Category Archives: Family values

Slip-sliding along

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All the preparation in the world will do nothing to lessen the silent explosion that descends upon us the only way time knows how to travel. Defying lasers, cat gut and high end facial abrasion, gravity descends in subtle waves and full-on attack, claiming new territory by the minute.

I began mental preparation when I was 59; a lot of good that did.  By 62, I was in a quiet state of panic.  By 65, denial had become impossible to sustain, even on good days.

I would like to say I made the transition from bud to fading blossom gracefully, but I cannot.  I never judge another woman’s choice for surgical intervention; it simply wasn’t for me.  I’m an old nurse; saving things is what I am trained to do.

Also I am a collector and admirer of junk and antiques, finding comfort in well-worn patinas boasting generous use.  I love chipped paint and rust, and admire the simplicity of unsophisticated lines and primitive art.

I patch, re-purpose and restore, but never refinish.

So treating myself differently than I would an old crate made no sense no matter how much time I spent standing in profile in front of the mirror pulling a cascading chin back to a more flattering pre-menopausal position.

I wrung my hands for years fearing the great evolution would morph my lovely pear into an awkward apple, feeling as if that day would strike like a bolt of lightning, or like a tragedy at sea, the captain of a sinking ship lost to sharks in uncharted sea.

But if anything, passage was silent and endearing as I fell in love with the soft, loose texture of my own skin, and the pinkness of my scalp shining like new planet in an unexplored galaxy of snowy hair. And I was oddly amused by the sound of my voice, the way it creaked like sore knees around words spoken more slowly and with less certainty than before.

Like a memory of the chair I rocked my babies in, I can see our history in my hands.  And I like that.  A lot.  So now I am between a walker and heels.  I never hold my stomach in.  Hate Spanx and the likes.  Wouldn’t wear one even if it was a gift.

In my sewing studio I have a photo gallery of women who inspired me in life.  They have all passed away now, but I see them in my face every day, with my glasses on, of course.  And I want to be like them.  Graceful, full of joy and palpable peace,

a mischievous spark shining in my eyes as I creep toward 70.

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Under my Skin

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The face staring back from the mirror looks as perplexed as the one peering in; both convey a deer caught in headlights expression.  Confusion verses the well-oiled gears of an efficient woman, hesitation challenging certainty, and a few lingering questions that can unnerve even the most self-assured person.

another kitchen failure

While it’s difficult to accept the premise that I remain as self-assured today as I was twenty years ago, it is impossible to pretend I feel incompetent in any way in spite of the aftereffects of time.  While the burden of physicality has required a definite down-shift in energy and stamina, the resulting changes have done nothing to deter my positive senses of self-perception and attitude.

In all honesty, I must admit that when Rome first began to crumble and fall, the tendency was to bemoan my losses; however, because I have spent a great deal of time developing a healthy level of self-esteem and self-love, I weather the storm and resist any urge to wallow in self-pity.

crumbling with time

I’ve fallen and I can’t get up: that’s a load of dirty laundry!  I may need a helping hand from time to time but I can still manage.

What lies beneath the skin is the essence of the soul and the soul is circuitously wired to the brain whether or not that brain functions at preferred levels of activity.

Gratefully my brain appears to be in sync with expected norms for my age, but that hasn’t always been the case.  When my brain fell far short of scientific/medical neurological projections and measurements of expected activity, my soul persevered, and its presence and influence perfectly reflected the embodiment of my true and unique identity.

So here I am, still, and always, Aunt Bea in my heart of hearts.  And while I may have had to exchange those cute little granny shoes with the 2 ½  inch heels for a pair of supportive flats, I can still move forward.  No one can be a better me than me.  No one can hold a candle to the intention of my heart and the determination of my hands.

sensible shoes

I know I came into this room for something…what could it be?  Oh, now I remember!  I wanted to look in the mirror and thank myself for being the best I can be today, under the circumstances, knowing what I know and being who I am.

Thanks old chick!

Now I can lose the goofy deer in the headlights look and get back to doing whatever it was I was doing before I decided to drop by my beloved blogging site and do a bit of light housework.

