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Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Midas Touch?

Wow. Sometimes, seemingly against all odds, we can end up having several days in a row in which it seems that we have been blessed with a variation of the Midas Touch. If you don't remember the ancient story, King Midas, who possibly ruled in the area of Macedonia about 200 BC or thereabouts, wanted to have the ability to turn whatever he wished into gold. Sounds pretty cool, right? Not so great, actually. Although the Gods granted his request, he soon realized that this blessing was really a curse. You see, not only did his touch turn sand and stone to gold, it also happened with any and all food and drink that he tried to consume. What a punchline for a trick played by the Gods... a man starving to death, surrounded by riches galore. Obviously, Trent and I haven't had a true Midas Touch this week. It just seemed, for a few days there, that we had tapped into a little bit of magic. And the joy it gave us was truly immense. 

Christmas Eve Monday night, I managed to find the energy to make a batch of oatmeal chocolate-chip cookie bars to give to our friend Tony at our local supermarket, and to his coworkers who also had to work on Christmas Eve day. (I have to admit it was a bit of a challenge for me; I still haven't fully recovered my strength from my hospital stay earlier this month. I have come to the conclusion that being so ill may have irritated my lupus, making the fatigue and weakness last longer than I would have expected. But as our friend Julie would say, I'm upright and able to take nourishment, so I'm good.) To see the excited smiles on people's faces when we arrived bearing home-made treats made our day. And when we handed Tony his own tin stuffed with cookies, he immediately opened it and ate one right in front of us. "Oh," he said, "you really packed the chocolate in these!" He was thrilled, and hugged us before getting on to his next customer. Although I was tired, I was still walking on air, and I think Trent was, too.

Christmas Day I think all of us have friends or family that we have a hard time finding gifts for. Not that the people involved have ridiculously extravagant tastes or are the kinds of people who just hate everything. Our friends Marie and Thayne usually receive cookie bars and home-made Chex Mix from us for Christmas. What could we get for them that they hadn't already been able to get for themselves? And then something great happened. I saw a personal-sized water-infuser bottle online. My friend Marie has been experimenting with infusing water for a while now. But of course, you have to try and hold the fruits under the surface of the water with ice or something. And who has room in their fridge for a big pitcher of water? This bottle has a compartment at the bottom where you place the fruits or vegetables or whatever you want your water to be flavored with. You put the filtering screen on top, twist, and it all gets cut up. Pour in some water, and voila, natural, tasty water. This would be perfect for Marie, I thought, and Trent agreed.

We also found something online we thought would be perfect for Thayne. He works in the computer industry and does a good amount of traveling. We found something called a Cocoon that had all sorts of adjustable elastic straps to corral power cords or medicine bottles or small electronics, or whatever. As far as their kids, we got boxes of yummy candy for each single or couple. We were a bit worried about Scott, Thayne's son, because he's quite fit and we thought he might not want candy. Well, when Christmas Day arrived, we found that we had made three people very happy. Scott was thrilled with his box of chocolates. Thayne love his little tin of Tabasco chocolates, but when he saw his Cocoon, he remarked that one of his colleagues had showed him one and suggested he get himself one as well. He had put the idea on the back burner, and then received it for Christmas! And Marie! Oh, my goodness! Yes, she liked her Abba-Zabba bar and her 'Smores kit. As far as the bottle was concerned, she was like a kid with a new toy! She had to wash and use her new infuser bottle right away. She kept playing with it, and stirring the fruit around in the bottom. Our hearts were full seeing all three of them enjoy their gifts so much. That is what makes Christmas special for me.

December 26, Boxing Day There's a book I have wanted for two Christmases now. On this day, I wanted to go to the bookstore and buy it. As we were waiting in line, we chatted with a woman and a girl we presumed was her daughter, but was actually her granddaughter. They were looking at some candy on a display, and we talked about it being hand-made right here in Denver, Colorado. This candy, from the Hammond Candy Company, is now sold all over the world. It is still made by hand every day, and the ribbon candy is hand-cranked through a machine that dates back to the 1800s. When we left the bookstore, we walked over to World Market. Inside, we heard a woman's voice asking if we were following them. We all got a good laugh out of it. I told them I wanted to get some more Hi-Chews while I was in there, and we went along. We ran into the duo a couple of times before I made the girl's day. I saw the cookies she was going to buy, and told her that she should try a certain type of cookie that I had eaten when I was in Paris. Her face lit up. Apparently she decided hen she was very young that she wanted to travel, especially to Paris. I told the girl, Lexi, to keep dreaming big, and that I hoped that she would get to go everywhere she wants to travel. We talked about it a few minutes, and the lady, Suzi, gave me her business card. I promised to send her an email with photos of Paris within a week. The email went out yesterday. I know that even if I never see or hear from her again, Lexi will be pleased to receive these photos from a stranger. And that makes me happy.

