Monday, July 31, 2017

It's My Way Or None

The title of this article has a bold ring to it.  In my world, I only have to cater to myself since I no longer have a husband.  Yes, my son did live with me, but he was every bit as opinionated as I am when it comes to personal needs and habits.  We co-habituated but we each did our own thing.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am very opinionated and have an opinion on just about anything and everything.  That's one of the reasons why I write this blog and post to other media.  It's just my opinion and you are free to disagree with me.  After all the Bill of Rights guarantees our right to freedom of speech.

I love carrots raw cut into sticks or baby carrots, but I have an aversion to cooked carrots.
Baby Carrots with Ranch Dipping Dressing
 They are too mushy for my taste.  It's something to do with the consistency rather than the taste.  I can eat some cooked carrots in stews or soups as long as they are cut small and there isn't an overabundance of them in the mix.

From the time I was a small child, I could not eat beets in any form.  I don't know why.  It could be that they have the same mushy consistency.  But just seeing those hard boiled eggs in beet juice turns me off and I love hard boiled eggs.

I spent many a long evening sitting at the dinner table until bed time with a plate of something in front of me because I would not or could not eat what was on it.  Oysters was another of those but I loved the warm milk they were served in and oyster crackers in it.

I don't like what I call designer coffee products that you can buy at most coffee stands or delis.  I drink black coffee but only black coffee.  I prefer Maxwell House, "good to the last drop" in their Master Blend.

Maxwell House Master Blend
Today, it took me half an hour to find the latest version of that blend since they continually change the packaging and I had to find it.  They now package it as Master Blend, Light.  They have stronger versions that are Medium and Bold. I don't like what I call designer coffee products that you can buy at most coffee stands or delis.  When I was younger, I tried drinking coffee as a courtesy visiting my first husband's home.  I tried it with sugar.  I tried it with milk.  I tried it with both.  Unforturnately, I didn't try it black until I was stuck in a snow storm one day on the way to work and black was all that was left in the coffee machine.  I've been drinking it that way ever since.

When I was growing up I had a best friend.  She was every bit as opinionated as I was and had no qualms about telling you what she thought.  I bring her up because a lot of my best recipes came from her family and a lot of my best memories went to rest with her just before Christmas in 2013.

One such memory was the wonderful Fudge that her Aunt Grace used to make.  It was just the right consistency that melted in your mouth with just a hint of the chocolate coated sugary granules melting into your taste buds.

Hershey Cocoa fudge
 She made her fudge from the Hershey's Cocoa Recipe and it was sent many times to Korea where her son was stationed and it arrived in tact rather than a pool of sugary drool.  She had perfected the ability to test the cooked chocolate by the small ball in water formula.  That is how I love to eat fudge.  I don't like the versions that so many of the stores carry that is smooth and creamy.  No one can get just the right consistency that Aunt Grace achieved which was not rock hard but slightly harder to the touch.

I have opinions on religion and opinions on politics but I have lived long enough to learn the value of keeping those opinions to myself.  It profits no one doing battle over those two subjects.  So I've lived my life as stubborn as they come because "it's my way or none."

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Party Food: Fruit Salad Trifle

Is the same old Ambrosia Salad getting old?  Have you gotten stale at making the traditional Fruit Salad for your family picnic?

Grandma's Ambrosia Salad
Grandma made her ambrosia salad before they had canned pineapple and she would cut her own from a fresh pineapple.  She would put the cut up fruit and juices over the marshmallows that she had to snip into pieces and put into the refrigerator.  There were no miniature marshmallows in those days.  The next she made her own whipped cream and folded it into the fruit.  If she had some walnuts she would chop them over the mixture.  With the availability of canned pineapple and miniature marshmallows, I use these to make my ambrosia salad.  If I'm feeling adventurous, I use the colored miniature marshmallows.

The traditional fruit salad combines as many different fruits as you like and my favorites are linked to this article.


I have a new and exciting salad that combines all of the above into a fresh idea that is sure to please even the most picky family members.



You start with a large clear serving bowl only to make this colorful and exciting salad more enticing with it's layers of goodies.

