Lately, this blog has come under serious attack by spammers. Three or four times a day, I get email notifications that someone has left a message on one of my older blogs. These messages are always awkwardly worded, convoluted sentences–it’s obvious that for most of them English is not their first language. I worry that these posts carry some sort of foreign virus. Does that make me paranoid as well as grouchy?

Some of them tell me how wonderful my blog is but wouldn’t I like to make it better with their service or search engine or whatever? My answer to these cretins is: NO, I WOULDN’T. GO AWAY.

And, I just cleaned out my list of registered users because 80% had names like these:




(These are the three most recent names that signed up for my blog and while I don’t like the idea of giving these people acknowledgement or promotion, I honestly couldn’t make up names like that if I tried.)

WHAT IS THE POINT OF THESE PEOPLE? What do they get out of signing up for my blogs? Other than taking time out of my day to remove their stupid posts from my blogs, what could they possible get from posting these inane replies anyway?

Anyway, I’m sorry for the public grousing, but I want the world to know: I HATE SPAMMERS.

To keep from making this blog a total downer, I thought I’d share some happy news, too. My son Jon-Paul graduated from his 200-hours of yoga training Sunday. He’s been practicing yoga and leading classes for years, but the Balanced Rock program helped him achieve the certification that means he can now teach anywhere. From the Balanced Rock website: “…200-hour Yoga-Alliance Certified training incorporates nature and ecology into yoga.” I’m so proud of him.

Jon-Paul Salonen

Have a great week, everyone. Don’t let the spammers get to you. Oh, wait, that’s what I’ve been telling myself. LOL


Easter bonnets

I’m dating myself, I know, but one of my favorite memories from childhood was shopping for a new Easter outfit.

In my house, Easter meant the works–shoes, socks, undies, dress, gloves and, of course, a hat. My mother–and, I suppose my father, although I don’t remember him being consulted in any way, shape or matter about the selection process–was extremely indulgent when it came to Easter shopping. Which is not to say Mom actually shopped. Oh, no. In fact, I distinctly remember being dropped off at Cole’s Department Store and being told to ask someone to call me a taxi when I was done (my parents owned the taxi company). Mom had a charge account. The clerks knew me.

Wow. The power, right? But you have to understand that shopping was different in those days. Your choices were limited. Even the nicest department store probably stocked fewer than a dozen or two different styles of little girl dresses. Designer names were unheard of. All I cared about was whether or not the dress came with a hat. After all, everyone knew Easter wasn’t Easter without a bonnet.

I don’t think little girls care about hats these days, but one of my favorite Easter photos is of my eldest granddaughter when she was three. Her great-aunt bought Easter bonnets and gloves for all the little girls in the family. Doesn’t this make your heart smile?

Celebrate with style and have a very Happy Easter.


Dear John…

I know. I know. The rule is: no bad news, but this is important, and my hope is that by sharing this sad, exasperating happenstance, something good will come of it.

John Gustafson, a highschool classmate of mine, died on Sunday. I have only good memories of “Gus” in school. He was a fun, earnest kid; quick to smile, always friendly and easy to like. He was  a tough competitor on the wrestling mat and made it to the State-A’s in his weight class. Although we weren’t close friends, he was the kind of person you knew had your back even if he didn’t make a big deal about it.

While I left South Dakota straight out of college, John stayed in our old hometown of Brookings, became a Realtor and made a good life for himself. By all accounts, he was a successful businessman and was active in the community…until heart disease short-circuited his activities.

When I saw John at our last class reunion a year and a half ago, I was reminded that we’d nearly lost him a few years earlier when he suffered his first heart attack. The prognosis had been grim, but he’d pulled through, and we were all thrilled to see him.

John Gustafson, 1952-2012

We didn’t speak about his health problems at the time. We met his beautiful wife, Dawn, and heard about their three young children. We reminisced about our high school years–it was a reunion, after all.

But in December of last year, I learned that John was caught up in the fight of his life–in more ways than one.

He’d received a LVAD (left ventricular assist device), which allows blood to bypass the heart and was on the list for transplants, but he also needed to undergo dialysis five days a week.

According to the website, John was one of six LVAD patients in South Dakota. (Nationally, there are 180 total.) Unfortunately, the medical director for Prairie Lakes Health Care, which provides dialysis for patients in the Brookings area, decided the LVAD device was “experimental,” and declared that treatment would require monitoring by both a cardiologist and a nephrologist, something Prairie Lakes was unwilling to allow.

The local newspaper did a story on John last year in an effort to get the word out about his situation and what he was up against.