I feel that Trent and I have been very fortunate this Christmas season. Doing things that make someone else truly happy is a gift in both directions. The people on the receiving end were happy, of course. But their excitement and pleasure was nothing compared to the joy we felt from being able to trigger those feelings. And that's what I call a great Christmas!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Feklar

After my triumphant return to the land of the healthy, and following a few days of rest, Trent and I went out for a brief Christmas shopping trip. After we slowly went about looking for a few things we wanted to pick up, Trent asked where we were headed next. I answered, "Well, we're really close to Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I'd love to see if they have any of my favorite popcorn popper left in stock." Within very short order, I had found what I consider the ultimate in low-tech popcorn poppers, a Whirley Pop. Go ahead, look it up online, I'll wait. A Whirley Pop is a hand-cranked stovetop popcorn popper. In the same time that it takes to make chemical-laden microwave popcorn, this popper produces a massive quantity of beautiful, fluffy kernels. It makes the popcorn in the same way as those gorgeous, gigantic machines at the movie theater, and I love it.

I got my first WP some twenty-five years ago. (If you haven't figured it out yet, popcorn is one of my favorite food groups.) It got a lot of use and was well-loved. Any time I learned that someone shared my near-obsessive love of popcorn, I would tell them about the beloved Whirley Pop. Getting a specialized cooking vessel makes no sense if you will rarely use it. That's why, for example, we don't own a waffle iron. Waffles are delicious, and I like them a great deal. But I don't eat them often enough to have the need for a waffle iron. It makes more sense for them to be a special treat, made by professionals, and eaten in restaurants. And, of course, the delicious topping of fruit and whipped cream makes it even more special. But if you could gladly eat a certain food, say popcorn, on a daily basis, why not treat yourself to a cooking vessel that will do it justice?

This is why I told my coworker and fellow popcorn lover, Mary, about the WP. I had told several people about them before, but she surprised me by telling me that she bought one within a day or two of hearing about it from me. It was a match made in heaven. She gushed on about how much she loved the popcorn made in this King of poppers. And then she said something that I simply did not understand. "I call it the Feklar," she said. "Huh?" I had no idea what she was talking about. She went on to explain that Feklar (and please forgive my Klingon, but my name is not Sheldon and this is not The Big Bang Theory!) was something like Cerberus, a guardian to the gates of the afterlife. It was something from an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It made more sense after her explanation, but I still didn't get it.

A couple of weeks later, I was channel surfing and happened upon the exact television episode Mary had been talking about. I watched as Worf told this character who was claiming to be something that she was not, "You are not Feklar!" And since she seemed to be a fairly powerful creature, but was still not Feklar, I figured that Feklar must be pretty impressive, indeed. Later, I turned on the stove and started to make a batch of popcorn. My Whirley Pop quickly produced a huge bowl of delicious, crunchy popcorn. It was powerful, indeed. I smiled and said, "You ARE Feklar!"

Since that time, I have lost two different Feklars in moves, and I can't eat popcorn as often as I would like to because I am diabetic and it doesn't do my blood sugar any favors. But I was still thrilled with our new popper. When we were on the way home from the store, I referred to the popper as my new Feklar. I spent part of the trip home explaining to Trent why it had such an unusual name. I don't know for sure what he thinks of the story, but I do know that he enjoyed the popcorn, and tried to make me laugh by acting like he was shoveling it into his mouth. Feklar will have a place of honor in the kitchen, and will create a lot of tasty bowls of popcorn. And from time to time, I will follow tradition and tell her, "You are Feklar!"

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Wonderful Life

As I sat here, flitting around on the computer, Trent turned on the television. And as it happens, the movie he found in progress, is one of my all-time favorites, It's a Wonderful Life. Many people will list it as one of their favorite Christmas movies, but I don't think of it in that way. To me, the fact that part of the movie happens at Christmastime is incidental. I am just as likely to be in the mood to watch it on a hot day in July as I am in December. Do you think that makes me weird? Oh, well.

