Thursday, December 12, 2013

Alone in the Kitchen...

“Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant” is the title of a book I read recently.  The editor says in the intro that it is “an anthology of essays on cooking for one and dining alone that could function as a cookbook as well as a lifting-off point for readers to follow their instincts and create their own idiosyncratic meals.”  Since Jenni Ferrari-Adler did not ask me for my essay for her book, I decided to record my own idiosyncratic meal here. 

Before I get to that I need to clarify a few points.  Unlike some of the essayists, I would not think about what’s for dinner at 7:30 p.m.  Dinner comes to my mind almost the moment my eyes open in the morning, sometimes even before then. Second, if I had to think of one dish that would suffice as dinner in a pinch it would definitely not be salad.  Don’t get me wrong I like salad.  However, I believe most vegetables are paired best with meat and gravy. Lastly, I never eat alone.  Even if no one is at the table with me I find good companionship by reading a book.

Now for that idiosyncratic meal…I would cook up some macaroni, drain it and then add a healthy dose of Velveeta to be set it aside so it gets all happy.  The first dish eaten would be mandarin oranges, speared by fork right out of the can as I stand near the stove sauteing my second dish of mushrooms, onion and garlic topped with a little salt and pepper. The main dish would be that macaroni swimming in melted, gooey Velveeta.  Yes, dessert is not on the menu.  In my mind, dessert (or pie in particular) is eaten only at breakfast.

This meal takes me back to the days when I would forage for food in my mother’s kitchen, when my joy of cooking was just awakening.  Mandarin Oranges were considered a delicacy.  Mushrooms were exotic (they were only sold in the can back then. Today I prefer fresh.).  And Velveeta (otherwise known as pasteurized process cheese food) was cheap, filling, comfort food.  

So for the record there’s my "i" meal and essay.  Chew it over and let me know.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Some Assembly Required

When you purchase something that requires some assembly, don't you wish you could open the box to look over the instructions before you buy so you get some sense of what is involved in the "some assembly required?"

Any who, (I like that phrase) on Saturday Vince decided to purchase for the golf course a "some assembly required" leaf sweeper.  Our sweeper was a used gift from one of our very first golf customers, JJ.  It was kind of him to have given it to us.  We used it a lot over the past 10 years.  However, it was clear when Vince opened up the gear box last week that it was time for the old sweeper to retire.  

So he bought, in essence, a box of sweeper parts.  We staged our tool area in the back of my vehicle, laid out all the parts in our parking lot and I looked to the end of the instruction booklet to determine how many steps there were.  It didn't get us any closer to completion but it was good for me to know there were only 17 steps required.  

After connecting some 90 pieces with a few steps that had to be undone and redone, we learned the difference between clevis pins and hair cotter pins.  We had to make some decisions on our own, as the instruction booklet was somewhat vague.  And for three and half hours our collective hands and brains righty tightied and lefty loosied all the parts until we had a new leaf sweeper.

Now, if there were a reality TV show entitled "Some Assembly Required" I think Vince and I would make a great contestant team.  One minor note, we have yet to test our new sweeper to see if it works.  But I guess we still have time to do that before auditions begin.    

Friday, October 25, 2013

See Spots!

I have spots.  I have tried for years many methods to remove them.   On the rare occasion when I was successful, another one appeared. These spots are not contagious. Although one or two might jump onto you if you stand too close to me.  I have not given up completely trying to eliminate them but I have finally decided to more readily accept them. 

My spots are…on my clothes.  I can identify a few personal habits that contribute to my spotty appearance.   When in the kitchen I wear an apron but my clothes underneath still attract them.  When I eat I often drop a tasty morsel on my shirt before it reaches my mouth.  And I often catch myself wiping my hands on my clothes, (I know, eeeuu!)  Regardless, no amount of scrubbing, pre-treating, or washing ever removes my spots for good.

