Recipes makes approximately 6 one-half cup servings.
Growing up, potato salad was one of my favorite comfort foods. I loved standing by my grandmother, watching as she processed ingredients in that old mason jar-type chopper. I still love potato salad, but unfortunately, it doesn't agree with my health. This light alternative still has that wonderful potato salad taste, but minus the high calories, carbs, and fat count.
Recipes makes approximately 6 one-half cup servings.
Such an honor to be interviewed by multi-talented illustrator/author and friend, JD Holiday.
I’ll admit it. Jealousy is my companion when friends embark on vacations. With smiles that rival beauty pageant contestants’, my girlfriends and their families pile into perfectly packed vehicles, leaving pasty faced and returning Coppertone spokespeople. I endure days (okay, an hour…max) of DVDs showcasing their Brady Bunch type adventures where the only mishap was leaving the cap off the toothpaste.
The vacations gods don’t smile on my family, and at times my children do their part to ensure the latter. There has been hide-n-seek with the pet mouse among the suitcases, spit wad art decorating the car windows, and several choruses of “I’m bored,” all before we leave the driveway.
In the past we’ve lost our older son in the elevator of a hotel, and pulled him off a plane bound for Cancun (our destination was Missouri). I’ve learned through the years of family trips that the smell of boys’ feet and day-old spilled ice cream embedded in upholstery are indistinguishable, and the funk of both have the power to render the other car passengers speechless.
Admittedly, I’ve done my part in adding to the mayhem. Blessed with all the skills of a drunken navigator, I’ve read maps upside-down, and miss-programmed the GPS resulting in a detour through a farmer’s cornfield, courtesy of a narrow gravel farm road. I’ve humored hotel employees with suction-cup animal impersonations by running face-first into clear glass hotel doors. And once I provided “the biggest thrill in a while” (according to the manager) when I flashed an entire rural restaurant because my dress was unintentionally tucked into the back of my dress.
After the dress episode, my dear hubby John decided that we should perhaps take a break from our adventures. “A year off will allow us to regenerate our financial resources,” he claimed.
“Regenerate resources” my tater tots. This, coming from a guy who breaks into a sweat at the mention of us all taking just a trip to the grocery store. The truth is, he’s scared of his face appearing on the side of a milk carton or on the news—a victim of our misadventures.
I made it my mission to prove we could have an uneventful, normal vacation. For the next year I clipped coupons and cut back on unnecessary expenses, except for coffee. Mr. Coffee and I have been in a steady relationship since college, without him I couldn’t remember my name and I was unwilling to end the affair for anyone—even my family.
Finally, with money in hand, I pleaded my case to John. “You’ve been working too hard, we never see you. Plus,” I reasoned. “Ever thing that could possibly happened has.”
He sighed and stared at the ceiling. “Well, we haven’t been hit by a meteor or run over by a herd of bison. But go ahead and plan a trip. I’m a glutton for punishment.”
The night before the trip I packed the car with organizational skills Martha Stewart would be envious of. I played a marathon of Leave it to Beaver episodes for my boys, and ensured their good behavior by bribing them with promises of trips to Chuck E. Cheese.
Everything went as planned the next day. The boys, with visions of pepperonis dancing in their heads, read and quietly looked out the car windows. Convinced our streak of bad vacations were over, I convinced John to stop at a gift shop in a small town, an hour into the trip. Oblivious to my family’s whereabouts, I browsed aisles of books that stimulated the imagination, and regal-looking figurines that begged the heart to buy them.
Finally, I emerged from the store and watched as my family began to drive away in our Durango. Annoyance replaced shock. John and I always teased each other, and no doubt this was his way of letting me know I’d taken too long.
Aww well…can’t give him the satisfaction of seeing me irritated. Might as well play along and give everyone a good laugh. Screaming like a woman possessed, I raced after the SUV, arms waving over my head. I wondered, as my sandals slipped over the pavement, why my husband was accelerating. Didn’t he know when to stop a joke?
As I ran, I heard a voice call out, “Ah…Mom, we’re back here!”
At that same moment, the Durango stopped, and an elderly man stuck his balding head out the driver’s window, confusion plastered across his wizened face. I was chasing the wrong car.. In my haste to one up my husband, I had been chasing the wrong car.
Our record for misadventures grew. Clark W. Griswold has nothing on us.
