Happy Mother’s Day!

 

happy mothers day card beside pen macaroons flowers and box near coffee cup with saucer
Photo by Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

Happy Mother’s Day – to all the Moms out there.  Happy Mother’s Day to all the women who are good to us and who treat us like a Mom would.  Happy Mother’s Day to those women who have children with paws and fur.  And also, Happy Mother’s Day to those Moms who are no longer with us.

My first Mother’s Day was celebrated in May of 1989.  Michael had been born the previous September.  I was (and still am) so happy to be his mother.  He was the easiest baby, which is why Kevin came along so quickly.  He was born in 1990.  This weekend I was beginning a big photo organization project – let me tell you, these two – they were inseparable!  Years passed by raising the two of them.  Kevin was also a good baby, but now there were two.  We were ready again, and Christopher was born in 1995.  Again, looking at all of those pictures this weekend – he had the most devoted, attentive and proud big brothers.  All were insanely cute.  And prejudiced as I am, they have grown into handsome young men.  I am lucky to be their Mom.

My own mother was a wonderful woman who left us far too soon.  She was seventy two years old when she passed away in July of 2008.  She lost her second battle with breast cancer.  She had conquered it once before, having had a mastectomy in April of 1992.  This was after having an almost-fatal heart attack in January of 1991.  She went through so much.  She really did.  During the last few years of her life, she was diabetic.  She handled it well, even though she didn’t always adhere to proper a proper diabetic diet.  After all she went through, a little cheating with food was not a big deal.  Faithfully checking her blood sugar every day, she took her insulin when it was needed.

She was an amazing cook.  Mom made so many delicious things.  I miss everything about those dishes.  I have tried to copy some of them, and most have come out really good.  Yet, just a little something was missing.  I’m thinking it was the love she had that was added.  She made delicious Spaghetti and Meatballs.  I enjoyed her German Fries, which were potatoes boiled, sliced and then cooked in onions, butter and pepper.  She was famous for her Steak and French Fry dinners on a Saturday night.  Baking was one of her things too, even though she mostly used mixes – she added that extra little something that made them more than special.  From scratch she did make the absolute best butter cookies – for some reason, we mostly just had them at Christmas time.  Maybe she kind of knew – that these would be more special if we waited for them, having them to look forward to.

My mother was an amazing housekeeper.  She loved keeping her home nice, clean, warm and inviting.  There were certain household items, furniture that she wanted – and she would save up money in order to get them.  A certain mirror and table come to mind.  The woman was very particular about her curtains, and she changed them a few times each year.  She must be looking down on me, shaking her head.  If she could only see our living room curtains – they are, let’s just say – shredded.  That’s what happens when you have three kittens at one time.  They just turned a year old in April, so hopefully most of the scratching is behind us.

She gave me and my sister a great love for animals.  I was just turning four years old when our landlord at the time offered us one of her cats’ kittens.  Mom was surprised I chose the only tabby in a group of white ones.  Max lived with us until he was eleven.  About a year after he passed, Sam came to us.  He was the cutest black cat, with no tail!  We were heartbroken when he passed away.  She then got Kitty, who was her companion until Mom passed.  My sister took care of Kitty until she left the earth to go Mom.  My sister now has three cats and a dog.  Jeff and I have our Magnificent Seven.  And so, the animal love remains.

Mom was a beautiful woman.  She always looked pretty, well put together and perfectly done up.  Her appearance was very important to her.  She had her hair washed and set faithfully every week, and her nails were done regularly at the salon.  She always chose the same pretty pink color.  Her favorite perfume had a vanilla scent.  When I smell a perfume close to what she wore, naturally I think of her.  She really did look good up until the end.

Yet, besides all of these things – she was just a good woman.  Her life didn’t start out happy.  She was born to a single mother, and in those days (1936) you didn’t keep your child if you were unmarried.  She was a foster child who was brought into a family that loved and cared for her like she was their own.  She left one part of the family at age eleven and went to live with the people known to me as my grandparents.  She immediately got a big brother, who she idolized.  On her wedding day, as my grandfather was about to walk her down the aisle, he asked her “don’t you think it’s about time you call us Mom and Pop?”  And from then on, that’s what they were.  No more Aunt Em and Uncle Les.

Mom loved us girls, and we think she secretly wanted a granddaughter.  Who am I kidding?  We KNOW she wanted girls.  No woman alive loved her grandsons more, however.  She was amazingly proud of all four of them.   The sun rose, shined, set and glowed upon her boys.  She was devoted to each of them.  I believe that she thought they were her greatest accomplishments.  Not that she didn’t love our father, or us – the boys were just different in her eyes.  With us, she was finally able to look at someone who shared her blood.  She had never had that.  I don’t think those of us who haven’t experienced it can truly understand how that feels.

