Happy Earth Day Mother Nature

Dearest Boo,  today is the 40th year in celebration of Earth Day.    This is a picture of some of the tulips in our front yard.  I can hardly wait for the black ones to open.  They were planted last fall, so I am waiting with bated breath as I have no idea what they will look like.  Tulips are so beautiful and delicate and gentle looking.  If only their flowers would last longer, they could be the most perfect flower.  The pink tulip is the most soft pink color, with ivory color marbled throughout.  They are like the Goldilocks of the flower kingdom – not too elegant, not to romantic, not too big, not too small, not too bright….tulips are just right.  It’s like looking at a plate of fresh cookies hot from the oven, while you are in your favorite sweats.  They just make me think of home and comfort.  They are just perfect in their simplicity and beauty.  When I look at a tulip I feel at peace.   I think that when the tulips are in bloom the people of Holland and Pella, Iowa must have their own slice of Heaven.

Today I am thinking a lot about your dad’s cousin.  It is so sad to hear news that someone that you have always felt was so strong, so larger than life, is having health issues.  It just stinks.  He is a man who is a great communicator, someone who loved to talk, loved to make you laugh, loved to argue for the sheer joy of arguing now is having difficulty with his speech.  When he was a teacher he did it with great joy and love and it showed.  So many of his students enjoyed (as much as students can enjoy) his classes and the respect he showed to them.  He has always been a champion of education and teachers and the very important job they do in preparing our young people to go out and conquer the world.  Giving them skills they would need in their everyday life.

I remember our vacations together to Minnesota for our fishing week.  Our first trips were in the mid-1970’s when CB radios were the rage.  Oh, I wish I could remember what our “handles” were, as I am positive that they were very clever and funny, because we were and still are very clever and funny people! (Update – Stuart remembers the names!  Lowell was “Yellow Dog”, Stuart was “Big Blue Heron” and your father was “Auggie Doggie”)  Lowell, Edie, Suzan, Stuart, and Teddy (their dog) were the lead car.  In the second car was your dad and I and his dog, Doc.  On the drive to Park Rapids, Minnesota, we would listen to the truckers and visit over the CB with each other.  They have always been my favorite people to travel with for vacations.

One trip I remember we were talking back and forth and Lowell was commenting about the awful smell outside.  We were driving through farm country, so awful smells outside the car was not that surprising.  We rolled down our window, but we did not notice any smell.  That family must have some powerful noses to smell this tiny, minuscule smell!   This went on back and forth for at least twenty miles with their car wondering what was wrong with us that we could not smell the stink.  Suddenly, their car pulled off the highway quickly – and before we could react all four car doors opened and they all tumbled out of their car.  We had no idea what was happening.  One minute we were talking on the CBs, the next minute they were all out of their car shouting and pointing.  What in the world was going on??  It seems that Stuart discovered what was the cause of the smell.  Teddy had had diarrhea all over the back section of their station wagon!  Once we were able to control our laughter, we got together to clean up their car – but, if memory serves me correctly – Stuart and Suzan made the rest of the trip to Minnesota in our car.

We always stayed at the same resort at Bottle Lake, Wambolt’s, pictured above.    When I first saw this “resort” I was sure that it was something directly out of “Deliverance” and I searched the woods to see if one of the river men were there for us.  I knew that I could hear the music “Dueling Banjos” coming from somewhere.  The cabin we stayed in did not have indoor plumbing, so we shared the outhouse with almost the rest of the resort. Lowell and his family had the largest cabin and it did have indoor plumbing.  The shower was located in the middle of the living room.  They did not have to walk through the pitch black to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  One year the cabin next to their’s had bats flying around inside.  I remember going to the store on the grounds that the resort owner’s operated.  In their store they had bait, mostly worms, some groceries and tons of candy.  Stuart was in seventh heaven.  He was flying on a sugar high the entire week.   Suzan was just thrilled each and every morning to have her giant bowl of cereal.  Bottle Lake was not full of fish, but it was full of leeches and Stuart was a leech magnet.  Anytime that child would get near the water his body would be covered with those black, slimy, squiggly things.  To see them all over his precious little face was more than I could bear to see.  The more I freaked out, the more leeches that child would find.  Ick, ick, ick.

