Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hot Stuff

I do like to play with my food. I like the recipes I grew uo with, but sometimes you just have to switch things around.

I have created types of tamales that are not your normal pork or beef. I add different things to the lasagna all the time. My Texas Chili has lima beans in it. I just cannot help myself. These things just fall out of my kitchen.

This week I took an old standard and decided that it needed a little change. The hubby loved it! And it was so easy.

Shrimp & Sausage Stuffed Peppers

1/2 cup uncooked long grain white rice

1 cup water

1/2 pound shrimp, cooked, peeled and rough chopped

1/2 pound hot Italian sausage, cooked and sliced into thin rings

1 large tomato, diced

1 medium onion, diced

1-2 cloves garlic, crushed

paprika to taste

salt and pepper to taste

4 bell peppers

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Place the rice and water in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and cook 20 minutes. (I use a rice steamer and follow those directions. At high altitude it takes about a 1/4 cup more water.)

Remove and discard the tops, seeds, and membranes of the bell peppers. Arrange peppers in a baking dish with the hollowed sides up.

In a bowl, mix the remaining ingredients. Spoon an equal amount of the mixture into each hollowed pepper.

Optional: Pour marinara sauce over the stuffed peppers.

Bake 1 hour in a covered baking dish, until the peppers are tender. Check occasionally to be sure peppers do not dry out.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Name Game

I would like to know why it is so hard to say or spell my name correctly.

My name is Jo Ann. Two words, no e. No, there is not an e anywhere in my name, unless you count my confirmation name.

I was named after my dad and his mother. His name was Joe. His mother’s name was Viola Antonia.

Mine name came out Jo Ann Viola.

That’s VI-ola, like the flower, not VEE-ola like the instrument.

I once worked for a man who introduced me as VEE-ola. No matter how many times I asked him to pronounce it correctly, he would grin and pronounce it wrong. This did not win respect for him. And what a silly thing to carry power over.

I go to the doctor’s office and I get called Joan, Joanie, Jane or Diane. I worked for a judge who persisted in calling me Maria. Don’t ask me what that was all about. I got called Maria for five years, even though I never responded to the name.

I don’t answer to Jo. My Dad was Joe, my brother, three uncles and a cousin were all Joes. I have two nephews named Joe. My name is not Joe.

My husband is the only other person who spells my name correctly. It’s probably one of the reasons I married him.

My siblings spell it Joann, JoAnn, Joanne or any variation of that. Gmail and Facebook insist that I spell it JoAnn; neither will allow for the space.

My alma mater’s computerized system threw me out because of the space in my name. For more than a year the registrar told prospective employers that I did not graduate from that fine institution. I’m still mad about that. So now I’m in there, but my name is misspelled. I’d send them a contribution, but I can’t spell my name on a check.

Last week I was spelling my name in an office and the receptionist actually argued with me about the spelling of my name. She said it could not be Jo Ann without an e.

And I just noticed the other day that my name is spelled wrong on my driver’s license. How and when did that happen?!

I’m not winning this argument.

Even my mother calls me Joy-Cin-Ann-- oh heck, she yells, you know who you are!

Yeah. Apparently, I’m the only one who does.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

San Francisco

I came home from our San Francisco vacation needing a vacation.

I had walked my legs off, and on the way home caught some kind of 48-hour bug that gave me a fever so bad that I just sat and shivered.

We got home, looked at each other and said-- see ya in a couple of days.

As sick as I was, my husband did not want to be around me long enough to catch whatever it was and I do not blame him. It has taken me more than a week to get back to normal.

We had a good time though. We stayed in Oakland and took the ferry into the city-- much more civilized than BART and just as fast. Subways are a great thing, but they tend to attract the strangest people. Plus there was the added anxiety about possible protesters at the stations. We’re just tourists; we just want to get from here to there, safely and efficiently.

The show we were supposed to see in Berkeley cancelled; Rita Moreno was sick. But we went up the street to a lovely little French bistro and had the most delectable lunch.

