Category: The Hodge Podge

The Charcuterie Board

When you hear that word – charcuterie – do you start getting nervous?

I see pictures of all of these boards for meat and cheese or hot chocolate or roasting marshmallows.

And I get charcuterie-paralysis.

What do I put on it? What cheese should I put on it? Salami or Pastrami? Fruit, no fruit?

Just the thought puts me in a stand still.

Until this past Thanksgiving.

I decided to just do it.

The kids love salami, so I had my husband buy salami. I enjoy goat cheese, so I had him buy two small packs of goat cheese. We had a berry jam and apricot jam so Iput them in small dishes. My mother bought crackers and regular cheese. There were grapes in the house and cherry tomatoes.

That’s when I grabbed a beautiful wooden board and put it on the counter. I filled it with crackers, cheddar cheese, cheddar jack cheese, a small plate with goat cheese, salami, crackers, grapes, and cherry tomatoes. I made sure to have little knives and little spoons. Then, I had to continuously refill the board.

Surprisingly enough, I was the only one who ate the grapes and tomatoes.

After making the charcuterie board, I wondered why I had never done this before. Everyone tried it. They put jam on cracker and cheese. They mixed cheese with the Salami. They ate just salami.

So have you made a charcuterie board? Was it successful? Share your pictures in the comments.


Wookie Blondies

It’s Christmas. Which means cookie making.

But this year is a little different.

I am on strict orders to stay off my feet as much as possible. This makes cookie making a tough feat with doing the drops and taking pans back and forth to the oven, getting cookies off of the pans, and guarding them from roaming marauding cookie eaters – i.e. the husband and teenaged son.

So this years I decided to make my favorite Christmas cookie – the Wookie Cookie from a Star Wars cookbook – into a bar. And to ensure there would be enough to fit onto a cookie sheet, I combined my recipe with a blondie recipe. The sweetness of the Blondie combined with the cinnamon, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and milk chocolate chips seemed like a good idea.

Oh, and it was.

The blondies are made with brown sugar for a butterscotch-y richness. The cinnamon adds depth of flavor. The two types of chips are simply decadent. When I make this again, I am thinking of adding pecan or walnut bits to offset the richness and give the cookie a little more crunch.

Try the recipe and tell me what you think.

Wookie Blondies

1 cup butter – soft or melted

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs (room temp if you want)

2 t vanilla

2 1/4 cup flour

2 t cornstarch

1/2 t baking powder

1 t salt

1 t cinnamon (add more if your really like cinnamon)

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup milk chocolate chips


Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Start with butter and brown sugar, mix till smooth

add eggs, stir

add vanilla, stir

add salt, cornstarch, baking powder, and cinnamon, then stir

add chips, stir

add flour. stir

spray or place parchment paper on your cookie sheet

spread mixture onto your pan, making sure every corner is filled

Bake for about 25-30 mins. (mine were good at the 25 min mark but everyone’s oven is different.)

Cool, cut, enjoy!

Mkae sure to comment below how your version of the Wookie Blondie turned out

The Dress

Today, I thought I would write about the dress.

Yep, that dress.

The one that Tiffany Trump wore at her wedding that was truly spectacular.

I loved the classis square neckline, the fitted bodice, the A-line skirt, and the long, luscious train.

Then there was the fabric – satiny, shiny, beaded.

It was elegant. The bride looked like a princess.

As she should. And when we see her happy face, it makes one wonder if she was able to forget the family drama all around her.

The sister who wore a crop top at the rehearsal dinner. The sister in-law who wore some silver thing that wasn’t quite in the pastel vibe as the rest of the wedding party. The fiancee of her brother who wore black. The step-mother who wore off-white.

Well, at least her mother was beautiful in a pastel purple.

But forget all that. Let’s allow Tiffany to be known as a beautiful bride because she was. Mar-a-Lago was filled with flowers, music, food, and a little magic. She and her groom looked happy together. And soon they will settle into a new life together. She is a beautiful bride and perhaps the most renown for right now.

After the Biden grand-daughter gets married on the South lawn of the White House, we will be getting new pictures of a beautiful bride.

I hope her dress is just as magical as Tiffany’s.

Note: See pictures of Tifany’s two wedding dresses at the Hello Magazine website. My efforts to save a picture of the dress were futile.

Banning Girls Who Code

Some stories get my goat, especially when it is about banning books. .

