The First Without


first without

My Mom died peacefully this past November 1, All Saints Day. She was 94, and suffered from dementia, so it was a combination of grief over losing her, and relief that her suffering had ended.

With her passing, I am officially an orphan.  My Dad passed away in 2003 and my only sister in 2004.  I am flying solo now.

This past year many of my friends have lost parents or siblings.  It is bound to happen, as we are of “that age”.  Family members pass, and with them go many of the family traditions that bound you all together.

The first Christmas without.

The first birthday, yours or theirs, without.

The first wedding anniversary without.

These times were times of family sharing, or they could be times of great stress. My Mom put so much importance on being together for Christmas that it was not enjoyable.  The meal was tense, the pressure to be the perfect family was enormous. It was like she was trying to recreate that Norman Rockwell painting of the family at Thanksgiving.  And yet, I do miss it. For all of her stress and perfectionism, the bottom line was she treasured our small family. She just had a weird way of showing it. To learn more about my Mom, check out my post “Betty and the Banana Cake”.

My Dad and I were very close.  I used to show horses competitively, and he was my biggest supporter and champion. We would get up at the crack of dawn, hitch up the horse trailer and head out. I couldn’t eat anything until I was done competing, just my own nervous food ritual. When I was old enough, Dad and I began our post-show ritual.  We would both sit down and crack open a Genesee Cream Ale. (Beer fans, do not judge me…). Whether I won or lost, this was how we ended a day of competing. It was one of my favorite times with him. To learn more about my Dad, check out my post “Old Ritual= New Ritual”.

My sister loved good meals.  And she adored anything French.  But she could not keep a stocked pantry or refrigerator to save her life.  My son, who was about 9 at the time, and I went to visit my sister in Florida.  I needed to make my son some lunch and opened her refrigerator. No bread. No fruit. No mayonnaise.  But there was a half used jar of capers and a head of frisee. Check the cupboards. No peanut butter. No tuna. No cereal. No kid food, period.  But there were canned snails and dried porcini mushrooms…

We had to go out to the local deli and buy my son a sandwich.

I can’t fault her. She shopped like a European.  And I love snails…

When my Dad passed, I could share the grief with my sister and my Mom.  When my sister passed, I had to support my Mom. No one wants to outlive their children.  When my Mom passed, I had the support of my husband, son, his fiancée and my friends.

I’m not alone, and yet I am.

This year for me is the First Without-without ALL Of Them. And it feels sad.

I have the ashes of all three of them.  And I have been trying to decide what to do.  We aren’t funeral people, there was not a service for any of them. But what I am thinking of doing is having a dinner party for my friends and family who knew them.  And I will cook my Mom’s pot roast (it was always fabulous), make escargot in honor of my sister, and drink a Genny in honor of my Dad.  I’m going to take all of those elements of our meal traditions and share it in remembrance of them.

I’m taking my First Without and having it WITH those who knew and loved them. And I won’t feel alone.


The Family Fudge Tradition


I just got done making a batch of the fudge that I make for gifts every year. It’s easy, and really sinfully good. My son has adopted the tradition of making it at the holidays as well. So I thought I would give the gift of this recipe to you all, my dear readers and followers!  Give it a try, and follow the tradition and pass the recipe on to your family and friends.


Refrigerator Fudge

  • 2  1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup (6 oz.) evaporated milk
  • 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup corn syrup, light or dark
  • 2 TBSP butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped nuts, raisins or coconut, optional

Combine sugar and evaporated milk in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat stirring CONSTANTLY until mixture boils. Turn heat to low or medium low, so that it is still bubbling, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring CONSTANTLY to prevent scorching.

Remove from heat-don’t just turn the burner off- take the pan off of the burner- and IMMEDIATELY add butter, vanilla, corn syrup and chocolate pieces and stir well until the chocolate is melted, smooth and shiny. Add optional ingredients if desired and stir in and pour into a buttered 8 inch pan.

The mixture sets up rapidly, so spread it quickly.  Chill for  two hours in the refrigerator or until firm. Cut into pieces.

