Salted Caramel Brownies

On gray days my thoughts turn to wine and chocolate.  Here’s something for the chocolate half of that equation.


salted caramel brownies

• Salted Pretzel Caramel Brownies •


• 1 box Betty Crocker fudge brownies (for 9×13 pan)
• 2 eggs
• 1/4 c. water
• 2/3 c. vegetable oil
• 3 cups pretzels
• 1 jar caramel sauce
• coarse sea salt


• Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment paper, or grease with cooking spray.

• Prepare brownie batter according to package instructions.

• Pour about 1/3 of the brownie batter into the prepared baking pan. Spread until the bottom of the pan is evenly coated. Then add two even layers of pretzels, covering the entire surface. Carefully spoon the remaining brownie batter on top to cover the pretzels.

• Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the brownies comes out clean. Remove and set on a cooling rack to cool.

• Spoon the caramel sauce onto the top of the brownies in an even layer. (If it is too thick, spoon the sauce into a small bowl first and microwave for 30 seconds to thin.) Sprinkle the caramel with a few pinches of sea salt.

• Serve warm, or let cool to room temperature then serve.


Every word is true …

A declaration for today from

positive outlooks






Fall sights …

fall collage


Is it Christmas yet?

Okay, so you remember when you got your first bicycle, right?  Probably Christmas or your birthday and everything already felt tingly with excitement and you couldn’t wait to see what happened next and then. There.Was.The.Bike.  Shiny and BIG, and instantly freedom stretched out in front of you and you could see yourself flying down the road or the street and all options were open to you.  Wow.  I remember mine — Santa brought it the Christmas I was five and left it in front of the tree just like he was supposed to.  I don’t even remember longing for it, but there it was.  Emerald green, with training wheels.  And BIG.  Christmas afternoon was warm.  My dad helped me hop on the bike and ran along beside me, touching the handlebar every once in a while.  A few trial runs and without a word he wasn’t there anymore and I was flying free!

That bicycle and I were nearly inseparable for years.  I rode it a hundred miles an hour on gravel roads, did wheelies, hauled my little sibs on the handlebars, slid into home with it, and have no memory of road rash.  When I went to college and then got married I left the bike in the round-top shed … and the truth is, it had been forgotten long before.  When my folks cleaned out the shed for their farm sale years later, there it was.  Rusty.  Battered and bent.  And so small!  Oh memory, you are such a lying mistress.

Fast-forward.  When Kim and I decided to move to Lawrence we knew we wanted bicycles.  His is graphite-colored and sleek.  Mine is lime green and cute.  I dreamed about it — buying it, choosing accessories for it, riding it around the neighborhood and on the trails.  The day we picked them up at the bicycle shop a block away, Kim zipped back to our parking lot on his, maddeningly confident.  I rode mine a few feet but felt shaky so got off and walked it the rest of the way.   He suggested a few trial runs in the lot, just to refresh our muscle memories, and that was going great until it wasn’t.  DISCLAIMER:  My sisters and John should probably stop reading right about …. HERE.

Without warning Judy and her cute lime green bicycle were on the pavement and there was definite road rash.  I’ll spare you the details.

Fast-forward some more.  After babying my normal list of aches and pains, plus the wear and tear of moving, and the humbling effects of falling on my face and other body parts, we decided that this was THE MORNING.  Time to get back on that horse and ride.  I wore the right clothes and shoes, strapped on my fierce-looking lime-green & black helmet and prepared for battle.  I was doing fine right up until the part where I got killed.  We rode for a half-hour or so, from one end of the parking garage to the other.  No traffic to watch for, just stationary objects like vehicles and cement pillars and such.  I was getting smooth on the straightaways … still shaky on the turns … but hopeful.  And then I was down.  Road rash.  Anger.  Total humiliation.  Instant discouragement.

Kim brought me upstairs and plunked me in the spa tub to soak the hurts out, and we talked.  And I remembered something — my equilibrium hasn’t been kosher since a little incident with a ruptured cranial aneurysm, three bleeds, and major repairs.  Or is it just in my DNA?  My grandma and my dad had some horrendous falls … and so have I.  But … only since that head thing, so yeah, maybe so.  Damn.  I’m still young.  This is not fair.

Okay, so first you cry.

And then you pick yourself up, dry yourself off, and get on with it.  I’m really not up for any more scrapes and bruises — my knuckles look like I’ve been in a bar fight, or so said the man in the bathtub with me — and I have other health realities to consider, so …

I’ve been online today checking out snarky-looking three-wheel bikes.  Oh lord, the lowering of expectations.  But never let it be said that I give up easily!  I want that freedom.  The sun.  The air.  The exercise.  It’s easy to give up riding a hundred miles an hour, or sliding like a little banshee in the driveway gravel, or God forbid, popping wheelies.  Not so easy to give up the sense of being a person who does everything, handles everything, lives life unafraid.

