Looking Scared of Internet Recipes

Today is Halloween. Here in the US it is a celebration that rivals even Christmas. This year the neighborhood voted again to do the Trunk-or-Treat. So we are off the hook for passing out candy at home and instead are headed to saintvi’s house to hand out candy there! As for being scared (because that seems the required emotional state on Halloween), I’ve just had a scary experience with the internet this last weekend. I don’t know about you but I’m just about ready to swear off internet recipes. My goal of trying a new recipe every month has been on track. I was flipping through my cookbook collection when I happened upon a recipe that had some strange ingredients so I looked them up on the internet (normal course of action, right?) and then tumbled down the recipe rabbit hole. What I ended up with was once again a “quick and easy” recipe. The title was Chicken Lasagna. Who doesn’t like a quick lasagna?? I wrote down the recipe and headed to the kitchen. All the other new recipes I had considered required spices and ingredients I didn’t have on hand (or had ever heard of as well). But I had everything needed for this one – which I took as a sign.

Chicken Lasagna
1 1/2 c. cottage cheese
1 1/2 c. sour cream
12 oz. pasta – cooked and drained
1 1/2 c. diced chicken
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
2 T. dehydrated diced onion
1 t. garlic powder
1 package chopped spinach – thawed and drained
1 c. Parmesan cheese

Mix together all the ingredients except the parmesan cheese. Dump into a buttered casserole and top with the Parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until top is slightly golden. Serve hot.
This was bland. This was tasteless. This was NOT lasagna. However it was easy. The new title for this recipe according to Sparky is “Chicken Pasta Bake”. Sparky decided that I should try again but with alterations to improve the flavor. On our plates I added salt and pepper to taste. Stirred in some pesto. Added a dollop of tomato based spaghetti sauce on top… Much improved!

Next time I’ll use radiatore or rotini as the pasta instead of a mishmash of odds and ends (fettuccini, penne, spaghetti, and a handful of gemelli). I’ll mix in some spices (oregano, pepper, and a little salt) along with a couple tablespoons of basil pesto with the sour cream, chicken, and cottage cheese and instead of tossing in the pasta I’ll layer everything in the casserole. I’ll sprinkle some Parmesan cheese as a layer and top the whole thing with spaghetti sauce. Next time it will be “Easy Chicken Lasagna” or at least closer to what the title insinuates!

Looking at the Onset

1 Golden
Earth dances with the sun, tilting and spinning. These two old lovers anticipate and execute intricate footwork. I am left to marvel and wonder at the choreographer. All the while, I enjoy the golden hour when nature glows.

2 Green
The geese gobble grass and paint the concrete green. A chlorophyll pigment in an abstract expression. They strut as proud artists while I question their motivation. Every day I watch the green fade as rains wash it away.

3 Orange
The fields are pregnant with produce and abundance. The orange bellies of squash and pumpkins rise. Soon there will be a birthing from field to porch. Offspring of summer sun and fall rains take an evil turn as they grin.

4 Red
The bonfire roars with heat and tongues of red. Swallowing all that is offered, ravenous for twigs and husks. My skin flushes red as I huddle close to escape the cold night. Turning away my nose is nipped red by night chill.

5 Brown
Tilting away from the sun, she dances in summer’s twilight. A striptease of leaves green and gold flung to the ground. Her body chaffed red in the wind as warmth fades to brown. I watch the world turn inward away from winter.

Edit! I was in such a rush to get this posted before I had to be at work that I completely forgot to link it to the We’ave written Weekly poetry prompt and to David’s blog at the Skeptic’s Kaddish. This week’s Poet of the Week, Sylvia Cognac, challenged us to write a Cadralor about anything related to Autumn that is important to you…

This is a Cadralor poem which is defined as a poem of 5, unrelated, numbered stanzaic images, each of which can stand alone as a poem, is fewer than 10 lines, and ideally constrains all stanzas to the same number of lines. Imagery is crucial to Cadralor – each stanza should be a whole, imagist poem, almost like a scene from a film, or a photograph. The fifth stanza pulls the unrelated stanzas together into a love poem. Which means that the fifth stanza illuminates a thread that runs obliquely through the unrelated stanzas and answers the compelling question: “For what do you yearn?” It is the poet’s discretion to decide how much contextual connection or linguistic connection will exist between the stanzas. The more unrelated in context, the sharper and riskier the poem. Ultimately, the more unrelated the stanzas, the more successful the poem will be as a Cadralor because they contain oblique connections that are illuminated by the fifth stanza. End punctuation between stanzas is also at the discretion of the poet.