2 loaf size prepared pound cakes, cut in 1 to 2 inch cubes
2 packages (3.4 ounces) instant coconut or vanilla pudding
3 cups cold milk
1 pint heavy cream whipped with a little sugar or 1 container (12 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed
4 cups assorted, diced fruits

Directions:
In a large bowl, beat the milk and pudding mixes together until pudding starts to thicken. Fold about 3/4 of the whipped topping into the pudding mixture. In another bowl gently toss fruits together. Layer half of the cake into the bottom pretty clear glass bowl.  Next, spoon half of the pudding mixture on top of the cake. Then, spoon about 1/3 of the fruit on top of the pudding. Then add a layer of your ambrosia salad.  Repeat. Cover trifle, remaining fruit, and whipped cream with plastic and refrigerate at least a few hours before serving. Right before serving spoon remaining whipped cream on top.  You can sprinkle coconut over the top of the mixture but I prefer to leave it off.

This was not originally my recipe but I've added to it to use my own recipes and to come up with a different fruit bowl for our picnics.  Add or subtract what you wish from this rendering but always make sure to include the fruit salad in your summer fun.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Funnel Cake and Doughnut Sundaes

Let's talk about some treats that are normally saved for summer fun at the carnivals or one that comes back to me from my childhood.

I'm taking a walk down memory lane.  I remember Sweet William, a restaurant in downtown Pittsburgh, that served a hot fudge sundae but not just any sundae.  You could get other syrup flavors but in my world there is only Hot Fudge.  This sundae started with a cake doughnut on the bottom.

Cake Doughnut Sundae

On top of the cake doughnut was a scoop of vanilla ice cream with a sauce poured over it.  My favorite sauce is Hot Fudge.  It was topped with whipped cream and a cherry on top.  If you wanted you could get peanuts sprinkled over the sundae.  These were always served on a dessert plate and not in a bowl.

Sweet William was located on the corner of what is now Heinz Hall but is no longer in business.  Swee William and that sundae lives on in my memory bank of favorite foods.  It's actually one that you can easily make at home to give your grandchildren a memory to carry into their senior years.  Instead of Sweet William, they will say, "My Grandma, Nana, Nunny or (my favorite) Mema made this for me!"

Next, let's travel to the local carnival where they serve cotton candy, hot dogs and  funnel cakes.  

Funnel Cake

You can smell those cake doughnut variation cooking as soon as you walk up to the stand and who can resist buying a paper plate or paper towel serving of this great tasting treat.

Funnel Cake Frying in Oil


You can try your hand at making funnel cakes in your deep fryer.

Funnel Cake Sundae


After you make your funnel cake, let's get fancy and make it into a funnel cake sundae using either strawberries or cherry pie filling, topped with whipped cream and a cherry.

All I can say is these recipes are making my mouth water and I may need to go find the ingredients to make these for my Sundae (pun intended) dessert.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

When Is It My Turn

This time last year, I was sitting in my comfortable chair watching NCIS with my oldest son, Bill.  He and I would banter over what shows to watch because he didn’t like most of my favorites and I was not a devotee of Nascar.  He was tired of Pawn Stars and certainly didn’t like Murder She Wrote.  He would watch some of the Hallmark mysteries with me.  He would also tie up the DVR recording all of his favorite shows so that he could watch them while I was at work or out of the house for some reason.

Father Ken once labeled me a St. Monica person.  St. Monica is the patron saint of caregivers.  As you recall Bill was an amputee and as such could not carry things while walking on the stairs and as a result I would do his laundry and sometimes carry his meals to him.  I was his chauffeur to eye doctor visits and when he needed to go to St. Margaret's the last couple of years.

On one occasion I casually looked over at him sitting on the couch and asked, “When is it my turn?”  To this day I regret that because while he spent almost four months in hospital beds and when he was so sick and in ICU in the last days of his time on earth he would ask. Are you there Mum?”  I would answer “Yeh!  Right behind you in the corner.”  One time he uttered, “You’re the best.”  I can still hear those words when I feel the lowest and I'm missing him the most.  For no reason at all I hear them in my mind.

My point is just be grateful for what you have and don’t long to be in someone else’s place because it will come back to haunt you.  I've visited funeral homes seven times since the beginning of the year and I think that is quite enough.  

Even though it is nice to be pampered once in awhile, I'M NOT READY FOR IT TO BE MY TURN.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

So That's A Purple Finch

As I grow old, I've been blessed with the visions wondrous wild life creatures.

At an annual picnic in Plum Borough, my friend who hosted the picnic had several bird feeders hung back away from the house above a wooded area.

Purple Finch
Of course, my attention was immediately drawn to the creatures that were feeding there.  I was thrilled when I saw a slightly red headed bird that I didn't recognize.