The cabins all had screened in front porches that were the width of the cabin.  It was wonderful to sit out there early in the morning to see the fog lift off the lake or late at night to hear the choir of frogs.  It was so quaint and something from another world.  Seeing as I was a city girl, this new world took me some time to process and learn how to relax.  At night we were gently lulled to sleep with the cooling breezes from the lake.  That was when I felt like we were in Mayberry and I fell asleep wondering when Andy or Barney or Opie would make their appearance.  It was maybe the middle of the first night, when I was just letting my guard down, when a blood curdling scream woke me up and sent me to the floor quivering in total fear!  I had never heard anything like that sound and was sure that some poor woman was being murdered by those awful river men.  Once your father was able to control his laughter he explained to me that the sound I heard was that of the loons calling out to one another.  Good gravy!  How would I ever sleep with that sound?  The next day, however, I was able to confirm the saying “he who laughs last, laughs best”.

Your father was the, and I am sure still is, very structured and regimented.  He has set bathroom times and was very regular.  The only time his schedule would be off was when he would be excited about fishing and then he was miserable.  Luckily, Edie knew this and brought along a remedy for him to use.  Prune Juice.  The first night we had dinner and were sitting around the table playing cards.  Your father was pacing and was so uncomfortable.  Edie was so happy to be able to offer a solution.  He poured a large glass, sat back down at the table, and chugged the juice within ten minutes.  Back out into the kitchen he went and refilled his glass.  We all sat in rapt attention as he chugged the second glass.  As we all stared at him, his face suddenly drained of color, and he jumped up from the table.   Luckily, we were playing cards in Lowell’s cabin so he did not have to race to the outhouse, but unluckily for us the bathroom was just feet from where we were sitting.  Much later he emerged from the bathroom totally wiped out.  The prune juice truly did the trick!  It was then that I started to realize that medical school did not do much in training doctors about foods/diets/nutrition.  Your father had no idea that prune juice would help his problem or that it would work as fast as it did or that drinking 32 ounces in one 30 minute time frame was not one of his smartest moves.

I will be forever grateful to Lowell for introducing me to my all time favorite meal.  Fresh fried walleye and fried potatoes and onions.  The nights that we were able to have walleyes that were treated to this meal was as close to Heaven on Earth that I can imagine.  There is just something so perfect, so right, so simple with eating fish that is right from the lake, just mere hours after it was caught.  It practically melted in my mouth.  Although we eat plenty of fish now, nothing will ever compare to that experience.  That meal was total satisfaction!

Oh that lovely note, in keeping with the Earth Day theme we had a spinach salad for dinner.   A sustainable meal that did not hurt the Earth.  Joy Rising!

Spinach  Strawberry  Salad

Prep  Time: 15 minutes

Cook  Time: 7 minutes

Source: www.recipezaar.com    #35547


  • 8 c fresh baby spinach, about 8 oz   washed
  • 2 c sliced fresh strawberries, about 8 oz
  • 1/2 c slivered almonds
  • 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1 T water
  • 5 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1  1/2 tsp poppy seeds  (optional)
  • 3 tsp finely chopped fresh chives  (optional)
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper


  1. Prepare salad by placing spinach in a large bowl.  Set in refrigerator to stay cool.
  2. In small saucepan, combine almonds, sugar and water.
  3. Cook over medium-low heat for 5 – 7 minutes or until sugar is almost completely melted and nuts are golden, stirring occasionally.
  4. Spread almonds on a large plate or sheet of foil.  Let cool and then break into small bite sized pieces.  This can be made up to three days in advance and kept in an air-tight container.
  5. Make the dressing by adding the remaining ingredients (except for the strawberries) into a small bowl and whisk until blended.  Or you can put into a jar with a lid and shake like crazy.
  6. Remove spinach from refrigerator and add the sliced strawberries and toss lightly to mix.
  7. Add dressing and toll gently until spinach and berries are lightly coated.
  8. Place servings of salad onto a plate and sprinkle on the almond bits.

NOTE:  only make enough salad that will be eaten at this one time serving, as the salad will get somewhat soggy if kept for another day.   Or you can not dress the salad.  Just place salad on each plate and allow everyone to add their own dressing.  This way you will be able to keep the spinach/strawberry mixture for another day to two.

Gotta Dance!

Dearest  Boo – I can’t help it…………this is one of my all time favorite videos on YouTube

And this is a close second

Today is the first day of the rest of my life and how will I spend it?  Cleaning the garage!  Ugh…..there are things in there that may have never seen the light of day.  Clearly they are things that I no longer have need for and I need to find them a good home.  Tomorrow is garbage day, so whatever I cannot donate or give away will find it’s new home in the city dump.  I am trying to be responsible, so I will make sure that whatever I send to the trash will not harm the environment.  Just thinking about that makes me wonder what people will say about our society when they uncover our trash.  Will they be put into a museum, like Egyptian ruins?  Or will they use it in some recycled project, much like people are doing today?  What value will future generations find in our trash?   Since Earth Day is this Thursday I am thinking about being better to this big blue ball we call home.

