Vid: My Bull-Friend + Austin + Pod17: G. Constans’ Novels Into Movies 

Photo of da-AL and her new bull-friend on LBJ's ranch.
My new bull-friend and me horsing around.

Click H-E-R_E for my new podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s audio show is the audio version of “From Novel to Big Screen: how Gabriel Constans turns novels into movies!” that you can read the text version of H-E-R-E.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts and Breaker, to Pocket Casts and RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is H-E-R-E.

Hurrah!!!! Spain now recognizes pets as legal family! My hope is that the U.S. will be next…

Every budding novelist (see about my books H-E-R-E) needs a bull-friend for fun between writing days. Mine lives among the herd at LBJ Ranch. Lyndon Baines Johnson served as the United States’ 36th President from 1963 to 1969 (Wiki’s info on him h-e-r-e).

LBJ’s ranch is in Johnson City, Texas, which includes his “Texas White House.” The 300-year old “Cabinet Oak” shades the front, and the view is of the Perdernales (which means “flint” in Spanish) River.

da-AL stands in front of LBJ's Texas White House.
LBJ’s Texas White House.
da-AL stands before Perdernales River, which runs near LBJ's Texas White House.
The Perdernales River runs near LBJ’s Texas White House.

Last I visited the United Kingdom (I’ve written a number of posts on that, including H-E-R-E and H-E-R-E), a taxi driver who immigrated from Brazil waxed dreamily of wanting to visit Texas, “To see cowboys.” Definitely he was immune to America’s Anglophilia. (Just today I came across vlogger Michael’s English lessons where he offers t-h-i-s one about real life in England.)

I envied the taxi driver his romantic, cartoon-eye-ed view of the U.S. that blinded him to our political horrors like what’s happening abortion rights-wise in Texas and elsewhere (posts on that H-E-R-E and H-E-R-E and H-E-R-E).

Austin is truly stunning. Though this visit was about family, we did plenty of sight-seeing. Downtown, there’s a great statue of Barbara Jordan, an African-American woman of many political firsts in Texas and nationally. (Wiki tells about her h-e-r-e.) An Austin Airport terminal is even named for her!

Khashayar and da-AL stand before statue of Barbara Jordan in Austin, Texas.
Khashayar and I were cheered to see Barbara Jordan’s proud statue in downtown Austin.
Photo of sign for Barbara Jordan terminal at Austin Airport.
Jordan even has her own terminal at Austin Airport!

On our way home from a sunset hike up Enchanted Rock, we passed through Fredericksburg, where a stand of trees twinkled.

The views at sunset are gorgeous at Enchanted Rock.
The views at sunset are gorgeous at Enchanted Rock.
A festive stand of trees at Fredericksburg, Texas.
A festive stand of trees at Fredericksburg, Texas.
Trees filled with tiny lights in Fredericksburg, Texas.
Trees kissed by stars in Fredericksburg, Texas.
Khashayar and da-AL in front of trees filled with lights.
Khashayar and I happened on these by chance.

It had been way too long since I’ve seen my dear extended family, all the longer due to the Covid pandemic (read about how Khashayar and I got it just before the vaccines came out H-E-R-E).

Thank goodness our dear K-D doggie provided the loving buffer to the crash landing returning home can feel like. (By the way, our Austin friends offer t-h-e-s-e instructions on their audiology site regarding keeping our furry friends’ ears healthy.)

Close up of K-D-doggy's sweet face.
Hopefully our little K-D-doggy was as happy to see us as we were to see her.

Do you think pets should be regarded as legal family, like they now are in Spain?

Recipe: Easy Panettone + Pod 15 C Sterling’s Author Marketing + Icy Us

Photo of panettone and daffodil by Ksenia Chernaya on Pexels.com
Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on Pexels.com

From Novel to Big Screen: how Gabriel Constans turns books into movies! Happiness Between Tails

#Novels #Movies #Authors #Screenwriters Want to know what it’s like to complete a book and then see it made into a Hollywood production-type of film? I’d love to see the novel I’m working on “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat” as a film. Here’s Gabriel Constans, who made his book into a film. Got questions, thoughts, and/or experiences to share about writing and publishing? Record them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction Today’s topic and about today’s guest 1:05 Gabriel Constans on making his book into a movie 3:14 My question for you 6:00 HBT outro Links referred to in this episode: About my novel, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat.” Gabriel Constans’ blog. Gabriel’s post at his blog about his movie, The Last Conception. The trailer for it. Website for Buddha’s Wife. Robert D. Reed Publishers. One of Gabriel’s previous screenplays, Stellina Blue, that was made into a film. Photos available at the blog version of this show: Cover of “Buddha’s Wife” by Gabriel Constans. Photo of Gabriel Constans. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support
  1. From Novel to Big Screen: how Gabriel Constans turns books into movies!
  2. Novelist Jacqueline Diamond Published 100+ Books!

Click H-E-R-E for my new podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s audio show is the audio version of “Author Reality + Charles Sterling on Marketing and Author Platform,” which you can read the text version of H-E-R-E.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts and Breaker, to Pocket Casts and RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is H-E-R-E.

Panettone, or pan dulce as my Argentine mother calls it, is one of my family’s favorite desserts that I make. For anyone who has yet to become acquainted with panettone, it’s the queen of winter holiday fruit breads. Traditionally shaped like a chef’s hat (though mine are more freeform, same as my novels I’m working on and about them H-E-R-E), fragrant and puffy with yeast, it’s decadence comes from an abundance of eggs, butter, fruits and honey.

Whatever panettone success I’ve enjoyed is thanks to the melding of these two great no-knead bread baking books…

Combine…

Bread in 5 Minutes book coverThe panettone recipe H-E-R-E from “The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking,” by Jeff Hertzberg, M.D., and Zoë François. I blogged a detailed review of the book H-E-R-E.

+

"My Bread" by Jim Lahey book coverThe technique of oven baking with a lidded pot like a dutch oven or the pot and heat resistant lid of a crock pot, (example of that is H-E-R-E in a video inspired by “My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method,” by Jim Lahey. I blogged about my bread making experience with Lahey’s book H-E-R-E.

A cousin in Italy says it’s the best she’s tasted!

My loaves aren’t cookbook photo-perfect, and I use recipes loosely, yet the above two books guarantee you’ll end up with something wonderful.

Extra tips…

  • The recipe is very flexible. For instance, if you don’t like nuts or dried fruit, you can double up on one or the other, or leave them out, or substitute things like chocolate chips.
  • For the first half of the baking, leave the lid on. For the remainder, take the lid off. That shaves some of the baking time and gives a browner crust.
  • Lining the pot with parchment paper makes things easier.
  • Halving the recipe turns out well, too.
  • Leftover  panettone freezes nicely.
  • Whole wheat flour is a good, hearty alternative for the white flour.
  • More fruit and/or nuts, less fruit and/or nuts, or none at all — it comes out delicious!

By the way, my honey and I just got back from visiting family in Austin, Texas.

