Lemon Bars Are Messy And Need Rigorous Training


IMG_3465As with all great desserts, you have to go through rigorous training to learn how to eat a Lemon Bar properly.

After my last batch, my husband declared, “They make too big a mess!  Stop putting all that powdered sugar on them.”  

WHAT??  That’s the most important part!  Besides the lemony custard filling on top of sweet shortbread crust. Who am I kidding – all three layers are equally important.  And I like to cover my lemon bars with a blizzard of powdered sugar.  

The trick is to hold your breath as you take a bite. Now is that really so hard?  Just stop breathing and take a bite.  Then remove the rest of your cookie from your face – far from your nostrils and then you can breath again as you chew.  Before you take a second bite you have to stop breathing again.   It’s a special technique to keep the lemon bar far from your face if you need to breath.  I like to hang my arm out sideways like I’m about to do a Jumping Jack.

I said rigorous training was required. 

Of course there is a special joy in just going outside to eat Lemon Bars and making a damn big mess.  That works too.  

IMG_3459My official Lemon Bar recipe is from a small 2-ring bound book from 1978 called The Cookie Jar.  The Fresno Garden Center compiled local recipes for this book so there are at least a half dozen versions of a Lemon Bar.  All of which I have tried over the decades.  My final recipe has been tweaked many times over the years.  But I think it’s pretty perfect now.

IMG_3462On page 113 you can see some of the notes I’ve written over the years.  This particular recipe was by Min Schneider. I don’t know her.  But I do wonder if she realizes her recipe from almost 40 years ago lives on in my kitchen!  

My recipe includes a full 3 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice.  I thinks this makes a beautiful tart custard.  So it needs the thick layer of powdered sugar to compliment it.  Trust me on this one.  

 

Crust

1.5 cups flour

1/3 cup powdered sugar (you can use regular sugar I suppose, but I like the tenderness the powdered sugar creates.)

3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) soft salted butter  (I have used sweet but like salted better)

IMG_3409Use a fork or pastry cutter and blend the ingredients.  To keep it tender, do not use a food processor. Just cut by hand until barely mixed – then press into a clean 8″x 8″ dish.  (No need to grease the dish. The pastry is plenty buttery.)  IMG_3410Bake in 325 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Do not bake too long.  It’s going back into the oven again.  Cook until the top begins to look dark blonde and the edges barely start pulling away from the pan.  Take out to cool.  Raise the temperature of the oven to 350 degrees.

 

 

Custard  

3 eggs beaten

1.5 cups sugar

3 full tablespoons flour

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Mix all ingredients with a whisk until blended and pour over the crust.  Bake in the 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.  But please note the time can really vary.  Check to see after 20 minutes if the custard has stopped wiggling about.  But don’t let the crust get too dark – just a light brown.  It can be a fine line to decide when to take it out. But don’t worry.  It will all come out in the end.

Sprinkle heavily with powdered sugar.  Make it snow.

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Now you have a major decision to make.  If you cannot wait and your mouth is salivating, then go ahead and cut it warm.  It’s delicious.  But know that the custard is not fully set yet and will spill out all over the place.  But gosh it good!  IMG_3422

 

 

If you wait until the entire dessert is cool the custard will be set and you can cut into the little squares these Lemon Bars are best known for.  

Personally I eat them first warm, and then later cooled.  Life is short!  

So, get started on your training to breath properly as you eat a Lemon Bar.  And enjoy!

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Published in: on March 19, 2017 at 8:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Zumba Changed My Life


I used to dance 5 nights a week.  It filled my soul and, without realizing it, kept me in shape.  When I married my husband 17 years ago I stopped dancing and my body changed.  I was deliriously happy and in love so I didn’t have a care in the world about my weight.

And then one day three years ago, in a split second over Eggs Benedict everything changed. Out of nowhere I  told my husband I wanted to go to Europe again and this time I wanted to go to all our “bucket list” cities Amsterdam, Barcelona and Venice.

While daydreaming about this future trip I remembered about how terribly uncomfortable the plane ride had been a decade earlier when we went to France.  Airline seats measure from 19″-22″ across!  Who the heck is only 19″ across their bum?

So, without giving it any thought I stated out loud, “I have to lose weight for this trip.” Then as I mused this thought over I knew I always failed at dieting.  So it hit me – I would need to exercise. Something else I hated to do.  But then I remembered the last time I was in great shape, and that was when I danced 5 nights a week.

Taking a sip of my sugar and cream laden coffee I thoughtfully said, “I’ve known for a long time Zumba would be the way I would lose weight one day.  It’s supposed to be just like dancing.” I took a bite of my Eggs Benedict, a meal I was not going to stop eating no matter how hard I tried and said, “I think they have a class at Tantrum fitness down the street.”

The love of my life, who can lose weight just by thinking about it, took my hand and said, “Shall we go see if they do have Zumba there?”  And with that much forethought, we drove to Tantrum Fitness.  The owner explained that there was a Zumba class almost daily, sometimes twice a day with a variety of teachers.  So I signed up for a year membership and hoped that somehow this time a membership to a gym would work.

img_3878That very night I went to my first Zumba class taught by a fabulous woman named Diane.  And my life changed forever.

 

One year later, just before our flight to Amsterdam, I had lost 60 pounds.  And my love and enthusiasm of Zumba has never ended.  My new goal is to lose another 60 pounds throughout this next year so I can be even MORE comfy on our next vacation flight.

 

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And let me share this bit of wisdom from my success story – your motivation is critical to doing any kind of life changing work.  My motivation to “fit” on a plane for a 10 hour flight was tremendous motivation for me.  It was more motivation than any kind of thought to do it “for my health.”  Once we actually bought the airline tickets, my motivation became a passion.

