The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Recipe and a Thank You

        Here is an easy recipe that I got from Pearl.  If you want to find the "official" version, check out her blog. I am simplying the steps.  It's not a hard recipe at all--sinfully easy and delicious--but I am lazy, and usually cook by the seat of my pants, so the amounts (in my version) depend upon your taste.

       I think Pearl calls it Hidden Valley Torte, but I call it Layers of Heaven...

  • 16 oz. of cream cheese, softened   (see the note about possible danger)
  • 1 envelope of Hidden Valley dip mix
  • roasted red peppers
  • artichoke hearts (canned or in jars)
  • fresh parsley
1.  Take a large-sized cereal bowl and line it with plastic wrap.
2.  Take some of the red pepper and cut it into strips, and lay it in whatever pattern/design you would like. (This step is optional.)  Pearl inadvertently ended up with a swastika, after the cream cheese shifted the pepper around.  I made sure to NOT end up with that same design...(This is going to be the "top" of your cream cheese mold. If you don't want to make it pretty, skip this step.)
3.  Mix the cream cheese and the Hidden Valley dip powder together. Put some on top of the red pepper/in the bottom of the bowl, and mash it down so that it takes on the shape of the bowl.
4.  Mince up the red pepper, the artichokes, and the parsley.  (Stick with the leaves of the parsley.  Throw away the spriggy-twiggy parts.)  Mix together.
5.  Spoon some of the tri-colored mixture onto the cream cheese stuff. Make sure you spread it all the way to the sides of the bowl...It will look pretty if you do it.
6.  Put some more cream cheese yumminess on top of the vegetable layer.  It will take a few moments to try and cajole the veggies into staying put, and make sure the cream cheese goes to the sides of the bowl.  Remember: pretty!
7.  You might have room for only three layers of cream cheese and two of veggies.  Whatever.  
8.  Let it sit for a few hours in the refrigerator.  Invert it onto a plate.  Surround it with crackers.  Enjoy.

Danger:  You might have some cream cheese mixture left over.  You can eat it with a spoon, or put it on a sandwich along with some turkey, or just stick your head into the bowl and...

Okay, so it's not "pretty" but it's the best I could do...

          And here are more thank yous for more followers...

Smaragda Vamvakari
Cecilia Krug---I don't know too much about Jenifer, other than, from assumptions made by the blogs she follows, that she is a mom.  Smaragda lives in another country, or at least speaks a different language that is gorgeous to look at, but is unrecognizable to me. Cecilia lives (or lived) and works in Brazil, and most of you are too young to remember the Simon and Garfunkle song called "Cecilia."  A great song...

Donna Volkenannt at http://donnasbookpub.blogspot.comDonna regularly posts news about contests and calls for submissions.  When she's not posting about that, she is writing about life and the writing process.

Jennee at  Jennee writes with  sharp sense of humor.

Jeff Campbell at  Jeff is a gifted photographer as well as a writer, making him a double threat.

Rohin Kallat at  Rohin writes from India, is acutely observant of people and cats and occasionally forays into cooking adventures.  He has the ability to take a simple, everyday experience and make it extraordinary.

Thanks, for making the last half of 2010 more productive (writing-wise) and more enjoyable.  I hope 2011 will prove to be a great year for you...

Thanks, Followers

        Since I am not good at welcoming new followers, I thought I would thank all my followers, a small group each day, for the next few days.

      If you just happened by my blog, and have lost interest, sorry.   If you don't have a blog but would like to leave a few tidbits about yourself in the form of a comment, I'd love it.

      These followers I don't know too much about:

Joe May

photo by {2H Design}

Hosee is a friend of mine; she is the best editor and butt-kicker around.  When I have any sort of "style" or grammar question, she has the answer.  When I need a spark, she's there to light it.  When I need some encouragement with my writing or some constructive criticism, she is ready.  If she had a blog it would be sharp looking and entertaining and inspiring, because she is a graphic artist as well as a writer.

Manda at  Manda has a very thoughtful blog.  She makes me think deeply. 

Becky at Becky has a wonderful blog...Music plays, it's chock-full of tidbits and links, and she just gave her blog a cool new look.  Becky is working on a book, and is the president of Saturday Writers, so she's serious about her craft.

Susan Artkras is the kind of teacher I despise.  I go to conferences with her, and she has an amazing amount of knowledge in her head.  If it's a theory or a book or a strategy, she knows of it or how to do it.  Technologically, she also knows how to do it all, which makes me want to puncture not one--but two--of her tires. (Of course, this is tongue-in-cheek.  I am in awe of Susan as a teacher.  She is so sharp and so intuitive...)

