An author’s logic

Otherwise known as mood & memory loss

Two questions have been arising that might as well be addressed in this blog. The first is: why all the travel blogs, and second is: why do you keep switching back and forth on locations instead of the chronological order of visits?

If I had any shame whatsoever, I wouldn’t admit that travel blogging is as much for me as it is for wanna-be tourists. For yearrrrs, after every trip, I vowed to keep a journey, record—image or written- of where I went, what I did, ate, liked, hated etc., so if I ever wanted to visit the destination again, I’d have the details. In other words, my own Sarah version of Rick Steves. Alas, like my teenage journal writing endeavors, it ended up being more vision than action. Here I am, a million years later, like Methuselah, wondering if I need another vision for the Almighty to strike me down to change my evil ways.

So, it was (yes, this is the actual answer) that in February of 2019, when we booked this summer’s vacation plans, I was forced to pull out all the pamphlets, business cards, and what-nots from our last two visits. That begat the whole “Since I have to write this down anyway, maybe someone will benefit.” Like unto that was the “oh! This inspired my novel(s), and that might be interesting for another reader as well.”

Yeah, I know. Long answer to the first question, but now you know the backstory, and I’m all about backstory.

My scenery & writing area switches with my moods: one moment sitting chair, then couch, table and usually in the mornings, my kitchen counter, half-looking at the neighbors yard above my toaster. More importantly, my back is to the lake, so I’m not distracted. Is it any wonder that gold trader Danielle Grant positions her desk to the hallway and away from Lake Zurich? Who can get a thing done with a great view??

Second question is more simple: I get bored, and so do readers of my IG, Facebook and Blogs. Too much US, then too much Europe, Mexico or wherever. So, my original intention to go alphabetical was quickly discarded, as was the timeline. Now it’s whatever strikes my fancy. I do have one goal, which is to get all my major trips for the last couple of years up, so I can figure out what to replicate, what to add and ignore. Honestly, I’m a little stressed since I leave three weeks from today (time to start dieting), so don’t be surprised if my blogs become a wee-bit shorter, with more visuals than text.

The traveling author


My readers know that the works I create are based on the people I meet, the experiences I’ve enjoyed and the places I’ve traveled. Therein lies the essence of the Traveling Author, for that’s what I am. Where some sit and write book after book, my lifestyle is one where I take a break, traveling to rejuvenate my mind, body and soul, absorbing all that I’ve encountered, then I return to my home and produce a novel.

From reading to reality

It’s always been fun for me, as a reader, to visit a place that’s been well described by an author. The first book in the Danielle Grant series, Made for Me, set in Switzerland, takes readers to Zurich, through the Alps, to St. Moritz and the world-famous gondola in book one. Book two, Destined for You, continues through Prague and Lake Cuomo. The last book, Meant to Be, includes the jazz clubs and famous eateries that you’ll want to be sure to visit when in Zurich and the surrounding areas. By complete contrast, the Lava Bed National Monument and Captain Jack’s stronghold is the setting for Chambers: The Spirit Warrior (book 2 of the series) which blends history and fiction, while Ouray/Telluride is the home for the Incarnation, a series revolving around DNA manipulation. I’m always wondering what I’m going to find on my next trip that will be delivered up to the masses when I turn it into a book? It lends itself to a completely new level of excitement for each new adventure.

This local jumps in front of me and shouts “You need this!”

Travel with Me

In the past, I’ve posted my journeys real time on Instagram and then a novel comes out. Going forward, I’ll publish a general itinerary on my refreshed web site, adding details as the date nears. Through Instagram, I will offer up cool details before, during and after. If a reader wants to/show up and have me sign a book, great! In Destinations, my upcoming five-week journey through 12 countries is published. You electronically Travel with Me as I search out new experiences for my next novels.

Refreshed site

In addition to the Destinations page, you will also find my Essentials for traveling. Also in this section are my top-of-mind issues, such as how to cope with migraines while traveling, note taking for novels or and other real-life subjects.

Feedback

Countmeinsarah@gmail.com is the best place to send messages, but I manage my own Instagram (sarahgerdes_author). If you have a suggestion for travel sites, locations, scenes and people for books or other inspirational comments, feel free to share either in email or for fastest response, Instagram.


Last call for Halloween

It’s a Saturday night and I ain’t go nobody…oh wait. I’m definitely not a man stuck in a 1970’s doo-loop with Cat Stevens, but it sure feels like it. As ‘the man’ plays Gears of War, P-dog sleeps and I enter on my fourth hour of writing the sequel in my time-travel adventure, I’m burned out. So what do I do? I get spooky of course. And nothing says spooky like a….spooky halloween tree. Ever one to give advice for an party (kids or adults), here’s the 15 minute, $sub-$50 dollar decoration sure to get you compliments.

The raw material. Cowboy tree is
temporarily hitting the range.

Start with a tree. Any tree will do, real or fake. If you have a fake one in the garage (or 18, like my cousin who decorates all of them in different themes for Christmas–yes, she has a sickness), or modify a overgrown fica plant, don’t matter. Just get it. (I started w/the tree I’ve left up all year long in our dining room out of sheer laziness. I did however, try to remove most of the cowboy ornaments, since this is my designated ‘cowboy tree.’ yeah. go on. say it. I’ve lost my way).

Orange lights

Stream it with orange lights that can be had at Target for $3 bucks. I purchased 8 streams last year, this year, 3 were dead on arrival. 5 worked just fine. (side note: I thought I lost my mind in buying so many until I realized I streamed quite a few around the perimeter of my living room on the uplit section).

Gauze in grey and black–
wrapped another line on the bottom
after I took this shot

Get gauze from your party store, or, if you’re going to be totally cheap about it, get some netting, dye it grey or black, rip it up and then start placing it back and forth in random patterns.

I spent $8 bucks on the a scary stream of ornaments. This skeleton string was from the local party store. It featured all kinds of ghouls, but also less frightening things like pumpkins.

spooky ghouls

The time it took eased my mind, released the tension in my fingers and gave me a renewed sense of vigor to go write about the taking and giving of souls through divine intervention (sorry. I have to be vague or the movie studio will freak). In any case, ghoul on. All the while, sing…It’s a Saturday night, and I aint got nobody…and channel your inner Cat.

Trunk or Treats: the free, fun family activity

For the last few years, I’ve avoided bringing up the Trunk or Treat phenomena to Rog, he of the “I-won’t be-caught-dead-in-the-church-parking-lot,” until we drove by one last year. It happened to be on the right, in the lot of a new Baptist church that resembles a modern red barn, with big beams, metal siding and really cool downlight that shines on the empty space formerly occupied by berries. (I have no problem with Baptists btw. I just wish they could have left the blackberries, since a local family of bears–mamma and 2 cubs– feast roadside year after year).

In any case, the Trunk or Treat was packed. For those uninformed, it’s a kid-version of a tailgating party, where everyone gets dressed up, and the car, or “trunks” are decked out like a Macy’s Day Halloween party gone spooky. Seriously. Men in particular, go nuts putting in coffins with sounds, grey cloud-like mists billowing from half-cracked doors and twirling lights. The lighter versions feature graveyards or ghouls, all with candy in every direction.