My mother was the greatest woman I have ever known.  She was just an ordinary woman.  But she was extraordinary to us.  Happy Mother’s Day in heaven, Mom.  I love you, and I miss you.

mom

My beautiful Mom, Bernice Gemmel 1936-2008

There’s no place like home…

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(courtesy of US News and World Report via Bing)

In my last post, I wrote about traveling.  In this post, I am going to write about my hometown.  I was born and raised in the borough of Queens in New York City.  Throughout my married life while raising children we were lucky to live in the beautiful areas of Lawrenceville, New Jersey, Castle Rock, Colorado (which was midway between the cities of Denver and Colorado Springs) and suburban Philadelphia in Jamison, Pennsylvania.  In 2009, we moved to the area of Northeastern Pennsylvania and in 2014 I began living full-time in Scranton.

I have had many good times in Scranton.  In Scranton, I have met some of the best people I have ever known.  For the time I lived in Florida, when I felt homesick – I missed Scranton.  It was during these times that I realized that Scranton IS my home.  Make no mistake – Scranton is not perfect.  They have some of the worst roads around.  The weather at times can be less than perfect, and at times it can be downright depressing.  I can’t say there is a lot of crime here, yet it is not a crime free area.  But, choosing to live here – I do honestly see more good than bad.  And my hometown is known for a lot of things.  Let me share them with you now.

Scranton is the sixth largest city in Pennsylvania.  Our population is just under seventy-seven thousand residents.

Scranton’s original name was Slocum Hollow.

Our nickname is The Electric City.  That nickname was given to us when street cars debuted here in 1886 that were powered only by electric.

In Scranton’s heyday, the main industries were coal mining and railroads.

The largest vein of anthracite coal in the world is under Lackawanna County.  Scranton was once called “The Anthracite Capital of the World.”

Scranton is the county seat of Lackawanna County.

Scranton is home to thirty-four properties and districts on the National Register of Historic Places.

There is a federal courthouse located in Scranton.  It is the William J. Nealon Federal Courthouse.

Paige Cognetti was recently elected as Mayor – she is the city’s first Progressive Independent Mayor.

The television show The Office was set in Scranton.  It won many Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe.  WBRE, Poor Richard’s Pub and Steamtown Mall are in fact real places.

Scranton is well known for our annual St. Patrick’s Day parade.  It is one of the largest parades in the nation.  Many times there have been over one hundred and fifty thousand attendees.

Since the 1970s Scranton has hosed LaFesta Italiana, a three-day Italian festival that takes place on Labor Day weekend on Courthouse Square.  It is complete with delicious Italian food, pastries, music and entertainment.

Scranton has the Houdini Museum.  Houdini appeared in Scranton many times and did several special challenges here.  The museum features memorabilia, artifacts, mannequins, films and even a Magic Show.

And there you have some highlights of my hometown…

 

 

 

On the road again…

 

woman in white top and denim jeans sitting on red luggage bag
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

I love to travel.  Not as an escape from home, because I love it there.  We enjoy seeing new places, trying different foods and visiting all kinds of landmarks.  As we all know, travel is impossible now.  It won’t always be this way, thankfully.  Jeff and I would like to visit Ireland, go on another cruise and take a trip to Colorado.  Once this “thing” is over, we can go back to taking weekend trips.  When the time comes, I am going to rely on these little tricks and hacks to make the most of the places we will go to.

Plastic grocery bags are very useful to take along while traveling.  I use them for dirty laundry (to keep clean clothes separate).  They come in handy to cushion breakables.  You can also use them to store clothes/bathing suits that might still be damp from your last day of fun.

Take many more pictures than you think you should.  Luckily, with digital cameras and cell phones, this isn’t costly.   When your trip is over, as you are going through the photos you took – you might find a hidden gem!

Try to collect maps, papers, receipts, guides.  They make nice additions to memory books.  You can even make a shadow box frame to showcase these things.

If you’re flying to your destination, take a carry on that allows you to access your important documents, etc. easily.

In advance of your trip, prepare a travel essentials bag.  Put everything in it that you need on a daily basis.  You can (and should) include travel sizes (to comply with airline regulations, if you are flying to a destination).  I always have one packed and ready to go.  This way, I know the only thing I have to pack in it is my daily medications for however long we will be away for.

Make a plan for the clothing you’ll take with you.  Try to not over pack.  Choose things that you know will coordinate with other items.  Organize outfits, making sure if you change your mind on what you want to wear on any certain day whatever you’ve taken with you will match whatever else you’ve got with you.  Again, don’t over pack.  I cannot say that enough.

Bring comfortable shoes.  Make sure they are also stylish.  If you will be doing a lot of walking, or if you will be on your feet a lot – comfort may be more important than style.  Just sayin’.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of lists.  You should make one for before you leave, one for when you are on the trip, and one for when you (sadly) get back home.

While you are away, try small restaurants.  Listen to the locals.  The exception to this is if you are in a place where a certain location has a special meaning.  Many years ago I tremendously enjoyed an Olive Garden location in Orlando.  If I am ever in that part of the city again, I would love to go there.