I was a caregiver for about sixteen years altogether for older people in my family whom I loved very much.  It made my heart ache to watch them give up, one by one, the things that brought sparkle to their days.  If I could take today’s wiser self back there now, I’d be oh so much more gentle … patient … so much more careful with their dignity.  They could still see themselves doing all the things they ever did, and it was a real thing.  Their occasional belligerance in the face of reality was inevitable.   I get it.

I’ll still live my life unafraid, no matter what — fear is a killer, it stops you in your tracks, so I’ll still find a way to do the things I really want to do … and I hope you will, too.  Right now there’s a slick Candy Red 3-wheeler with a Shimano six-speed that has my name written all over it.

Life is so sweet.  As I wrote what I thought would be the final sentence, I looked out my fourth-floor window and saw a little girl and her daddy rounding the corner at the intersection.  He’s on a big-guy bicycle, riding beside her unbelievably tiny purple bike, her matching purple helmet shining in the sun.  She’s the picture of confidence, standing on the pedals, legs pumping away.  Bless you, little blond sweetheart — life is GOOD!!

The falling leaves …


This is the first time either of us has lived in a locale where the leaves turn anything but yellow or brown.  We’re loving the drama!


I’m back, darlings …

I’ve neglected you but not rejected you.  This past summer set records for suckiness on the mood front, so not much writing happened.  Then we got the bug to move … and even less writing happened.  There was a trip to San Francisco in there, too — inspiring but busy.  And now I’m ready to write again.  I hope my friends who’ve wandered away in the face of silence will wander back — I’ve missed you!

The bedroom side of our new loft has a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows, and my desk overlooks a busy street corner that serves up a microcosm of life ’round the clock.  There are houses on two corners, a business on one, and our parking lot on the fourth.  People in East Lawrence walk everywhere.  They walk their dogs.  They push their babies in strollers or wear them in slings, and daddies are every bit as prevalent as mamas.  They walk to lunch and come back carrying take-out containers.  They walk alone, in pairs, in groups.  They walk in every kind of weather — without wearing grim expressions on their faces.  They ride bicycles by the dozen.  I watch them and fall under the illusion that I, too, have been out enjoying the day and moving my limbs.  Instead I’m a voyeur, an observer.  My boo-boos from the move are nearly all healed, my spirit almost fully recharged.  My new bicycle waits patiently in the parking garage, and Mass St. is calling my name.

For now I sit at my desk.  Thinking, remembering, snacking, drinking (sometimes).  It’s so easy just to sit and watch the leaves fall off the trees and pretend other people are getting my exercise for me!  Stay tuned … I have a feeling it gets better.

Metamorphosis …

A move to a new city seems like an opportune time for personal reinvention.  Case in point, I’m tired of paying big money to have chemicals plastered on my head, so I’ve decided to go gray.  Oddly enough, I’m really excited about it!  I found a cute sharp-as-a-dart hairdresser here who totally gets it, and we’re having a good time taking me from roots to reality.  My hair is uber short, which is liberating in itself, and after my haircut next week I just might be completely white/gray/salt-and-pepper.  I take a sort of goofy pride in staying sassy, and my life has been an exercise in “hair today, gone tomorrow.”

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A day in the life …

We slept.  Woke.  Slept again.  Soaked in the big spa tub, with lots of bubbles.  Had coffee with salted caramel biscotti.  Kim made ranch omelets for breakfast.  A friend came and helped him rewire the lights under the range hood.  I played on Facebook.  We went to the grocery store, then stopped at Henry T’s for $3 beer and the Triple Whammy — warm chips with queso, salsa, and fresh guac.  Now my husband is making chicken noodle soup from scratch.  And he just brought me a Bloody Mary with not one but two celery hearts.  He reads my mind on a regular basis.  Later we’ll savor the white, white chicken chunks and the yummy wide noodles, the carrots and celery and onion.  And most likely a glass of Kono.

It starts getting dark very early now.  We’re loving the coziness of our loft, the fireplace, the view of our neighborhood from our tall 4th-floor windows.  I wish the world could be this much at peace …

We did it!

We moved!  We got away!!  It really happened!!!

I have to hold back a little bit on Facebook so as not to alienate ALL my friends, but we love our new city and we feel like kids again.  We haven’t unpacked all the boxes yet, but this is home and we hope we’ll never leave it until they carry us out feet first.

We arrived in time to watch the leaves turn, a show that astounds and delights us in every direction.  We’ve explored restaurants and coffee shops, watched theatre performances, happened upon live music more times than I can count.  We live one block off of downtown, an area that teems with life nearly around the clock.  It feeds our spirits.

We needed this so much.  No regrets.  No regrets.



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