. Stir in sugar
and lemon juice until sugar dissolves. Refrigerate
until chilled, about 1 hour. Makes 4 servings.

Obviously you’ll have to up the quantity of ingredients. I don’t think 4 servings is going to make successful entrepeneurs of your children. Unless, of course, they have a little bit of Christ in them. You know, like when he multiplied a few fish and loaves of bread in order to feed the masses gathered about him. Or unless your little ones can pull off some of the stunts I’ve seen magicians do now days on America’s Got Talent.” What am I thinking? If you’ve got budding magicians in your household…forget about lemonade stands…even ones selling fancy, schmancy…Watermelon Raspberry Lemonade!

…save me a cup…oh, by the way…what’s the price?…hugmamma.  

 

“blog buddies,” getting it…finally

Figuring out how “blog buddies” works has been a bit of a mystery. But I think I’m finally getting the hang of it. It seems to be a matter of finding bloggers with whom I share common interests, and once found, trying to establish continuing dialogue. I’ve begun doing that with a couple of sites, by growing the conversation. It’s not easy keeping several conversations going at the same time. But it is fun, once you begin. I’m sure I’ll find the technical components that make it easier to check in with everyone, without having to click in all the time. Takes me a little bit, but I eventually manage. Good exercise for growing brain cells, and staving off Alzheimer’s.

The first blogger who taught me about being a blog buddy was Scriptor Obscura. A knowledgeable techy, she was the first to leave regular comments and “likes” on my posts. I was very touched when she asked to run some of them on her blog. She allowed me to decide which they should be, but I left the decision with her, emailing those she “liked.” Not all mind you, I didn’t want to overrun her site. As passionate as me about causes, Scriptor Obscura minces no words in her support of issues. A person less than half my age, I admire her conviction to promote compassion for those less fortunate.

Another blogger with whom I’ve begun a conversation is jeanne’s blog. I just learned that she and I share a love of antiques, hunting them down, owning, and cherishing great finds. Her blog’s photo header displays 2 adorable lhasa apsos or shitzus, not sure which. I had a shitzu, years ago, named Sushi. She was the sweetest, smallest dog. Loved her to pieces. Jeanne’s gardens are lovely, like an oasis. Mine will be, once the last dregs of winter pull up stakes and leave. She also shares recipes, which shows a love of cooking, another interest of mine. She’s gotten me started doing book reviews. And the lady has a compassionate spirit, as is demonstrated in inspirational messages she posts.

Image representing Etsy as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

The Daily Dabbler is another blog with whom I’ve begun another conversation. It’s centered around crafting, a shared interest of ours. Both dabblers in creating things, I think we both realize making a living at it is best left to the professionals, not amateurs like ourselves. Nonetheless it’s fun to check out the creative offerings on ETSY, where all manner of beautiful crafts are sold.

My French friend has shared so much of herself in my interviews with My English Thoughts. Besides our love of travel, though we’ve both not the kind of time or money to globe trot, we have the commonality of the theatre, where she works, and my daughter performs. I can understand the trials and tribulations she must endure in such a unique occupation, because of those my daughter herself has endured. But I’m sure they would both say that there’s also something magical about the stage, especially behind-the-scenes. What’s also captivating about Isa is her simplicity. She seems to “go with the flow,” dealing with life as it presents itself. At this stage in my life, taking life as it comes is less stressful. My friend from France has learned it at a young age. Kudos to her!

I’m getting to know other bloggers as well. Random Thoughts from Mid-Life speaks my language, although much better, I think. An excellent writer who expresses herself so clearly, with seeming understatement. By contrast, I think my words explode on the page. But we’re different people, with different messages. Learning from others is always good, great in fact. And I’ve a lot to learn.

Space Buddies

Image via Wikipedia

Pet lovers such as those who blog at The (mis)Adventures of Sage, and Lifewith4cats remind me of my own four-legged family, and how much joy they bring their human family. Never underestimate the healing power of animals. They give so much of themselves, asking so little in return. And they get me up and exercising, even when I’d rather be lazy and blogging. A walk with Mocha, or running down the hallway with Sitka and Juneau, or crouching on all fours to stroke Sunkist, remind me that I too need to move about to keep my joints oiled. And how they make me laugh, watching some of their antics. ha, ha.

