Friday, December 1, 2023

Christmas Magic

It was just a few weeks until Christmas and I could hardly wait.

We had moved into our beautiful new house, and I had my very own bedroom.  No more sharing with my annoying younger brother.

Mom was busy decorating and getting ready for the holiday.  I’m not sure I had ever seen her so happy.  She finally met someone who treated her well and even liked us kids too. 

Buzz was a kind man, quiet and gentle with a warm smile.  Walking in with his dusty work boots, exhausted from work, he was never too tired to pick me up and give me a huge bear hug.

We were living a life I could never have imagined.  There was so much food in the house we had to put another refrigerator on the back porch.  We didn’t have to worry about moving in the middle of the night because we couldn’t pay the rent.  Life was very good.

“You are not going to start another project this close to Christmas.” I heard my mom telling Buzz.

He was always working on something.  He built a new patio with a rock garden for mom in the summer and a mini playhouse for me and my brother.

Despite her protests, he began working.  

It was unusual for him to be doing it inside, but it was winter, so I didn’t think much of it. 

Mom was beside herself with the mess.  She had worked so hard to clean and decorate the house.  He had even pushed the Christmas tree off into the corner.

I was surprised and confused when I came home from school and saw that he was actually tearing down the living room wall. 

He and mom almost never argued but this was different.  There were pieces of wood and sheet rock everywhere.  I was happy I had a room to go to where I could stay away from it all.

As the days passed, mom accepted that this was going to happen whether she liked it or not. 

Just a couple of days until Christmas now and I was more excited than ever.  This was our first Christmas in the new house.

Behind the canvas tarps, Buzz worked away, he looked like the Wizard of Oz behind the curtain.

He even enlisted my brother to help with his “secret project”.
I was a little jealous that I wasn’t included but I kept myself busy playing with my dolls and reading in my room.

Finally, it was Christmas eve.  I knew this year would be special, but I had no idea how much. 

After dinner, mom sent me and my brother to our rooms.  “We have something to do before Santa comes, so you have to stay there until we tell you to come out,” she instructed. “And no peeking,” she nodded to my brother.

Presents, it must be our presents we both thought. 

When she opened the door, she told me to close my eyes.  Gently guiding me, we walked into the front room. 

When I opened my eyes, I saw the most incredible fireplace I had ever seen.  

That is what Buzz had been working on.  Whoever had lived there before had covered up the fireplace with a wall.

It looked like something out of a fairy tale – the fire was glowing with twinkles of light reflecting on the hearth.

Under the tree were two boxes, one for me and one for my brother. 

We didn’t usually get to open any gifts before Christmas morning, so this was another unexpected surprise. 

My box was not wrapped, so it was easy to just open the top.  As I did, up popped the most beautiful little gray kitten in the world.  

Immediately I began to cry, as I carefully lifted her out of the box.

“Is she really for me?” I asked in disbelief, petting her gently. "I think I'll call her Thumbelina because she's so tiny," I said.

My brother grinned at me and began opening his package.  It was a toolbox with real tools to build things, he was thrilled.

Mom smiled and watched quietly as we laughed and played.  Buzz reached down from his rocking chair and lifted me, still holding the kitten, into his lap.

It was truly a magical Christmas.

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Baking Time Again!

I like to bake when the weather begins to cool down.  Of all the foods I love, fresh baked bread is one of my favorites.  There is something very satisfying about creating something so delicious with just a few ingredients.

These bread rolls are easy to make and instead of taking all day, they are done in under an hour.  I modified the recipe to make a small batch, perfect for 6 - 8 dinner rolls.


1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (1/2 – 1 cup additional as needed for dough)

1 package Rapid Rise Instant Yeast

2 Tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup warm water

2 tablespoons oil

1 egg


Heat oven to 400 degrees.

·   Mix flour, yeast, sugar and salt in medium mixing bowl.  Add water, oil and egg.  Stir until well combined.    

Knead until dough is soft and smooth.  Use additional flour if needed.

Cover and set in a warm location for 20 minutes.

Form dough into 8 balls and place on a greased sheet pan and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Bake for 10 - 15 minutes until golden brown.

Serve warm and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

It's the Little Things

 I have been traveling for 6 months now and I am always amazed and delighted by the wonderful people that I meet along the way.

Today as I went out for a few errands, I encountered many who were just going about their day.  Most were in a rush and not particularly pleasant, one was very rude.

When I arrived back at the hotel, I asked the housekeeper for some coffee to take back to my room.  She was so helpful and polite I wanted to give her a small tip. 
Inadvertently, instead of giving her two single dollars, I gave her a twenty-dollar bill and a single.
I paused for a moment before realizing that not only did she deserve it, but I hoped it would be a nice surprise when she sees it later.

Here in the US, wages for service workers is abysmal.  Honestly, anyone who will clean up after me deserves more than I can give them.

I hope she remembers the gesture but not my room, I want her to be able to accept this very small token of my appreciation for all that she does.

Monday, January 23, 2023

More Soft Food

Eating after oral surgery can be very challenging.  The chewiness and texture of foods that were never an issue before can be beyond painful. At the same time, you crave good, comforting food.

Nutrition is essential while you heal, but so is satisfaction.  So, going into yet another round, I am trying to think of some new soft meal options for my recovery.

I'm hoping to enjoy a larger selection of food and flavors this time around.  Here are some of my favorite foods, soft diet style.

Mexican - Huevos Rancheros, Refried Beans, Red or Green Chili, Sopa, Rice, Tres Leches Cake.

Indian - Vegetable Tikka Masala, Curry, Tarka Dal, Palak Paneer, Rice, Mango Lassi, Gulab Jamun.

Italian - Fettuccini Alfredo, Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce, Risotto, Tiramisu.

