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My Name’s Howard

Well worth reading…

Main Street Musings


“This is an unorthodox request and feel free to say no,” began my creative writing teacher, Laura, in a recent email. She went on to explain that Bridges, a non-profit organization, received a grant to create a photography project on the homeless in Newark. The program gave digital cameras to people experiencing homelessness to express themselves and their world through their art. Would I be interested in interviewing a photographer about his or her experience?

She had me at “unorthodox.” I loved the idea of giving homeless men and women the opportunity to learn skills to develop and project their own voices. For ten weeks, a professional photographer worked with a small group of individuals, training and mentoring them as they documented their lives and their community through photographs.

In an interview with Scottie Howard, I learned what it was like to see the world through his lens, as…

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How is an oncology nurse like a midwife?

This is what bravery is, my friends. And faith.

I May Contribute A Verse

How is an oncology nurse like a midwife?

Near the end of labor during the birth of my second child fear unexpectedly possessed me and I began a whiney, shallow-breathed, feeble chant of, “No, no, no, no. I don’t want to do this anymore. No, no, no.” At about that point my butt involuntarily mobilized itself and scooted back from its assigned spot at the edge of the delivery bed. The midwife calmly said, “Look at me. LOOK AT ME.” Once she had my full attention she gently said, “There is one way out of this situation. No other way……one way. You are going to listen to me and I am going to help you have this baby.” And we did. She was a magic woman who shortly thereafter handed me my beautiful girl, Cameron. During a routine visit a few years later, after I’d not seen her for…

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I’m Moving! Follow Me to My New Home!!

Follow me!!



Hi Friends:

A lot of thoughtful smoke has been rising from my home (and occasionally coming out my ears) over the last few weeks as I’ve worked my way through many of the steps necessary to create a self-hosted WordPress blog (who knew it was this complicated?!). I’m closer than ever and have transferred the majority of my content from here to there.

Please follow me to my new site:

I will begin writing exclusively on the new site next week. I’ll try to do some sort of hocus pocus behind the scenes (it should only take me a few days to figure out how!) to bounce you to my new site if you end up here because you forgot I moved, but I encourage you to take the plunge and move with me now.

Bookmark me!

Add me as one of your Favorites!

I love my subscribers but I can’t transfer you to my new site. You have to come over and (re-)subscribe there. It’s easy, I promise!

The best is yet to come!

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Spring in Northern New Jersey: Snow

The snow came down thick and fast this morning.

This past weekend was gorgeous weather-wise, a little nippy but sunny and hopeful feeling, like winter was gone. Not so much. I woke up this morning to snow. The first full day of spring in my Northern N.J. world and the snow is falling thick and fast. I raced outside to rescue the pot of herbs I had just cleaned up, watered and put outside on my back steps just yesterday. I covered my strawberry pots with an umbrella-like cloche and will keep my fingers crossed.. The hostas and astilbes I planted? They will likely survive. The two kinds of heirloom poppy seeds? Not likely. The lettuces? We’ll see.

This cloche operates like an umbrella; let's hope it keeps the plants in the strawberry pots I showed you yesterday nice and warm!

That’s what I get for rushing the season. You’d think I would have learned by now. I mean, I’ve lived in New Jersey, Northern New Jersey, for more than 25 years. I should know that spring around these parts is unpredictable, kinda like a two-year-old in a department store: Here one minute. Hiding under the women’s clothes rack the next.

P.S. I was so distraught at the snowfall that I videoed it. I know. I know. It sounds like I need a vacation. . .in a warm place. Anyway, if you like snow falling, take a look at the video to the right under “My World in Photos.” And yes, that is my depressed voice you hear!


Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, New Jersey, Snow and Snowstorms, Uncategorized, weather

Jersey Shore: Family Fun in the Sun

In families there are planners and there are people who just show up. I love my husband Mike’s sisters and their spouses. I love them because they love to plan, vacations in particular. In my family, I am typically the mover and shaker so spending time with my husband’s family gets me a two-fer: spending time with people I like and not having to plot the when/where of what we actually do.

We will spend a week AT the Jersey Shore, not BE the Jersey Shore.