Let me share a few insights about starting out in Zumba.img_4649

  1. All Zumba instructors are unique and add their own style to their music and dance/exercise steps.  Allow yourself the time to “try out” as many instructors as you can and then arrange your schedule to attend the classes of those you liked best. I’ve taken from someone who added Hip Hop music and it was a blast.  A sexy Latin man used mostly Salsa, Rumba, Cha Cha routines and we loved it (and him).  One young instructor used a lot of Country Western steps.  Still another added in some ballet moves.  All of them fun and creative.  All of them tremendous Cardio exercise.
  2. You don’t walk into a Zumba class and already “follow” the steps from day one. Those around you may have been going a few months or even years.  And each one will still be following as best they can.  So give yourself a break.  I often laugh out loud when I go the opposite direction of the rest of the class.
  3. Come early and go straight to the teacher to tell them you are new and excited.  Also, introduce yourself to someone standing around you.  They will give you encouragement and tell you to not be hard on yourself.  They know what it was like in the beginning.
  4. img_0109Remember everyone is there to exercise while having a blast.  Some classes are loud and people shout out for encouragement. Others are quiet with concentration.  Sometimes the music is strictly latin with mostly Latin dance steps (do you love to Salsa?) or the class can have a wide variety of music like Flashdance, Bruno Mars, etc. But each class has people very serious about having fun while exercising and they are not there to judge you or even to watch you.  It takes a great deal of concentration to follow the instructors steps and you have no time to look to see what everyone else is doing.  Believe me and go to classes to have fun!
  5. Bring bottled water.  You will need it.  And afterwards I always go home and drink a Poweraid to put back my electrolytes.
  6. Zumba is all about doing Cardio exercise.  This means you are burning calories at a great rate.  Studies put it at 500 calories in the one hour class.  (Wear a FitBit and prove it to yourself) So when the instructor  encourages you to do crazy arm movements with your steps do them.  It’s all about the Cardio.
  7. It does NOT matter what you wear.  Don’t go out and buy yourself a “get-up” to Zumba in.  Throw on a t-shirt, pants and tennis shoes and get your ass down to the class.  Eventually you may want some exercise pants.  But to this day I still wear an old bra and old t-shirt and my very old tennis shoes.  No one is looking at you!
  8. Feel free to do the steps to your ability.  In the beginning I could not do many of the strenuous steps.  So I figured out how to do my own steps sort of half-time.  If everyone was doing a hopping step (something I can’t do very well on an old ankle injury) I just stood on tip toe and did my own kind of hop.  If everyone was raising their knee to their chest I raised mine as high as I could – which wasn’t very high in the beginning. When they do four-time steps to the right and it’s too fast I just do it two-time or half as fast.  The key is to keep moving.  And follow to the best of your ability.  In only a month you will be astounded how much you have improved.
  9. Don’t be afraid to rest.  In the beginning I would get completely out of breath.  Remember I had not set foot in a club to dance or done any kind of exercising for a decade. Sometimes I still have to stand in the back a little longer between songs than the rest of the class.  But I tell you the music always draws me back in quickly.
  10. Don’t stop moving!  It’s critical even if you are taking a short break in the back of the room, to keep moving.  Your heart rate is up and you want to keep it there.  So keep moving around while you break.  You will notice everyone moving about during their water breaks or between songs.
  11. Don’t leave the class before the “cool down” at the end.  I think it’s just as important to cool yourself down and slowly bring your heart back to normal.  Besides, once you hit the cool down you can start celebrating in your head that you DID IT!!
  12. Do NOT keep aches and pains from stopping you from trying out Zumba.  I hear from so many people that their back hurts too much and they have a bad knee.  I have a bad back!  I have stiff knees that barely bend.  I have achy ankles from injuries.  I used to not be able to climb a staircase without getting out of breath. Just do the Zumba steps to the best of your abilities.  From my personal experience all my aches and pains got better over the months I danced.  You can always ask your doctor if it’s ok if you try Zumba just to be sure.
  13. Special Tip: Many Zumba steps are the same and once you know them you can pick up most of the choreography quickly.  Also, the best Zumba instructors lead you through an 8 or 16 count of steps and then another 8-count and eventually repeat the sequence.  So, if you are having a hard time “getting” a few steps just wait, they will come around again in the song and you can “get” them then. Also, don’t hesitate to ask the instructor after class to clarify a step. They love this.

zumbastoryI still go to Zumba classes 3-4 times a week.  I lost 60 pounds that first year.  And since then I’ve kept it off by doing Zumba.  I have a new goal to lose another 60 pounds.  So I’ll begin counting calories again.  Trying to keep around 2000 daily but not giving up all my favorite foods. My motivation this time is another airplane trip for another vacation. And that’s all the motivation I need to get up and DANCE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Denise’s Easy Biscuits


Because everyone should just make their biscuits from scratch!  It’s not hard to do and they taste so much better than store bought or the pop open can stuff.  Just whip up some flour, baking soda, butter and cream and voila!  Hot soft biscuits that practically melt in your mouth.

Denise’s Easy Biscuits

2 cups flourimg_3116

1 tbl baking powder

1-2 tsp sugar

½ tsp salt

Pulse in food processor a couple of times to mix.

Add in 6-7 tbl unsalted frozen butter cut into small cubes

(I slice cube into 8 slices then quarter each slice, reserve one slice for the tops of the biscuits.)

Pulse butter just until the butter has become small pea size bits in the flour.

Add approx. 1-cup heavy cream – add slowly while pulsing until mixture loosely holds together.

(DO NOT mix too much on the food processor or the dough will get rubbery.) Spill out onto floured surface and knead just a few times. Then fold the dough 2-3 times so that they will split in half easily once baked. Press out to ¾ inch. (I just use my hands) Cut out with cookie cutter. (or just use a drinking glass to cut them out)

Place biscuits close img_3113together on baking sheet for softer biscuits. At this point I add a tiny bit of the leftover butter onto the top of each biscuit. I have even been known to sprinkle a tiny bit of sugar.*

Bake in 450 degree oven for 15 min or until light brown on top and fully cooked inside.  Makes about 8 biscuits.

*Another add-in can be orange peel at the same time as the butter is being added in the food processor

 

 

Whipped Cream


I began the day with a frenetic need for coffee. Since we are starting a four day weekend with perhaps no time at my desk for work, I wanted to kick off my first food of the holiday with whipped cream. Real whipped cream. Not that yucky shit from the store in plastic tubs. Or worse still, the kind you spray over yourself during sex. Or on a strawberry shortcake.

No, please folks, it’s so damn easy to make REAL whipped cream. Surely you have a few minutes twice a week to make thick whipped cream for your coffee. Think of all the money you will save at Starbucks. Or Peets. Or Micky D’s.  (Those of you who actually get a coffee beverage at Micky D’s are released from reading any further. you are not a gourmet diner.)

Pour about 1/2 to 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream into a medium bowl. Add a rough shake of confectioner’s sugar. Perhaps two tablespoons. Beat the hell out of it with a hand mixer. Takes about 3 minutes. The way you know it’s ready is the way it really tightens up and thickens and then it actually pulls away from the edges of the bowl and darkens like it may become a pale yellow and your thoughts turn to butter and you don’t want butter in your coffee. So that is when you are done!

I add some sugar and cocoa to my coffee cup and stir. Then I put one dollop of whipped cream on top. But that is never enough. So I add one more. Perhaps just a bit more to cover the top nicely. It’s beginning to melt. Refrigerate the rest of the whipped cream and use for the next two to three days. Can’t you just wait to get up now to have your coffee tomorrow?

Sit down with the clicker in your hand. Find something really wonderful saved on the DVR, like Grey’s Anatomy or House or The Housewives of New York, (make fun but the latter is actually best with coffee and whipped cream) and indulge yourself in the fatty goodness of your new cup of coffee. YUM!!

So now my weekend is started off right. I have to immediately begin thinking about how I will have beautiful indulgencies all four days for myself. Because treating myself is my holiday.

What can I do? Get two rib-eyes for my darling man to grill with Jocko’s seasonings? Make tacos from my childhood restaurant that burned to the ground? Homemade soup is out of the question with the heat barreling down on the country. Oh this is the Fourth of July weekend. A barbeque is in order. Like the rest of the country. Hmmmm what to barbeque.