My friends had only recently moved into their new home which they had built for their retirement years.  They told me that they had only hung the feeders that weekend using the feed they had left over from their previous home.

These beautiful finches came immediately and have been feeding there ever since.  She also has hummingbirds but she attracts them with the hibiscus planters she has on her deck.

House Finch

In my yard I get House Finches at my feeders.  They have red feathers on their heads and breasts.  The rest of their feathers resemble sparrows.

Goldfinch at my feeder
Yesterday, the Goldfinch flew past.  It was headed for my bird feeder but when it saw me it turned in mid flight and zoomed away to the neighbors fig tree.

Pete's fig tree is always alive with birds
This has been a wonderful summer for my love of bird feeding and watching.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Prayers and Money

A very wise man, my grandfather, once told me, "A penny saved is a penny earned."  He was obviously expounding Benjamin Franklin. Papa was a frugal man who had come through the depression on the other side of wealth. Once a steel mill executive, he was now a hard working pipe inspector who went to work daily on his split shifts. He was by no means wealthy in the form of money but his advice and parenting were golden.


As small children, Papa would give my brother and I a nickel and then later in life a dime with the same piece of advice which revolved around saving. Every week, I would run around the corner to the local store to buy my nickel or dime's worth of penny candy. I hadn't learned the lesson of saving for a rainy day yet.
That's not to say we didn't have the proverbial piggy bank. Ours were plastic Planter's Peanut Men. Mine was green and my brother's was red. It was stuffed with birthday money and what I thought was a fortune in silver dollars.
As we got older, Papa increased our weekly money to a quarter and I felt like a millionaire as I went down street to the five and dime variety store to spend my fortune. I loved paper dolls and every week I would come home with another booklet of dollies with an assortment of beautiful clothing. My pride and joy was my Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles paper dolls.
Then came the day that I wandered across the street to a new shop. It was called the Swagger Shop and it carried a little more expensive toys and sundries. In the window was a dress making doll. It came with a doll and what I thought were gorgeous dresses and cost a small fortune; almost $10. I lusted for that doll for months and months.
It was about that time that I learned the secret to praying for money. What you really needed you were to ask in Jesus' name. Every night, I would say my night prayers and at the end I would add a prayer for that doll set until I finally forgot all about it and quit asking. A couple of months later came my birthday and in my envelope from Papa was a crisp $10 bill. I had no trouble spending that $10. I all but ran to Swagger Shop to make my purchase. As I said, it had been months since I started praying for that toy. In the end, it gave me less pleasure than I had thought it would and the packaging was very deceptive. There were no clothes with those dolls just the material to make them clothes. Here was another lesson lesson to learn, "All that glitters is not gold."


Papa lived with us a few more years and retired from his mill job at the age of 75. I remember my mother telling us to not ask Papa for money because he was retired and didn't have the money to spend that he used to have.  Papa was the only driver in our little family and when he retired he sold his automobile which cut back on those luxury trips we had learned to love.
By this time, I had learned my lessons that Papa had taught us.  When he left us, I soon began my own earning life.  At the early age of 12, I begged my Dad to let me do dishes at his little diner that he had purchased when Papa passed. I did that until he no longer had the restaurant and I was old enough to get a paying job at the age of 16. Hard work never hurt anyone they say and I started young. I'm well past 65 now and I'm still working rather than rust away. I may not work until I'm 75 but that is my goal.  It is my time to respect what God has given me and spend it wisely on what is needed.
I still ask God for what I think I need and in the name of Jesus for the important life events. What God wills me to have he gives me.  God always answers my prayers, but not always at the time I ask and the answer sometimes is "No" because it's not in my best interest.
The best Prayer by which to live our lives is the Serenity Prayer:

The lesson here is: "Yes, God answers our prayers for money but only to the extent we need it. He also tempers in some of life's lessons to go along with what he provides for us."

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Parmesan Allergy: White Garlic Sauce Made Without Parmesan

Garlic Sauce Pasta
When I was younger, I often wondered why I would become nauseated when I would go into an Italian home when they were making sauces.  A good Italian sauce gives a home an ambiance of a welcoming home and fills the house with an aroma all it's own.  In my case though, I found that I was allergic to Parmesan and that is what caused my discomfort.  Here is a white sauce recipe for those you you who share my allergy.

Melt Butter


This recipe calls for melting a half cup of butter over a medium heat.