Looking for Joy

Ever since I decided to slow down and remove some stresses, I’ve stated that I was going to only do things that I really wanted to do. One of the things I enjoy is reading and I’ve been really going at it! I generally read to escape reality and my reading list sort of reflects it. I chose to read a self-help book. It is probably the first one since maybe the 1970s. The author describes 9 steps to achieve joy in your life*. Some of it is really good and some of it is a little redundant. The author is Catholic and that is definitely reflected in the book. I liked what he had to say about putting joy back in your life with 9 easy steps.
The 9 steps are:
1. Give Thanks
2. Practice Silence
3. Love Yourself
4. Have Fun
5. Engage Your Body
6. Make Friends
7. Rest
8. Serve
9. Frame Your Mind with Faith

I had already instituted some of these back in March when I felt like I was running on the hamster wheel. I started with rest and followed that with loving myself. All that involved stopping the rush and savoring the moment. Yes, I still had to do a little laundry and cook some meals BUT I wasn’t manic in trying to get everything done on a rigid schedule. I stopped to appreciate the sunshine, the smell of lemon, the texture of a crisp apple and that spilled into giving thanks. I try to give thanks to God every day but as a human some days are harder than others. As for loving myself that has been an ongoing project as I shed the perceptions of others and pushed away the negativity that the world wants to heap on women in general and some spilled onto me individually. Loving yourself is at times difficult. I’ve made a habit of positive self-talk. The next step was letting go of expectations – my own and others. Sounds easy but that is a hard thing to do. I am still reminding myself that I don’t have to be perfect – I just need to be what I was intended to be.

I’ve been practicing silence. You may not have noticed. I’m not attached to my phone. We took a little vacation and there was zero reception. So no Wordle of the Day, no news feed, no Instagram, I wasn’t inundated with texts and emails. They all had to wait. I unsubscribed and deleted a bunch of stuff leftover from my working days. On the computer, the only thing I did was WP (because you all bring me joy) and write some poetry. I am considering deleting Facebook but as you know that is easier said than done. Instead I just ignore the messages and delete the notifications. Now that my mother has passed FB isn’t near as important to me. The last step was the Having Fun part. I think that’s going to be easier than ever. Vacation to Utah National Parks, GeoWoodstock, the Alaska cruise adventure, summer geocaching, and myriad family events are in the past and the future may hold another road trip with saintvi, a sister visit or two and the fun should be ongoing! Who knows what the holidays will hold??

As I work down this list, I’m thinking that I should have done a lot of these things a long time ago! Hope you are all finding your joy by whatever means you can.
*Living Joy by Chris Stefanick

Looking at the Gathering Storm

It is October. We are supposed to be finished with thunderstorms. I was unprepared for the thunder and lightning that is more appropriate for a midsummer evening (though to be honest the day was like a summer day with temps nearly at 80F). I had been distracted preparing dinner and didn’t register the far off rumble. Or maybe it wasn’t a distraction but rather a misdirection – I heard rumbling and just thought a big truck had come down the main drag not too far away. The loud clap of thunder startled me. I was shocked. A storm? Now? A quick check through the blinds revealed the dark ominous clouds rolling in. The wind was pulling leaves from the trees and chasing them all over the place! It was at that point that I realized that Sparky and Mochi had gone out for their evening constitutional. Glancing out the front door, I could see them racing against the coming rain. Mochi is not a big dog and her legs were a blur as they jogged down the street. I kept thinking Sparky would pick her up and run but he didn’t. Instead they made it just barely before the first drops of rain but not before the lightning. Poor Mochi was a little traumatized by the noise but a few choice dog treats and a trip to the Sunday Ice Cream gathering made her a happy dog!

I was inspired to write a Skinny poem. This form was created by Truth Thomas and consists of 11 lines. The first and last lines have the same words but can be rearranged. Lines 2 through 10 are composed of single words with the constraint that lines 2, 6, and 10 be the same word. There is no restriction on topic or rhyme.

Dark clouds coming
Clouds coming dark

Looking at Films

Again a I’m posting an extra day just for the Wea’ve Written Weekly poetry prompt. The Poet of the Week, Sunra Rainz, has issued the challenge to write an ekphrastic poem in response to a horror film that gave you the chills or write about an experience that gave you the chills, any form is permitted.

To preface this I have to admit to avoiding horror movies at all costs. I have seen enough of them (and more previews and trailers) to know they just aren’t any fun for me unless there is plenty of humor such as Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland. That said, I viewed my share when young and foolish. I used to watch The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone with my family (because my father was a big SciFi fan). We watched the Saturday afternoon movies. These were generally very corny black and white films like “The Attack of the 50 Foot Woman” or “Tarantula!”. The single most chilling part of the movies was that blood curdling, spine tingling and completely unnerving scream of terror that was released by a woman in fear of her life or at the moment of her demise. The movie that really got me was one of the last of this type that I watched – Blow Out. Below is my ekphrastic poem for the film Blow Out.