Maintenance, you know, and timing.  And pearls and a nice jersey dress.  And clean underwear.  Always.

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A New Chapter in an Old Book

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A New Chapter in an Old Book

Heelllooo!  Having circled the drain for months, I am back as strong and stubborn as a Borax and liquid Dawn resistant stained shower stall!

dirty shower stall

 

Let me start by saying I’ve absolutely NO intention of returning to health-worry purgatory ever again!  As miserable as it’s been, I must admit I have learned a great deal about myself, and others, while suspended in the goo of uncertainty amidst approximately a million gloom-and-doom predictions from a team of expert bearers of bad news. 

grim reaper

 

I won’t try to fib here; it wasn’t easy trying to find a way to turn this level of manure into something less offensive, but long story short, we did it, and almost as soon as we did, we discovered Rich DOES NOT have ALS, in spite of about a million and one contradictory diagnostic indicators, and a million and two test results supporting that miserably serious contention, and about a million and three earnest specialists working diligently to prepare us for the fact that he did.

 

And, oh by-the-way, that coronary artery of mine, the one the cardiologist punctured during a stent insertion three days before Rich’s tentative diagnosis, is healing nicely now, and every day I feel a little more like my old self, (except that now I’m living 100% in the world according to itty).

burst pipe

 

When the whole drama began I was living life through a lovely filter, and during the Four Month Wars I came to appreciate the benefits of having chosen to do so many years ago.  Throughout the ordeal, I successfully fine-tuned the comforting perimeters of my mental Mayberry existence by using the greater world’s insensitivities and arrogances that spin like tornados as motivation.

 

Surprisingly, I discovered real peace in the horrible truths that scalded Rich and I almost daily, realizing and embracing there was nothing, absolutely nothing that anyone could say that could change the time we spent together.  Whether time is spent playing or meeting the physical needs of one another, it remained time spent together.

 

There are consequences to every life lesson, and Rich and I have emerged with a short  list of Things to Do resulting from this slight twist in our path through life, (and beyond), together.

loving old couple

 

Morgan, our granddaughter who lives with us, is moving into an apartment on her university’s campus to finish her senior year, and Rich and I are down-sizing for an eminent move to Texas where our children are waiting with open arms.  Morgan will join us all later, doing her graduate work there.

 

I am so excited to get to share this new adventure with my readers!  I’m even more excited about life in general these days.  Back on the home front, Aunt-Bea-Me is comfortably sitting on half of the double recliner, rose-colored-lenses in place, the Food Network murmuring softly in the background, as she compiles a list of details necessary to pull off yet another glorious life-style change.

 

In the kitchen for tonight, a new diabetic friendly recipe for Orange Chicken!  And two loaves of wheat bread rising.

 

Lord-of-mercy, my friends, it’s good to be back.

 

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Aunt-Bea-Me’s Pearl of the Day:  Sometimes it’s necessary to deafen your ears to the roar of the storm, and instead to appreciate the soft breeze slipping through imperfect window panes.

 

 

 

Waiting for Leisure to Begin

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Waiting for Leisure to Begin

I never saw Aunt Bea in a pair of fuzzy pink slippers but I’ve got to believe she owned one.  Here in domestic Nirvana, I’ve given mine a real workout of late.  These slippers are not the dainty feathery type with pointy, sharp heels, (I’m no Elizabeth Taylor), or the casual flip flop summer variety, but more an over the ankle combat boot lined with molten hot flannel wrapped in thick batting, and finished in a flurry of heavy duty fleece.

As I pad along creaking oak floors in these beauties, I’m also wearing hefty wool socks patterned with stripes, plaids, little yellow ducks,( the print doesn’t matter), because its effectiveness I’m looking for.  What I really want is a compact pair of energy efficient ovens for cold, arthritic feet, but I can’t find any anywhere in retail.

boots meant for walking

I generally love frosty weather, but this year my brain seems to have dropped the ball because my body never got the message.  As a result, I’m moving through the house with the silhouette of a Green Bay Packer, (undershirts, long johns, sweater on sweater), muddling through work that suddenly is more chore, less delight, and the sheer weight of heavy clothing is getting me down.  Now add grey, overcast sky and ice with an attitude and you can see where I am. We’ve had so many ice storms this year, I’m tempted to throw away every piece of crystal in the entire house just to get rid of any reminder of the brutes outside beating up the shrubbery, torturing naked trees, and mauling finicky power lines.