“What’s that?” Rog asks. I reluctantly tell him, waiting for him to spew some evil on the notion of trick or treating at a church. “That looks great!” he says, wondering aloud why we weren’t going. Before I have a chance to kick myself, he then says, “too bad your church doesn’t do cool stuff like that. I’d actually go.”

Wha….??? I don’t know who I want to kill first. Him for saying such blasphemy, or me for being too chicken to ask him.

At that point, I take off my gloves and give him the low-down on Trunk-or-Treating parties, finishing with “all the churches have them. Even schools and non-profits!” Around here, nearly every high school, junior high school, church and sometimes even community centers have the things. It’s particularly popular when Halloween night falls on a school night, and the parents don’t want to be out late. Furthermore, the haul of candy one recieves is HUGE. Some of these fallafal-selling-big-box-churches have lots the size of the Seattle Seahawks stadium, and are probably more full to boot! Making a trip around the safe confines of a TorT, especially when you know the folks, is awesome.

This year, Halloween is once again on a school night, and I just got the invite for our TorT on Saturday, 10/29, 5:30-7:30 (family friendly times indeed, thereby leaving the rest of the evenings to be enjoyed by adults). I for one, am very excited. I’ve started mapping out the neighborhood TorT’s, determined to hit every station with the zeal and enthusiasm of hitting the high-density suburbs for the highest candy yield. No, wait….this is for the kids……the kids…

2 for Heaven….

“I’m in the Boise airport, my flight delayed because both Grandparents passed away…” Yipes! This is how the email from my flame-haired voice teacher began. I note the time: it was very late, this last Sunday night. “They’d been married 70 years,” the note continued, “and passed away within 10 minutes of one another.”

Whoa. I believe in Karma and all things universal, but I ask you this (those of you that are non-karma-believing-non-universal-type folks who still read my blog), don’t you think this is more than fate? Something beyond coincidence? For the cynics (who shall not be named) no, they weren’t in a car wreck nor did they suffer side-by-side streaker-induced heart attacks.

For a moment, I’m going to pretend I’m important enough to pen an essay for This I Believe (hey, if my writing can’t get in to the Smithsoanian, I can at least pretend).

I believe in an Afterlife.
I believe we have spirits inside us that live beyond our physical bodies.
I believe the Great Beyond rewards good people by allowing them to die in their sleep.
I believe a couple who has lived and loved for 70 years is loved even more by God above.
I believe that couple didn’t want to be apart more than 10 minutes.
I believe they gave each other a hug on the other side, and did a happy-dance in their youthful, spirit bods.
Furthermore…
I believe I’ve got my work cut out for me if I want to be married 57 more yrs.
I believe if I do, I’ll be 100 years old.
I believe I don’t want to live to be 100.
And finally…
I believe I’m thankful to know people who come from such good souls. Good stock breeds good stock.

5 min to Perfect Eye makeup

Pre-make-up. Red and a little uneve. (ignore my hair eyebrows
in need of a plucking. And yes, the eyelashes r real. thx mom)

“I’ve had enough,” said Melanie, my go-to makeup person for all things beauty. “I can’t take your bad make-up any more.” (To refresh, I hired Melanie from the Internet, finding her from Model Mayhem originally for a halloween party 2 yrs ago. She was so great, I then hired her for various charity events-doing the make-up of others– when she finally spoke her mind). Was I affronted? Nope. I didn’t even care. Ever since departing the great state of California for the netherworld of Washington, which is as far from fashion as one can get and still retain credibility, make-up has not been a priority. Covered under the hat, which is protected from a hood and then kept dry by and umbrella, what make-up is left after a rainstorm is completely irrelevant.

Step 1-undereye prep

“You should care,” she continued, affirming that everyone (including some men) desparately need some makeup. She offers to prove it to me, since I am not inclined to take the time or pay for someone to tell me how to apply make-up that I no longer want to spend money on. 

Step 1a-tap undereye. Don’t stroke side to side. Stretches the
skin. Yes, that old wives tale is true.

“You’ll see,” she says prophetically. Finally, after several months of dithering, I relent.

Necessary tool–keeps your products
clean, steril & your face free from
grubbies that bite

“You look beauuutiful,” coos my daughter. My husband is speechless. The dog growls. I’ve succeeded in transforming what has become my fleece-ensconced dowdy self into a person that is still in fleece, but I look slightly better, at least from the neck up. Here it is, in all it’s glory.

Guideposts that I told Melanie before commencing:
1. don’t apply anything I can’t buy from a store close by (e.g. a Nordstrom or Mac counter)
2. don’t apply it in anyway I can’t replicate
3. don’t do anything on me that takes more than 5 minutes.

Step 2 Painterly pot from Mac

She was giddy like a schoolgirl. “Of course! Of course!,” said she of the fantastical movie-studio make-up application. “If I can do it in a windstorm in Alaska in less than 5 and make a high-maintenance actress look great, I can do it on you!”

Step 2a Painterly using tool

Melanie asked me to bring what I had in order to show me what could and could not be done, and the difference. To Melanie’s great surprise, I had nearly all the brushes, and even a few of the items from Mac (and other vendors). The good news? The make-up can all be had at Mac (now, I’m talking women like me–caucasion– since that’s all I can speak to of course), same for the brushes. But others should do.

Step 3a swipe paint on wrist. again,
keeps pot sanitary

Tip? Get someone with an aesthetician’s license or something so you can get 40% off.

Women, you are once again the beneficiary of the pitty that my make-up artist friend had on me when she couldn’t take it anymore. In 5 minutes, you can go from looking like a she-devil (me in the am) to having perfect looking skin that is rather natural. Before you read on and look at the pics, cut me some slack. I haven’t had my eyebrows done in forever. That’s the next step in this eternal process of beautification.

Step 3b putting on Painterly (I use my finger)

Step 3b after Painterly-note the difference!
Step 4- ‘Mushroom’– use a brush, apply to “set” the creme.
Applying this powder ensures it stays 12+ hrs

Note–Mushroom by Mac is an eye powder. Didn’t bother with a pic. The color is not supposed to be dramatically different–and it’s not. It’s natural complexion color in my case.

Step 5- Another Mac Pot– Brown

Step 5a Use a flat, diagonal edge
brush.

Tap the top and get a clean
line. Hold the edge of the eye.
Start from inner eye and draw across and
over. Lift the corner up 45 degrees.

Step 5-post liner. You are almost done w/the eyes

I’m going to pause here and point out something else. Note the eye with the liner. The eyelashes are now darker, and this is because I darkened the top, naturally blond with the tip of the eyeliner lash. Many artists use the mascara, but I don’t like this method. It’s goopy, no matter how nice the mascara (even the ever preferred Mabelline). Instead, use the top and brush it lightly across.

Step 6 Mascara application. See the difference?

Now that the upper eye is done, I’m going to work on the lower/under eye area. Start with the concealer. The primer is now set and ready to hold the cream concealer.

Step 7 Under eye concealer. Put on the wrist again.

Step 7a after under eye concealer

Step 8-Foundation.

A note here. Foundation from Mac is good (I’ve used all types-Dior, Chanel, etc). Bottom line-they are all a bit too heavy for my light complexion. It ends up looking a bit thick, but Melanie introduced me to what the pro’s use. 2 different pro foundations that she mixed for me.

Step 8a-Foundation mixed

This is ths mixed foundation. I did the mixing prior, 80/20 light over dark.