With this confession, I have decided that if I live long enough to meet my own incompetence, Aryah, Courtney and Vincent, promise me you won’t place one of those elderly bibs on me or worry about my appearance.  Just remember spots do not harm me.  They arrive when I am active and joyful.  And until that day, I choose wear my spots and I choose to wear them with a smile.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


I'm frequently asking, "Why?"  I research a lot of questions but the ones I had recently just didn't seem "Google" worthy.  Instead I "went to the committee in my head."  I love that line.  It's not original.  I borrowed it from a James Patterson novel.  Anyway, here are some of my questions and the "committee's" response...

Q:  Why do squirrels seem so preoccupied when hanging out in the road?
A:  We think squirrels have been given a great ability to concentrate.

Q.  Why do I have one song playing in my  head for hours at a time?
A:  Don't question it.  Sing along!  And you know squirrels might also have one song playing in their head too!

Q:  Why did I buy insurance for my iphone for $9.99 a month (for the past 18 months which equals roughly $180.00) and then have to pay $199.00 for a new iphone because the microphone broke and no one could repair it for less than $199.00?
A:  We don't know.  That makes no sense.  However, if you had been a squirrel you wouldn't have been tempted to buy an iphone in the first place.

Q:  Why can't I remember when I arrive at the store the 4 things I came to buy?
A:  Because you probably had a squirrel encounter on the way to the store and that's all you can remember.

Q:  Why do people stop in front of me on the road, causing a traffic jam, because they want to change lanes?  
A:  We think they might simply have a squirrel-like ability to concentrate on only one task at a time.

In closing, I have a friend at the golf course that visited me today.  He came to the front door and we talked.  Yes, my friend is a squirrel and he was my inspiration for today's blog entry.  Why?  I don't know, he just showed up and all these questions popped up in my head!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


The definition of a “path”, according to my somewhat old American Heritage Dictionary, circa 1977, is a “route or course”; “a trodden track or way”; “a course of action”.   I’ve been reflecting lately about life, its journey and how it takes us down certain paths.  I try not to over analyze life.  I tend to “go with the flow.” I have been reminded recently how experiences on this path can be exhausting and renewing yet constantly changing. 

For example, Vince and I have been blessed with an amazing summer.  There has been plenty of evening rain showers, lots of green grass to mow, mild temperatures and many sun filled days. The flowers, trees and wildlife have all had full life cycles.  The beauty surrounding us has been unbelievable and almost perfect. 

In contrast, the past few months have also been hard.  Sometimes it was difficult to breathe and often our minds wouldn’t let our bodies rest.  Our path was dark when we grieved the loss of loved ones.  It’s a part of life that is challenging and its affects linger.  Of course death is a part of this human journey.  We aren’t the first to have lost loved ones and it’s certain we’ll have to say goodbye to so many others down the road. 

Any “path” can be as bland as its definition.   It is neither alive nor colorful without God, loving people and prayer which all lift us up. A fulfilling life also includes past memories, current experiences and new life on the horizon.  As for the latter, a new grandchild is joining us within days.  I am grateful for this life.  I believe that both sadness and joy must be embraced and witnessed as we move along life’s path. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My Sister Tish

Some called her Trish, my Aunt Sue called her "an original", my brother called her Grace, mom called her Tishy, dad called her Tish.  Many have given her other nicknames over the years but when I called her I would just say "Hello my sister".  She was my only sister.  Older by 3 years, I know she loved me even though a little sister can be a real pain.

I can remember being in my crib as a small child and Tish and her friend Cindy frightened me in the dark with flashlights under their faces.  Of course she had the best teacher in town.  Our brother Barry was a classic scare master.  We always knew he was standing at the bottom of the staircase hidden and he still managed to scare us which thrilled him to no end!

Tish was the North White Viking mascot in high school.  It required her to be in front of hundreds of people and her purpose was to get everyone fired up.  She was a perfect Viking.  She made her own sword and shield in shop class.  I think she was the first girl to be in shop class. Also in high school, one day she got on the intercom system and gave her opinion of the school's male atheletes.  She called them "Jocks."  That term wasn't intended to be complimentary and it caused quite a stir.  Tish was always stirring things up.  

