Following the path …

Have you ever thought that someone is deciding things for you  – but you don’t know who that someone is?

For months, I have spent most of my time sitting while my body tries to recover from surgery and a series of setbacks – including pneumonia. About two months ago, I decided that I might as well read some of the many books I have — and I mean MANY.  However, instead I’ve been reading books as they are presented to me from various sources.

The first book came from reading a facebook post for a free copy of a book about living with a chronic illness.  Of course, I couldn’t pass up a free book. Dealing with chronic illness can be quite frustrating so I’m always interested in hearing how others do it. This book is about the life of a determined young woman with spina bifida. Despite all the complications, she lived to be 32. The book was written by her mother and provides a thorough overview of the many issues involved in living with a chronic illness. The book: The Able Life of Cody James: Still Celebrating; the author — Marly Cornell.

I found the next book by watching one of the talk shows on TV. (By the way, watching talk shows means you are truly bored.) The guest was Yolanda Hadid of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and  long-time model; her book — Believe Me: My Battle with the Invisible Disability of Lyme Disease — is about her struggle with Lyme’s disease,  including the fact that some doctors don’t recognize Lyme’s disease as a disease. Yolanda describes her illness in sometimes shocking detail,

After two books on chronic illness, though, I wanted something different. I don’t think it was helping my mindset for healing. Before I could think about it, I was presented with a book from granddaughter Alexandra. She was impressed that I had read those books so quickly. Proudly she suggested that I read her book “The Chronicles of Narnia.” What was I to do? I read it and I enjoyed it greatly. The chronicles are seven books in one book – so it took a little longer to read. While I was reading it, I provided Alexandra with updates on my progress, much to her delight. Author: C. S. Lewis. 

About the same time, I came across A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles — and a New York Times Bestseller. I think I found it on Amazon – where it was highlighted for me. The book is about a Russian aristocrat who was sentenced to live out his life within the walls of the grand hotel Metropol hotel, across the street from the Kremlin. This book is an excellent read.

Next my husband came  home from his township zoning job where he met an author that he was sure I ‘d want to meet. He brought a bookmark from her that included the names of her books. They were ordered the next day, read within two weeks, and – since the reading – have now been graciously autographed by the author.  The books: The Women of Beowolf Serices; Book One: Faces in the Fire; Book Two: Fanning the Flames; and Book Three: Cloak of Ashes. Author Donnita L. Rogers. This trilogy tells about the times of King Arthur from a woman’s point of view and clearly align with my interest in mythology.

I loved the Beowulf series and mentioned that on a post on Facebook. Our daughter immediately suggested that I read the Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.  Again, I can’t believe I never read this book; it was published in 1982. I truly enjoyed her exquisitely detailed writing. I was easily transported to the time of King Arthur and took my role as Morgaine. Like the Beowulf series, I didn’t want this book to end.



Next I came across a poetry compilation, This book came to me from knowing Rick D. Hallbeck, who an English major and a very talented musician. He is graciously helping our granddaughter as she launches her music career. One of Rick D’s poems was chosen for inclusion in this book. The book: Tennessee’s Best Emerging Poets: An Anthology; Rick D.’s poem: Trudy Ann. It is an excellent poem as are the others in the anthology.

Next I reacted to a post on Amazon – where I have ordered many books. (I also have a Kindle but prefer to touch the pages.) It was a post of one David Baldacci’s newest books — End Game. I’ve read and own many of his books. As always, his books are fast-moving, crime solving adventures and are a fun read (if you can get past the vision  of exploding body parts).


Next I was going to read another novel (see below) but I saw an ad in the local paper for a book signing in a neighboring town. I couldn’t go to the book signing so I ordered the book: The Infamous Harry Hayward: A True Account of Murder and Mesmerism in Gilded Age Minneapolis by author Shawn Francis Peters. As a Minnesota history buff, I quickly read the book — as soon as it arrived. As it turns out, the Governor – who did not pardon Mr. Hayword, is a shirt-tail relative of mine through marriage. This book fits nicely in our extensive Minnesota history book collection.