Then there’s the fact that I blew out a tire in a couple of appliances and the budget isn’t having anything at all to do with my sobbing pleas to replace them; as a result, I’ve found myself grounded to a complete halt on the frozen surface of the proverbial creek.  I might have a good case for self-pity:

Blues, despair, agony on me,   Deep, dark depression,    excessive misery.   If it weren’t for bad luck,    I’d have no luck at all.     Blues, despair,    agony on me,  (Lyrics courtesy of Buck Owens and Roy Clark for this verse of their little jingle  from Hee-Haw, circa 1969 – 1992), but I don’t think so.  If Aunt Bea wasn’t already ‘homesteading’ in earnest, she is now.

The problem with actually living life means there isn’t as much time to write about living life, so from time to time in passing, I smile at the computer, wiping a near-tear away with designer cleaning gloves, as my furry combat slippers carry me from one chore to another.

Dietary news is much brighter than what comes out of Maintenance these days, what with dark, heavy skies and flurries of flurries, I am inspired.  Soups, stews and rich warm casseroles have found their way through last season’s maze of light entrees and green salads, kicking ass and taking names.

winter squash

The cabbage looks a little droopy in the market so Rich gets a well-deserved break, but the aisles are literally bursting with colorful, mysterious looking varieties of winter squash and root vegetables!  Aunt Bea Me has tried them all, some more successfully than others, but each a winner in its own humble way.

With Rich’s A1C level hovering safely around 6, it’s good to go at our house, and both of us are eagerly awaiting the lull we plan to transform into a virtual festival of rest and relaxation!   The puzzle boxes are stacked neatly on a corner game table and the remote control is properly situated between the two sections of a double recliner we share.

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Yes, Mission Control is a-buzz with anticipation as these two old space cadets giddily wait for leisure to begin.

mission control

Unfortunately, to this point, by the time the day’s work is semi-complete, neither has the energy for lift-off.  And although it’s not exactly the scenario either had imagined, it still beats the pants off anything we had before we teamed up.

hands holding hands

Happy New Year, my friends, and may the Force be with you. 

The Spooky Truth (about Getting Old)

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Rich and I recently took our first vacation since 2009; it turned out to be well worth the wait.  For a year I’ve pictured myself living in Eureka Springs, AR.  That’s about a 5 hour drive from our current home in Hot Springs.  I shared my vision with Rich, and he worked hard to make his own, but his feet are set on more solid ground than mine; I’m always in the air, floating like a balloon, drifting one way and then another, swirling in currents just for the fun of it.  I count on Rich to keep me from getting air sick.  He counts on me, to make sure he doesn’t forget how to fly.

I created our Eureka Springs fantasy life from an accumulation of stories I’d read and heard, and I loved the fact that it’s located in the beautiful Ozark mountains..  But mostly it was my own imagination that allowed me to weave an entire story line around the possibility of living in a city I knew virtually nothing about.

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Eureka Springs hosts a rather large Hippie population and is literally bursting at the seams with artists and chefs, writers and philosophers, entrepreneurs and a vast representation of progressive thinkers aiming their brain power toward Green Energy.  In the story I was writing in my head, these were real pluses.  Thinking about it though, I don’t know what I was thinking; Hot Springs has its own share of the very same sort of people, but I haven’t met many of them.  Whenever we’re out, I see them milling around the historical district, visiting art galleries and antique shops and the new micro-pub that has only recently been installed in one of the old bath houses along Bath House Row.  Rich and I only live about 1/2 mile from the downtown historical district, but I don’t get out nearly as often as I sometimes think I want to.

I say it that way because whenever I have the chance to sit it out, or to dance,( hee hee), I usually choose to stay home and play by myself instead.

dirty dishes

If there was such a thing as a periodic extrovert, I may well be it.  Whenever the question of intro-verses-extrovert is asked, and it has been asked a couple of times, I find myself babbling on and on that I am an exuberant introvert.  (That’s when the crowd usually begins to disperse.)