Makes 2  1/2 pounds.

The best method is to measure all of the ingredients out before you start cooking, and have it ready to pour into once the milk and sugar have cooked. You have to move fast, so it is easier if everything is opened and measured, and all you need to do is pour it in and stir.

A couple of variations that I like:

Add 2 tsp of peppermint  flavoring in when you add all of the ingredients.  This gives it a nice peppermint flavor.  You can crush up candy canes and sprinkle on top when the fudge is slightly set, before you chill it.

Once the fudge is cooled and slightly set, sprinkle sea salt on top.  You don’t want to add the salt when the fudge is too hot, it will get absorbed into the fudge.  It is a lovely combo of salt and sweet.  Delicious.

Or experiment with other ingredients.  Let me know what you come up with!


Happy Holidays, all!




Less is More



Ah yes. It is the Holidays. With a capital H. Full of traditions and family rituals. Parties, gifts, food.

And a whole lotta work.

I am not being a Grinch here, far from it. And I don’t want to write another one of those ” how to reduce your stress at the holidays” pieces. We all see plenty of those. But the holidays are time consuming and exhausting.  As much as I want to enjoy the holidays, I also feel  anxious about it.

Bottom line is, I just want to have a good time.  And the best way to do that is to take the Less is More Method.

Less gifts. Less food. Less fuss. Less activity. Less anxiety.

I’m going for the Quality over Quantity Holiday this year.  My husband and I told our children that we don’t want any gifts this year except for them to contribute to our purchase of a new gas stove and cook-top.  We currently have an electric one, and if you are a serious cook, you all know how much electric cook-tops stink. So instead of buying gifts for each other, and trying to surmise what each other wants, we decided to buy the new stove.  Period. And our kids can give us money towards the purchase. Done and done.

Our children want gift cards for Christmas. And I used to fight that, thinking that it wasn’t personal enough, that it was a cop-out, that I should know them well enough to find the perfect gift, so if I bought a gift card, I was a lazy failure.  Not this year. Gift cards purchased. Done.

I’m still going to buy small gifts for the Christmas stockings, but I am going to be buying from socially responsible companies like Bombas. This company started out with a mission to provide socks for homeless people. They have done their research by interviewing the homeless for what they need in a sock, and redesigned socks to make them comfortable and long lasting.With every purchase you make, they donate a pair to help the homeless.
They started with a mission to help people in need, and have already donated over one million pairs of socks. I can get behind that.

I will also be buying from Penzeys Spices. A friend turned me onto this company, and their quality is the best, bar none.  But another reason I support them is how their CEO, William Penzey, has spoken out against the rash of racism, misogyny and fear mongering that is our current political climate.  Sure he has taken some hits on social media, but go read his letter to CEOs of other companies on their Facebook page here. This is a company worth purchasing from.

And I will be supporting local stores. I have some favorites, but I want to get into some local stores that I haven’t been to before. Plus, when you actually shop locally, you meet people who live locally. Instead of  hanging out on my laptop with my credit card,  I will get out and interact. Try it. Even if you don’t make a purchase you will be in the world.

Don’t need or don’t want any more “stuff”? I know I don’t.  Do what we did. We told our children that from now on, for holidays and birthdays, we only want:

  • Good things to eat
  • Good things to drink
  • Time with them

I have favorite wines that are always an acceptable gift! Plus, Turkish dried apricots, caramel and dark chocolate with sea salt candies,  balsamic vinegar, coffee, and more. Consumables are the perfect gift for me, as I don’t want any more:

  • coffee cups
  • tee shirts
  • refrigerator magnets
  • gee gaws and doo dahs

Time together is the one gift that we all too often fail to give or receive. Take time to go do something with your friends and family. Go to a museum or to a play, or go hiking. Dine out at a really special restaurant. That combines the time together gift with the great food and drink gift!  Be unscheduled and just hang out. A day playing board games, or reading a book, sitting around in our pajamas is not time wasted, it is time well spent.  So put aside some time to do something. Or nothing. Together.