Remain flexible.  Don’t let a pre-conceived idea of what you think you want to do influence your in-the-moment opportunities.

You need to plan a lot of vacations, no doubt.  But do it within reason – meaning, don’t over plan.

Give your information to someone at home.  Include flights, hotel, etc.  It is better to give them more details rather than less.

This is especially important if you are traveling internationally – make sure you are up-to-date with your phone plan.  The last thing you’ll want is to come home to a bill that has charges you never thought you’d get.

Split items if you are traveling with a partner – half in your luggage, half in theirs.  This way, if luggage is lost or delayed – you’ll at least have some items.

It is a good idea to make a small travel first aid kit.  You should include everything in it if you may not feel well.  It can be put into your essential travel pouch.

If you are traveling internationally, stop in to a fast food restaurant.  See the differences between there and home.  I so much regret not doing this when we went to Dublin.

Bring a small flashlight, or make sure your phone has one enabled.  Hotel rooms are not familiar to us, and at night – they can be dark.

Take a picture of your luggage.  If it is lost during a flight, you’ll have evidence and proof of what it looks like.

Lastly, if you’re flying – double check the pouch in front of you.  I guess I didn’t on our flight to Dublin, and because of that I lost several CDs.  Still makes me sad to this day.

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These are my tips.  I hope they help you.  I also hope sooner rather than later we will all be able to be traveling all over again.  Happy trails to you…to all of us!

 

 

 

 

To those we’ve lost…Rest in Peace

beautiful beauty blue bright
Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

So much lately has been focused on loss.  The people we’ve lost from this virus, and the people we could potentially lose from it.  Yesterday was the fourth anniversary of Prince’s death, and last week we lost Steve Cash, the brilliant mind behind Sylvester of the Talking Kitty Cat series.  It got me thinking of all the others we’ve lost.  It goes beyond saying that the ones we love and miss the most are people we knew personally.  Yet, it does hurt to lose those we didn’t know, just that we knew of.

Steve Cash was one in a million.  I have been watching his You Tube series for a while now, even though he had been doing it for much longer.  He chronicled life with his pets – Sylvester, his nasty black cat, Shelby, his black Lab, and others – Gibson, who sadly passed away, Random Kitty (who had babies with Gibson) and various kittens.  Each had their own personality, and Sylvester – what a character!  He cursed, was rude and even held a job (and tried to steal money from his employer by changing computer records).  Each and every episode had me laughing from start to finish.  Steve had battled mental illness and bipolar disease for quite some time, and last week apparently it got too much for him.  He took his own life, and when he did, he took smiles away from us, and parts of our hearts as well.  I can only hope he got the peace he was looking for.  Fly high, Steve – you’re with Gibson now.

The celebrity death that affected me the most was wrestler Eddie Guerrero.  Being the devoted fan that I am, when we heard this had happened – we were devastated.  Eddie had conquered so much – he was clean and sober, yet years of abuse to his body finally caught up with him.  His heart gave out.  So young, so talented – so sad that he is gone.  The WWE did amazing tributes to him, ones that showcased what a good performer and great man he really was.  I still can’t watch the video they made to honor him without tears running down my face.

Without a doubt, the biggest celebrity death in my “age group” or whatever you’d call it would have to be Michael Jackson.  I will never forget the day we found out – when he was in cardiac arrest.  My sister was with my kids and I, and she said while watching the news that it sounded like he was already dead.  No lie, within a minute or two of her saying that, they announced that he had passed away.  So very sad.  He had demons of his own, whether you believe he was a good person or a bad one.  He was immensely talented, and being gone so young is just a tragedy.

Whitney Houston was a big star, beautiful and talented.  She was born the same year as me.  It was very sad hearing she had died.  It was tragic, but in a way – she brought it on herself.  I realize drug addiction to a point is out of the person’s control.  And the fact that she left loved ones who missed her, in addition to millions of fans – it is heartbreaking.  She died in February of 2012, and her death was covered on television for well over a week.  YET – Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees and Donna Summer both died the same year, in May.  They were both AS influential on the music scene, but they both died of cancer.  Was it too boring, too normal?  I was a big fan of both, and I remember their deaths barely being covered.  Am I bitter?  Yes, I guess you can say I am.  Change my mind, but I don’t think you can.

The other big celebrity death, for me, for others?  I would have to say Elvis Presley.  Who would have thought he would pass away at so young of an age?  I remember the day we found out – I was on vacation with my family – my parents and my sister.  We were riding home from somewhere we had traveled to while away – and had the radio on.  Song after song, over and over – nothing  but Elvis tunes.  Finally the radio announcer said he had passed away.  We were all very surprised.  To this day, if I hear an artist’s songs in succession without a break, I’m brought back to the memories of the day Elvis died.