To help out old Mother Earth I went to www.epa.gov for the Earth Day ideas and found five that I will work this year.  One is to reduce the amount of “stuff” that goes into the land fill.  Yeah!  Check.  Another is to plant a tree.  Since we don’t have space or need in our yard, I am going to find a place where I can donate a tree.  Check two.  Another one is to not litter.  Heck, if you just take a peek into my car you will see that it is a rolling Pig Pen – gotta get that cleaned out this week.  But hey,  I am not littering Mother Earth – so, check three!  I am on a roll.  The fourth one is to buy energy star appliances – cheating check four.  We have been doing that for several years ( I needed something to make me feel like I am making progress.  Much like when I make out a “to do” list.  The very first thing on the list is “make a to-do list”.  I always feel so much better when I am able to cross something off right away. ).  The last one is one that I have been working on, but I fear it will be the hardest one to break.  Using more environmentally friendly cleaning products.  That one I know I have to do for both of our health.  The toxic fumes are just so harmful to the both of us, but especially to you with your asthma.   So far I have not found any commercial products that I feel get the job done, so I am looking online for home made remedies.

In following the idea of being better to Mother Earth I did sign up to be a modern day “share cropper”.   In an effort to buy more locally sustainable foods I joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm.  I thought about putting in a garden in our yard, but I know that I have been putting down all kinds of pesticides to make our yard lush and green (yikes, hurting Mother Earth!).  Not sure that our soil is healthy enough for food that I want to eat.  It will be fun, as weekly we will get a supply of vegetables.  In looking over their “supply menu” there are some vegetables that have not found their way to our table, so this will be a good experience for us.   I do have my cherry tomatoes started indoors that I will transfer out to the large pots on the patio.  And I do have some strawberry plants that I will have outdoors.  It is not much, but every little bit will help.

On my night stand is Michael Pollan’s book “Food Rules”.  The central theme, so easy to understand, is to eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.  I am not very far into the book, but the little bit I have read is making sense.  He states that “the degree to which a food is processed gives us a more important key to its healthfulness.  Not only can processing remove nutrients and add toxic chemicals, but it makes food more readily absorbable, which can be a problem for our insulin and fat metabolism.”  His goal in this book is to help us avoid  heavily processed foods.  It’s only been within the past fifty years that ready-made processed foods have become big business.  As more and more families become two-income families or as more and more homes are single parent homes where that parent is the sole provider and must work we looked for easier ways to get food on the table.  Children are more and more active in athletics or music or drama or a myriad of after school activities that just does not allow sitting down at the dinner table for a home cooked meal the nightly ritual it once was.  Family meals are now a luxury.  Because of time constraints and hungry kiddos you will find carloads of families turning into a fast food restaurant.  I am not judging, as I, too, am guilty.

The first idea I am going to work at implementing is to cut down on our sugar consumption.  The basic rule is that if one or more of the first three ingredients are refined sugar in any form……bad news.  Sugar is very addictive and most of us were started on the path as babies in our formula.  Several studies report that Americans eat over 115 pounds of sugar per year!  Not only does this cause damage to our teeth, but sugar is the main cause of diabetes, hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia.  It is either a significant or contributory cause of heart disease, arteriosclerosis, mental illness, depression, senility, hypertension, cancer.  It has an extremely harmful effect in unbalancing the endocrine system and injuring its component glands such as the adrenal glands, pancreas and liver, causing the blood sugar level to fluctuate widely.  It has a number of other extremely damaging effects on the human body.

Some of the other effects of sugar on the body are:

  • Increases chronic fatigue
  • Can trigger binge eating in those with bulima
  • Increases PMS symptoms
  • Increases hyperactivity in about 50% of children
  • Increases anxiety and irritability
  • Can make it difficult to lose weight because of constantly high insulin levels, which causes the body to store excess carbs as fat

Wow……..I was reading all that while I consumed what I thought was a healthy breakfast.  I had a bowl of Greek yogurt with blueberries.  Blueberries are good for your eyes, your stomach, your brain, you veins, and helps decrease chances of several different cancers.  And the yogurt is a good source of calcium and potassium, while it’s live bacteria help with our digestive system.  Yeah!  Then I looked at the ingredient list – milk, cream, SUGAR…..!  Ugh………..guess I need to do a much better job at the store.  They say it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks.  I have my fingers crossed that this is true.  Dear Boo, if you find that I am a bit crabby over the next month, please be patient.  I am working to get that old “sugar monkey” off my back.  Joy Rising???