Like everyone else in the world, I have needs….oh. do. not.get.me.started….but mostly they have to do with all this talk-talk thingy that’s bottled up inside me like a rocket waiting for liftoff.  My passions are my exhaust valves, Aunt-Bea-Me, IttyMac, poetry, and writing, to name a few.  But talk-talk has a deeper side with its need to express, to create, and to share; so I fill that endless pit bolting between projects and hobbies.

I am an extreme housewife; although not actually married to the house, I am it’s most dutiful servant and ardent admirer.  I am an extreme yard-wife as well, flitting from flower bed to flower bed in a flurry of seasonal drama.  I am the mother of a fine herbal garden family that I tend like a neurosurgeon, prodding, plumping, staking and tweaking until the mosquitoes chase me into the house.

This mania to wax and wane between either slipping into a pair of social butterfly wings and taking to the streets, or hunkering down in near apocalyptic isolation fixated on a 24/7 OCD work regiment is what happened to me after the nest emptied.  When both of my little chicks flew away to build nests of their own, a kind of madness took over, and I begin to dig dirt out of one hole to fill another, hardly noticing I had just dug a deeper hole I’d feel compelled to fill.

before the chicks left the nest

Before the chicks flew the coop

another kitchen failure

After I realized I was in an empty nest

But back to Eureka Springs…family stories have my paternal grandmother, MamaMac, back in her few days of great family wealth, visiting the Crescent Hotel and Spa with her good friend Mrs.Gooch, and Mrs. Gooch’s loyal and ever humorous chauffeur, McDuff.

fluffy old girls 1930

Off these two fluffy ladies would go, to indulge their every fantasy, even though through the years, the legend of the Crescent Hotel and Spa had had its ups and downs, eventually descending into a dark and quite horrifying state of affairs .  A snake-oil-salesman-type-fellow had purchased the establishment that had, in its prime, functioned as gathering grounds for wealthy plutocrats in need of vacations. More about the creepy guy later.

The hotel served the public in that capacity for a number of years until it fell victim to hard economical times.  At that point, the Crescent was converted into a college for women.  Eventually it, was purchased by a charlatan who invested in it with the sole intention of converting it once again.  But this conversion would have nothing to do with rest and relaxation or higher education.  Mr. Baker, the unsavory investor, turned the Crescent into a cancer-cure facility.  The man was not a doctor; he was Frankenstein.  Well, you can imagine where this story is going.  Mr. FranenBaker was a particularly cruel ghoul to many trusting, hopeful souls seeking cures for a terrible disease.  Under the watch of his most evil eyes, they suffered and died the most agonizing deaths one might imagine.

Once the nasty business of Dr.FrankenBaker had ceased, once again the Crescent fell into tragic disrepair.

Masters of the Paranormal have long studied this hotel, documenting, if one is of such a mind to believe, much supernatural activity throughout its long, carpeted halls and magnificent architecture.  Matter of fact, the Crescent is currently listed as one of the top ten most haunted hotels in the entire world.  Imagine that, wonder why.

Now why my grandmother and Mrs. Gooch would choose to spend their good money in a place like this is easily answered by the fact of the healing springs that had originally attracted those poor cancer patients to the same grounds years before.  The hotel, having been restored to its original beauty by a non-evil couple in the early 30’s, had regained its prominence in high society; thus, enter Miss Mac, Mrs.Gooch and jovial McDuff, who, of course, was relegated to the servant quarters.

When Rich and I arrived in Eureka Springs, we immediately got lost.  Then fate intervened, landing us squarely in the parking lot of my grandmother’s favorite hotel.  I took one look at the impending, rather menacing, structure with all its bad energy and cauldron of gloomy karma and summed it up, saying…

No. Way.”

crescent16blackandwhite

So off we drove to a place more suited to our less extravagant lifestyle, settling in a quirky pink motel comically named ‘The Land O’ Nod”.  I could hardly contain my laughter as we pulled into the tiny parking space directly in front of our small cabin-esque-sort-of-room, imagining my grandmother rolling over in her grave.