Why don't I consider it a niche movie, a holidays-only story? I could go on for days about that, I suppose. In the effort to explain my feelings about the movie, all of my eloquence would probably jump right out the window. Luckily, since we live on the first floor, it wouldn't be a terrifically dangerous fall. No more damage than a few bruises to my ego. But I think I will give it a try anyway.

I think what really appeals to me about this story is that none of us really know the impact we have on other people's lives. We may have struggles in our lives and stumble along the way. Perhaps we had dreams of fame, or greater financial security than we have been able to achieve. We may find ourselves living a life that we think is okay, but nothing to get overly excited about. I don't know about you, but nobody's been knocking on my door and begging me to write my life story. Or, for that matter, for my secrets of wealth, fame, and beauty.

As a kid, I always felt like the ugly duckling who would never grow into a beautiful swan. I had a gap between my front teeth, and inherited my mother's double chin, which I even had when I was so skinny that, as my Gram would say, I needed to turn around twice to make a shadow. I had lovely skin, but I can tell you most assuredly that lupus and rosacea have taken their toll on that. Suffice it to say I am not the person who will jump in front of a camera when pictures are about to be taken. But then I remember a beautiful moment that happened during my high school Psychology class. Mr. Marcucci, the teacher I wrote about in a piece called Substitutes, had us pair randomly for an interesting exercise. I happened to be paired with a girl I had known in elementary school, who moved back into the area during high school. We were to sit face-to-face and share something positive with the other person. I was stunned when Kendra told me she had always been jealous of my teeth. "What? I said. "I hate my teeth! This gap is so ugly!" She went on to tell me that she always wished that she had my teeth because they were so straight and white and beautiful. Hers were crooked and she needed to have them straightened with braces. It made me cry to have someone compliment and envy what I thought was my worst feature.

I have had people drop random snippets on me, letting me know that I have inspired or helped them in some way. One of the most touching was when I thought that someone made a job change because I had failed him as a trainer. When I asked him if I had let him down and made him want to change his job, his face bloomed with a huge and happy smile. He said that it was actually quite the opposite, and that he wanted to thank me personally, as well as on behalf of his mother. He went on to tell me that before he went through my training, he had quit college because he thought that school was boring. It was my training, he said, that made him realize that learning could be interesting and fun. He had changed his position and work hours so that he could go back to school.

So, now that I have rambled and blathered, I guess it all comes down to a few simple things. We may not feel that we are important. We may not fit into society's picture of what makes a person a success. Heck, we may even feel like failures at times. But we never know what our presence may have meant in another person's life. Perhaps our lack of funds has made us more sensitive and charitable to others. Maybe our lack of beauty has made us more able to see the inner beauty of others, and helped them be able to love themselves and others. Our patience while others stumble and fall, as we have done, may have saved someone else from giving up on life entirely. But we'll never really know. But I love the idea, the small possibility, that perhaps I have lived a wonderful life. If I have touched or comforted or helped or taught anyone during my time here, then I most certainly have.

Postscript/trivia: I often wondered if the characters Bert and Ernie on Sesame Street were named after the cop and cab driver in the movie. I have since learned that they were, and that makes me happy. Also, there's a line in the movie that I adore and use all of the time, "Youth is wasted on the wrong people!"

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Vertigo - A Horror Story

You just never know when something odd or traumatic is going to happen in your life. Last Tuesday, December 10, was an evening just like any other. There was the usual cyber-surfing and television viewing. And my usual mental battle over whether or not to have a little snack before the evening was over. No, it's not because I have an excessive appetite. It's because I am now taking insulin as well as oral medication for diabetes, and I worry about my blood sugar getting too low overnight. I decided not to have a snack, and settled down for some good sleep.

I woke fairly early on Wednesday (the sun was still snoozing) to answer the call of the bladder. My body felt like my sugar might be getting a bit low, but I decided to just go back to sleep. I slept pretty deeply for a couple of hours and then popped wide awake. I was lying on my side with my back to Trent, and lifted my head about an inch and turned my eyes to see if he was still sleeping. And that was when the world began to spin out of my control. Everything was reeling. And my stomach was revolting. I then did something I have never done to Trent in our fourteen years of marriage. I started yelling for help. "I need you to help me, and fast. I'm going to throw up, and I can't get out of the bed." Trent quickly got me a receptacle as I was lying in bed, worried at what might be wrong with me. 

