he’s 42?

Wow, where did those years go?????

scan056Happy Birthday to my very loved oldest son.


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a pair of yellow boots

yellow boots

These are really cute boots.  In my size.  Love the color, love the toes.
Love, love, love.

They belong to Sheryl Crow, who is auctioning off the contents of her closet and sending the proceeds to charity.

We wear the same size boots.  How lucky is that?

And no, I am not bidding on them.  I was going to, when the price hovered around $40 for several days.  But now Ebay bidders are coming out of the closet–so to speak–to bid on these lovely yellow boots.

I’ll admire them from a distance.

But Sheryl?  I love your taste in boots!

If you’re interested in seeing the auction, click HERE.

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whipping up thanksgiving

I am still sick–this time from an allergy attack after driving our old, mildew-scented truck to town on Friday–so on Sunday I settled on the couch with tea and a box of tissues and watched college football highlights.

Nebraska had lost Saturday.  I mean, they really lost.  It was bad. So bad it made all the highlight reels on the college game review shows.

So I quickly switched to the cooking channels.

Not that I’m cooking.

But the Thanksgiving-themed cooking shows were absolutely captivating.  Various chefs on two different channels (I switched back and forth) prepared all sorts of new and different Thanksgiving dishes.  They also modified old standard recipes and explained the scientific aspects behind each step in the cooking process.

My head was a little fuzzy so I didn’t quite understand the “potato starch” addition to cool-not-hot turkey drippings/gravy and the resulting pipe cleaner demonstration of potato starch molecules and how hot gravy coagulates into sludge, but it’s not important (I hope).

It was the making of whipped potatoes that scared the dickens out of me.

First the tv chef peeled potatoes (no prob-Banjo Man usually does that for me) and then he sliced them into thin slices by using one of those “mandolin” things.  He used a special tool to hold the potato so he wouldn’t slice his knuckles.

mandolin slicerThen he lifted them gently into a large cooking pot filled with cold water and put them in the refrigerator overnight.  This was to soak every bit of starch right out of them and, he insisted, was a very important, crucial step.

The next day, which would be Thanksgiving and roughly 2 hours before dinner, he lifted them GENTLY (for some reason, “gently” was crucial due to clinging starch molecules) out of the pan and into a colander.  Then they were placed–yeah, gently–into a cooking pot and covered with milk.  Yep, milk.  They were simmered on the stove until done.

The milk was strained out and we were told to save it for that turkey chowder we’d make the day after Thanksgiving.  We were told to save a cup of the milk.

Okay, I wasn’t too stressed.  Yet.  (I think Banjo Man owned one of those mandolin slicers once, but I think it went to the dump years ago. )

And then…..our compulsive and totally delusional tv chef brought out a ricer.  Because he said smashing the cooked potatoes with a potato masher would make the potatoes taste like glue.  There was more detail about starch molecules, but I’d zoned out.

potato ricer

So he riced the entire colander of cooked potatoes and promised it would only take three minutes and be worth the time and trouble.  (Sure, I have time to rice hot potatoes an hour before serving dinner, don’t you?)

But our insane tv chef wasn’t finished!!!  Now he poured the one cup of milk into the bowl and whipped the potatoes!  FOR FIFTEEN SECONDS, no more, no less.  FIFTEEN SECONDS, he insisted.  Or those molecules would rise up from the bowl and glue his face to the kitchen counter.  Or something.

Clearly it was time to switch channels, and thank God I did.  Because on some show called The Kitchen there were five cooks trading Thanksgiving recipes.  And the young guy on the left said he always used his mother’s recipe for mashed potatoes and it could be done ahead of time and frozen, and the secret ingredient was……surprise……cream cheese!

Cream cheese?  I use cream cheese!!  I do my potatoes ahead of time, too, just like this guy’s mother!!!

Sure enough, he went on to demonstrate the recipe.  He never mentioned starch or molecules.  He just whipped that baby together, stuck it in the oven and presented it to the other chefs as a done deal.

So here it is, the do-ahead whipped potatoes casserole that has saved my sanity for 44 years.

The Creamiest, Butteriest, Tastiest Mashed Potatoes Ever
Be the first to review! 

Recipe courtesy of Jeff Mauro
The Kitchen
Thanksgiving Prep

Total Time:
1 hr 20 min
15 min
1 hr 5 min
Yield:8 portions
Next Recipe
Mashed Potatoes:
5 pounds Idaho russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
Kosher salt
6 ounces cream cheese
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, softened, plus more for greasing dish
1 cup half-and-half, warmed
1/2 tablespoon cracked black pepper
2 cloves garlic, zested
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter, melted
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
For the mashed potatoes: Add the potatoes and 1 tablespoon salt to a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook over medium-high heat until fork-tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and set aside to dry.

