It happens every year …


Rain stopped

ice melted

sun came out

December arrived.

A mystery.


In the dead of winter …

Wow, the long dark afternoons — has it always been like this?  Why does this year seem different?  And will it never end … it’s been winter now for … never mind, Google says first day is Dec. 22nd, which is irrelevant because it’s gray and wet and sometimes icy, and we could use a smile and a ray of sunshine.  Right?






Sustenance for a rainy day …

Screenshot 2015-11-30 at 08.13.29 AM

Here’s a rustic dish, full of flavor, that will lead to wonderful leftovers all week.  Once you try this smooth sauce you’ll want it on just about everything.


Serves 6-8


  • 6-8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups assorted mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 1 (14.5 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus extra as needed
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  1.  Pat your chicken breasts dry and season them generously with salt and pepper.
  2. Pour some flour into a shallow dish and dredge chicken in it so all sides are coated.
  3. In a large Dutch oven or deep skillet over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter and brown chicken on all sides.
  4. Transfer chicken to a plate, leave drippings in Dutch oven, and add remaining butter and olive oil.
  5. Sauté shallots until translucent, then add garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant.
  6. Add sliced mushrooms and rosemary to the shallots and cook until mushrooms soften. 5-7 minutes.
  7. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons flour evenly over the mushrooms and stir together. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until thickened.
  8. Mix in dry white wine, chicken stock, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and bay leaf, then return chicken to Dutch oven.
  9. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 35 minutes, or until chicken is cooked all the way through.
  10. Remove from heat, discard bay leaf, and serve alone or with egg noodles or polenta.

From the Kitchens of Twelve Tomatoes

Screenshot 2015-11-30 at 08.21.35 AM





We laughed until we cried …

I lost a valuable friendship this week and have been blocked for good measure, so finding out what happened might not … happen.  And that’s regrettable because I could have learned something important from the experience.

So, then, here’s how this works (after we slide into our big-ass panties):

“Cry it out if you must

Bleed a little if you must

But once you’re done, suck it

all up and move on and

never, ever look back.”

–Ali B. Moe




Take your excitement where it finds you.

As some of my friends know, we aim for an adventure a day and they never have trouble finding us. Yesterday’s didn’t happen until close to midnight, but its scope more than compensated for its last-minute arrival. Everybody’s heading for bed, after nodding off for at least the past hour. Maddie’s in her jammies, all sleepy-headed, and I’m in the big room doing some of the 37 things women do after they say “I’m going to bed.” Colossal stupendously-loud crash from the bedroom, sounds like wood, metal, glass, and a set of cymbals, followed by a voice in falsetto Spanglish saying “I’m okay.” Casey S Ross, the line will never fade from our lexicon.
By the time I make it in there, Kim has extricated himself from the wreckage of our industrial-strength California king bed and Maddie is in the bathroom peering around the corner, eyes huge, and trembling so hard her feet are threatening to go out from under her. The foot end of the mattress is cratered through the frame and onto the floor, looking totally like an elephant decided to sit down and take a break on his way through. Au contraire, mon ami, merely the KIMN8R crawling innocently into bed and rolling over to warm Mama’s side. Turns out the hell-for-stout frame was not matched with a comparable foundation, surprise, surprise, and a recent bit of shifting to clean provided an excuse for it to abdicate all responsibility.
The good news:  the inferior platform gave us more than eleven years, and no animals or humans were harmed in the making of this travesty. We scooped Maddie up and loved on her, the bed frame is intact, and Kim is down at Cotton’s as we speak, picking up a few supplies for rebuilding the support system. It was actually kind of fun dragging the big square mattress into the other room and spending the night there. For now, our little Maddie is the only collateral damage — she started trembling again this morning when she walked through the bedroom, she wants nothing to do with the sounds of clean-up, and doesn’t come out from under my desk unless I go with her. So I moved her bed under here and she’s sleeping it off. She’ll have most of it to endure again while he puts it back together, but she’s a tough cookie, so all’s well.
Starting to wonder what today’s adventure will be …

12188054_10208226241200686_2191601618800208021_o (1)

For the uninitiated, Maddie is our 5 lb. Maltese, not a grandchild, as someone surmised.


There’ll be gray days, Mama said …

“You can only extend the hand of friendship; you cannot force the other fellow to grasp it.”

Things come along entirely too often that throw shade on my discernment, comprehension, and BS-detection capabilities.  Each time I’m left wondering how I could have gotten it so wrong, and each time I vow to learn the lesson and do better.  Some things, of course, can be attributed to the adage “The man woman who has strong opinions and always says what he she thinks is courageous — and friendless.”  But that doesn’t speak to what’s been unfolding for the past week or so.