Although there was a dialysis facility just four blocks from John’s house, Prairie Lakes refused him treatment. So, John had to be driven 65 miles for the four-hour treatment then be driven back home. His treatment and the two-hour round trip commute amounted to a full time job. And because his entire day was devoted to staying alive, John couldn’t work, provide for his family, interact in normal activities with his wife and kids and friends. The commute was not conducive to building up the strength he needed to keep fighting.

It’s telling about the kind of person John was that a group of friends started the We Care About John website. These generous people, including my old friends Dick and Theanne Peterson, bucked the system. They fought for common sense and compassion. They were this close to getting John the treatment he needed locally. Unfortunately, time was not on John’s side.

John was just one man, but what happened to him could happen to any of us. We work hard to buy the best health insurance we can afford, but one petty bureaucrat with her eye on the bottom line can mean the difference between life and death. I can only hope that John’s bravery and determination pays off down the road for patients facing the same hurdles. And my heart and prayers are with John’s family…and my classmates.

Now, on a happier note, my father-in-law, Milt, made it home safe and sound–and he flew in First Class! He said he doesn’t think can fly with the “common people” again. Lol.


NO bad news. That’s the rule.

Here in Debland we have an unwritten rule…well, it was unwritten until I wrote it down today. Here it is: “If you can’t blog about something nice, then don’t bother blogging at all.” (Gripes don’t count, of course. I have to have something to talk about. 😉 )

So. There was no blog last Tuesday because on Monday night my dearly loved father-in-law, Milt, who is visiting us from South Dakota, fell. Anyone with elderly family members knows this is a four-letter, F-word with horrible repercussions. And we were definitely worried–despite Milt’s insistance that we NOT take him to the hospital. He can be a stubborn cuss.

Milt--the morning after

Fortunately, my sister-in-law, Karryn, is a nurse who doesn’t take “No” for an answer. She made some calls, lined up an appointment at Modesto Imaging and put the fear of “pneumonia” in Milt. We very carefully helped him into the car then spent the rest of the day hurrying up to wait. Finally, we heard the verdict: three cracked ribs, a fractured wrist and a hairline fracture of the cheekbone. But, as Karryn had predicted, the most worrisome part was the loss of lung function. He was admitted to the hospital.

When we returned the next day, he actually looked even worse–the result of gravity and pooled blood around his eye socket. Eeek! But after a few breathing treatments and antibiotics, he was out of the danger zone.

Looks worse, but feels better--yeah!

So…adhering to my rule, here’s the good news: Milt is a tough old bird. Did I mention he’s 87? After five days in the hospital, he was released in pretty good shape. His ribs hurt like heck, but there’s nothing you can do about that but wait for them to heal. His wrist is wrapped, but not in a cast. And his lung function has improved without surgery. We are ecstatic.

He’s also itching to get back to “work.” Prior to his fall, he was helping Paul on the ’47 Woodie project. Now, he’ll move to a supervisor position. We can’t wait.

Father and son sharing the joy of a job well done!

I hope your day is all GOOD!


PS: Milt was outside when he fell. It was after dinner and very dark. For some reason, he decided to take a stroll off our back deck–without turning on the lights. He missed the last step and went down hard. Paul and I were inside doing the dishes. Luckily, our puppy, Jessie, heard Milt’s cry for help and started barking her head off. (Even luckier, she was on her leash or she would have smothered him with licks and sympathy and made things worse.) But her barks alerted us to the problem. Yeah, Jessie!!

Jessie to the rescue

Aloha and Happy Valentine’s Day

After a week in paradise, it was really hard to step back into the real world. First, a cold gray drizzle greeted me in the Bay area, then I had to face the sad headline: Whitney Houston Dead at 48! Where’s my mai tai when I need one? Sigh.

But I did have a great time. And with apologies to my host and hostess for “outing” their treasured secret island getaway, Kauai was gorgeous. Even though we had to dodge some wind and rain a couple of days, we enjoyed every minute there. I promised not to bore you (or maybe I threatened to bore you) with a bunch of pictures, but here’s my personal fave.

Do these people look happy or what?

This shot was taken right before hubby and I went snorkeling in crystal clear water where we encountered more varieties of fish than in most aquariums. Just gorgeous. And when we got out, we were treated to a whale show. Amazing!

One fun adventure involved renting beach bikes. I  somehow managed to take a video of this. If it looks a little shaky, remember, I’m on a bike. LOL.

Thanks, Mar, for a week full of great memories.

This fountain was in "The Descendents" (Deb, Paul and Mary were not.)