She once told Uncle Jack that she almost becamse Prom Queen.  The only reason she wasn't was because she was never nominated.  A phrase she used often was "Not a problem" even though you knew quite well that it was a problem.  She would call and ask for advice on something and sure enough she never followed any of it.  She marched to the beat of her own drum.  She was a free spirit.  She was someone who loved to color her hair: frosted, red or violet.

Tish had a flair for the dramatic.  Her arms would sweep the air when she talked.  And when she sang she held nothing back.  She would swing and move and clap and dance.  You could always tell that she loved life when she was singing.

Tish also wore her personality well.  When she was little she would wear her PJs under her church clothes.  Once she went downtown to the King the Clotheir store in Monon and purchased a pair of boy's boots.  Mom made her take them back.  Later in honor of Tish I bought a pair of boy's boots at K-Mart and wore them everyday.  She had patience for sewing and made many dresses.  The clothing combinations she would throw together was something I idolized.

She was also accident prone.  One of many was when we went on vacation in 1972. She twisted her ankle while wearing those "damn clogs" and we had to take her to the hospital in Munich.  After that we all got sick of smelling the dressing the hospital put on her ankle.  It stunk!  But while we moved from place to place on the train she taught us the words to the song "One Tin Solder" from the movie "Billy Jack" and we sang it for days.  

One year she entered the state speech contest and read a poem she found in a book on one of Grandma Hughes' bookshelves.  At that contest she read "Rex the Piddling Pup."  When I looked it up on the internet recently I could see why Tish was drawn to it.  It was in a book titled "Bawdy Ballads and Lusty Lyrics:  A Curious Collection of Somewhat Salty Classics Seldom Sung in Sunday Schools."  No, Tish didn't go for the dry or uneventful she was an actress at heart.

My sister loved mom and dad.  Her face would light up when they walked in her hospital room.  She loved her husband Scotty; her boys, Charlie and Andy; her step-children, Korina, Donnie, Andrea and Sheila; and her grandchildren, Little Charlie, Karen Lee and Chloe.  She also loved her friends, Cindy, Paula, Jill, Suzy, Mary, Lori, Linda and Starla.  She collected friends and friendships everywhere she went like a shore collects sand.

Tish cared for the underdog.  She took care of stray cats.  She loved to plant flowers.  She hated to clean house (I almost broke her vacume cleaner once and was scolded - I don't know why because she never used it.)  And she regularly paid the price for following her heart rather than following the rules.

For quite some time now, when I see sunflowers I always think of Tish.  They were prominently displayed on her kitchen walls.  Also in that kitchen was her radio which was always turned on to the oldies.  Because she introduced me to the song Moondance by Van Morrison, at her apartment in Bloomington, that song frequently plays in my mind.  

Tish sang in high school, in church, in musicals, in Trinity with her girlfriends Jill and Susie, and she sang in the hospital.  The first week she was singing "Little Boxes" by Malvena Reynolds, (which was later a Pete Seeger hit.)  My husband thought that was a great way to marginalize the effect cancer had on her body.  At the nursing home she was singing at 2:30 a.m. before she passed away around 5:30 a.m. on Monday, July 29th.  I asked for the song she was singing.

You know with Tish it could have been anything.  It could have been something scary like "Frankenstein" by Edgar Winter.  Or it could have been something more descriptive of Tish like "Walk on the Wild Side" by Lou Reed.  Or something sad like "It's Too Late" by Carole King.  No it wasn't any of those.

It was a happy song.  A song from the musical Annie with words "tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow, you're only a day away."  Isn't that something?  Her middle name is Anne and she loved red hair!

My sister, faith in God tells me I will see you on some future tomorrow.  It gives me peace to know that your last song was a happy one.  You will always be with me through sunflowers, moon dances and your many loved ones.  And it has been an honor to be your sister!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

I Think About Food

I think about food…a lot.  Perhaps it has something to do with growing up in a family that tended gardens, most dishes were made from scratch, and many loved ones simply enjoyed cooking.