I wonder what people are thinking when they act out. I wonder if they even vetted the book they are trying to ban.

A few weeks ago I was watching Ari Velshi’s Banned Book Club on his Saturday morning show on MSNBC. And he began talking about the Girls Who Code series. It is aimed at middle school girls who are in a club to learn how to create code that can make new apps for computers or mobile devices.

Think of it as a new version of the Babysitter’s Club.

We have five girls who have become friends because of this club. Each girl has a separate interest outside of coding such as fashion, sports, and performing.

Each girl has a different ethnic identity. Christian, Jewish, Muslim. White, black, Hispanic, Afghanistan.

I read Spotlight on the Coding Club, book 4 in the series. In this book, the girls are getting a code together so their school’s Talent Show. Each act has to make a video of their performance and the coding club is developing an app so that students can vote on each act to determine the top three act.

Each book focuses on one of the girls; this time it is Erin who has a big secret. She has anxiety. And the thing she doesn’t want to mention to anyone is that she has had an anxiety attack in a long time – till just recently. She is worried about her father is on active duty somewhere in the middle east or central Asia or somewhere in the world.

While clubs have kept Erin busy in the past and able to control her anxiety, this time she is having a harder time. And her response is to take on more projects. Well, you can see where this is going. Each girl tries to have her own act, each girl tries to do something for the app but don’t have the time.

Luckily, Erin has good friends and parents who want the best for her. It takes her awhile to trust in them. But as you can imagine, all works out in the end. Does Erin’s entry win at the talent show? Well you’ll just have to read it to find out.

So what could groups such as Moms for Liberty find wrong in this book? I mean it’s about girls who like coding to create bits and pieces of programming for apps. Some people think its because the books give girls the idea that this could be a profession for them. Or it might be the acceptance of girls of all backgrounds. Or it could be that anyone who is different is not ostracized.

The girls like and appreciate their differences, even though their problems seem to transcend all of those factors. Each girl has a worry that any of have had or could have.

I think these groups focus on the fact that one of the girls is gay. In the book I read, it is not a focal point. What happens is our main character figures out that her friend has a crush on another girl and encourages her friend to talk to that person. And then it is pretty much done.

We go back to Erin’s anxiety and her role in the club and group of friends. And she is lucky to have friends who try to help her and support her as they learn about her issues. We get to enjoy all of these girls while learning that coding takes time and requires constant testing to make sure you get it right.

Perhaps Moms for Liberty don’t like this normalizing of the strange and different. Perhaps they fear their children will turn gay reading this. I have no idea what their beef if because they don’t share it or deny that they had anything to do with getting this book series banned. What I d know is that they sy they are for giving parents the right to choose what their children are reading.

But they want to determine what all kids read and my choices for my kids be damned. It doesn’t matter that I want my kids to read about different kids dealing with situations they are dealing with – peer pressure, new emotions (love), anxiety and worries, fitting in at school. I want my kids to know there are all sorts of people in this world. Just because those people are not straight, white, Christians doesn’t make them bad, it just makes them different from being straight, white christian individuals.

That strange thing is that we are seeing these banning efforts not taking hold. Fewer than 1% of parents in Florida have signed up for programs demanding their children NOT read certain books. In Virginia, Governor Glenn Youngkin closed down his hotline for people to report incidents of CRT teaching because they were not getting calls about that.

It makes me wonder this: If so few people want to ban books or ban teachers from teaching various subjects, why are we allowing them to dominate the discussion?

1. The Mask Lawsuit

During the Pandemic Bailey filed a lawsuit against the State (Pritzker) to have the mask mandate removed. Bailey believed he was saving the entire state from a mandate he felt was unlawful. However, the judge deemed that Bailey’s lawsuit was justified – for Bailey only. This lawsuit would not apply to the rest of the state.

If a person fails his objective in such an epic manner, he has made some bad decisions either in going through with the lawsuit or picking lawyers to go through with the lawsuit. If you cannot make good decisions regarding a lawsuit to get a mask mandate removed for all, how do you expect us to believe that you can run a multi-billion dollar economy?

2. Abortion

Bailey is in favor of making abortion illegal in Illinois with no exceptions. We have seen how this works in other states that have outlawed abortions.

Women who are having miscarriages cannot get the care they need because their doctors don’t want to be prosecuted for performing an abortion.

Women who are having ectopic pregnancies cannot get needed healthcare because their doctors are afraid of being prosecuted for performing an abortion.