Question:  Has it ever once occurred to you, Dear Reader, to devise a stealth attack for gauging who your real friends are, or to send suspected disloyalists on wild goose chases to see who will or won’t follow your mandates?  No?  Yeah, possibly because I wasn’t a Mean Girl an In-Girl in school, that brand of cunning feels foreign to me and I can’t relate to it — set-ups, plots, fidelity tests.  I mean, if you want to know something from or about me, ask me — I’ll tell you.  FRIEND:  Are you loyal?  ME:  Yes.  {Or no, I disagree with you, but we’re still on the same side.}  Instead, my prove-you’re-with-me mission, should I choose to accept it, was to troll someone until he/she left a page, but nobody ever said who I was “trolling,” so I couldn’t actually follow through.  Haha, silly me — pretty sure I was the one slated for the guillotine all along — how’s THAT for being clueless?  Anyone having flashbacks to junior high?

Truth — this friendship has longevity to it, a ton of agreement, much fun, a couple of heart-to-hearts, a few this-is-who-I-am convos … so while I wait for the other shoe to drop I’m doing an internal file-search, looking for where the relationship started to go off the rails.  It’s entirely possible that I was wandering around in a fibro fog when the Freight Train of Distrust left the station long ago, and unbeknownst to me started picking up steam.  I do know that the arrival whistle blew shortly after my friend sent out the BFF test, and when I didn’t turn mine in right away it was instant winter on that page.  My friend won’t see this, but for anyone who might view Tests of Friendship as a cool experiment, see if you can first pick up on whether any of your potential testees are currently engulfed in heavy-duty life-stuff, because it may not, for myriad reasons, be possible for them to really get back to you any time soon.  Here is where most of us, when we sensed which way the wind was blowing, would feel compelled to *explain.*  But ‘splaining accomplishes nothing except to make the offended party dig in with increased resolve — and we all just feel shitty afterward.  It took most of my life to scrape down to the actual me — not going back to justifying my existence now.

I shed my tears days ago and the inevitable denouement can take the stage when ready, I’m good.  Being unfriended ain’t no thing, but if I’m blocked on top of that, it’s gonna leave a mark.  It helps that I do understand what happened — the friendship simply became a casualty of what happens around us every day — collateral damage.  It’s a stress-inducing challenge to trust and align yourself with someone whose skin color looks like other people who don’t love you and don’t mind proving it.  By association I’m required to do more, try harder, prove myself over and over, and pass all the litmus tests.  I don’t have to ask you how familiar that sounds.  Every cell in me is sorry the world is so incomprehensibly ugly — I’m trying with all I have to reverse the trend and I thought you knew by now what my heart looks like.  I think it’s gotten steadily harder for you to look past pigment and I do not blame you.  None of this changes my firm belief that race is simply a construct — if we were truly separate peoples, our insides would not match any more than our outsides … but we’re the same under the skin.

Love and acceptance are priceless, as is friendship with a person you instinctively trust, and all of that is hard to let go of.  But since some things do happen for a reason, I’m going to assume this is for the best — you know, maybe we weren’t all that good for each other’s blood pressure and mood swings.  I do know you were good for my heart, however, and I’ll still be over here loving you — you wield a lot of power, but it exceeds even your pay grade to stop me.  I’m grateful for all I’ve learned from you, my friend, and I’m in awe of your feistiness and sass — please don’t rest until you get your hug from Barack Obama.



Fall is ALL!



Everyday garden-variety bleeding hearts …

A heart full of hurt

bleeds tears ’til

the leading edge of

that first shocking searing

wave of pain subsides.

Exquisite the martyr’s misery

and indulgent —

this sort of wound must be

carefully cosseted ’til full

effect be borne.


Brazenly wallowed in.

Attention must be paid!

And then

the heart requires those true

words that start to

put things right.

Patience, please —

give chase and

warrens open in the underground

where it hides ’til it’s ready to

come out.

That heart.




Want to help kids at St. Judes? Drink your broccoli soda

Judy Smith:

Ned is my friend because he makes me laugh.

Originally posted on Ned's Blog:

image As I’m sure you can imagine, being a humor columnist, I am constantly working up a sweat. In fact, I can already feel perspiration forming. By the end of this paragraph, I will be a drippy, sweat-stained mess. Most people don’t know it can take hours to finish a column.

The reason has nothing to do with procrastination, writer’s block or even the ability to Google history of Star Wars universe; many of us humor columnists simply become too sweaty to operate our keyboards without sliding off and potentially endangering ourselves and others. Newsrooms everywhere understand this, which is why we are often placed in special cubicles that are refrigerated.

Or at the very least equipped with a drain pan.

Yet somehow, beverage companies continue to overlook us as potential thirst-quenching icons when developing trendy ad campaigns. Chances are, you’ll never see a commercial featuring a humor columnist at…

View original 576 more words


Oct Frame


Fall, indeed, has fell.