There are so many other influential celebrity deaths that go through my mind – JFK, Jr., Robin Williams, David Cassidy, Davy Jones, David Bowie, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, the list can go on and on.  What celebrity death affected you the most?

sylvester and steve

(courtesy Metro.co.uk)

R  E  S  T     I N     P E A C E,   S T E V E…

Again, I am randomly rambling…

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Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

This is a post that does not match up with anything, for any reason.  We have all been home, self isolated or self quarantined.  If by requirement or by choice, home is where we stay.  And being home, thinking, wondering…what in the world are we doing?  What are we keeping ourselves occupied by?

By the orders of two of my doctors, I have been at home.  It has been a full three weeks now, plus a day or two.  I share with you right now the things I have done to keep me straight, on the road to where I ought to be.

I have organized our kitchen.  I went through the cabinets and made a mental list of all the things we have, and all the things we need (we are thankfully pretty well stocked).  While going through all of it, I have thought of meals that could be combined.  As I’m tired of the same old same old, kind of food rut, I have tried putting different combinations together.  Being home and having the internet immediately at my fingertips has given me instant ideas.  I just google the item (for example, kielbasa, canned peaches or ground sausage) and read through the recipes and suggestions.  I have come up with quite a few new meals, sides and desserts to try.

Clothes.  Those who know me know that I have a lot.  And I do mean a lot.  It really is time to downsize and get rid of things.  It is truly an overwhelming job because there is just so much!  What has been working for me recently (it is a work-in-progress) is to put things together in groups.  I am lucky enough to have one of our three bedrooms to use as a walk-in closet room.  There are clothing racks all around the perimeter of the room and two down the center.  As I have clothes in the attic from when I lived in Florida (and some from the last time I lived in PA) this seems never ending.  I have been putting all the short sleeves together, all the long sleeves, all the dresses, all the jeans, all the leggings.  And then I further group them together in colors.  When I was going through boxes randomly, I found it hard to remember what exactly I had (and if I needed to keep it or if I really should get rid of it).  It is now easy to see that I have a lot of black short sleeve shirts, for example.  And while I will never be a minimalist, I do realize that there is a limit that I really need to adhere to.  Doing it this way has really helped me.  Once I am done with clothing, I will do the same process with shoes and purses – yes, I have a lot of those, too.

Jeff and I have been painting.  We painted our kitchen and dining room so far.  It is amazing what a coat of paint can do.  This weekend we will work on the living room, and on all the little areas that we may have missed and need to touch up.  We have three mirrors in the living room that just shout 1980’s when you see them.  My plan for this weekend is also to paint the edges.  Right now they are gold, and by the time this weekend will be over, they will be black.  My desk is in the living room, and so are two file cabinets – which are black and silver.  I may even attempt to paint our coffee table, end table and TV stand.  They are all dark brown, which looks close enough – but they have nicks and scratches that I am sure a coat of black paint will help.  The well-worn yet comfortable couch and love seat will stay awhile – or at least until this crisis is over and we get out to shop and see if we find anything reasonable that we like.  And then the drama and hard work of getting the cats to stop scratching will begin.

I love to do crafts.  For Christmas this past year, I made all of the animals in our family treat jars, which were various sizes of glass jars painted in colors to match the kitchens of the pet parents (or even in team colors in one case).  I use spray paint, those little bottles of acrylic craft paint and, more recently, chalk paint.  Chalk paint is a great product.  It doesn’t require much preparation to the piece you’re working on.  And chalk paint is very forgiving.  A chalk paint project I am working on now is a small wooden chair, the size that would be suitable for a small child.  I took this chair which was a light oak color and painted it white.  Three coats of white chalk paint look really nice on it.  Wax goes on soon, and then it will be buffed.  The back of the chair has rungs or wooden slats.  Currently they are white, but once we find out a grandchild is on the way (or one arrives) I will paint those slats either pink or blue.  It is going to be a family child’s chair – one that will go to each grandchild as he or she is born.  It may not be anything fancy, but I am excited about making my own little hand-me-down to our future grandchildren.  The rungs will get changed before giving the chair to the next boy or girl we have.
While home, I am also taking advantage of taking it easy.  I wouldn’t be at home if the doctors didn’t think I needed to be.  In addition to going out only when necessary (and with gloves and a mask) I have been resting as much as possible.  I am using this time to relax as well.  I am watching a lot of my favorite daytime television programming, and while doing so I am laying on the couch.  If one of the cats decides they want to jump up and lay with me, I’ll cuddle with him or her.  And if we both fall asleep, that’s ok.  I’m not always going to have this opportunity to relax whenever I want, at will.  I’m enjoying being at home.  I am very happy being in my own little world with my little family.  Though every once in a while, the reality of why I am here squeaks back in.
I worry about my family and friends, and everyone else out there.  I hope we all stay healthy.  That goes without saying.  And I wonder when things will ever go back to what our new normal will be.  Everyone, please – do the right thing.  Stay home, stay isolated, and if you have to go out, follow the guidelines and recommendations.  No panic, just common sense.  We will get through this.

 

Heartbroken, yet happy?