Wonderful things happened to us on our trip.  We loved our room, had the best service we have ever had before, ate amazing locally produced food prepared by chefs from as far away as Chicago, mingled with hippies our own age at the Farmers Market, discussed homeopathic medicine and naturopathic lifestyles with a former cardiologist turned naturopath following a heart attack, walked miles up and down hills visiting shops, (just ask my knees if you don’t believe me), took hundreds of photos, huddled with artists, debated and agreed with local politicians, had an absolutely amazing visit to the Tasting Room for Fresh Harvest where we sampled premium olive oils and balsamic vinegars until we needed to make a fairly  hasty retreat back to the Land O” Nod for emergency pit stops.

And last, but not least, we ventured into the dark night, paying 25 bucks each for the infamous Crescent Hotel and Spa Ghost Tour.

After all was said and done, in spite of all the fun we had together, in spite of the new friends we made, we looked at each other in car driving back through the Ozarks to the Ouachitas, and said unanimously,

“Naw.  That wasn’t it.”

So now we’re back where we started a year ago.. in the planning stages for retirement… but we’d better get a move on it pretty soon because in a couple of months we’ll be 65.  And though the trail ahead is getting shorter for both of us, neither is ready to exchange walking shoes for rocking chairs.

Trying to Keep Up with Time: balancing life around the reality of a ticking clock

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Mercy, mercy Me!  The past few days have raced by like a pack of sled dogs!

dog sled team

But breakfasts, lunches and dinners haven’t lacked my down home sense of style, except for last Tuesday.  You know how much Aunt-Bea-Me respects consistency and order, well, they were both blown to hell’s bells when Morgan and Charlie decided to break up.

And it couldn’t have happened on a worse day.  My friend, Marie, moved to Louisiana that morning…sob.sob.  So the children’s news sent me scampering off to the kitchen, where I sat at the table with a lace hanky in my hand, concentrating as hard as I could, to work up a flood of tears.  Just as success was within grasp, the telephone rang, breaking what had promised to be a very wet season.

The rest of day is a blur.

another kitchen failure

Later that evening, Rich rushed us to nearest Chinese Restaurant, the Wok Express, where he did his dead level best to lift my spirits.  He was doing a pretty good job of it too,  until I opened my fortune cookie….

stale fortune

Sigh.

Wednesday was in deed, a better day.  I spent the entire afternoon in the capable hands of Eric, my hairdresser.  What that man can do with a pair of scissors is the envy of every bolt of cotton broadcloth in the county.

time out

 

Moving on.. tonight’s meal was a near masterful presentation of my own ground chicken patties, sprinkled with a smattering of salt and lemon pepper, and a thin crust of Panko, then sautéed in 2 teaspoons of olive oil till golden brown.  Last week’s cabbage selection wasn’t nearly a hit with Rich, so I felt compelled to redeem myself, and cabbage, in his eyes.

I began by julienne-slicing the bright green cabbage leaves, and then set them aside.  A couple of pieces, (2), of bacon went directly into a small sauté pan until crispy brown.  Then I blotted them on paper towels, rough cut them into medium-sized pieces and set them aside.

I took 1 fresh apple, peeled and sliced it into thin slices and set that aside also.

In a large, clean sauté pan, I added about 1 ½ teaspoons of the bacon drippings along with 1 tablespoon of margarine.  When the oils had blended and become hot, I added the cabbage and apples, salting, minimally, and using a pinch of black pepper.  Stirring periodically, I mixed the two till the cabbage softened and was perfect to taste.  That’s when I added the chopped bacon, tossing it throughout the mixture.  The whole process couldn’t have taken more than 15 or 20 minutes and was divine with the tiny red potatoes and chicken I served.

(I have to be stingy with potatoes because of Rich’s diabetes), so I boiled 3 that were each about the size of a small lemon; then I cut them in half, placed a stem of fresh Basil from my garden beside them.  I served Rich 3 halves, I had 2, and Fig, dear Fig-Fido, had the last. (It was necessary to hide the dog’s antibiotic inside, creating a sort of potato cocktail.  Camouflaging a pill is the only way to get it down her throat, and believe me when I say; I’m not the least bit hesitant to resort to such tactics if it helps Fig.)   Oh, how I digress.

