When Cometh Time

No additional words from me needed…

commonsensiblyspeaking



~~~

When cometh time, that I am dead

Lookest not for my earthly grave

To tread the mound o’er fallen head

Shed the tears thou wouldst not save

For tis not there, my spirit lie

I am the wind that passes by

~~~

Nary a stone will marketh lot

Whenst my time has ticked its last

Nor daisies resting, where I am not

With thou sorrow and sadness cast

Soul unbound in deathly call

I am the rains that lightly fall

~~~

Seek me not in hallowed spaces

Hold still the words that cometh late

Find me in the common places

Should final rest behold fatal fate

Ne’er the grave will e’er be mine

I am the sun that doeth bright shine

~~~

If thoust look, I can be found

And all the love I have for thee

Will not live, if laid to ground

In death it finds its…

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Politics Should Not Govern My Uterus

Good thought and research went into this blog post; I have to share it!

Marla's World

I have, until this point, managed to avoid any political discourse on my blog. For one reason: everyone in my county has suddenly become so divided that if any part of your politics does not align perfectly with theirs, they are willing to cut you out of their lives. Of course, there are exceptions to that, there always are; overall though, I am tired of people trying to attack other people for having their own beliefs and opinions.

This is my blog and my beliefs and opinions are (obviously) all the only true ones and everyone else is (clearly) wrong.

That previous statement was a lot of nonsense. This IS my blog, but I am also aware that my beliefs and opinions are NOT the only true and correct ones. They are MINE. Of course, I believe mine are right, otherwise I wouldn’t hold them, just as the person who…

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Hacks from my Happy Place – XXIII

Okay, I promised recently that I was going to share some new recipes to try, but I found this kitchen hack and I’m so excited to share it with you. In fact, this might be my favorite kitchen hack of all time (at least so far…)!

Most of you have seen or heard about how cola can clean the porcelain in your toilet bowl of stains and also clean the connections of your vehicle battery of rust and corrosion. Yet, despite that, Americans are said to consume an average of 399 servings of cola products per year. World-wide, the average drops down to 52 servings per year, which means that other people drink very little cola products to help reduce the number that Americans drink. But my point is that, besides what we know the power of some of the cola ingredients are, we still choose to ingest it.

But forget cola for a moment, because here is a hack involving ketchup. I have to admit that, when I heard of this, I was pretty cynical – the idea that ketchup and a little bit of elbow grease could clean off all of the dark stains on the bottom of our pots and pans. You know, your pan looks something like this on the bottom:

I have read various tips and hacks over the years, but I neither wanted to spend hours scrubbing away with a baking soda paste nor the expense of buying some type of cleaner that allegedly removes these stains. So, I’ve ignored the stains, telling myself that they didn’t matter because they didn’t come in contact with the food I was making inside the pan. And then I heard this hack using nothing but ketchup and stating that it took very little elbow grease to scrub it clean. Store-brand ketchup is not expensive, and I already had a scrubby on hand (the hack says SOS or Brillo, but I use a stainless steel scrubby and dish soap instead of those wasteful pads).

I decided I would document how the process went, although I expected to be able to call it a failure. My first step was to choose a pan and put masking tape on the bottom of it to divide into two sections, one I would scrub and one I wouldn’t. I applied ketchup (I probably could have used a LOT less and spread it out, but I wasn’t taking chances). When that was done, I let it set overnight since I wasn’t sure how long I was supposed to leave it.

I chose one that wasn’t terribly dirty to begin with!
I started with the dirtier side and really poured on the ketchup!

The next morning, after I’d had my coffee and done my normal routine, I decided it was time to see what happened. I put a few dots of dish soap on my scrubby, ran it quickly under water, and away I went. I spent less than 15 minutes and didn’t use any extra elbow grease but scrubbed it like I might scrub any dish with dried-on food. This was the result:

Um… wow! It actually worked!

Well, seeing that result, I had no choice but to do the rest of the pan. And when I was done with that, this is what I ended up with:

I’m still astonished!

Needless to say, I will be doing this to each of my pans the next time I use each one and have to wash it (I’ve done another one already). So far, the two I’ve done have used up about 5 ounces of a 12-ounce bottle of store-brand ketchup for which I paid $1.27, and I suspect my scrubby will last me until I’m done with all of my pans, and it was one of a 2-pack for which I paid a dollar at Dollar Tree (before the price increase).