Step 8b Foundation on the wrist

Step 8c-Foundation on one-half of my face, like Dr Jekyl &
Mr. Hyde (oh, and I fixed my right eye to even it out)
Step 9- Powder-using powder brush

Step 9a-Flat stroke (remember to tap the brush on a surface
like your wrist to dislodge clumps (yes, powder can get
on clumps on the brush)
Full face after powder.

Pausing here….did you pick up on the face I didn’t bother put on any eye-crease darkener (between upper and main lids?), nor did I use bottom liner or put mascara on my eyelashes? Given the length of my eyelashes, and how dramatic such a simple application could be, Melanie told me to stop looking like Chuckee (as in, Stephen King’s Chuckee) and forgo any bottom color. I agree.

Tip: When I want to go natural (yet clean and fresh) all I do is skip the liner. The benefit of an upper lip liner, according to Mel, is that it “brightens” the eyes, In other words, I look more awake. Not having the upper liner means I look a bit more natural.

The last thing to add then is bronzer. I have been skipping bronzer for years. Let’s see if you can tell the difference.

Step 10. Bronzer by Mac. Note the brush. It’s much thicker
than the powder brush.
Step 10a- Added the bronzer and Lips (we’ll do the lips in another blog)
Can you tell the difference?

The last step now is the blush. Like bronzer, I’ve not been bothering with blush forever. I mean seriously, what’s the point. Thankfully, Melanie told me I was an idiot, and showed me the way.

Mac Pallet–it’s flat and magnetic on the bottom

This pallet has a bit of everything–Mel loaded me up with
a few blushes, some brown, white and blue eyeshadow.

A side note on this, pallets can be found on Amazon and alot of other places. You can then stock them full of a lot of little colors. Check it out. It’s sooo much cheaper than buying the colors of the season–well, I recant. You should have both. The basics and then the fun, in season colors.

And…the final product. All these steps go really fast, believe it or not. I timed myself and it wasn’t even 5 minutes.

Final effort– can you believe the difference
5 minutes can make?

Summary Steps-15 steps to a perfectly non-made-up looking made up face!

Prep:wash and apply sunblock

  1. apply lower lid prep
  2. apply upper lid-Mushroom
  3. apply upper lid liner (if desired)
  4. apply eyelash darkener (or mascara) to top of eyelash
  5. apply eyelash mascara
  6. apply under eye concealer
  7. apply foundation around face
  8. apply transluscent powder
  9. apply bronzer
  10. apply blush

The lipliner etc will be in another blog.

Men, don’t despair. In fact, you should read this blog for the very reason you like to look a woman with nice eye-makeup. Be a good man. Go buy your woman the list of products on this list and surprise her with the printout. She’d be so thrilled you are such an aware, sensitive male. (If you want to make it really easy, use a gift card. That’s even better).

Product list for all light-skinned women (dark skinned and other–same basic steps but different products).

Mac Primer
Mac Painterly Pot
Mac brown (I also have a black as a side note for evenings)
Mascara
Visiora foundation(s)
Visiora powder
Mac bronzers….I couldnt find the orange container on line. Perhaps this is something only sold at the Mac Pro store…I’ll ask Mel and get back.

Men–go get this for your best girl. Girls–have fun!!

Behind the smile

Scrapbooking is not my thing. Art class wasn’t my academic highlight. To curb the pain that accompanies my act of divine love for my daughter (e.g. putting basic photos with doilies on a colored piece of paper) I balance the torture by watching things like Live Free and Die Hard. Somehow, the thumping sound of an automatic, high-powered rifle with a silencer going spit-spit-spit as the car flies through the air, hitting the helicopter and downing the bad guys makes the time go faster. Before I know it, I’ve used up the photos on the table and go sorting throught the next batch to select the chosen few that will be immortalized by my permanent, invisible tape and uneven cutting.

My hands linger on a 4×6 photo of a trim, blond-haired woman in khaki pants and black, v-neck sweater standing at the far end of my dining room. Behind her are hanging spiders and a witch in the corner, a black and purple cat purched in the windows, and cobwebs covering much of the walls. The table is full of food, and I can even make out the appetizers carefully laid out, pumping platters next to red casserole dishes.

Tears well in my eyes, the hurting in my chest nothing to do with me or my life, but hers. She is smiling, her head tilted slighty to the left, serenely allowing me to take her picture. The event was a holiday shower, the guest, a young woman who had desired the holiday theme. She wasn’t in the picture. Only this woman, who was putting on a front for the camera, for behind the smile, her husband of 22 years had announced he was leaving her and their four children.

At the time, I had no idea. The photo was taken a year ago October. My understanding didn’t occur until this past July, when a group of mom’s and daughters went for a hike. My daughter was overly young, but this woman had ok’d us coming. I had to leave early, and she did too, so we walked down the mountain together. As is the case with me, she opened up and learned the story. Now, a year later from the time of the photo, (nearly to the day), I look back with the grace, the fortitude, and the front this woman put up to the world. That was how long it took for the couple to work out the living arrangements, the money, sharing the kids. One thing that wasn’t worked out was their marriage.

It’s really not important to share the details. What struck me about the photo tonight is that a person (she) can look lovely and smile, creating an impression her world was perfect. Perhaps it was at one time. Even when it ended, she kept up the front, as she did at my home, surrounded by two dozen women. I’ll continue to look at photos of friends, neighbors, acquaintances. For most, I’ll never know what’s behind the smile.

Stories from the waiting line…

Once upon a time, my public outtings were free of clutter and pollution, a well of mental purity, unsullied by the unsolicited comments from strangers. Not so anymore. Nowadays, stepping outdoors means being on the receiving end of a one-way flow of information, the kind that a stranger on a plane will give because he (or she) knows you will never again run in to one another, so you are perfectly safe place to dump all sorts of burdensome information. Let me give you an example.

Last Thursday, I’m sitting in a public place, waiting for my name to be called after I have dutifully taken a number. To my left is a large man studiously reading the local paper. To my right is an empty chair that remains vacant for about thirty seconds until a well-dressed woman takes a seat. She’s thin, early sixties, short, blond hair in a v-cut, fashionably touching her brown and gold leopard print shirt. Her left hand is void of a wedding ring, but adorned with the nice, thick metal watch. Her leather shoes are polished and appropriately narrow for the 2011-2012 fashion season. I’m tapping away on my iphone, virtually conversing with my friends who are equally happy to spend their time getting thumb callouses when she begins to speak to me.

“I’ve never been in here,” she half-whispers, embracing me as a temporary confidant. My first time as well, I say, looking up long enough to notice her face is tan, smooth save for a few age-given lines. Divorced mother of two or three grown children, maybe a first time grandma I hypothesize. I continue typing. “My oldest son is getting married soon,” she continues (I inwardly preen), “and I gave him my wedding ring for his second wife.” I have two thoughts. The first is that the woman is determined to tell me her life story. The second is that I might as well listen. People’s lives are far more interesting than my own, and what the heck. I’m a writer. I like to listen.

“It’s worth $25,000,” she tells me. “It has six diamonds scattered in gold metal chunks…” yadee yedee yadaa She’s not worried I’m going to stalk and rob her. . I visualized a ring fit for Liberace. I’m far more interested in whether or not her soon-to-be daughter in law thought it was as ugly as it sounded.