We are working on our holiday meal menu, and we both do love to plan and prepare the feast. Our Christmas Day breakfast tradition is lox and bagels. Not your typical Christmas breakfast, but we love it. (This was the subject of my very first blog post, which you can read here.) We will most likely do some sort of roast beef, with the usual vegetables and pies for dessert.  In the past, we have done the traditional Italian meal of the Seven Fishes Dinner on Christmas Eve.  This is a perfect meal for a large group.  We have done a shrimp cocktail appetizer, clams in white wine over pasta, calamari,  or a bouillabaisse.  Our favorite story  was when my husband tried a recipe from the fifties that was  a crab dip with Worcestershire sauce and mayonnaise. If it sounds awful…. it was. What a waste of crab. It was INEDIBLE. We both tried it, gagged and just started laughing.  It is still one of our favorites tale of recipes gone horribly wrong.

And I will make a date with a friend who came over last year to make Christmas cookies. We had a blast. It was a great time to catch up, and we had so much fun. There was royal icing everywhere, but who cares?

I am sure there will still be some stressful or anxious moments over the holidays, but I am planning on letting go of anything that causes stress or discord.

My new ritual is…less ritual.

So, to my readers, I wish you a holiday season of less AND more.  This has been a tumultuous year, with more upheavals and discord on the horizon.

I wish you less stress and more peace.

I wish you less fear and more community.

I wish you less helplessness, and more power.

And I wish everyone  hope.  Give it. Share it. Receive it.

Happy Holidays to All.



Thanksgiving 2016-We Are All In Need of Comfort



This is a Thanksgiving unlike any other I have known. I am still reeling from the results of the election, as I think many of you are. I was going to share some recipes, and some tips, but that feels trivial to me right now. It’s going to be challenging to be thankful with everything that is happening.

But we have to rise above. That is not to say we normalize the situation, ignore it or take no action.  I believe that now more than ever, we must stand up for kindness and empathy.

So here is my take on getting through this Thanksgiving.

We need to celebrate our differences.  We need to celebrate our heritage and our cultures. We need to share our stories, and we need to hear the stories from others.  Our diversity is what makes us strong.  So we cannot give in to those who say otherwise. Ever.

I see many people who are struggling and are afraid. This is not who we are as a nation. We don’t incite fear, we work to take it away.  Always.

So how to get through this holiday when the whole premise is to be thankful? Not easy.

First, I think we all need to give ourselves a break. Not to forget, but just to let ourselves find a spot that is less painful. We need to put our outrage and our anger on hold for one day.  And we need to surround ourselves with our family and friends that we love. Use this Thanksgiving meal as your safe place. Enjoy the community of your own traditions. Find comfort in your meal and in your loved ones.

You can also give back. Go to a church or homeless shelter and serve dinner to those in need. They need to know that they have not been forgotten.  You can also donate to causes to help feed the hungry.  One is, but there are many national and local organizations that could use your support. Or invite a person or people that you don’t know very well to your dinner. In the Jewish faith, at Passover, it is customary to have one stranger at the meal. Find someone who you would like to get to know, and invite them. Expand your community to beyond your familiar gathering of folks. Be open. Be welcoming.

Celebrate diversity at your meal. While it is comforting to always have the same  menu for the holiday, try adding a dish from another culture. I found this New York Times article called “The American Thanksgiving” which is about all of the different menus from families of all different cultures.  It is what this nation is all about. So try something new. Add some diversity to your menu.  You can find the link to the article here.  It is inspiring.

Be thankful for what you have. This feels like a tall order right now and I struggle with this concept myself. But in spite of all that is going on in this country, we are fortunate. And we do have the ability to make change. I see it happening in the people who are rallying to run for office in their town or county. I plan to attend the Million Women March in Washington DC on January 21. I see it with people wearing safety pins and offering safe haven to those who are afraid.

Be thankful for those that you love and who love you. My 94-year-old mother, Betty passed away on November 1. So I am going through that list of “firsts”. First Thanksgiving without her, next will be Christmas. Both my father and my only sister passed away over 10 years ago. With the passing of my Mom, I am now parent-less. It’s a weird feeling. But I have a loving family, and I am so thankful for all of them. I wrote a blog post about my Mom and her banana cake recipe.  You can read it here. She would like that.