         Hopefully you all had fun ushering in 2011 last night, and may this year be full of fulfilling dreams...

Friday, December 31, 2010

A Thank You to Followers

photo by floraluniverses
       There are many bloggers who do a great job of welcoming their new followers. I'm not one of them, although I do get excited when someone new is on my list of followers.

       So, I thought I'd take the next five days and thank/formally welcome the few, the brave...the ones who have chosen to occasionally check out my blog.

      There are some who I don't know much about.  They don't have blogs (at least I don't think they do) and when I try to send them an email message, I have to be "signed in" and then I run away, scared.  I wish they would send a quick message about who they are, and what they're interested in...

Scott Webber

      Thanks for stopping by.  You might have just happened upon my blog, got stuck like in a tar pit, and could not get loose until you signed up as a follower.  You might have gotten bored with it long ago...Even if that is the case, thank you for stopping by at least once.

Estrella at  She has everything from recipes to introspective writing pieces.  Check out her blog. 

Gin Rowe---You don't have a blog, but I know who you are.  I gave birth to you 31 years ago.  You are one of the most beautiful and talented women I know.  Now, get to those illustrations! (And don't ask, "What illustrations?"  You know which ones I'm talkin' about.)

Nancy Olson--Nancy wrote this great book called "Thanksgiving at Grandma's."  It's a picture book, and is available at a great price (under $10).  If you want to know how to get in contact with her to buy a book, send me a comment with your email address, and I'll send you Nancy's contact information.

And finally, Barb Hodges at  I think Barb was my first follower.  Barb has this incredible ability to write a rhymed poem, on any subject, on demand and for any occasion.  She is very observant, and sees things in everyday life that most of us miss.

Thanks for following my blog. I hope that the year 2011 is  a great one for all of you.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

photo by Carlos N. Molina--Paper Art

        Most years I don't make any resolutions; I never keep them, so why go through the motions simply because a new year has begun?

       But maybe I should.  Maybe I should make some resolutions, but reasonable ones, so there's a possibility the changes will stick.

1.  I will try and alternate dark chocolate with milk chocolate.  I know eating dark chocolate results in some health benefits.  In fact, when I was in my late teens, I preferred dark chocolate and for some unknown reason, I switched to the less healthier variety.  So when I pop a blue-foil wrapped Dove or two into my mouth, I'll try and give equal time to the red-wrapped ones...

photo by lisaargiris

2. I will try and stop making snarky comments about pain-in-the-butt people.  Okay, scratch that one.  There is no way I can corral my snarkiness.  Sorry.

photo by Linda Cronin

3. I will get my eyebrows waxed on a regular basis.  Eight bucks is not a big deal, and my Nazi Eyebrow-Archer does a much better job than I can do with tweezers.  Why do I end up thinking of it as an annual event? 

4.  I will slow down when it comes to the accelerator.  Recently, I found that the hold-your-breath-until-you-pass-by-the-officer-shooting-radar technique does not always work.  Since I am not a cardiac surgeon, I am never heading to an emergency.  I need to ease off the gas a bit.

photo by sewingamelie by liebesgut

(It looks like Viggo the Piggo is going to have some company!)

5. I am going to find a way to "treat" myself that does not involve potatoes or pizza or hot chocolate.  I have not figured what would be good alternatives, but I'm hoping to discover the key to controlling what goes into my mouth.

6.  I'm going to write more.  Today I was at the library, picked out four DVDs, and then put them back.  I need to write tonight, and do report cards over the weekend, so no time to watch movies.  And since this is my "warm up" writing, to get my fingers into the right groove, good night...And have a great time--either in a quiet or rowdy way--celebrating the start of a new year.

What are your resolutions for 2011?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Yikes! I'm Legal Again!

         About a month ago, a colleague was chatting and told a few of us her driver's license had expired. Since it had only expired three or four months earlier, she was fine; all she had to do was pay the normal fee and get a new one issued.

         I sat there and smugly listened.  I was not smug because I am known for keeping on top of things.  I simply thought, That isn't the case with me.  My license is f-i-i-i-ne.

         Several times in the last five or six months I've been to the bank.  (Are you thinking, 'What is going on?  Has she lost her train of thought?' Just bear with me for a moment, and you'll find there's a connection, I promise.)  Each time, I put my driver's license into the pnuematic (spelling) tube along with the withdrawal slip. Each time the transaction happened without a hitch.  Everything was cool...

         However, last week, a couple of days before the holidays I again went to the bank.  I had just been there a week earlier, but this time was different.

       "Do you have a valid driver's license?"