“Did he like it or get offended?” I boldly ask. She enthusiastically tells me she floated the idea to her son, referencing the ring in her vault.

“She told me ‘that’s pure love.'” Sounded more like Mom got pragmatic. I calculated the odds. Second marriage. 30+ yr old fiance. 50-50. “She had it resized and loves it.”

I turn back to my phone, slightly disappointed the story ended at that point. I shouldn’t have worried. She started in again on the next thing. Her recent job offer (to another division of a local company), a promotion from one executive position to another. This woman wasn’t hurting, at least not financially.

“In the middle of it all, I feel this lump in my belly—this big,” holding up her clenched fist in the air. I put down my iphone. Her OB tells her its nothing. “I had a hysterectomy, and everything falls you know.” No, I tell her, trying to hold back the revolting feeling that graduates up my inerds, I didn’t. “Yeah, it all sort of drops since nothing is there to hold it in. Your kidneys, sometimes your liver.” I ask her if it hurt, and if they figured it out. With her hand still raised in the air, she triumphantly annouces that she got to the bottom of it.

“It was my rectum!” she says, “this big!” pointing to her closed fist with her other hand. “It was at the bottom of my vagina.” Did—wait–did she just say that, in the middle of a public place?

At that point, my name was called, which was a good thing. I had no words. I had no air. I had to leave, without hearing the rest of the story. I have no fear the next story I receive from another random stranger will be just as interesting.

Combatting Stinky hair, dry scalp & no wash-shampoos

It’s Wednesday–a day for beauty and working out, but I’ve got stinky hair on my mind. Isn’t it awful when you are standing in a line and are assaulted by a foul smell, one reminiscent of stale cigarettes or that musty, funky odor that occurs when one hasn’t bathed? Women are particularly guilty of not washing the hair for days, overlaying one stink with another, believing that a nice hairspray or perfume will mask the fact that the hair is simply dirty.

Let’s be clear. Oils on the hair attract odor like flies on paper, and is just about as attractive. Nothing cuts through a possible amorous interlude than stinky hair, even with one’s spouse. Eeeewwwww. The good news is hair I know what the campers and hikers are thinking–‘you can’t help it in the wild.’ Not true. Even in the wild, stinky hair can be helped.

JASON Natural Cosmetics Dandruff Relief Shampoo, Rosemary, Neem & Tea Tree, 12 OuncesStinky hair culprits: smoking, overuse of hair oils (for shine and smoothing), men’s hair gels, hairspray, camping, living by a compost, exhaust fumes….

Common excuses for washing hair daily (or more than several times a week)…

  1. styling (women pay good money to have a blow-out once a week, why throw the money away)…
  2. camping (no water)
  3. dry scalp. A subject in and of itself. 
  4. drying the ends of the hair
I spoke with my fabulous hair and make-up guru who has worked on thousands of heads of hair. I also consulted another professional stylist and this is what they had to say:
Styling. If you are going to sacrifice looks for smell, you aren’t left with a lot of choices. Anti-hair smell products like the Neutrogena Anti-resiDue Shampoo only works when you use it. The stylists I spoke with like this to give the hair a “good cleaning” once or twice a month. A fair amount of enlightened men get pedicures once a month to deep clean their scruff paws. They need to do the same with their hair.
Camping. This area of hair advancement has undergone revolutionary changes in the last few years. All sorts of waterless hair shampoo, from TRESemme Waterless Foam ($7 bucks), No Rinse Shampoo ($9 bucks) and my fav for the folicly challenged, the Sexy Hair Big Sexy Hair Volumizing Dry Shampoo ($10).
Dry scalp. the Jason Natural Cosmetics Dandruff Relief shampoo w/rosemary, Neem and Tea Tree oil works great. I won’t reveal who used this and had great success, so you’ll have to trust me. However, the downside is it has a rather pungent smell itself, like mentholatum, tho the rosemary is intended to mask this. A different solution? Years ago, when I was in my teens, a hairdresser noticed I had lots of dandruff and he said this:
“You need to dry the scalp better when you are blowing out your hair. It’s the moisture that’s left on the scalp that causes the oils to create and increase the dandruff.” Because my hair is extraordinarily thick, my problem was multiplied. He also recommended I use less shampoo on my scalp and more on the ends. Sure enough, when I started drying my hair at the scalp, the dandruff was dramatically reduced. I went further and cut back on the volume of shampoo I used as well, and this pretty much cleared up the problem.
Dry Ends. This common excuse is done away with by eating more Omega 3 oils or eating fish. The hair and skin show what you put in your body, not just what you put on your hair. 
And one final tip. If you are stuck on the plane, in the middle seat, and have a neighbor with stinky hair, you could always open your computer and do a search on the subject. Or would that be rude?

Stealing Rembrandt-Fast, interesting read

Since I’ve been asking others to review my books, I should return a universal favor and post a review or two myself. But let’s be clear. No one (author, agent or other self) has actually asked for my opinion. I’m giving it up for free, so that establishes the weight of my opinion in the world of literati. My only qualification is I read several books a week.

Great book-4.5 stars. Fast, interesting
read of art heists, solutions and lots of
factoids. Read this and sound interesting at
your next cocktail party.

For my 4 day vaca this summer (3 days of rain + 1 afternoon of sun) I chose Stealing Rembrandt. On the surface, a truly boring subject–art heists. Yet I like ‘heisty-type’ movies (that was a Sarah-don-king-ism), like The Italian Job, and for three days in a row, I was pelted with new reports, an interview on the radio and then a replay of same. The author gave great soundbites (the thieves weren’t brilliant, they were ballsy) and I liked the factoids (Rembrandt is the most stolen art) and a person in Sammamish Washington (a stones throw away on the ‘plateau’ for locals) actually owned one that got swiped. More fascinating to me were the stories of reclaiming the pieces, how the wealthy don’t report thefts, and how many museums actually pay the blood money to get the art back. What a racket! I had to read it.

I got the Kindle, download the book moments before we went a-trailering, and read by flashlight when the lights from the campfire dwindled. It took two days of soaking up most every word (I admit to skipping some of the boring details of art) but overall, I enjoyed learning about the art in a reporter-style writing. It was informative without being cumbersome. The best aspect of Stealing Rembrandt was the MI6-James Bond-meets Robert Ludlum approach in the narrative. This is due to the co-authors. The informative part was from the head of security for the Gardner Museum of Art and his co-author, an investigative reporter. The editor(s) did a nice job balancing the two. Only once or twice did I have to resort to skipping over art-professor sections. Now I can speak intelligently about wood carvings, originals, metal plates and plate making, the period pieces for portraits, how the Dutch led the world for a while in all things monetary and artistic and ultimately, how Rembrandt died pretty much broke. (And FTY, I had no idea his true love died quite young. Why is it so many artists have such tragic personal lives? What a curse. But then, I must not be a true artist. I have a pretty good life, my health, no deaths, but no fame or riches either).

The only complaint I had wasn’t something the authors or editors could do a darn thing about: the lack of more art resolutions. For instance, many of the museums (or private collectors) that had art returned wouldn’t acknowledge how or why. Those that did chose to announce the recovery months or years later (if at all). This is due to the desire to keep thefts (and return money) out of the press. I’m a girl that likes closure, but I understand the issues. The book includes enough resolutions to make it  worthwhile, the most interesting experiences coming from 2 thieves directly, after months of interviews from within (and outside) of jail. Kudos to the authors for the years of work on this thing. I’d definitely recommend it anyone who likes a fast, interesting read (the art is a bonus).