Khashayar and da-AL in freezing water after doing the Polar Plunge into Barton Springs.
Here we are freezing after doing the Polar Plunge into Barton Springs.
What food tastes most celebratory to you?

It’s OK 2 Say Nope 2 Holidays + Pod 14: Dog Days + L. Brummet’s Leeks

extreme close-up of gingerbread cookie face.

Cool Doggie Days + Lillian Brummet’s Leeks Recipe Happiness Between Tails

#Authors #Books #Cooking #Veggies #Photography #Gardening #Pets #Dogs #MonarchButterflies #Butterflies #Recipes Hungry? Backyard fruits and veggies are the best. Lillian Brummet, a blogger from Canada who’s written many books, says hot weather means leek season. Here’s her recipe for “Leek n’ Mushroom Bundles.” What are you hungry for these days? Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions by recording them on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy me a coffee. Time Stamps (where segments begin): HBT introduction 1:00 Today’s topic and about today’s guest 2:05 Lillian Brummet’s “Leek n’ Onion Bundles” recipe 4:18 My question for you 6:28 HBT outro Photos available at the blog version (H-E-R-E) of this show: Serendipitous photos of shadows and beautiful Los Angeles blue sky. Closeup of green onion flower. Lillian and Dave Brummet Links referred to in this episode: About the novels I'm writing. Video of K-D dog serenading. About monarch butterflies. A wild PBS video about monarch butterflies. Recipes by Khashayar for Happiness Between Tails: a great hot soup, a crunchy salad, a fruity dessert and a carrot cake, an entree, and this appetizer and this one. Lillian Brummet's site with info about her, including her books. — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Click H-E-R-E for my new podcast page at AnchorFM. This week’s audio show is the audio version of “Video: Cool Doggie Days + Lillian Brummet’s Leeks Recipe,” which you can read the text version of H-E-R-E.

At the Happiness Between Tails podcast page, you’ll also find links to subscribe, hear, and share it via most any platform, from Spotify and Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts and Breaker, to Pocket Casts and RadioPublic and Castbox and Stitcher, plus an RSS feed. The full list of 50+ places is H-E-R-E.

Close-up of gingerbread cookie face.

Wish the holidays would just go away? It’s okay to tell them to go away.

Holidays can be nice — and terrible! Family can bring us to our knees — both to swoon and to cringe. Romance can make our hearts flutter or seize.

From Halloween to New Year’s, at least here in the United States, we’re inundated 24/7 with messages of how this is the time for families and lovers. We’re instructed to either kiss, or to kiss and make up.

fullsizerender-5Sometimes none of that is possible or isn’t in our best interest.

Traditional or sacred, I invite you to join me in acknowledging that ignoring any special day is perfectly acceptable. Never, sometimes, always; we can give any number of them a rest, whenever we please.

What matters is that we do everything to get through them as best we can — whatever it takes to mark time, to survive, to thrive through and into gentle holiday-free January.

Do you ever prefer to ignore holidays?

Pro-Choice: what being it actually means by K E Garland

“Everybody’s a teacher if you listen.” — Doris Roberts; actress, author, and philanthropist.

When I posted, “My Abortion Story + Jury Service Pt 2,” I neglected to tell you something important; were it not for Kathy Garland’s courageous and honest blog post that you’ll find below, I might not have published it. (Her account first appeared at PULPMag on Feb. 13, 2020.)

(For an audio version of this post, click H-E-R-E.)

Perhaps you remember Kathy from when she was a prior guest at Happiness Between Tails? (And by the way, here’s another excellent post about the subject contributed by Infidel753.)

Below, she mentions Planned Parenthood. Funding for the organization was signed into law by President Richard Nixon who decreed, “no American woman should be denied access to family planning assistance because of her economic condition.” Planned Parenthood provides far more than abortions. The agency is committed to giving affordable reproductive health care to all genders, all ages,  all over the world. They offer sex education, cervical cancer screenings, contraception including vasectomies, and help with sexually transmitted infections.

Kathy has taught English for 25 years, which makes perfect sense, given how she inspires all who read her posts. A wife and mother, she lives in Jacksonville, Florida. Her award-winning work is featured in anthologies and many other places. For info about the three books she’s published and to contact her, check out her personal blog. In addition, she hosts a site to normalize conversations about menopause

Blogger/author/teacher K E Garland.

“What it Actually Means to be Pro-Choice” by Kathy Garland

My father taught me about sex when I started my period. We sat on the loveseat, where he explained how menstruation worked, a banana balanced on his thigh. I suspected this was my mother’s idea, although she and I never discussed sex or women’s bodies. 

My father explained bleeding meant I could now get pregnant, if I ever had sex, and that it was my responsibility to avoid such circumstances. A condom would do the trick. He pulled one out of his pocket, ripped open the small package, and showed me how to put it on the banana, a mock penis. I suppose he thought it appropriate to cram three separate topics — sex, safe-sex, and periods — into one conversation, because we never revisited either again. But at ten years old, I couldn’t comprehend what fake penises and condoms had to do with the pain in my lower abdomen or the blood that soaked the pad I’d just learned to wear. I wanted the conversation to end so I could finish playing with my dolls.Cover of "Daddy: Reflections of Father-Daughter Relationships" by Dr. K E Garland.

Six years later, my mother suddenly died from kidney disease. My maternal grandmother was an expert at pushing emotions aside and had advised me to do the same.

“Don’t cry,” she said, “you’ve had your Mama for a long time. Sixteen years is a long time.”

So, I followed her lead and stifled the pain.

 My father physically moved on by dating a new woman a week after my mother’s burial. He spent my junior year, courting his newfound love and ignoring me. Taking care of a teenage daughter seemed to be too much for him. The following year, he sent me to live with my grandparents in a small Michigan town called Covert. I was angry. There were more students in my former Chicago high school than in the entire township. I was saddened by how quickly my father discarded me and our relationship. But I’d learned to suppress and ignore all negative emotions. My plan was to keep to myself, graduate, and apply to colleges.

School began the day after Labor Day. It was hard not to be noticed in a class of sixteen seniors, but I tried. Even when I knew the answer, I remained as quiet as possible in English IV, hoping no one would speak to me. In typing class, I hid my nervousness behind intermittent pops of pink Bubble Yum; maybe my aloofness would repel others. Conversations were sparse until I went to computer class. That’s where I met him. He was a junior. He cracked my feigned exterior by making me laugh. He helped me bury my mother’s death. He helped me forget why I was living in Covert in the first place. His name was Eddie.

Our long phone conversations turned into afternoons at Eddie’s home where we sat on his family’s brown sectional and watched movies on their floor model TV. His mother was rarely home. Watching movies turned into tongue kissing and sex, sometimes on the couch or floor, other times in his room.

We became a couple and I’d forgotten about the talk my father and I had seven years prior. I’m not sure what Eddie’s safe sex lessons entailed. By the first day of fall, my period hadn’t come, so I asked his mother what she thought that meant.

