Too Much Time On My Hands

Sitting here on the patio the scent of hyacinth over-takes me.  The temperatures were in the low 60’s this afternoon, but with the sun hidden deep beneath a wall of clouds, it feels chillier than that. A blanket draped over my legs and another hung over the back of my chair just in case the breeze becomes too much, ensure that I should be able to sit out here for at least another hour — until the winds pick up and the rain that is forecasted finally gives the garden a much-needed shower.


I’ve spent the day pondering all the worthwhile tasks I could be doing with the time I have while nursing my torn meniscus.  Pondering…that’s all.  Whenever I think about actually doing anything, I can’t find the gumption to go any further.

I admit it, I am a procrastinater.  Unless there is a deadline, a specific date and time that something absolutely has to be done, I cannot bring myself to doing it.  To say I work well under pressure…yes, that would describe me.  Give me an hour to complete a task that should take two and I breeze through it without thinking twice. Give me a week to complete a task that should take an hour, and well, typically I won’t even start it until there is nothing else I could possibly do other than that.

I don’t like being a procrastinater and yet I can’t pull myself out of this funk I’m in to do much of anything other than fret about all the things I should be doing/could be doing/would be doing if I didn’t have so much darn time on my hands!

It’s just after 5 o’clock and everyone is inside taking a nap.  Hubby came home from work, ate dinner, then headed upstairs for a nap.  Zeb came home from the gym, ate dinner, then went to his room to check his eyelids for cracks.  Grace came home from work, took Bell for a walk, ate dinner, and then went to her room to “relax” which is sleep in Grace-speak. I have sat home all day, alone, waiting for someone, anyone to come home, and then when they do, they all take a nap. Needless to say, I am a bit bitter here.

Contact with anyone other than Bell today has taken up less than an hour of my time.  Heck, I spent more time making dinner than anyone has spent with me.

Bell on the other hand, well she can’t seem to get enough of me.  She has brought me every stick she could find in the yard and chewed them to bits wherever I might be sitting.  There a shreds of wood all over the great room, office, dining room, kitchen, and especially out here on the patio. She has also confiscated every garden glove from my gardening bin, which I inadvertently left open after retrieving a trowel to break up some dirt for a pot earlier today. If I don’t go on a gloving expedition, I’ll be out every pair of garden gloves I own.  Not that this would be any great loss as Bell seems to think chewing a hole in at least one finger, usually two, is standard procedure for garden glove care.


No one will probably get up until after 7 p.m. at which time I will be ready to wind down and start thinking about going to bed.  Hubby will sit with me for a few minutes before heading to the gym; Zeb will get a glass of something to drink then retreat back to his room to play his video game; and Grace will sit with me wherever I am but will have her mind completely preoccupied with texting her boyfriend (why she bothers sitting with me, I don’t even know).

Being laid up is difficult enough without feeling if I didn’t make dinner, I’d probably never see anyone.

Yep, it’s been one of those days.  A day where I’ve had way too much time to sit around and feel sorry for myself.  A day when I feel totally alone, except for this fuzzy dog sitting between my legs on the lounge chair, gnawing on my garden glove, happier than a pig in slop that I’m not gardening, washing dishes, folding laundry, dusting tables, making beds, or sweeping floors.

It’s funny, but when I’m busy I don’t notice how much time I spend alone and it doesn’t seem to bother me.  Take me off my feet for a few days and I’m ready to lock all the doors and windows and hold the family hostage until they can convince me I’m more than just the cook around here.

I know what I’m feeling.  I’m feeling sorry for myself. So much so that tomorrow this sitting around and nursing my knee is going to have to stop.  There is something to be said for maintaining my sanity at the cost of a little aggravation in my knee.  For the good of the family I think it’s best I find an easier way to mend my torn meniscus. Or else they are just going to have to actually spend some time with me which with the “mama’s not happy so whatcha gonna do about it” attitude that has replaced my usual cheery self (okay, cheery might be a stretch), I’d go with the get off your duff and do something.

For the moment though, I am doing my best to enjoy the chattering of the birds, the scent of freshly cut grass, and the solitude that once is gone I’ll miss — and for this I am trying ever so hard to be — Simply Grateful.