We walked Chinatown. We met friends at Pier 39 the next day, wandered about and laughed at the sea lions.

A couple of times we just sat in Jack London Square, held hands and watched the water and the birds.

I think I liked that best.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

It Ain't Me, Babe

Recently, one of the big three newscasts reported on the suicide of Russell Armstrong, a “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” husband. At the end of the story the male reporter looked into the camera and clearly placed the blame on the viewing audience that demands reality programming.

I am the original video-baby, raised in the soft light of the television console in the center of the living room. My best friends were Mickey and Minnie and the Captain. Mr. Greenjeans was my first love. I did my homework by the glow of the TV. I am an addict.

But I do not demand reality programming.

My life has been dramatic enough. I do not need the shrieking and arguing of others to fill my home. I quit watching “The Today Show” twenty years ago; hearing Bryant, and then Matt, sternly demand answers during ‘hard hitting’ interviews was curdling the cream in my coffee.
My guilty pleasure is “Billy the Exterminator.” Kill those vermin, Billy, kill, kill! Okay, so he often relocates the beasts, but I do love that he freaks out as much as I do at the sight of a snake.

I do not watch people from Jersey or kids in beauty pageants or the three KKs who are famous for being famous. And I have no interest in wives who have no idea what reality is. And I know a lot of people who are like me.

Most of them do not own television sets, They have given up. There are a hundred channels-- 53 of them are showing ‘reality’ shows; fifteen are selling things; a dozen are showing all day reruns of shows that bored us the first time around; a dozen sports broadcasts, the big three are showing many versions of “CSI” or “Law & Order” shows; two are cooking channels; PBS and one is classic movies. Then there is that last one that always has the ‘no signal’ sign on. I don’t think it really exists.

The only movies the big three channels ever show are “Independence Day” and “Pearl Harbor.” I never want to see another Ben Affleck movie in my life.

I remember when friends and family used to talk about how funny or poignant a show was. Now they say those things about YouTube clips. I know ONE person who watches “Jersey Shore.” (If that’s you, no judgement. After all I do have Billy.)

Television is losing it’s audience. We are tired of “Real Housewives” and the rest of the arguing and screaming. Current programming is not educational, entertaining or even amusing.

And, Mr. Newscaster, I refuse to take responsibility for Russell Armstrong’s choice to end his life. He made that choice.

Suicide is sad. It is a permanent solution to temporary problems. It is a hateful and merciless revenge. In Mr. Armstrong’s case, it may have been the ultimate act of spousal abuse.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Whole Lot o' Shakin' Goin' On

There has been a question about salt.
I don't use it.
Shhh. Nobody has noticed.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fire! (I’ll Take You to Burn)

I can still hear my Dad’s voice, “My God, Fran! Who were you mad at?!”

Often her Green Chile Stew would be so hot that it could hardly be eaten, but would we stop? Nooooooooo. We are a stubborn people. We sat with a stack of tortillas and a hand towel, sweating our way through the meal.

Our Green Chile Stew recipe came from my parents’ families who came from the Mora Valley in New Mexico. The one time I was in Mora, I stopped for lunch and almost cried when I tasted the food. It was exactly the way my family cooked. I mentioned it to the waitress, who asked me if I realized that it was Spanish and Indian cooking-- not Mexican. I assured her I did.

Good Mexican food is a treasure, but it is not the same as what my family made. It is in some ways more exotic, with ingredients and spices that I have only begun to explore.

Everyone makes their Green Chile Stew differently. What is written below is a basic recipe. Some people use beef, more onions, no onions, no tomatoes or they add potatoes... they make it their own style.

Green Chile Stew

Pork, 1/2 pound, cubed and sauteed in olive oil-- let it brown well for the best flavor

Onion, chopped and sauteed with pork

Tomatoes, 1 can diced

Green Chile, roasted. peeled and chopped (Anaheim or Hatch, you can use the canned but drain all the liquid from them. If you use fresh, use six or so-- roast in the oven at 350 for half an hour, let cool then peel and chop.)

