Cocktail of the month (June): Summer Solstice Dawn


I’m very much a Cosmo kind of girl. I love fruity cocktails with beautiful colors. But sometimes I want to try something a little different. In the course of my Internet travels I stumbled upon a fantastic site: It covers all sorts of cocktails, and one that really struck my eye just so happened to be appropriate for June and the Summer Solstice. Plus, it’s pink and fruity, so what’s not to love?

Here’s what you need for this summery libation:

077Note: the original recipe called for Patron Reposado. I didn’t have that, so I used Silver. I suspect that Reposado would impart a more mellow flavor.

Another thing I learned with this cocktail is that having just the right size of barware is really helpful. Apparently I lack the proper size of highball glass! Fortunately I am not too proud to just experiment with different sized glasses, and if the end result is a little too large, what the heck. The drink is still beautiful and delicious.

078(Should have known just from the 1/2 shot of Grenadine that this highball glass was going to be too small. But I had to try to add all the other ingredients and fail in an epic manner before giving up and finding another glass.)

Also note that the color of mine might be a tiny bit different than the end result because the only grapefruit juice I could find at my local store was Ruby Red. I suspect the cocktail might have turned out a little more orange if I had used regular grapefruit juice.

Despite all of these issues, the drink tasted really nice. Very summery, very fruity, not too sweet. Perfect for a gathering of friends. I suspect the Reposado might have made it even better than the Silver Tequila, but sometimes you just have to use what you’ve got around. (I now have a several year supply of grapefruit juice, in zip-top bags holding 1 cup each, in my freezer. Just in case.)

Here’s the recipe:


Cocktail of the month (June): Summer Solstice Dawn
Fruity and summery, this cocktail is great for the warm-weather months.
Recipe type: cocktail
  • 2 oz. Patron Silver
  • ½ oz. Grenadine
  • 1 oz. Grapefruit Juice
  • 1 oz. Orange Juice
  • Champagne
  1. Add crushed ice to a glass. Then add to that glass the following, in order: grenadine, tequila, grapefruit juice, orange juice, and top with however much champagne you like. You will probably notice the beautiful colors of the dawn sky in your glass! Stir, if you like.

Happy Summer Solstice (a little late)!


101 Things to Do in 1001 Days

101things (1)(Image courtesy of

Darling Elder Daughter found a blog recently that is right up our OCD list-making alleys,over at Design Darling. The idea is that the list is sort of a combination short term bucket list and To Do list. For list makers like me, this is a phenomenal idea. I get all sorts of perverse pleasure merely by crossing accomplishments off a list. And given the sheer quantity of lists I generate, this one might actually keep me on track.

Note that there are other folks out there who are doing the same sort of 100 in 1001 lists, so there’s a lot of inspiration you can find out there for your own. Here’s mine. I’m really looking forward to making some real accomplishments happen. In no particular order…

Start Date: May 27, 2015
End Date: February 21, 2018


  1. Join a book club
  2. Put together lunch cookbook
  3. Blog twice a week for 3 months
  4. Read 35 books
  5. Organize writing samples
  6. Go through all the blogging pins I’ve saved on Pinterest


  1. Try 5 new veggies/fruits from the farmer’s market
  2. Learn to make dumplings (dim sum)
  3. Make Cioppino
  4. Make/can chow chow
  5. Make a new-for-me cocktail once a month for 12 months
  6. Make tamales
  7. Make mozzarella cheese with Elaine


  1. Go to the Schulz Museum
  2. Go to the Steinbeck Museum
  3. Go to the Computer History Museum
  4. Visit art museum in Santa Clara
  5. Visit the Jewish Museum in SF
  6. Visit the DeYoung museum
  7. See 3 concerts
  8. See 5 local bands play live


  1. Host a tapas party
  2. Host a sushi dinner party
  3. Host a dinner for cul-de-sac neighbors
  4. Host a paella party
  5. Organize Virtual Rose Society reunion


  1. Do one really well executed push up
  2. Walk a 10K for charity
  3. Squat and balance on balls of feet and then stand up again
  4. Learn Spanish (conversational)
  5. Learn to swim (better)
  6. Learn to jump a car battery
  7. Learn to use a power drill
  8. Try all the workouts I’ve saved on Pinterest
  9. Take another archery class
  10. Finish a crossword puzzle
  11. Learn to play Charlie Brown song on the piano


  1. Try 4 new restaurants in SF
  2. Go to Passport Day in the Santa Cruz Mountains
  3. Visit Alice’s Restaurant
  4. Explore places from Hwy 17 book (Holy City, etc.)
  5. Tour the SMART Station (Recycling Center)
  6. Go to a wine/painting class
  7. See the elephant seals at Ano Nuevo
  8. Explore a garden I’ve never been to
  9. Romantic dinner at Bella Vista
  10. Try 5 new restaurants with new-to-me ethnicities


