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When They Were Young




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November 2010

Ruth’s hot spinach and artichoke dip

I went to my friend Ruth’s baby shower last week.  Everyone brought enormous platters of tasty food, myself included.  I ate more than was required of a polite guest, but then, so did everyone else. 

So, when Ruth mentioned her spinach dip, I gamely went back to the food table, even though I’m not partial to spinach and dropped around a tablespoon-sized blob on my plate, saying, rather louder than was necessary, that “It looked delicious, but I’d better not be greedy, this way there would be enough for everyone to have a taste.” 

Boy, was that dumb!  See, Ruth’s dip was DELICIOUS!  And now, I was hemmed in by my loud, “oooh, don’t want to be greedy,” excuse. 

I should have just taken a smidgen and not said anything, but I did.  And so after my outwardly generous restraint, I couldn’t very well gallop back to the food table, elbow my fellow baby-shower-attendees aside, bellowing, “Get out of my way, an emergency here, need more of that dip, pronto!”

No, I conversed, I played baby shower bingo, I admired all the lovely thoughtful gifts that all of Ruth’s family and friends had assembled to celebrate this special amazing time in Ruth and her husband’s life.  All the while my mouth was lusting after some more of that dip.

Anyway, Ruth, who is patiently awaiting the arrival of her baby daughter, kindly answered my email and included the requested recipe. 

I am over the moon, because not only do I like it, but my boy Will arrives from London in five days and he LOVES spinach and artichoke dip, and this one is the best I ever had, so I am going to make it for him and he will be happy.

Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip

2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 TBS. butter
1/2 onion, chopped
1 bunch spinach, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar or monterey jack cheese
1/2 cup shredded asiago
1 package Knorr vegetable recipe mix
1 can (14 oz) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 can (8 oz) water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1 1/2 T. of Tabasco sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a saute pan. Add garlic and onions. Cook till brown. Add spinach. Add salt and pepper.Cook till wilted.
Remove from heat.
Combine the rest of the ingredients except 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese. Spoon into a 2-quart casserole, then top with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Bake for 35 minutes or until dip is hot.

Hey Everybody…

It’s SNOWING!  First snow flurries of the year.  Not only that, but it is starting to stick.  Nothing visible on the grass or trees yet, but the deck outside the kitchen is almost all white. 

I wonder if by tonight we’ll have a winter wonderland?  Highly unlikely, but one can always hope.

I don’t know why the first snow of the year always feels so magical.  That combined with the mandarin oranges appearing in the stores, is really making me feel like Christmas. 

And this year, oh joy, all of my children are going to be home for the holidays!

Maddie Dawson

I had a lovely surprise recently.  You know how it is, one goes to one’s favourite bookstore and wanders around the aisles, picking up a few old faithfuls (authors one has read before and knows that a certain standard will be present) a few books that have been reccomended by fellow readers/friends whose taste one trusts, maybe grabbing a classic that one has intended to read for years and never gotten around to…

And then there is the impulse buy.  A book that grabs one for no discernable reason.  An unknown author, reviews on the back by authors one doesn’t know.

So, why did I not only pick up, browse through and actually buy Maddie Dawson’s the stuff that never happened?  I don’t know.  Maybe it was the cover which is absolutely lovely.  Maybe it was because when I opened it up and read a few pages, it felt true.  Maybe it was because it was her first novel and it was about the complications of marriage and what-ifs and longings and she had dedicated it her husband and in the author biography all it said was “Maddie Dawson lives in Connecticut.  She is happily married.” 

So, of course I thought, “Oooh!”  Seeing as how I sold my first “novel” as fiction even though there was nothing fictional about it, and I too had dedicated it to my mother, whose love I was terrified I would lose from the writing of this book.  And after all it is an old writer’s tale that all first novels are based on life.  Not that it’s true of course.  In many instances fiction means fiction.  And perhaps that is the case with the stuff that never happened.

However, the possiblity of it was enough to prompt me to drop it on the stack of books in my arms and propel me to the cashiers counter.

Not only that, but Annabelle, whose point of view the book is written from, was my age.  Her youngest child had just left home.  And even the tiny bit I had read standing in the aisle was enough to make me feel not so alone and adrift in my own musings about who-am-I-now-that-my-children-have-grown-and-how-did-I-get-here?