Triple Chocolate Cookie Bars

Six o’clock hit below the belt tonight, or is that above the belt?  In either case, at 6:00 this evening I got the worst craving for chocolate in at least the last 24 hours.  To my dismay there wasn’t a chocolate bar, chocolate cookie, chocolate cake, chocolate milk — or anything that even came close to chocolate in the kitchen.  Not made anyway.

To make matters worse, Grace wasn’t home to run up to the store or make me something.  She wouldn’t be home from class until after 9 p.m. and there was no way I could possibly wait that long.

The dilemma:  How could I make something super chocolately without having to spend a lot of time on my feet and thus aggravating my already aching knee?

The only plausible solution was to make something using a mix of some sort.  With all the mixes-in-jars I’ve been testing these past couple of months, surely I had to have something in the pantry.

Yes, yes I did!  But…

Well, I had several chocolately options to choose from, but cookies would require me to be on my knee longer than I wanted and after a month straight of weekly brownie experiments, I wasn’t in the mood to make a batch of those either.

So I did the next best thing, I took a cake mix and made a cookie bar.  One of my all-time favorite cookie recipes comes from a cake mix, see my post  , so a cookie bar would surely produce something just as decadent.

Unlike the my Chocolate Crinkle Cookie recipe, I had no Cool Whip to use, so I winged it.  Reducing the amount of liquid called for on the box, adding a box of instant pudding to make the batter denser, and mixing it by hand rather than using a mixer to put air into the batter, should do the trick.

Triple Chocolate Cookie Bar


1 Box Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix

1 Small Box Chocolate Instant Pudding

2 Eggs

1/4 Cup Water

3/4 Cup Oil

2/3 Cup Mini Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

1/2 Cup Milk Chocolate Chocolate Chips

Combine cake mix, pudding, eggs, water and oil in large bowl.  Stir until combined.

Fold in chocolate chips.

Spread batter in greased 13 x 9 pan and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

Whenever I make something chocolate, I judge the chocolatiness (new word) by how many glasses of milk I need per portion.  This cookie bar required two glasses of ice-cold milk per serving – off the charts! The only thing that could possibly top this…wait for it…would be some bittersweet chocolate frosting.  (Get it?  Top this…frosting…I’ve got way too much time on my hands sitting here on the couch.) Maybe next time.  For now, this cookie bar was lighter than brownies and heavier than cake — oh yeah, just like a cookie.  Go figure.

With my chocolate craving squashed for at least the next couple of days, or as long as the cookie bar lasts, I can once again get back to sitting around and feeling useless.  At least this little recipe got me off the couch for a little while and should keep the family from getting restless for a new dessert at least until tomorrow, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.


Sneaking Out For Some Spring

I’m really not very good at this resting thing.  Sitting in the house with my leg elevated and an ice pack set squarely on my knee, is pretty hard to take when outside the world is budding with color and life.

After finishing up dinner this afternoon (we eat dinner at 3:00 Tuesdays and Thursdays), I stole out of the house while Hubby was in the shower and checked out all the flowers in the yard. Spring has definitely sprung!

The plum tree has hundreds of tiny white blossoms itching to explode from their shells.

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The lilac bushes are packed with growing flower stems.

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A wild violet popped up out of the blue.


The hyacinth will probably be in full bloom this weekend.

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I transplanted the flower Grace gave me last week, and “Fifi” is doing just fine.  I wanted to name it Daisy, but that choice was vetoed.


And keeping me company, or shall I say keeping watch to make sure no one caught me as I enjoyed a stint in the fresh air, Bell checked out all the flowers in the yard too.



So, here I am, sitting back on the couch with my leg up, my new knee brace firmly pulled around my leg, and Bell sleeping at me feet.  It was great to get out and enjoy a bit of the wonderful day we’re having.  Tomorrow is supposed to be even nicer, so perhaps I’ll sit on the lounge chair and bird watch for a bit.

It’s difficult being laid up, even if it is only temporarily (I hope), but getting out for a few minutes to get some fresh air and enjoy the day made all the difference, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.



Peas A Poppin’

It has taken over three weeks, but finally when I went out to the pea garden today, I found signs of life!