And because this is Valentine’s Day and I love my friends, here’s a decadent dessert Mary served us in Kauai. Oooh, yum, my mouth is watering just thinking about it. Serve warm with vanilla icecream.

Lava Flow Cake

Preheat oven to 450.

Grease 6 ramekin cups.

Melt in microwave: 10 T butter, 6 – 1 oz. squares of semi-sweet chocolate (or 6 oz, semi-sweet choco chips), and 2 – 1 oz. squares of bittersweet chocolate.

Add to chocolate and stir well: 1 1/2 C confectioner sugar, 1/2 C flour

Stir in until smooth: 3 eggs and 3 egg yolks

Add: 1 tsp vanilla and 2 T orange liquor

Pour into ramekins and bake 14 minutes.



Island Girl

We are Hawaii-bound and I’m just a tad EXCITED. Can you tell?

Mary Larson, my high school friend who came from Denver for my birthday party in November, has a place in Kauai. (I couldn’t even spell this word a month ago.) Mary and hubby Steve have invited us a couple of times, but work schedules and deadlines didn’t jibe. This time, the cosmic elements clicked and I booked a week. I even bought an island-appropriate dress for lounging on the lanai drinking mai-tais. (I’ve never had a mai-tai, but I love the idea of them.)

Mary says the whale watching is phenomenal right now. Check out this photo that, reportedly, was taken near Kauai. The accompanying text of the story reads:

“The first took place on a January afternoon off the northwest coast of Kauai, when a group of eight bottlenose dolphins met up with a pair of humpback whales. Two of the dolphins – apparently adults – approached one of the whales, first appearing to surf the pressure wave created by the whale’s head as it swam, and later taking turns lying perpendicularly across the whale’s rostrum when it surfaced to breathe. Then, while one of the dolphins lay balanced over the end of its rostrum, the whale stopped and slowly lifted the dolphin high into the air. The dolphin maintained an arched position and made no effort to escape, allowing the whale to continue lifting until it was nearly vertical in the water, at which point the dolphin slid down the whale’s rostrum, dove into the water, and porpoised back to its fellow dolphins.”

Amazing, no?

Two other fun things in Debland to report:

The Sierra Foothill Charter School’s Inaugural Fundraiser was a rip-roaring success. We netted over $7,000 for the school. People have been asking why we are doing fundraising when we’re a public school. Doesn’t the State pay the bills?

The State pays the ADA once students begin attending school, but there’s a big gap in time and $$$ between now and when classes begin. We still have a lot of needs that must be met before school opens: books, computers, infrastructure stuff, hire teachers, confirm our charter with State Board of Education…etc.

Fortunately, our amazingly creative fundraising team headed by Ruth Smiley and Kori Smith is busy planning our next fun event.

Here’s a photo of our SFCS Board taken that evening at Savoury’s, which is THE place for fine dining in Mariposa, if you’re ever in the area.

Jill, Danesha, Carolin, Brett and John

And, speaking of photos, I simply have to share this gorgeous photo of my daughter, Kelly. She’s just as beautiful on the inside, too. 🙂

Okay. I must get busy and pack. I promise to bore you with travel photos the next time I blog.



A Recipe for BookClub

The Wine, Women and Words Book Club met on Sunday evening–a chilly, windy, rainy evening, which, given our recent draught, was PERFECT weather. 🙂

(from the left) Caroline, Kori, Judy, Dolores, Carol, Donna, Jill and Susan

The book under discussion was THE ALPHABET VERSUS THE GODDESS by Leonard Shlain.

From the author’s website: “….Shlain argues that literacy reinforced the brain’s linear, abstract, predominantly masculine left hemisphere at the expense of the holistic, iconic feminine right one. This shift upset the balance between men and women initiating the disappearance of goddesses, the abhorrence of images, and, in literacy’s early stages, the decline of women’s political status. Patriarchy and misogyny followed.”

This was not a quick, easy read. In fact, it was the kind of book that benefited from having a built-in dictionary. To facilitate a dialogue, I photocopied single pages by flipping open the book and plunking it down, then circling a paragraph to be read aloud and discussed. I figured there wasn’t a page in the book that didn’t offer some opportunity for discussion, if not hot debate. It made for an interesting discussion. 😉

Fortunately, we saved our book discussion for after dinner and we fed our right brains well with “Goddess Food”–a yummy vegetarian soup (no left-brain, spear-chucking hunters needed at our table). This was accompanied by homemade rolls and butter, salad, fruit, homemade cookies and, of course, wine.