  1. Plan Napa weekend
  2. Have a romantic dinner in Paris with LJ
  3. Implement Napa weekend
  4. Plan a road trip on Route 66 with Margo


  1. Consolidate all digital photos onto one computer
  2. Back up all digital photos onto external hard drive
  3. Back up all digital photos onto Flickr
  4. Create yearly photo albums (snapfish?)
  5. iPhone photo course
  6. Learn iPhone editing software
  7. Get all files off rosebridge and onto laptop
  8. Update LinkedIn profile
  9. Get all blog plugins to work properly


  1. Make a table runner for the 4th of July
  2. Make a table runner for Spring
  3. Make a table runner for Valentine’s Day
  4. Learn to use serger
  5. Make backyard travel signage
  6. Finish ancient embroidery project


  1. See the Penguins play in person
  2. See the Orioles play in person again
  3. See a soccer game in person


  1. Sand down/refurbish deck
  2. Get serial numbers off 2 fans and contact Casablanca
  3. Clean out closets
  4. Look into Vonage versus Magicjack
  5. Get rid of swing set and old stairs
  6. Investigate laundry to landscape (greywater)
  7. Investigate rainwater irrigation for rose garden
  8. Redo corner of the yard
  9. Create outdoor movie space
  10. Get a dust buster for the living room


  1. Watch Breaking Bad
  2. Watch Game of Thrones
  3. Watch House of Cards
  4. Watch Orange is the New Black
  5. See all Academy Award nominees before the 2016 awards
  6. Watch a TED talk
  7. Watch 5 documentary films
  8. Find and watch 5 televised concerts


  1. Perform 10 random acts of spoilage
  2. Donate blood
  3. Find large print word searches for Mom


  1. Replace the zipper pulls on all the luggage
  2. Trying using a diffuser at night
  3. Fix pearl earrings
  4. Find the most ridiculously named nail polish and try it
  5. Bake cookies with friends’ kids
  6. Get a new bathing suit
  7. Send in 23 me test
  8. Find a new board game to play
  9. Do some genealogical research (talk to cousins Alan and David)
  10. Create a flower arrangement a month for 6 months


101.Attend Friday night services twice a month for 3 months

I’ll keep you posted. How about you – what’s on YOUR list?

Beef Veggie Soup from Memory


Many years ago, when I still lived in Maryland, my parents and I used to frequent a lot of craft shows, festivals, and the like. One of our favorite shows was the annual fall festival in Thurmont, MD. Invariably the weather would be cool and brisk, and there’d always be some vendor who was smart enough to serve a phenomenal beef vegetable soup.

Then I discovered that one of my co-workers, Liz Smith (are you out there, Liz?) regularly made this soup up at her farm in West Virginia. She had a big garden and did lots of canning, so she always made huge quantities of this soup. But she used a pressure cooker to cook the beef, and that always intimidated me, so I never got around to making it.

Years passed. I moved to California and lost touch with Liz (although thankfully I have reconnected with many of my other old buddies from the National Agricultural Library). And as I’ve become increasingly adventurous with cooking, I decided to see if I could recreate this soup – a dish I hadn’t tasted in over 30 years. I am convinced, however, that there is a distinct connect between taste buds and memories, and figured this would be a reasonable experiment. So I dug out Liz’s recipe and made some modifications. Here’s what I started with:


And then there was the beef…


The first potential problem was cooking the beef. I still didn’t have (or want) a pressure cooker, so I seasoned the beef with salt and pepper, and then opted to brown the chuck roast in a big pot and then finish cooking it in the oven. Liz’s recipe cooked the chuck roast in a cup of water with a bouillon cube; I opted for a can of consomme and about a half a can of water.



While the beef was cooking, I started prepping and assembling all of the veggies. Liz’s recipe called for quantities like “quarts of tomatoes” and “quarts of green beans.” I didn’t have any of that. So I took some wild guesses and started throwing ingredients together.

Once the beef was cooked, I took it out to rest for a few minutes on a cutting board. Then I skimmed off the surface fat from the broth.


Next, I chopped any veggies that needed to be chopped,  and then added them to the broth.


Then came all of the veggies.


Next, I cut the beef into small pieces and added them back into the broth along with the remaining seasonings.


Oops! This pot wouldn’t hold everything AND the remaining liquid (still to be added)…how about another pot?


Much better! Finally, I added the tomato juice and mixed everything together.