What’s next ….

  • I’m now reading Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier,  another New Yorks Times bestseller; it’s a novel about the ancient tribe of Amazon women – who some believe existed and some don’t


  • My daughter then posted about I’ll Be Gone In the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara. The author died before they identified the Golden State Killer. He was just captured which just happened in the last few days.
  • Origin by Dan Brown. I ordered this book quite some time ago but keep putting off reading it. It might be because it’s another long read.
  • Violets are Blue by James Patterson. I must have bought this book earlier and forgot about it.

A general theme of ancient goddesses, mysteries and history seem to run through the books I’ve been reading. I will keep reading and see what’s presented to me next … or …

Perhaps I should get back to work on the book I’m writing. It is ‘a mystery based on history and is about a modern-day doctor who is on vacation and the unnatural things that happen to her. Many of the events in the book are based the antics of a real woman homeopathic doctor who practiced in the Midwest during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. I can’t tell you how it ends because I don’t yet know – and if I told you, it would spoil your reading of it.


Thanks for reading! I hope you will return.


The Infamous Pork Chop Investigation …

Cover Photo by Barry Braun. 

During one of our recent family gatherings, the infamous pork chop investigation came up again – and we all laughed and laughed. However, no one was laughing during the real infamous pork chop ‘investigation.’

It all started, years ago, when the kids were all at home and we had pork chops for dinner. There was one pork chop left over. That pork chop was put on a  stoneware dessert plate on the second shelf in the refrigerator, unwrapped, and intended as a snack for Jim (Dad). All of the kids could reach the second shelf. (And by the way, our daughter remembered this detail:  The plate was part of our everyday dinnerware that was tan with orange and yellow flowers in the center and an orange stripe around the edge. I am not sure how it factored into the investigation, but a detail to be noted nonetheless.)

The next day Jim went to get the pork chop — but —  horror of all horrors!!  Someone had taken a nice big bite out of the pork chop. Jim was not happy – not happy at all!! All of the kids were called into the kitchen and the investigation began. Each was questioned about taking a bite out of the pork chop; none would confess. Minutes turned into an hour – and still no confession, And so they sat. And sat. And sat.

After what some claim was several hours and some claim was only one hour (years since have dimmed the memories), the youngest son confessed  — even though he kept proclaiming his innocence. He really did not want to sit anymore. He wanted to play with his wrestling action figures. Clearly the bite in the meat did not match his small bite  – but he did confess. He was thanked for telling the truth and the investigation was over. But the investigation wasn’t closed. Something just didn’t add up.


Youngest son’s wrestling collection. (Photo by Barry Braun)

Years later, at another family gathering, the truth came out. It was not the youngest son. It was the oldest son – a bit of a trickster. Through laughter, he finally confessed. We should have known.

And yet, grilled pork chops are still a favorite of everyone – the oldest and youngest son in particular — and me, as well !!

Family Favorites when grilling pork chops:

  • Lawry’s Seasoned salt
  • Garlic salt with pepper or garlic pepper
  • McCormick cajun seasoning, rubbed into the meat before grilling
  • Tip: Cut up leftover pork chops are good in stir fry.

And to put a little spice in your life, here is a recipe for Cajun Spiced (fried) Pork Chops – on that rare occasion when you can’t use an outdoor grill:

  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1.2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon rubbed dried sage leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  •  1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 center cut pork chops
  1. Mix paprika, cumin, black pepper, cayenne pepper, sage, and garlic salt on a plate. Liberally coat each pork chop with the spice mixture.
  2. Heat olive oil and several pumps of non-stick, butter-flavored spray in a large skillet over high heat. Place pork chops in the skillet, reducing heat to medium. Cook until the pork is no longer pink in the center, 8 to 10 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read 145 degrees F (63 degrees C).

Thanks for reading! I hope you return. 

Fluffy Wuffies ???

