Tomato Sandwich

It’s the perfect summer sandwich, with the simplest of ingredients.

Garden-fresh tomatoes, mayo, store-bought white bread.

Photo courtesy.

I had the first of many this week.

You might be tempted to modify it, toast the bread, add ingredients like cheese, bacon, avocado, onion, etc.

But please do not. It is a culinary sacrilege.

Salt and pepper are acceptable, lettuce is not. It just gets in the way of those juices that absorb into the first layer of soft white bread.

Those healthier, whole grain breads just do not work here. Home-made or sourdough ? No thank you.

It was the lunch preferred by Louise Fitzhugh’s beloved childhood character Harriet the Spy. She would accept no substitute.

She understood the beauty of tomato as a main ingredient.

So do I.

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Into the Storm

I was about 40 miles from home when I first spotted it.

Archive Image.

It was maybe the darkest cloud I’ve ever seen.

In sunshine and blue skies at my current location, I considered stopping the car.

It might have been a good time for a meal break, a rest stop, or an alternate route to avoid the obvious storm.

I did none of those.

I drove straight into the black sky.

From a very early age, I’ve been fascinated by thunderstorms, drawn to their absolute power. There is something so majestic about the way Nature chooses to unleash that energy.

I’m sure it was a metaphor for the desire to cleanse from the emotional turmoil that enveloped my family for a lifetime.

If, only.

So, on this balmy summer evening,  I encountered the downpour, the lightning strikes, the boom of thunder about 10 miles from home, passing through it, unscathed, with a freshly rinsed car, and a reminder.

All storms come to an end.

The skies were clear as I pulled into my driveway.

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“Service Engine Soon”

At first, they were called “idiot lights”. They indicate trouble within the engine.

The light comes on, you access the code book, identify the issue, repair or replace parts.

The light is extinguished and you move forward.

It is simple mechanics.

There is no equivalent for the human spirit.

Too bad.


My idea was to take a short blog break. A few days turned into a few months.

Hope to be back soon. Thanks for your continued support.

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It started as a typical Easter weekend. There was a new outfit, frilly dress, white patent leather shoes, white gloves and flowered hat. The Sunday meal was planned.

Good Friday was mysterpaas-easter-egg-color-kit-googie-easter-pinterestious. For reasons not yet clear to us, we were to spend a few hours in church, in total silence.

There was fasting, no meat, but there were eggs…so many eggs.

By evening, we were on board with the celebration.

Enter PAAS…the century-old  egg dye, small tablets activated by white vinegar to produce such lovely color. We were too young to know or care why, we just loved the ritual.

My grandmother presided. A devout Catholic, immigrant from Prague, she loved Easter. We felt her joy.

Sometime during the cleanup, she excused herself, and took to the living room sofa, claiming she felt a bit tired.

She never woke up. Cardiac arrest. Age 57.

Chaos ensued. Our mom was quickly dispatched from her job at Bell Telephone. Grandma was gone by the time she arrived.

Our dad sat in shock. He adored his mother. He had supported her in every way imaginable since the age of 12, when his own father vacated their lives.

We were the three daughters whose world was forever changed; aged 8, 6 and 8 months.

We were losing our real mom, and about to meet our biological one. It would not go well.

For many years that followed, I had a strange, visceral reaction to the smell of vinegar. It took me a while to realize why.

This was to be healed. When my children came along, I embraced the egg dye ritual of Good Friday.

Strangely enough, white vinegar became a staple in my home. Today, it is my go-to cleaning remedy.

I don’t dwell on the sadness of this day. She is so vivid in my memory. She raised me. She was my greatest influence in those developing years.  I aspire to have so many of her qualities and values. She was an amazingly strong, devoted and loving human being.

I just wish I’d had her in my life longer. I carry her spirit with me, with love in my heart.

Wishing you all a happy and blessed holiday.   Van

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Breaking Fast

Cold breakfast cereal, gone soggy in milk. It was the family breakfast of choice; convenient, mostly economical, but never appealing.