Yup, that fit a LOT better!

I brought it all to a boil, and then let it simmer for an hour (it’s done once the potatoes are tender).

Liz and the various festival vendors always added some sort of noodles (e.g. elbow macaroni) to the mix at the end, but I decided to leave it out. I like it both ways.

Served with some crusty bread, it makes a great meal on a sloppy winter’s day.



Beef Veggie Soup
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Soup
Cuisine: American
Serves: a small country
  • 2 lb. chuck roast
  • 1 can consomme
  • ½ can water
  • 1 package frozen green beans
  • 1 package frozen corn
  • 1 package frozen peas
  • 4 handfuls baby carrots, sliced
  • 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • tomato juice
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • handful of dried parsley
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 can lima beans, drained
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1-2 cups elbow macaroni noodles, cooked (optional)
  1. Brown chuck roast in 2 TBSP oil in a dutch oven. Add consomme and water. Bake at 350 degrees for 2 hours, or until tender. Remove beef from broth, skim fat from surface. Chop/shred beef, return to pot.
  2. Add remaining ingredients to the pot.
  3. Bring to boil, then turn down heat and simmer for an hour or until potatoes are tender.
  4. Optional: add cooked noodles at the end of cooking time.



The Healing Properties of an English Bulldog Puppy…and Other Things…

It never ceases to fascinate me what sorts of things make people feel better. For my daughter, who has wanted a dog for years, it’s my neighbor’s English Bulldog puppy. He’s one of those dogs who is sweet, friendly, lovable, and adorable with all those wrinkles. When a really bad day occurred earlier in the year, Puppy was just what my daughter needed to feel better. (It didn’t hurt that Puppy fell asleep in her lap. That bonded her to him for life.) When one of her friends had a really bad day, my daughter took her friend over to see Puppy. Something about having a cute furry little thing being overwhelmingly happy to see you makes any day better. Puppy even makes me happy when I pull into my driveway, and he comes bounding over to say hello. And now that he’s gotten a lot bigger, his adolescent awkwardness (and gigantic paws!) makes him even more endearing.

I wish I had a picture of Puppy. I managed to find a similar picture from the web so you can get the idea of why he’s near and dear to our hearts.  (Image found at

I’m just as bad if not worse when it comes to cute babies. Sometimes holding an adorable (non-screaming/puking/stinky) baby who gazes at you with unconditional love just makes awful things seem less so. When I visited my cousin back east and helped take care of her new baby, it helped me in endless ways. But probably the most significant way that being around Miriam helped me was in dealing with the impending loss of two friends: one to Cancer, one to reasons I may never know. When a beautiful little baby cuddles in your arms, the bad things in the world seem to diminish a little. I’m sure some Psychologist somewhere could explain why this is so, but all I know is that I really need to see that little girl a lot more often…

 And then there’s food. It may not be politically correct to eat when you’re hurting and just want to feel better, but if it weren’t at least marginally effective there wouldn’t be so many people in this world who do this. For some folks, chocolate has magical mood-enhancing properties. I have friends who make mashed potatoes when they’re having a bad day. I’ve inherited the Damsky gene for noodle-mania (bad day? How about some spaghetti?). But the one food that always works to help me deal with stress or bad things happening is…anything with soy sauce. Chocolate may be great, but soy sauce simply works better for me. It’s always been this way too; in fact early in my marriage, my husband knew that if I’d had a bad day, he would stop off and get takeout Chinese food for dinner on his way home. (I think I’ll keep him.) Obviously it doesn’t make the problems go away, but it relaxes me enough to be able to cope.  If whatever endorphin-enhancing properties of soy sauce could be put into pill form, I would bet the need for Prozac would go way down in our population.

What do you use to feel better when you’re having a bad time? I’d love to hear about them…(and in the immortal words of Huey Lewis, “I want a new drug…”).


Top 10 “Plan B” Dinners

I had this grand plan when I got home from my latest east coast trip that I was going to cook a nice dinner for my family the following day. I went to the store, bought all sorts of groceries, even did some of the prep. Then I took a nap since I was jet-lagged. And woke up at 7 PM.

So much for the nice dinner. Hence the need for a Plan B.

This sort of thing happens a lot around here. Something always comes up – I might get home really tired and not feel like doing much. I might be so busy during the day even when I’m at home that I don’t have much time to prepare dinner. Going out to eat or getting takeout food is always an option, but after a while that just gets expensive. (And having to go out again when all I want to do is curl up on the couch isn’t necessarily a viable option.) That’s why we have a list of Plan B dinners.