I cannot believe how long it took these babies to start popping up, but am keeping my fingers crossed they continue to do so.  Only a few in each row have broken through so far, which would probably only produce enough for a meal or two.  I’m hoping to be able to freeze peas for the coming winter.

The garden has three types of peas:

Sugar Pods

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Snow Peas

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And Early Peas.

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The early peas are the only ones I’m not sure if it’s a pea plant or a weed, because it looks different from the other two.  Time will tell.

It is such a relief that there is some visible proof that just maybe we’ll get some peas this year.  I was beginning to wonder if the pea seeds I used were duds. Still, I don’t want to get ahead of myself here.  They have a long way to go before they’ll actually have any peas for picking.  For now, I’m just thrilled that they’re a poppin’, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

This Is No Vacation!

Last weekend I took advantage of the sunny 54 degree weather we had and spent the entire day on Saturday and part of the day on Sunday working on the gardens.

First I had two yards of dirt delivered for the new sections of the back garden.  Hubby was supposed to be home for this, but conveniently decided to head into work instead.  This left the task of spreading out the two yards of top soil to Zeb and me.  Not that Zeb’s not any help, but yeah — Zeb’s not much help.  He pretends to do a little work here and there, but mostly he just gets on my nerves.  Typical! So I sent him off to mow the lawn for the first time this year instead.

Once I’d moved the dirt around enough to make me realize I really needed three yards, I decided to start working on the side of the house where I plan on planting some of my tomatoes this year. This is what a section looks like, similar to the one I worked on but smaller, before I spent four hours working on it.


The first step was to pull all the rocks out.  I needed to do this so I could level out the ground and remove all the garbage and roots from the area.  These areas had bushes in them last year, but Hubby pulled them out last fall so I could utilize the space for tomatoes.

Once the rocks were pulled onto the sidewalk, I leveled the area, dug holes where I plan on planting tomato plants, inserted plastic pots with the bottoms cut off to mark the areas for the plants, transferred fresh topsoil from the back garden to the freshly dug holes, and then began replacing the rocks.  Now if Hubby had been doing this job, he would have just dug the holes among the rocks, not worrying about rocks getting into the holes, put the cut up pots in the holes and filled the holes with dirt.  I not only wanted to make sure that the area for the tomato plants was conducive to plant growth, but I also wanted it to look nice.

The rocks were full of remnants of the bushes, twigs, leaves, garbage, and wood.  Pretty much it looked a mess, as you can see by the picture above.  So before I replaced the rocks, I hand sorted each and every one of them.  A bit anal I suppose, but here is what the finished area looks like:


A huge difference.  Trouble is, I am paying the price for it now.

Back a couple of years ago I was working on a project that required me to sit on the ground for two or three hours a day for three weeks straight.  During this time, somehow I managed to injure my right knee.  I had no idea what I’d done to it, but after some rest it healed.  Still, whenever I would kneel on my right knee or sit for extended periods of time, my knee would bother me.

For the past month or so the knee pain has been getting increasingly worse.  Hubby and I eliminated arthritis from a potential cause because when I take Tylenol to ease the pain, it does nothing.  I just resolved that I was going to have tough it out.

After my little project on the side of the house, where I spent four hours moving rock, digging holes, transporting dirt, and sitting in my little garden chair sorting through rocks, by Sunday afternoon the pain was constant.  It used to be I would limp a bit when getting up from a chair or the couch, but within a few steps the pain would dissipate and I could walk normally.  Not so anymore.  Now I limp constantly and the pain does not go away.

Sunday evening Hubby decided he’d better do some more research to figure out what was going on. I’m not a doctor person, so unless I’m dying, I’m not going to see one.

Within a few minutes we found something that sounded exactly like what I was experiencing: Medial Meniscus Tear of the Knee. Great! A Diagnosis. The prognosis?  Not so great.  There is no quick fix.  First, it looks like because I over did it rather than pacing myself, I won’t be doing any gardening or much of anything else for at least a week.  The first step towards recovery is to rest, ice, elevate, and compress my knee.