Add Cream Cheese & Garlic Powder


Add one 8 oz. package of cream cheese and 2 teaspoons of garlic powder and stir with a whisk until smooth.

Add milk


Slowly add 2 cups of milk and whisk to prevent forming lumps.

Add a dash of pepper to the mix and then remove from the heat to thicken.  The sauce will thicken quickly and if it becomes too thick you can add a drop or two more milk to thin it down.

Tortellini and Broccoli with Garlic Sauce

It is now ready to toss with your favorite pasta recipe.  I prefer tortellini and broccoli with my mock Alfredo Sauce.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Cheesy Potatoes Or Loaded Potatoes

Our family has a new favorite side dish.   We have always been a potato salad family and that would be the choice to have my daughter make for the any family gathering.  Let's be honest, we love a good potato salad that has just enough crunch from the chopped vegetables and just the right flavor from the hard boiled eggs and salad dressing that is used.  There are many types of potato salad to choose from and each family has their own favorite recipe.

Leftovers from 13x9" casserole
We were first treated to this recipe when my daughter was asked to bring Cheesy Potatoes to a birthday party.  She followed this up by bringing it to Our Christmas Eve dinner.

On Christmas Eve, our family tends to not eat meat from a tradition that my late husband started with my children when we married many years ago.  My first husband's family is Polish and they do not refrain from eating meat on Christmas Eve.  In fact, I remember gathering at his grandparent's home on Christmas Eve where there was a fully baked ham on the table ready to slice for sandwhiches.

Last year we were treated to meat balls and my daughter was asked to bring Cheesy Potatoes.  She normally bakes off a pound of bacon to go into these potatoes; but for some reason, she is the only one of my children who clings to the Italian tradition of no meat on Christmas Eve.  Christmas Eve we ate Cheesy Potatoes without Bacon added to the recipe.

This year we are gathering at my daughter's home for Christmas Eve and I'm hoping that she has these potatoes on the table.

That brings up another subject.  These potatoes can be made from scratch if you want to peel and grate 2 pounds of potatoes and you want to bake off the pound of bacon.
Grating Potatoes
I'm sure the finished product would come out with the same wonderful flavors.  However, I purchased my potatoes already grated country style potatoes from the frozen food section of the store and Hormel natural bacon pieces from the dressing aisle at the supermarket.  This recipe calls for finely chopped onions but I did not use them in mine.  In retrospect, I could have bought the O'Brien style hash brown potatoes and achieved a more flavorful casserole.

The recipe calls for canned cream of chicken soup, sour cream, grated cheddar cheese and melted margarine.  When you use all of these and add them to the O'Brien style potatoes you will achieve what we refer to as a loaded potato casserole.

This recipe is a great way to welcome in the colder days of Fall to go along with a meatloaf or any other entree.  In any case, I hope you try these and enjoy this home style cooking side dish that has become such a favorite in our family.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Praying Mantis, Bunny and Chipmunk appearing in my yard

Being from a neighborhood that boasted entrance to the woods within walking distance, I was used to seeing wildlife in my yard.  We always had bunnies, chipmunks and squirrels with the occasional possum that would show up under our garbage can stand.  When I moved to my present home, I was disappointed that I never got to see these creatures within the limits of my yard.



This year has shown me an abundance of wildlife again.  We had one chipmunk, there could be more, that came back and forth in the alley from a neighbors yard to climb my bird feeder pole and raid the goodies that I put out for the birds.


But this year for the first time, I was privileged to see a newborn bunny that would go back and forth between yards eating the clover.  It is now half grown and still gives me pause to wonder at the beauty of nature.


We talked about the purple finch that visited the gardens in a friend's yard.  We talked about the goldfinch that flitted across the neighbor's garden and stopped at my bird feeder.

In another event, I was sitting idly thinking about all the weights of the mind that cloud a peaceful day.  I have excellent peripheral vision and movement of bugs and spiders catch my attention for no other reason but that they moved.  That day I was not aware of being watched ever so carefully by the tiniest of preying mantis that I had ever seen.  It had been a few years since I had spied a full grown mantis crawling up the side of my house.



Before the new owners tore it down, my neighbor and I shared a dead space between another neighbor's garage and our property lines.  Behind this garage grew a menagerie of vines that I'm not totally sure what they are.  For years I have bent them back and tried make them grow away from the fence that separates our yards.