Jaden’s Chinese Beef Broccoli

Prep  Time: 20 minutes

Cook  Time: 20 minutes

Source: www.steamykitchen.com


  • 1# top sirloin or flank steak (place in freezer for 20 minutes, makes it easier to cut), cut into 1/8″ strips
  • 1 1/2# broccoli, cut int bite-sized florets
  • 1 T high heat cooking oil
  • 1 T minced garlic

for marinade:

  • 6 T tsp soy sauce
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • 1 T cooking oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

for stir fry sauce:

  • 15 T oyster sauce
  • 10 tsp chinese rice wine
  • 10 tsp balsamic vinegar


  1. In a bowl, combine the ingredients for the marinade.
  2. Add the beef and let marinate for 10 minutes at room temperature.
  3. In another small bowl, mix together the ingredients for the stir-fry sauce.
  4. In a wok or large skillet, add 1″ of water and bring to a boil.
  5. Add the broccoli and cover to steam for 3 minutes.  The broccoli should be bright green, crisp tender and you should be able to pierce the stem with a fork.  Drain.
  6. Discard the water in the pan and dry the pan well.
  7. Set the pan over high heat and when hot, add the high-heat cooking oil and swirl to coat.
  8. Add the garlic and fry for 15 to 30 seconds, until fragrant.
  9. Add the steak strips, keeping them in one layer and fry for 30 seconds.  Flip the strips and fry the other side for 30 seconds.  Fry remaining batches of steak strips.
  10. Pour in the stir-fry sauce and stir to combine.
  11. Simmer until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, about another minute.
  12. Add the cooked broccoli back into the pan and toss well to coat.
  13. Serve on bed of rice.

Television Perfect Storm Night

Dearest Boo,  for me this coming Tuesday, April 13th, will be such an exciting television night.  Just warning you now, I will be on “Do Not Disturb” from 7 P.M. until 10 P.M.

Tuesday nights have been my favorite television night since September 2003 when “NCIS” first aired and I was able to spend one hour with my “television husband”  Mark Harmon.  I have so loved this man since he first played in the television series “St Elsewhere” and “Chicago Hope”.   That scamp just stole my heart!  Then he moved on to play a role in “The West Wing”.  Yeah!!  Even though he was the quarterback for UCLA and helped to engineer the stunning upset of our Cornhuskers in 1972, I don’t want you to hold that against him.  He is a fine and gracious man.  Most importantly, he appears to be a wonderful husband and father.  Two qualities that I feel are super important things to look for in a man.  And it sure does not hurt that he is a real cutie patootie.

Next for my viewing pleasure is “Glee”.  It is wonderful seeing a program that is supporting the arts in our schools, as right now the cuts are continuing for the arts in our school system.  When you were in high school you were on the golf team and, of course, all your horse riding competitions.  Even though, as you are fond of telling me, that I cannot sing when you expressed interest in trying out for the choir at your high school I was thrilled.  I remember what fun I had when I was in the Girls Glee Club at my high school a hundred years ago.  However, neither one of us were in a glee club, such as “New Directions” at William McKinley High School in Lima, Ohio.  My glee club never had costumes or robes and I am guessing that you wished your choir was the same.  I will always remember that horrid teal taffeta dress with the puffy sleeves and the hemline about six inches above your ankle.  Oh, the 1990’s were awful for so many reasons and the clothes were at the top of the list.  I found this picture online that is pretty close to the color and the bodice and sleeves.  The skirt portion was much fuller and just about this length, but this will be enough to bring back the horror.

How you and the rest of the choir girls hated this dress.  It was hot under the lights and just plain ugly.  I will never understand the choir director’s mind when he picked out this dress.  Your best friend, Jessica, was in the choir and felt the same way.  I remember the night, at the end of the school year, when you came to me dress in hand.  The girls from the choir were getting together for a bonfire and you were leaving to go get Jessica.  Oh, how tender!  You were all going to dress up one last time in your choir dress and sing around the bonfire.  It was later that night when you came home and shared “the rest of the story”.  Jessica’s parents knew what was going on and refused to let her participate, so when you pulled into her area you turned off your headlights and idled your car.  Out her bedroom room came floating to the ground a teal taffeta fluff ball and right after that Jessica scrambled out the window out onto the first story roof and down to the ground.  What I did not know and, apparently Jessica’s parents did, was that you rascals were going to toss your dresses into the bonfire.  Not that I would have protested; those were some ugg-a-lee dresses!  I might have even given you some matches to start the fire.  The dresses all melted into black, molten globs never to be seen by human eyes ever again.