She inhaled a long drag of her cigarette, blew a thin, cloudy stream out of the corner of her mouth, looked at me, and said, “Either you late, or you pregnant. And if you pregnant, you need to talk to Eddie.”

I was pregnant.Cover of "The Unhappy Wife" by Dr. K E Garland.

I knew I could trust my senior English teacher, a brown, petite, no-nonsense lady. Her church dresses and high heels felt like home. The day I confided in her, she asked if I could tell my grandmother. I assured her I could not. Expectations were high in my family, especially my mother’s side. My grandfather had been president of the school board for several years. My grandmother was an important figure at the local civic center. A seventeen-year-old pregnant granddaughter was outside of their equation.

My English teacher neatly wrote the name, Planned Parenthood on a sheet of paper and underneath it, a phone number.

For my initial visit to the clinic, I called into my work-study job and made the 36-mile-drive alone in the car my grandparents had lent me. The appointment was scheduled to ensure I was, indeed, pregnant. Once confirmed, I’d have to return on a separate day for the actual procedure. A nurse told me what I should bring: a change of clothes, socks, pads, and a person to drive me there and back. I also had to commit to a form of birth control. I opted for the pill.

Eddie drove us to the clinic in his mother’s blue Chevy. We sat in the waiting room and watched daytime television with other women of varied ages, until they called my name.

After recovering, we returned to Eddie’s house. His mother had allowed me to hide my car in her garage, so that passersby wouldn’t know I was there. I lay on the brown sofa for several hours, fading in and out of sleep. His mother encouraged me to eat her homemade meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and gravy. The meal warmed and comforted my spirit.

When it was time to leave their home, I hid the paper bag full of antibiotics and pain meds in my backpack and left around eight at night just in time to arrive at my grandparents’ house, as if I’d been working all evening.

Though physically painful, the days following my abortion were liberating. I not only escaped shame, but also teen motherhood. I didn’t want to be a part of the statistically low numbers of adolescent mothers, who never attended or finished college. An abortion ensured I never was.

Thirty years ago, having an abortion offered me a real choice, with no restrictions, followed by a birth control option.

But this isn’t the case in 2020.

In some states, women are currently faced with the strictest abortion regulations to date. Fetal heartbeat laws restrict abortions after six weeks, which is typically the timeframe for confirming a pregnancy and the earliest that abortions can be completed. My teenage self would’ve had no choice but to prepare for birth. Furthermore, states like Missouri that have one abortion clinic, limit access and add stress to an already stressful situation. Also, as it stands now, the national dialogue is centered on extreme cases. Questions like what if a woman is raped or what if the woman might die tend to exaggerate and cloud the idea of choice. While I agree that these are valid reasons for having an abortion, any situation is reasonable. 

When we focus on the need to prove rape or death, we create a hierarchy of reasons. When we begin ranking rationale, we also implicitly say, you don’t have the right to choose. The state will choose for you. And that is not pro-choice. That is punishment sanctioned by someone else’s idea of morality.

When I reflect on my senior year in Covert, I know it was best not to bring a baby into my world of anger and resentment. Furthermore, Eddie and I said we’d be together forever, but like many teenage relationships, ours didn’t last. We broke up by the beginning of my second year of college. Although conditions are never perfect, raising a baby with a sixteen-year-old boy in a high-poverty environment, while delaying my education wasn’t ideal. It wasn’t time.Cover of "Kwoted" by K E Garland.

But politicians dismiss stories like mine. Even though a study showed that women who have abortions do so because it would “interfere with their education, work or ability to care for their dependents, or they could not afford a baby at the time,” the current political climate ignores these as valid reasons to terminate a pregnancy.

Governments have successfully reframed the pro-choice narrative to only include situations like rape, incest, or a mother’s impending death. These are not pro-choice examples. These are abortion bans intended to punish women and teenage girls for not having protected sex.  

I’m grateful I was able to drive a safe distance to a Planned Parenthood within the state and I’m thankful I didn’t have to involve my grandparents by having them sign an informed consent form, which is current Michigan law. I’m glad I was able to make a choice that was best for me. This procedure allowed me to complete high school, and subsequently college with ease, which in part have contributed to the life I live today as a wife, mother, and professional with a terminal degree. I want the same choice offered for other women, who, for different reasons may become pregnant, but not want to birth a baby. I want our country to return to a true definition of pro-choice, one where women can safely decide the outcome of their situations, without their state’s interference.

To contact K E Garland and for more of her writing, visit her personal blog, or her site that normalizes conversations about menopause.

When were you challenged to make a pivotal decision only you ought to have decided?

Menendez Bros + My Jury Duty Pt 3 + a Podcast Note

Photo of Menendez brothers with their father, Jose, whom they murdered.
Photo of Menendez brothers with their father, Jose, whom they murdered.

Justice — trials, how our system works, lawyers, juries… all these topics have been on my mind since I recently completed doing jury duty. Since the week before I started it (here are Part 1 and Part 2 about it), I’ve wondered about the Mendez brothers. You know, those rich guys who killed their parents back in the late 1980s. This video I checked out from my happy place, a.k.a. any public library, explains their story.

The brothers somewhat physically resemble my two older brothers, plus we three were raised “tennis-y.” Our household wasn’t hellish in the way of Lyle and Eric’s, but controlling and cruelty and looking the other way existed.

Please don’t get me wrong: a) my brothers aren’t killers and they’re nothing like the Menendez — and b) I believe murder is despicable.

Unlike the Menendezes, we didn’t suffer rich-people burdens. Here’s one man’s take on growing up “in tennis” for some players at the nosebleed rungs. Our dad wasn’t a powerful movie mogul, and we weren’t indoctrinated to keep up with the Beverly Hills set. There are benefits to being an apartment-dwelling plebeian. Tennis earned my brothers college scholarships. As for me, I set out on my own the moment I graduated high school, determined to sooner resort to prostitution than go back.

As a writer, I began as a journalist, then later attended a course on fiction. A classmate, Vonda Pelto, wanted to learn story telling for a recount of her former career as a psychiatrist at the downtown Los Angeles jail. Her primary function was to prevent serial killers from dying by suicide. How’s that for irony? (Here’s an enlightening article about discussing suicide.) Her patients ranged from Charles Manson and porn star John Holmes, to “Hillside Strangler” Ken Bianchi and “Freeway Killer” William Bonin.

Clearly, those killers fall into a different category than the Menendez brothers.

Almost every day in Los Angeles is sky perfection.
Almost every day in Los Angeles is sky perfection.

Back to jury duty…

For a thumbnail of what I posted about jury duty so far, picture “Car Problems” as my middle name. Was it mere coincidence that the morning my mom lent me her car, in front of the courthouse was a man in a t-shirt with a “check engine” logo?

Every trip to and from downtown was a winding tour of Siri workarounds to Los Angeles traffic. Siri kindly even warned me of traffic cameras. The Spring Street Courthouse is snuggled among the Toy District, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Union Station, Grand Central Market, the Bradbury Building of “Bladerunner” movie renown, and more. Slogging along freeways to get there and back would have been unbearable without my beloved audiobooks.