Whip together the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl with a hand mixer on medium speed until thoroughly blended, about 2 minutes. Add the still-warm potatoes alternating with the half-and-half. Whip until blended. Add in the pepper and garlic and season with salt to taste.

Grease a 9-by-14-inch glass baking dish with butter and pour the potato mixture into it. Bake right away, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

When ready to bake and serve, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the topping: Pour the melted butter over the potato mixture and bake until bubbly and slightly golden, about 45 minutes. Garnish with the chives and parsley. The potatoes can be kept warm in a 200-degree oven or tented with foil until ready to serve, up to 2 hours.

Recipe courtesy of Jeff Mauro
click here for the page

Posted in food, personal female whining, rhode island | Leave a comment

the need for back up plans

Banjo Man’s new all-in-one printer had a nervous breakdown yesterday.  So did Banjo Man.  By the time I reached his office, planning to issue a cheerful good morning on my way out to run a couple of errands (I was feeling a little better and was dying to get out of the house!), Banjo Man was in crisis.

After an hour of tech-fiddling, I gave up trying to fix his printer and drove to Staples to buy a plain old black and white printer.  “We need,” I declared, “a back up plan.”

Peace of mind for $89.99.

(Note:  later that evening the HP tech person from India and I were able to work together to solve the problem, though I still don’t know why the printer self-destructed in the first place, and Banjo Man is relieved to have his high-tech equipment working again).

I had no back up when I realized I’d left my organic shampoos in Idaho and in Texas and had to wash my hair with a bar of soap last week.

I don’t recommend doing that.  Not pretty.

I had no back up when I lost my driving glasses somewhere between Indiana and Rhode Island.  I’ve been driving, even at night, wearing my prescription sunglasses.

I don’t recommend doing that, either.  Not easy.

I didn’t have my back up car key when Banjo Man discovered he’d lost our set of car keys after arriving at the airport in RI two weeks ago.  We had to take the parking lot shuttle back to the airport and rent a car in order to drive ourselves home.

I don’t recommend doing that.  Not good for the marriage.

So now, after an appointment with the Toyota service center, we own FIVE CAR KEYS.  We each have a back up key, along with a back up to the back up.  (And yes, I am a little neurotic when it comes to making sure I have extra keys to everything).

Amazon delivered my replacement shampoo in two days.  In the meantime I found a little bottle of shampoo I’d taken from a Hampton Inn.  It was much nicer than soap.

My new glasses are ready to be picked up today.  I ordered them the day I returned the rental car and, using my back up emergency car key, retrieved the Highlander from the parking lot.  It was raining.  I was grumpy.  I honestly can’t remember what these glasses looked like.

It will be a surprise.

Let’s hope we can get to the end of the year without losing anything else.

Posted in family, personal female whining, rhode island, travel | Leave a comment

the goofy gene

2014-10-26 031 2014-10-29 006We know where he gets it from.


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movies, a virus and digging through the post-travel rubble

Banjo Man and I are sick.  I guess we caught something nasty on that crowded flight from Austin to Baltimore, but that’s another story for another time.  We don’t know if we have the flu or a weird virus or that strange bug they discovered last week in Nebraska that makes you stupid.

And since we’ve lost car keys, glasses and maybe a cell phone in the past few weeks, we just might have that Stupid Bug.

Because I can’t do anything but lie in bed and sometimes drag myself to the kitchen to make herbal tea, I have been buying Christmas presents on the internet, looking and lusting after vintage cowboy boots on ebay and researching used cars for next summer.

Oh, and then there are the Hallmark movies.  The sappy holiday stories about romance and family and regaining Christmas spirit and finding love.  And because I don’t have the energy to absorb the latest political news or live vicariously through someone’s house-buying or house-renovation on HGTV, I’ve opted for the Hallmark Movie Channel.  For some reason we now get both of those channels, which means there are always two movies to choose from.

At 4:30 this morning Banjo Man and I were awake and miserable and in the living room watching this:

angels sing

It was set in Austin and several of the local musicians had bit parts, along with stars Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson and Harry Connick, Jr.

Probably a highlight of the week, here at home at 5 AM, with a cold front moving in.

Pass the Tylenol.  Thank you.