I keep my pots and pans out of view when I’m not using them, but if you have them on display somewhere, hanging from a rack over and island or on walls, this is really something you want to try sooner than later!

I get a big grin on my face every time I use one of the two I’ve already cleaned, having to turn them over and admire their shine before beginning to start my actual food prep.

I guess sometimes it doesn’t take much to make me happy!

Technology

I have a love/hate relationship with technology. Unless you are a computer genius (I was nice and didn’t say “geek”, but I did think it!), you probably have a similar relationship with it.

The “hate” part of my relationship with technology is simply the fact that I have no idea how it works, thus no idea what to do when it isn’t working, or at least isn’t working correctly. I’ve had a number of laptops crap out on me, usually at around the 4-year mark, and the one thing I have learned from that is to routinely use a flash drive to back up any files I have on my desktop. I’m very alert to things from unknown sources who want me to click on some link, and these make it faster into my spam file than the time it takes me to inhale and exhale one breath. I’m really good at only going to websites that I know and trust; if I do see something for a website I’m not familiar with, I always do a search for the name rather than click on any provided link. Still, no matter how attentive and careful I am, I know that somewhere down the line, there is a pretty good chance I’m going to be buying another laptop. (I don’t want to jinx myself, but I’ve had this one more than 4 years and have had no issues – yet.)

The “love” part of my relationship with technology is far stronger than its hate counterpart. I mean, I wouldn’t trade the efficient way tasks can be done using technology. I won’t say I’m old, but I can remember when electric typewriters were introduced during my high-school years, and we were thrilled at how much faster we could put words on paper than with a manual one. Of course, there were still issues with how to correct a typecast error, starting with smudging the paper using a pencil eraser. I was pretty satisfied when we got to Wite-Out, although it could be messy, and totally wowed when we got the corrector tape unit that contained correction tape that you simply swiped over what you wanted to erase.

And when phones came out with buttons to push instead of dial to enter the phone number you wanted to call, that saved a lot of time, especially if you entered a wrong number and had to hang-up your call and start again. Answering machines were the bomb-dot-com because you didn’t have to answer the phone to find out what someone was calling you about! Speed-dialing meant we could program certain numbers we called often into our phones so we didn’t even have to dial each digit anymore. And heck, now you just vocally tell your phone who you want to call and it just happens!

We complain about the work ethic of the younger members of our work force, who want to do as little as possible and get paid as much as possible for it. I worked in a grocery store back in the days that the words “bar” and “code” were never used together. We rang in each item according to the price sticker on it via big buttons on a register. We had to know about the different departments (produce, meat, dairy, general grocery) and which items were and weren’t taxable so we could tally them accordingly. We hit a sub-total button and told the customer the amount. Groceries were paid for either by cash or by check. If it was cash, we used our brains to count out the amount of change that was due, not having a machine tell us. And we counted it back out to the customer rather then tell them the total change they were due.

And damnit, I learned geometry, algebra and calculus in high school via math done by hand. I’ve been out of high school 48 years, and I have NEVER used any of those maths, but I managed to eke through them without some form of electronics to do the math for me! I learned how to print and how to write because texting and computers didn’t exist. Students today can seemingly master anything they want to simply by knowing how to use technology to provide them the answers of how to get to the mastery level.

What I perceive to be the biggest problem with being so attached to electronic gadgets is that we no longer really trust ourselves to be able to find a solution to something on our own. In a sense, we consider the human race to be mediocre at intelligence without an electronic gadget nearby to either at least validate what we thought was right or to tell us what is right when we are wrong. Do we ever wonder how the Colosseum or the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty managed to be built without having an electronic source figure out what to do next and inform us?

The Green-Eyed Monster

It is my opinion that people, in general, use the words “envy” and “jealousy” interchangeably, and I see them as two very different words that come from the same ‘root’.

For me, envy is when you see something a person has, tangible or intangible, and wish you had one of your own. But jealousy, for me, is when you see something someone has and want to have that very thing for yourself, even if it means taking it away from the person who has it.

It was typical in my high school years to see jealousy in action. We all had our crushes, and we were jealous of the people who were ‘with’ the person we wanted for our own. And yes, things were often done, some not even subtle, to try and steal our crush away from someone else. In that context, I can honestly say that I was never jealous. I would be envious of the high-school romances that were played out in front of me, but simply wished I could have a romance like that. I didn’t want that person.