It’s years since I’ve visited the area. Sadly, the number of people who live on the sidewalks has exploded. Flimsy domed homes shelter people along corners, alleys, freeway overpasses and underpasses. I don’t know an end-all remedy, only that “them” is “us.” Whenever I left my juror chair, I kept my little backpack near. How is anyone mobile enough to find a job, see a doctor, take a leak, do anything, when their worldly goods are housed within a nylon tent parked in the middle of a city?

The trial I worked on involved an RV park, privately run yet publicly owned, endeavoring to evict a couple.

On one hand, one of the two renters had recorded park employees, those not wearing mandated Covid19-preventative masks. They used the evidence to report them to the health department. On the other hand, staff accused the renters of impeding their work and bothering fellow tenants by failing to consistently leash their dog.

Sculpture of "Young Lincoln" by James Hansen, 1939, located at Los Angeles Spring Street Courthouse.
Sculpture of “Young Lincoln” by James Hansen, 1939, located at Los Angeles Spring Street Courthouse.

Management had a slicker lawyer and employees willing to smooth over their sloppy record keeping. The tenants brought neighbors (via an extremely problematic videoconferencing setup) who stated they loved the dog and the couple.

Ah, the dog! Mike was old, pudgy, and wore a vest that suggested he was an emotional service provider (any dog is, no?). I first noticed him when he snored from the opposite end of the vast courtroom. Basically, he slept and sometimes slurped water.

Hearing testimonies is nothing akin to dynamic TV shows and high drama movies. Questions get reframed in endless ways so lawyers can reveal details otherwise not allowed. Did I say it was boring? Many jurors were there only because they heard rumors that not showing up can result in a $1,500 fine.

This case ran four days, not counting the Friday of jury selection. Monday was a holiday. Tuesday through Thursday were for evidence disclosure, a process rendered mind-numbingly. The last Friday morning was for the lawyers’s closing speeches. Here again, imagine what money buys in terms of lawyers.

Management’s was organized and smooth.

The residents’s insisted on using an overhead projector that blinked his pages onto the screen so annoyingly that I half-closed my eyes. To his credit, he opened with a salient point; each side had recorded, antagonized, and vilified each other. Amen.

Then it was time for a shortened lunch. Then deciding whether the tenants ought to be evicted.

Hand on any religious tome you prefer I swear on, I had every intention to review evidence and turn over every rock.

Sculpture of "Law" by Archibald Garner, 1939, located at Los Angeles Spring Street Courthouse.
Sculpture of “Law” by Archibald Garner, 1939, located at Los Angeles Spring Street Courthouse.

Twelve jurors: roughly fifteen questions to vote on. The list was one of those affairs of, “if you vote this, answer this or skip this…” Each question required only nine votes to pass.

Within some questions, the word “substantial” was used. Was the residents’s rule-breaking and annoying of neighbors “substantial”? Four months earlier, after they were served a seven-day notice to clean up their acts, did they? Substantially? Definitely, but fellow jurors noted that management had spied near-catatonic Mike off-leash once or twice.

A juror reminded us that the residents bothered neighbors over the past year when twice they called the cops. First, when one renter was assaulted by a stranger, then later when she spotted the assaulter lurking.

I asked the juror, “If a sick neighbor needed to summon an ambulance twice over the last year, would you evict them?”

She nodded her head.

Except for mine, the votes were unanimous. They voted so quickly, and with so little discussion and consideration of evidence, as if they’d made snap judgements, I wonder if justice was truly served.

So very many people in Los Angeles live in tents or in cardboard boxes.
So very many people in Los Angeles live in tents or in cardboard boxes.

I’m told the renters can appeal and it was their choice whether to have their trial judged by a judge or a jury. It was an honor to serve, and I learned a lot, though not what I’d expected.

Maybe in the end, like with the Menendez brothers, it boiled down to looking into faces and choosing whether they deserved another chance. TV’s Columbo only needed to solve crimes, not decide whether they were redeemable…

What do you think of our trial system? Would you choose a jury or a judge to decide your case? Do you think the Menendez brothers have served long enough?

Me, leaving the courthouse.
Me, leaving the courthouse.

Wait — a non-jury thing — I’ve already converted several blog posts into podcasts via the WordPress-to-Anchor function. Once Apple’s podcast app accepts them into its feed, you’ll be the first to know!

Please Snail-Mail a Recruit + Willow Croft on Writing and Animals

Photo of Rebekah Hyde.
Postcards and letters are much appreciated by any recruit.

(For an audio version of this post, click H-E-R-E.)

Yay!!!! Since this was first published, Rebekah has earned her way through bootcamp is a happy camper (I couldn’t resist the pun) as a bona fide Marine!!! Read on and instead, redirect your postcards and letters to anyone else you know who’s in the service. H-e-r-e’s a link for how to write to other members of the armed forces who would appreciate your correspondence. Also, check out the podcast audio version of Willow’s portion of this post right below here…

Willow Croft on Writing and Animals Happiness Between Tails

#Animals #Writing #Authors Poet/blogger/speculative and horror fiction author Willow Croft tells how her writing and love of animals merge. How do animals figure into your love of reading and/or writing? Record your thoughts on my podcast page on my Anchor by Spotify page — or comment at HappinessBetweenTails.com — or email me. Like what you hear? Buy Me a Coffee. Visit this show’s original blog post for links and photos of Willow Croft’s book and cat. Time Stamps (where segments begin): Happiness Between Tails introduction da-AL discusses today’s guest 2:00 Willow Croft on writing and animals 2:20 A question for you 14:00 — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/depe9/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/depe9/support

Today’s post begins with hefty justice — a letter to you from Patricia Hyde, my friend whose daughter, Rebekah, is determined to do justice for her country by serving in the Marines. Rebekah needs our encouragement while she mends from injuries sustained during military training so she can jump back in where she left off. The week before she began training, she got married. With luck, she’ll finish and see her husband next February, a year later.

Of all the military branches, Marine boot camp is the longest and probably most rugged. While healing, Rebekah still works, doing less taxing activities. Recruits are restricted from the outside world. They are obliged only snail-mail and one phone call a week. That’s it.

Should you find it in your heart to write to her, I doubt you’ll find anyone as grateful to receive your postcard or letter. 

After Patricia’s letter here to us, continue on for speculative fiction/horror author Willow Croft’s guest post regarding how she came to be published and her love of animals…

Patricia’s Letter to Us About her Daughter’s Service as a Marine Recruit

Note: info within parenthesis added by da-AL

Dear Reader,

This story is about my daughter, Rebekah Hyde, age 22. She tried out for the US Marine Band after she finished high school. Alas, she wasn’t selected, so she applied again after graduating from California State University Long Beach. After four years of college, paid for by working at Jersey Mike’s (a sandwich chain) and as a piano teacher, she was accepted into the USMC band. However, she must first get through boot camp.