When he told me this, I was sort of thrilled.  It would be sort of like a vacation, right?  NOT!  I don’t do well at rest.  Even when I’m my sickest I still have to be doing something.  It’s day one, and sitting here in the house, looking out at the empty gardens, thinking about all the other gardening tasks that need to be done, staring at all the tiny plants in the dining room — sitting there just mocking me, it’s almost too much to take. Plus cooking will be at the bare minimal, house cleaning is on hold, laundry (seeing as I hang most everything out from April through October) is out, and I can’t even walk Bell! What’s left?

I know if I don’t take this time to let it heal enough to be able to walk on it without constant pain I could end up needing to go to the doctor or worse yet having surgery, so for the most part I’ll be lounging around this week. It will be a good time to make my Gardening To Do List (which includes working on three additional sections on the side of the house just like the one I worked on this past weekend), update my Canning To Do List, prioritize my Spring Cleaning To Do List, and begin working on my Packing To Do List for a cruise we’re taking in June.  Wow, if that’s not enough to overwhelm me, what is?

For the moment though I am going to count my blessings because things could be worse. My knee hurts, but I am confident with rest and a little time I’ll be able to get it to a point where I’ll be able to start exercising the muscles around the tear to strengthen my leg and hopefully fix this problem. A little patience and a lot of work are certainly better than going to the doctor, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Raw Milk Limitations – Cherry Goody

When we switched from store-bought processed homogenized/pasteurized milk to raw milk a little over a year ago, I never gave using raw milk in recipes a second thought.  Whenever a recipe called for milk, I automatically just used the raw milk, not thinking that some ingredients might not interact well with it.

About a month ago I decided to make an old family favorite recipe that everyone loves — Cherry Goody.  I have been making this for probably 15 years, but hadn’t made it for more than a year. The troops decided it was time, so I pulled out the recipe and whipped up a 13 x 9 pan of it.

Original Cherry Goody Recipe

1 Box Graham Crackers

2 Boxes Instant Vanilla Pudding

3 Cups Milk – Homogenized

1 Tub Cool Whip

1 Quart plus 1 Pint Tart Cherry Pie Filling

  1. Combine pudding and milk in large bowl.  Whip until blended then let sit for five minutes.  Add Cool Whip and mix well.
  2. Line bottom of 13 x 9 baking pan with a layer of Graham Crackers. Cover this with a layer of the cream mixture. Top with another layer of Graham Crackers.
  3. Continue layering until you have three layers of Graham Crackers and three layers of cream mixture, ending with the cream mixture.
  4. To with pie filling.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The day after I prepared this, using raw milk, I served it for dessert after dinner.  I took one bite and spit it out.  It was awful.  It tasted rancid.

Hubby and the kids agreed it didn’t taste right.  I threw it out.

At the time I thought that the Cool Whip I had used might have been bad.  It had been in the freezer since Christmas and perhaps it wasn’t any good.  So, not giving up on enjoying this favorite dessert, I headed out to the store, bought all fresh ingredients (as fresh as processed ingredients can be) and whipped up another pan of it.  This time however I did not put the canned cherries on top because I couldn’t risk losing more jars of pie filling from the pantry if things didn’t work out.

Once again, the night after I made the cherry goody, I brought it to the dinner table and served it for dessert.  One bite into it and YUCK!  Same horrid taste.

Now I was really pissed.  What in the world was going on?  I’d made instant pudding without incident many times in the past couple of months, I’d used Cool Whip on top of waffles and it tasted fine.  What was the problem?

Well, I pondered this situation for a couple of weeks and finally decided it had to be the combination of the raw milk with the Cool Whip.  Cool Whip is not actually whipped cream, it has an oil base.  Combining the raw milk with oil must somehow be producing the rancid taste.

Knowing the reason behind the failure didn’t resolve the problem however.  What were my options? One I could buy milk from the store and make the dessert as I had previously. This option however would mean that Grace could not eat it because she cannot eat or drink anything made with homogenized/pasteurized milk without suffering stomach cramps.

The only other option I came up with was to make fresh whipped cream, combine that with the instant pudding and raw milk and see if the recipe turned out.  I opted for fresh whipped cream.