Check out my article at Mother's Always Write_!
Check out my essay at Mothers Always Write!
Laughter could indeed be the best medicine. Researchers are finding that humor has health benefits such as boosting the immune system, and attributes it to providing the same results as physical exercise.
Humor was a constant companion throughout my childhood, thanks to my father. Always a smile on his face, Daddy made it a point to try and find the laughter in any situation. "There's few things that a little levity can't help solve, Sweet-Sweet," he'd say. "And, it takes more energy to feel sorry for yourself." True, he had critics faulting him for this philosophy, but those closest to him knew that he was a deep thinker, somewhat of a worrier, and finding laughter in daily life ensured his happiness and mental wellness.
Finding the humor, especially when raising two adventure-seeking boys (so like me) has been beneficial to me as well. It's sometimes either laugh or find a margarita glass big enough to swim in. My parenting humor book, The Toilet's Overflowing and the Dog's Wearing My Underwear will soon be released by DWB Publishing. Stay tuned!
And they haven’t.
The air in my mother’s attic smelled of mothballs and dusty clothing. Boxes decorated the floors like forgotten building blocks, while spiders’ webbing, substituting for lace, hanged above dingy windows. It was a far cry from the airy wonderland where I spent rainy afternoons during my childhood. The visit wasn’t planned, not really. Mama’s health was declining, and on a whim she invited me one weekend to take what I wanted of my childhood memories before the remaining loot was donated or thrown away.
“So tell me again, what we are looking for?” my son Jonathan asked. “Dang it!” Dancing like a cricket on a hot skillet, he fought with a cobweb that decorated his head and fell backward into a dressmaker’s dummy. In seconds he’d made it from the stairs to where I stood, several yards away. “What the heck was that?” he shrieked.
I fought the smile that was tickling the corners of my mouth. “Umm…that would be Chelle.”
Jonathan stared at my face incredulously, looking for answers. “And that’s who? The chick ain’t got no head.”
“It’s your granny’s dressmaker’s dummy.”
My son nodded, frowning as he surveyed the rest of the attic. “Um-hmm.” He pointed to a frizzy-headed, one-eyed, doll hanging from a hook on the wall. “So it’s not some freakish experiment like that.”
“No, that’s my Rub-a-Dub Dolly. I used to get too excited while bathing her and accidentally rubbed one of her eyes out.
“Well,” Jonathan huffed. “I’m glad you got outta that phase before I was born.”
I laughed and flicked a dust ball at him. “Smart-alec. Just make sure you watch where you step. Rotten boards are over the kitchen, and I don’t think Granny would want anything other than creamer in her coffee.”
“Again, what are we looking for?” Jonathan shuddered and glanced at a dark crawlspace nearby. “This feels like a scene in a horror movie. Any moment Freddy Kruger will appear and take me to some weird alternate universe.”
“Don’t worry, old Fred would bring you back after an hour.”
A large box secluded in the shadows had captured my attention. Carefully, I maneuvered my way around containers of forgotten Christmas ornaments and trunks of clothes from days gone by. I don’t remember this box being here. Reverently, I blew the dust off the top and smiled at childish scribbling on the lid: “DO NOT OPEN OR ELSE.”
“’Or else’ what?” an older woman’s voice, roughened by years of exposure to crop dust and weather, asked inside my mind.
“’Or else’ I’ll dye your hair pink Granny!” a teen giggled, also in my mind.
“Now Debbie, that’s not lady-like. How ‘bout ‘or else’ I’ll tickle you,” my grandmother responded.
The conversation had been followed by waves of giggles from both parties. I smiled at the memory, so fresh in my mind as if it’d happened just the day before instead of twenty years earlier. I leaned forward, closed my eyes, and sniffed the box. The faint scent of gingerbread and donuts wound its way through my nasal passages and to my heart. Still smells like your house, Granny.
I eased the top off the box. Nestled between two high school letter jackets was my one and only “first place” barrel racing trophy. I held it against my face, enjoying the coolness of the metal against my cheek before laying it aside. Digging deeper, my fingers brushed against something flat and hard.
A lump formed in my throat as I gazed at the old hymnbook in my hands. It’d been my grandmother’s. I could almost feel her hands over mine as I caressed the cover, enjoying the feel of it in my grasp and the memories that came with it.