Be it known that on this 29th day of September, in the year 2015, I did don a sweatshirt for the first time since storing it last winter.  

Because while out running errands, in thin t-shirt, floppy shorts, and flip-flops, I came this close to freezing my buns off.  Pretty sure the temp was only in the high 60s, so …  And the breeze was chilly on the balcony, in the shade, so hey, sweatshirt weather, fall is here!


Halfway up the block I had to peel out of it, but it happened!  It’s official, my favorite season is gracing us with its presence.  I’ll shed the flip-flops by first snow.


The wagon, in its autumn sweetness, was a part of my farm for as long as I lived there and many years before.  I don’t know where it is now, other than in my heart, but I still love it.


Various and sundry nonsense … everything about the season brings it to the surface …


Of bubbles and bibles and Southern Baptists …

A new friend is graciously letting me share a piece he wrote — the mark of a quality person in my world, especially as there was no hesitancy and he doesn’t know me from a ton of coal.  All I know about him so far is that he has a gift for saying things that need to be said — and read — and that’s sufficient for the time being.  And that he’s good people.  I hope my friends will be as struck by the truths he’s delineated as I am …

“I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but we don’t live in a Christian nation founded on Biblical principles. 

We live in a secular nation founded on the U.S. Constitution, which protects your freedom to be a Christian if you so choose, and to live by Biblical principles, whatever you interpret those to be. 

It also protects the freedom of those who choose otherwise. 

It’s kind of a beautiful thing.

If you’re a Muslim, no one can make you eat pork. If you’re a Christian, you can load up on the bacon and ham with a big greasy grin on your face. If you don’t subscribe to any religion at all, the world is your buffet.

It even works well within Christianity.  Southern Baptist? No one can make you say a Hail Mary. Catholic? No one can keep you from wearing your “I love the Pope” hat to the mall.

Do you think gay marriage is a sin? Ok, fine. Check your fiancé’s genitals before the ceremony and everything should be a-ok. Just remember it’s not your place to peek inside the pants of other people’s partners. So you can go your merry way and let others do the same.

See how that works? You get to live YOUR life according to your beliefs. You don’t get to force others to live THEIRS that way. And they don’t get to force you to live their way either.

This is how our funny little government works for everyone. This is why it’s a handy dandy thing to remember that, should you seek an office or a job in government, YOU ALSO WILL BE WORKING FOR EVERYONE when you clock in each day.

It’s also good to remember this is why the courthouse lawn and other taxpayer-funded facilities are not churches or temples or mosques. 

The Ten Commandments may look lovely hanging in your church or on your wall at home, but unless you want to allow symbols of other religions including nine-foot bronze statues of a half-man-half-goat with curly horns from the Temple of Satan to greet you when you go to the DMV to get your plates renewed, it’s really best to leave those things up to the private individual to display. 

Any Pentecostals cool with a shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe at your state Capitol building? No? Well, then maybe you get my point.

Your church, however wonderful it may be, has not been appointed to govern those who don’t wish to attend it. Your holy book, however full of wisdom you find it to be, has not been passed into legislation. 

And if you ever study what happens when any religion is given a pass to govern with that kind of power, you’ll thank God it isn’t that way here.”

by Ken Robert

{Follow him on Facebook:}





Longevity rocks …

Yesterday was nice.  I slept through sunrise, thereby assuring myself that it still functions well without my supervision.  Kim made ranch-bean omelets and we shared massive quantities of coffee and a soak in the spa tub.  We gave Madison a bath and watched her turn into a fluff-ball again while she careened zoomie-dog-style through the house.  Laundry was done and favorite pieces made ready to wear in mere seconds on the balcony — it was one of those hot windy days that signal a change of seasons, which will add to our appreciation for cooler temps later in the week.

And it was my birthday!  Not a five- or ten-year milestone, but it means more to me than any since my 30th, which I nearly missed thanks to an inconvenient cerebral hemorrhage at 29.  Far too many people I loved left this life far too soon, including my brother at 29, my first husband at 58, and so many others.  I was born when my mom was just short of 20, and sharing a birth month with her I always felt there was a ribbon that connected us in some indestructible way. When she died suddenly at 67 a little trapdoor clicked open inside me and closed just as quickly.  Shut up in there for the past twenty years was the unanswerable question of whether I would outlive her.  Yesterday I celebrated 68 — and now we know.