Since I was hosting, I found a promising recipe online and made a few changes. Here’s my recipe:

Deb’s Feed-the-Goddess-Within Soup


2 cups dried adzuki beans*

olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of your pan)

2 – leeks

1- onion, chopped

4-5 cloves – garlic, minced

4-5 stalks – celery, chopped

a dozen or so – mushrooms, sliced

2 cups chopped carrots

2-3 cups vegetable (or chicken) broth

4-6 – potatoes, chopped

2 -cup, chopped – butternut squash (this is sweet and nutritious and pretty much disappears in the cooking)

1 bunch – spinach, chopped or torn in bite-size pieces

seasoning: salt and pepper, 1/2-1 teaspoon of ground cumin

optional: serve with pesto and sour cream


Cook dry adzuki beans separately for 2 hours prior to starting soup (unless you are using canned beans). Use enough water to keep them covered by at least one-inch of water as they cook. Stir often and do not let them run out of water–they’re small and they burn easily. Once you’re brought them to boiling, reduce heat and simmer on low for two hours.

In a heavy kettle/pot, heat oil then add onion, garlic, leeks and celery. Saute until tender and slightly translucent. Add carrots and mushrooms, along with seasonings, then simmer for five minutes or so, stirring often. (I used this time to peel and chop the potatoes.) Add potatoes and butternut squash then cover with vegetable broth. Add more water if needed.

I simmered this mix on low for about two hours, stirring frequently. About an hour before I was going to serve, I added in the cooked adzuki beans, with its broth. About fifteen minutes before serving, I added in the spinach. I let everything simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes, then served with sour cream and pesto, on the side. The pesto added a very aromatic and tasty punch; the sour cream made the soup taste richer. Both were very pleasing, but the soup was good on its own, as well.

*any type of bean is okay, but here’s some info about the adzuki bean, if you’re interested. They were yummy. “These are small, reddish-brown beans, rounded in shape with a point at one end. They have a strong, nutty, sweet flavour, and are much used in the macrobiotic diet, because as Eunice Farmilañt says in Macrobiotic Cooking they are “the most yang of Beans”. They probably originate from China, and are imported from China and Thailand where they are harvested in November and December. In the Orient, adzuki beans are usually cooked to a red soft consistency and served with such ingredients as coconut milk. They are also cooked with rice, their bright colour tinting the rice an attractive pink, as in the Japanese, Red-cooked Festival Rice. In the East it’s also common to find, adzuki beans sweetened with sugar and made into cakes and sweetmeats.

Next month’s reading choice is: Steve Jobs’ biography. I’m excited to read it and just uploaded it on my Kindle, but…I also just got seven Rita books in the mail. Guess I’d better get busy reading!


I’m a Jeannie

If I’d been on the ball and posted this link yesterday when I was supposed to, you could have participated in this very fun quiz and gotten some feedback from Ellen Hartman and Jeannie Watt, the two Superromance authors who posted it. But, alas, in group blogs, the bloggers are asked to reply to feedback on the day of the post only. Still, this is too much fun to pass up and it really got me thinking about certain inherent differences in people…and characters. And how important it is as a writer to set aside your personal preferences to honor your characters’ natural inclinations.

So, check this out and let me know: Are you a Jeannie or an Ellen?

Two questions that sealed my fate:

1) When I’m writing/reading/studying I prefer:

a) silence

b) music

(My answer: A. I love a quiet house and workplace. BUT, if I have to work in a noisy place (like an airplane or coffee shop) then I have to have my headphones on with classical flamenco guitar music playing.)

12) Pick one of the following. (We leave it up to you to decide what to do with him once you pick him.)

a) Dean Winchester

b) Raylan Givens

(c) who are these guys?

My answer? B. All the way. Be still my heart. Raylan Givens is the name of the U.S. Marshal hero of TV’s Justified. I have to admit I’m a big fan. Before that, I was a big Deadwood fan. I adore Timothy Olyphant. In last night’s season opener, I nearly jumped out of my chair when he pulled the tablecloth–as cool a move as I’ve ever seen. Stone, cold awesomeness.

Jeannie, you have spectacular taste in TV heroes. (Not that Ellen’s adoration of Dean Winchester is without merit, but he’s a sigh not a swoon for me.)

In summary, you know you’re a Jeannie if: “You like your beer dark and your endings happy.”

I LOVE this. Short and sweet, me in a nutshell. 🙂

And, for the record, I adore both of these women. They’re my friends and they’re wonderful writers, too.


Bad timing

Last week I blogged about my Healthy Lifestyle Improvement Plan (AKA my New Year’s resolutions). And, so far, so good. Kelly is kicking my lazy behind twice a week at the gym and I’m sticking to my plan to do yoga and walk the other five days. We’re only talking a week, but it’s a start.