I can be envious of someone who has a great marriage I wish I could have, but I’m not jealous because I have no desire to take it away from him/her. I envy people who have confidence because I often do not, but I would never want to take it away from them so I could have it for myself instead.

I’m not following the many places I’ve researched that state that envy is as evil as jealousy. I suppose it can be, if the action from feeling it is hateful, but for me, it is actually an inspiration. If I see something that someone has that I want, I am envious that they already mastered what was needed to achieve having it, but it signals to me that I need to look intently about how to achieve the same result in my own life and if I’m willing to take the steps to do so.

My dad and his wife at the time of his death were once married to siblings. My dad was married to my mom, of course, but his wife was married to my mom’s brother. Both were married for a long time to their previous spouses before becoming widowed, and both couples were very close, spent time together, went on trips together, etc., and everybody got along. Yet, after my dad and his last wife were married, I was present at times when their jealousy showed by comments they made. My dad was jealous that a small 5 x 7 photo of his wife and her previous family, including husband, children and stepchildren, was in a frame on a shelf in the den. He didn’t like that a photo of her previous spouse was displayed in the home that he and she had bought and were sharing. His wife was jealous because the table in their kitchen nook had belonged to my parents together and she wanted to replace it simply because it has once been my mom’s. Both of them were jealous about each other’s previous spouses. How crazy is that?

I recall only being truly jealous one time in my life. I was dating a guy and we hung out in our town’s version of “Cheers” (where everybody knows your name). One of the female regulars decided, even knowing we were a couple, to flirt with my guy and come on really strong. He wasn’t rude to her, but he didn’t take the bait either. At last call, when all of us were leaving, she walked up to us at the door, looked at my guy, leaned her entire body into his, and said something like “I can fulfill you so much more than she ever will”. When we got outside and she went towards her car, I looked at my guy and said something like “If I had a gun right now, I’d shoot her in the back from here”. And honestly, in that moment, I felt like I would have had I had the opportunity. That is the only time I recall being jealous in a relationship.

On the other hand, I am always envious. That comes from my insecurity but also comes from some anger towards myself for some of the choices I’d made along my lifeline. My best friend and her family bought a double wide mobile home already established in a location and had money and means to renovate/update every room in the place (expect maybe the laundry room?). I’m envious of that because it has a kitchen where I can imagine spending many, many hours of happiness. It has two bedrooms and two baths, again, all updated and new carpet throughout. They have their own driveway which can hold two cars. They have a deck space on one side where they can enjoy the outdoors. They have central air and heat. Meanwhile, I am living in my apartment with one tiny bathroom, an also very tiny kitchen, a place so old that I don’t even have a breaker box but still have a fuse box. I had to purchase the two window A/C units that I use. The second bedroom houses an entire shelving unit with all of the extra pots and pans and appliances I can’t begin to fit into my kitchen cupboards. A second shelving unit holds what most people would store in a linen closet, as well as things like trash bags, extra boxes of tissues, the big box of coffee pods I get from Amazon, etc. I have two very small closets, one in each bedroom, and so totes filled with things like Christmas tree ornaments and seasonal door decorations and such, sit against the wall next to the closet. But here’s the thing – – I may be envious of what they have, but I don’t in any way begrudge them the right to have it or want to take it from them.

My brother is someone who truly lives in the moment. What happened in his past may not have great memories attached, but he’s able to compartmentalize that as his past. He doesn’t worry about the future, not even the tomorrow, but truly lives his life daily making decisions for only that day. I am terrified even thinking about not having some sense of what I want my future to be and tend to try and always have a plan – and often a back-up plan or two – in case something unexpected pops up tomorrow, or next week, or next month… I am envious of my brother’s ability to not give tomorrow any thought until it gets here. That sounds freeing and liberating in a way I can’t even begin to imagine how it would feel. And yet, if I lived that way and things came crashing down around me tomorrow, or next week, or next month, the panic it would serve me would focus inward and I’d tell myself that was what I got for living so in the moment that I wasn’t prepared for the next moment when it came. I’m still very envious that he can live that way and truly live each moment as it happens, but I’m terrified of living that way as well. And so, I am in no way jealous of his ability because I wouldn’t want that ability, but I am envious of the moments of life I miss because I often look ahead towards what’s next.