The fact that we do not own a barbeque yet does not stop me from thinking about this.  Surely I can find an affordable one on short notice?   But there is the fact my husband works nights this entire holiday and will not be here to light the barbeque. Nix that idea.

Frying hot dogs and hamburgers is just not good enough for a holiday that started with real whipped cream.

I run through my best recipes in my mind like flexing a card file in an old library. I cannot find anything light and easy and holiday like. Hmmmm. Now what. Starve? I could lose some weight. Drink only coffee and eat fresh strawberries drenched in real whipped cream all four days? I would not survive.

It seems I cannot think of a great food for this holiday weekend. Even my mothers recipe for macaroni salad is not turning me on right now as I made it recently.

I wonder what the rest of my friends are eating? Hmmm??  Tell me.  Divulge. I need to know. Please. What are you planning to (as the English say) “tuck into” this weekend?

Oh I just got a whiff of an idea.

I could set up a French – Italian style cheese and bread and meats board to snack on all four days. That and a few good bottles 
of  J. Dusi Zinfandel. And then there will always be my coffee to start it all off in the morning. Oh I like this idea. Yep, that it’s it!

Off to the store for the best cheeses and breads I can find. Be back soon whipped cream!!

Published in: on July 1, 2011 at 7:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Past Life Memories and How They Affect This LIfe


Have you ever wondered if you have lived before?  Has deja vu seemed so real that you think you must have lived that exact moment in the past?  Has a place far away seemed so familiar you are sure you have been there before? How about people?  How many times have you met someone and said, “You seem so familiar.”

None of this has to be a mystery if you at least allow yourself to explore the concept of past lives through past life memories.

And in my case, as you’ll see, whether or not I believe it’s true has no bearing on the fact that the memories I’ve had have deeply affected my life today and helped me to grow and change immediately upon understanding the possiblity of a past affecting today.

I have had past life regressions led only by the very best in the business.  Dick Sutphen and now Tara Sutphen.  And these are not woo-woo people.  You would be shocked to see how centered and grounded to this earth they are.  I love that.  I love that these are people I want to have at my next dinner party.  They are that brilliant and interesting.

If you are still with me on this subject, allow me to share with you my first past life regression, back about 20 years ago, before I was even sure I believed in it.

I was just exploring the idea of “new age” as it was called back then.  And so I went to my first (and one of the very first produced) Whole Life Expo’s in southern California in the mid- 1990’s.  I learned when I signed up that if I volunteered then I could attend for free.  Well, that was right up my alley.  By volunteering I got close and personal with the likes of guest speakers Timothy Leary and Terry Cole-Whitaker.  (And if you are too young to know who Timothy Leary is, please google him!!) That was certainly a thrill for me!  Terry is the woman who’s book title I quote often “What You Think of Me is None of My Business.” What a great quote to live by!

I chose as my free course “Past Life Regressions” by Dick Sutphen.  Now, I had been reading a few of his books already, and he was a poet on top of that.  I felt connected to him in his photos.  But nothing prepared me and the rest of the 300 people in the room for the passionate charismatic man who walked in the door and glided up to the stage.  We were mesmerized.   He had long shiny wavy white hair, framing a weathered ruddy face.  He wore tight stonewashed jeans on his thin frame and a flowing white shirt.  And cowboy boots.  And he glowed with an ethereal light.

We spent time listening raptly to his ideas on past life regression, hypnosis, and other metaphysical ideas.  And then, it was time for the actual group past life regression.  All I could think was how it would be IMPOSSIBLE for me to regress anywhere in a room full of noisy people.  I was instantly disappointed that he was so famous his room was packed and I was somehow not getting a more personal experience.

BOY!  Was I ever wrong!   I have quite a few moments in my life when I know for certain that my life has changed in that instance.  This first past life regression workshop did just that for me.

Dick adjusted the microphone and ran his fingers through his long beautiful hair.  When he finally spoke his hynosis voice was even deeper than his speaking voice. Melodic, rhythmic, sensual, and soothing.  The perfect voice to not only put 300 people in one room into an altered state, but to lead past life regressions with complete trust.

Dick tells us, his deep voice booming over the microphone to get comfortable.  I look around me and realize I just cannot sit in a worn blue convention center chair to be relaxed.  So, I joined a few other rebellious people and lay on the Vegas style giant floral printed carpeting.  As I lay back a light directly above shines into my eyes.  But Sutphen had begun his countdown and I needed to stay put.

Sutphen launched into the hypnotic relaxation technique he had perfected over the years.  After more than ten minutes of hearing his deep, deep voice say, “going down, down, down, deeper, deeper, deeper” I felt very relaxed and peaceful.  Suddenly  he told us to notice our feet.  What did we see?

It was instant in my brain.  I saw brown toes.  Bare feet.  I was a young man with long black hair.  And it did not feel strange to be male.  It was just so normal.  I instinctively knew I was Egyptian.  My conscious brain tried to take over and I began to fight with myself, “Of course I think I am from Egypt.  I have always been fascinated by Egyp…….” but then Dick’s booming voice permeates your numbed mind and I stopped analyzing.

He tells us to look around and see where we are. I see I am standing in an outdoor community gathering place of some sort.  There are stone walls, in a semicircle surrounding a general laundry area.  I could feel and see clearly the hot sun.  While my mind unfocused for a bit and I fought with myself that it was only the light overhead, my vision kept moving forward.

I squished the warm sand between my toes.  I felt and then knew I was from a wealthy family and I had an excellent future ahead of me.  I felt happy.

Suddenly standing next to me was another young man who I recognized as my dear friend Drake in this lifetime.  In this lifetime he has been my disco dance partner and sometimes lover.  In Egypt we were best friends and we were typical young men with one thing on our minds.  We were teasing one another about the cute girls coming to do laundry.

It was at this point my consciousness of today fought forward to think “you cannot be making this up.  You would never make this shit up.”

But Sutphen’s deep sing songy voice interrupted and he asked us to find someone in that lifetime that was important to that lifetime.

It was then I realized I was totally enraptured with one girl who had long black hair.  She was short and lovely with full red lips.  She paid absolutely no attention to me as she did her laundry.  I recognized my feelings of being in love with her.  Then out of nowhere I recognized her as my mother Jackie in this life time.

Now my logical mind practically cried out, “Ok, you are not making this up because there is no way in a million years you would pick your mother to love in another lifetime.  Just no way.”  I began to relax and allow the story to unfold.

Dick told us to go forward in time.  I saw a funeral of sorts, with Laura Zink, a friend’s mother in this lifetime, as my grandmother, screaming with emotion.  It was my funeral it turned out.  I had not lived much longer than the scene I first saw.  I had committed suicide over my depression and desperation to love the pretty young girl.  I had asked her to marry me and share my life and she had turned me down with laughter and mocking.

Out of nowhere my brain kicked into analytical mode.  I began to think.  “Oh, now I know why my mother and I have such trouble getting along in this lifetime.  We are together so I can be mean back to her for rejecting me in this Egyptian lifetime.”  What an idiotic thought.  But a perfect example of how wrong your conscious mind usually is.

