86 and Driving 4 More Years

Well, here you go – Mom’s birthday is coming up in early March and last week she went to take her driving test as her license was expiring. Guess what? The streets of Northern Ohio better look out because Mom passed her eye exam and she is cleared for ANOTHER FOUR YEARS.

This means Mom can drive until she is NINETY YEARS OLD. She was so excited to tell me her good news. Mom has a hearing problem and “one bad eye” as she puts it, but the state of Ohio apparently thought she had the talent to renew her license. Of course, there is no actual driving test with the parallel parking bit that gave me fits at 16, but she did have to pass the eye exam.

A few months ago she finally asked her doctor for a handicapped sticker for her car since her ability to walk long distances is failing, but boy, she held out as long as she could. She has new plans now – she is going all the way out to San Francisco to visit my sister, she has ANOTHER ladies group to lunch with and who cares if all her friends have health problems –dementia, heart disease to name a few. She prays for them, visits them and then off she goes to the hairdresser, lunch appointments, the Moose Lodge for bingo and doughnuts, all the while keeping her sense of humor intact.

Just one word of caution – don’t be calling Mom on a Saturday night at 7, the Lawrence Welk Show is on and there is no answering the phone for her.

I know our family is so blessed to have Mom and we really are so thankful for her. May all of you with elderly Moms have the good fortune we have!


An Upside Down Valentine Cake

Mike and I went to a small gathering last week and I brought dessert as my contribution. Since Valentine’s Day is so close, I thought I would use my heart shaped cake pans that I’ve had for many years.

I made a pineapple upside down cake, using both cake pans, so I really made two small cakes. Moist, delicious and fun to do!

Here is my recipe:

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

½ c. melted butter
1 c. packed brown sugar
One 20 ounce can pineapple slices in juice, drained, reserving juice
Maraschino cherries
½ c. chopped walnuts
1 pkg. yellow cake mix
Oil and eggs as called for on cake directions

This recipe will make a 13x9 cake or two 9” cakes. If you are making the two cake pan version, just divide all the ingredients between the two cakes – the butter, pineapple, sugar and nuts – then split the cake batter between each pan.

Grease and flour each pan or use a cooking spray to coat. Pour melted butter into the pan, then sprinkle the brown sugar and nuts on top of the butter. Lay the pineapple slices into this mixture, with a cherry in the center of each slice.

Add enough water to the reserved pineapple juice to make 1 ¼ c. Then make the cake batter using the juice, oil and eggs as the pkg. requires. Pour the batter over the prepared pan.

Bake 40-45 minutes or until toothpick in center comes out clean. Immediately turn pan onto a serving dish or tray and leave pan on cake 1 minute. Serve warm or cooled with whipped topping.

This is my valentine to all of you this year!


Ham and Bean Soup Deluxe

You need to buy a bone-in ham, about 3-4 lbs. I try to buy the smallest one I can find since they are all pretty big and pricey.

1 bag Great Northern beans
1 ½ tsp. paprika
4-5 carrots, peeled and sliced (sort of chunky)
2 onions, chopped
2 cans chicken broth
Crushed red pepper flakes
A nice baguette

Place the beans in a large stockpot, cover with water, add one chopped onion and paprika and cover the pan. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer. Meanwhile, take the ham and start cutting off the meat. Most of this will go in the soup, but there will be a lot left over for sandwiches, quiche, etc. You are trying to remove the ham, leaving the bone, fat, etc, to flavor the soup. I cut the ham into small cubes until I get about 2 c. The remainder I leave I big pieces for another meal or the freezer.

When the beans begin to boil, add the ham bone, fats, skin, etc. to the water. Cover with the chicken broth and more water if needed. Add ½ tsp. pepper. The cubed ham will be added later. Ok, now comes the time part. The beans will take about 2 hours to soften, but that time is good for the flavor – the ham bone is in the pot too and all of its flavor will come out.

When the beans are soft, remove the ham bone, fats, skin, etc. and discard. Add the other chopped onion, the cubed ham, carrots and red pepper flakes. Continue to cook about an hour until carrots and onion are tender and the ham absorbs the flavor of the broth.

Serve with a new sprinkle of red pepper and a delicious biscuit or baguette slices.


Los Angeles - a Trip to Remember

A few weeks ago, Mike and I traveled to Los Angeles to visit our son, daughter-in-law and grandson, Jackson. Well, we had the best time ever. The weather in upstate NY when we left was about 10 degrees and our week in LA was perfect –78 degrees each and every day.

My sister Bonnie, who lives in N. California, came for the weekend and Stephanie took us on the grand Hollywood tour. Andy and Steph have lived out there for 6 years and Stephanie has worked for a producer and was an assistant to a TV/movie star – so she knows where to go and how to get there, no easy feat in the LA traffic.

The weekend we were there the Golden Globes celebration was taking place, so we went to the Beverly Hilton for lunch and got to see the whole red carpet set up. We saw Guiliana Ranic from “Entertainment Tonight” (totally thin and sort of pretty), Brad, Rachel Zoe’s ex-assistant sporting his usual bow tie, Christina Hendricks from “Mad Men” and so many others. We saw the people lined up for interviews with signs around their necks of stars’ names so the interviewers could practice their questions, but the best thing of all was we got to see the “red carpet” and took a cute picture of Jackson.

On the “drive-by” tour Stephanie took us on, we saw “Starlight Search” vans loaded with tourists gawking at the homes of TV and movie stars. We were too cool for that, with our own personal tour guide. Stephanie showed us where Jay Leno lived, (huge, huge and gorgeous), Penelope Cruz, (small home on a regular street) and where Tom Cruise holds Katie Holmes captive and so many others.

Alas, eventually we had a tearful good bye, and back to NY we came. We will be seeing Jackson, Andy and Stephanie again in March in Boston, when we all gather for Andy Gerlach’s christening! Can’t wait!!