 

 

woman looking at sea while sitting on beach
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Tonight, I sit in my living room.  Happy to be healthy, happy to be home with my cats.  Yet, terribly sad…because I should be somewhere else tonight.  If only we were in different times.  You see, tonight is the night we were supposed to be attending Wrestlemania 36 in the amazing and wonderful city of Tampa, Florida.  And because of the current Corona Virus epidemic and Covid-19 Pandemic, we are all home.  Where we are happy, yet tonight it is not where we want to be.

I have been a die-hard and hardcore WWE fan for a very long time – over twenty-one years, to be exact.  And while I know exactly what wrestling is, and having been bereated and laughed at over the years, let me say this – I DO NOT CARE.  That night back in 1999 when I sat down with my children (spurred on by my oldest, who I am proud to say is STILL a fan) I never, ever thought that episode would shape my life and influence it like it has.  I have enjoyed so many events, laughed at and have been inspired by the amazing performances I have been lucky enough to watch – I have been truly blessed.

I have attended so many live events that I can barely keep count.  Yet, if I was challenged to – I am sure I could chronicle them all for the most part (give or take a few).  I have made friends and made memories that I never, ever thought I would be lucky enough to have.  I started attending the “Granddaddy of them All” which is WrestleMania in 2004.  And, with a one year exception of 2005, I have attended EVERY one since then.  I’m so very lucky to have achieved this streak.

My very best friend Christine and I have sat, stuck with large men next to us in Chicago.  We have waited on long taxi lines with rude policemen and ridden in taxi cabs where we questioned our safety and if we would arrive where we wanted to go.  We have laughed with friends we made from other countries.  There were times we commuted to and from matches in what could be considered monsoons, wearing plastic garbage bags as garments.  We have cheered things we never thought would happen and were thrilled when we watched what was anticipated.  We have gone to events when we paid next to nothing in commuting costs and other events where what we paid was north of $500.  We have been at events where we were treated rudely beyond belief, and we have been in areas where there were rodents greeting us from a distance in a grocery store.  We have met people we never, ever would have otherwise.  And we have memories that cannot be believed nor can they be equated in dimes and dollars.

And for this, I say thank you.  Thank you to World Wrestling Entertainment, for they are my heroes tonight.  This WrestleMania is different.  Would I want it to be any other way?  Hell yes, I would.  I want to be sitting in our seats, cheering, yelling, crying, laughing and being happy – like I have been for the past sixteen years.  Tonight, it is what it is.  Next year, which will be WrestleMania 37 – in Los Angeles, in California – get ready, the WWE Universe is coming!  Fifty one weeks from tonight – let the countdown begin!

Like a Boy Scout…

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(photo appears courtesy of farmgirlmarketing.com)

…we have to be prepared, and we should be.  Prepared.  Not overly prepared and not under prepared.  Given the current uncertainty of the Covid-19 situation, it is wise and necessary to do what is right so we all get through this in the easiest way possible.

You should stock up on things that you and your family normally like to eat.  I believe (and feel most comfortable) in having adequate quantities of things that I deem necessary.  Since I have always have enough food (frozen, refrigerated and pantry) on hand anyway, during the very few grocery runs we’ve done I have bought minimal items.  For example, I took one jar of spaghetti sauce and a box of spaghetti.  When we went down the canned vegetable aisle, I took maybe three or four cans – peas and carrots, spinach, corn and some chili beans.  I bought two frozen portions of ground turkey – brought it home, fried it and froze in three portion sizes for meals.  Jeff works for Chewy.com, so we usually get the cats food from them.  Just the same, when we were in the store I took 4 or 5 cans of wet food and a bag of the dry food that they eat.  We walked through the paper goods aisle, and surprisingly they had toilet paper and paper towels.  We took one package of each.  The goal is to be prepared but to not hoard, leaving nothing for others.  It is time to be kind and to think of other people besides ourselves.

It might be a good idea to contact your doctor for any prescription medications that you take.  The recommended supply to have on hand is thirty days, but it might be possible during these times to get your physician to write an exception limit to your medications.  And if your insurance company offers mail order, now is a really good time to begin using this service if you haven’t already been.

Speaking of your doctor, contact the office and see if they can (electronically) send you your health records.  This might not be possible if their office is running with a skeleton crew.  If nothing else, make a detailed list of all the medications you take on a regular basis.  Follow these guidelines and see if your Veterinarian can help you with records as well.  Natasha ended up with a very nasty case of worms on Thursday, and though the office was open, they were seeing emergency patients only.  They were good enough to prescribed her deworming medication over the phone (after me weighing myself holding her, then not holding her – to get an fairly adequate weight).  I was able to drive to the Vet’s office and pick up the medication through the drive-thru window I didn’t realize they had.