A stranger’s smile

Ever wonder about a stranger smiling your way? Do I have mustard on my cheek? Is my hair all wrong? Does he want to take me to bed? What’s the motivation behind the look.

“None of the above” Rog said, during the most recent instance of being on the receiving end of a stranger’s smile. Besides, he continued, “who cares ‘why’ he did it. It just happened. Smile back and move on.”

By that time, I felt bad I’d not smiled back. For most of my life, I’ve not smiled back. It’s part of my Swedish, shy-and-look-down heritage, compounded by 18 years of ‘don’t talk, look or address’ strangers, followed by the early twenties bra-burning mantra of  “‘if you smile at them, you are ‘asking for it'” that every girl gets when she leaves college and goes out on her own. With that background, of course I’m going to be all screwed up when it comes to the do’s and don’ts of smiling at strangers. Suffice it to say that graceful and me is an oxymoron.

I’ll give you the other side of this sharp-edged sword of facial expressions. The spouse. Ever been with your boy/girlfriend, spouse etc when someone of the opposite sex gives a full-on smile. What does that mean…exactly…and how do you handle it with grace and security? I’ve known many a person of both genders to flip out when a stranger bestows a complimentary smile (or really, any type of smile) in their presence.

“It’s not like every smile is a come-on,” Rog told me years ago, not long after we were married. In addition to worrying about what kind of pasta I was going to make for dinner, I was wasting my time fretting over every Sally (and Joe) casting a sideways glance at my man. It took years (and mostly bigger relationship problems) to get me over the hump of another smiling at my legal and lawful partner. One day, I woke and realized this: if someone else thinks Rog is cute enough to throw a smile his way, good for him. He works out. He eats much better than me, and it golly-gee, if it made him a little happier on his way home, I thank that anonymous stranger from the bottom of my heart, for it’s me and my girls that are ultimate beneficiary.

Let me say this. I’ve spent many years dwelling on the downside of a smile instead of focusing on the upside. That would include a person seeing I look down/having a bad day, and smiling to cheer me up. It may also be that I did in fact, look decent and a smile was an acknowledgement of properly put on make-up. When with children, a smile is often a compliment to my children, or my parenting skills (usually outside Target when the real fun has subsided). Just last Friday, I was emerging from the local public library (the most beautiful library I’ve ever been in btw) and a nineteen-ish young woman with piercings in all the wrong places made a comment on my skirt (she approved) and smiled wide. It was the last thing I expected (As a 40+ woman, I figure I’m invisible to people 2 decades younger than I, so I generally  have no expectations). The smile was out of the blue and wonderful, and the compliment didn’t hurt my ego. I at least have a remnant of style left!

The flipside of receiving a smile is giving one. An interesting topic all on it’s own. When I ceased being ‘small’ (as in, emotionally), I was able to give of myself without insecurity or paranoia about an act that uses more muscles than any other in the body. (As an aside, did you know, smiling also increases the release of endorphins and reduces stress and is reputed to help one live a longer life of better quality than non-smilers?)

For several years, I’ve been practicing the fine art of smiling at strangers, and let me tell you, it works wonders. Today for instance, I accosted two perfectly nice people (a young, married couple) who’d I’d seen before, but always have scowls on their faces so I tend to avoid them. I figured they may be Swedish and frown naturally, as so many of my relatives do. I started with a smile at both of them, and to be honest, she looked like she swallowed her tongue and he jolted, putting his arm around her shoulders. It was rather funny in a sick kind of a way. But then again, I’ve noticed something else. Those smile-affronted are either newly married (as I was, and as they were), and well as young (see previous). An hour later, I had the opportunity to actually talk to the couple. I walked right up, ignored the startled, stalker-looks they had and started chatting. I soon found out they were a) married <1 year, b) expecting a child and c) living in her grandmother’s home. No wonder they were a little shy to outsiders and wierded out about my smile. By the end of the conversation, they were as lively as my own relatives, chatting up about the personal aspects of their life normally reserved for family reunions.

Another group that seriously benefits from a smile are women and old people. Women adore smiles from other women. Why? Because so few women actually smile at other women! It’s a latent insecure, threatened type of attitude. A smile to another woman means you are looking beyond yourself to that individual. I’ve found a beautifual woman with a scowl on her face will completely defy my expectations when I smile and follow it up with a compliment (great shoes), to which the woman will show complete shock then be profusely grateful, as though I’ve made her day. It takes such little effort to lift the spirits of another person. And lets face it. You never know what another is going through–death, divorce, home foreclosure, unruly child, unemployment. It’s the littlest thing that takes no effort and can make all the difference in the world.

So tomorrow is Monday. Greet the day, and complete strangers, with a smile.

Johnny Rockets goes down

What happened to my favorite hamburger joint? Once upon a time, Johnny Rockets was the purist form of culinary fornication. The food at the “international hamburger chain” doesn’t even rate a heartbeat on a human. Yes. It’s that bad.
Check out these pictures. I ordered a bacon cheeseburger and I had about an inch and half of bacon, a half of a slice of tomato. All of this, for eight dollars US. The only glimmer of hope was going to be the chocolate shake, extra thick. Does the picture of this chocolate shake look either chocolate or thick? The toast was so toased, this is post-scraping to get the black off.
Date: August 12th, 2010
Location: Kent Station, Kent, Washington
Time: 2:45 PM, PST
Server: great
Food: beyond bad
Now, in the history of this blog, I’ve never trashed a food joint, music venue or rarely anything at all. I think bashing, trashing or otherwise dogging on someone or someplace is evil karma that goes back out to the universe and eventually, will come back to bite me. But I have never, to this day in my 43 yr old life, have I actually gotten so mad after being delivered a meal that I whipped out my phone, took pictures, and am now blogging about it.
For the record, I have been, and used to patron, Johnny Rockets all over the place. Wherever I can find them, and for years, the quality of the food has been declining. The staff are as great as ever, but what’s going on behind the counter? No wonder many connosoiuers of the big beef patty are going straight by, rolling on up to the In and Out Burger for a REAL hamburger, amazingly fresh (everything) and a real shake.
An epilogue to this blog: did I ask for my money back or a re-do. With 2 children under the age of 5 with me? No. Of course not. If they’d been gone, would I have done so? Not even then. When food is as absolutely bad as what I received, I didn’t have the patience or moral fortitude to wait for round 2, and go through the massive disappointment of getting more schlock.
As my friends in San Fran say when they are done, over and out with an item, Buh-Bye.
I’m now going to take a hot shower and stand on my head to cleanse the badness of this experience. Wash-off, wash-off

Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich

Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich
Isn’t that a great title for a book? I took a flyer on the purchase, glancing through the imagery and immediately liking whimsical pictures. Well, that and the sub-title “and other stores you’re sure to like, because they’re all about monsters and some of them are also about food.” What foodie can’t appreciate that?

Now readers of this blog know I never write reviews of other books but this defies my logic. Why bother, think I? So many already exist that my humble opinion isn’t going to sway a person’s purchasing choices. Furthermore, aside from the errant reporter who recently provided me his own book after an interview was over, I’m not solicited for a review or opinion. Frankenstien Makes a Sandwich is so good, I’m taking the time to tell all my readers– buy it. Buy it now. It’s awesomely funny.