Night and rain fall soft
In the dark he can hear
Straining the ear
To catch the sound of fear

A subtle rustle
A short skuffle
And then – the scream

Long ago I’d watch
Black and white films noir
With evil deeds at their core
Tremolo violins play the score

A pregnant gasp
Unknown hands grasp
And then – the scream

Murder, blackmail, assassination
My heart in terror swells
Unseen danger dwells
Just beyond the stifled yells

Then pause a life
dripping bloodied knife
And then – the scream

Looking at the Mansion

On our geocaching adventure in Juneau, Alaska we wandered into a pleasant residential area. Found a geocache on a stop sign on the corner next to a large house. There had been signs scattered all over the city detailing this and that historic site or interesting fact. So we wandered over to read the sign. While we were standing there a man walked up and was also reading the sign. It said “Governor’s Mansion” and had some details about the architect and the date built. As were standing there a woman came out and called to us, “I was just about to lock up for the day but if you want you can come in.” Of course Sparky jumped at the chance. I was a little reluctant because, well, I’m old and I needed to find toilet facilities. Guess what? I peed in the Governor’s mansion in the private bathroom of the secretary! I wish I’d taken a photo. It was truly an experience. You see the mansion was restored to its original 1912 appointments and that included a real WC. I was almost too short to reach the pull cord to flush the toilet – gravity flow from a tank mounted high on the wall!

Anyway, we got to see the first floor of the Governor of Alaska’s home. There was no security check, no admission charge, and a guided tour of the rooms (except for the kitchen). The entry is large (suitable to accommodate many people) with a beautiful floor, a large fireplace and several historic paintings and sculptures. The furniture is all restored or antique from 1912. The library was large with another fireplace flanked by many glass enclosed bookcases (that also housed historic displays), an oriental rug and 2 wing backed chairs – perfect for reading in front of the fire on a bitterly cold Alaskan winter day. We saw the dining room (large enough for State dinners) with its beautiful table and chairs, the drawing room for more intimate and informal meetings, the conservatory with lots of windows (because Juneau is built on the side of a hill all the houses have “stadium seating” types of views). And of course I saw the office and bathroom…

All this is in sharp contrast to the Governor’s residence in Indiana. For Indiana you have to schedule a tour and provide the names of all participants one week in advance, no purses, coats or backpacks permitted. And there are parts of the residence where photos are forbidden! Most of the other states’ Governor’s residences are virtual tours only probably because of the pandemic…

Looking Seasonal

She’s off her meds
Indecisiveness hovers
A yes becomes a no
Hot to cold unbalanced
Crying jags
Maniacal laughter
I stand back and guess
Zig or zag
One minute saintly
The next a killer
She waffles between
Remorse and anger
Cheerful and violent
Until she abandons me
To winter

A little free verse for Fall. The official first day of Autumn was September 22nd but at that point we were still enjoying Summer. There is definitely a shift in seasons with fall weather starting later and winter lingering longer. This makes spring abbreviated and even summer isn’t what it used to be (now it is either scorching heat or overcast). I used to think fall was my favorite season but there haven’t been very many crisp sunny days. Fall is cold one day and hot the next. It has rained far too often. It has been very windy – so much so that raking leaves has become a futile effort. Sparky has taken to bagging all the leaves – to keep peace with the neighbors and to prevent raking up the same leaves two or three times. Every time I start to switch to the fall/winter wardrobe it gets hot. I’m thinking Mother Nature needs a little Prozac!

Looking Icy

Some of the really spectacular and awe inspiring sights we saw were of glaciers. There are no glaciers in Indiana. It was eerie to see them. They looked unreal. The ice was various shades of blue ranging from a light robin’s egg blue to a stunning deep cobalt blue. This is because the glacier ice is compacted removing air and forming the ice into dense crystals. When light hits the crystals, they absorb red light and scatter blue light. The farther the light has to travel the darker the blue color!

We visited Mendenhall Glacier. The glacier moves about 2 feet per day but is losing volume much faster. That means it is shrinking since loss exceeds any gains from new snow. The visitor’s center had a series of photographs from the 1950s to today – and it is a convincing case for the reality of climate change!