Her adventure began February 8, 2021. After a two-week quarantine, she was shipped with other recruits to Parris Island, South Carolina.

Two months later, I received a fateful call. My daughter was seriously injured while carrying her 65-pound backpack. She suffered a stress fracture of her pelvis, both sides of her groin were pulled, and one of her fingers was broken. Nothing, though, can make her quit her dream.

Presently assigned to a medical platoon, she is coming along, healing and feeling less and less pain. In a few weeks, Rebekah will be placed in an active platoon to finish boot camp where she left off.

Rebekah is my only child. Strong and courageous, she will not give up her dream of joining the “President’s Own” and traveling with the US President.

When Rebekah was eight, she begin her music career playing the piano. In the sixth grade, she picked up the flute and immediately fell in love with it. She participated in marching band all four years of high school and also traveled with independent bands like “Impulse,” competing and showcasing her skills with the flute, cymbals, and synthesizer keyboard. Throughout it all, I was by her side as a “Booster Mom.”

I’d appreciate your letters and postcards to Rebekah, to encourage and motivate her through “The Crucible.” Prayers are also welcome.

Please write to Rebekah at: (Note from da-AL — address deleted here from the original post, since Rebekah completed boot camp safe and sound, and is now a full-fledged Marine!)

God bless you and your family. Thank You!

Willow Croft's book of poetry, "Quantum Singularity."

“Writing, Publishing, and My Love for Animals” by Willow Croft

About Me

I acquired a degree in writing and literature from Goddard College (Vermont) back in 1998-2001 but I didn’t actually start writing in hopes of getting published until about the mid- to late 2010s. When I was growing up, creativity was only something you did on the side (if ever!) once you found a job and were a fully functioning and conformist member of society. Only then was it okay to express your creativity, and only if it never took the place of “real” work. And it was because of my 30-plus quest for “real” work that I not only acquired significant physical limitations, I was in a place of mental and emotional desperation. I was living in increasingly conservative, intolerant Florida, I couldn’t find any sort of work, I had been threatened by one of a group of those rabidly conservative types my home state was notorious for, and I had just gotten my master’s degree in a (futile) hope of expanding my hire-ability, with no luck. Although I had started my own freelance business, I was still having problems earning enough income to be independent, and I was just living under so much fear and sadness and stress that I allowed myself to turn to writing, because I just didn’t know what else to do any more. I mean, it was to the point where I was like “I’m almost middle-aged, and I’m still living way below poverty level, I have nothing to show for my efforts to conform to the system just to ‘get a job’ and I have very limited options, so why not write just to keep yourself sane?” And, amazingly, I started to get published in magazines and in anthologies. Granted, there was an immense amount of hard work and dedication involved, but I was actually seeing a return on that, as opposed to anything else I had attempted to achieve over the span of my lifetime. I could spin out so many cliched terms about what getting published meant (and continues to mean), but they are all sincere: a lifeline, a light in the darkness, a refuge, a sanctuary… the list goes on.

So, that’s my main issue with standardized education (and standardized employment, for you grownups out there!). Why force kids to live up to a standard and regimen that many adults (including me!) would have difficulty managing? (I mean, come on, schools; by the time pencils are sharpened, supplies and materials organized, fidgets and energy calmed, and brains drifting into the task ahead, then  —BAM! — it’s time to go to the next period or switch to the next educational subject area and OMG I’M THE TEACHER and I’ve just gotten into the zone and HOLY COW it’s already time for the SWITCH?!??!?! And all I can hope for at that point is that I’ve at least provided the kids some levity in their otherwise dull, rote-learning educational experience by watching their substitute teacher’s brain implode.)

I mean, come on, what’s wrong with making education dynamic and fun and intuitive and stress/pressure-free and exploration-based? When did we stop making space for kids to be kids (and not mini-adults) in schools?

So, even though I’m not currently teaching, I still daydream about this amazingly interactive, pod-based learning environment for the school system that allows children to immerse themselves for a week or two in diverse and wide-ranging areas of interest of their choice, while teachers and guest teachers can weave in essentials, like reading, math, etc., as seamless parts of each pod. And utilize them to build up skill zones like critical thinking, creative nurturing, curiosity-fueled engagement, and more.

And, in the end, the school system could actually not only prepare kids for the changing world (of which, I firmly believe, the standardized school system is outdated, inefficient, and impractical, and well in need of not just an update, but a complete overhaul.)

And, in the best part of all, give kids a chance to explore all aspects of their potential, while they have a safe, judgement-free, supportive environment to do so, instead of having to play self-discovery catch-up as best you can at an older age. I mean, I look back now, and I know that tendencies of mine that had been criticized and considered a detriment, would have been an asset in the careers I had wanted to explore.

But I’ve tried to make up for lost time. As you can see from my “Tips” list, below, I’ve had the opportunity as an adult to explore things, and causes — namely animals, and the environment — that interest me. I may never be able to be the marine biologist or live the purely artistic lifestyle I dreamed of as a child, but at least I can reconnect with my innate interests and passions as best I can, with the time I have left. Why can’t kids have that, with all the time they have ahead of them? I don’t think it’s fair, to strip them of their potential, while we, as adults, want to make them fit into confining little boxes just because we had to/have to.

Anyway, I’ll get off my soap box, and into the tips I learned from my explorations as an adult (where nobody could deter me from getting involved in causes like this!).

About My Love of Animals

Anyone who knows my blog knows I love animals. And if you don’t… well, guess what? I am very passionate about animals and animal welfare. And I don’t just blog about animal welfare causes, like in my fixed post, “The Real-Life Horror of Pet Overpopulation.” I have been very involved in animal rescue causes… everything from cleaning out kennels to assisting on a cat hoarding investigation (and the cats’ subsequent relocation) to wildlife rescue and rehabilitation. I’ve even attended greyhound racing protests. I often have a wonderful rapport with my animal friends, especially cats, chipmunks, and…skunks!

So, even when I’m writing horror, I often include animals in my short stories and other written material. I especially like to include shelter animals and also try to give animals the agency and empowerment they often lack in the real world.

Here are a few examples (links) to stories (in anthologies) that include animals:

Neon Druid: An Anthology of Urban Celtic Magic

EconoClash Review #7

The Hollow: Where All Evil Things Lie Vol. 3

Bloody Red Nose: Fifteen Fears of a Clown

So, for this guest blog post, I’d thought I’d share some tips learned from my years in animal rescue and wildlife rescue/rehab.