I somehow managed to use my test kit and discover that my blood sugar had not gotten too low. "Crap," I thought, "I've had a stroke." But within a second I told myself that I hadn't. After all, I could talk. A bit. And then barf. (Let me pause at this moment to say that I would rather deal with just about anything affecting my body as long as I don't have to vomit.) I asked Trent to help me by calling my doctor's office. I was so sick and dizzy that I literally could not lift my head. I couldn't lay on my back. Turning over in the bed brought on horrible vomiting. My doctor's diagnosis, through a conversation with a nurse assistant, was vertigo. He advised sips of sports drinks, along with over-the-counter tablets for motion sickness. Our dear friend Marie came to the rescue and picked these things up for us, but nothing helped. First off, there was no way I could swallow and retain anything. And the chewable pills went down and right back up. So after nearly twelve hours and a call to the after-hours doctor on duty, I asked our friends to take us to the hospital.

I am great in hospitals. I can visit anyone there. I offer cheer to the staff and patients. But I don't go there myself. The last time I was in the hospital was twenty-five years ago this month, when I was diagnosed with lupus. Incidentally, I felt way better when I was hospitalized at that time. And I was in the beginning stages of kidney failure. Another way to describe the intensity of my illness is that although I did make some occasional moans or groans, I was too sick to cry. Think about that a moment. Sometimes a person feels so lousy they break down and shed a tear or two. I was too sick to do that.

I had heard of vertigo before. Heck, I even saw the Hitchcock movie. Jimmy Stewart's character got dizzy when he was exposed to heights. If you look up vertigo online, it's usually described as mild to moderate dizziness. Serious vertigo, which is a result of a malfunction of the balancing mechanism of the inner ear, is debilitating. I ended up being in the hospital for four days. I was CAT scanned and MRI-ed to rule out stroke, both of which were negative. Vertigo is something that has to be worked out by forcing the balancing system to get back in order. And it can sometimes take a couple of weeks for that to happen, so I consider myself very fortunate in that regard.

But even in terrible illness, I could find some humor. First off, the receptacle that Trent got me to be sick in. It is a white plastic glass with a Christmas motif. And he unwittingly picked the best possible thing for me. It was the perfect size for someone who was too sick to lift her head to hurl. At the hospital, many people tried to get me to use a basin instead, but I was able to clutch my glass right next to me, whichever side I was curled up on at the time. Late one night, as I held it close to me, still feeling pukey, I said aloud, "I love you, glass. You are my second-best friend." After some thirty-six hours of vomiting, the intravenous medicine allowed me to actually ingest an occasional popsicle. By Friday night, I had graduated to graham crackers. Another late night moment, with me eating bits of graham crackers, still too dizzy for anything other than my curled up on my side position, and I heard myself saying, "I love you, graham crackers. You are my new second-best friend."

I was weak and exhausted when I got home at about three on Sunday afternoon. I declared that I was going to go straight to bed for the next twelve hours. Our friend Thayne reminded me that would mean a very early morning, so I amended it to fifteen hours of sleep. Unfortunately, I found myself weak, exhausted, and plagued with insomnia. Sunday night I was awake until midnight, and Monday night until four in the morning. It was not helping me to recover my strength and energy, and I found it frustrating and bizarre. And then it occurred to me. My brain and body were afraid to fall asleep. What if I woke up again feeling the same way I had when this mess started? My insomnia was worse on the night that my blood sugar felt a bit low, just like the morning when I was laid low. So I have had to resort to medicating myself to get some sleep. It's amazing what getting just six hours of sleep will do to improve your energy level and disposition!

I hope I haven't blathered on too much about this mess. But I would like to share a few more thoughts. If you know someone who has vertigo, know this: it is not just a little problem that you can just get over, or just ignore. And it is my firm belief that good nurses and nurse assistants are worth their weight in gold and precious jewels. They are the angels who patiently and lovingly help us survive the unpleasant little curve balls that occasionally get pitched at us by life. And thank you for all of the kind concern and comments you've gifted me with. They have soothed and comforted me, and lifted my spirits. And finally, the best wish I could give anyone. Be well.

Monday, December 9, 2013

How Can I Make Your Day?

I've been on both sides of customer service. Like everyone, I've been the recipient. But I spent many years being the one who gave the service. I've worked in banking on the front lines, as it were, both as a teller and in telephone customer service, and I also put in some years in retail. These years of experience have taught me a lot, and given me a different perspective on the whole idea of service than someone else might have. Service is more than just a transaction done with a smile.