Garlic, crushed (to taste)

1/2 t. oregano

1/4 t. ground or crushed cumin (optional)

1/4 t. ground or crushed coriander seed (optional)

Sauté the pork, add the onion and garlic, continue cooking at low heat until the onion is translucent. Add the tomatoes, chili and spices.

Simmer at least an hour. I usually simmer longer in a crock pot.

Makes about one quart. Serve with beans or rice or with lots of tortillas.

I often make my Green Chile Stew a day ahead of time. It’s easier to remove any grease from the top when it’s cold, making it a lower fat meal.

And my husband has a theory that chile stored in a refrigerator emerges hotter the next day. He may be right.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Man Smart, Woman Smarter

He: Yes, you’re right. You’re a;ways right, except of course... when you’re wrong.

She: When would I be wrong?

He: That would be when you’re not right, but you’re always right...


Monday, August 15, 2011

Sweets for My Sweet

A good part of what makes the Two Trailer Marriage work is a deep appreciation for the talents each brings to the union.Most of my week was spent freezing Olathe corn and Palisade peaches. I then spent Saturday roasting and packing hot Hatch chile for the freezer. Our harvest pantry is done for the year.

And my husband is proud to tell his friends, “I married a damned good cook.”

He thinks I have become a "country wife," but I have always processed good produce for the freezer, even when I lived in the city.

I didn’t cook much for him when we were dating-- at least not until the relationship started looking serious. He was pleasantly surprised and appreciative when I placed a plate of Paella in front of him on his birthday.

The reason I didn’t cook for men that I dated was that I frequently got marriage proposals spoken in the heat of passion over my ravioli or my enchiladas. I wanted to be wanted for me-- not for my culinary talent.

But I know that the man I married loves and adores me, so I don’t care who he tells about my cooking. And I love it when he makes a special request for a dish. Last night he looked at me lovingly and said, “Would you make me some English muffins?”

The dough is rising as I type.

I tried a few different recipes and finally developed one of my own. He likes them better than those incredibly expensive muffins he used to order on-line.

Jo Ann’s English Muffins


  • 1 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup warm milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 to 5 cups unbleached flour


Dissolve yeast and sugar in water in mixer bowl.

Add milk, egg, honey, salt, and 1 1/2 cups flour. Mix thoroughly with bread hook.

Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Knead with bread hook until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.

Place dough ball in a large bowl bowl sprayed with Pam; spray top of ball with Pam.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch dough down.

On a floured surface, roll to 1/3-in. thickness. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Cut into circles with muffin cutter (or empty cleaned tuna can).

Place on greased baking sheet with 1 to 2 inches between each.

Bake at 375 for 7-8 minutes. Bottom should be brown. Turn and bake another 7-8 minutes longer.. Cool on a wire rack.

Muffins can be frozen in plastic bags once cooled.

When ready to serve, thaw and split with a fork. Best served toasted.

I love to cook. But I truly love to cook for people who enjoy the food-- that would be my husband.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Let's Do the Time Warp Again

I just got home from the high school reunion. 40th. And I have to agree with my husband-- it brought out the inner 15-year-old in a bunch of us.

At one point I was standing in a doorway with a friend, looking out at a patio full of people.

“There are a bunch of people out there... and they’re scary.”

My friend smiled. “Yup. They’ve always been scary.”

So we both took a deep breath and walked into the fray. No harm came to either of us. Just as we had survived high school so many years ago, we survived the evening.

I don’t know why these old relationships cause so much anxiety.

It’s not like I was a total pariah in school, just not well liked. The only hippie on student government. The fat chick. Mixed race and full of ethnicity. Different. Not sure who I was or where I was going. I only spent three years with this group-- but as an army brat, that was the longest I had ever spent with one group of people.

And I have regrets. I regret that I was not more generous of heart at the time. I may have hurt people without intending to do so. I was young and did not know how to handle myself. As one friend said that night, “I think we have all learned to use what we have in a much better way.”

That seems true. People who never spoke to me then were friendly and open at the reunion. My Dad once said that the nature of reunions is that eventually most people are so glad to just be alive that old injuries don’t matter any more.