So I take my hat off to all who’ve nurtured their own communities of blog buddies. It’s an art form which when begun, takes thought and effort to maintain. But the rewards of connecting with like souls is immeasurable. I encourage you to visit these blogs mentioned above, and I’ll let you know of other blog buddies with whom I start a dialogue.

writing is fun…sharing with others enhances the enjoyment…hugmamma. 

“heart healthy,” salmon

February…heart healthy…salmon….unbeatable choice for omega 3s. The following recipe is sooo simple, moist, and flavorful. I’m not a fish lover, even though Maui was my childhood home. Maybe I was “drowning” in fish prepared 365 different ways, I don’t know. Or maybe I didn’t eat enough meat back then, so I prefer land animals to sea animals. Actually, I’m trying to evolve further, from animals to plants. Stay tuned.

Since my previous recipe, “Lobster Kona Style” was a little tricky, thought I’d offset it with something simpler. Even I can do this one.

Steamed Salmon and Spinach: Work time – 15 minutes/ total time – 35 minutes/ 4 servings

Spinach, 8 t reduced-sodium chicken broth or water, 4 boneless, skinless salmon fillets

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Stir together 8 c (firmly packed) chopped spinach, 4 t olive oil, and 1/4 t salt. Top each fillet with 1 thin slice lemon. Tear 4 sheets of foil, each 14″ long. Place on a work surface. Spoon one-quarter of spinach mixture on half of each sheet, leaving a margin of about 2″ on the 3 outer edges. Add 2 teaspoons of the broth to each. Place a fish fillet on top. Sprinkle lightly with salt and black pepper. Fold other halves of each sheet over fish. Fold over edges of long sides and flatten. Fold over twice more to seal. Repeat to seal other 2 edges of each foil packet. Put packets in 1 layer on baking sheet and bake 18 minutes. When done, unwrap and enjoy!

Per serving: 419 calories, 36 grams protein, 5 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 27.5 grams fat, 6 grams saturated fat, 275 miligrams sodium.

couldn’t be easier!…and sooo heart healthy…hugmamma.

“lobster kona style,” sam choy

In my post “christmas 2011???” I indicated that my husband and daughter prepared our amazing holiday meal. They were my personal gourmet chefs, if only for a day. But I’m not complaining. Each dish tasted as fabulous as it looked. Had I done the cooking, I’m not sure I would’ve fared as well. Sometimes I overfuss; my husband never, ever even fusses. He’s simplicity personified. And my daughter was the perfect sous chef. She fusses, but she doesn’t overfuss.

From renowned Hawaiian chef, Sam Choy’s cookbook, “Cuisine Hawaii,” I found the main dish for our Christmas dinner. I love lobster, especially dipped in warm, melted butter. I no longer indulge in the dripping delight, because of health reasons. Something I’ve spoken about ad nauseam. “Lobster Kona Style” may be a healthier, and tastier, alternative.

In a sidebar to the recipe, Chef Choy told how he and his staff caught the lobsters used in his recipes. I thought it was interesting, since I’d only known of lobster traps in Maine, and elsewhere on the east coast. I thought it was worth repeating. Natives like me might be surprised, and tourists who visit the islands might be intrigued.

Fortunately, lobsters like to gather in the waters right in front of the Kona Hilton, so that’s where my kitchen staff and I go to catch them during lobster season, which runs from September through May.

In preparation for catching the lobsters, we put pieces of fish into our traps, which measure about two feet wide by three feet long. Then we hang the traps over the sea ledge near the hotel, letting them down to between 30 and 40 feet deep.

We leave the traps there overnight, and during that time the lobsters crawl into them backwards with their feelers to get the food. The opening is shaped like a big funnel, with the smaller part on the inside, so once the lobsters get in, they can’t get out. In the morning we return to the traps, which usually have attracted not only lobsters but rock crabs and big eels. The trap holds from six to 12 lobsters.

If  the carapace of the animal is smaller than three inches, or if it’s a mother with eggs, we throw it back. Then we take the keepers back to the kitchen, because lobsters taste best if they’re alive and lively. We move as quickly as possible to prepare them for a gourmet meal like Lobster Kona Style. In this recipe, the rich buttery flavor of the lobster is offset by a tangy sweet and sour sauce. Enjoy!