On Wildlife

  • Can be a hard thing to resist. Even I, a former, longtime, wildlife rehabber who absolutely knows better, sometimes feel the compulsion to feed my wild animal friends (which I don’t give into). But it can do more harm than good. Like with dogs, people food is not good for animals. So, the next time you’re tempted to feed ducks, turtles (or, heaven forbid, raccoons!), or any other kind of wild animal, please try not to give in to the urge. It may seem like a small act, but it can be a matter of life or death for the wild creature.
  • It should go without saying, right? If you find an injured wildlife, immediately contact your local wildlife center or wildlife rescue group for advice, and the most current information regarding the proper rescue of the animal. Be hesitant about handling injured wildlife, as to avoid injury to yourself from a scared or stressed animal. Also, wildlife rescue organizations always need volunteers, and that can be the best way to learn how to safely handle wildlife, and perhaps even assist on wildlife rescues and releases out in the field.
  • Instead of an environmentally detrimental turf lawn, consider a landscape design that provides food, shelter, and a more natural ecosystem for animals, birds, insects/bugs, and other critters. If you put out water for wildlife and/or birds, make sure it’s flowing and not stagnant. Standing water cannot only play host to harmful bacteria that can sicken wildlife, it can also be a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Consult with the Parks Department or the Extension Service in your area for more expert advice on supporting the local wildlife in your region. Bat houses, birdhouses, and bee houses can be fun additions to your wildlife-friendly zone!

On Adopting Pets

Again, do I even need to say it? Okay, if you insist. “Adopt, Don’t Shop.” Spay/neuter your pets to prevent shelter overcrowding and pet overpopulation. Don’t buy breed or purchase any animals from puppy and cat mills. I worked for a number of years (and plan to, again, when I get settled) in animal rescue and in animal shelters, both as a volunteer and as a paid employee. I even worked on a hoarding case, once. It’s fulfilling work, but also heartbreaking. Heartbreaking for so many different reasons. Mainly, there are too many animals and not enough homes. So, here’s some basics for navigating the pet adoption realm.

  • Give older cats and dogs a chance. For some reason, people seem to think any animal that’s not a kitten or a puppy as “old”. To put this in perspective, my own two cats (both adopted from a shelter) lived to be twenty and twenty-one, respectively. Cats over five years old are a lot more mellow and are often a better companion for families with kids, especially smaller kids. Teach kids (and, yes, even other adults) to be respectful of the cat’s boundaries, and provide spaces for the cat to get away from visitors, household residents, and the like. Adding vertical spaces to your home (cat towers, cat-friendly shelving, etc) can help the cat adjust and minimize stress and behavior issues. I’m not as much as an expert on dogs as I am on cats, but investing in proper training can be a life saver. Literally, in the case of the dog.
  • Keep cats indoors. I admit, I grew up in a household that let cats be indoor/outdoor, and I made the mistake of allowing my first cat be indoor/outdoor, and he developed so many behavior problems as a result. Everybody’s divided on this issue, but I am adamantly, fiercely entrenched on the side of keeping cats strictly indoors. It makes it easy to relocate, plus it saves on having to take the cat to the vet every other week for some abscessed wound after it tangled with a raccoon. Not to mention it’s so much less stress when you’re not worried every time the cat disappears that it’s been run over, or poisoned either accidentally, or on purpose by an angry neighbor because cats consistently ignore property lines. Plus, indoors, they’re not wreaking havoc on an already embattled ecosystem. Cats are opportunistic hunters and have a detrimental impact on local birds and wildlife. Now, here’s the worst parts to letting cats run free, and leaving dogs unattended in the yard: they are vulnerable to theft. And by theft, I don’t mean by people like me who might see a loose animal and think it’s a stray (Joking! Well, sort of.). I mean people who cruise neighbourhoods and steal pets in order to use them for bait animals in dog fighting or to sell them to laboratories for animal testing. Urban myth, right? Nope. Every few months, there would be a flood of lost pet posters in my (former) neighbourhood in Florida. I learned what was most likely happening to the animals from an animal rescue worker who’d been volunteering for about twenty years.
  • “Cute” pets like rabbits do not make good pets for kids. Which is a shame, because rescued rabbits need homes too, as they are often acquired as gifts and then discarded like so many other pet animals once the novelty wears off. I always make the joke “Unless your kid is 4-H experienced…” because rabbits require so much finicky care and handling. If rabbits are held the wrong way, they can kick and break their backs. They need so much specialized care, and unless the parent or guardian is prepared to take on that care, I wouldn’t recommend it. And, hopefully this goes without saying… get the rabbit spayed/neutered! Because rabbits really do breed like, well, rabbits! Or save yourself a lot of headache and stress, and turn the kid onto herpetology (from a licensed breeder that only sells captive bred reptiles, etc.).

Still have questions? Need advice on the weird and wacky things cats do? I’m always willing to talk animals. Visit me on my blog.

Do you know someone who could use a snail-mail letter or postcard? And have you rescued any animals?

My Abortion Story + Jury Service Pt 2

Your comments to Part 1 of this post on my jury duty have lent me courage.

On Olvera Street, you can buy stuff like these Calaveras-style (skeleton) caricatures and plush versions of Mexican pastries. Photo by da-AL.
On Olvera Street, you can buy stuff like these Calaveras-style (skeleton) caricatures and plush versions of Mexican pastries. Photo by da-AL.

In posts and comments here and elsewhere, I often mention the importance of blogging, how delighted I am that social media and our freely commenting allow us to become closer to each other. The simpler it is for people to express themselves into the ethers, the smaller our the world becomes. When we speak from our hearts and personal experience, we see we all need each other and that every single one of us linked in doing our best to get by each day.

All that, and still I left out a vital bit of my own story last time. In that post, “My Jury Duty Pt 1 + Infidel753 Works for Justice and Freedom to Choose,” guest blogger Infidel753 told of his experience as a volunteer for an abortion clinic. As a “pro-choice escort,” he navigated women past the intimidation efforts of anti-choicers. As a result, some readers were inspired shared their views on abortion rights. (By the way, My Jury Duty Pt 3 is here.)

Pico House, across from downtown Los Angeles' historic Olvera Street. Photo by da-AL.
Pico House, across from downtown Los Angeles’ historic Olvera Street, was built in 1870. Photo by da-AL.

My Story

When I was in my mid-20s, I terminated two pregnancies. Within the same year, I got pregnant twice, each time using different forms of birth control. At the time, I’d been living with a boyfriend since I was 18, a sweet, intelligent man I loved dearly.

We were surviving on sporadic work, earning hardly above minimum wage. For that and many more reasons, I didn’t feel like I could give a child the kind of start on life that I would have wanted.

The procedures were expensive and weren’t covered by my health insurance. Each was horribly painful. Afterward, I ran fevers of 104 and was forced to take days off from work, which I could barely afford.

The picturesque old church across from Olvera Street. Photo by da-AL.
The picturesque old church across from Olvera Street. Photo by da-AL.

Fortunately…

I had a kind lover to help me through. Never have I regretted my decisions.

In addition, in my 30s, I was sexually assaulted. Good luck, as if the term can apply to any part of such a trauma, is the only reason I didn’t get pregnant.

Throughout, I’ve enjoyed sheer fortune. What I mean is, the freedom to choose is easy for lucky women, regardless of laws. Those to whom life offers stepping stones and opportunities, circumstances that allow them respectable status and money — they can always spend enough to choose when and if they have children.

Part of the fun of jury duty was walking the local sights, like these stalls of Olvera Street. Photo by da-AL.
Part of the fun of jury duty was walking the local sights, like these stalls of Olvera Street. Photo by da-AL.