Recently I was looking through a recipe book that my Mom created in 1983. It is full of recipes from family members. We were all asked to submitt a couple of recipes; Mom then ordered spiral bound books with blank pages for recipes. Mom typed them and pasted copies of all of the recipes in the book. Mom’s recipes came first, then the oldest child and spouse, and then the rest of the siblings and spouses, according to the age of the sibling. Each book had the sibling’s name custom printed on the cover. The book became our Christmas present that year. This process went on for a couple of years, although I”m sure she intended it to last longer. I think we became rather negligent in supplying recipes. After the second year, we had to paste the recipes in our books ourselves. I find that I hadn’t even done that yet.

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But – on to the Fluffy Wuffies. As i looked through the book, I found a recipe from my sister-in-law for Fluffy Wuffies. I had absolutely no recollection of this. So, of course I googled it. Guess what – there are lots of recipes for Fluffy Wuffies. I can’t believe I have lived this long and know nothing about Fluffy Wuffies!! I asked a couple of ladies that are older than me –  and they had not heard of them either.

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A Fluffy Wuffie is simply an oven-baked pancake. Some sources say it is German in origin; some say it is Dutch. It  is made of very basic ingredients — one of those things you could make if you don’t have much on hand. I would bet that this was a good meal during the depression era – easy, few ingredients and can be embellished in many ways.

Fluffy Wuffies

  • 1/2 stick melted margarine (I would use butter)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 4 eggs
  • i cup milk

Mix all ingredients together; pour into a pie pan (or baking dish). (It doesn’t say this, but I would spray the pan first so the pancake doesn’t stick.) Bake at 425 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. The edges will pop up and the center raises when the wuffie is done. Eat with butter and syrup – or:

  • Applesauce
  • Fruit (berries, peaches, etc.)
  • Cinnamon and sugar
  • Peanut butter ?
  • Butter and powdered sugar (served right away, nice and warm. Yum)

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Have you heard of Fluffy Wuffies?

Thanks for reading. I hope you return to read again. 

It’s time for comfort food in Minnesota …

As everyone knows, spring is not making an appearance this year – or so it seems. Once again, the weather forecast for the weekend is snow … and more snow … blizzrd weather.
So, we must turn to comfort food to get us through the weekend.  Why is it called comfort food?  According to many internet sources, comfort food provides consolation or a feeling of well-being. It typically has a high carb or sugar content. Often it is something you mother or grandmother used to make – good old-fashioned home cooking. Do you have a favorite comfort food?
Our choice for comfort food today — Ham and Bean Soup – a very easy choice. You can make a crock pot full or enough for one – simply by adjusting the ingredients.
Chopped/cubed ham (and the bone from a ham if you have one; it gives the broth much better flavor.)
Chopped celery
Chopped onion
Cubed or sliced potatoes
Carrots – either canned or chopped
Canned great northern beans (or white beans of your choice), rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste
Adjust quantities of ingredients depending on how many you want to serve. Don’t worry if  you make too much. It’s just as good the next day. You can also freeze it and heat it up on another comfort food day.
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Ham and Bean Soup prepared by Chef James. 

Before serving, remove the ham bone, clean off the meat remaining on the ham bone, and add it to the soup. Ham broth isn’t very flavorful so the longer it cooks, the better the flavor. You can also add beef broth for flavor.
  • If you like, you can add Kitchen Bouquet to give the soup a brownish-color. It does not change the flavor.
  • You can cook all of the vegetables in the microwave for a minute or two (just until softened)  so that it doesn’t take so long for them to cook – or you can just put them in the crock pot and let them cook all day. The longer the soup cooks, the better it tastes.
  • Rinsing the beans removes the starch, sugar and salt from the beans. If you don’t rinse the beans before you put them in the soup, the soup will be thicker and the starch may change the flavor a bit. The choice is yours.
Thanks for reading!! I hope you return again!! 

Creating memories … Remy and his ham

My recent blog post on family food favorites mentioned a story about grandson Remy and ham. Well, Remy and his younger brother Ollie, visited yesterday  – and ham played a role — so the time is right to tell the story.