Years ago when we lived in Redding, Connecticut, a styrofoam chest containing live Maine lobsters was delivered to our door. It was a thank-you gift from one of my husband’s clients. Unable to get my husband by phone, and not knowing what to do with the shellfish, I put them in the freezer. Later that night when my husband arrived home, he informed me he didn’t think I’d done the right thing. Telling him I didn’t want the lobsters to die, he reminded me that I killed them anyway, by freezing them to death. “Oh, yeah right,” I said. Lesson learned,… at the lobsters’ expense.

Without further adieu…Lobster Kona Style…

2 whole lobsters (1 pound each)

Sam’s Seafood Marinade: 1/2 c shoyu, 1/2 c oil, 2 T mirin, 1 egg white (lightly beaten), 1 T minced garlic, 1 T minced ginger, 1/2 t salt, 1/4 t white pepper, 2 T cornstarch, 1  1/2 t brown sugar. Combine shoyu, oil, mirin, egg white, garlic, ginger, salt and white pepper. Mix together cornstarch and brown sugar and stir into shoyu mixture; blend well. Makes 1 1/4 cups.

Oil for deep-frying

Sweet & Sour Sauce: 1/2 c tomato  catsup, 1/2 c vinegar, 1/2 water, 2 t shoyu, 1 c sugar, 1/2 c orange marmalade, 1 1/2 t minced ginger, 1 t minced garlic, 1/4 t hot pepper sauce, 2 T water. In a medium saucepan combine tomato catsup, vinegar, 1/2 c water, shoyu, sugar, orange marmalade, ginger, garlic and hot pepper sauce; mix well and bring to a boil. Blend cornstarch and 1 1/2 tablespoons water to make a smooth paste. Stir cornstarch mixture into sauce. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently until thickened. Makes 2 cups.

Remove lobster meat from tail sections, leaving head attached to tail. Cut lobster tail meat in half, then crosswise into four sections. Marinate lobster meat in Sam’s Seafood Marinade for 45 minutes. Steam lobster shells until shell is bright red; set aside. Heat oil to 375 degrees. Dip lobster meat into Tempura Beer Batter, then deep fry in oil until golden brown. Arrange lobster meat in the empty tail shells. Pour Sweet & Sour Sauce over the lobster meat. Makes 2 servings.

Tempura Beer Batter: 1/2 c flour, 1/2 c cornstarch, 1 t salt, 2 egg yolks, beaten, 3/4 c ice-cold beer. Combine dry ingredients and blend well. Stir in egg yolks. Gradually add beer, stirring constantly, and blend until smooth.

bon appetito!…hugmamma

christmas 2011???

Not quite! More like Christmas 2010 is still liking our “digs,” and has decided to stay put a little longer. Truth be told, it’s not like the holiday decor has had a choice. It’s more that I’ve been slow to pack it away. So here come the excuses.

You know I was ill for awhile. I’m better now. Thank you very much. But as a result we weren’t able to entertain friends who wanted to see our decorations. Now that it’s February I think most of them will have to wait until it really is Christmas 2011, except for my good friend Cindy. She’ll be over Friday for lunch. She so enjoys how I intermix antiques, collectibles and holiday items to create a vintage wonderland. Another reason for her visit is to peruse my Venice travel guides. She’s hoping her family will make the trip there sometime this year.

Speaking of Christmas past, and being ill, my husband and daughter were fabulous to prepare the entire holiday meal, from appetizers to dessert. As one who is totally anal about details, I resisted at first. But while the brain might have been up for the challenge, my body dug in its heels and said “No way! Uh, uh. Can’t do it.” So I sat back, more like laid on the sofa, and let husband and daughter “have at it,” as the Brits like to say. Well, they knocked my gourmet socks off…way off! I had chosen the recipes, but they came up with masterpieces. I decided on the spot, that I wasn’t the only cook allowed in my kitchen. Someday I might even relinquish my chef’s hat altogether. Now when’s my hubby retiring? Hmmm…I’ll gain a cook, a gardener, maybe even a housecleaner…

Since this post is a Christmas hodgepodge of sorts, I wanted to include photos of nearby homes which exploded with holiday spirit. Our family’s favorite is the window that displays the fish-net stockinged, woman’s leg, lamp and shade, from the 60s “The Christmas Story.” Until recently it was only a favorite of my husband’s. In years past I’d grimace whenever he spoke of watching it replayed on TV. This year, however, my daughter and me purchased the DVD as a present for him. I MUST be getting older, and mellower, because I did find the movie endearing. It reminded me of the good days. Old folks are always a sucker for reminiscing about the past. I’m no different it seems.