Age group begone. This isn’t just for my six year old. As I’m reading about  my 41 yr old husband is piping up in the background “what’s that?” and “that’s crazy!” he continues, before busting up. Some stories mirror a contemporary story mixed with a rhyme, like Phantom of the Opera. Another makes fun of Dracula’s son that has a lame tooth. One of my favorites is “an open letter from Wolfman’s best friend,” about the saga of wolfman’s roommate who is sick and tired of cleaning up after him
“Please just konw, and I’ll happily open the door.
 And if I’m not home please don’t howl anymore.
‘Cause each time you do it, the neighbors complain.
And since we’re complaining, perhaps you’d explain
how you manage to leave
SO MUCH hair in the tub.
I constantly clean it. I scour, I scrub,
and I think I should mention it’s REALLY a pain.
Today I removed a big clog from the drain,
and I tell you, this hair-clog was of SUCH A SIZE,
it could go to a CAT SHOW
AND TAKE HOME FIRST PRIZE.
So…anyway, that’s all I wanted to write.
Please take out the garbage. It’s your turn tonight.

Another favorite is Godzilla Pooped on My Honda, The Phantom of the Opera Can’t Get “It’s a Small World” out of his Head and The Middlewich With-Watchers Club. In between each of the poems are the most amazing drawings of fun types of witches like the Frazzled Warthog and the Speckled Crone or the Long Beaked Harpy.

Every now and then, I come across a book that is so fun, so well written and engaging, I get depressed. “I wish I’d written that,” I say, a whistful sigh that instills in me an overpowering desire to get back to writing something a bit more meaningful. This is one of those books. Adam Rex, you are my idol.

Sugar free = more energy

A real Boehms Frualine–
I actually no her! She works there!

To satisfy the unwashed masses who have afeared for my safety, I’m here. In spirit that is. My physical body is beaten down, an inch smaller from this new naturopathic program that eliminates sugar from the ol’ diet. Sadly, this includes Boehms chocolates. It’s been 8 days and 2 hours that I’ve been away from it. But like a dog to its vomit, an hour doesn’t go by where the craving doesn’t rear it’s ugly head. I’m sure meth would have been cheaper, but I’d have teeth loss, Starbuck’s more expensive; I’d have my teeth, but they’d be black. (I know, I have a fixation with teeth). (FYI-Boehm’s has great father’s day selection. I got my dad the toffee and an assortment of milk chocolate…and FYII…on Saturdays, all the young girls actually wear the traditional Swiss outfits. Apparently, Julius, the founder, was quite a ladies man with an eye towards….busty, young woman. Don’t hold that against him though. Apparently he was a great skiier, and that has to count for something).

In other news, I’m ready to throw my husband out for invading my space. Ok, not out as in, out-out. But out of my little hobbit hole I call my writing space. He’s announced he’s taking July off to focus on “my business,” which, loosely translated, means the business of Sarah Gerdes writing. What business, you ask yourself? 3 national orgs have come on board to have in-store events in July, though I can’t announce the names. The studio is going to give away 3 walk-on roles to people who register by downloading Chambers. Great idea. $2.99 gets you a shot at hanging with Angie and Brad. It’s surreal actually. One day, I’m typing away in anonymity, the next, I’m on the phone with a division vp who runs entertainment and merchandising for a national chain, then I’m talking with the producer, who will be signing autographs.

“What about security? do you have a hander to move people through? how many seconds for each autograph? where will the stand be?..”) All good questions, for which I have no answers. Yet. Will I know it soon? “You betcha” (my one and only channeling of Palin).

This week has been full of the minuteau of things like trying to track down a videographer, a photographer, extras, what to put on the registration cards…blah blah. If you have a vision that “authors” arrive at an event, sit down and look glamorous, perish the thought. Reality is perhaps a bit less exciting (I’ve heard that truly famous authors ride around in limos until the last minute, whisk in, smile and leave), but as my Dad says “I don’t want to hear it!! Don’t diminish my vision of you!” Yeah, whatever. This is bloody hard work, that’s all I’ve got to say.

On the bright side, I’ve never been so motivated to get rid of the stuff and puff that lines my muffin top and jawline, leading us full circle back to the no sugar thing. It’s actually working, by the way. Good thing. I need the energy!

Death and grieving etiquette

The Perfect Stranger's Guide to Funerals and Grieving Practices: A Guide to Etiquette in Other People's Religious CeremoniesI’d never thought about grieving etiquette until yesterday. For the last two weeks, I’ve had the feeling to call a fairly recent acquaintance. A tall (6’2″), gorgeous woman, thin, after five children, married to an emergency room doctor, all of 42. The type of woman that would engender the hatred and jealously of all others were it not for the simple truth she’s funny, outgoing and self-deprecating. Our friendship began when she invited me to speak to a group of young women in her church, basically about keeping standards high in a world where standards are low. Our conversations were brief but fun, and I showed up with few expectations about the event or her. I was surprised on both counts, glad I recorded the 40 minutes and left with a new friend.

These last two weeks, I refrained from calling until the bitter end. Sometimes, impressions start out quietly, then get louder, progressing to the point where I think I’m starting to lose my mind. It’s reminiscent of not being about to get Born this Way out of my head actually; a rhythmic beat that won’t begone. Eventually, my will gives out. I emailed her three days ago, then called several times. A day later she responded, told me that her sister (also named Sarah) had unexpectedly died 10 days prior. She’d gone to the funeral, assisted with Sarah’s 6 children and husband, and provided much needed assistance. The day I contacted her, she had returned from the trip. She invited me to come to her house and I jumped on it, having never been. She said she’d “appreciate the distraction,” and though I had no idea what to do for a person who’d lost her sister and best friend, I went. No food. No flowers. Just me and my young daughter.

As an aside, everything in that home was tall and big (including her ceilings, high enough to accommodate her 6’6″ husband, 6’8″ fifteen year old son, 6’2″ 14 year old daughter, and so on). I felt my body grow taller and slimmer being in the environs. In any case, the woman kept me talking, non-stop, for over an hour. It was slightly odd, being turned away from directing the conversation to her. She successfully thwarted every attempt I made to ask about her in any way. Finally, after I’d been going on with diarrhea of the mouth, I put an end to it. This took the conversation in a surprising turn.

“Normally I wouldn’t do this,” she began, “but I want to hear about other people, other things, anything but myself.” She went on to ask me if I’d ever lost anyone close to me. No, not really, I’d replied. “I’ve been doing everything wrong!” she said emphatically. “All wrong–I’ve left everyone alone, thinking they needed ‘family time’ she continued, “when in fact, that’s the last thing they want–or I wanted. Cards, flowers, phone calls, from people I don’t even know made me feel so good. But most of all, I want company.” She proceeded to explain a person suffering from a loss doesn’t want more alone time–“I’m already alone in my heart, I want company.”