Cherry Goody (With Raw Milk)


1 Box Graham Crackers

2 Boxes Instant Vanilla Pudding

3 Cups Raw Milk (possibly use only 2 1/2)

2 Cups Whipping Cream, whipped

1 Quart plus 1 Pint Tart Cherry Pie Filling

  1. Combine pudding and milk in large bowl.  Whip until blended then let sit for five minutes.  Add whipped cream and mix well.
  2. Line bottom of 13 x 9 baking pan with a layer of Graham Crackers. Cover this with a layer of the cream mixture. Top with another layer of Graham Crackers.
  3. Continue layering until you have three layers of Graham Crackers and three layers of cream mixture, ending with the cream mixture.
  4. To with pie filling.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

I actually cut this recipe in half because I didn’t want to risk wasting 3 cups of raw milk and 2 cups of whipping cream on a recipe if it again turned out to taste rancid.

When I pulled out the 9 x 9 pan of cherry goody for dessert the other night, the family groaned. They were as tired of getting their hopes up and then not having dessert to enjoy, as I was of making this dessert. Still, everyone sat there and waited as I dished it out.

The whipping cream left the dessert slightly less firm than the Cool Whip, but when we tasted it — SUCCESS!  It was perfect. So my conclusion about the Cool Whip not mixing well with the raw milk was right.

The only change I would make to this recipe when I make it again is to decrease the amount of amount of raw milk from 3 cups to maybe 2 1/2 so it will set firmer when combined with the whipped cream.

I am so glad I didn’t give up on this dessert.  After the second failed attempt I was tempted to just throw the recipe out and accept it just wasn’t meant to be.  Perseverance paid off and now we can once again enjoy this refreshing dessert whenever we want, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Muffin Mix-In-A-Jar

While on my quest to find quick and easy mixes-in-jars recipes, I found quite a few recipes for muffins that sounded really great.  Trouble was that many of them called for either dry milk or a dry buttermilk blend that I don’t use.  It is expensive and what I consider “processed,” which is something we are trying to avoid.

Researching these ingredients on the internet, I learned that they can easily be omitted from a recipe if you use milk or buttermilk in place of the water when preparing the mix to bake.  Granted it is one more ingredient you need to be sure to have on hand when preparing, but it is rare when I don’t have milk in the house and buttermilk can easily be fudged by combining milk with a little lemon juice or vinegar. Seeing as I prefer to use fresh ingredients over processed ones when possible, it is a substitute that will work for us.

I have used the following muffin base mix twice so far and everyone really likes it.  It isn’t too sweet which would take away from the fruit in these muffins and the result is moist and dense, the perfect combination for a muffin. The recipe is fairly large, but can be prepared and then stored in pint and a half jars for individual servings or a 1/2 gallon jar and then just use 2 3/4 cups of the mixture when preparing the muffins.

Muffin Base Mix

9 Cups Flour

2 1/2 Cups Granulated Sugar

3 Tbsp. Baking Powder

1 Tbsp. Baking Soda

1 Tbsp. Salt

Combine these ingredients in a large bowl and blend well.  Transfer mix to sealable containers.

The first muffin I made with this mix with a Strawberry Muffin.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to try this one, but Grace told me that she thought it would taste like Strawberry Shortcake when done.  She was right!

Strawberry Shortcake Muffins


2 3/4 Cups Muffin Mix

2 Eggs

1 1/2 tsp. Vanilla

1 Cup Milk

1/2 Cup Melted Butter

1 – 1 1/2 Cups Fresh or Frozen Strawberries

  1. Combine eggs, vanilla, milk, and butter in large bowl.  Mix well.
  2. Add muffin mix and stir with wooden spoon just until blended.  Do not over mix – batter should be lumpy.
  3. Fold in strawberries.
  4. Fill greased muffin tins 3/4 full and bake at 450 for 5 minutes.  Reduce heat to 325 and continue baking for 9 – 12 minutes until center is firm.

Having a ready-made homemade muffin mix in the pantry to use for a quick breakfast or late-night snack is awesome. Being able to change the fruit ingredient to practically anything I might have on hand at the moment and have muffins in less than 30 minutes is yet one more way to spend less time preparing homemade goodies and more time enjoying time with the family, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Gardening Gadget-Couldn’t Garden Without It

Have you ever received a gift that although you thought it was cool and interesting, never thought you’d use it?  I received one of those this past Christmas, but boy was I wrong!