When I was younger I had an Easy Bake Oven and usually I ate the batter before it was ever cooked.  Homemade ice cream was a constant at Aunt Opal’s gatherings.  What a delight it was to feel real cream sticking to the roof of my mouth.  Mom made pot roast every Sunday with carrots and potatoes and then I covered it all with her delicious gravy.  Grandpa Hughes’ flaky pie crusts filled with Aunt Opal’s fresh cherries or apples were always anticipated. Fresh eggs gathered that morning from Grandma Scott’s hens then cooked over-easy made my morning.  On many mid summer days I was armed with a salt shaker in one hand and warm tomato in the other.  I would sit on our front steps and enjoy every bite.

Present day I have my hutch covered with cookbooks already open and ready to assist me with a peach and blueberry pie. There are stacks of onions and garlic curing on my kitchen table and my mind is considering how I can use every portion of the plant in some future dish.  When I visit any grocery store, specialty or otherwise, (almost daily) I forget all there is in the world as I roam aisle after aisle considering what I can create with all these options combined with what I have on hand at home.  I have folders and boxes of recipes.   I have an ongoing project of organizing them.  Some are already in my computer and so many more need to be added.

My thoughts also linger today over the way chefs describe food.  A chef friend described a step in one of our Feast meals, “sauté the garlic and onion in olive oil until it sings.”    A book I’m reading “My Berlin Kitchen, A Love Story with Recipes” by Luisa Weiss calls recipes family heirlooms.   Both statements are clever and make me happy. 

At the end of the day, after I’ve decided on a menu, gathered the ingredients, constructed everything and bathed in its aroma, I eat with gusto.  While cleaning up the kitchen I start thinking about that next meal.  You may be thinking that I am obsessed with food.  However, I would prefer to categorize it as simply one of my many passions.  Bon Appétit (I wish you a hearty appetite). 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Where Am I?

Maybe it's because of the recent death of my father-in-law that I ask this question.  Before that I was basking in a beautiful Spring.  I've been gabbing to the flowers and vegetables and pampering them as they power through their life cycle.  For weeks I've been grilling tender asparagus to place on our dinner plates.  I also have been watching a growing belly with a new grand baby inside.  The other day I talked to her.

I've been sharing the leadership in my Soul Sistas "Love Revolution" Bible Study.  There have been great discussions in our Sunday School class with new Bible books being re-discovered.  I have a big faith community that makes me smile and think.  All of this has certainly helped my faith grow.  

And then there have been thoughts about God's gift of family and friends.  I have an awesome mother and father.  I had a great childhood with incredible memories.  I have siblings, children, a grandchild, friends, neighbors, customers, pets and strangers to keep me entertained and occupied.  I can't imagine any day in this life without these connections and our interaction.

It's a complicated life and it's an adventure.  I am saddened by the loss of my father-in-law.  I won't again hear him laugh or sing Silent Night on Christmas Eve.  However, I know he's in Heaven and surrounded by love and loved ones.  As for me, I too am in God's hands.  I too am surrounded by loved ones, laughter and beautiful voices.  And I am in a happy place.  

Monday, May 27, 2013


Because I have a cold my dreams last night were a little feverish and more vivid than usual. 

Here's a summary...last night I visited with childhood friends.  We had a picnic out on the old Bess farm.  I sold and bought a new house in a new neighborhood in some unknown city.  I had a disagreement with some woman because she said I didn’t put her knife away after borrowing it.  I had to pick up all these people’s trash after they roamed around town partying on a flatbed trailer. I even decided that the military shouldn’t allow their solders to smoke if they are under 18 (can you even be in the military under 18?)  AND I walked at least 100 miles going from place to place!
I love to dream.  I’ve always been fascinated by how the thoughts from the previous day show up in my images at night.  I’m pretty sure I can tie most of these dream segments to something that came to mind yesterday.    

However, after all I did last night while asleep I know that I could use a nap today!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Spring and a Story

I’m in a late Spring rhythm, which includes mowing grass and blowing tree buds, leaves and seeds off greens.  The ample rain, cool mornings, abundant fragrances, blossoms of every color and warm sunshine is why Spring is my favorite season.   One other aspect of this rhythm is the increased interactions with customers.  I love to talk with our customers. The stories I hear perfectly compliment my daily tasks.    