So now you know my Christmas secrets. We’re still celebrating the holidays. Yes, I still light all 5 trees. However, I refrain from flipping the switch on the outdoor lights. The neighbors might think we’re loony. I didn’t cook the annual holiday meal. And I’ve been won over by a movie I use to think was so corny. But you know what? Extending the season just means we continue to have lots of “good will toward men,” and God knows we on earth could use several mountains worth, especially now.

ho, ho, ho…and a merry christmas to all…and to all a good night…hugmamma. (good morning, actually, since it’s 10:19 a.m. where i am.)

christmas wishes, more than

Received a wonderful letter from an older sister today. We’ve not maintained regular contact over the years; life happens, even to the best of us. One of the great side effects of my blog is that siblings, and other relatives, with whom I’ve not been in touch consistently, have been regular readers. Having been the youngest of 9, at home alone with my mom when the others had gone on to live their own lives, I often felt like an only child. Friends with whom I’d grown up, knew me better than my own kin. Even through college, interaction with my own brothers and sisters was sporadic. And because I was dating my husband then, his parents and siblings were more like my own family. This isn’t a unique scenario, for sure. Jobs, relocation, children, friends, in-laws, can all cause families to lose touch.

It’s not in my nature to regret and wonder “what if.” I’ve lived my life “in the moment,” making the most of each and every one. My priority became my husband and daughter, because my own family was not close-knit. I wanted to make sure mine would be, and it is. Friends filled in the gaps, sisters, brothers and the like. Of course they weren’t the real thing, but I was content. Forcing kin to connect is not my style. Forcing anyone to do anything, has never been my “modus operandi.” Must be because as the youngest, I couldn’t force anyone to do anything.

Age equalizes. It makes me accept life as it is, tweaking it here and there as necessary. Living my best life is what I strive to do, and what I wish for others, including my relatives. Receiving my sister’s lovely letter, let me know that she’s enjoyed getting to know the me she’s not really known for nearly 40 years. And that’s good.

Happiness for me is found in the small pleasures, and among them are my sister’s Christmas wishes.

Not going to make this a lengthy Christmas letter. Just to let you know how much I enjoy your blogs. I continue to be impressed with how well you express yourself and with the wide coverage of subjects you write on. …I especially look forward to seeing what’s cooking in your kitchen. The coconut cream cake is absolutely out of this world. I baked the first one for my sister-in-law’s 84th birthday, and she couldn’t get enough of it. I’m baking a couple of them this weekend: one for a Christmas block party, and another as a gift for my girlfriend. …several people have already asked me for the recipe. One of these days I’ll try the oven-baked pancake.

   everyday words from one sister to another…special christmas wishes…hugmamma.

“exercise and pastries,” oxymoron, or balance?

On the last Friday of the month, our exercise class usually meets afterwards for coffee and conversation at a local Starbuck’s. Once in a while we patronize another local “coffee” house…mine. Since it’s decorated “to the nines” for Christmas, I love having people over for a “look-see.” And my exercise buddies always love  to look and see, how our household rings in the holidays.

Since our personal computers are still without internet connection, thanks to Comcast, I’m still blogging gratis my husband’s laptop. Because of this, I’m not able to share photos of this year’s decor, which I can only access on my computer. Hopefully service will be restored tomorrow, and I’ll be back in “my office.” When I am, you’ll get a peek inside what my daughter calls our “Christmas explosion!” Meanwhile, the photo at the top of my blog is of last year’s decor, partially of course.

Somehow preparing to entertain is an all night affair. I almost never get to bed until the wee hours of the morning the day of the party. I crawl under the covers, only to get up a couple of hours later, put on my “new day” face, and proceed to rush about on pure adrenalin. I should be napping right now, but I always get sucked in to blogging. It’s my time for personal pleasure. And writing gives me a “high,” like trillions of endorphins flying around inside my head, wearing happy faces. Blogging is one “detour” I can never seem to bypass.