So please, if I ever tell you I’m envious, don’t mistake it for jealousy. I don’t want to take what you have from you and make it mine instead of yours. But I suspect there will come many, many more times that I will be envious of what you have. Being envious allows me the right to look at myself and say to that same self, “If you would have done this instead of that, you might be able to have that, too” and realize I made the decisions in my past and present (and future) which put me where I am and I find no fault with anyone but me.

Whatever you have, you can trust that I have no desire to take it away from you.

If You’ve Ever Loved a Married Man…

… written by one who did… and damnit, still does…

If this statement surprises you, trust me, it surprises me that I’m sharing it with you. It would be expected for me to feel some shame over this, I suppose, but I don’t really feel shame. I never thought of myself as a homewrecker, in fact, was never interested in stealing a man away from a woman to whom he was married. I didn’t look to only be involved with a married man, and I had plenty of relationships with single men as well. Also, I’ve been married and divorced twice, and at no time did I ever cheat on either of my spouses. I wasn’t the one breaking vows to another, so I had no guilt I felt I needed to carry.

In a recent conversation with my brother, while I don’t remember exactly what it was we were conversing about other than romantic relationships, I remember opening my mouth and that I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop any time I was in a relationship. In other words, I always believed that the relationship would end. While I’ve probably always known this about myself, it was never as a conscious thought. The truth is, I have always felt unworthy of having anyone love me, of having anyone in my life willing to accept my bads, which far outweigh my goods. I honestly believed that, if I was in the relationship long enough, that person would begin to find out all of the ‘unlovable’ things there were to know about me and decide that they were too much to handle and end the relationship. Looking back, I realize clearly now all of the ways I chose to act to sabotage the relationship, so that I could, in essence, have some control over when it would end, because I 100% believed that it would, indeed, end.

I’m writing this and find myself feeling so sad for the person who is writing these words. How awful it must be to have such a low opinion of oneself to feel unworthy of being loved. Logical me questions what had to happen in that person’s life to make him/her feel that way, and logical me has no answer to that question.

From that, I begin to understand that, while I didn’t seek out married people to be in a relationship with, being in a relationship with a married person allowed me to be “let off the hook”. In essence, this person was choosing, consciously, to cheat on his vows to another, and so whatever ugly stuff I brought to the table in the relationship, I wasn’t the only one with ugly stuff in the relationship. I also understand now that, when involved with a married man, it wasn’t going to be a relationship in which we spent a lot of time together, and I could be at my best for periods of time – in other words, wear the infamous mask over my authentic self because it wasn’t going to be a permanent fixture. In exchange for my companionship at times, I would receive enough affection and attention to fill my loneliness at that moment, and those happy moments would play over and over again in my head so that they could sustain me in the times when he couldn’t be available to me.

I won’t count how many married men I’ve been in some kind of a relationship with. (I’m not sure I know an accurate count, so let’s just settle on ‘quite a few’.) Some were nothing more than the ‘friends with benefits’ type of relationships. Some were with more local men, some were with men who lived away from the area but traveled through the area on a regular basis. And, oddly enough, even though logic told me I had every right to have multiple relationships like this at the same time, I was always monogamous.

I have not loved every married man I’ve known in a more intimate mental and physical nature. I have truly liked each and every one of them. These were not the “one-night stand” kind of events. Some were shorter-term relationships; some went on for a year or more. A few of them went on for several years, and with two I thought I was in love and with the last one, I deeply loved this man, and I was truly broken emotionally when it ended. So broken that I have never dated or became ‘friends with benefits’ with anyone since then, because even though we’ve been apart for about 16 years, and even though I don’t even know if he’s alive or not, he holds my heart and will do so until the day I die.

I feel like I want to explain my behavior, as I know that it’s not a behavior that society smiles upon. Obviously, my lack of ego, lack of feeling worthy enough, always, in its own subtle ways, caused me to need validation from outside myself that I was worth caring about. But I also know that, in both of my marriages, I lost myself trying to please my spouse and be everything he wanted me to be. The logistics of having an affair and having to work through schedules to be together gave me the time to be supported and cared for that I needed, but as it wasn’t permanent and there would be times between seeing each other, I had time alone to be my own person – that is, I wasn’t with that person so much that I lost myself in trying to please him.