Go through all of your health care medicines – tylenol, etc. – and first aid supplies.  Again, I usually have an adequate supply of these things on hand.  It would be a good idea to get a decent thermometer – I was suffering from a fever towards the beginning of last week, and it truly is primitive to take your temperature with one of those old fashioned, mercury-filled thermometers.  It takes a lot of wrist action to wind it back down after use, and let me tell you – trying to read the numbers and tiny dashes is no easy feat.

I have always treated myself good in terms of having things I like to eat and drink around the house.  We enjoy coffee in the morning.  Since I’ve been plagued recently by kidney issues, I have had to eliminate tea for the most part.  I’ve been drinking water, but I like to make it flavored with Crystal Light type drink mix (I make it half strength).  I enjoy beer, so that is always here in the refrigerator.  And don’t forget your comfort foods and snacks – get chocolate, candy, ice cream and chips (in reasonable amounts).  Of course when I’m saying get these things, make sure you pick them up on your hopefully infrequent shopping trips.

Take care of your mind and yourself during this time.  Give yourself a break.  Do what you enjoy around the house.  Watch whatever you like on television.  Scroll all the silly things you enjoy on the internet.  Virtually you can stay connected with your loved ones.  Try to make the best of things.  Be informed – watch the news, but take a break from it every now and again.  These are the times to do what you normally might feel is wasteful, silly or non-productive.  I never need an excuse to snuggle with the cats.  If I sit down to watch television and one of them jumps up to sit with me, I eat that up and I indulge us both with cuddle time.

We are all going to get through this.  Hopefully it will end sooner rather than later.  If we are prepared, the cross we have to bear might be a bit lighter to carry.

Let them eat…Pasta!

bunch of pasta
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First off, let me say that me referring to “pasta” goes against everything I learned growing up.  It was called “noodles.”  We had tomato sauce and noodles (a family comfort food) and tuna fish and noodles (also a comfort food for us).  The only pasta that wasn’t referred to as noodles was spaghetti – spaghetti and meatballs (my Mom was not Italian, but I did LOVE when she made hers).  Fast forward to when I was raising my boys, and they called it pasta – either from school, or from their friends’ houses.  Who knows.  Either way, I have always loved pasta – in every form.  I don’t care what shape it is, or what sauce goes on top – it has always been one of my top favorite things to eat.  And, because of this – I always keep a wide variety of shapes, etc. in the house to make meals from.  Considering the current crisis we are in, I decided to think about (and write about) different easy kind of meals, based on pasta.  Or noodles.

You can make a Pasta All’Amatricana – which, before I looked it up, never really had an exact name in my mind. This dish is about six strips of bacon, some crushed red pepper (how much depends on how hot you like things), some chopped onions and two cans (medium sized) of peeled/chopped tomatoes (with or without basil or garlic – your choice).  Cook your bacon, then saute the onions.  As these finish cooking, add your tomatoes – at this point it will start to thicken, and if you want – you can sprinkle grated cheese on top.  Combine and mix with either a 12 or 16 ounce box of pasta, previously cooked (spaghetti or something similar is recommended) and serve.

A very easy and basic dish is Spaghetti with Garlic and Oil.  Boil a box of spaghetti (whatever kind you like, regular or thin).  Once this cools, add a bit of olive oil, a bit of minced garlic, some black pepper, dried or fresh parsley – maybe even some grated cheese.  This is always referred to as a side dish, but to me – it is a meal in itself.

If you want a MEAL meal, try Spaghetti (or “pasta”) with Eggplant.  Take a large eggplant, and cut it up – you can do slices, you can do chunks – it is up to you.  Taking your cut eggplant, drizzle with oil and spices – garlic, onion, parsley, Italian seasoning.  Bake in your oven, 350 degrees for about an hour, give or take.  I usually pour a bit of sauce over the top – either homemade if I have it handy, or jarred sauce – as it is cooking.  With this meal, I would probably serve ziti or rotini – it is so good, it is so filling.  And it is usually well received.

Spaghetti with Lemon Butter, Spaghetti with Lemon Butter and Tuna, Spaghetti with Lemon Butter and Peas – sounds good?  I thought so too.  Boil your spaghetti – again, whatever kind you like – regular, thin, angel hair – or even fettucine.  As your noodles (haha, yes I know – pasta) are getting done – make your sauce – use 4 tablespoons of butter (or margarine, if that is what you like), and add the other ingredients – some lemon zest, some canned tuna (part of, or a whole can) or peas (whatever kind you like to use), maybe even some grated cheese – toss, and toss good.  Here is your meal, and it will be SO delicious…

Elbow Macaroni with Sausage, Broccoli and Mozzarella – sounds easy, and it is.  Cook your pasta, and get your other ingredients ready – cook/brown the sausage, cook/boil/steam your broccoli and cut your mozzarella (if you don’t have already shredded).  Once the pasta is done, dump the other ingredients on top, and toss, toss, toss.  Always feel free to add whatever spices might sound good to you.  This will be a meal that you will love – I promise you that!