Choice

When people are eager to control others, they often interject comments about the for people to “be held accountable.” Their fingers continually point, and always away from themselves.

When we kid ourselves that we know what’s better for our neighbor, it’s easy to view the world as “them” vs. “us.” It’s not so very long ago when United States medical officials decided it was ok to pretend to treat black people for syphilis when really they were studying the full progression of the disease. (Check out that real life horror out here.)

If a woman is resource-poor, network impoverished, lacking in status, uneducated, plain ol’ poor and any of the rest of the often insurmountable challenges life can present — the option to decide whether she bears children is often beyond reach.

What if you’re very young and your family is the opposite of a Hallmark card? What if you’re not emplyed? Or your job doesn’t provide insurance and sick days? What if the rape was more than you could bear? And you don’t want the added burdens of facing the police, defending your reputation as well as your case, can’t afford a good lawyer, and don’t want to confront whoever assaulted you in court?

It was closed when I strolled by, but here’s where you can go up to see a David Alfaro Siqueiros (one of Mexico's greatest muralists) mural that was hidden for many years. Photo by da-AL.
It was closed when I strolled by, but here’s where you can go up to see a David Alfaro Siqueiros (one of Mexico’s greatest muralists) mural that was hidden for many decades. Photo by da-AL.  

Accountability and Responsibility

What if, what if, what if? No, it’s no one’s business why or how many times any woman has an abortion.

When statistics tally how many people consider abortion acceptable, they sidestep the real question. What begs to be asked is whether government is entitled to rule the female body.

It is neither your right nor mine to decide who gets abortions, to force anyone to get sterilized, or to force them to bear a child.

What is your business and mine is this: it’s their body. End of story.

Is it still legal to get an abortion?

How sad that anyone needs to ask. Mercifully, the answer in the United States is yes, in good measure due to the work of Planned Parenthood.

The organization offers all kinds of affordable health care, mostly but not all concerning reproductive health, to all genders, all ages, all over the world. Interestingly, in 1970, President Richard Nixon signed into law funding for family planning services, Planned Parenthood included. According to Wikipedia, Nixon decreed, “no American woman should be denied access to family planning assistance because of her economic condition.”

Remember, however, it’s not enough to win our rights — we must continually work to retain them. Unfortunately, the right to choose is continually endangered by anti-choicers.

Need proof we can’t rest on our laurels? According to Wikipedia, here’s what happened elsewhere: “Poland is one of the few countries in the world to largely outlaw abortion after decades of permissive legislation during Polish People’s Republic. About 10-15% of Polish women seek abortion in neighbouring countries due to the strict restraints in their own country. Poland’s abortion law is one of the most restrictive in Europe, along with a group of other traditionally Roman Catholic countries of the region (Malta, San Marino, Liechtenstein, Vatican, Monaco and Andorra).”

In non-Covid-19 times, the plaza at the mouth of Olvera Street is filled with performers and audiences. Photo by da-AL.
In non-Covid-19 times, the plaza at the mouth of Olvera Street is filled with performers and audiences. Photo by da-AL.

What about Pt 2 of my jury duty?

It was a holiday weekend, so we all stayed home that Monday.

Since my car was in the shop, on Tuesday my husband lent me his car. Ten minutes away from home, his “check engine” light blinked on.

Fortunately (a word I don’t use lightly, as explained several headings ago), I had another car I could borrow. My mom lives with us and she was away visiting my brothers who live in different states. Can one take a vacation when one is retired? Regardless, her generosity allowed me to continue jury duty, albeit half an hour tardy that day.

Today’s post was an emotional one and it took a lot out of me so I’ll leave off here and fill you in on the rest of my jury service next time…

Here's one entrance to the Olvera Street outdoor mall. Photo by da-AL.
Here’s one entrance to the Olvera Street outdoor mall. Photo by da-AL.

In the meantime, since the courthouse was in the Los Angeles Historic District, these photos are of Olvera Street. I walked there during our lunch break. According to Wikipedia, it’s “been the main square of the city since the early 1820s, when California was still part of Mexico, and was the center of community life[ until the town expanded in the 1870s.”

How much control do you want your government to have over your body?

Our COVID + Carrot Delight Cake Healthier Recipe by Khashayar

Our COVID Healing and Carrot Delight Cake Healthy Recipe by KhashayarEver crave a treat that tastes decadent but is a bit healthier? Get your veggies and good fats with this brownie-like moist loveliness. (Check out an audio version of this recipe and post h-e-r-e.)

(For an audio version of this post, click H-E-R-E.)

Khashayar came up with it just before the two of us came down with COVID-19. (Here he first contracted it and here I got it too and here is how it went after this.)

Thank goodness COVID-19 hasn’t affected my ability to write and read, aside from the days it weakened my sight and energy. We’re much better, wake each morning slightly less raggedy than the one before in terms of feeling totally human.

It has a week since I’ve been able to smell and taste. If I hold my nose to a jar of cinnamon powder or a bottle of lavender oil, absolutely nothing registers. Taste is down to an occasional three notes of flavor. They’re subtle and offer no complexity. If something is super salty, ultra sweet, or blazing hot, they’ll call like old friends from a place so distant I can hardly hear them.

I tried sniffing a bottle of bleach… nearer = nothing… nearer = nothing… short of sticking my nostril right over the spout, a revelation terrified me. How easily I could accidentally truly damage myself without these two senses. How easily anyone could! My heart goes out to all who suffer this.

I try to rev my appetite by conning it that texture and temperature are flavors. My clothes haven’t gotten too baggy yet. I try not to stress over whether things will always be this way.

Ah, yes! There is indeed another note of taste I neglected to tell you about! It’s the most important one; the love Khashayar infuses into all of his vegetarian cooking rings loud and clear…

Ingredients

2 pounds grated carrots
2 cups regular white sugar
2 cups white flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon nutmeg
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons melted butter
1/4 cup olive oil

Topping

2 cups greek yogurt
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350 farenheit degrees.

2. Mix together all the dry ingredients: carrots, sugar, flour, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

3. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs and milk.

4. Combine all the above with the melted butter and olive oil.

5. Pour the batter into a 13″ x 9″ x 2″ baking dish.

6. Bake for an hour or until a toothpick inserted into it comes out clean.

7. Let the cake cool.

8. Stir topping ingredients together: yogurt, honey, and almonds.

9. Slice the cake and serve with a dollop of the topping. Garnish with fresh or frozen berries (frozen ones look tantalizing as they thaw, as if they’ve been powdered with sugar). It also gets a nice chewy crust when heated. If you prefer it warm, don’t add the topping until it’s out of the oven.

Hungry for more? Khashayar has lots of other veggie/healthy recipes such as a great hot soup, a crunchy salad, a fruity dessert, an entree, and this appetizer and this one.

Do you have a favorite healthier dessert?