Unfortunately preparing for today was delayed last night, because I wanted to first write and publish a post on tinnutis, or ringing in the ear. Writers will agree, I’m sure, that we have to continually write to be taken seriously. And I’ve a long way to go, since I’ve only been writing consistently for 5 months. 

Knowing my penchant for delay, I bought a few items for today’s coffee with the ladies. If you’ve a nearby QFC, you can purchase some of the goodies that were a hit. Dutch Country’s Homemade Red Velvet Cake Roll with Cream Cheese Filling (made from scratch). “Thaw and Serve. Ready to Eat.” Dutch Country also makes a Pumpkin Roll with Cream Cheese Filling, again “from scratch.” The other pastry I bought from QFC was a Danish Kringle, a “Traditional Danish Pastry.” It looks like a large pretzel in the shape of a heart with an “x” in the center. Its crust is sooo flaky and its center is laden with a thin custard layer. Hmmm…yummy!

My homemade contribution was an “Overnight Breakfast Casserole.” It’s very easy to make, and lent something different to a table of sweets. Actually, a friend brought another egg dish that included mild peppers. It was flavorful, and not spicy as expected. Here’s the recipe for my casserole. Next time I might try it with hashed brown potatoes, instead of bread. I’m certain that would change the taste and texture of the dish. Bon appetite!!! 

OVERNIGHT BREAKFAST CASSEROLE     

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Ingredients: 1/4 cup butter, 6 to 8 slices bread, 1 to 1  1/2 lbs link sausage, 12 eggs (beaten), 3/4 cups milk, 1  10 oz. can cream of chicken soup, salt and pepper to taste, 1 to 1  1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese..

Spread butter on 1 side of each slice of bread. Place buttered side down in baking dish. You might have to cut each slice into quarters so all slices can fit in the dish.  Brown sausage in skillet, drain. Cut into bite-sized pieces. Beat eggs with milk in mixer bowl until foamy. Add soup, salt and pepper; mix well. Pour over bread; sprinkle with sausage and cheese. Chill, covered, in refrig overnight. Bake, uncovered, at 300 degrees for 1/2 hour or until center is set. You may add fresh sliced mushrooms, and use mushroom soup, or vary cheeses and substitute hashed brown potatoes or tater tots for bread.

If you’re nowhere near a QFC (or Kroger) market, here’s the manufacturer’s information: Dutch Country Apple Dumplings, Inc., P.O. Box 603, Orrville, Ohio 44667, (330) 683-0646. Larsen’s Original Danish Bakery, 8000 24th Ave, N.W., Seattle, WA 98117, (206) 782-8285, www.larsensbakery.com.

You must be wondering, or maybe you’re not, how women who make it a point to “bump and grind” in exercise class three mornings a week, can return to indulging ourselves once a month. Partly because it is once a month, but more importantly because of the camaraderie we share away from class. Socializing is an important factor in delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s. Those who are getting on in years, including myself, must make a concerted effort to remain connected to people, to our community, to society. The fact that my friends and me exercise, socialize, and eat sweets, now and then, demonstrates how normal we are in trying to live balanced lives.

wishing the same for you, a balance of exercising…socializing…and pastries…hugmamma.

“this time’s for me,” blogging

A couple of days ago, views of HUGMAMMA’S MIND, BODY AND SOUL passed 6,000! In five months time, I’ve written and published more than 200 posts. I guess that might be the equivalent of a very small book. The benefit of writing a blog, as I’ve acknowledged before, is being read “in the moment.” Middleman, wordpress.com, has been highly instrumental in taking my words from “draft” to “published.” I’m very grateful for the ease with which they make it happen, and appreciative of you, who continue to read my blog.

Writing for me is like a job. I awake, ideas percolating in my brain, before I’ve even washed my face and brushed my teeth. But I get myself ready, hair coiffed and makeup on, oatmeal, green tea and fruit downed, before I plop myself in front of the computer. This is one job for which I need no motivation other than my own. I don’t get paid. I don’t have to answer to a boss, other than myself. But even this boss doesn’t need to kick me in the butt to get going. I’m off and running at the speed of lightning, each and every day. Topics??? They’re in my brain all the time; they’re at my fingertips, in stacks of unread Wall Street Journal papers, in stacks of recipes in a huge drawer. Topics also present themselves on TV, in exercise class, in church, at functions. And of course, mothering is a lifetime of blog posts in itself.