Two weeks ago a husband and wife came to golf right before a rain storm.  They started to golf and eventually quit because it soon poured down rain. The husband returned with his brother-in-law the following day.  Last week the wife returned to golf with her parents.   They eventually shared their story and the purpose of their current Spring rhythm.  

They are from Minnesota.  The wife is receiving treatment at the Midwest Proton Regional Institute (MPRI) in Bloomington.  Her parents, family and friends are here to support her. They have been golfing at our course as a form of relaxation.  MPRI treats certain types of cancers.  This woman’s involves a brain tumor.  MPRI is giving her and her family hope.   Our golf course is giving them a place to relax together.

The father told me on Wednesday they were taking a one day break from golf because his daughter would be using that time to apply for a grant through her employer.  She is searching for ways to buy toys for MPRI’s younger patients needing cancer treatments.  His eyes welled up.  I could see his heart swelling at the thought that his daughter is focusing on gifts to others even though she has every reason to just be thinking about herself.

This has been a beautiful Spring and this family’s story touched my heart!         

Thursday, May 2, 2013


Because I have been working in all our gardens recently my hands this morning were kind of talking to me, if you know what I mean.  I’ve been breaking up dirt clumps, planting seeds and pulling weeds.  It’s logical they would be expressing their desire to be rested.  It’s kind of crazy how the mind works but this also reminded me of the hands of others.

My Grandmother’s for one.  As a little girl I would sit next to her in church and run my fingers over her knuckles and long slender fingers.  They always seemed so big and elegant.  My fascination with her hands always made her smile.  My son’s hands look so much like my dad’s hands.  Vincent doesn’t have any mannerisms that remind me of my dad but when I see Vincent’s hands I think of dad.  And that makes me smile. 

Other than these useful tools I’ve been given and the memories they inspire, right now they could use a good scrubbing.  Whether or not they get it I can say that my hands are happy today and proud of all they have done.  And you never know, maybe they too will be a featured film in someone's memory someday.  I sure hope so.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My Prince...

Today in honor of my husband’s 63rd birthday, I write about him. 

Vince has many qualities, too many to mention here.  But here are a few…He’s incredibly witty.  He makes me laugh everyday.  He likes to cook but knows that I like to cook more so we spend a lot of time in the kitchen.  He loves to golf but whenever he wants to go golfing he asks me to join him.  He dances with me even when he doesn’t want to.  He holds my hand when we go to sleep at night.  He always signs his name “Me” when he writes me notes and he hums a new song or two every day.

So, a life of laughing, cooking, eating, golfing, dancing and holding hands with the one I love all while being serenaded makes for a sweet life.  Vince, I’m so grateful for all you do for me and our family.  Happy Birthday Vince My Prince…Love, Me 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Name Tags

Why doesn’t everyone wear name tags?  In small and large gatherings name tags are common.  But what about those whose path you cross and it’s an out of context encounter?  I know who these people are I just can’t remember their name.  It’s always been a problem for me.

On Sunday I put on my name tag and went to church.  Over the next couple of hours I kept thinking about name tags and I shared my thoughts with my Sunday School class.  At the end of class I told them I was planning on wearing my name tag for a week.  Great idea…don’t anonymously go through life…own your name…maybe it would start a conversation…maybe I’ll meet someone new…maybe it will start a trend, everyone will wear one and...

I wore it a couple of hours at work.  Then I wore it while golfing until I was on the number 14 tee when I thought “Doh!  Just because I’m wearing a name tag doesn’t get me any closer to remembering or knowing other people’s names.   I just looked like someone who couldn’t remember her own .” 

So, unless I arm myself with name tags to hand out to everyone I think it is best just to accept the fact that I am no closer to solving my memory problem.  My name tag is now sitting in my golf bag.  I had a horrible drive on 14.  And just know the next time I see you, I know you, but I probably won’t remember your name.    

