My turn to host the book club slash brunch today at noonish. A few may be running late due to Daylight Savings Time. We’ll wait. I’m serving a southwest breakfast bake as the main dish. The rest of the menu is salad and a bowl of fruit. For dessert…brownies, of course. For anyone who doesn’t like chocolate, there’s always a slice of sour orange pie with whipped cream. Oh my.
Credit: Mr. Food recipe and photo
Grab the ingredients:
1 (30-ounce) package frozen shredded hash brown potatoes
1 1/2 cups shredded Colby and Monterey Jack cheese blend
1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chilies, drained
1/2 of a red bell pepper, diced
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
To make it happen:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 9- x 13-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray.
Arrange potatoes evenly in bottom of dish. Sprinkle with cheese, green chilies, bell pepper, and scallions.
In a medium bowl, combine remaining ingredients; mix well then pour evenly over potato mixture.
Bake uncovered 55 to 60 minutes, or until center is cooked through and set.
Last summer I lost my pug, Beau. He went to sleep one night and just didn’t wake up. He’d had breathing problems in the past, but I never expected him to go so suddenly like that. The house seems empty without his little pug feet padding from room to room and his little body curling up next to mine. Walks aren’t the same.
Right away friends urged me to get another dog, a replacement, but no dog could ever take the place of a best friend like Beau. He would sit with me each time I started a book, watch me at my desk through the process right up to when I put the finishing details into its completion. If you’re curious or counting, that’s more than twenty novels during Beau’s lifetime. He’d listen patiently, he had a knack for that, as I worked out scenes and read the dialogue out loud. Maybe that’s why writing my last three books hasn’t been the same. Our time together went by too fast and even though it’s been eight months, I don’t think I’m ready yet to look for another. When and if that time comes, I might mark the anniversary of his passing by accepting another dog into my life, not a pug though. I don’t want to go through the breathing problems again. I’ll pick one from a shelter this time. He or she won’t be a replacement. No one can ever take Beau’s place. Not even if I cloned him like Barbra Streisand did her beloved Sammie. Beau was Beau. And there will never be another like him. But don’t worry, when I do choose another dog, I’ll shower the lucky pooch with all the love I can muster. That’s a promise.
The holidays are a perfect time to take inventory of those long-distance friendships you’ve cultivated over the years. You may not see them as often as you’d like to sit down for a cup of coffee or go out for a long gabfest over lunch, but it doesn’t mean you can’t nurture them along another way. As it turns out I have a whopping high percentage of people in my life who live somewhere else. I attribute this to moving around quite a bit in my early twenties and thirties.
It makes it an art to keeping these long-distance friendships alive and well even though they live hundreds of miles away from me and in some cases in another country. For me, I tend to do a lot of communicating via emails. But let’s face it, sometimes that doesn’t cut it when it comes to sitting down and catching up with friends. Skype works, as does long Sunday afternoon phone calls. No cutting corners on this one by passing on this part. Think of it this way. If you know someone who’s traveled all over the world you have a built-in conversation. I love hearing about what life is like somewhere else. I think we’re all curious about what’s going on where we don’t live and that’s true for people we don’t see in person very often.
So keep the door open to all kinds of communication, making sure you ask what’s happening in their neck of the woods with family and life in general. From Savannah to London or Vancouver, it’s always a pleasure to hear from my faraway friends. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.” Maya Angelou
If you’re like me, Christmas has become about a huge pile of gifts that no one really needs or wants. Sure, those soft, furry slippers will come in handy on cold, winter nights, same for the new pair of gloves. And I promise to find somewhere to show off that new sweater. But let’s get real. If you want to do something special this year, maybe try giving to people who really need it. I’m not talking about re-gifting the can opener Aunt Mary sent after the fact. Nope.
There are lots of ways to give—bake something for a sick neighbor, make a donation to a food bank, hand over your saved pennies to the Salvation Army kettle, make a donation to UNICEF. With all the disasters we’ve had this year, it’s a perfect time to write out a check to the Red Cross. Or try my favorite, a donation to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. If you’re stretched too thin to make a financial contribution, volunteer to read to a group of kids at your local hospital. Their little faces will light up in delight as soon as you open up that book and begin to read to them. You might have to wear a mask, depending on the ward, but if you speak up and speak clearly, trust me, they won’t mind at all.
Does anything smell better than a summer stroll through lavender? It’s taken a learning curve for me to grow it—bright sunlight and the right kind of soil. It likes its own space, doesn’t like to be crowded into a pot or a flower bed. I guess you could say it doesn’t like to share. But what I’ve discovered is to prune, prune, prune. Deadhead all the brown stuff and do it quickly, otherwise the part that’s just bloomed and wilted will take over your entire plant(s). As for the soil, I was told to add in limestone or sand to let it drain, drain, drain. So don’t spend years making the same mistakes I made. With a little research you can come up with the right mix to grow lavender. Just remember it doesn’t like to be neglected. But when it blooms, the fragrance is well worth the fuss. And you can’t beat the purple color that invariably brightens up a spot where white daisies and hydrangeas thrive. If you’re hesitant to grow lavender, take the plunge. What used to be a failure in the garden, is now a summer staple for me. I love the aroma. For that alone, I make the extra effort.