Women in need of Rheumatoid Arthritis medication are being denied their medication because one of the side effects is miscarriage of pregnancies.

If there is no regard for women’s healthcare, that women are turned into suspects because their bodies fail to carry a pregnancy (which happens in 1/3 of all pregnancies), is outlawing abortion a good idea? If making this man our governor makes it more dangerous for women to get their healthcare needs taken care of during their fertile years, why are we voting for this man?

3. Donald Trump

This man supports Donald Trump, a man who lost the 2020 election but refused to publicly acknowledge it. For months before the 2020 election, Trump stated if he lost then that meant there were voting irregularities. However, 60+ court cases and republican-led voting audits not only did not find more votes for Trump, they did find more votes for Biden.

Now Bailey is stating that he loses, he believes it will be due to voting irregularities. And he plans to have 6000 poll watchers on election day to make sure all goes well. All this is a page out of the Trump playbook. Does he plan to have fake electors as well?

4. Highland Park 4th of July Shooting

I had forgotten about this incident until I saw a political commercial today. Within hours of the shooting at the 4th of July parade in Highland Park, Bailey appeared upset that the parade he was going to be in had been cancelled. He tried to sound calm as he expressed sympathy and concern for the people of Highland Park. But then he stated that we need to get over the events earlier in the day and celebrate our country’s birthday. Yep, he said that on the same day, minutes after expressing sympathy. I heard him say this. Tone deaf much? Unable to actually express sympathy without moving away from his policies is inexcusable. Will he continue such behavior as governor?

5. What has he actually accomplished in the State house? I have seen many, many commercials from Bailey’s campaign. I have heard people talk about his farm experience showing he knows how to work. I have seen his commercials against Pritzker, striking fear about mis-interpreted laws bringing more violence and crime into our lives. I have seen Pritzker ads showing Bailey’s views on abortion and the no-votes for bills that would have help first responders and women dealing with domestic violence.  I have not heard a single commercial touting what he has done that is good for the state.

6. Bailey hates Chicago and has never hidden his feelings. But now he is renting an apartment in the former John Hancock building on the Magnificent Mile because he wants to get to know the city. What he does not realize is that every neighborhood is like a small town. Each neighborhood has its own flavor and dangers. Does he think that working class through upper-middle class Chicagoans are going to be fooled by this stunt? We all know that what he is signifying is that he will be available to the power brokers of the city because he has a place in the city. Until I see him actually visiting the best and the worst neighborhoods of Chicago, this feels like a stunt to me.

7. Pritzker may not be perfect, but he has been a good leader for the state. Our bond rating has improved. He is working at the deficit governors on both sides of the aisles built. And during the Pandemic, he was willing to make tough decisions. Even when that meant going against the President who was hell bent on denying the virus even as it killed tens of thousands of people.

Both men are rich although Pritzker is super rich.  I will take a productive blowhard like Pritzker over an unproductive blowhard like Bailey. This is a man who criticized Biden for giving handouts but took a PPP loan of $231K, and then gave $150K to his campaign a few weeks later while claiming a big loss on his taxes. ( And we are supposed to believe he is a simple farmer who knows the value of hard work.

These are the reasons why I am voting my conscious and not voting for Darren Bailey to become the next governor of Illinois..

Jumping into the Mosh Pit

Jumping into the Mosh Pit

Two of my sons are in bands. They love Punk and Screamo and Heavy Metal. Their music is filled with hard driving bass lines and pounding drums and solid guitar work.

It is not always my favorite music, especially when the F-word is tossed around carelessly. Use that mo-fo for its full effect to shock and disturb by sparingly using it.

But I digress.

The thing that always seems to happen at their concerts is The Mosh Pit.

You know what it is – a bunch of young people slamming into each other with all their might.

Image from Stolen Space Gallery

I watch my sons and their friends pound into each other. Sometimes the girlfriends join in as well. I see them working out anxiety and frustration and fear. Whatever that is going on in their lives, in their minds, that causes this frustration can be expressed. And released. Its not sexual touch but emotional touch. One of camaraderie and knowing that the other person knows its not about vengeance.

In the next moment, they smile and laugh with each other. They help each other up and glory in the pounding they just took. They are not here to literally beat the crap out of each other. It is that need to touch in the most masculine way possible.