If you look up the word service in the dictionary, you'll probably find that the descriptions usually boil down to something about work done for others. And those few words really say a lot, don't they? When you go to the bank or call a toll-free number or drive through a fast-food restaurant, at that moment, someone is working for you. Yes, they are being paid by the company that employs them (unless it is in the USA and they are waiting tables and rely totally on tips, of course), but at that moment they are working for you. 

The way we serve others can say a lot about us, whether it may be true or misleading. And I think that the relationships or interactions we have with those who serve us say a lot about us as well. In every service-related position that I have ever had, I always ended up becoming a trainer. When I was a teller, in my retail sales position, and in telephone banking, I always ended up in the position of teaching others how to do the job. I took this responsibility very seriously, and I took my role in service very seriously, too. And it wasn't because I was trying to be the employee of the month or anything. I just wanted to give others the level of service that I would like to receive. I tried very hard to know as much as I could about whatever I was selling or servicing so that my knowledge could do two things: make my service better, and make things easier or better for my customer. 

This desire I have to know what things are and how they work actually earned me one of the best compliments I have ever received. When I was working for a company called The Body Shop at Cherry Creek Shopping Center, one of the ritziest shopping centers in the Denver area, customers would ask me all sorts of questions about products and ingredients. One evening a gentleman asked me about the function of a specific ingredient in a product we were talking about. I told him, with an air of complete confidence, what the ingredient did and why it was in the product. He told me, also with complete confidence, that he disagreed with me and thought that the ingredient did something else. We had a large book that was always on display in the shop that listed various products, and all sorts of ingredients. It was a great resource for both customers and staff about what ingredients did and where they came from. So I suggested that the gentleman and I look up the ingredient together, and he agreed. It turned out that we were both correct, and we both learned from each other. "Katrina," he said, I have to tell you that you know more about your ingredients than a pharmacist does." At that moment, I thought the compliment was a bit extreme, but he continued, "And I should know, because I teach them." Unbeknownst to me, I was discussing ingredients with a Professor of Pharmacology from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center! Don't worry, I didn't let it go to my head. But it did feel good for a few minutes!

Something else I learned from all of my years of service is that some people forget that the people who serve them are humans, too. Just like everyone else, they make mistakes. And they may be greeting you with a smile and all sorts of knowledge about products, but they have problems, too. They may have trouble with their health, or kids, or grandparents, or finances. And they are not less than anyone because they serve. That is what people who work in service sometimes see, that customers view them as servants, or as someone who is beneath them, in their worldview. This was something we often saw in the behavior of some of our customers at Cherry Creek. And it wasn't just that sometimes people thought that it was your responsibility to follow them through the shop and carry their purchases around for them. It was the dismissive attitudes. It was the woman who screamed at you when her baby barfed everywhere, and you were cleaning the floor so nobody would slip in it, and she figured you should be cleaning off her shoes. (By the way, I simply told her that my priority was the safety of the other customers, and smiled as I handed her some paper towels.)

Of course, we often got the same attitudes on the phones from our banking customers. And let's face it folks, if you think that the people who are serving you are complete idiots, why would you ever bother calling them? The people who take these calls for banks have to learn and know a lot of things, and sometimes need to check reference materials to make sure that they get it right. And most of the people I worked with were fairly well-educated, including me. One of my favorite, and most memorable calls, came from an attorney with an attitude. She just knew that as a Doctor of Jurisprudence (hey, I know the name of the degree, I have some of them in my family) that she was spending time on the phone speaking with someone far less intelligent than she was. Little did she know that she had hit the jackpot and called someone who had a fairly large vocabulary, but just didn't show it off.

As the call continued, and her tone obviously showed her disdain for me and anyone in my lowly position, it sort of got me riled up. Okay, I was really irritated. Don't ask me for help and assume I'm too stupid to do anything about it, is what I was really thinking. So I let her finish her sentence, paused, and said, "Well, ma'am, in a matter of this nature, XYZ Bank will assume no culpability whatsoever." Dead silence on the phone as I relished the moment. Then, in a completely changed tone, she answered, "You're not stupid, are you?" With complete and honest politeness, I replied, "No, actually, I'm not. Now what can I do to help you with your problem?" The call went great after that. I felt that I had struck a blow for service personnel everywhere, and I'm pretty sure the caller's attitude had taken a change for the better.