By the time my girlfriend Suzanne and I got together to celebrate Christmas 2014, it was all but over.  We had both been so busy throughout the holidays that getting together had just not been in the cards.  So early January 2015 we finally connected and enjoyed a morning or gift exchanging, conversation, and some final holiday bliss to close the end of the holiday season.

Suzanne had tons of little goodies for me to open.  It was like Christmas morning as a child all over again.  Every gift was well thought out and definitely something I could use or most certainly wanted.  There was one gift however that when I opened it, even though appropriate for my interests, I just wasn’t sure it was something I would take the time to use. The first thought that went through my head was This is neat, but where am I going to keep it?  Not, when am I going to use it, because honestly, I didn’t think I would.

This is one of those gadgets that the manufacturers sell millions of, but how often they get used is probably far less than they advertise.  Like all those kitchen gadgets sitting on the shelf in my basement, I thought this one was destined for dust collecting somewhere in a corner in the garage. Even Hubby looked at it and admitted it was interesting, but maybe his father would get more use out of.

Well, from day one out in the yard this 2015 Gardening Season, I am happy to say, this little gadget has been affixed to my behind — literally. My father-in-law would have to pry it from my cold dead body before I’d give it up and I will never doubt Suzanne and her ultimate wisdom again.

What the name of this little thing is escapes me, but I refer to it as my “Garden Saver!”


Now I’m not saying that this little chair is for everyone, but for someone who is suffering with some sort of degenerative knee injury, it is an essential tool to sow seeds in the ground, pull weeds from the freshly tilled soil, and all the other gardening tasks that would require me to do any sort of kneeling, squatting, or dare I say sitting on the ground.

Several years ago I damaged my right knee while working in the yard.  I don’t remember the specifics but do remember the pain to the left of the knee cap on the inside portion of my leg. It was after several weeks of working on my knees, near the end of my project.  When I would stand up from my kneeling position I had to stand still for a few minutes in order for my knee to stretch out so I could put some weight on it and then hobble a little to start moving again.  Within a few minutes, things would loosen up, the pain would dissipate, and everything went back to normal.

This pain came and went throughout the past two years, only bothering me if I was sitting on the ground with my knee bent for any extended period of time or if I sat on my right leg. Still, the pain would quickly go away once I started moving again.

A month ago, the pain on the side of my knee began to bother me whenever I was sedentary for more than 15 minutes.  Not moving around gave my knee an opportunity to stiffen up and every time I got up from a chair or even out of bed, I would hobble around until things loosed up and the pain subsided. Kneeling, squatting, or sitting on the ground were pretty much impossible.

Now the pain is almost constant, even when I do move around or am standing, there is a tinge of pain in my leg and limping seems to be more of a norm than an anomaly.

With the progression of pain and no relief found with Tylenol or wrapping my knee, I seriously questioned how I was going to do any gardening this year.  Well, there it was, the little gardening chair I’d gotten for Christmas.  I took it with me when I turned over the pea garden and used it to separate the weeds from the loosened soil.  Then it was used when I planted row after row of pea seeds.

When I moved over to the large garden in the back and had ten rows of root vegetables to plant, there was no way I would have been able to complete the task had I not had this little seat. Although the pain is still in my leg, it is far easier to get up from this seat than rolling over from a seated position on the ground to my knees and trying to stand.  With this little gizmo I just rock back and forth a bit, and pop right up. There is far less pressure on my knee, not to mention how much easier this is making things on my back.  Plus, let’s not forget how my butt would feel after sitting on the cold ground if I had to scoot around the garden sowing seeds on it.


Although this is something that is making gardening bearable because of injury, I also think it would be something I would have appreciated if my body wasn’t falling apart.  It is amazing how much easier it is getting up from just a foot off the ground compared to ground level.  Even Grace has taken to the seat and steals it from me whenever I ask her to help out.  For her I think it’s mainly because she doesn’t want to be in the dirt and she sits and rocks in it while I work, but hey, at least she’s comfortable while keeping me company.