It reminds me of the movie Crash, in which car accidents happened constantly for no apparent reason. And yet, it is stated that people crash into each other because they want connection. Even if it was a negative connection. Reminds me of kids wo act out in bad ways to get attention because negative attention is better than no attention.

A part of me wants to join in. I mean this nearly 60-year-old wants to ram just as hard as these guys. I want to release these emotions and frustrations of life along with these young people. I see myself doing it.

But I don’t. Or, more truthfully, I can’t. As a diabetic, I know I could get a serious injury to my feet. I know I could get bruised or injured that won’t heal quickly. I have doctors who would hit me upside the head for such reckless behavior.

So I watch from the sidelines; far enough away that no one will slam onto my feet and cause injury. I smile at them and enjoy their laughter. All the while, wishing I could slam into the group as hard as I can.

Digging up Family History

As I have gotten older, family history has become important to me.

My free time lately has been filled with searching for family names and finding birth and death dates. I put in names in google and see where it leads me.

Next up will have to be ordering death certificates my mother already does not have in her collection. I would like to see if I can find pictures.

I am trying to avoid having to sign up for a paid site. But they seem to have more information that I can use. I can find some family members but a Thomas Proctor, a great-great-great uncle, born in 1850 while the family was still in England has been difficult. His widow and sons are on the 1920 census living with my great-great grandfather.

Next up, I plan do one of those DNA tests. A cousin did hers on Ancestry and said it was easy. After that I would like to set up my own family tree so that my kids can have the information – should they ever want it.

In the meantime, I am using the information I do have. The other day I spent a part of my day in a cemetery looking for gravestones. I had called the cemetery staff looking for a possible location. While they told me the lot number, I never found lot number markers.

So I did what I could, knowing that my great-great grandparents died in the late part of the 1800s. I found myself in the part of the cemetery that held the founders of the town. It took me awhile but I hit pay dirt. As I walked around with a car snow brush in hand, I uncovered a number of grave markers that looked as if they could be from the right time period.

It helps to know a little history on cemetery markers. Such as granite would not start being used till the mid-1900s. And families, especially those of some wealth would have obelisks as a family marker. The taller the obelisk, the wealthier the family.

No, I didn’t find my great-great grandparents. I found my great-great-great grandparents, the ones who came from England and helped settle the town of Arlington Heights in the Midwest. It appears I come from pioneer stock.

All of these commercials about finding your history are meant to make one curious, meant to make you wonder just where did you come from. Was your ancestor a good person or a not-so-good person. It makes you wonder where certain health issues start, such as my rosacea.

I remember when the genealogy for Barack Obama came out and there was a scoundrel somewhere in the family tree. It was also found that his mother’s family came from the second boat to arrive at Plymouth. When you go back far enough, you find the good, the bad, the incredibly ridiculous and incredibly boring.

Well, I am looking forward to finding out more of my family tree. After that, I can go farther to those British and Polish records. Eventually.

Sarah Proctor 1833-1900
Thomas Proctor 1827 -1897

The Rowling Paradox

It is no secret that I have been a Harry Potter/J K Rowling fan for a long time. to be honest it was when my oldest son brought home the first book.

I loved the series about a boy who is destined for the ultimate battle with the ultimate bad guy.

Harry was an inspiration. J K Rowling was an inspiration. She became the writer I wanted to be. Her world building was incredible with names coming from flowers and the stars and long ago forgotten British history.

I found the books to be allegories of WWII with camps and people disappearing and might is right type slogans from the Grindelwald era. I saw bureaucrats taking advantage of Voldemort’s shadow government doing their best to write laws against anything that went against their beliefs of what was the right and proper order of the world. Except that order meant pure magical humans and none of those pesky half blood magic peoples.

These stories always seemed to me to be about tolerance, about finding the good in people, accepting others for their differences. That people are who they are not because of their magical lineage but because of the choices they make in life. Dumbledore repeatedly said that to Harry.

So to hear that J K was making anti-trans statements was jaw-dropping. People in my life who were Potter fans are giving it up in order to not give more money to JK.

And I get their feelings. The tweets I saw in a Glamor article ( did not put JK in a good light.

So she does not think trans medications or surgeries are a good thing? Act as if trans people are not real or their emotions are invalid? I hope she realizes who this makes her look like.

The problem is that these statements appear to be the exact antitheses to everything we ever learned in Harry Potter. That we need to judge a person by their character, by their actions and not the characteristics they cannot control. Rowling has made some choices that show her character and it’s not what you expected.