With years of extraordinary practice behind him, Sutphen uttered the precise words that would give me answers I needed.  He instructed us to ask our higher guide to tell us why we had witnessed this particular past life and what we were to learn from it.

I had only experienced true telepathic thought three times up until this time.  This one was phenomenal.  Telepathic thought is INSTANT knowledge that cannot be articulated in our archaic communication we call language.  It is instant and complete knowledge.

Using the very inadequate language of today, I will try to express what perfection I learned.

“I had asked my mother’s soul to be with me again in this lifetime and for our relationship to be particularly difficult so that I would have the opportunity to learn to love myself. The important thing was, that I not “feel” loved by her in this lifetime.  I could either hate myself again like in Egypt or love myself unconditionally and without the validation of another soul to verify my self worth.”

It was a great sacrifice I has asked my mother’s soul to give this time around.  But she had agreed.

As Dick Sutphen brought us back to the present I discovered my face and cheeks and neck were soaked from sobbing tears I had not remembered shedding.  He walked quickly to the exit, leaving all of us to sort through our life-changing regressions.

Less than two weeks later I visited my mother for the first time in three years.  She never knew of this regression or what prompted me to visit.  But we began a new relationship.  One where I appreciated her for being her, and for giving me the most difficult lesson of learning to love and respect myself and my life no matter what anyone else says or thinks.

Since this very miraculous regression, I have eagerly sought the Sutphen’s every chance I got over the years to go through more such experiences.  They are always just as outstanding in revealing to myself another lesson I am to learn in this lifetime.  I seem to have been a Gypsy (and you all can easily imagine that one!) with the man who was my third husband in this lifetime.  Oh did we have lessons to finish up in this lifetime!  I was once a Priest who was imprisioned and tortured all of my short adult life.  Hence, my eating patterns and need to never feel starved in this lifetime.  My regressions can fully explain every lesson I have to learn in this lifetime.

Are they real?  Well of course I cannot prove them.  Although there are many, many books on the subject that do indeed prove it with people researching their past lives and discovering that obscure person they remembered had actually existed.  But that is not my need in the regressions.  My desire is to see these experiences, relate them to myself today and see how I can grow and change because of the information.  I don’t need to overeat in this lifetime, I’m not going to be imprisioned.  I can love my mother for helping me to learn to love myself in this lifetime.

See…it has changed my life.  And how I relate to others and each of my life lessons.

Without even regressing I bet I was supposed to dedicate my life to my creativity.  Which is why every time I get a job NOT on that track, it does not work out.  Yep, I’m pretty sure that is my lesson, but perhaps I’ll go see one of the Sutphen’s or get out their Regression CD and lay down for a while.  And see what my mind turns up this time.

Published in: on July 31, 2010 at 9:40 pm  Comments (1)  
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Comfort Food Cupcakes


What is comfort food?  In my case, these oooey, gooey cupcakes so fattening you have to lie down after you look at them, and then you have to nap after eating one.

Lately, during another personal crisis in this recession (will it never end?) my ego more than a little bruised by the turn of events, I decided to look for some comfort food.

I went straight for my recipe for Black Bottom Cupcakes.

Oh yes they DO taste as good as they look in these pictures and they are so simple.  I actually always have these ingredients in my home so it’s never like I have to plan for it.  And that afternoon, on a day of spending way too much time in a state of terrorized worrying about our future, I knew I needed these cupcakes.

There are two parts to this recipe.  The first ingredients are:

1 1/2 cups flour

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup cocoa*

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup water

5 Tbls vegetable oil

1 Tbls apple cider vinegar

1 1/2 tsps vanilla

Ok, now you have all those ingredients in your house, don’t you?

In a large bowl whisk together the flour and 1 cup sugar , cocoa, soda and salt.  Then add (I make a well) all the wet ingredients; water, oil, apple cider vinegar and vanilla.

Whisk until well blended.  Take a lick.  Yum!

Fill 12 paper lined cup-cake cups 2/3 full.  Sit to relax and using your finger, swoop up leftover batter and suck.  Oooh la la!  Do this until the bowl is clean.

Next ingredients:

8 oz package cream cheese, softened

1 egg

1/3 cup sugar

6 oz package of chocolate chips (although it never hurts to add more!)

In a clean bowl, beat the softened cream cheese, sugar and egg until smooth.  (sometimes it gets too runny with an actual beater, so I hand beat)   While hand beating, think of who is really pissing you off and smack that batter around.  Get our your aggressions.  Oh yeah!

Now, stir in the chocolate chips.  YUM!

Spoon several tablespoons of cream cheese mixture into each cupcake.  (Now, while there is raw egg involved, it has never hurt me, so I lick this bowl clean too.  I mean, this IS my comfort food, right?)

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minute or until tops gently spring back.

AHHHHHHHH!!!  Delicious!

You may wonder where I originally got this recipe.  Well, WAAAAYYYYY before Food Network or the Web existed, people cooked and wrote down their recipes to share on little 3×5 cards.  Archaic, huh?  I still have this little card.   It is beat up, but still easy to read after 30 years.  I was director of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program in Visalia, CA and a volunteer named Annabelle made these to bring to the office.  I begged for her recipe and the above is exactly it!  Except she liked to add a tiny sprinkling of finely chopped walnuts on each cupcake before baking too.

Ah yes.  Comfort food, through and through.

I am happy.  sigh…….what worries?

* Hershey’s makes a brand new dark chocolate cocoa!  Perfect!

Green Knees


I used to show up for junior high and high school with green hands and green knees.  But not because I chose to.

Now this was the mini skirt era, making it especially tragic for me to have green knees!  Then top that with the fact my mom swore up and down we would thank her later if we did not ever start shaving our legs above our knee and you begin to get the picture of where I completely lost all self-esteem.  ‘Cause when you are wearing pantyhose under that 12 inch mini-skirt, it smooshes down all your long hairs above your knee and you look like a creature from another planet.

Yep, that was me walking onto campus at Hanford High School.  Green knees, hairy legs.  But, as it turns out,  I learned something that would affect my life forever from those events.

My mother was something of an anomaly.  At the time I thought everyones mother was like her.  But eventually I saw the differences.  She worked 8 or more hours a day as a bookkeeper at Turners Feed Mill.  Most other kids mother did not have a job in those days.  She was therefore always tired.  She slept alot.  She frowned upon us having friends over after school because, well, she was tired.  Her interests were in entertaining and reading.  And she taught me both well!

But let me get back to those green knees.

Along about Jr. High, my mother met a walnut farmer at Turner’s Feed Mill.  I can only imagine that conversation.  We must have done something at home that caused my mom to express that my sister, Toni, and I were growing up spoiled or not understanding the value of money.  As a matter of fact, my father used to say that ALOT to us.  “You kids just do not understand the value of money.  You think it grows on trees?”

So, back to the walnut farmer, who was probably just being conversational, so he must have said something like, “bring them over to the farm and make them pick walnuts for a day. That’ll teach them how hard it is to earn a buck.”   And my mom must have thought that was a hell of an idea.  She probably said, “what time and where?” to a very shocked walnut farmer.