Then, yesterday, my pal Jackie Maxwell–of Jaximages Photography fame–sent me a link to: National Pizza Week. Oh, come on! Really? The second week of January–only one full week into our New Year’s resolutions and someone decides now would be a good time to eat more pizza? Whose brilliant idea was that?

I think I’ve ranted about this National Day…Week…faux holiday stuff before, but this one really irked me. I love pizza. I’ve eaten really great pizza (King’s Pizza in Brookings, South Dakota, comes to mind) and really bad pizza (a chain pizza place in western Colorado that left me sick for days). But I certainly wouldn’t eat it every day of the week–even a nationally acclaimed week.

But, I’m trying to be a good sport about this, so I’ll pass along my K.I.S.S., realistic-calorie-pizza recipe.

First, we can all agree, I think, that homemade dough rocks, but, seriously, I ask you: who has the time to whip up dough, wait for it to rise, then flatten, shape, etc.?

Not me. But, luckily, I’ve found several delightful alternatives in my grocery store’s health food aisle.

Alvarado Street Bakery makes a sprouted wheat pizza round that is chewy and delicious if you like a thicker crust.

Rustic Crust offers several varieties, including organic, whole grain, etc. They’re not huge, if you’re feeding a crowd. Nor are they cheap, but for two or three diners, one pie works fine. We usually have a piece or two leftover for lunch the next day.

For me, these ready-made crusts are acceptable alternatives to Boboli, which I find doughy and heavy. While the oven is pre-heating, I prep my toppings. For my family, this means canned artichokes (not the marinated kind)–well-drained and chopped, coursely chopped green pepper (granddaughters pick these off), black olives and mushrooms. I also keep a package of pepperoni on hand or in the freezer for culinary emergencies.

I prefer pesto over tomato sauce for the base. (I keep a container in the freezer and hack out about a quarter cup to thaw in the microwave–only takes a few seconds.) Shred some cheese and you’re good to go.

Toss a salad while it bakes–8-10 minutes, and you have a fast, healthy meal.

I’m sure this recipe flies in the face of a true pizza connoisseur. I get that. In fact, I agree there’s a time and place for a fresh, hot, over-the-top caloric pie from an authentic pizza parlor…just not the second week of January. 😉


I resolve…no, really, I do.

Jennifer Hudson: before and after

Have you seen the Weight Watchers ad with Jennifer Hudson singing a duet with herself…when she was 80 lbs heavier? I think she looks fabulous, but her weight was never an issue for me. I’ve always admired her singing and her Can-do attitude. (I loved it when she sassed Simon Cowell on American Idol because he told her she was “too big” to be taken seriously.) She won an Oscar at her old weight, which certainly speaks to her immense talent. But if she feels healthier and happier at her thinner weight, then more power to her.

My beautiful daughter, Kelly, is another example of someone who made big changes in her lifestyle and changed her looks as well. Kelly accomplished this through exercise and some moderate changes in eating habits. She feels great and has a lot more energy to run her Day Care. And doesn’t she look fantastic?

Kelly "before"
Fit and fabulous!

I am not going to post before and after photos of myself, because, honestly, I would look like a POW if I lost 80 lbs. SCARY. But I could stand to lose a few pounds (especially after all those delicious holiday meals) and I really want to tone up my muscles, strengthen my bones AND upgrade my energy level.

So, this morning I went to the gym. A first. Just ask Kelly who has been teaching fitness classes for a year and a half and has been bugging me to join her. I resisted telling her, “Group exercise is like group sex…it’s not my thing.” LOL.

My excuse?

“I do yoga twice a week and walk the other days.” Which is half true. On rainy, cold, hot or windy days, I can almost always talk myself into skipping my walk.

Face it, I’m lazy…busy…lethargic…the list goes on–and the list isn’t pretty. But this is a new year and like the gazillion other people who join a gym on January 2 filled with great intentions, I went to the gym this morning. I lifted “baby” weights. I looked really, really bad in the floor-to-ceiling mirrors when I tried to do some crazy knee-to-elbow-hop-bend thing. Pathetic. Really. 🙁 But my instructor (Kelly) and the only other person in the class (Tjode) were very kind. They didn’t laugh.

So, I’m not promising to look like the downsized Jennifer Hudson–or my gorgeous daughter–any time soon (or ever), but I’m going to give this workout thing a try. Wish me luck.

And if any of you have made resolutions that included diet and exercise, I’m right there with you. Let’s do this!!!