Look, I am in no way suggesting that it’s okay, much less a good thing to be involved with a married person. When we think of the word “affair”, we automatically think of it as being a primarily sexual relationship. I was in the “early prime” of my life, so certainly, I enjoyed the sex. But in truth, I traded off the sex in exchange for getting attention and feeling cared for. And based on my experiences, I’m not sure we should automatically assume that all men who cheat are looking for only sex as well. I’ve never been intimate with a man with whom I hadn’t had many conversations about a variety of topics, and some of our meetups were specifically for that reason. I never ‘measured’ how good the relationship was by how good the sex was, but by how good the communication was.

I could probably keep writing for a long time about this subject, because I experienced a lot of this kind of relationship over quite a few years. And, to be honest, I don’t have a whole lot of regret. Those years were also the years in which I truly got to experience who I was when I wasn’t sacrificing myself to please someone else. I got the caring, attention and affection that had been absent while I was a child, absent in my first marriage, and absent in the last year of my second marriage (he would not talk to me about the dysfunction he was experiencing, and he would not touch me in any way, even a hug, for fear I might assume that his touch meant we were going to be having sex – just an FYI).

There is one other thing that I feel needs pointed out. There were, in my parent’s generation and perhaps even today, women who somehow knew their husbands were having affairs and looked the other way on purpose, women who felt that, as long as he wasn’t bringing it into their house or family, they were fine if he found it elsewhere instead of insisting them to provide.

To quote my mother, whose only advice to me, as her daughter, was “Sex is a man’s pleasure and a woman’s work.” And sadly, that was exactly what she thought and felt. If nothing else (and there was so much more), the men I chose to be intimate with taught me how to have a healthy relationship with sex.

So, I’m embarrassed suspecting how many of you may change your view of me after reading this blog post, but remember, you were warned that my genuine and authentic self was going to start having a voice. These happenings, over perhaps 10 years between husband #1 and husband #2, and a few after husband #2, had a heavy hand in shaping who I have become today. And for that, I can have no regrets.

I think this sums up exactly why I did what I did…

Random Memes – 4/7

I seriously can’t believe how quickly I can gather a quantity of memes that speak to me, or someone I know, in some way – simply by scrolling through my social media. But here is another collection:

And if you do, you’ll discover how truly unworthy I am, because that’s how I see myself.
These words made an impact on my ability to allow myself rest periods when I need them.
I can’t read this without getting teary-eyed. Forgiving one’s self is so difficult!

United – Part Deux

Way back – all the way back – to August 3, 2021, I wrote a blog post titled United and explained that the thoughts were inspired by an original song by the same name that had not yet been released to the public. I’d promised to share it with you when it was released, which was to happen on December 24th.

And yet – again – life has a way of happening while we’re busy making other plans. I only thought about it once or twice, and never at a time that I was near a keyboard to do anything more than think about it.

Russia’s attack on the Ukraine made the song more in my focus. While it was written during and inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, the lyrics can – and do – convey over into any conflict between humans.

Finally, (and thanks for being patient!) I bring to you the song ‘United’. The music and lyrics were written and performed by Dom La Ferlita, an Australian born and bred musician. I have been watching him perform live – on a streaming platform called Twitch – for 19 months, and I am totally addicted. He is a classically trained pianist with a Master’s Degree in Musical Education. He decided to branch out to explore other musical genres about two years ago, and he’s proven his talent over and over again. There is a group of loyal followers and we kid around with Dom and with each other in chat. Honestly, it’s my favorite form of socialization, and it doesn’t even force me to get dressed. There is a huge time difference between the US and Australia; to him, he streams in the evenings, to me, it’s quite early in the morning. Since I only rarely sleep in beyond oh-dark-thirty, this isn’t much of a problem for me!

I’m adding the link to this song in YouTube so you can listen to it if you choose to. Since so much of his original music is instrumental only, this song is dear to my heart as well as powerful in its message.

Enjoy!

Another Year has Come and Gone

My first post on this blog was on April 2, 2019. It’s only three years old, but they have been some of the longest years I remember. There have been, and still are, times when nothing I think I could write about is truly worth putting in print. There have been, and still are, times I want to write a blog that rants at someone(s) or something, because it’s the only place I feel safe enough to give true voice to my anger.