Well, I am delighted to say that the $25.95 CAN purchase of this hardcover book was totally worth it!  There is something so true about Maddie Dawson’s voice.  Something that said, yes, that is the way life is sometimes.  Emotions, relationships aren’t always neat and tidy.  Sometimes there is spillover.  Mixed feelings. 

I hope a lot of people embrace her book, so her publisher will be happy and sign her up for another novel. 

Chocolate mystery solved!

For those of you who were left trembling on the edge of your seat with regards to where the mysterious box of chocolates came from, finally, our curiosity has been satiated.

The surprise present left on my door was from my sister Jennifer!  She was very gracious about the fact that I said they were yucky on my blog, didn’t mind that we had thrown them away.  “Better safe than sorry!” she said.  I’m lucky to have such a great sister. 

Thanks, Jenny, for thinking of us on your travels and sending us a box of chocolates as a happy hello.  That was a very sweet thing for you to do. xo

hello, I’m back

We arrived home last yesterday afternoon punch-drunk from sleepiness from having just completed a twenty-one hour plane journey that took the form of two taxis, three airports, two sets of customs, a ferry terminal and some driving.  I had told Don back in Amsterdam, rather cockily, that I would drive home since “I had better reflexes with no sleep.” 

Don drove.  I would have made good on my threat, but I think the idea of me behind the wheel of his beloved car, scared him enough to grab a couple of hours of sleep on the plane. 

I was not so lucky. 

I think perhaps it was a clever ploy on Don’s part.  See, ever since he got his i-pad, he’s been trying to entice me into sharing his newest, greatest excitement of his life. Sliding it into my lap, saying, “Don’t you want to even give it a try?”  Or, “Look at this new app I’ve just downloaded, it is the coolest thing ever!”  Once he even resorted to showing me how he could click on a metal and a chunk of it would rotate, glimmering and sparkling.  I guess he thought since I have an interest in the gold markets that I would scream, “Oh my god!  That is soo cool!  Fantastic!  Set me up with one of those i-pad puppies!”

Nope.  Nothing.  Didn’t do it for me.

Another attempt was when he showed me how if I was curious about a stock I could just plug in it’s symbol and all this information would pop up about the company. 

“Where’s the dividend yield?”  I said. 

“Um… Okay, so it doesn’t have that, but look at what else it came do.  See, charts!  One year chart, two year chart.”

“Hmm…” Now I was interested.  “Show me the ten year chart.”

‘Can’t do that.”

“Okay, what about the twenty?”

“Nope, um… five years is as far as it can go.”

Which is totally silly, because I like to look further back than five years.  So, naturally, my tiny spike of interest in the i-pad flew out the window.

He showed me how he could read books on it, sliding his finger on the corner to flip the pages.  “I prefer to hold a real book in my hand,” I said.  “Flip real pages.  Besides, I’m an author, if everyone in the world bought electronic books then I wouldn’t be able to hold a book that I wrote in my hand, feel the weight of it, the accomplishment, admire the beautiful cover and spine.  Wouldn’t be able to walk into a bookstore and see it sitting on the shelf for other people to pick up and enjoy.  Not to mention, I love the whole, going to a bookstore experience.  Nothing can take the place of wandering up and down the aisle and picking up possible reads.  Nope electronic books are not for me.  The only way I’m ever going to bend on that is when my eyes get so old and weary that they can no longer read the print, even with my progressive lenses.” 

And I mean it too.  If we want bookstores to stay an integral part of our communities, we MUST support them!  It breaks my heart to see bookstore after bookstore closing their doors.  As a matter of fact, the holidays are just around the corner, we are all starting to make lists of possible gifts, why not trot down to your local bookstore and pick up a couple.

Hmm… I just realized, I have totally went marching down a different road than the one I thought I was travelling. 

Back to my round-about story of the airplane, lack of sleep and Don’s i-pad pushing.  Which I had managed, with no small sense of smugness, to waft around, entirely above such juvenile pursuits as fidgeting with electronic toys, blowing up whatever...

“I have better things to do with my time than blow up things,” I would say.  “I would much rather cook something yummy, or read a book, or take a walk, a million things nicer than staring at a computer screen and wiggling my fingers and thumbs.  I am fifty years old, have never played a computer game in my life and certainly don’t intend to start now.”

Well…That was then and this is now.

What happened is, Don was showing our friend, Ken, all the marvels of the i-pad, because Ken is an Apple-junkie as well.  He is the one who came up to our old island cabin years ago, cradling his new mac-laptop, sliding his hands lovingly across the top, showing Don how fast it booted up when we were parked outside the local elementary school using their Internet.  He is the reason that Don got started on his everything-Apple binge. 