So what's this rambling all about? Whether we are giving or receiving service, life is much better all around if we are simply decent to one another. You may be the one person that rescues another person's day. When you drive though the fast-food restaurant and give the person that helps you a warm "Thank you, and have a great evening," you may be erasing the memory of someone who called them a foul name because their store carries Coke instead of Pepsi. And when you are the service person who inspired this post by saying, "What else can I do to make your day?" you may be the only ray of sunshine in someone's otherwise sad and cloudy day. And when you're able to be a bright moment in someone else's day, no matter what side of the transaction you're on, you've truly given them a very special gift.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Passion For Potatoes

This is a paean to potatoes. Trent and I both love them. As a matter of fact, when our little dog Paris was alive, she loved potatoes, too. I know that there are some people who are currently of the opinion that you should not eat any "white" foods, like sugar, rice, and potatoes. I don't plan on eliminating potatoes, or rice for that matter, from my diet. They are just too delightful and satisfying. So I didn't think it was at all odd to make a huge batch of potato salad a couple of days ago. I know that a lot of people think that potato salad is something that should only be eaten during warm weather. I think that makes absolutely no sense. Do we stop eating lettuce or other green salads just because it's cold outside? Of course not! And do ice cream and other frozen treats only get eaten during the summer? I should say not! In fact, I love eating ice cream during the winter. But then again, maybe I am just weird like that.

As I worked on making the potato salad the other day, my thoughts turned to my little Gram, as they often do. When I make potato salad, I am using her method and "recipe." Recipe is in quotation marks because very little of what Gram made, including baked goods, involved any specific measurements. It was a matter of using enough of all of the necessary ingredients to make things right. So as I mixed up the dressing, a mixture of mayonnaise and mustard (more on the mustardy side as far as flavor is concerned) I thought about when Gram would make a batch. She used very basic ingredients; potatoes, onions, and pickles. She never put hard-boiled eggs in her potato salad like some folks do, so I don't either. The only real difference between hers and mine is that I add some celery salt for a little extra bit of flavor. Yes, I'm a real wild child, right?

When I make this dish, which I am often asked to bring to dinners at friends' homes, I also think of a cousin by marriage. Janet (not her real name, naturally) is someone who could easily have been a chef in a fancy restaurant. She could easily whip up any number of complicated dishes and never break a sweat or even show a furrowed, worrying brow. It was the simple stuff that really boggled her. I remember her once having a tremendous problem with making a Jello dish. She could make an incredibly delicious p√Ęte with her eyes closed and one arm tied behind her back, but she couldn't get any gel into her jello. 

She also got flummoxed by potato salad. Once when we were having a summer picnic at Alice and Bill's home, Janet was asked to bring a potato salad. Everyone thought it would be the world's best because she was such a good cook. Not so much. Her potato salad was merely lumps of cooked potatoes mixed with bottled Green Goddess salad dressing. Not so delicious. Janet told me quietly that it was awful, and she would rather have cooked just about anything instead of what she was asked to bring. Not only did she have absolutely no idea how to make potato salad, she said, but she couldn't really cook potatoes at all. For at least five minutes, I actually felt like I had better culinary skills that she did. When I told Gram about the conversation, she gave me one of the best compliments I have ever received. She told me, "Janet is a good cook. She can make all sorts of fancy stuff that nobody's ever heard of. But you are a great cook, honey, because you can make the things that people really want to eat." From her, this was praise indeed. And I am more than willing to be considered someone who cooks things that people would like to eat! 

Tonight, even though there is still some potato salad left, I decided to roast some potatoes. Although with the modern convenience of air-conditioning I can roast and bake all through the year, there is something psychologically comforting about having the oven going on the first really cold day of the year. So our side dish this evening was something I like to call Mahogany Potatoes.  I simply scrub the potatoes and cut them into chunks on top of a baking sheet lined with some parchment paper, and roast them in a hot oven. When they come out of the oven, they are beautifully brown, chewy but not crunchy. Each piece is like a small baked potato, and we devour them with gusto. Trent treats his like he would a regular baked potato, slathered with sour cream, while I savor the natural earthy flavor of the potato with a bit of seasoned salt. Happiness abounds in our tummies, and since we enjoy it so much, it feeds both body and soul. Not bad for a humble tuber, eh?