Back to the television series, “Glee”.  I so enjoy this show because it appeals to the outsider in me.  During high school I was always on the fringe, just skating through totally under the radar.  I like it’s sense of humor, how it appeals to both young and old, and how they are able to mix show tunes with current tunes.  The young people all have such amazing voices.  I truly hope that they never “graduate” from McKinley and the show will go on forever.

And for the final “storm” of the night – “Deadliest Catch”.  Tuesday night starts it’s sixth season and we have been watching it since the beginning.  It’s a reality show about the crab fishing fleet in the Bering Sea and follows them through their two fishing seasons.  The fall season is for the king crab and the winter season is for the opilio crab.  Each episode takes the viewers onto the boats to experience what it is like to have one of the deadliest jobs.  Not only do you see the treacherous weather conditions, but it shows (as best it can) what’s it’s like to live in close quarters with little sleep and crew conflicts.  There are maybe eight to ten crew on each boat that are out on the Bering for three or four months at a time.  Not only are they are family on each boat, but since the fleet is fairly small, they are a family to every other boat.  Just like in a family there are fights between brothers on the boats and between the captains.  It must be very difficult for these men who are married to return home and switch gears.  I wonder how long it takes for them to be able to relax and enjoy being on land?  Maybe they never truly relax.

I have pictured my two favorite captain, Jonathan and Andy Hillstrand, of the Time Bandit.  Jonathan is the captain during the king crab season and he is just a real scamp.  He reminds me so much of my old boss, Sully, both in looks and actions.  The both know how to work hard and how to play hard.  And the pranks that they play on their team are just naughty and fun – as long as it is not directed at you.  Andy is the captain during the opilio crab season.  He is gentle and fair.  During the off season he is at home with his wife and two daughters on their horse ranch in Indiana.  Like my television husband, Mark, Andy appears to be a loving husband and father.  It would break my heart to know that this is not true.

Anyway, for your convenience I have the countdown clock on this post so that you will know when the “Do Not Disturb” time goes into effect.  I am so excited!

Since we had such a great, non-healthy dinner last night to celebrate your birthday I thought that tonight we would be a bit healthier with a salad.  I’ve been watching the Jamie Oliver series, “Food Revolution”, and made the chicken strips from the website.  After they were fried I cut them into smaller cubes and placed them onto a nice bed of lettuce for our Chicken Salad.  It was delicious and filling.  Joy Rising!

Chicken  Strips

Prep  Time: 15-20 minutes

Cook  Time: 3-5 minutes per side

Source: Jamie  Oliver


  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 T dijon mustard (I like to use the “grainy” style for an extra flavor)
  • 1 egg white, beaten
  • 1/3 c panko bread crumbs
  • 1/4 c grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 T olive oil (you may need to use a bit more if you do a second batch)
  • mixed greens
  • your favorite dressing
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Cut chicken into strips, about 3/4″ to 1″ wide.
  2. Make breading station.  Use one bowl for egg white and a second one for the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.
  3. Mix the cheese and bread crumbs together and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Pour oil into skillet and turn on medium high.
  5. Spread mustard over the chicken strips to lightly coat.
  6. Dip chicken into the egg white to coat.
  7. Next dip chicken into bread crumb/Parmesan cheese mixture to coat.
  8. When oil is hot enough (you will see slight “tufts” of heat rising out of skillet) carefully add in breaded chicken strips.
  9. Fry for about 3 minutes until nicely browned.  Then flip over and brown the other side.
  10. Take chicken out of pan and let rest on a plate.
  11. After  slightly cooled, cut into cubes.
  12. Place mixed greens onto a plate and add some chicken.  Dress with your favorite dressing.

I have also mixed things up a bit by not cutting into strips.  Pound the chicken breasts until they are 1/2″ thick.  Do the same mustard, egg white, bread crumb/Parmesan cheese coating and fry until brown on both sides.  Then I would top cooked spaghetti with the chicken breast, cover with favorite marinara sauce (spaghetti sauce) and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.  Place in microwave for 30-45 seconds, just long enough to slightly melt the mozzarella cheese.