And after this holiday is over, take your strength and your fortitude to do what is right. Get involved. Run for the school board, your town council or get involved with a cause that you are passionate about.

What we cannot do is nothing. What we cannot do is normalize this. It took Hitler over ten years to bring about the persecution of the Jews, Catholics, People of Color, LGBT, those with mental or physical disabilities, Freemasons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the list goes on.

History cannot repeat itself. And it will take all of us to protect the freedoms that are the core of this country. I am counting on all of you.

Let’s get to work.


Joy Harjo, 1951

Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star’s stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun’s birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother’s, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
are you.
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.



Autumn is Apple Time-Easy Recipes



It’s autumn and that means all thing apple.  I was just at a pumpkin carving party and brought an apple crisp for dessert.  It was a huge hit, so I thought you all should have the recipe as well.  I got the recipe when I bought a piece of stoneware from the Pampered Chef, so credits to them. It is super easy and always a crowd pleaser.

I am not a fan of the one-use kitchen gadget, but I do make an exception for the apple peeler/corer/slicer.  It take no time at all to get your apples ready, and that is the hardest part of this recipe. So go ahead and invest in one.

Use the curly peels as a garnish for Apple-tinis.



Quick Apple Crisp-courtesy of The Pampered Chef

  • 5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced
  • 9 ounces of yellow cake mix , approx. half a box
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon good quality cinnamon
  • 1/4 of butter, melted
  • 1/4 chopped nuts are optional
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut the peeled and cored apple slices in half and place in a 9″x 9″ baking dish.
  3. Combine all of the remaining ingredients and mix until crumbly. Sprinkle the mixture over the apples.
  4. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until apples are tender. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Yield-10 servings.  This recipe also doubles easily, just use a 9″ x 13″ baking dish.




I found this recipe in Country Living magazine and it is my go-to cocktail at any autumn party. Last Thanksgiving I made these as the welcome cocktail, serving it to my guests as they arrived.  Again, super easy and just delicious.

Apple Cider Mimosas

  • Prosecco or other bubbly of your choice
  • Fresh apple cider
  • good quality cinnamon
  • sugar
  • Champagne flutes
  1. Mix equal parts sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Wet the rim of the Champagne flute and rim the glass with the sugar and cinnamon mixture.
  2. Fill the glass with half Prosecco and half fresh cider.
  3. Garnish with an apple slice.
  4. Toast your friends and family!


If you have any recipes that you would like to share,  let me know.

Happy Autumn, all.




I am NOT eating that! My Halloween Tribute.

Since we are getting close to Halloween, I thought I would share my scary food stories. I am pretty adventurous in what I will try, and I am not a picky eater, far from it. But even I have my limits.

1. Liver

No. Not Ever.

Nope. No way. And here is why. When I was about ten or eleven, my Mom took me to the Gladstone Market, which was  small town grocery and butcher shop. Mr. Cooper was the owner of the store and the butcher.  It was a great old store, with big wide wooden floor boards, and bins of local product.  Back then local was normal… He had  big wooden butcher block in the meat department.  It was worn and uneven from years and years of use.  My Mom ordered liver for dinner that night. It was one of my Dad’s favorite meals. Mr. Cooper went into the back to the meat locker and returned with the ENTIRE CALF’S LIVER. He laid it on the butcher block, and it took up the entire surface. It was BIG.Way bigger than I expected it to be. And to a ten-year old, rather gross. Gelatinous, shiny, kind of alien-looking. What it did not look like was something that was edible. I remember standing there wide-eyed while he cut off pieces for my Mom.  He wrapped it in paper, and my Mom brought it home and made my Dad liver and onions.  I could not get that image out of my mind, and to this day, whenever I see liver on a menu, that is the memory that comes back. And I am not eating something that its sole purpose is to filter out the junk in a body.

Trauma by liver….