Next up for this branch of the family? My sister-in-law Betsy and her husband, Uncle Phil, are scouting houses so we can all spend a week at the Jersey shore together. No. Not that “Jersey Shore.” I can assure you that our family get-together in August will not resemble what happens to the cast of the “Jersey Shore,” well not exactly anyway. I mean, we are a lot tamer as fifty-somethings than we were back in the day.



Captain Underpants will likely make an appearance again this summer.

Yes. Our family DOES have a Captain Underpants. He will remain nameless.



But we won’t be out all night drinking and partying. We will start our evenings with dinner at 7 and likely be tucked into bed by midnight, 1 a.m. at the latest.


We have moved beyond this. . .I THINK.

Yes, there will be dancing, just probably not on tabletops.

Except for our older kids.

Yeah. They just might pick up where my husband Mike and his sisters left off.

Family tradition and all.

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Filed under Adventures of a Middle Age Mom, Family, Jersey Shore, New Jersey, Uncategorized, Vacation

Let’s Talk Recipes: Potato Skins and Mashed Potatoes

A Two- Fer and Mostly Do-Ahead Recipe

Organic potatoes are the only way to go, in my opinion.

Sometimes I don’t cook often enough and I find potatoes staring at me with little beady eyes when I open the potato drawer. Rather than meet their accusing little eyes I immediately grab them and make . . . potato skins and whipped potatoes. When the potatoes are staring at you and you have a little time, try this recipe.

Did I hear you say, “Brilliant!”

<foot shuffle, head hung modestly>

Yeah. I think so too.

Ingredients: 5 pounds of organic* russet potatoes, 4 tablespoons butter, 1/2c fat-free half-n-half, salt and pepper. Canola oil, 1 8-ounce package shredded sharp cheddar cheese, 1/2 pound reduced salt bacon. Sour cream (optional) for serving.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.


My sister Linda showed me an easy, splatter free way to make bacon years ago, when I was just learning to cook. She showed me how to bake it! It’s an easy cleanup and yields really straight bacon. Try it.

To make the bacon:


Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil, making sure to go up and over the four edges.

Put bacon strips on foil-covered baking sheet and slide onto middle rack in your preheated oven. Set timer for 15 minutes.

When the bacon is completely cooked and crispy (17 minutes in my oven), transfer the slices onto a paper-towel-covered plate to drain. Put another paper towel on top to help sop up any extra grease and keep your cats away from the yummy bacon.

Kimi, my girlfriend Carole's ragdoll kitty.

What? You don’t have cats? Too bad!

After the bacon cools, pop it into a baggie. Squeeze out the air and crunch the bacon around with your fingers until you get the desired size bacon bits. Set aside. If you cook the whole pound you’ll have some bacon left over; use it in a salad during the week! Oh yeah!

Use the soiled paper towels from the bacon plate to absorb the grease left on the foil-covered baking sheet; carefully gather and crumple the foil into a ball and toss into the garbage. No need to wash the baking sheet!

To bake the potatoes:

While the bacon is baking, scrub/rinse the potatoes well under cold water, making sure to remove every little beady eye and dirt clump.

Poke 4-5 holes in each potato. (If you don’t, the potato likely will explode in your oven, scaring the crap out of you and making a real mess.)

Neat rows make for happy potatoes. Well, not really, but who cares.

Place the scrubbed and poked potatoes in two neat rows in the preheated oven; place the larger potatoes to the rear of the oven and make sure each potato has breathing room around it so it bakes evenly. Set timer for 1 hour, less if the potatoes are on the smallish side.

When the potatoes are completely cooked (stick a fork in the largest one and if it goes in easily and comes out just as easy, they are done.), put them on a tea towel to cool for a couple minutes.

Cut each potato lengthwise and, using a teaspoon, scoop out most of the cooked potato into a separate bowl, leave a decent amount (1/4 to ½ inch) around the sides and bottom of each potato skin so you have a hearty potato skin to eat later.

Set the scooped-out potato skins aside for now. At this point you can refrigerate the skins  to use sometime during the week or you can freeze them to use at a much later date. Or, like me yesterday, you can make-em up right away.