          What?  My head swiveled towards the screen, and I was told the license I gave them expired in June of 2010.  More than 6 months ago...

           They were nice enough to give me the money anyway, but then, of course, I had to come home and plot out the rest of my day.  My afternoon was not going to be spent making cookies and wrapping presents.  Suddenly, my day was going to be spent on "official," government business. Dangerous business (at least dangerous for the license bureau people, if I flunked the test).

          When I found the closest office, I found I first had to take the vision test.  That should have been the easy part, right?  Unfortunately, I didn't sail through it like a breeze.  An officer built like a redwood told me to put my head into the machine so I could read a specific line.  Easy-breezy.  But then he gave me another line to read.  I squinted and strained and rattled off a few letters and he replied, "They're all numbers."  Uh oh.

        "Do you wear glasses?"

         I then started talking a mile a minute. "Well, yes, I-wear-contact-lenses-but-only-in-the-right-eye-because-I-got-to-the-age-where-I-had-to-wear-bifocals-but-my-insurance-company-refused-to-pay-for-no-line-bifocals-and-I-think-I'm-too-young-to-wear-those-old-lady-glasses-so-my-eye-doctor-suggested-this-and-it-works-because-the-right-eye-is-for-distance-and-the-left-eye-is-for-closeup-work."

         I think Officer Redwood stopped listening as soon as I said, "Well, yes,"  He walked to another testing machine, and told me to "stick" my head into that one.  (Why did I feel like a cow getting prepared to get milked?)

        Thankfully, I cleared the first hurdle.  The next one?  The written test.  Da da da duuum.

      Please remember:  I last took the written version of the driving test 35 years ago.  Back then, stone tablets and chisels were used.  Now the test is taken on the computer.

      I got a 92% on it and--not meaining to brag--but the two questions I missed I erred on the side of caution.  I mean, do you know how far something has to extend out your car's rear end before it must get flagged?  (FYI---five feet.  I think plenty of damage could be created with something extending out 3 feet...Perhaps the state of Missouri has it wrong?)

     Then I was told to have a seat, and wait to be called for the driving portion of the test.  I got permission from Officer Redwood to move my car to a closer spot (so I could clear off the front seat), and returned. Fortunately, my wait was not too long, so the sweat did not have time to creep all the way from my armpits to my waist.  Almost. But not quite.

photo by Paul McRae (Delta Niners)

      My final score was an 80%, and I blame my low score on the car being too quiet.  I am sure I made some small mistakes because I never drive without the radio blaring.  If I can't listen to Earth, Wind and Fire or Janis Joplin or Gnarls Barkley, the car doesn't move forward. 

       One thing I did ace was the parallel parking.  Thirty-five years ago, I did not even attempt to parallel park.  I had called ahead of time, found out it was only worth 7 points, and figured I wouldn't need that 7 points.  Now, old lady that I am, I'm a pro; in fact, it was the easiest part of the test.

      So now I am legal again.  I have a valid license.  And perhaps my sad, scary tale will cause a few of you to sniffle a little, or shudder a bit, or...check your own license to see when it expires!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Magpie Tale

The gloves were off.
Consideration...tossed out the window.
It was now time to fight free from rules...

Writing to Get Your Pen Warmed Up

          I used to be a quilter.  In fact, I've gotten hooked (pun intended) with every type of handwork from counted cross-stitch, bargello, crewel, and currently...knitting.  But years ago, I was knee-deep in fabric scraps and rotary cutters and batting.

        Your quilting fingers, just like your imagination, need to be warmed up sometimes. Gifted artists with a needle advised to have a "warm up" or "junk" project off to the side.  Before working on a project you were serious about, it was suggested to quilt a bit on a project that did not matter to you. In that way, your fingers and your needle could get into the groove and get warmed up before it really matters...

photo by interchangeable parts

        There are occasions when the words flow out in the right way the first time they are written, and little revision is needed.  Count yourself fortunate; it doesn't happen all the time. If you find yourself struggling, if you get stuck, perhaps beginning with a journal entry or writing part of a letter will stretch your writerly skills.  Then, after your hands have gotten into the groove of tapping on the keyboard or scrawling words across the page, you can transition over to the project that really matters.

photo by E.L.A.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Microfiction Monday...Birds of a Feather

         He stood and gazed at the birds. Were they birds that mated for life? Why did people insist on flying free, instead of being content to perch together forever?

    Thanks to Susan at Stony River.  Weekly, she posts a photo or an illustration.  It is up to us to create a super-short story or poem (140 characters or less), and unfortunately, spaces and punctuation counts.  If you have not tried it before, give it a whirl.