The one exception for me was Grape-Nuts, which contains no grapes or nuts.

The name came from Charles William Post, a patient at the health sanatorium in Battle Creek, Michigan owned by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, a man who promoted his grain-based diet as a way to combat digestive issues that drew the mostly meat-eating society to his clinic.

The original cold breakfast cereal, called Granula, was invented in 1863 by a man named Dr. James Caleb Jackson from New York.

His recipe required an overnight soak to make the bran nuggets chewable, creating a product that was never tasty or well received.

A short time later, Dr. Kellogg developed a much-improved cereal product and renamed it Granola, changing just one letter to avoid a lawsuit. When they accidentally discovered that sheets of processed wheat and corn left unattended overnight would flake easily, Corn Flakes were born.

Dr. Kellogg wanted to keep his cereal secret to himself, reserving the new grain form for his wealthy clinic patients. ***

His brother, Will Keith Kellogg, had a different idea.

He bought out his brother’s cereal patents, and with brilliant marketing techniques, expanded the business into the breakfast empire known as Kellogg’s of Battle Creek.

In 1893, Mr. Post entered Dr. Kellogg’s Sanatorium to recover from a nervous breakdown.

On returning home, he invented his own version of a granola product, naming it Grape-Nuts for the nutty consistency, and the “grape sugar” that was produced in the baking process.

He began to market Grape-Nuts as a “brain food”, and extolled the benefits of daily consumption.

Quaker and Ralston Purina both entered the fierce competition for the family breakfast dollar.

Generations of children took great joy in sending those saved box tops to Battle Creek, Michigan. The prizes weren’t so special, but the process was. And an industry flourished.

A century later, those prepared cereals occupy some of the busiest shelves in our modern supermarket.


*** A 1994 film called “The Road to Wellville” took a comic look at some of the eccentricities attributed to Dr. John Kellogg at his famed clinic, with the lead role played by Anthony Hopkins.


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Monopoly Update

Photo. Washington Post.

A dinosaur, a penguin and a rubber ducky.

Millions of voters in 100 countries were surveyed, and Hasbro has announced that 3 new tokens will be featured in the August 2017 edition.

The original plan was to replace the thimble. The survey revealed that the boot and the wheelbarrow were also unpopular, and had to go.

The more modern suggestions of a hashtag, cell phone, emoji of Mr. Monopoly did not poll well.

Our country’s leaders cannot claim a victory over health care this weekend, but Monopoly fans have spoken, and have been heard.

Just thought you might want to know.

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When Doves Cry

Heading out on the first day of Spring, I came upon a pair of birds at an intersection near home. They would not budge. They almost stared into my windshield as I approached. I ended up going around them.

Photo credit. Sequoia Hughes.

I had to look them up. They were Mourning Doves, male and female. Since doves mate for life, I took it as a good sign.

There is an ancient practice called Ornithomancy, used by Greeks and Romans to identify omens associated with bird sightings. One legend associated the first bird seen on Valentine’s Day as a forecast for the type of soul mate you could expect.

A few examples:

Bluebird: They like to make people laugh, e.g. a comedian or clown.

Duck: Your relationship will be homey and stable.

Sparrow: They work with the land, e.g. a farmer or geologist.

Dove: Your marriage will be happy.

Canary: They’re involved in healing, e.g. a doctor or masseuse.

Turkey: They love nature and are passionate about the environment.

Swan: They’re creative, e.g. a writer or dancer.

Eagle: They will be powerful, maybe even a bully, e.g. politicians, business leaders.

Blackbird: They will have great kindness, spirituality, charity.

Goldfinch: The yellow color reflects wealth.

Not sure how accurate these forecasts turned out to be for most ancient couples, but it was an interesting find.

And if I had better luck with Youtube videos, I’d include my favorite Prince song here, “When Doves Cry”.

Have a wonderful Spring.


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