I’ve said it in posts several times that this blog ended up in an entirely different place than I imagined it back when I wrote my first post. It’s time for a confession of sorts – – what I wrote in the first few blogs were simply pieces I had written several years ago when I was in a relationship where I was encouraged to grow and experience, both think and feel. I wrote them almost as though I was “assigned” to task to express myself fully and without reservation. But the tasks weren’t one-sided; I possessed some professional knowledge that my partner wished to learn, so he was “assigned” tasks as well after I explained what he had to do.

The person who wrote those was in a different place in life. I’ve read back over those words multiple times and find myself sad that she got lost along the way from there to here. That experience, learning to let my thoughts become words and to be able to help another on a different kind of path, was truly one of the happiest times in my life.

I don’t think I realized that she was gone until I tried to continue to write posts. It didn’t take me long to realize that my mind doesn’t function as it did back then and I can rarely force it to. I’ve written a few posts that I am proud of, I’ve written a few posts that I am ashamed I ever made public, and most of the time, I’m writing simply for the enjoyment of writing and sharing my experiences.

As I look at numbers, I can see that I’ve averaged just over 100 posts a year. I think that puts me at the same level as many bloggers. And to be honest, I’m only counting those that I have actually published. I’ve never counted the number of posts I’ve started that ended up in the trash bin instead of published, but I’m comfortable saying I suspect it’s about 10 a year.

Anyhow, I really just wanted to say a genuine thank you to those of you who actively read what I write here, and an extra special hug to those who take time now and then to leave a comment. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know other bloggers through this site and have a good handful of those whose posts I always look forward to finding. Many of these bloggers inspire me, many make me think, some make me feel, and some are always good for a chuckle. I am honored to be among you amazing writers and humbled that you find my words worthy of reading.

April 3rd will begin my fourth year into this foray of blogging, and I have no idea what it holds in store. All I can do is promise you that I will do my best to make my posts have value of some kind when you read them and take any comments you share to heart. Thanks for going along on this crazy ride!

Hacks from my Happy Place – XXII

It’s been a long while since I wrote about my happy place. After nesting, making my usual broths and freezing them to be ready for soups and stews, back in the late fall of 2021, I just didn’t have the gumption to spend a lot of time in the kitchen trying and also creating new recipes. I’m happiest when I’m cooking to share with others – usually my brother and my bestie. My brother and I haven’t gotten together since early December 2020 because of the pandemic, and with the price of gas right now, I don’t expect we’ll be doing so for a while. And I do always share items with cabbage with my bestie, since I know she doesn’t make them.

I’m coming to realize that I don’t find pleasure in making homemade meals in the quantity of one and understanding why one-meal prepared items are the way to go.

I’ve been looking – a lot – on the internet at recipes, hoping to find ones that would inspire me to try them. So many of them require spices or ingredients that I don’t have and would have to purchase just to make this one recipe, never to be used again. I often wish that one of these TV food chefs would do a show about spices, what they taste like, and all of the ways they can be used. It doesn’t help that my bestie is lactose intolerant, and her husband is low sodium and gluten free only.

I did gather a new recipe or two there, and I also decided that it was time to clean out my recipe box. It was overflowing with pages printed and from magazines of recipes that looked interesting, but now that I don’t expect to ever cook for dinner parties and/or to impress people with my culinary skills, it became quickly obvious how many of those recipes no longer made sense to keep. I gathered up the many – and I mean many – recipes I decided not to keep and passed them on to my bestie. She surprised me by saying she kept about ten of them, since easy recipes are her way to go (keeping lactose, salt and gluten in her mind).

Of those recipes I did decide to keep, I made a promise to myself that any of them I haven’t made in the past 5 years will get made before the end of this year.