After my father’s death, I was angry and reclusive. No one knew how to penetrate the wall of resentment encasing my heart, and not many dared to try.
I was surprised, when during a visit to Granny’s house, she dropped the book in my lap. “And what am I supposed to do with this?” I held the book like it was a soiled diaper.
Granny raised an eyebrow. “What anyone else would do—sing of course.”
“If you haven’t realized it, I have nothing to sing about.” I ignored the look of hurt in my grandmother’s eyes.
She sat on the sofa beside me and took my hand in hers. “My child,” she began. "When you sing, your brain concentrates on the lyrics and the melody. Your heart is filled with love of life, and the shared memories of loved ones, past and present.”
She pressed the book back into my hands. “You’ll feel better, I promise. Now, let’s raise the roof!”
That afternoon, and for many years afterward, we made it a point to join our hearts in song and “raise the roof.” And my burdens were lightened each time.
Our sessions became less frequent after my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s’. The lyrics and melody became difficult for her to remember, and as a result she would become uncharacteristically agitated. After one visit, my grandmother, with tears in her eyes, handed me the book. There was a finality I understood, but didn’t want to accept.
“I want you to keep singing, for me,” she’d insisted. “And when you do, raise the roof with your heart and voice, and remember me.”
Now, I held the cherished book to my heart, as if hoping to absorb the memories it represented. I opened the book, selected a hymn, and in a voice weak from lack of practice, began to “raise the roof,” just as my grandmother would want me too.
Thirty years ago today my father was taken from me. Yes, he died, but to say he "was taken" more accurately describes the deep pain I feel in my heart.
The morning of the accident he told me "good-bye", but I was too sleepy to utter three simple words: I love you. As a parent now, I know my sometimes rebellious teens love me, but to hear them utter those words is a gift and a blessing, and I wish I could've given that final gift to my father.
If I could have had a glimpse into the future prior to that morning, I would've pleaded with Daddy not to go, basing my case on the fact that I needed his praise, his guidance. I'd need him there to snap pictures, evaluate the guy taking me to my first dance. Years into the future I'd need him there to walk me down the aisle to my groom, and to be the first to hold his wailing grandson, shortly after my boy's birth. Those things were never meant to be. But in the short fifteen years he graced my life, he taught me a lifetime of lessons.
1. Almost anything can be accomplished, just as long as you try.
As a youth growing up just after the Great Depression, my father didn't have a storybook childhood. My grandfather was financially comfortable, but he feared another Wall Street crash and didn't bother investing in hired help. Instead, Grandfather worked his children from before the rooster crowed until long after dark.
Education wasn't as important as money to my grandfather. He demanded Daddy assist with the crops, and forced him to skip high school classes. The result was devastating. My father missed too many classes, and was forced to drop out of high school.
Relief from oppression came in the form of the military. While in the Army, Daddy obtained his GED, and quickly rose though the ranks to Sergeant Major before he retired. But his tenacity didn't stop there, and for a good reason--he now had a wife to support.
Mother told me in later years that it was Daddy's goal to become an engineer for the state highway department, and he did everything he could to achieve his dream. Advanced math wasn't taught in rural high schools, because it wasn't thought to be needed. Staying up until early morning hours, my father taught himself trigonometry, geometry, and algebra. Eventually he achieved his goal of designing roads for the state of Texas.
"The only real failure is never trying at all," is something Daddy always stressed. "You can do anything, just as long as you try." His words, his history, and watching him trying until her succeeded at his goals has always been my inspiration for overcoming obstacles.
2. Treat people the way you want to be treated.
My father never met a stranger, and as a result was a well-respected figure in our community. Daddy believed that a person's race, religion, or gender was not a deciding factor in how they should be treated. And he believed in looking deeper than physical beauty, and instead at the person's heart. "We all bleed the same, have the same emotions, the same desires," he always told me. "You treat every person with the same amount of respect you'd like for yourself, if not more."
3. Enjoy the little things in life.
It's no secret that Daddy was a workaholic. Not only did he toil as an engineer for the highway department, his spare time was spent working on our ranch. Some family reunions were missed as a result of the latter, but he always made it a point to attend every high school drama performance I was in, every athletic event I played in, and every band concert. Daddy had a very loud voice, and I didn't have to look in the crowd to know he was sitting on the front row, leading the cheers and applause.