Ten years ago, we were preparing to go to our son’s house in Silver Bay for dinner on Christmas day. As often happens, I spend the holiday season shopping and getting ready, and then I am worn out or sick by the time the holiday arrives. That year it was my lung disease acting up and joint pain. (Little did I know that I would have my first heart stents less than a year later.)  I could barely walk and had to sit on a pillow to ride anywhere.

But things weren’t normal at our son’s house, either. You see, they were expecting a baby – and the baby decided that Christmas Eve day was a good day to enter this world. There wouldn’t be much cooking done at their house. They were busy bringing a baby home. And ‘Dad’ was busy taking care of the three kids at home.

So, we improvised. We bought a ham, some buns, Old Dutch potato chips (a long-time family favorite) and a gallon of milk (a family staple) and headed for Silver Bay on Christmas Day.

When we arrived, there was much excitement about the new baby. Little Remy looked a little overwhelmed. Then Grandpa handed him the ham – which he could barely hold – and said: “Look what I brought you.” A big grin spread across Remy’s face. And he took Grandpa’s word literally. It was his ham – which he pronounced h-ahhh-m. Remy proudly showed his Mom the ham. After a little persuasion, he agreed we could cook it for dinner. It was soon clear that Remy loves h-ahhh-m.

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From that time forward, we take a ham to Remy every time we visit. A few times we forgot to get a ham and had to stop at the last minute, usually somewhere along the  North Shore. But every time Grandpa gives him a ham, we get that big Remy grin. It is the best!

Sometimes they cook the ham for the meal and sometimes it goes in their refrigerator or freezer. We also keep the tradition going by making sure we have ham when we have family gatherings at our house.

What did the boys get to eat at our house yesterday? Ham, of course, and they ate a lot.


Now, this may seem like a fun little story but why do I tell it to you? It’s just this – it is important to plan for details so you make enduring memories. Sometimes the small things are the most memorable – and they don’t take a lot of extra time or effort.

For more on how to create quality memories, I suggest reading The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. This book provides ways to turn ordinary moments into extraordinary moments – in other words, to enhance memories. The Heaths did not ask me to mention them; I doubt they will even know. I just happen to be a big fan of their books. I think I have all of them. This book, which is relatively recent (released Fall 2017), captures the way I approach events – whether a quick lunch or a public meeting. I am glad someone put this concept into words — although the Heath brothers do a much better job explaining the concept.

Thanks for reading!! I hope you will return!! 

Since you asked …

And now for something completely different. My recent posts have been pretty serious so it is time to have some fun.

I recently posted a picture of one of our dinner meals – Chicken Cashew Casserole. Several people requested the recipe (so here it is, at the bottom of this post).

Then I started thinking about family food favorites and decided to ask our kids about it – what was their favorite? what did they not like?

Interestingly, our daughter said she wasn’t a fan of my hot dishes – except for two of them. She hated carrots, beets, mushroom soup, and green peppers – but now she eats them all. Oldest son mentioned mushroom soup, also, recalling the time where all we had for a meal was mushroom soup – and we all got sick!! I still don’t like it and rarely eat mushrooms (and then only when it is a small part of a dish).

Her favorite foods: Old Dutch potato chips (yes, specifically, Old Dutch), kohrabi (introduced to the family by her Grandpa Art), olives, radishes (the whole family loves radishes), bean with bacon soup, Hamburger Rice Hotdish and Tator Tot Hotdish (with green beans). Another of her favorites – and everyone else – was fresh-baked bread made by Grandma Edna. I am not good at baking bread; I am forever washing my hands to get the flour off – which doesn’t make for good bread making.

Our youngest son had only two responses – grilled pork chops and deviled eggs (another family holiday favorite). I usually use two dozen eggs – which makes 48 deviled eggs for a family gathering; rarely are there any left. This son claims he is overweight from his love of pork chops. I think there might be more to that story. He didn’t have any items he didn’t like – so that might be why he is a bit overweight.