It is pretty easy to make a Lasagna – any kind.  You can use only meat, mostly meat, mostly veggies or only veggies.  Totally up to you.  The basics of lasagna is layering – sauce, noodles, filling (and here is what  you want to add) and then sauce, noodles, filling.  I usually do three layers.  I am a firm believer of mozzarella cheese and sauce being the be all and end all.  Once your layers are done, cover.  Bake for about 40 minutes.  Take out of oven, cover with shredded cheese and put back in the oven for 20 more minutes.  You will soon have dinner perfection!

I have made sauces, which are simple enough and once poured over “a” pasta, you will have a meal to enjoy.  Heat your sauce – either homemade or jarred – and add a large dollop of grated cheese – simple, easy but oh so good.  Do the same thing with the sauce and cheese, but add a small can of sliced mushrooms (drain the liquid it comes with).  Add some previously grilled frozen pepper mix, with grated cheese.  Take some of your frozen, pre-cooked ground meat – spaghetti and meat sauce.  The best ideas come from all of our imaginations.

I love pasta (noodles), and as many ideas as I have to enjoy it – I want more!  What can you recommend?  Help a pasta addict, please!

 

Treat Yourself…

 

enjoy

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If there is ever a time to treat yourself, now is that time.  We are all going to be spending quite a bit of time at home (and we should be).  You can be “cooped up” and mad about it, or you can take this time and use it to your advantage. I love being home, because I am happy there.  I enjoy doing things in the kitchen – trying new recipes and making old favorites.  None of what you do or try in the kitchen has to be fancy and it doesn’t have to be expensive for you to enjoy yourself.

This time of year can be iffy, weather-wise.  Soup goes good around now.  You can use homemade chicken broth (I usually have some in the freezer) or canned broth.  Heat a portion up on your stove, and make dumplings to include.  They are easy.  All you have to do is gather your ingredients – one cup of flour, two teaspoons of baking powder, one teaspoon of white sugar, one half teaspoon of salt, one tablespoon of margarine and one half cup of milk.  Mix this into a soft dough.  When your soup/broth is boiling, drop a heaping, rounded teaspoon and take out when your dumplings rise to the top.  If you feel like it, add a can of canned carrots (minus the liquid).  You’ll have a nice, warm and comforting meal.

Why not try a peanut butter sauce to pour over noodles, like they do in Chinese restaurants?  The ingredients include a bunch of green onions/scallions, two tablespoons of sesame oil, a teaspoon or so of ginger (I use powdered), one third cup of peanut butter, a quarter cup of soy sauce, one quarter cup of hot water, one teaspoon of white sugar, and one quarter teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes.  Heat consistently until mixture gets hot and bubbly.  Have your pasta done in advance – I use regular spaghetti or fettucine noodles – toss with the sauce, and enjoy!

Most of us have cans of tuna (or even chicken) in our pantry – but sometimes, a boring tuna (or chicken) sandwich is just that – boring.  Jazz it up a little bit – google some tuna casserole recipes (I’m not really a heated-up tuna fan, that is why I can’t recommend any).  I do like tuna melts – try to melt it with some Monterrey Jack cheese, it’s really good.  And you can get away from the boring sandwich idea of you cut lettuce leaves (iceberg works best) into bread shapes and make your sandwich like this.  It’s at least something different.

Bananas are a great snack.  If you want to jazz them up, peel one.  You can then roll it into crushed cereal – it’s sweet and it’s pretty if you use Fruit Loops.  A banana can be rolled in cinnamon sugar, some mini chocolate chips, or even coconut.  You can get about ten little banana rounds for yourself.  Very good, and good for you too.

Going with the Chinese food idea, make some white rice.  Open up a small can of peas and carrots.  Heat/cook up a few chicken nuggets if you have them.  Toss everything together and serve – use some of the little packets from Chinese takeout that we all have in either our cabinets or refrigerators.

Everyone (well just about everyone I know) likes Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches together.  If you don’t want to bother making your sandwich grilled, why not have toasted cheese?  While your soup is heating up, take two slices of bread with two slices of cheese on top – and put them in your toaster oven.  When they are done, cut them into shapes – you can make squares, long strips, some kind of angled ones – whatever strikes your fancy at the time.  I like to make them big enough so I can dip them into the soup.  It’s a nice change from the ordinary and usual.

Have a good old fashioned snack – enjoy milk and cookies.  You would be surprised that when you ask people if they still have these two things together at how many people will tell you no.  Another thing to try that you may not have (or probably haven’t) had recently is chocolate milk.  Every time I have chocolate milk, it makes me feel like I am eight years old again.  I really like a glass of it from time to time.

So, what other comfort foods will make you feel good during this time of boredom, uncertainty, and whatever else we are going to call it?  It is a time to try to be as happy and content as we can be.

Permission to Binge!

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Now is the time to binge watch and catch up on television programs (or movies) that you’ve been dying to see.  I don’t binge watch – I never have.  I do, however have favorite television shows that if I decide to binge,  these would be the ones I would watch.