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Driving through life...

I can’t get a song out of my head.  I can still hear and see the youthful Purdue Glee Club singing “Life is a highway I want to drive it all night long.”  They performed it with precision and it was delightful.

It reminds me of my own love of driving (through life.)  I have always had a led foot which is why I am grateful for the invention of cruise control, when I remember to use it.  Also, I’d rather be in the driver’s seat because when I’m not  I still use the imaginary gas and break petals.  It’s a reaction I can’t break. 

My daily life no longer involve getting children up in the morning for school (after hearing their snooze alarm going off every 10 minutes for an hour.)  I don’t have to race from one activity to another, constantly out of breath or late once again.  I don’t have to maintain a To Do list like I did when I had to prove my value by tasks performed.

Nowadays the morning drive to work is through the country. The days are filled with opportunity to love on customers, young and old.  At night I can sit on my back patio petting our Bogey cat while listening to the birds sing.  I can capture a moment here or there with my grandson Dylan while he shares a thought or two about life through his 2 1/2 year old eyes.  And I can enjoy watching my asparagus grow!   

The song “Running on Empty” by Jackson Browne used to also explain my routine while raising children and working full time.  Now I sing that song with glee because that life was mine in the past and now its in my rear view mirror.       

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Our sweet little golf course, Taylors’ Par 3, is on a major thoroughfare on the north side of Bloomington.  I really do love this place.  I specially love the mundane tasks.  They allow my thoughts to flow unrestrained.  Sometimes I find inspiration.  Other times I just find humor. 

Recently I went up by the highway to pick up trash that had accumulated over the winter. I started out with a large trash bag.  After a few yards there were so many glass bottles that the bag was too heavy to carry.  It was at that moment that I saw a small plastic shopping bag.  I accepted that gift and started using it to transport trash to the larger bag.  The smaller bag eventually gave out and just as I was throwing it away I saw another bag ready for service.  It also gave way but when it did I found another useful tool, a bucket.  

It was at that moment that I just couldn’t help myself.  I started laughing.  Never before have I had such cooperative trash! Yes, I’ll never really know why people throw trash out along the roadside.  I assume they simply don’t want garbage clogging up their own car or truck floorboards.   Regardless, ordinary tasks in life are with us for a reason.  While I was laughing I thought “I need to write this down,” thus, the inspiration to start a blog.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Great Great Uncle John...

A few years ago my parents downsized and mom gave me two small drawers filled with what I thought was just costume jewelry.  Sometime later I went through the box and found in the very bottom a typed letter from my Great Great Uncle John.  It was written to his siblings.  The date on the letter was July 14, 1918 and he typed on the top right hand corner "Somewhere in France".  

John H. Ale was 1st Lieutenant in the 355th Infantry.   I am attempting to research all the abbreviations on the envelope to track down other historical connections to him so I can gather more about what his experiences might have been.  Anyway, he said in this letter that he "writes seven or eight letters ever (sic) week"...and "is looking for one from you, hope I won't be disappointed."

Aside from the age of this letter, it reminds me that someone in my heritage was also a persistent writer and he too cared deeply for a response.  I'll be passing on this letter to future generations so they can keep the tradition going. 

Friday, March 22, 2013


Intro to Joy (or Joy Is In It...)

I love to write.  I've written personal travel journals; daily thoughts to my grandson; and letters to pen pals, childhood friends and family members. Over the last couple of years I even started writing some prayers.  

Writing for me is a way of keeping in touch with loved ones. It keeps our conversations going.  It records something that I know will soon be forgotten.  It also relaxes me.  One other great aspect of writing to others is the anticipation of their response. 

Unlike some celebrities who produced a book of their letters or thoughts, I'm pretty certain my recorded thoughts or correspondence of the past have never been retained by anyone.  That's OK.  That's not important to me.  I'm not selling anything. I don't want a million readers.  I just want to share what is on my mind with my family and friends.

This is my first blog.  I plan on writing here about the things that make me happy.  My middle name is Joy (thus the name for this blog) and I'll be writing more later.