Both of my grandmothers lived past 95 and kept their minds intact, so that’s my goal, free and clear, now that I’ve crossed the Rubicon.  Not that I actively contribute much — walking our tiny dog three times a day is the extent of my exercise program and most of the time I eat what I want, although a recent not-good metabolic workup is forcing me to rethink that approach.  Basically, in lieu of hard work on my part, I’m banking on great genes and a positive outlook.  Happiness determines about 99% of life, so a Zen attitude and an abundance of good juju are my weapons of choice.  And all these numbers … ages, blood pressures, cholesterol counts, calories … are just that — numbers.  It takes so much more to measure the weight of a life, and our control over any of it is mostly imaginary .

Okay, I have to go, my husband’s running the spa tub full of hot water and therapeutic salts again for heading into another year of doing it right and seeing what happens.


P.S.  The greatest of ironies would be if I’d gotten fried in my tracks on any one of my trips out to the balcony tonight to watch the lightning.  Hitting the mark is no sort of guarantee, but I’m optimistic.


When was the last time you thought you knew everything?

If it’s ME you’re asking, that was another lifetime.  Kim and I met twelve-plus years ago, we’ve been married eleven, and if you know him it’s no surprise that I’ve learned a lot from him.  I wasn’t a rookie, I knew things … just not necessarily THESE things, not for sure.   So from the always beguiling viewpoint of my toothsome mentor …

LIFE LESSON #1:  It’s okay to be happy — you have to give yourself permission.

LIFE LESSON #2:  Just because someone looks like that guy your mother warned you about doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fall in love with him, get married, and live happily ever after.

LIFE LESSON #3:  Knowing when to be satisfied is the key to life.  {Spoiler Alert:  It’s when The GOOD arrives, not just the Good Enough.  Knowing the difference between GOOD and PERFECT is central to the equation.}

LIFE LESSON #4:  With proper motivation old dogs can learn new tricks.  {Madison affirms that truth.}

LIFE LESSON #5:  Work is not the only honorable use of time, and is, in fact, an insult to the universe if not matched with an equitable amount of not-work.

LIFE LESSON #6:  The best way to get a job used to be a) say you know how to do it  b) go home and read the manual/book/instructions/recipe, and c) show up and do it.  Even though the world doesn’t much work that way anymore, the basic principle still applies in some way to most of life.

LIFE LESSON #7:  You won’t necessarily stay in command of your limbs and faculties right up until you die, so in case your heart/lung apparatus keeps performing longer than your motor skills and your brain stays on the job until lights out, you’ll need things to think about, so start deliberately cataloguing scenes in your head … memories of EVERYTHING.  The way the air smelled, the voices, all the sensations.  Every part of every face you ever loved … and the taste of kisses, all of them.  Because someday if you aren’t exactly independent anymore, and the hours get long and you’re going out of your freaking gourd, you can stop chasing nurses up and down the halls in your throttled-back Jazzy and take some time to remember the good shit.  Once you crawl into your empty box, snag a memory from the archives and get settled, you won’t even remember where you parked your carcass.  You won’t hear anybody, you won’t see anybody, they’ll assume you’ve come unhinged, which is perfect because they just might walk away and leave your wrinkled old ass alone until it’s time to ladle out the evening pudding.


There are more, but I’ve been pleasantly hung up on #7 since last week, and I’m preoccupied with storing details in the database.  The weather triggered all of this — our early transition from hot-and-humid to autumn-is-at-the-door.  The air has changed, the leaves are turning, the students are back in town — it’s ridiculously easy now to memorize the feel of the mornings and evenings and what happens in between.

Last night I asked Kim to wake me up early enough to see the sunrise this morning, and by golly if that didn’t stick in his drowsy mind.  6:15am he’s standing right there, on the job, already dressed (I peeked), his smile threatening to blind me, so without actually opening my eyes I slid into my jammies and felt my way to the balcony (because he’d sweetly provided a hint).  The view that greeted me when I finally raised my eyelids was totally worth waking up for.  First of all, my husband — still smiling — and in front of him on the table two steaming mugs of coffee.  And the SKY, seemingly ALL of it, splatter-painted every shade of blue and pink.  We sipped our beans and listened to the city waking up while the big orange sun floated out of the trees in nearly the same spot the big orange moon did last night.  The air was clean, the sounds were a sampling of everything, those wafty little food-smells from up the street were insinuating themselves past the railing and making us consider our bellies, the sky was growing ever lighter, brighter, and more childrens’-movie-like, with its panoramic rays and white fluffy clouds and sheer natural drama until it all became so overwhelming I had to come back in and lie down.  I did better than Maddie — she was back in bed in five minutes.


We aren’t really solidifying plans to end our days as wards of the medical system, I mean, who DOES that.  But if


Plan A) to get really ridiculously old but also miraculously in shape and just gradually eat less and less until we fade away right where we are


… doesn’t work out, and

Plan B) to spend the last of our cash on a fabulous trip around the world and then drive off a cliff together in a brand new Porsche


… has to be cancelled for lack of discipline and foresight






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