2. Lima Beans

Wrinkly, ugly, and shaped like liver…

My husband loves lima beans. Me, not so much. Now I love black beans, red beans, pinto beans, garbanzo beans. But no lima beans. For me, it is a texture issue.  They are wrinkly and mushy, with no real flavor. Come to think of it, they are kind of shaped like a liver…. hmmm. I can handle them in soup, and MAYBE in a mixed vegetable side dish, but not on their own. Again, I think this is a childhood  issue, as my Mom cooked vegetables to death. No steaming, just boiled them into oblivion. No amount of butter on them can make them palatable to me.


3. Pickled Beets and Pickled Eggs in Beet Juice

Looks like something from the movie “Alien”.

I used to never eat beets. But my husband roasted some, and now I love them, so they are  on my list of good eats.  Especially with some goat cheese. But no pickled beets. It is a combination of the pickling and again, a texture issue that makes them not appealing to me.  The same goes for those pickled eggs that you would see in a giant jar sitting on the bar at an old tavern.   And how long have they been sitting there?

No. Just no.


4. German Potato Salad

Sorry, I have too much baggage with you, German Potato Salad.

Regular potato salad, red skinned potato salad, potato and egg salad, yes. Love them. German potato salad, no.  I don’t care for the vinegar-y taste of German potato salad. To me, it tastes sour.  And I do love pickles and  foods with an acid base, but not this. Another reason why I don’t like it doesn’t have anything to do with German potato salad per se. A person was trying to get me to taste it. I said no, that I didn’t care for it. He kept insisting, that I try it.  No, thank you. When he put a spoon of it up to my face, that was it. He ended up wearing it…. So I think German potato salad in some  weird way became a symbol of me  asserting my preferences and not accepting being told what to like or try. No means no, whether it is potato salad or anything else.


5. Anything with Jell-O

Run! Run for your lives!

Every kid ate some sort of Jell-O as a dessert.And it was okay, not my favorite.  But we were subjected to that fabulous fifties food-the Jell-O Mold. My Mom had  the copper molds in rings, one that looked like a fish, and others. She would create those God-Awful molds as a side dish.  There was Tomato Aspic-plain gelatin made with V-8 juice and celery and onions. Served of course, on Iceberg lettuce. Bleagh!  Rings made with orange Jell-O and fruit salad. Not as bad, but no, not great.

But the worst was her Pickled Beet Gelatin Mold. (Note the tie-in to #3 on the list). She used a mold that looked like a cone. It was clear gelatin with chopped pickled beets. I was in Jell-O hell. I remember one time she made it, and it hadn’t set completely. When she turned it over onto the plate of Iceberg lettuce, it ever so slowly began to spread out.  Did you ever see the movie “The Blob”?  We had our own version of The Blob, right there in the kitchen.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. It was alive, ALIVE!!!! It was a purple, icky slimy mass that was going to kill me in my sleep. So, no Jell-O for me.  Too scary.

There are a few other  less than delectable items on the list:

Insects-I have seen Andrew Zimmern of the TV show “Bizarre Foods” eat many a bug. Nope. No. I don’t care how protein rich they are, until there is an apocalypse, I am not consuming insects.

Miracle Whip- I am a Hellman’s woman. Period. Miracle Whip is too sweet for me.

Tuna Noodle Casserole- canned tuna heated up is gross. Just sayin’.

Tuna Salad with Sweet Pickles–eewww.

So, what is on your list of non negotiable foods? And what is the story behind it?  Share your tales of fear and horror!

Happy Halloween!


This post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. This month is hosted by Annika at We Must Be Dreamers



Same As It Ever Was

This post is a bit of a deviation from the ritual of food, but I think it is relevent to our lives today, and it was an important part of my life.

Life  for me over the years has been full of changes. Some wonderful, some, not so much. And that is life for all of us, right? Without change, there is no progress, no learning , no improvement.  Change is to be expected, to be dealt with, and to be celebrated.  Life would be pretty dull without it.

But change can be chaotic and stressful. It can upend our world. It can be exhausting, frustrating and just plain annoying. We all need some relief from the constant change that is  happening  globally, and in our own little maelstroms.