American - Eggs, Baked Fish, Bread Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, Gravy, Yams, Ice Cream, Chocolate Sauce, Whipped Cream.

Asian - Egg Foo Yung, Rice, Sweet and Sour Tofu, Egg Drop Soup, Miso Soup, Rice Pudding.

Spanish - Poached Fish, Gazpacho, Tortilla Espanola, Paella, Flan.

Irish - Potatoes (Soup, Mashed, Colcannon, Champ), Shepards Pie, Baked Beans, Salmon, Mushy Peas, Cabbage, Carrots, Parsley Sauce, Trifle.

Mediterranean - Hummus, Baba Ghanoush, Lentil Soup, Orzo, Feta Cheese, Shakshuka, Cream Cake.

Depending on your procedure, you may want to prepare these at home so you can control the ingredients and texture to suit your needs.

Disclaimer:  These meals were approved by my dental provider and were specific to my procedure. Please follow post-op instructions provided by your dentist.

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Soft Food Diet

After 2 rounds of dental surgery, I had to be on a soft food diet for almost 10 weeks.  At first, it didn't seem so daunting but by the second day, I was so tired of mashed potatoes and scrambled eggs I began to panic.  Not only did I need to eat my meals, but all of my medication had to be taken with food.  

I started searching the internet for what else I could have, and the choices were very limited.  Nothing hard, crunchy, sticky, brittle, spicy, acidic, no nuts, seeds, skins or anything hard to chew were my initial instructions.  What I discovered was that even the texture of a soft noodle would cause excruciating pain, so I needed to get creative.

Like most people, I love really good and flavorful food.  So, I decided to experiment with some of my favorite recipes to see what could be modified to fit my new way of eating for the next 2 months.  Some were more successful than others, but I started to get the hang of it.  Here are some of the meals and snacks that were easy to prepare and were also satisfying to eat.

Week 1 of both phases was the toughest, everything had to be extremely soft, essentially the consistency of baby food, with no chewing required.

Soft scrambled eggs (mixed with sour cream for more flavor and creaminess)

Vegetable soup (blended until smooth)

Egg Drop Soup (I whipped the egg into the broth so there were no large pieces)

Broth with soft white bread and butter (white bread almost dissolves into the broth)

Pancakes loaded with butter and syrup

Instant mashed potatoes with butter, sour cream and gravy (instant potatoes are creamier than my homemade version and easier to prepare)

Baked acorn squash

Cream soup (blended until smooth - no lumps or chunky pieces)

Soft egg foo yung with brown gravy

Plain greek yogurt with honey

Pudding, chocolate milk, applesauce, protein shakes, instant breakfast drinks, yogurt smoothies, mashed banana

Week 2 - I was able to tolerate a little more texture so I added these dishes.

Pasta with white sauce (cook the pasta until soft and blend until smooth)

Sour cream enchilada casserole (corn tortillas become soft and mushy in the sauce)

Red beans and rice (cook the rice until soft and mash the beans)

Scrambled/Poached egg with baked beans

Potatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, yams (boiled and mashed)

Crab Cakes with mild cocktail sauce (microwave to keep soft)

Dos Leches cake (pound cake soaked in milk topped with whipped cream)

Ice cream sundae (no nuts or fruit pieces)

Week 3 - getting better and was able to add a little more texture and variety.

Crustless green chili quiche

Macaroni and cheese (cook pasta until very soft)

Tuna noodle casserole 

Lentils with potatoes and carrots

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Soft Sunday dinner – mashed potatoes, carrots, yams, bread stuffing and gravy (canned carrots and yams are easy to mash and box bread stuffing is nice and fluffy)

Instant Grits with butter and cheese

Take-out Mexican refried beans, soft rice, smooth chili

Graham crackers soaked in milk

My biggest suggestion is to prepare as much as possible in advance.  I didn’t do this on my 1st round and seriously regretted it.  I underestimated how much pain I would be in and did not feel like cooking but still needed to eat.

Before the next round, I stocked up on everything that I thought I might want.  That included a lot of pantry items that were easy to prepare – instant mashed potatoes, instant gravy, soups, canned carrots/yams/beans, box stuffing mix, soft cakes, white bread, saltine crackers, graham crackers, pancake mix, syrup - anything that could be mashed or soaked in soup or milk.  Dairy was easier – pudding, milk, sour cream, yogurt and of course eggs.

I made some things ahead of time to freeze and then was able to just heat them in the microwave – pancakes, soups etc.

Eating out was not an option but I loved the soft dinner I was able to get from my favorite Mexican restaurant.  That felt like a total indulgence!

Meat didn’t really work out for me – I made a very soft pork stew but it was still too much to chew and it got caught in my stitches so I won’t do that again.  I’d rather stay vegetarian until I can chew properly.
  • Please note this was after dental surgery and it was specific to my procedure.  You should always check with your doctor and follow their instructions for whatever you need to do following any condition or procedure you may have.
Delicious Dos Leches Cake

Crustless Green Chili Quiche

Stuffing and Carrots

Scrambled Egg Foo Yung

Ginger Carrot Soup

Enchilada Casserole

Egg and Baked Beans

Wednesday, January 11, 2023


There is nothing that spurs my wanderlust more than not being able to travel. 

I love being free to just pick up and go whenever I want.

This year will prove to be a little tricker, but I have no doubt I will manage to make it happen.

My list of the yet to be discovered is growing by the day and I can't wait to explore those fantastic new horizons!

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Pure Silence

There have only been a few times in my life that I have experienced true peace and tranquility.  

The first time I really noticed it was while paragliding in Mexico.  I was a little nervous at first but when the wind caught the chute and took me up into the air, all my fear faded away.  

I was overcome with the beauty and silence as I floated above the water.