Ever the cataloger of all things helpful, we talked about advice for the support group. It came down to a few tidbits she’s learned:
1. don’t be shy about calling, writing or just dropping by. A person in grief won’t ask for help, and won’t want to bug anyone else. Don’t call and ask if a casserole is needed. Just bring it by. If no one answers, leave it on the doorstep with or without a note.
2. cards and notes and calls are all welcome. doesn’t matter if the person who passed was a distant acquaintance or friend of friend. The memory and thought counts and helps the grieving process.
3. next to food, babysitting is the most helpful service to provide. Picking kids up from school, helping out the spouse of the person with the loss is appreciated (taking the kids home from church so the husband can attend to his duties).
4. coming over, and like I learned, being comfortable with talking at length about fun things. “Don’t forget the fun things!” she said. This was particularly hard for me. It was a big week, what with the ebook and movie stuff being announced and launched. Yet time and again, it was what she kept coming back to (her husband even got in the game, asking questions to assist in the novel he’s writing). a person dealing with hardcore issues wants to hear about fun, exciting events, not more depressing stories.
5. don’t worry about empathizing and crying. Enough tears have been shed. It’s okay to be happy. The funeral for my friend’s sister Sarah was a joyous occasion, as much as it could be. A celebration of life rather than mourning over the death.

The entire conversation was extremely helpful to me, and though I won’t look forward to death, I’ll definitely keep this etiquette in mind when it comes my way.

Easter fun with Cake Pops



spooky halloween cakepops



With Easter Sunday coming up, families around the world will be celebrating all things religious and egg-oriented. I suggest trying out a relatively new, rather digusting but fun edible family project.
Cake Pops.

Never heard of them before? You aren’t alone. I too, was Moses, wandering in the dessert desert, wondering how my life could get richer when lo, an angel appeared to me in the form of a Christmas present from my Las Vegas-based cousin who realized I was without the mother-of-all sugar formations.

This is what you need:

  1. The book:The Bible of Cake Pop books. Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks and Recips for morethan 40 irresistible mini treats.
  2. Box of your favorite pre-mixed cake mix
  3. 9×13 cake pan
  4. mixing bowl
  5. 16 oz ready made frosting (this is America, home of the packaged and parceled after all. all my wonderful, incredibly civilized European readers will gag, but you have to understand this isn’t just food. It’s an experience).
  6. wax paper and 2 baking sheets
  7. Plastic wrap and toothpicks
  8. Plastic or paper sticks
All the recipes are the same. Basically, here it is. Make the cake, let it sit out overnight and get slightly dry.
Take it out and crumble in a bowl. Slightly microwave the ready-made frosting and put it in the cake mix.
Get grimy with your fingers, make it in to a ball (or whatever shape you want), place on the wax paper, cover with plastic wrap and chill.
 

When you are ready to decorate, pull out and get creative. We used 6 different kinds of decorative gel (found in most supermarkets) and lots of easter egg type glitter.

A month or so ago, I gave this a whirl with my five year old, attempting to make Easter Pops. They turned out like mutant pops, so sugary my face puckered and even Porsche spit them out. No matter. The girls loved the decoration part and proudly displayed their egg pops.

The final product. A bit scary for Easter, but gets the point across.

The entire production was less than 20 dollars, and provided hours of fun. the book has amazing ideas for all holidays….do what my cousin did and get someone the entire set of items (from cake mix to sticks). It makes for an inventive gift as well.

Russian Tea Cakes– the 18 min, impressive treat

I’m not Russian, nor do I drink tea, so its strange we somehow went from mother’s Swedish Pancakes to Russian Tea Cakes. She loved to serve the fancy little dollops of sugar and fat on silver plates, but I liked them warm. Never could wait until they cooled, as is the proper way.

The batter-mix until it barely sticks together
The oddity came in handy today, when, in a panic, Porsche reminded me I had to make “something Russian” to go along with her world report on Russia (at 5! yikes). As she talks about how Tsar Nicholas and family were murdered, the sturgeon are slaughtered for caviar, and how Fabrege eggs are in museums (oh, and can she pleeese have more ballet), she is going to be giving out tea cakes.
I must say, they don’t go over well at parties, even though they look as good as they taste. I don’t know if people are averse to trying something new, especially when coated with powered sugar. I will say this: they taste great, are so easy a 5 year old can do it, AND take less than 5 min to make and 9 min to cook. if you are EVER in a pinch, make these.
Once again, the Sarah version, to use portions that are meaningful instead of wasteful.

Prep time: 5 min (if butter is soft)

Cook time: 9 min

Ingredients

2/3 cup soft butter

3 full tsp of powdered sugar

1 tsp of vanilla

3/4 cup flour

pinch salt

(walnuts if desired)

Preparation
  1. Place butter and vanilla in a mixing bowl, and using paddle attachment, mix well (a minute or so) on med
  2. Add the powdered sugar.
  3. Add the flour and salt until just mixed (the dough will come off the sides of the bowl). If not, add a bit more flour
  4. Form small balls (ab nickle size around
    for kids. Larger for adults)
  5. Remove and form in to small balls. As you can see from the picture, 2/3 butter recipe made more than enough for 13 5 year olds and teachers, or a silver plate.
  6. Bake for 9 min or until the cakes are bouncy on the top
  7. Remove and allow to cool
  8. Roll again in powdered sugar
Bake, then sprinkle w/powdered
sugar (can roll in sugar  instead)
A note on NUTS: so many people are allergic to nuts of all kinds, I make this in 2 versions–with and without. Works either way. If you want some nuts, walnuts are best, and not much-about 1/4 cup, or else you need to change the recipe.
The finished product, 18 min later!

Another note on dryness: this recipe is interesting, in that the ‘best’ tea cakes, according to the mother-of-all-cooks, (mom), are flaky to the point of nearly falling apart. I’m not a fan of the falling-apart anything. It’s messy. I’m sure she meant crumbling in the mouth. Regardless, play around with the measurements to fit your liking. These are by far, the easiest, tasiest morsels you’ll make.

Veggie balls even a meat eater can love

I’m a proud carnivore that has rarely encountered a piece of flesh I won’t try at least once. Due to slowing matabolism that now proceeds at the pace of a sap oozing out of a tree in fall, I rarely eat red meat, perhaps a few times a month (red meat takes 3 days for the bod to process). My husband is more fussy with cheeses and cholestoral-rising food than I, so together, we make a crazy combo.

Several nights ago, we both had a nervana experience that brought us one step closer to near red-meatless diet: vegie meatballs. Sounds lame, and that’s what I thought when I bought a pack at Costco. Lured in as I was by the “organic and natural” packaging, and oxymoron for most items sold at the big box chain, I figured the five bucks was going to save a cow, reduce Rog’s cholesteral and help me lose weight in one.

Tired of my day old lasagna (my favorite actually), Rog tore in to the package, cleaned up one plate without offering me so much as a bite, and proceeding on his second. I think he had about 20 of the poppers. Shocked, I stole on, ignoring his screech of dismay. In two chomps it was gone and I knew we had a winner. No sauce, only salt and pepper. We then went on to dissect the ingredients–all commonly found vegies.

The next step was seeing if I could replicate the experienced. Five bucks is cheap for 30, but I thought I’d be able to improve on the health factor a tad. The on line recipes were/are awful, in my opinion, since they all want some type of grain. The only one I went for was brown rice, though this gave the balls an odd aftertaste. I don’t like oats in anything other than my cereal or chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, so that was out. I settled on old fashioned bread crumbs. The rest of my experiment included celery, carrots, potatoes (a wonderful, though starchy addition), onions–always sauteed in butter, though purists can go for oil), and then whatever else I wanted to throw in (a bit of colored peppers gave it a zing, not unlike my crab cakes).