So, to Suzanne I have to say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!  I couldn’t be out there gardening without this, and for YOU I am — Simply Grateful.

The Difference Between A Smoke Detector & A Fire Detector

Last summer I wrote a post about a Fire! I had in my dryer.  What was so amusing to me after it all happened was that even though the entire laundry room and back hallway were filled with black billowing smoke, the smoke detector never went off.  I suppose this could be overlooked if the smoke detector were someplace at the other end of the house, but it was right in the thick of it in the back hallway.

To make matters worse, I swear at least once or twice a week when I am baking something in the oven, the darn smoke detector starts blasting.  It has gotten to the point that the family teases me that if the smoke detectors not going off, Mom’s not cooking.

Well, this afternoon I decided to try a new recipe for Saganaki or flaming cheese.  I was making gyros with fresh pita bread for dinner and thought it would be just like going down to Greek Town for dinner if I served the cheese we typically started our meal with down there.

I wasn’t sure what type of cheese to use, as I decided on this little addition to dinner while I was at the grocery store, so winged it and bought something called “Frying Cheese.”  How bad could it be?

When I got home I found a recipe for Saganaki, and of course I’d bought the wrong cheese, but at $5.00 a chunk, I decided it would be good enough.  I marinated the cheese in brandy, dredged it through some flour, heated it in a cast iron pan with olive oil, and then called everyone in the kitchen.

Hubby suggested I light the cheese right on the stove since that area is fire resistant.  Not being the bravest of souls, I gave him the match, set the cheese in the cast iron pan in the center of the cooktop, and poured 1 ounce of brandy over the bubbling cheese.  Hubby struck the match and — OPA! Flaming Cheese!

Immediately I knew I should have used a bit less brandy.  The flames shot up to the ceiling, scorching the light fixture.  I tried squeezing the lemon wedge over the flames to put them out (as directed), but the flames were too high.


Then, as the flames continued to glow red I noticed that the hot pad cover for the cast iron skillet handle was on fire. Things were just snowballing out of control.  Of course everyone panicked, Hubby tried beating the flames out, but wasn’t thinking and used the long wooden matchstick he’d used to light the cheese in the first place.  The match relit and joined in the billow of flames collecting on top of the stove top.

I grabbed the rest of the lemon wedges, braved the flames, squeezed every ounce of juice I could over the cheese and slowly the flames began to subside.  Of course the sink was two feet from the cooktop and why we didn’t just douse it with water I’ll never know, but at least the cheese wasn’t ruined.

Now as scary as all of this might seem, we were all laughing the entire time this was all going on. Why?  Well you see, no sooner had Hubby lit the cheese and yelled “Opa,” and the “Fire” detector went off.  There was no smoke, just flames. The smoke detector is probably 15 feet from the cooktop, around a corner, in the back hallway and the instant the fire began, BAM! it went off. Am I missing something here?

So obviously there is a distinct difference between a smoke detector and a fire detector, as mine doesn’t go off when there is actually smoke in the house, only fire.  I suppose this does have its place, but it really makes me think about the saying “Where there’s smoke…”

Oh well, the singe marks on the ceiling fixture give me a great excuse to clean it, the cheese turned out pretty darn good, we all had a great laugh, and no real damage done.  All in all, a good time, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.


A Much Needed Reminder

My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual, and physical education I received from her.” ~ George Washington

So Grace began a beautiful card she brought to me this afternoon along with some flowers.


It never ceases to amaze me how wise beyond her years Grace is.  At 18 she is intuitive enough to know that sometimes even mom’s need affirmation that they have done something right.  When I look at Grace, I know that for all my short-comings, with her I definitely did something good.

For years I struggled with feelings of inadequacy because of psychological games my parents continually bombarded me with.  Eventually I pulled myself from their toxic grasp, yet still allow myself to fall victim to their abuse because for some reason I believe that’s what “a good daughter” should do.  Grace, who has witnessed this for years and now sees it for what it is, tries her best to “make it better.”

No matter how bad I think things might be, all I need do is look at my husband and children and I know, my life is good and regardless of what my parents may say, so am I.  Some days, however, I do forget.

Today Grace gave me a much-needed reminder that what I do matters and so do I, and for this I am — Simply Grateful!