My current favorite television series is Modern Family.  I enjoy each and every character on the show.  I don’t know how actors are chosen for roles, but this show is absolutely perfectly cast.  Ed O’Neill is as perfect as Jay Pritchett as he was when he was Al Bundy.  The rest of the cast makes you believe that they ARE who they portray.  There are so many fun, warm and real relationships on the show.  Despite the bickering that goes on in the family, the love is there and it is obvious with the portrayals of the actors.  Modern Family is set to have their series finale on April 8th.  This is a series that I plan on buying every season on DVD to keep for always.  I don’t say that about many programs.

Another television program I enjoy immensely is The Odd Couple.  This is one of the few shows where I own the entire series on DVD.  To me, Felix and Oscar are the perfect couple.  When they fight, they fight hard.  Yet when they are getting along and band together for a cause, there are no two closer friends in the world.  Felix is so neurotic.  Oscar knows this.  My favorite scenes on the show include Felix apologizing or explaining his odd behavior, and the look on Oscar’s face while watching his friend.  The two of them are priceless, they absolutely are.  No matter how many times I watch my favorite episodes, I laugh hard as if I’ve never seen them before.

I have watched many episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond.  My oldest son loves this show almost as much as he loves Married With Children (Ed O’Neill’s portrayal of Al Bundy is so magnificent to Michael that he can’t and won’t watch him in another role – he’s never really watched Modern Family).  Every time I have watched Everybody Loves Raymond I have enjoyed it – and I’ve laughed.  I’ve laughed hard.  When this show was coming to an end, there were a lot of interviews on television, on line and in magazines.  I listened to a television critic who described all the good points about the show, the actors and the writing.  He described it as the overall best series on television ever.  My son would almost tend to agree (even though he has an Al Bundy tattoo on his leg).

All in the Family was a classic television program in every sense of the word.  It was laugh out loud funny.  The cast worked perfect together.  It broke barriers, and it got away with situations and comments that would never be tolerated on television today.  The show tackled controversial topics with humor – racism, religious prejudice, menopause, crime.  It was also said to have made one of the biggest errors in television history when the writers killed off the character of Edith Bunker in response to actress Jean Stapleton not wanting to continue in her role.  Carroll O’Connor was able to (partially) break free being typecast from his role as Archie Bunker when he starred in the series In the Heat of the Night in the late 1980s up until the mid 1990s.

You have to give credit to All in the Family for the show The Jeffersons, which was a spin-off.  The Jefferson family had been neighbors of the Bunkers – Edith and Louise got along famously, but Archie and George – they butted heads.  The Jeffersons moved on up, leaving Queens for the high life of Manhattan.  They had a wise cracking maid named Florence, an odd neighbor named Mr. Bentley and upstairs neighbors Tom and Helen Willis.  Helen and Tom  were an interracial couple who had a daughter named Jenny who was dating the Jefferson’s son Lionel.  This didn’t make George happy at all.  But as the series went along, they all grew to love one another, and George and Tom became best friends.  One of my favorite scenes happened when George, Louise, Helen and Tom had a pillow fight.  It makes me laugh just picturing them hitting each other.

The Golden Girls is another good show to binge watch.  This program is so much funnier than I ever remember.  I also would say that I believe it is even more popular in reruns than when it was a prime time regular season show.  Again, a show perfectly cast with actors who made you believe that they really were Dorothy, Sophia, Blanche and Rose.  The girls took everyday situations and made them funny.  They were older women, yet they never lacked male attention.  They all had their signature character traits.  Dorothy told it like it was.  Sophia also spoke her mind, usually with her pocketbook in hand. Blanche loved men, and they loved her.  Rose was sweet and ditzy.  They ate cheesecake frequently in that beautiful Miami Beach house.

As you can tell, most of my favorite programs have been comedies.  I do (and did) like dramas also.  There were quite a few over the years that I have enjoyed, but three favorites come to mind – The Sopranos, NYPD Blue and Hill Street Blues.  Each show had classic episodes that are hard to forget.  Tony Soprano was not the same at home as he was out in the street.  NYPD Blue and Hill Street Blues both had actor Dennis Franz, who played classic television characters Detective Sal Benedetto (and later Lt. Buntz) on HSB and Detective Andy Sipowicz on NYPD Blue.  The Sopranos was a great show that had many notable scenes, with the most popular and talked about one being the way the show ended.  The screen cut to black and viewers were left to think that the broadcast had malfunctioned (it hadn’t).  NYPD Blue had it’s most emotional scene with Detective Andy having to deal with his partner dying.  Dennis Franz and Jimmy Smits put on one of the best tearjerker performances of all time.  Their portrayal was brilliant.

So there you have it – my choices for a binge watch.  Some of these programs will make me cry as I laugh, as I have memories of watching them with my parents.  But as I cry and laugh, I will smile.  I will enjoy them, again and again – just like I did the first time.