So one night at dinner, out of the blue, my mom announced that we were going to pick walnuts to earn our Christmas money that year.  My sister and I looked at each other over the roast beef, brown eyes wide and wondered what that meant.  My father, being the constant spin doctor in our house, told us this was fantastic news, because we could earn far more money picking walnuts than babysitting and ironing his handkerchiefs.  (I earned 1 penny for every handkerchief of my Dad’s that I ironed, as a way to earn my way to YMCA camp. This was not, of course, real money, as it was just a way to make us do chores and “think” we were earning money.  But we never saw that money. It was all on paper til it added up to the cost of camp.  Then suddenly that little chore did not make money anymore.)  The sky was the limit in his mind.  His version of how much money we would have after picking walnuts was pretty motivating.  And then my mother told us how early we had to be up, and I was not so excited again.

Despite our non-enthusiasm, my mother awakened us at 5 AM on a Saturday morning and we took our picnic basket and hats, sunglasses and water in a plaid thermos and drove what seemed like miles and miles to the walnut farm.  The sun was already up and a large Mexican family was already working furiously picking walnuts.

Now, here is how it works.  You are given small buckets to fill up, and then a HUGEMONGOUS bucket that equaled about 3 of the smaller ones.  It took 3 of the giant buckets to fill a burlap sack.  For every burlap sack that was filled, we would earn 75 cents.  One tree would produce about 4-6 burlap sacks.  Since my mother was friends with the walnut farmer, we had to fill our buckets extra full so we would not be abusing his generosity.  On top of that, we had to pick up every single walnut on the ground around a tree before moving onto the next tree.  We had to be the ultimate worker for him, since he was doing us a favor.

We were given all our supplies and a row of about 6 walnut trees to start with.  In the row next to us was the Mexican family.  They had the technique down perfectly.  They surrounded a tree and crawled into the trunk, their hands lightening fast as they picked walnuts.  This was their livelihood.  This was no game to teach the value of money.  This was their rent, food and clothing they had to earn.  Looking back, they were very nice to us since we were actually taking a row of work away from them.  They had lively Mexican music on a small transitor playing and they talked loudly in their native language.  They were working hard, moving fast and taking their job very seriously.

Meanwhile, we got on our hands and knees and began tossing walnuts, still in their wet green coats, into the buckets.  At first we thought this was pretty fun. No problem.  We crawled around fast and tried to work as fast as the Mexican family, but they were just too experienced.  Nonetheless, we picked and picked.  A walnut still in it’s hull is pretty large and in our small hands we were only able to pick up one, at the most two in each hand.

I  had started on my hands and knees, holding up all my weight on one arm, while the other threw the walnuts into the bucket, this grew quite tiring quickly.  So next I sat up on my legs, but this position really hurt my back and killed my knees.  I was in no shape for this kind of work.  I tried one knee bent up and only one knee on the dirt.  I spent more time trying to think up an intricate system of sitting on my knees or crawling around than actually doing the work.  I began to do each of the positions back and forth trying to keep myself moving.   One thing – I was always a creative sole.

After about an hour we asked when our first break was.  My mother, down on her hands and knees with us, scoffed at us and told us to keep moving.  When we learned she expected us to actually finish this entire row of trees we knew the day was going to be long and horrible.  Meanwhile, the Mexican family had moved onto the next tree in their row.  We hadn’t even filled a burlap sack yet.

Now, this sounds like an easy task, but the ground around the tree trunk was full of leaves, limbs and anything else that had fallen from the tree when it was mechanically shaken that early morning.  You have to dig through all kinds of stuff including any earthworms who have crawled up to see what all the comotion was about.  Many hulls have already broken open and they are oozing their juices.  There is really nothing hard about this work except that it is truly back breaking.  And painful for your knees as you crawl around on twigs and remaining hulls beneath you.

That was one of the longest days of my life.  Probably for my mom too.  Who felt uber responsible to pick ever single walnut and get this job done right for the farmer.  It must have been terrible for her, as her two spoiled daughters complained about everything.  Our knees hurt.  It was hot.  We were hungry.  We were thirsty.  Did we have to split our earnings with her? Finally, we finished up one tree and moved onto the next.  We begged for a lunch break.  It might have seemed like we had worked for half a day, but it had only been two hours so far.  At this rate, 6 trees would take us 12 hours.  Even my mother knew this was not going to happen.  She tried to motivate us by saying we could have lunch after the second tree was done.  But now we were moving much slower.  The Mexican music was so far away now we couldn’t hear it.

Eventually we did have our lunch.  Which turned out to be a big mistake.  Because following lunch we slowed tremendously and actually sat on our butts scooting around in the dirt to pick walnuts.  We were pathetic.  My mother was having none of it.  She cracked her temper which was better than a whip.  We crawled back onto our aching green knees and picked and picked walnuts.

At some point in the late afternoon, when the heat finally got to us, probably about the 4th or 5th tree, my mother called it quits.  We received $20.00 for our days work, $10.00 for each Toni and I for our Christmas expenses that year.  This was in fact, a nice sum of money for us at the time.  But as I remember that amount of pay, I think of that Hispanic family having to earn a living that way and how many walnuts they had to pick just to pay the rent or get groceries.

We picked walnuts for three years.  We learned to bring music and plenty of water and knee pads.  But nothing kept our knees from turning green or the exhaustion after only a frew trees or the aching back.

Did my mother teach us that we should grow up to work hard for our money, no matter how difficult the work?  She absolutely did.  In fact, I think every single parent should use this type of labor intensive lesson for their kids as they grow up. It was brilliant.

But did she also teach us about another culture and how hard those people were willing to work for so little.  She did, without knowing it.  I will never, ever in my life forget those Mexican families and how incredibly hard they worked as a family unit.  I find it difficult to imagine that we have any Americans growing up (besides farmers kids) who would be willing to actually work this hard for their spending money.  We are spoiled rotten as a country.  It’s sad to see it that way.  But I’ve been there.  Down on my hands and knees.  And if there is anyone who wants to do that work for me for what is way beneath minimum wage, then I say, let them.  No, beg them to please, please do it for us.

I didn’t write this to become a political statement.  I really didn’t.  But it turns out, the thing my mother taught me the most from 3 years of picking walnuts was how to be respectful, understanding, and insist on civil rights for those that put food on my plate every day.

When I was a little girl…by Denise Lapp Tallman


When I was a little girl, I kid you not, I used to play office.  For some reason, my mother used to give me her old deposit slips and scratch pads and bits and pieces of papers to play with.  (Now that I think about it, that was a strange thing to do mom!)  At a young age, about 6 years old, I liked to be in charge of an office I dreamed up in my head, with LOTS of paperwork.  I guess I had a hard time coming up with the type of office exactly I worked for, but eventually I settled on either a car dealership or a shoe store like Cassidy’s in downtown Hanford.