I keep certain foods around the house just for this purpose, so that I can throw something together at the last minute and not have to resort to a bowl of cereal for dinner. (I personally find a bowl of cereal for dinner incredibly unsatisfying.) So when you’re having One of Those Days, see if something from this list might be of help!

1. Hot dogs and fries.

I always keep a couple of packages of hot dogs (my favorite: Hebrew National, yes I’m a snob) in the freezer. My husband is very particular about his fries, so I  always have a package of Extra Crispy Crinkle Cut Fries in the freezer. (I prefer Tater Tots, but hey, use whatever floats your boat.) We don’t bother keeping hot dog buns around; they just end up getting freezer burn. I roll the hot dogs up in a regular piece of bread – something that’s always here in the house. If I’m feeling gourmet, I’ll cook an Aidell’s sausage and have it with grainy mustard. (I have a monopoly on any and all mustards in my house; my family hates it. Their loss.)

2. Chicken Patty Parmiagiana with Spaghetti

This is actually one of my younger daughter’s favorite meals. This version is NOT for purists. Making real chicken parmiagiana takes time and care. This version is when you don’t have time and really don’t care. But it’s remarkably edible anyway. Make spaghetti. Use your favorite jarred spaghetti sauce. Heat up some frozen chicken patties. Top those with some sauce and some mozarella cheese during the last couple of minutes of cooking. Add a little steamed broccoli (we’ve always got broccoli around) and you have a complete meal that’s remarkably satisfying despite the lack of effort you’ve put into it.

3. Tuna Melt

I particularly like this when fresh tomatoes from my garden or the farmer’s market are available. Take your favorite canned tuna, mix in some mayonnaise and your favorite seasonings. Spread the tuna mixture on a piece of bread, top with sliced tomatoes and American cheese. Place the bread in the toaster oven and toast until the cheese melts. Ridiculously easy.

4. Pizza Bagels

I’ve always got bagels in the freezer. Just defrost however many you need in the microwave, split them apart, top with pizza sauce or spaghetti sauce, and top with mozarella cheese. Heat in the toaster oven until the cheese melts.

5. Caprese Salad

This is the perfect meal when the weather is so hot you don’t want to turn on the oven. Alternate layers of sliced tomatoes and mozarella, tear some fresh basil and scatter that on top, and drizzle with a little olive oil and some balsamic vinegar. Just don’t tell anyone you’re really being lazy.

6. Fried Rice

Actually I usually end up taking this for lunch to work as well. I make this anytime I have leftover rice, usually from Chinese takeout or if we’ve done a stir fry for another meal. I usually add some chicken apple sausage (broiled), some scrambled eggs, and some frozen mixed vegetables. Mix everything together in a large frying pan with a little oil, add soy sauce to taste, and stir fry the whole thing together. Bombproof. It’s also a great way to use up leftover vegetables.

7. Mac and Cheese and Tuna

I learned this one from my husband. You take your favorite boxed macaroni and cheese (we use the fluorescent orange-colored stuff). Cook as directed, but instead of adding milk, add enough mayonnaise to make it creamy. Then add a can of tuna, and something to add some crunch (e.g. chopped apple, celery, or onion). It’s another easy meal for hot days when you don’t feel like cooking.

8. Quesadillas

Who doesn’t love quesadillas? You can customize them with whatever ingredients you happen to have on hand. We’ve always got shredded cheese around, and I like to add vegetables, or leftover sliced chicken, or even cooked shrimp. The possibilities are endless. Put a tortilla in a skillet that you’ve sprayed with non-stick spray, top with your favorite toppings, and add a second tortilla on top. Smoosh together with a spatula. If you’re gifted or brave, flip the whole thing over to cook on both sides. (Makes for good entertainment value too.)

9. Baked Potatoes

When my elder daughter was on her high school dance team, one of the best aspects of going to the football games was not only getting to see her dance, but having the amazing baked potatoes that were sold by the music boosters. They must have sprinkled magic on those potatoes. Mine are never that good, but adding toppings to a baked potato can form a really satisfying dinner. Try butter, sour cream, bacon bits, chili, cheese, broccoli….be creative!

10. My Version of Scott’s Friday Night Dinner

My friend, Scott, has a family tradition of putting together whatever’s on hand or easily attainable and somehow turning it into a gourmet meal. My version varies depending on what I have around, but tends to consist of: dry salami or  broiled Aidells sausage, cheddar or Havarti cheese, a baguette or crackers, some fruit (even canned pears will do in a pinch), and some raw or pickled vegetables. Add a nice glass of wine or a beer and you have a lovely dinner. No real cooking required.

Think about a Plan B dinner before bailing and going out to eat. You’ll save money, and you might like it just as well. And you can have it in your pajamas.