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You will hand over that potato…

 

Bam!  Dinner done!  Dishwasher loaded!  Rich watching reruns of the mini-series Shoˉgun, and it’s Aunt-Bea’s time for a hot bath.

 

Pearl for today: Always wear clean, un-tattered underwear.  You never know when you’ll get hit by a bus, and end up in the Emergency Room.

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OPPS! I accidentally erased this blog; so if the second time around is better than the first, I’m happy to re-present “Sponge Wars- an Epic Day of House Cleaning!” for your reading enjoyment.

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If they held a draft for the American Domestic Olympics today, my name would be listed in the top ten competitors having nailed Sponge Wars yesterday! In preliminary drug testing, I was clean, (unless decaf and cardiac drugs are factored into control calculations).

cleaning supplies

 

I channeled Aunt Bea’s near OCD reorganization and kitchen cleaning skills, and sporting my 50 Shades of Beige smocked apron, I was off like a shot, at 8 in the morning!   Competition broke for a quick PBJ around noon, but was back in full swing within a half hour.  The games ended at 5:30 when competitors were required by law to initiate dinner mealtime preparations.  (Spectators were bummed, but in the end, found themselves agreeing with referees on that particular call.)

I must admit, but not to Olympic officials, I had an unfair advantage over other competitors.  From somewhere in the distance, Aunt Bea emerged wearing the most adorable aqua blue printed Jersey dress, cinched at the waist with a thin silver roped belt.  I could tell the belt was silver by its dainty buckle, but the rest disappeared, dividing Aunt Bea into two distinct segments, like one grapefruit precariously balance on another.

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As quickly as I recognized the sweet little old lady, I heard the word “Borax.” ( telepathically, I believe).

Borax has been used for cleaning and laundry for over 100 years.  It is a naturally occurring mineral.  I remember my mom always having a box of 20 Mule Team Borax around, but paid little attention to it.  These days, I find myself trying to find ways to cut back on spending.  The price of staying clean keeps rising, but using Aunt Bea logic, there many, many ways to keep your money while keeping a sparkling clean house.

I pay around $3.60 for a large box of Borax.  It goes into the laundry for stain and odor control as it boosts general clothes cleaning.  Using one combination or another of borax, white vinegar, Dawn dishwashing soap, and baking soda, I’ve cut out spending money on all other cleaning products, except laundry detergent and bleach.  I don’t buy shampoo or conditioner anymore either.  Shopping is simple, check-out less painful, the house is spiffy clean, and our hair is in better shape than it has ever been before.

Ca-ching!

So yesterday’s game began with borax in a bucket of water, a couple of sponges, about 6 clean rags from the rag bag, and a spray bottle of water and beach, and I was good to go!

Dinner last night was an old favorite from Marlene Koch’s first Eat What You Love book, so I flubbed up, missing my goal of trying a new recipe a day, but the kitchen was so clean and smelled fresh, it was easy to justify falling off the wagon, so to speak.

Corkscrew Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo quickly became Bowtie Chicken and Mixed Vegetable Alfredo as I used ingredients I had on hand.  Delish!

Tonight is Vegetarian night so I’m back in Marlene’s new book and going for Sautéed Cabbage, Onions and Apples.  A few ingredients in this dish include cider vinegar, caraway seeds, (which I may substitute with another kind of seed since Rich isn’t a caraway fan),  chicken broth, and brown sugar.

Nutritionally speaking, it’s 45 calories a serving.  Say what?!  In the Food Exchange it counts as 1 vegetable and ½ carb choice.  The Weight Watcher Plus Point comparison is 1 point.  The numbers on this dish are so good, I’m attempting a second untried recipe, this one straight from the American Diabetes Association.  It’s Low Fat Corn Bread and counts as 2 starches on the exchange.  At 150 calories a serving, tonight’s meal will be low calorie, but we’’ll have to wait and see if it tastes good and leaves us feeling satisfied!  (No wimpy food for Rich!)

So no Olympics today, but it is bread day and daylight’s burning, so it’s the blue gingham apron for Aunt Bea Me today!  Stay for dinner anyone?

retro-kitchen set table