I would sit at a little table in my bedroom with pencils, a stapler, stamps and stamp pads (come to think of it, these all probably came from my mom and her bookkeeping jobs, too) and lots of types of papers.  I had no idea what the heck I was doing, but I would come up with a certain ritual for the sale of a car.  Three types of papers, write on them, stamp them HARD to make a lot of noise like I was very busy, staple a bunch together, make little piles. As I recall, I always made a deposit slip for everything, something I must have learned from watching my mom pay bills and get her banking together.

I do remember going to Bank of America in downtown Hanford all the time. In fact, at one point she used to work there.  (It’s so weird how I can’t remember what you just said but I can remember all these details from 49 years ago.) Perhaps this is where I got the idea of stacking and stamping lots of papers.  (For all you young ones – this was before computers and debit cards so it was ALL tons and tons of paperwork that had to be balanced by each teller, with only her little head. Imagine that!)

So, playing office was one of my forms of entertainment.  I suppose I cannot be too upset today when my job as an Exec. Asst. for a non-profit deals with tons and tons of stacks of paper.  My latest mass mailing was over 300 pieces.  I seem to be very organized and adept at this sport of paper pushing.  Do I thank my Mom for inspiring me?  Or was I born with this nifty talent? Pisces are not supposed to be necessarily organized and good at any type of paperwork.  Pisces are best known for their drama, creativity and dreaming.  Somehow, I have found a way to live with both sides of my brain working together.  It’s an interesting phenomenon.

When I was a little girl, Hanford California seemed like a boring, boring, boring place.  I dreamed of living with the movie stars and living out those fabulous exciting lives in a big city.  But Hanford did have some true one-of-a-kind places you can never forget.  All my classmates from Hanford High will quickly agree about these:

The singularly most important place in Hanford, CA still exists today!  Superior Dairy!  All our celebrations in town ended with a Superior Dairy sundae and every hot night in the summer ended with a trip to the take-out counter for one of their cones you still cannot believe you are supposed to eat all of.  Superior Dairy is famous for their HUMONGOUS scoops.  I promise you, you must believe me, do not ever order a 3 scoop on a cone.  Just be reasonable and get it in a cup.  One scoop of ice cream takes the high school kids working at the counter, all their muscle, digging out about a pint of ice cream all piled high and pushed to look like only one massive scoop.  It takes them a long time to build a cone at Superior Dairy.  And it begins melting immediately, before you have paid.

Was there really a question how we all learned in our generation famous tongue action?  We are award-winning lickers and could have won huge trophies if anyone ever thought to give us one for this kind of determined tongue activity.  Every young child, as early as 2, is taught how to lick an ice cream cone in Hanford, CA.  It’s part of our heritage.  So many kids born in colder climates simply have no idea how to eat an ice cream cone.  They think ice cream comes on a spoon.

Now I remember as a high school student making fun of the waitresses at Superior Dairy.  They never seemed to smile, no matter how funny we knew we were.  Looking back, I bet we were not funny at all.  And a bunch of loud rambunctious kids thinking they are a laugh a minute must have been truly very trying for those poor waitresses.

But the best time of all to obtain some Superior Dairy ice cream was whenever I was sick.  My mother always came home from work with a chocolate milkshake for me.  It was a miracle drug!  Here is how I remember it:

THE CHOCOLATE MILKSHAKE

Sick.

In bed.

Fever.  No food.

Lots of covers.

Mom calls from her job

What can she bring me to feel better?

“A chocolate milkshake

from Superior Dairy.”

She decides this is ok

I lay there waiting

Salivating.  Dreaming.  Swallowing.

I fall into real sleep finally

while waiting.

Then, Tootsie barks, keys in

the front door.  I lay in

anticipation of my one great love;

icy cold smooth chocolate

homemade rich creamy

ice cream made with

chocolate liquor for flavor.

I await.

In comes the prized pink and white

striped paper cup and lid and straw.

I feign my dire illness.

I take the cup in a

prone position and in order

to show Mom just how

sick I am,

I tip the cup back to

my head while I am

lying on the pillow.

The lid falls off.

I lie there with an

empty straw in my

mouth and milkshake

all over my neck

and chest and bed.

My mother is not amused.

And I cry.  Because I

will not get a second

milkshake tonight.

To this day, when I am back anywhere near Hanford, I drag everyone with me to Superior Dairy.  The rest of the town could disappear, but as long as I can get my cone stacked precisely with chocolate on the bottom and orange sherbert on top, then I will never forget my childhood.  And as far as memories go, my mother’s favorite ice cream was maple walnut, a flavor not found anywhere else but Superior Dairy.  I like to dine on this sweet nutty flavor to feel closer to my mom sometimes. Now those are great memories.

When I was growing up I can only remember one shoe store and it was on our main street which was not called main street, instead it was 7th Avenue. Anyway, the shoe store was Cassidy’s.  Unfortunately, I have very sad stories relating to Cassidy’s.  It was so sad I actually wrote a poem about it long ago as therapy.  Here it is:

THE FIRST TIME I FELT UGLY

My reflection at 13 was a Circus mirror

of huge and exploding breasts,

a wiggly valentine-shaped butt

and a bumpy oozing inquiring face framed by

long auburn Phyllis Diller frizzy hair.

All of which could be fixed so I hugged

myself and began the long process of

learning to love myself.

However, I could not change one thing

in the Looking Glass.  And that was the

submarine sandwich sized feet that carried

the rest of me into a room.  They were just big

enough to leave me no choice in

Cassidy’s Shoe Store on Main Street.

It was awesome that I always entered

the air-conditioned store with the highest belief

that this time my size would be available in

the latest fashions.

The shoeman sat on the little silver stool

and placed my big foot between his legs on the

black rubber escalator pad.  And every damn time

he sadly  announced I was a size 10

and that they had very little in those larger sizes.

But he kindly sat between my legs in his

polyester lime green leisure suited legs

and tried to help me stuff my foot

into the shoes I has seen in

Seventeen Magazine and on Marsha Brady.

I was willing to die for the white knee-high

boots with fringe all around the top.

And we pushed and jammed my ankles and toes

until I gave up in tears.  My mother told

him to bring me a pair of “these”

holding up a horrible pair of

black sandals with chunky heels

and a duplicate of ones my grandmother owned.

Then I would leave

like one of Cinderella’s step sisters,

a shoe box neatly tied with

string under my arm and a very young

heart filled with disappointment.

That was the first time

I ever felt ugly.

When I was a little girl, over half a century ago now, (does that thought disturb you fellow Hanford High Classmates?) every single birthday and anniversary and holiday had to have a cake from Maccagno’s Bakery.  (It may be of psychological interest to note so many of my memories revolve around food – was it the constant dieting my mom had me on?)  For years, I would take new friends from other towns to Maccagnos’, to proudly show them the wedding cake book of photos which displayed my first wedding cake when I married Joe Maciel.  It was used as a display cake in their album because we had over 250 people to feed and this cake was gigantic!  Unwieldy!  And my colors were pink and blue – my mother was right – absolutely ghastly colors.  YUCK!  That was one ugly cake looking back on it.  But heh, I was only 21 years old.