I spoke to my neighbor about trying to cut them back together and he said he was trying to find a natural weed killer instead of using one that was on the market.  To make a long story short, I concocted a batch from one I had seen on Pinterest and sprayed the vines.  When I reported what I had done my neighbor told me he had not sprayed the vines because he had spied two preying mantis among the vines.  I felt horrible because I had literally killed their home.

To my relief, this little fellow came to visit me.  All is well with the world again because nature has proven to me that it's creatures do survive.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Old Fashioned Penny Candy and Fudge

In years gone by, I remember penny candy that we would buy from the corner store.  Don Kahn, our local grocery store owner, and many like him across the country had glass cases just lined with these delightful candies that sometimes sold two for a penny.  After Don came Ruth's Store and she was known to shut down the candy sales during the dinner hour so that the children would not ruin their supper.

glover320.blogspot.com


I have searched the Internet but cannot find a picture of one of my favorites which was the tiny pie tin that had chocolate fudge in it with a tiny tin spoon to eat it.  The poster I borrowed from another blog has the closest picture I could find.  They sold for a penny each and they came in chocolate or vanilla fudge.  The link is to Old Fashioned Fudge Recipes.


Of course, everyone remembers the licorice whips which you can still buy in the candy section in bags sold as Strings.


Along the same line, was the red jelly candy coins.  These were normally cherry flavored.


During holiday seasons, you might find some of these treasures in the candy case.  They were chocolate medallions covered with gold foil.
When I had more than a few pennies to spend I would buy the candy balls that would change colors as you sucked on them.  In and out of your mouth you would pop them to see what color they had turned into.  Then there were the fireballs that were red hot as you sucked away at the sweetness.


I remember those waxy little bottles that were filled with just a drop or two of sugary flavored syrup that we called soda pops.

Tootsie Rolls and Daisies


Who could forget the Tootsie Pops that are still popular today



Tootsie Rolls that come in various sizes and bags of the bits in your local candy aisles.



In this selection you have your Mary Jane that were peanut butter flavored and a Bit-O-Honey another hard candy.  Banana Flips were popular too.


Fruit slices were not among my favorites but you could buy them in various flavors.  The most popular being the orange slices.  You can still buy these by the bagful at the grocery store.

The day of the penny candy is gone but not from my memory.  Candy has become a big business and most of these candies are still sold in various containers and sizes of bags.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Alternate Transportation, Riding the Rails

IN MEMORY OF WILLIAM PAUL DUDAS, JR.
on his 50th birthday

Three years ago, our family booked a family reunion in Orlando, Florida.  Some of the family went by airplane, but my son and I decided to book onto a train that would take us from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Orlando Florida.  The cost was right and we would be on the upper level with the option of watching the sights go by and not having to keep the foot on the pedal or pull over to see the scenery of our country.

After we booked our trip we told my second son about the great prices and they decided to book the same train for his wife and two children.  The plan was hatched.  Double deck train to Washington DC and then in the regular Amtrak cars from DC to Orlando.

Everything was fine until the my oldest son had a foot amputated and we had to change our e-tickets for handicapped seating.  My son and I sat on the bottom deck and the other son and his family sat in the upper deck.  He boarded with his wheelchair and was seated in a front seat.  This was a shame because he missed the opportunity to get to the dining cars and to the observation car.



I did the running between cars to get sodas and snacks from the cafe which was a trip up the stairs then cross over from one car to another twice and then down the stairs to get to the cafe.  Remember, I'm the one with the handicapped parking and hovering just below 70.  But, I made it.  We are a coca cola family so that meant we had to substitute Sierra Mist for our drinks because Amtrak carries only Pepsi products.

I did get to see the observation car it was nicely laid out with seats that faced out the windows and tables for larger groups to sit.

Other than that the trip from Pittsburgh to DC was great.  We left about 15 minutes behind schedule but ended up getting to DC about 45 minutes late which cut us back to a much smaller time to get into the station and onto the platform for the train to Orlando.


The second half of the trip was overnight.  I think if I were to do this trip again I would consider getting a sleeper.  My son and I were very uncomfortable and needed to switch often.  The only good thing turned out to be a bad thing.  We were seated right behind the bathrooms.  There are two on each car.  The rest of the bathrooms were having customer problems and the two by us seemed to be the choice of the entire four cars that were on this train.  They were lined up constantly for the train until someone did the unthinkable and stopped up the big one.  Then it was locked for the rest of the trip into Orlando.