And there was the Sunday walks I took with him through woods. He delighted in every bird song, and every animal print stamped into the ground we encountered. On one of our treks, I asked my father why he insisted on being at my school events, and why he exclaimed on the things we found in nature.
Taking my chin into his work-roughened hand and looking into my eyes, Daddy smiled and said. "Because life is too short, and it's important to realize and appreciate what matters."
My father has been gone physically for thirty years, but his lessons remain in my heart, and it's that legacy I gladly pass on to my children.
Having gluten sensitivity can be a drain emotionally, physically, and on the wallet. A lot of restaurants still don't have a gluten-free menu, and if they do, the choices are somewhat limited, and each entree comes with a heftier price tag.
But what hits me hard is not being able to enjoy sweets, especially around the holidays. In the past, I didn't expect relatives and friends to tackle tedious gluten-free dessert recipes, nor did I expect them to mortgage their homes just to satisfy my sweet tooth with a store-bought confection. So I told them I no longer wanted dessert. That was a lie. I'd trade one of my children for a slice of Aunt L's pecan pie. Let's face it, the sharing of desserts is an communal affair. Secrets are told, advice give, memories made. all over pie and coffee. So without a sweet, I felt like somewhat of an outsider, until I researched and found flour-free alternatives. I've mentioned one version of a cookie in a previous post. Below are two different variations.
I thought I was, for once, prepared. Armed with enough women's magazines to supply a library for a year, I poured though every article about fitness I could find. I lunged when I reached for veggies out of the fridge, and squatted to the point my family thought I had toileting issues. Yes, I'd have that beach body every 40+ year-old woman craved. Too bad I started toning a week before our vacation to the coast.
There are times in everyone's existence when Life slaps them in the back of the head and yells, "What were you thinking?" l got my wake-up call when I stood before a full-length mirror, clad in a peach-colored one piece swimsuit at my friend Calli's house. "You look pretty good," she assured.
It was obvious either she'd put friendship above honesty, or she'd gone temporarily blind. Calli wasn't seeing the same reflection I was. Cellulite decorated my upper thighs like lumps of rancid cottage cheese, and my butt hung like a couple of flat bean-bags.
I struggled to pull the Lycra over my thighs, wincing as it snapped my skin. The peach-colored suit made me look and feel like the grandmother of an Oscar Meyer weiner. "You've got to be kidding."
Calli cleared her throat and walked around, studying me at every angle. "Well...you could wear shorts, and perhaps a short-sleeved shirt..."
"And maybe ankle-length pants, and a bag over my head with the words 'PG-14 rating; alarming image' written across the front?" I grumbled.
My friend and I agreed that with time (and help from Calli's fashion sense) cute beach outfits could be arranged. Calli sighed and shook her head. "But those legs," she began.
I frowned and crossed my arms. "What about them?"
She pointed at my tanned arms. "Your upper body looks like it belongs to another person. I almost need sunglasses to look at those white legs."
With her help, I applied self-tanner to my legs. Three hours later I looked like an Oompa-Loompa.
"There's always tanning beds," Calli suggested. I dismissed that idea, partly because of the ultrav-voilet rays, but largely because of the fear of being forgotten. I'd once seen a forgotten chicken breast on a George Foreman. and the look wasn't pretty, especially not for me.
During the rest of the week, I researched ways on the internet to darken the skin on my legs. Finally the morning before the trip, I saw the solution: coffee grounds mixed with olive oil. And my husband and I had just finished our morning java. My heart sang as I almost danced my way to the bathroom. Humming, I smeared on the mixture, imagining the tropical tan I'd have, making me the envy of the beach.
I was just smearing on the last bit when the door flung open. There stood my twelve year-old son, mouth agape as he took in the sight of his mother, clad in her nightshirt and covered in coffee grounds. Silence blanketed the room as we regarded each other. I broke the spell by clearing my throat. "Umm...Mama got really excited over coffee this morning."
Joseph blinked then shook his head. "Wash your legs please. You smell like a Starbucks."
At that point, I was considering handing out free sunglasses at the beach, courtesy of my blinding-white legs.
A little info about me...
Spanish-American, award-winning author Debbie Roppolo grew up in the Blackland Prairie region of Texas, where miles of grassland and her horse were her best friends.