We need something that doesn’t change.  Something that no matter what, stays the same. Even if you leave it and come back to it later, everything is as you left it.

My family found that place in a vacation spot.

When I was  single parent, my son and I went to visit a friend in New Hampshire. They brought us to a small locally owned resort to play some tennis. It has been owned by the same family for over 100 years, and is only open in the summer months.

I was completely captivated.

The resort is  Twin Lake Village in New London, New Hampshire, and is dominated by a three-story old wooden hotel. There is an immense wrap around porch  with loads of rocking chairs. The first floor houses the dining room, reception desk, and  lounge area.  There are individual rooms on the second and third floors. But there are also of number of “cottages” on the property.  These homes were originally built by people who would vacation here for the entire summer, leaving the heat and disease of the cities behind.  Over the years, the Kidder family bought one house after another, until they owned all of them, creating kind of compound. A family can rent an entire cottage. “Cottage” is not an apt description for some of the houses, as they  can have up to 4 or 5 bedrooms and sleep 10 people.

This is an all-inclusive resort with three meals a day included, plus full use of the tennis courts and golf course for free, and there is a beautiful lake with a boat house and a lovely sand beach.  You can  use a kayak, canoe or row boat, all for free. And all incredibly affordable.

But the absolute best thing about TLV, as it is known by the regulars, is that it never changes. ( I actually had a nightmare one time that all of the cottages were gone and had been turned into single wides. Worst night of my life…)

The furnishings in each cottage stay the same.  That white wicker that you love in the bedroom that you always get, is still there. That funky wood table where you all play board games–still there.  The old barrel chair in the lady’s room near the dining room–still there.

The activities, which are part of the routine of vacationing here, never change. The two-day golf tournament and tennis tournament-mixed doubles-are always the same two days during the week.  Bingo, with the really old bingo cards with the little windows, is played in the hall lodge.  Still 25 cents a card to play.  There is a children’s dance for the little ones, and a picnic on top of Mt. Kearsarge.

And the dining room never changes.  The menu has been altered very little from when we first started coming here. As a few folks say, you don’t come here for the food.  The menu is a throw back to some classic fifties recipes, like tomato aspic and a wedge of iceberg lettuce as a salad.  But you can get seconds if you are still hungry, and there is always PB and J available for the little kids. I remember when they added a spinach salad with strawberries to the menu.  People actually had discussions about it being added to the menu. The dishes are the same.  Great Fiestaware water pitchers. And EVERYTHING is served on a plate, your iced tea glass included.  The dress code used to be a bit more rigid, with men required to wear a jacket to dinner. But still, no jeans allowed at night for dinner.

What is also special about TLV is what is doesn’t have. No TV in the rooms. No phones in the rooms.  No locks on the doors.  The one concession they made to technology was to make WiFi available at the hotel only.  And people got a little nutty about that.  Most did not like that change at all. They come here to escape from all of the techno chatter, and comments were made to the owners about the change.  But given that some people still had to have access, the compromise was the WiFi only at the hotel. (and they had the world’s longest password, hope that they changed that….)

TLV is a place that families have been coming to for generations. It is not uncommon to see 4 generations of  families staying there.  At dinner one night, a woman celebrated her 50th consecutive year of coming to TLV.  Most people also come the same week every year. We always went during the 4th of July week. So we would catch up with friends that we only ever see once a year. That was another wonderful part of the sameness. Seeing the same people year after year, watching the children grow, get married, and then begin the next phase of the tradition by bringing their own children. We had a gap of a few years that we didn’t go, and my son, who was in college at the time, specifically asked that we go back. He has great memories of TLV, and his request brought it home to me how much this family tradition meant to him.

clayton tlv
Clayton on the porch of White Chimneys cottage.


This is not a fancy pants place to vacation.  If you are looking for spa treatments, gourmet dining and Egyptian cotton sheets, TLV is not for you.

If you are looking for rustic comfort, new friends, and a place to build a tradition with your family, you will fit right in.

Enjoy the sameness. Revel in routine. And know that it will be just as you left it when you get back next year.