My sons are smokers and the younger boy was able to hop off the train on the longer stops and grab a quick puff or two from a cigarette.  If he lucked out and there was someone being loaded by the lift then it took longer and he got two cigarettes.  The oldest boy though was confined to the inside of the car and was not able to get out for a cigarette.  The conductor offered to get him out at one station because they had four people who were going to need to be lifted onto the train.  That was very nice of them since they are not obligated to offer that service.  He refused the courtesy though because we were so close to Orlando by this time and we were well over an hour behind schedule.

We were behind schedule because we had to sit on sidings and let freight trains pass by.  That is because Amtrak uses Conrail tracks and Conrail has preference if there is a conflict on a one track section.  At one point the freight train passed us and then another Amtrak train whizzed past us going like the wind.  That held us up from getting into the next station even longer.



Coming home the conductor explained to us that they let already late trains wait if they have one that is on time go first to stay on time.  This picture show us so much more relaxed on the way home since the son had two massages that gave him two and a half hours of therapeutic massages.  I got a half hour Swedish massage while I was in at the timeshare.  We traveled home by way of train from Orlando to Washington DC where we rented a minivan for the rest of the trip home.  We decided to do this because there was going to be an eight hour layover in DC while we waited for the next train into Pittsburgh and then a seven hour train ride.  Even though we had to wait for the car rental office to open we were home in Pittsburgh before the train left DC.

Even with the cost of the car rental my round trip only cost the two of us $750 total.  That was the full train ride from Pittsburgh to Orlando.  The Train ride back from Orlando to DC and the car rental.  I don't think we could have flown for that price and at least I had the opportunity to get up and walk around.

All in all, I enjoyed the ability to move around during the ride and even though it took a longer time to get where we were going, I got to see places and things I would never see from the air.

It is my recommendation if your travels allow enough time for taking the train to give it a try.  Our check in was for Saturday at 4 pm.  We left Pittsburgh on Friday at 5 am and arrived in Orlando well before our check in time at around noon on Saturday.  Of course, coming home was more of a hassle but would have gotten us home by train before the end of day on Sunday.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

All Work and No Play Syndrome

     The phrase, "All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy-" is so true.  For years, I have been throwing myself into work because of losing my life's companion.  When I was hospitalized a few years ago, I found that the phrase was so true.  I had been staying away from all of the fun things that we had enjoyed doing as a couple and was not mingling with other people except for a select number of friends.

     As a result, I was just that a dull Jane.  I started going out again with the select friends but to a social club where I could mingle with others and enjoy the music for an evening.

     Then disaster struck again.  My youngest son died and my oldest son broke his ankle which has had him off work for four months so far.  Needless to say that put a crimp in the budget because being the person I am I took on too much and left the fun side of me go back into my shell.

     My youngest son is gone a few years now and my oldest step-daughter along with him.  I find that I'm not mourning as deeply as I did when my husband passed.  I have been able to get myself back into the swing of things so to speak.  I went back out to the social club and I bought a ticket for the picnic and went.

     I know it sounds callous to say you can't miss what you didn't have, but to be honest I have only been with my son and step-daughter a select few times over the past two decades because of where they were living.

This year my oldest son, who had been fighting diabetes, passed away and I find myself knee deep in grief again.  It was a total shock when he went downhill due to undiagnosed MDS, pre-leukemia,  in a matter of three months.   I live in disbelief that he has gone on to a better life and I am left behind to pick up the pieces.  Again I'm working more than I should to keep busy.

I miss them all but I know I have to get on with what is left of my life because there may not be that much of it left.  We never know what tomorrow will bring.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Flower Explosion

We have had such a mild winter that the growing season for flowers was upon us faster than we expected.  During a similar winter a few years back, I was disappointed when I found the bulbs from the previous year's lilies unearthed in my little side garden by my entrance stone.  It seems my neighbors were not so nice when they were walking their dogs because they dug them up for me.  I took them out and dried in my basement to replant them in the Fall.  The bulbs took nicely and I now have a profusion of Asian Lilies in front of my newly painted Madonna.



I did some pregardening and dug up the dandelions in front of my pedestal.  After I re aligned the pedestal, I moved my Madonna statue back onto her pedestal and planted two new Asian Lily plants that had a lot of buds on them.  Now I see the dogs missed one of my white lilies because the stem is popping out of the ground and the ones on the other side of the entrance stone are coming up.