Recipe: Diana’s Tiramisu by da-AL

How's about a slice of tiramisu? Here's how...
How’s about a slice of tiramisu? Here’s how…

Do angels exist in everyday life? Indeed, Cousin Diana was one. Her life was far too short, but such can be the case with the sweetest among us…

Photo of Cousin Diana.
Cousin Diana.

Years ago, when my husband and I visited her in Italy, she prepared a fantastic multi-course vegetarian meal that ended with this nirvana-inducing tiramisu. Diana Ferretti Ruberti. Upon our return to the States, Diana sent me the instructions and helped me with it over the phone.

Recipe can evoke great memories…

Born in Argentina, she moved to Italy as a teenager and later worked as a teacher, married, and raised three great kids. Diana was lovely in every way and an amazing cook!  Her son, Stefano Ruberti, generously lent us these photos of her. Diana with her husband and small children.

Tiramisu Recipe

  • 8” x 8” x 2” serving dish or pan
  • 3 medium eggs, extra fresh
  • 2 cups strong coffee, either lukewarm or cold. Decaf and instant work great.
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules to stir into pudding
  • 8 ounces mascarpone, which tastes like an amazing cross between butter and cream cheese.
  • 3.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate chunks, 72% to 99%. Grated, or knife chopped, or put the chocolate into a plastic bag and take a hammer to it.
  • 24 regular-sized ladyfingers

Optional Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons cognac or brandy
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange rind
  • unsweetened cocoa powder to dust over the final layer

Before You Begin

  1. Assembly takes anywhere between half an hour to an hour, depending on how fast you are around the kitchen. It won’t be ready to eat for another six to twelve hours, as it needs time to set in the fridge. I like to prepare it the night before, then serve it the following afternoon with milk or coffee — or wine!
  2. Review the recipe and visualize the best way to organize things.
  3. Then you’re ready to lay out ingredients and tools such as bowls, pan, whisk or mixer, and mixer or blender for pudding, stuff you’ll use to grate chocolate.
  4. Unwrap ladyfingers and put them into a separate bowl.
  5. Raw eggs are called for and chocolate melts when it’s manipulated too much, so I like to keep things cold and work steadily.

Mixing the pudding

  1. Egg whites: in a separate bowl, whip until stiff.

    Bowl of whipped egg whites.

  2. Yolks: in a separate bowl or a blender, beat in 1/2 teaspoon instant granulated coffee, mascarpone, and sugar. Now’s the time to add any “optional ingredients.”

    Egg yolks beaten with marscapone, sugar, and a little coffee.

  3. Fold egg whites with egg yolk mixture.

    Fold egg whites with egg yolk mixture.

Layering into a pan (you’ll be making 2 layers)

Layer #1

  1. One at a time, dip 12 of the ladyfingers into the coffee liquid and use them to line the bottom of the pan. It’ll take a little practice to figure out how long to let the cookies soak. Too little, and they’ll stay stiff. Too much, and they’ll dissolve. Either way, though, it’ll still be tasty.

    A lady finger being dipped into coffee.

  2. Top the cookies with half of the pudding.

    The 1st layer of cookies covered with half of the pudding.

  3. Finish the first layer by sprinkling half of the chunked chocolate over it. Now it’s time to do everything the same for the second layer.

    Finishing the first layer by sprinkling half of the chunked chocolate over it. Now it's time to do everything the same for the second layer.

Layer #2

  1. Same as above, dunk another twelve cookies in coffee and stack them over the first layer, all in the same direction as the first bunch.

    Dunking the rest of the cookies in coffee, then layering them in the same direction as the previous ones.

  2. Fold any loose sugar from the cookies into the remaining pudding, then spread everything on top.

    Covering the second layer with the remaining pudding.

  3. Complete the second layer with what’s left of the chunked chocolate. Dust with cacao powder, then cover and refrigerate at least four hours (longer is better).The second layer for the tiramisu completed with what's left of the chunked chocolate, and dusted with cacao powder, then chilled for at least 4 hours.

Serving it…

Once it has been refrigerated for at least four hours, cut it into squares — It serves 9 to 12 lucky people. If there’s any of the yummy liquid at the bottom of the pan, spoon it over pieces. Keep any leftovers refrigerated and eat them within three days. Tiramisu, once it’s set in the fridge, freezes wonderfully and is also delicious served frozen or thawed!

Tiramisu makes any day a holiday!
Tiramisu makes any day a holiday!

Does a food or special recipe remind you of a loved one?

Recipe: Butternut Squash and Cod Soup by Khashayar Parsi

Recipe: Butternut Squash and Cod Soup by Khashayar Parsi A festive bowl of Khashayar’s Butternut Squash and Cod Soup!

More time for me to write my novels, for my husband to cook marvelous meals — of course I hate the devastation of Covid-19, yet those are two ways I’ve benefitted from it. (More about the unexpected bonuses of sheltering-at-home here and here and here and a guest’s exert advice on how to deal with anxiety here.)

Soups are like smoothies on steroids — more interesting, cooling or warming, super nutritious or totally indulgent.

Every day since the pandemic began, each night is a culinary adventure. (More of Khashayar’s recipes here and here and here and here and here and here.)

Recently he made a massive pot of this — yum!!!!

Butternut Squash and Cod Soup by Khashayar Parsi

Ingredients

1 small butternut squash

1 medium onion

4 Tbs coconut oil

4 Tbs unsalted butter

1 Tbs turmeric

2 tsp ground coriander

½ tsp ground saffron

1 Tbs of white sugar

1 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp ground chili pepper

1 quart almond milk

1 quart water

1 cup Chardonnay wine

¾ cup of white rice

16 oz cod filet (or similar)

Split the Squash lengthwise and bake the halves in a 400∞F oven for about 45 minutes or until they are softened but not browned. Let them cool just enough that you can handle them. Spoon out the seeds and peel them. Cut the butternut squash into smaller chunks and set aside.

Chop the onion and sauté in coconut oil for about 7 to 8 minutes on medium heat until lightly golden. You can use a large pot so that you can finish the soup in the same pot. Add butternut squash, butter, and all the spices. Mix well and cook for another 5 minutes.

Add rice, almond milk, and water. Bring to boil on high heat, and then let simmer on low for half an hour. Stir the pot a few times to avoid any burns. Add cod and wine and cook for another 10 minutes.

Puree the soup, adjust the seasoning, and serve in a bowl.

Garnish

Oven roast 4 cloves of garlic with skin. Peal and mix with 1 Tbs of minced ginger. Add them to ½ cup of balsamic vinegar, 1/8 cup of soy sauce, and 1 Tbs of brown sugar, and cook in a saucepan on medium heat until it thickens to the consistency of molasses.

Drizzle over the soup and add some green peas. Don’t stir in the garnish; that way, there’s an extra burst of delightful flavor and texture in each bite!

Our dear doggie is quite an enthusiastic kitchen mate, always eager to help with pre-wash.
Our dear doggie is quite an enthusiastic kitchen mate, always eager to help with pre-wash.

What’s your most satisfying food for this season?