So, while we were bobbing down the Rhine, Don showed him a few of the so-called marvels of the i-pad and then Ken said, “What’s your favorite game on it?”  So, of course Don showed him the Angry Ducks (or chickens?) It seems all innocuous, and has little jaunty music and tiny movies about how the green pigs stole the eggs so the birds hop into a sling-shot and the player takes his finger, pulls back and aims and propels the birds into the air to try to land on the pigs and break through their fortification. 

Okay, now, the mother in me when I would see Don or Dave or even newbie Ken, playing this game is:

First: this is rather violent.  These birds are committing suicide missions here and you are helping them.  Why not go outside and plant some flowers or rake some leaves or something.

Two: Wouldn’t it be better for the pigs and the birds to just get together and try to start some kind of discussion.  Like, “Hey, look, stop stealing our eggs.  These are our unborn children we are hatching.  How about if we lay a certain amount of unfertilised eggs per week, which we will give to you in exchange for you ceasing and desisting from stealing the ones we are trying to hatch?”  Now I know that this might seem a little like an agreement that one might draw up if one was living in a neighbourhood which was run by the mafioso, however, given the amount of angry birds I’ve seen hurled out of the slingshot to certain death, this seems like a rather good compromise. 

Be that as it may, in watching Ken, who is probably one of the most honorable and nonviolent men you would ever meet, hunched over the i-pad, ruthlessly flinging electronic birds to an untimely end, enjoying himself enormously, Don having fun by proxy, and me, gradually, reluctantly, being drawn in.

Later that night, when we had retired to our cabin and Don’s mom and Ken had gone to their respective rooms, Don was reading and I had finished my book.  I wasn’t sleepy and didn’t want to start a new book, because I’m the type of reader who has to read a book from beginning to end, sleep-be-damned.  “Would you like to try Angry birds?” Don asked all innocently, once again sliding the glowing i-pad my way. 

‘No,” I said.  And then two minutes later, “Okay.”

Not a good move.  I don’t know how much time I have lost propelling imaginary birds through the air, but let me tell you this.  Don’t start.  It’s like warm Kettle corn.  The first taste is not so good, the second taste better, by the third handful, you don’t know how you lived all these years without it. 

Angry Birds is like that.  You can’t just play one game, because there is the next one to crack and the next one. 

I didn’t sleep on the plane. 

No, I blew up birds and green pigs and enjoyed every minute of it. 

It’s rather embarrassing to admit, but there you have it.

Therefore, Don drove home, as I had hogged his i-pad for a goodly portion of the flight, sleep was not necessary, there were pigs to explode. It wasn’t until we arrived on Canadian soil, that I realized I was wobbling on my feet.

Our friends, Dawna and Bob arrived on our heels as they are leaving for Florida today and we needed to do the table trade-off before they left. 

We (Don and Bob did most of the work) carried a rather hefty disassembled dining room table from the back of their van into the house.  Staggering across the wet lawn, our muscles screaming in agony, Dawna observed cheerily, “Lucy and Ethel strike again!”

“Oh no,” I gasped.  “Don’t even say that!” Visions of some unsuspecting disaster lurking just around the corner.  Which of course made her cackle happily.

We got the table pieces safely inside and Bob and Don assembled it while I made coffee.  It was good to be home.  The milk in the fridge had gone off while we were away, but Dawna and Bob pretended they liked it black.  Then their son called, and off they went to have dinner. 

Someone in customs had sawed the lock off my suitcase, so after Dawna and Bob left I opened it up on the living room floor and checked to make sure that the delicious, mind-blowingly good chocolate liquor we purchase at the Schokoladen museum at the Lindt chocolate factory was still in there.  IT WAS!  Yay!  I guess it’s rather odd, one would think I’d be worried about my fancy clothes or expensive boots that I bought in London last year that are the impossible-to-find-combination-of-stylish-AND-comfortable, but no… The only thing I was concerned about where these, not terribly fancy bottles of chocolate magic. 

If you ever go to Cologne, Germany, don’t bother with paying to go into the museum, as it is rather simple and boring and not really worth the price of admission even if they give you a wafer cookie with chocolate sauce. 

DO however, go into the attached store and buy all the chocolate liquor you can carry!  Don’t be put off by the unimaginative labeling.  It is DELICIOUS!  I wish I had bought more.