Suddenly, she is this hateful, prejudiced person against a small group who have made a choice of their sex, not sexual orientation. This is not something anyone does lightly, it does not happen willy-nilly.

With each new revelation, I have to re-work my feelings about JK. And it’s hard because I want to believe in the world she tried to create. A world that could live in harmony if people tried, if people saw the hypocrisy and hatred that lies beneath their souls and worked to change their hearts.

The truth is we will never be freed of Voldermorts, Bertha LeStranges, and Delores Umbridges. There will always be people who think they are better than others and try to make laws to subjugate those people they consider their lessers. There will always be people who are destructive for destruction sake. There will always be people who seek a purity of race that they themselves do not possess.

What I don’t think JK has considered is that she is becoming the worst of her creations , Delores Umbridge. She appears to want to bring clarification about what she feels is a dangerous medical course of action. But her words become a mess of misogamy without a shred of medical evidence.

What is a fan to do?

Well, this fan is keeping her books. And enjoying the memories associated with the Wizarding World. But no longer am I a fan of Rowling. Sorry Jo, but you get no more of my money. I will learn to deal with the cognitive dissonance that I feel towards Jo and what she created which was the best part of her.

And with any luck, Jo, you could come back to your senses and live the example your books have given all of us.

The Coffee Treat

Have you ever heard of the Lipstick Effect?

It is one of those weird little theories that states consumers will continue to buy little luxuries during times of economic stress such as recessions or downturns. Things like lipstick that doesn’t cost a lot but makes us feel good.

But for nearly the last two years, we have been living in a world where masks are a normal part of life and lipstick is not. I have not bought a new lipstick in all of that time although I have purchased chapstick. No one is going to see that.

Every week, it seems that something is the new ‘must-buy’ item at the store. Ice cream, cake mixes, flour, sugar. one time I went for coffee creamer and the shelf was nearly completely empty.

Once my workplace opened back up, I noticed something interesting. The Dunkin Donuts I passed by had a line, a long line. And it happened nearly every day. And at nearly every Dunkin or Starbucks I passed during my various travels.

I have been back in my office for a year and a half. And those lines are still long. I thought people would have moved on, found a different thing to focus on. But week after week, the lines don’t stop. One time I pulled in for an afternoon treat when there was not a line. Within minutes, there were three cars behind me.

And why not?

It’s not pink frosted or a Boston Cream but it will do.

For $5.00 it is possible to get a flavored coffee with cream, sugar, and whipped cream with a lovely sweet treat that involves flour, sugar, and hot oil. It’s a little bit of heaven during a rough period that no one would have ever believed would have lasted this long. Not only that, we can do it from our cars. Drive up, make an order, pay, and move on.

Do I have any scientific evidence to back this up? Not a bit. My theory comes from constant observation as I drive around my community.

But with the Lipstick Effect as my guide, I believe that instead of rewarding or treating ourselves to lipstick, we are now getting a coffee and donut to go. Does it last as long as that tube of lipstick?

We all know the answer to that.

But for those few minutes of caffiene and sugar, it feels worth it.

What are you listening to?

During this pandemic time, I have been stressed.

Like so many others, I have days where I cannot concentrate despite having piles of work to get done. Some might call this ADHD, anxiety, or laziness.

I call it a pain in the ass.

The truth is, I want to get work done. I want my piles to go away and become organized. I try to look at every day as an opportunity to be better. And on those days when I am feeling really stressed, I find something on Youtube to play in the background.

At first I was listening to classical music meant for reading. Later I found music with titles stating that you’re in a library with a ghost or Hogwarts’ Hallway. These can be very soothing as I do data processing or number crunching,

But some days, I have too many people milling about me. Have music on makes the chaos around me worse. People want me to pay attention to them. (Imagine that!)

But I still need some sort of sound because I have tinnitus. The sound makes the tinnitus less overwhelming.

That’s were Handsome Nature, a Youtube channel, comes to the rescue. The folks at this channel put down some bird seed, set up their camera, and let the wildlife come. So you can watch birds and squirrels and chipmunks eat seeds. You can listen to their chirps and songs.

Picture by Floppy 2009

I find it incredibly relaxing. My productivity has gone up. I just feel better.

And when people come into this shared space, I don’t feel more stressed. The sound manages to become pleasant background. And when everyone leaves I can go back to my happy place while getting tons of work completed.

Give it a try. Your cat might love it, too.