Posted in family, personal female whining, rhode island, television | 2 Comments

heading east again

It’s raining in Austin tonight.  Banjo Man and I have done laundry and packed our suitcases.  We’ve kissed our grandson goodbye and enjoyed a few more hugs from all of our family here.

The Broken Spoke, a South Austin landmark, begins its 50th anniversary celebration tonight.  A honkytonk dancing saloon once surrounded by a huge dusty parking lot, it is now hemmed between two large apartment buildings.

Condominiums are sprouting up everywhere.

South Austin is changing.  And so quickly.

Since I didn’t haul my laptop to Texas this time (I’m using a Kindle tablet) I haven’t been able to share the pictures I took of trucks and Halloween and pumpkins and guitars and musicians and margaritas and Princess Leia headbands.

But I will, when I am home.

Can you tell I’m a little tired?

Remember that story I was in the middle of writing last month?  I finished it in Missoula and sent it off.  Well, there was a little glitch in the format no one knew about, so I worked on that up until the night before leaving on a 6 AM flight to Austin with daughter NancyK.  Meanwhile my poor editor just about had a nervous breakdown and said she owed me a bottle of tequila.

My daughter told me I slept right through pretty bad turbulence on the flight between Tampa and Austin, turbulence that made the woman on my right sick and ask for an air bag and ginger ale.  I vaguely remember my head bouncing a bit, but not enough to wake me up.

Banjo Man says I’m still tired from the road trip.  He suggests  that when we get home I spend all my spare time sitting on the couch with him and watching our favorite tv shows.  He thinks we should get a bigger television.

We are not getting a bigger television.

I wish I had the energy to drop into the “Spoke” tonight, hear a little music, watch the dancers, look around to see if “Willie” dropped by to say hello…

But it is raining in Austin tonight.  And it is time to go home and rest up for a few months.

With Banjo Man.

On the couch.

Posted in austin, family, personal female whining, texas, travel | Leave a comment

deja vu all over again

I am in Austin, being Grandma.

It’s a fun job because right now my grandson’s world revolves around Star Wars.  I’m familiar with that world.  It began in 1977, when the first movie was released and Banjo Man worked for a salad dressing company.  We left the mountain one weekend in early 1978 and drove to Seattle to pick up jars or spices or something like that.

We stayed with a cousin, who asked if we had seen Star Wars.  Of course we hadn’t, so off we went to a midnight show (the only time with available seats) and that is when Son #1′s life took on a whole new meaning.

In other words, the Force was with him.

It was with all of us, but especially with my mother.  Over the years she bought a zillion dollars of Star Wars toys.  Birthdays, Christmas, Easter, the flu, ear surgery, etc.  No event, good or bad, passed without a package from Grandma.

I overheard my son tell an impressed friend, “My grandma and I have a Star Wars collection.”

Indeed they did.

And it’s genetic.



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the first 100 miles

Banjo Man and I left the lake last Sunday afternoon.

For the first time in six years I did not cry all the way to Thompson Falls.  Why, you ask?

Because I was eating ice cream.   Not just any ice cream, but soft-serve vanilla ice cream from The Pantry.  I’ll let you in on a little tip:  if you buy a large cup of The Pantry’s soft serve vanilla ice cream and take it home and freeze it, you will have something that tastes like homemade, right-from-the-crank-machine, ice cream.

It’s pretty wonderful.

I buy mini chocolate chips from The Pantry and add them to the ice cream to make….TA DAH!!!–chocolate chip ice cream.

And because I was eating this from the time we left the lake until somewhere deep into Montana, I was too busy to cry.

Banjo Man was so happy.  He now knows The Secret to Leaving Idaho Without Tears.

After I finished my ice cream–and believe me, I made it last a long time–I took some pictures.

Because Montana is photogenic.

2014-10-12 013 2014-10-12 018 2014-10-12 020

Posted in lake, road trip | 2 Comments

until next year

It’s always hard to say goodbye.  But it’s October.  Time to go to Texas and party with the family there.  Time to eat birthday cake and pumpkin ice cream.

2014-10-11 041

Goodbye, beach. You were good exercise.
2014-10-10 006

Goodbye, rocks. The treasure hunt for arrowheads will continue next year.
2014-10-11 019Goodbye, friends.  Take good care of yourselves.  I’ll miss you terribly.

photo (34)photo (33)2013-09-18 0342014-07-20 0012014-07-20 0022014-07-11 0072014-09-23 0502014-09-27 042

Posted in lake, personal female whining, road trip | 2 Comments