In the end, it was all hugs and whispers. “You haven’t changed a bit.” they all said. But they don’t know me; I have changed tremendously. I am happier, calmer, better grounded than I ever have been.

And I am prettier than I was then. My joyful heart makes me much prettier. I was glad to see everyone, but I am so grateful that I am no longer a teenager.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Enough is Enough

It is hard to explain to my husband why I am somewhat whacko about some things. He doesn’t want to hear the details and I find it hard to explain without the details.

Perhaps I should adjust my attitude and just start with the premise that I do not need to justify my stance. If I cease to allow others to make me feel guilty and just say what I think or need it might work better.

Recently an old friend sent a message to me. She apologized for being a bad friend and appeared to want to be friends again. My husband thinks this is sweet. I do not.

Let me explain it in a letter:

Dear X--

Thank you for your kind words.

When our friendship ended your words were not so kind. You did not speak them to me, but to others-- others who believed what you had to say although none of it was true.

I have been confronted for my alleged unkindness to you. Friendships have been tainted to the point that some of my friendships have been badly damaged or have ended. I could not make excuses for behavior that I did not commit, so I remained silent. I still have people confronting me regarding things that you have said.

You have approached my friends and family in attempts to speak to me. You have sent a friend request on Facebook, which was ignored. Again friends have approached me asking why I am so persistently cruel to you.

I do not hate you. I just am not interested. I cannot trust you.

It has been 18 years. Let it go. Your persistence amounts to stalking. The attention is creepy and unwanted. Please stop.

Will I send this letter? Probably not. It isn’t my goal to hurt anyone, but at least I can now articulate how I feel. I don’t know why this person wants to be friends. I do know that I spent two years crying over the lost friendship and the horrible things that were said about me. My sorrow was deep and, at the time, endless.

But I learned to end it. And I learned that what was said and done was not my fault. I got past it and don’t think any reminder of that time is sweet.

And I don’t want to go there again.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Smells Like Teen Spirit

My niece just dropped out of high school-- less than three months from graduation. I suppose I should appreciate the fact that I do not have to dish out the promised $500 at graduation, but I am not happy.

I continue to watch the majority of my female relatives not finish school, get pregnant and live with men who have criminal records, or men who won’t work and who eventually leave them with small children to support.

These young women do not seem to understand their value in society. I do not understand why rites of passage into adulthood mean nothing to them-- why they will not graduate, get any kind of job training, register to vote. And it saddens me.

I am at a complete loss. I have no influence here.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Hound Dog

I am not a dog person. Okay, I just alienated half of you, but I have never appreciated dogs. They are messy; they slobber. They are dependent and cannot be left alone for a long weekend. They shriek and yell for attention. They bite-- especially those little yappy beasts that run around nipping at ankles.

There is no sane reason to house a dog.

Cats are, at least, useful. Even my citified, girly cats caught and quickly dispatched a problem rodent. No-- I am not the neighborhood cat-lady who owns 23 cats and cooks their food or calls them her babies. There are only two of them, and-- okay, I do talk to them. I read to them. If you can’t keep a cat’s attention, you had better re-write. I ask their opinions on problems. They never give advice. That’s just as well because I probably wouldn’t follow it anyway.

Whenever I met a man who owned a dog, I crossed him off the ‘potential date list.’ I saw no future in it. I knew I would never be able to visit his home. So when the man I was dating invited me to dinner at his home, and warned me that he had a border collie, I took a step back. I really liked this guy, so I took a chance. “This is Meg.” he said, “She thinks she’s a crotch terrier.” Sure enough, she dove straight for the private parts and I went shrieking into the house and slammed the door. Each time I visited, Meg met me with gleeful, bouncing energy. Border collies are quick and I learned to move really fast.

It was unfair. He did not tell me that he had a dog before he asked me to dinner. I never saw dog hair on his clothing. He never carried dried pig’s ears in his pocket. How was I to know that his roommate was of the doggy persuasion?