However, my real love at Maccagnos Bakery, besides the soft squishy fresh French Bread, is their chocolate thumbprint cookies.  My closest friends and my son Dustin Paul,  will all stop at Maccagno’s Bakery on the way to visit me, and bring me 2-3 pounds of these awesome cookies.  When I finally get that cupcake tatoo on my rear end, I’m adding a chocolate thumbprint cookie too.  I just decided.

And finally, keeping with the running food theme – where were YOU the night Rubalcaba’s burned to the ground?  This could so be a song – “the night Rubalcaba’s burned to the ground.”  (Was it Rubalcava or Rubalcaba?)

Well, my first husband Joe Maciel and I were sitting right there inside the restaurant.  We were starving.  It was a long wait to be seated.  We were sipping margaritas.  I was salivating for my huge tostada I was expecting to smother with their little squeeze bottle of french dressing – something no other Mexican restaurant I have ever visited has offered.  As I recall we were with friends or family members.  People began to notice a smokey smell, but we chalked it  up to something had been burned in the busy kitchen.  Finally, swinging doors brought us our waitress with her arms lined with our hot plates.  “Be careful, it’s hot” they always said when they placed our food in front of us.  JUST as we picked up our forks to take a bite, people began to scream “Fire!”  “Get out of here”.  Now the fire was in the roof so no one could actually see any danger yet.  It seemed a little hysterical to jump up and run.  I figured it would be a little kitchen fire that needed a fire extinguisher.  We’d be back to our tables to finish eating in no time!  Ah hell, we got up to leave.  Joe suggested we all pick up our hot plates and take the food outside to eat it while we waited.  But I did not want anyone to think we were thieves, and flatly refused.  “Leave it” I proclaimed.  “We’ll be right back!”

Those of you who lived in Hanford at the time know what tragically happened that night.  The fire was throughout the roof and Rubalcaba’s quickly burned to the ground.  Not only did we never get to finish our dinner that night, but it would have been our LAST dinner because they did not rebuild. Oh, if only I had listened to Joe and taken my plate outside to eat.  Dang!   I am salivating still remembering those tostadas.

I have to give tons of credit to my ex-husband who sent me home that evening, but he stayed, working all night long to help the firemen put out the fire. He is always there for others.  Dustin – you should forward this to your Dad to read!  He was a hero that night!  (Dustin and I above)

I have so many more memories of Hanford, CA.  Turns out, it must not have been such a boring, boring, boring place to grow up afterall!!  If someone could just find me some knee-high boots with fringe that fit, and a pound of Maccagno’s thumbprint cookies I’d be in heaven right now.

Cooking: hobby, therapy and smiles


One of my treasured ways to spend my time is cooking.  I firmly believe that cooking from scratch is the best food for you and such wonderful therapy.

I am not saying it does not take more time.  On the other hand, if you cook a pot of spaghetti from scratch, you can get a weeks worth of meals out of it.  So, perhaps in the long run it does NOT take any more time. What if I convinved you that it actually SAVES you time!  Think of coming home every night after work for a nice hot meal, ready for you with just a few minutes warm up.

A few days ago I got an itch to make my chicken breast, leeks and apples entree.  You know, all my recipes just come from a cookbook.  You DO OWN A COOKBOOK right?  If not, just go to http://www.foodnetwork.com and search any food you want and there you go!  A gazillion recipes.  It’s amazing there !  You can just enter in a food you have like “beef ribs” and all their recipes will come up from all their shows!

So I wrote down on my weekly shopping list the few things I needed:  6 Granny Smith apples, chicken breasts, 3 large leeks, apple juice and if I could find it, apple brandy or carvados.  The rest of the recipe called for normal things in my kitchen, butter, cream, sugar, thyme.   I try to only shop once a week and so we keep a list on the kichen counter for us to write down anything that is running low or out.

Then I waited for the right time on my days off to cook.  Seems like tonight will be the night.  Now, watch how easy this is.  It’s a BREEZE!  You are SOOOO going to want to go cook!

First of all, my chicken breasts were frozen, so I had to unfreeze and take the big Moosh to the dog park.

Then is was about an hour of cooking. Brown the chicken breasts in butter and thyme.  Peel and core the apples, slice or chunk up.  Brown them in butter and sprinkle with sugar.  (Careful, they get very fragile when cooked.) Cut off the green part of the leeks, then clean thouroughly.  You have to be sure you open up so the many, many rows of leek lose their sand and dirt.  Chop up into 1/2 inch pieces.  Saute the cleaned leeks in butter til transuscent.   Add back in the chicken, apple juice and a dessert wine I had on hand, and it let cook over medium heat for 15 minutes to finish cooking the chicken.  Add  cream, cook down for a few minutes thicken.  Toss in the apple pieces to heat and serve! Voila!

It’s 95 degrees here suddenly. Overnight from the low 80’s when it’s comfortable to almost triple digits.  Yuck!  However, this weather just forces me to think about cold macaroni salad and blue cheese burgers.  There is a wonderful health food store in Phoenix called Sprouts.  They have a butcher and make their own hamburger patties with blue cheese crumbles throughout.  YUM!  I grab some buns and packages of macaroni (which costs pennies) and rush home.  I already have the eggs to boil, mustard, mayo and sweet pickles to make the salad.  This will make at least four meals this week.

My mom never put paprika on her macaroni salad.  But she always added boiled eggs.  In fact, she added boiled eggs to everything.  My Dad had a deviled egg sandwich every day of his life – I kid you not!  We had to leave a paper towel on the kitchen table, with a glass turned over for his milk and the bag of Lays potato chips.  When he came home every day of his life from the City of Hanford engineering department, he took his deviled egg sandwich out of the fridge (that we had made earlier before school) and had his peaceful lunch.

Another thing I always have ready to cook at my house is chocolate chip cookies.  Trader Joes has the cheapest salted and unsalted butter I can find, so I always go there once a month and stock up and keep the butter in the freezer until I bake.  Costco sells those enormous bags of Nestle chocolate chips – which I keep in the cupboards.  Although I dearly love the inexpensive ones with chocolate liquor that Trader Joes sells too.  There is always butter, flour, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla and chips in the house.  Need a fast desert – TA DA!

And let me for a minute talk about biscuits.  One of the last times I ever saw my girlfriend of 30 something years, Colleen Garcia and her husband Allen, I made breakfast for them at our home at the coast.  To this day whenever I make biscuits, about twice a month, I can hear her in my ear saying, “you’re gonna make them from scratch?”  and I remember showing her how easy it is.  And so much better than those horrible things you buy in a roll that you snap open.  And it doesn’t not take much longer – I promise.

Into your food processor you measure out 7 tablespoons unsalted frozen butter, 2 cups flour, 1 tbls baking powder and a 1/2 tsp salt. Process for a few seconds till butter is all crumbled.  Do not over process!  This makes biscuits tough.  Then pour in slowly while processer is running, 3/4 cup cream. Just be sure it does not become mush.  When it’s a nice soft dough rolling around in one ball, take out, kneed 3 times in flour, fold in half a few times to make a nice crack to open up automatically after cooked, and cut out some biscuits with the rim of a glass or biscuit cutter.  Then bake at 450 for 14 minutes.  I like to add a tiny dab of butter (using up the last tablespoon) and sprinkle of sugar to the top before baking – but it’s not necessary.  Now, while you make your candied bacon and eggs with chives, your biscuits are baking and puffing up and will be the hit of your meal!  Now why would you buy that horrible processed food instead??