Favorite family meals include:

  • Hamburger Rice Hot Dish
  • Chicken Dumpling Soup
  • Tator Tot Hot Dish
  • Chicken Cashew Casserole
  • Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Every once in a while, I will post a blog with another recipe – and perhaps the story of the Pork Chop Investigation, or Remy and his Ham, etc.

I hope you enjoy this blog. Thanks for reading. 

Chicken Cashew Casserole 

(Note; You can substitute tuna for the chicken)


1 1/2 cup of cashew, halved or chopped

1 cup chopped celery

1/2 onion, chopped

2 cans cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup

1/2 can of milk (more if needed)

3 – 10 to 12 oz. cans of canned chicken (or tuna), drained, rinsed and broken apart

1 12-oz. bag of chow mein noodles

Salt and pepper to taste.

Soy Sauce (optional)


Chop onion and celery; saute in fry pan until soft and let cool.

Chop cashews and put in large mixing bowl.

Add chicken or tuna, which has been rinsed and broken apart.

Add celery and onion.

Empty canned soup into a bowl and stir in milk.

Pour into bowl with other ingredients and stir. You can add more milk, just a little at a time, if the mixture is hard to stir.

Add the bag of chow mein noodles and stir.

Put the mixture into a ceramic baking pan that has been sprayed with cooking oil. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Take the cover off for the last five minutes to brown the top of the casserole.

Serve warm with soy sauce as a condiment.

Warning: This casserole is very rich – so don’t overdo!! Also, this makes a lot – so you may want to use smaller amounts if it’s just for a few. 




You can’t always believe what you see … reacting to chronic illnesses

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According to at least one internet story, over half of all Americans have a chronic disease or illness. This seems a bit incredulous. However, here’s where it gets tricky. There are major differences in the two.
chronic disease is one lasting 3 months or more, by the definition of the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics. Chronic diseases generally cannot be prevented by vaccines or cured by medication, nor do they just disappear.
chronic illness is a condition that lasts for a very long time and usually cannot be cured completely, although some illnesses can be controlled or managed through lifestyle (diet and exercise) and certain medications. These include  heart diseasestrokecancertype 2 diabetesobesity, and arthritis. 
I’m sure there are many more chronic illnesses or diseases that I have not listed. However, it would take lenghty research to adequately discuss this issue. For this blog, I simply want to discuss how people respond to those with chronic illnesses or diseases. (I have two – heart disease and sarcoidosis, (Read more) People always assume that I smoked because I have a lung disease  – (and no, I never smoked). Many people with a chronic illness or disease look perfectly fine on the outside. The illness is in the interior of the body. Unfortunately, people respond to what they can see.
For example –
A few years ago, I was in Duluth and pulled into the handicap accessible parking space at Burger King, then located in Canal Park. As I got out of my car, I was immediately accosted by a man with two small children. He said something like: “Don’t you think you should move your car. You don’t need to park in that spot.” I’m sure I stood there for a moment, a bit shocked. But then I responded: “I didn’t realize that you could or could not see heart and lung disease.” He looked at me, a bit stunned. Then he replied: “I’m sorry; I wasn’t thinking.” I am not sure if he saw my handicapped tag in the window or not; if he hadn’t (and if I didn’t have that tag), he would have been correct that I shouldn’t park there. Or, he may have just assumed – because I looked okay — that I didn’t need to park there.
Given the pervasive nature of chronic illnesses, it is just best not to assume something about a person. They may look fine but are using every bit of strength that they have just to appear normal. Instead, you could stay silent, strike up a conversation, ask some questions, offer to listen, hang out with the person, etc.  One day you may have a chronic disease or illness of your own so it’s best to treat others the way you would wanted to be treated.

This blog is dedicated to our beautiful granddaughter Selena who has spondylitis (Read more.) It is particularly difficult for younger people to deal with a chronic illness while others of their age are active.