Well, he did live on a small farm. But I was a city girl and didn’t understand that “farm” is code for ‘big square dog run complete with irrigation ditches to splash in before jumping on new skirts.’

So there it was-- I liked the guy so I had to learn to like the dog.

Meg is not a bad dog. She doesn’t chew shoes or furniture. She doesn’t bark much. She’s friendly and eager to please. Her only fault is her inappropriate interest in the nether regions of the human body.

But I did notice that she never went after the guy. If she could restrain herself with him, she could be re-programmed. If we teach others how to treat us, I should be able to teach Meg how to treat me. It became my mission to learn how to manage her. I may not be a dog-lover, but I am not a dog-hater and I really liked the guy.

I noticed that Meg shied away whenever I wore a skirt; she didn’t like the flounce of fabric. One day she was underfoot in the kitchen while I was handling hot pans, and I had repeatedly yelled “Move, Meg!” with no success. I reached for a dish towel to clean up a spill and as I snapped it off the towel ring, Meg withdrew to the corner behind the recliner.

“Your dog is afraid of dish towels,” I told the guy. He didn’t believe me. I had to demonstrate.

The dish towel became my friend. I don’t want Meg to cower in the corner, but she has quit trying to go where no dog should go. So now and then I reach over and snap the towel off the rack and Meg sits down. I get to reward her by giving her a treat. She’s learning to respect but not fear. I like that in a dog.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

How Did I Get Here?

Sometimes we don’t end up where we were going. We didn’t get lost-- just side-tracked to a better destination.

It all started when I lost my job. It was upsetting, but didn’t worry me much. I had always been able to find work within a month or so, and I needed a break. I needed to read and swim and do all the things I never had time to do during those working years. I moved from Denver to Colorado Springs to be closer to family, and waited a few months before starting my job search.

Big mistakes. Sometimes families are best appreciated from a distance, like across an ocean or the Continental Divide, and who knew the economy would take such a dive? I searched for work, took temporary jobs, worked as a greeter at Sam’s Club, went back to school for computer training, and I volunteered.

At a law librarians’ conference I had eight interviews in 36 hours. Two law schools called for second interviews and while sitting on my hands waiting for their calls, I was offered a position as a librarian in Ignacio, a small town in southwest Colorado. I couldn’t wait for a possible job. I moved to Ignacio. It didn’t work out.

So then I was alone and out of work, more than 300 miles away from friends and family. My mother demanded I go back home, but if I moved back I would have no money left to rent an apartment. If I stayed I could pay my rent for three months. I decided to stay and look for work.

I didn’t find work, but something unexpected happened.

I fell in love. And the man proposed marriage. As an engagement gift, he gave me a mobile home, half a block away from his.

At first I was hurt. He didn’t want to live with me. Then the logical girl inside took control-- the man is offering property; take it! We sat and talked about our two-trailer-marriage. Some of our friends thought we were nuts. Some were envious. I didn’t even try to explain it to my family. We didn’t know any other couples who were living this way, but it made sense to us.

We’re older. He’s a morning person and I’m dancing at midnight. He does not watch TV and I am the original video baby. He has three knickknacks; I can’t live without my Santos and Kachinas. He is obsessively neat and I am not. His cats go out; mine stay in. We both crave our solitude. We are so different, yet want so much to be together that separate housing makes sense. We have dinner together almost every night and I spend most nights at his house. It works for us. There is another benefit-- my heart still skips a beat when I hear him walking up my driveway.

After a bad marriage years ago I told friends and family that if I ever married again, I would have to be so crazy, stupid in love that I would wear a red and purple wedding dress, which I did when I married Mark last summer.

I never imagined that I would make my home in the mountains outside of Durango. That I have no job is painful; I am smart and talented, and I do not understand why I have not been hired. I always took care of myself and others; having someone take care of me is a new and sometimes frightening experience-- it’s a loss of control.

There have been so many losses, making room for so many gains. I have learned so much about myself by changing my entire life. I am happier, healthier and so appreciative of all that life has to offer. My detour put me exactly where I am supposed to be.