I went French on this recipe, going by feel and texture than a singular recipe. When it came time to roll it all together, I added in an egg balanced this with the bread crumbs. (always do these last two at the end). You know what? The recipe was near identical to crab cakes, save for the spices and oils I put in both. The wettish mixture is dry and formable (my donkingism for the day), awaiting my glad-handing shake of the salt and pepper bottle, some Hungarian Paprika, oregano, thyme and a few other mish mash items that sound good at the time (e.g. celery salt).

Raw, the mixture was good (yes, I always taste it raw. I’m not a nut about the whole avoiding-raw-egg thing). Sauteed the balls in a pan covered with a thin layer of oil. The next time I make these, I’ll add some pics or something. Verdict? Rog ate more of my homemade than he did of the store bought. AND, without the butter (and depending on the crumbs, if vegan) the entire dish can be vegan as well. (My mom is going to vomit now), but I’m quite proud of myself.

Here is the recipe, as best I can remember.

Prep time: 15
Start to finish: @45
Makes: @30 veggie balls

Ingredients
1/2 onion
1/4 butter (salted)
3/4-1 cup bread crumbs
1-2 eggs
cheese (if desired)
1/2 of a red, yellow and/or orange bell pepper (you can sub w/green if you prefer)
2 carrots
3 celery stalks
1-2 potatos (cooked, w/or without skin, depending on preference)
choice of herbs, such as oregano, thyme, celery salt, hungarian paprika

Preparation

  1. Boil the potato.
  2. Sautee the onion in the butter, adding the carrots and half way.
  3. Remove and drain the potato, chop fine, or mash and add to the onion mixture (add more butter or oil if necessary).
  4. Blend with salt and pepper, hungarian paprika and other dried herbs. Mix well (the aroma is divine)
  5. Finely chop the peppers. (If you want a bit of zing, throw in a jalepeno, Rog loved this variation)
  6. Remove the onion mixture, and add the peppers. Conduct a taste test for blandness, a common issue with vegie balls. if you want more zing, douse it with some cayenne pepper and/or tobasco. I use both and they are awesome (you can get vegetarian-friendly equivalent for hot sauce, though Rog, the purist he, refuses to use them).
  7. Add the egg, mix well, then add the bread crumbs bit by bit. Test the consistency for molding, and add the other egg, and or more bread crumbs as necessary.
  8. Heat the oil on the stove over medium heat, or if you have an old-school pan set at 300 degrees. (I have this huge, Italian metal frying pan with a temperature gauge that is perfect for all things meatball).
  9. It takes about a minute to cook on each side, and I’ll use tongs and/or forks to turn and cook. Another cooking technique is to use a cast iron bacon press and make the balls more like pancakes. It makes for a more even cooking job, and great for adding a topping but not technically, ‘balls.’

I’ve tried a whole lotta sauces, from aeoli to dipping sauces ideal for vegies, and then some savory, though meat-verboten ones–like spicy teriyaki. Not bad. I’ve not settled on one perfect one, although I did whip up a cream cheese, roasted red pepper thing that some guests loved. That is probably my favorite thus far…

I used (these are rough measurements, as I’m becoming more French by the day-as in-winging it)…

  • 1 8 oz package of full-fat (eg original)
  • Red pepper, in the oven–convection or broil for a few minutes, until soft and quasi brown/black. remove and let cool.
  • Put both in the blender (Cuisinart) and pulse a few times until just blended.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste and wala!

PS–this sauce is meant to be a little bland–to cut the spiciness of the vegie balls.

Strengthening fingernails-the Trainers Choice

Dad has been on my mind a lot lately, and for all the oddest of reasons: His hard, ripply fingernails that resemble the top of an old, metal washboard, except a whole lot smaller, though not at all lacking in the steel-like quality. He nails could cut a lot of things, skin included.

Just don’t ever do this,” he said, filing his nails with his bottom teeth. I greatly admired my father’s soft, round edges, the kind a professional manicurist would envy. Unfortunately, his Superman fingernail genetics skipped right over me, for I have thin nails, normal to ugly shaped, and not at all feminine looking. He did manage to pass me his thick, cow-milking fingers, nice and wide for gripping those ‘teeeets’ as my family says, and palms the size of a bear claw. Ever shake my hand and you’ll recognize the grip of death followed by a quick retraction before you can actually verify I’m a man and not Pat in disguise.

All manliness aside, I strive for long, lovely, hard nails, and realized magazines make millions of dollars accepting ads for all types of nail hardeners (this is what I think about when I’m stressed). Don’t go there. Instead, go out and buy yourself a small round of Heathly Hoof nail hardener. I was turned on this by my very first college roommate, oh-so-long ago. She hailed from Colorado, had horses, and said it was the oldest trick in the book. “Women have been using this stuff for decades!” she said. What? you say, in disbelief? It’s true, the same way it’s true that male hockey players wear women’s nylons (preferably in the natural tan color) because it reduces the hair getting caught in all that stinky gear. “The Trainer’s Choice,” is the tagline for Healthy Hoof, and so it should be. In a matter of days, my nails were noticably harder. A few weeks out, the nails were long and strong. No breaking, chipping or flaking.

Usage tip–take a bit of the cream and rub it at the base of the cuticles, then around the top of the nail. Do this a few times on each finger-one hand then the other. A couple times a day for faster results, but once a day will do the trick just fine. Soon you won’t need anything else on your nails–except a color now and then to mix it up. However, it doesn’t work on nailpolish–so that will have to come off when you apply the cream. Now all I have to do is figure out how Dad keeps his hair so nice looking. 

10 minute appetizer- Mozzarella and Tomato bites

A heart palpitating, nausea-inducing moment is realizing you are supposed to bring an appetizer to a party 20 minutes before you have to leave. This happened to me over the weekend, but my inner-self was ready. On a whim, I’d purchased pre-made, organic, marinated mozzarella. I happened to have mini tomoatoes in the fridge. I stared. I wondered. Then I made a dish in 5 minutes– and it was vegetarian to boot. FYI, I have vegetarian friends, some of whom don’t know that ALL Horizon products are certified vegetarian– I’ll skip over the details of what constitutes vegetarian cheeses, but the above link gives a great description. (It’s all about the ‘rennet.’)

These apps were te first to be cleaned up at the party..I’m expecting it was because they appealed to the masses, were flavorful and naturally healthy.

Tomato and Mozarella bites
5 Minute appetizers
Tomato and Mozerella bites
Prep time: 10 min
Start to finish: 15 min (maybe less)
Ingredient cost: @$7 bucks
Ingredients:
Pre-prepared, organic, Formaggio all natural Fresh Mozzarella. I purchased mine from Costco.
Tomatoes
Light olive oil
Rosemary or thyme
Dash of salt
Cut the cheese balls and tomatos in half
Preparation
Cut the balls in half
Take the tomatoes, cut in half as well
Using a toothpick, slide the tomato on first, then a half of the mozzarella, flat side down
To serve…
Drizzle the bottom of a serving platter with oil
Sprinkle either rosemary or thyme on the bottom to add color
Place the final apps in rows
Cover and chill until serving
Drizzle oil in the platter and add herbs