Ok, go forward young men and women – and COOK!!

Searching for healing stones – It’s a rock lovers paradise


I am sure you will be surprised to learn that my love affair with beads and development of my own creative talents through my hands, began long ago on a trip to Sedona, AZ.  This was so long ago, I was still married to another man!  We traveled on vacation to Sedona so I could feel the vortexes and find my metaphysical counterparts there.  We both were overwhelmed with the energy in the Sedona area.  During this trip, based on my research, (ever the researcher,) we drove 20 miles away and up a gorgeous hill called Cleopatra’s Hill, to Jerome.  A tiny copper mining ghost town being overrun with artists, their old homes practically falling off the cliffs.  Not only was this town precious, but it had a view – a straight as the  crow flies view – of Sedona and the red rocks from up high.  What a place!  The three blocks in and three blocks out of town were nothing but artist boutiques, Haunted Hamburger, a ghostly bed and breakfast called Ghost City Inn and a bar called The Spirit Room.  I leapt out of the car and proceeded to adore every store, the next one more than the last.  In one of these very stores, way back 25 years ago, I found the most gorgeous double strand bracelet made of unique beads.  I had to have that bracelet and bought it quick.  Back home in Los Angeles, my husband noted we could teach ourselves to make these bracelets and give them as gifts.  And the rest is history!

At the same time, my interest in crystals and semi-precious gemstones was developing.  I knew of crystal healing and eventually turned my mom onto to it when she got breast cancer.  To this day, I still go to my first Crystal store from that first trip and make a purchase.  The staff at Crystal Magic taught me to drift among the crystals until I noticed I was drawn to one over and over.  Then I was to bring that stone to them and they would drag out this huge book by someone called Melody, with extraordinarily detailed information about every single kind of rock found in the earth and its particular healing properties.  I was so lucky I was taught this system long ago.  I still love to drift among crystals in a store and when I am just crazy drawn to one I look up the description.  These days, there are many other expert books out there besides Melody’s books, which now has an updated version.  But still, at the best Crystal store anywhere, Crystal Magic, their staff has all the latest books behind the counter and will pull it them out for you to look up details about a particular stone.

Only a few weeks ago we had a salesman come to the museum selling semi-precious stones.  You can imagine my excitement when the store manager said I could purchase a few things on her discount.  I handled and looked at hundreds of strands of beads, but I kept going back to this blue-grey stone I had never seen in my life before.  The crystal cut of the stone was sparkling and gorgeous, little spheres of energy on a string.  I really wanted this stone.  I was told it was called Kyanite.  I never heard of it.  Without researching it at all, I bought a strand.  Later in the day I looked up Kyanite and found out it helps with neurological disorders including Epilepsy.  (I have Epilepsy in case you didn’t know)  I used to be so surprised when this happened, but I’m not any more.  It’s some kind of “conversation” I have with the stones I guess.  They just talk to me and jump into my hand!

So, it was not much of a transition to couple both of my loves of beading and metaphysics and begin making healing jewelry.  Over the years I’ve done this mostly for myself.  But I’ve always loved making things for others.

I start by asking the person who needs the jewelry to give me a list of things that bother them.  It can be a serious illness as well as emotional issues or even just something as standard for all of us as overeating.  I then research in many ways, the best stones that offer healing properties for those very specific challenges.  I often spend hours researching – sometimes over the course of several days.

Then the search begins for the stones that call out to me.  I keep the person who I am making the jewelry for close to my heart while I think about and handle stones.  When they practically yell at me “I’m the one!” I buy that one.

I am extraordinarily lucky to have unreal access to ANCIENT BEADS at The Bead Museum.  It would be close to impossible to find some of the stones available at the museum anywhere else.  Our founder Gabrielle Liese began collecting four decades ago and she realized then that beads told the history of humankind.  It was an extraordinary realization that propelled her into action to collect from around the world. Today, the Bead Museum is the only comprehensive bead museum in the world and we consistently have researchers at the museum updating our timeline that goes back 17,000 years, or studying in our extensive library.

So when I tell you that a particular ancient bead over 1200 years old is made of the exact healing stone you need for your jewelry, it is a little happy dance for me.  Just Sunday we discovered two tiny plates of 1200 year old Carnelian beads.  (The Carnelian is of course much older, it’s the beads themselves that are 1200 years old!)  Plus, the story brought back to us from our founder is that the beads were probably worn by Shamans based on where they were discovered.

Now if that isn’t the most perfect healing stone I don’t know what else is!

I myself have some 800-1200 year old beads called Nila Beads found in an area of northwestern Africa that was once called Jeanne, Mali.  My husbands best friend bought them for me for my birthday last year.  What a fabulous gift!  I have taken my time to restring them into a necklace for myself – as I want to mix them ONLY with other 1000 year old beads.  But if ever there was a place to obtain those beads, the Museum is going to be the place.

And so this past few weeks as I made a healing necklace for someone, I was in search of Carnelian as a focal bead because it helps to heal lower back issues.  I really wanted some extraordinary Carnelian for this necklace.  When I told the future owner about our “find” of the 1200 year old Carnelian she was thrilled to have a bead for her necklace.  It’s certainly going to be a one-of-a-kind healing necklace!

Today I decided, since my orders were filled for the week, to work on a healing bracelet for myself.  I wanted to add a copper Goddess Talisman to it and put in all the stones I could use in my life right now.  Of course that beautiful new Kyanite was part of the whole piece.  It is not only helpful with Epilepsy but with communication too.  And some Lepidolite – which helps one to be more centered and focused, helps with sleep and how about some astral travel!  Oh, and some beautiful deep purple Charoite – a fairly new Russian stone I love.  It helps with production of hormones, which if you are going through Menopause you know where I’m coming from!  And also to help with sleep issues.  I have recently fallen in love with this strange pink, black and garnet stone called Eudialyte.   I have searched and searched for this stone and figured it was just going to be one I could not find, but suddenly it started coming to me – even walking in the door with a senior volunteer at the Bead Museum!  It helps you to trust yourself and ease compulsive behaviour like overeating and shopping. Then I pulled out my favorite sparkly Labradorite.  I just love the look of this stone.  It inspires creativity, focus on your career and self-esteem an lo and behold – it helps you to lose weight.  Well, might as well add that one!

The finished piece is perfection to me.  I used copper findings to match the Goddess.  Copper is good for low energy and I find myself tired often these days. I think I’ll wear it to bed I love it so much.

I make necklaces and bracelets for now.  if you know anyone who would benefit from one of my healing stone jewelry, have them contact me at denise@whimsicalmysticaljewelry.com.

Now, I hear there is a new place for me to find healing stone beads.  Gotta run!!