Then we visited Glacier Bay. The cruise ship was only able to get so far into the bay because there were so many ice chunks in the water they were afraid of damaging the propellers! Glacier Bay has seven tidewater glaciers: Margerie Glacier, Grand Pacific Glacier, McBride Glacier, Lamplugh Glacier, Johns Hopkins Glacier, Gilman Glacier, and LaPerouse Glacier. The high tide-water glaciers include Riggs Glacier, Reid Glacier, Lituya Glacier, and North Crillon Glacier. Some of these regularly calve icebergs into the bay! The bay has a weird sound to it – a crinkling like cellophane and a creaking that reminds me of tall trees in a fierce wind. It is the sound of the ice moving and pieces breaking off. I didn’t get a photo of a chunk falling into the water but we heard it!


Looking Tightly Woven

This is my offering for the Wea’ve Written Weekly poetry prompt sponsored by David at the Skeptic’s Kaddish. This weeks Poet of the week is Lesley Scoble who has challenged us to write either a Minute Poem or a Shakespearian Sonnet. Before I present my poem I just want to clear the air. My great grandmother was a wonderful influence in my life. I share many of her traits – she was a poet, she had red hair, she was funny and kind. I was thinking of her Wednesday, mostly because I made bean soup after having bean burritos the day before and squid the day before that. I must come clean and say that my gastro-intestinal health is fine – now. But on Wednesday, it was a good thing that I spent some time in the garage cleaning and straightening! I present my Minute Poem that depicts a single minute in time on a humorous topic straight from my childhood!

Dead-eye Bessie

Grandma sat on a wooden chair
Loosed toots midair
Soundtrack was off
Speech and cough

Killed the cowboy with one sharp crack
Fell on his back
Gave a great kick
Then he went stiff

No better gunslinger was found
She shot him down
Her aim was true
When farts she blew

The rest of the story: My great grandmother lived with us when I was young to help around the house and to mind me and my younger sister as my mother was working full time and pregnant. It was a win-win for everyone. Back then my father (a technophile to the nth degree) decided that a television was a necessity. Now programing was not as diverse and technology was not as advanced. The sound reel was separate from the picture reel. Sometimes they got out of sync. The actors’ lips would be moving but no words would issue forth, until some time later when you’d hear their voices. So on this particular evening (complete with popcorn) the family gathered to watch a western. I have no idea which movie. However the sound reel was way off. There was a showdown and the cowboys drew their guns and fired. The loud crack of hot gas hitting a wooden chair with extreme force was in perfect time with the action. The cowboy crumpled and dramatically stretched out on his back, legs kicking before laying still. It became apparent that the “bullet” that killed the cowboy was from G’ma Bessie and not the sheriff’s gun as it went off way too late to have killed him! We roared with laughter and bestowed on her the title of “Dead-eye”! To this day my sisters and I will laugh and tell each other that “I’ve just shot a cowboy” or “another cowboy has bit the dust”!

Looking Coldest

We had packed rain gear (supposedly it rains all the time) and some colder weather clothes and coats (because we were advised to do so) for the cruise. For most of the stops we could get away with sweatshirts over a couple layers. It was colder on the boat out on the deck with the wind whipping as the boat steamed full speed ahead. Then a winter coat was appreciated.

We visited Skagway as our most northern port. The bus driver (on our way to the sled dog training camp and to the Yukon) was a transplant to Alaska. He was a glass blower by trade and took a job in Skagway at a glass art studio. Sadly the studio didn’t survive the pandemic so he was doing what he could to stay in Skagway. He told us not only about the area we were seeing out the windows and at the stops but also about life in Skagway.

It gets really really cold. And it snows a bunch. So that means that once winter sets in everyone just hunkers down and doesn’t move. They can’t go anywhere because the roads all close. During tourist season there are about 1700 people living in Skagway but when winter arrives the number drops to about 750 people… They have a name for the first snow, “terminal” snow, because that’s when all the businesses terminate their summer workers. He said that the only stores that stay open are the general store and the grocery. They don’t have a doctor or dentist and even have a law that makes it is illegal to give birth in Skagway. If you are pregnant you have to relocate to a bigger city for the last 2 months of your pregnancy! They do have a school but grades k-12 have a grand total of about 100 students. Most of the residential homes were very tiny compared to what I think of a family home. And made of cement block. They are insulated to the max and designed to minimize cost of heating (so few windows and the windows are small). Internet is not very reliable and mostly they depend on DVDs for entertainment! When we were stopped at an overlook that had a souvenir shop, he bought some potato chips – because they don’t have them in Skagway! I think it takes a special kind of individual to want to live in Skagway or in any of the really small, remote towns in rural Alaska!

The shops along the main street cater to tourists – a bazillion jewelry stores all selling the same stuff (most of it sourced from China) and some “art” shops selling paintings of the kind we have here – of a wolf howling at the moon etc. But I spotted one place that wasn’t taking itself too seriously. They were selling Alaskan Swimwear:

Thanks for reading all the way to the end! Hope the Furkini made it worthwhile!