For the first time in forever, last fall I decided to make some ham with broth as well as my usual beef and chicken broths. I bought three ham shanks (not counting the one I somehow lost between the store and the car when I was with you, Brad!) and cooked them in a large pot that simmered for several hours. If you’ve ever worked with a ham shank (my grandmother called them ham hocks), there is very little meat to acquire from them, and so I also bought a couple of slices of ham and diced them up and threw in with the shanks while they cooked. I managed to get 3 quart-size zipper bags of meat and broth for the freezer. Pretty quickly I thawed one and made some ham, green beans and potatoes; it was so good that I didn’t share it! I also knew I wanted to make ham and bean soup, but I didn’t get around to doing so until recently. As I started to put the soup together, I suddenly remembered about the neighbor across the street growing up who made what she called Hunky Bean Soup. It was a recipe she learned from her Serbian ancestors. Basically, you start with your thickened ham broth, add diced potatoes but then use kidney beans instead of some kind of white bean. What makes Hunky Bean Soup so different is that you also splash in apple cider vinegar about halfway through simmering it. You add the vinegar to taste, and the longer it simmers, the milder the vinegar flavor tastes. I made some of that out of the broth I had for regular bean soup, and it was a treat!

As a side note, you thicken any broth in the same manner for which you thicken gravy. Both cornstarch and flour can be used if you make a slurry (A slurry is generally made with liquid (often water or broth) mixed with either cornstarch or flour and added to a hot liquid to thicken it. Because a slurry is a concentrated starchy liquid it will thicken sauces and gravy). My mom always made a slurry with cornstarch; I remember my grandma doing the same but with flour. A second option is to make a roux, using flour (A roux is a cooked mixture of equal parts flour and fat. When flour is cooked in fat, the fat coats the flour’s starch granules. This helps keep lumps from forming when the roux is combined with liquid such as milk or stock, yielding a silky-smooth, uniform sauce) and then adding the broth to it to thin it down to consistency.

I’ve done both, but I always use the roux option for any thickeners I’m making for a light-colored sauce. I have learned the magic trick of how to make a light-colored gravy look darker! The trick is to brown the flour! And yes, you indeed CAN brown flour! Simply add flour into a pan, enough to coat the bottom of the pan completely but not more than that (unless you want to be at your stove for a long time!). Turn the heat on to medium and place the pan on the burner. Relax, because it will take a while before both the pan and the flour will be hot enough so that the flour begins to darken. You can check it every so often by just putting a small indent into the flour to see the underneath side. Once it begins browning, stir it up and continue cooking, stirring every 15-20 minutes. Continue until you are satisfied with the darkened color of your flour. Remove from heat and use just as you would use white flour!

I don’t know if anyone other than me has the problem, but I have difficulty in baking a potato (in the oven or cheating with the microwave) that doesn’t end up hard on the bottom. I’ve loved eating the baked skins of a russet potato for as long as I remember. Whether he remembers it or not, I’d often trade the insides of my potato with my younger brother for the outside of his because I love them that much! When the skin is still nice and hot, I like putting pats of butter inside and letting it melt, then picking them up and biting into them. Yes, the butter drips down my chin, but it’s totally worth it. Anyhow, I get upset when there’s a part of the skin I can’t enjoy because it’s rock hard. My bestie bought me one of those cloth bags to put your potatoes in for the microwave, but that didn’t stop my problem. I did find that, if I folded up a full sheet of parchment paper and placed it on top of a piece of foil that I’d folded at least three times, it lessened that amount of hardness at the base of my potato by at least 65%. Better, but still not good enough, you know? And then, one day, the Internet showed me a video about exactly my problem, and I was told to make sure that I do two things I wasn’t doing. First, don’t just poke holes in the top of the potato to let steam escape, but on the entire potato because the reason the bottom gets hard is because there is nowhere for that steam to escape. The second suggestion was to rub olive oil (I think most types of cooking oil would work) over the entire potato after you’ve added the holes. Apparently, as the oil evaporates, the skins get more firm.

I tried it. It worked. I’m now enjoying baked potato skins as well as loading up the soft baked potato from the inside with butter, sour cream and chives, adding bacon and/or shredded cheddar cheese depending on my mood.

I will be gathering up recipes I want to share with you and will try to get them together in the near future. As the saying goes, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans”. Life is bombarding me with reality and situations with which to deal, so my time – and energy – to write has been slacking off. I apologize for that.

BONUS KITCHEN HACK: Did you know that the lid from your standard size Parmesan (sprinkle) cheese will fit on a mason jar??? Imagine how much easier it will be to leave the big sugar container up high in the pantry and just grab this jar to do things like sprinkle sugar on cereal! I’m excited about this because I have certain spices I use a lot of and tend to buy in large containers, then fill small spice jars – often, it seems. I need to start using up a lot of the ‘sprinkle’ cheese so I can use the containers it comes in!