A friend recommended I look into blogging for compensation, in a variety of forms. Looking into it, I was caught up in the whirlwind of gains that could be made from connecting with companies that use bloggers to market their products. Flying hither and yon to attend conferences, visit corporate headquarters, be recognized beyond my own little hovel is exciting stuff. But then I remembered, “Been there, done that.”

I’ve worked for corporations, traveling to headquarters in other states, schmoozing with management, basked in the limelight for programs I’d overseen to fruition. And I got paid to do all this, not enough to be sure, never enough. But while my body went through all the motions, doing all the necessary things to stay in the “rat race,” my brain was lying somewhere in a hammock, bathing in the warmth of tropical sunshine of my own imagination’s creation. Sunday afternoons and Mondays were always the worst for me, knowing I had to get up out of my “hammock,” and get back in the “rat race.”

So for now, I prefer to be the Hobbit, snug and warm in my “hole in the ground,” writing whatever I want, whenever I want, for readers who like reading what I write. It’s like hitting “pay dirt,” every time someone views my blog. So in a way, you’re my boss, but ultimately I’m still my own boss. I can always “pull the plug” on this job. But for now I’ll keep my day job and, of course, the ones I’ve enjoyed for 40 years, housewife, and 24 years, mom.

this time’s for me…hugmamma.

any day, pancakes

Sunday morning is when we usually savor a breakfast of pancakes and all the trimmings. These depend upon what’s in the refrig. If you’re ever able to find Portuguese sausage, serve it up sliced and sautéed. Yummy…my mouth’s already watering. An egg, fried, over-medium, is nice, or eggs scrambled with chopped onions, red peppers, mushrooms is very tasty. But the piece-de-resistance is the following recipe for the smoothest, easiest-to-make pancakes. And I don’t like making this usually, difficult-for-me-to-get-right food. My husband’s way better at it, although lately, not so much. We’ve now been opting for pancake houses, like the International House of Pancakes, which can be found in many cities. An absolute favorite is Pancake House in Nashville, where you can breakfast on southern cooking at its greatest. There’s always a lineup of customers, but it moves pretty quickly, and the wait’s worth it. Soooo worth it!!!!!!

But if you’re in the mood for pancakes, and really don’t want all the fuss and bother of watching, and waiting for the right number of bubbles to form before flipping these oft-times, temperamental delicacies, then this is for you. I know there’ll be some of you, maybe many, for whom pancakes is a “no-brainer.” Well then, you’re really, really blest. Wish I had a “white thumb” when it comes to cooking, but sometimes I’m just “all thumbs.” And pancakes is definitely one of those times. I usually blacken them before the insides are cooked. So if you are inclined to share some tips for getting them right, feel free. Like I said, my husband’s not even doing so well with making great pancakes these days. Maybe my lack of “white thumbs” has rubbed off on him. Forty years together, these things happen.

The beauty of this pancake recipe is that you combine all the ingredients in an iron skillet, put it in the oven, and forget about it. Well, not literally, more like 15-20 minutes. But no checking every few seconds to decide when they need flipping, removes the stress, and replaces it with unbridled enthusiasm to sink your teeth into what will taste like a “heavenly cloud,” baked “cotton candy,” French pastry. And you can take all the credit, even though your iron griddle and oven did all the work. Well, okay, you put all the stuff together. Hey! That’s work!

After this buildup, hope this recipe doesn’t fall short. But I don’t think it will.

OVEN PANCAKE

 Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Ingredients: 1/4 cup butter, 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup milk, 2 eggs ( beaten), salt and nutmeg to taste

Melt butter in iron skillet in oven. Combine flour, milk, eggs, salt and nutmeg in bowl; mix well. Pour into skillet. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Garnish with confectioners sugar. Serve with REAL maple syrup which keeps the dish “light,” not heavy. But hey! Whatever suits your taste buds, go for it. Even “Mrs. Butterworth” tastes good, as does blueberry jelly. My favorite way to serve up these pancakes is with a handful of fresh blueberries, lovingly distributed over the powdered sugar.

any-day-of-the-week pancakes, for my family…and now yours…hugmamma.