I wanted to add some new plants this summer but had not made up my mind what to plant.  I love lilies of the valley but they only bloom once each year and then you have greens the rest of the year.  I may do those and then I wont have so many weeds showing in the garden.  My neighbor gave me some from her garden but when my other neighbor was weeding for me last year he pulled them out.  This year yet another neighbor gave me some from her garden when she was thinning them out.  Hopefully, these will take hold and I wont have to do anything there in years to come.

I'm not a good gardener.   My grandfather had a green thumb and could grow anything.  Each year he went to the greenhouse to pick out something new for his garden.  I just want to get something growing that will come up year after year and look nice.

This year I bought some annuals that were left at the garden center too long and I planted them between the Asian Lilies and the front of the garden.  I got some delphiniums and lantas.

If you have any suggestions on what to put in such a small planting area, please comment so I can consider your suggestions.

Sunday Farmer's Market in Aspinwall, Pennsylvania

July weekends are great for going to the Flea Market.  Find that treasure and to support your Aspinwall Volunteer Fire Department.

From April through the end of October, weather permitting, the best farmer's market can be found in Aspinwall, Pennsylvania at the AVFD Flea Market.  The Sunday after Easter was the start of another season of the best of the best.  Come to Aspinwall to view some of the best vendors on the flea market trail.


The farmer who is featured here has been a vendor at the flea market for many years.   The young people who sell their vegetables come from a family that has a history of selling door to door in Aspinwall with their fresh cut meats and vegetables.  As a child I remember them coming to our street with their produce.

The family run farm stand has added their refrigerated fresh butchered meat van.  The truck is a full travel trailer and features their home grown and butchered meats.

While the flea market itself has many vendors that display their wares, the main attraction each week is the local produce.  Being at a Port Authority bus stop is another feature that allows many people who don't drive to attend this weekly event and buy items that they can carry home on public transportation.



Early Years in a small location



What is especially good is that all of the produce is professed to be locally grown and the young people who run the stand are from a local farm.  This farming family started out in a smaller location in a corner of the lot.  They have since moved to the center of the lot taking up three prime spots selling their produce from the truck and collapsible tents.  They are in the center of attention each week.


Freedom Farms a family run farm
High quality fruits and vegetables.
The flea market doesn't need any more publicity because it is run by the Aspinwall Volunteer Fire Department and has been for many years.  As in any event worthwhile attending, parking is at a premium since the event itself is held in the community's public parking lot and attendees need to find parking on nearby streets.  But the result of your trip is well worth the time it takes to visit the stands of this hard working family.

In Pennsylvania, senior citizens who live on limited means are presented with four gift certificates for fresh vegetables early in the season to be used over the summer months.  Each certificate is worth $5 and must be spend entirely on produce that is locally grown.  Freedom Farms is a local grower and they do accept these certificates in payment of their fruits and vegetables.

I have spent many a Sunday morning picking out just the right zucchini or apples for the recipes that I love to make for my family.  I recommend a trip to the flea market in the coming summer weeks.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Easy Casserole Dinners

Just being lazy is one reason to make a casserole.  In some recipes it all goes in one bowl and the result is a delicious change to your menu.  When I'm being particularly lazy I buy a pan of macaroni and cheese and then microwave a chicken breast and some broccoli.  When the macaroni is just about done you can add the chicken and broccoli and you have a one dish dinner that is tasty and mostly nutritious.
Mac and Cheese with Broccoli and Chicken

Of course, you can do it the long way and make it all from scratch such as the linked recipe for home-made macaroni and cheese with chicken and broccoli.

Sausage, Apples & Rice Casserole
Another one of my favorite casseroles is Sausage Apples and Rice.  This recipe I made up after eating something similar at a cafeteria where I worked which used Stouffer Recipes.  I served it to my step-children soon after I married my second husband and to this day they are asking me for the recipe.  It's rather easy to make and the secret to it's good flavor is that I boil apple juice to make my rice.  The apples come from the ones I put up for winter usually or I have to microwave a batch while the rice is cooking.  The sausage is usually leftovers from breakfast but you can start by cooking down the sausage from scratch.

Chicken and Stuffing Casserole
I have to admit I got this idea from the side of a box of stuffing mix.  I mix the stuffing with chicken broth, place chicken breasts on top of the dish, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees until the chicken is cooked through and the stuffing is moist.  You can also add some broccoli to this recipe.

Each of these recipes is easy to make and takes varying cooking times but the result is a fabulous dinner.