To make the mashed potatoes:

Add 4 TB of room temperature butter to the potatoes in the mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer (or potato masher if you’re feeling particularly energetic), whip on low speed to combine.

Add ½-cup fat-free half-n-half and whip on medium speed until potatoes are smooth and creamy. Taste them; correct for salt and pepper.

At this point you can either put the whipped potatoes into a freezer worthy container to freeze/use at a later date or put them into an ovenproof baking dish in the frig to reheat/use within a few days. Your choice.

Note: Reheat (thawed) potatoes in 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 30 minutes, until they are puffy and golden brown on top.

To make the potato skins:

Rub skin sides of the potato shells with canola oil and put them in two neat rows on a foil-lined baking sheet. (If you're using ones you froze previously, make sure you thaw them before rubbing with the canola oil.)

Divide the 8-ounce package of pre-shredded sharp cheddar cheese among the shells and top with bacon bits. Be generous with the bacon.

Slide the foil-covered baking sheet into a preheated 400 degree Fahrenheit oven for 15-20 minutes.

When your timer buzzes check the skins and ask yourself these questions: Is the cheese melted? Do I see little bubbles formed around the top edges of the skins? If you can answer yes and yes, remove skins from oven and let cool for a few minutes if you can stand it (otherwise, you’ll burn the top of your mouth.). Serve (if desired) with sour cream.

The finished product. I like them with sour cream on top.

*Organic potatoes smell like real potatoes, earthy and dirty, but even more important, they taste like real potatoes. In my opinion, if they aren’t organic they aren’t worth my time and talent to cook with. Once you’ve tried organic potatoes you won’t go back.

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Filed under Baked potato skins, bar food, Cats, Cooking, Food, Let's Talk Recipes, Mashed potatoes, Ragdoll cats, Uncategorized

Sleep, or Lack Thereof

Living with College Students

Max loves his college.

My son Max is now happily ensconced in his first apartment, located hard by his Big Ten College campus. He and the rest of the building’s tenants are college students, serious young men and women studying hard every day, intent on obtaining a college degree then going forth to change the world. Yep. That’s who they are. . .until night falls.

This is where our son lives.

My husband Mike and I helped Max move into his apartment over the weekend. After driving for hours, carrying furniture and stuff up flights of stairs for more hours, then unpacking and assembling everything for many more hours, Mike and I were exhausted, and we knew we’d sleep like the proverbial rock. We showered the sweat off and crawled into bed, Mike on his brand-new, bought-for-this-purpose Aero mattress and me into Max’s freshly made bed.

Our heads hit the pillows, and we exhaled.

The night breeze flowed into the room, cooling it off, but with it came. . .music, laughter and conversation.

At 1:30 am we weren’t expecting it, the music, laughter and conversation, I mean. Perhaps we should have, though, since as we were yawning and saying goodnight, Max was still assembling furniture, wide awake, in the living room. At first, I wasn’t too concerned about the sounds since I figured it wouldn’t last for more than an hour. After all, by 2:30 am normal people are fast asleep in their beds, right?

Wrong. And might I add that I’d forgotten that college students aren’t by any stretch “normal” when it comes to their sleep patterns.

The 1:30 am-3:00 am group, although chatty, played music I didn’t know so I drifted in and out of sleep, jolted awake only by really loud bursts of laughter. The 3:00 am-4:30 am group was a bit more problematic since I know the words to many of the songs they played and my brain insisted on singing along.

The deep bass beat permeated my brain.

By the time the fun and noise from the parties dwindled into nothingness, another sound sprung front and center: a steady, deep, repetitive bass beat, almost like those on a keyboard with built-in “bass beats.” Do you know the ones I mean?

Hit the 'beat' button and sound like a band!

The beat kept repeating itself over and over and over. Then it would pause. Then it would begin again. The same notes. Over and Over and Over. When I finally got out of bed at 6:45 am the beat was still playing. . .or else my brain had imprinted it and I was hearing a phantom beat. It was time to finish up and then drive home.

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Filed under Big Ten, College Apartment, College Living, Moving Day, Uncategorized