How do you like them apples?

How do you like them apples?

Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake


A decade ago I was inspired by a do-better nudge from a woman I met only once. The memory of that has served me well. I hope my story will inspire you to come up with your own. We all have stories to tell. In this week’s blog there are some summer pictures tossed into the mix and after a three-month absence, a recipe. I’ve been writing this food blog for eleven years, Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake, a Dorie Greenspan-Genius Recipe is the only one I repeat every fall. It’s that delicious.

The Summer always begins with the Aspen Institute’s week-long IDEAS Festival.

It was in late October 2014 when I first met Connie Harvey. We were in the midst of a group gathered at Aspen’s Hotel Jerome to toss a Hail Mary into Colorado Senator Mark Udall’s re-election campaign. The numbers weren’t good and, as expected, Cory Gardner won easily, upsetting Udall. But that sad morning turned into a North Star moment for me which has pestered and prodded me ever since.

Ranger behaving badly!

Since the late 1990’s when I first became a volunteer wilderness ranger, I’ve realized it’s thanks to three gritty, irritatingly persistent women, Dottie Fox, Joy Caudill and Connie, known as the “Maroon Belles,” that this gorgeous place I call my “office” can exist. When I was in college and with the passage in 1964 of the Wilderness Act, these ladies became fierce wilderness advocates and are credited with “doubling the size of the Maroon Bells Wilderness Area and securing protection for the Hunter-Fryingpan, Collegiate Peaks, Raggeds and West Elk wilderness areas.”*

Although I never met Dottie or Joy, I did take the opportunity that chilly, blustery October day to thank Connie. As our morning get-together was breaking up, our host started putting together groups of 2 or 3 to go out and canvas Aspen neighborhoods. Whoaaa. Didn’t know that was on the agenda. I don’t like to canvas at all but especially on cold, windy Aspen mornings. Just as I had 3 legitimate NO reasons ready to roll off my tongue, Connie walked over to a Udall staffer and asked, “Who do you want me to go with?” Keeping in mind that this woman was 83 years old and I was not. I joined a group. That dratted Shame on Me lesson is still my constant do-better reminder.

When we decided to drive up to Independence Pass last August 13th to see the Perseid meteor shower, it seemed like a good idea. At 3am on that bone-chilling, dark Sunday morning, good idea became a bad choice, But we soldiered on, encountering one porcupine and a deer who knew better, stepping back into the bushes. We reached the Pass just at daybreak. It was a perfect place to be. When it was light and the shower over, we flagged down (meaning standing in the middle of Highway 82 waving our arms) two guys in a pick-up truck to take this photo.. It was a fireball of a good time.

Great Horned Owls are difficult to spot but on various birding excursions, my birding groups found three of these feathered friends.
This little guy is about a yard from my balcony. We startled each other. He was stuck and didn’t want to go down the tree backward. Finally he began slowly turning himself around so his tiny face was pointed downward. In a flash he was down and gone

And, wouldn’t you know, this summer just as I am thinking about stepping aside and doing less, Dr. Jane Goodall shows up.
(Pardon the Pix) Although I take pride in the photos I post, I was thrilled to even snap this shot of Dr. Jane Goodall with her beloved stuffed octopus, her constant companion. Harris Hall, Aspen 9/23

In late September, due to extraordinary support from the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, renown scientist, conservationist, and humanitarian Goodall, came to our Valley to deliver the ACES Community Youth Lecture and visit local schools. During her Youth Lecture she shared her amazing life story with a quietly attentive young audience. “Every single one of us makes an impact on the planet every single day” she said, “and everybody in this room, we have a choice about what sort of impact we make.” 

At 89 years of age, she travels throughout the world 300 days a year raising money and environmental awareness. (Please re-read that last sentence.) I will never know the impact she made on those kids but, as a long-time Hero of mine, her presence managed to rock my world in a lovely manner.

The Apple Cake, included in a sweet medley of Fall desserts


If you have ever dreamed of being called a genius (I’m raising my hand.), this is the recipe for you.

I first baked Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake on December 8, 2012 when I was a member of French Fridays with Dorie. Every week we would make a group recipe choice, bake it and write up a post about it on our blogs. Every since then I’ve baked at least 10 of these cakes each year. This apple cake was my favorite recipe in the book and the favorite of many “Dorista’s.”
Later it was celebrated in the first of the Food52 Genius Cookbooks, Genius Recipes: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook.  At the time, one of its editors wrote, ‘know that apples cobbled together with gently boozed up, custardy cake are going to be well received.’


SERVES: 8 pieces

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 large apples (If you can, choose 4 different kinds)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3 Tbs. dark rum (optional)
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
8 Tbs. (1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled)


1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter an 8-inch springform pan. If you use a larger pan, it will lose some of its height but it will still be delicious.

2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a small bowl.

3. Peel the apples, cut them in half and remove the cores. Cut the apples into 1- to 2-inch chunks. If possible, use 4 different apples of any kind.

4. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs until foamy. Pour in the sugar and whisk for a minute or so to blend. Whisk in the rum and vanilla. Whisk in half the flour and when it is incorporated, add half the melted butter, followed by the rest of the flour and the remaining butter, mixing gently after each addition so that you have a smooth, rather thick batter. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the apples, turning the fruit so that it’s coated with batter. Scrape the mix into the pan and poke it around a little with the spatula so that it’s “evenish.” (Is that a word?) Bang the pan on the counter 2-3 times to remove air bubbles.

5. Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 50 to 60 to 70 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean. The cake may pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes.

6. Carefully run a blunt knife around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the springform pan. (Open the springform slowly, and before it’s fully opened, make sure there aren’t any apples stuck to it.) Allow the cake to cool until it is just slightly warm or at room temperature. If you want to remove the cake from the bottom of the springform pan, wait until the cake is almost cooled, then run a long spatula between the cake and the pan, cover the top of the cake with a piece of parchment or wax paper, and invert it onto a rack. Carefully remove the bottom of the pan and turn the cake over onto a serving dish.

SERVING: The cake can be served warm or at room temperature, with or without a little softly whipped, barely sweetened heavy cream or a spoonful of ice cream. Marie-Hélène served her cake with cinnamon ice cream. It was a terrific combination.

STORING: The cake will keep for about 2 days at room temperature. (It won’t last that long.) It’s best not to cover it tightly because it’s too moist. Leave the cake on its plate and just press a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper against the cut surfaces.

Forest Conservancy Saturday at the Aspen Farmer’s Market. Smokey’s here for it.

*Harvey information from Aspen Hall of Fame Organization.




It may take a village to raise a child but it only takes two professional cooks and an adaptive amateur to pull together a celebratory Baked Ziti (Ziti al Formo). Call it a casserole or pure comfort food but please do not call it lasagna. Like most food I serve, Baked Ziti is neither fussy nor fancy but honestly, neither am I.  “So delicious.” “I LOVE this.” “A great meal.” That’s really what I like to hear.

For the past 3 years the Pandemic followed by some must-do knee surgery has sidelined what I like to do best, invite friends over and feed them. This summer, with the kitchen settled and pantry re-stocked after my 4-month absence, happy days are back at D-203. Welcome, Normal. During the winter I fiddled with new recipes that sounded as good as I hoped they would taste. This Baked Ziti is one of those. 

By mashing together pasta creations from bloggers Jennifer Segal, Once Upon a Chef and Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman and adding a few tweaks of my own, make-ahead Baked Ziti is a pasta perfect meal. Disclaimer: Although Italian cooking is not my forté, I’m betting if you mix up a leafy green salad and add a baguette, you’ll agree. Despite the season, we’re dealing with some wacky weather these days, it always works.  Baked Ziti is an all-weather provider.  

My friend, Deb, joined me for my first patrol of the year on the Conundrum Creek Trail. We’re just about to enter the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. (Yes, we realize we’re no fashion plates, just rugged women in men’s clothing!)
Calypso Orchids, also called Fairy Slippers. This dainty orchid is in decline in North America. We always are thrilled to spot a few of these tiny beauties on Conundrum.

I’ve also returned to neglected favorites. If a ‘recipe is a story that ends with a good meal,’* those neglected, greasy-smudged recipes are a precious stroll down memory lane. Here’s hoping these examples will encourage you to come up with your own.

Conundrum Creek was roaring on Tuesday. Colorado’s spring runoff season with it’s swollen rivers running high is here.
Another river running high, Castle Creek located near Ashcroft in the White River National Forest.

Here’s what I still make often and when I first started: Sour Cream Coffee Cake (Ramada Inn, Scottsburg, Indiana, Bon Appetite 1978);  Traditional French Garbure (Cuisine Cooking School, Marysue Salmon, late ’70’s);  Old-Fashioned Meat Loaf (Gourmet Magazine, April 1994);  Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake and Gougeres, Dorie Greenspan, “Around My French Table” 2010).  

French Braised Lentils with Herbs de Provence & Pork Tenderloin (The Cafe Sucre Farine, Chris&Scott  2014);  Mrs. Bing’s Irish Soda Bread (Sweet Paul Vitale, 2013);  Easy Kahlua Bundt Cake ( Liz Berg, That Skinny Chick Can Bake 2014);  Guacamole  (Josefina Howard, Rose Mexicana, NYC, 2015); Cauliflower Parmesan, Melissa Clark  (NYT Cooking, 2015).

Happy Birthday, Bernie

BAKED ZITI, adapted from Jennifer Segal, Once Upon a Chef and Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman

“Life is a combination of magic and pasta.” Italian movie director, Federico Fellini.

Serves: 12 


2 tbsp. olive oil

1 whole large onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb. sweet or spicy Italian sausage

1 lb. ground beef

28 oz. can whole tomatoes, with juice

1 24-oz. jar marinara sauce (I suggest RAO’s Homemade)

2 tsp. Italian seasoning

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (or not, your choice)

16 oz. ziti or mostaccioli, cooked until not quite al dente (I suggest Penne Ziti Rigate)

15 oz. tub whole milk ricotta cheese

1 1/2 lb. whole milk mozzarella cheese, grated and divided

1 c. pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated and divided

1 whole egg

Kosher salt, to taste

Ground pepper, to taste


1. Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for several minutes, or until starting to soften. Add the Italian sausage and ground beef and cook until browned. Drain off fat, leaving a bit behind for flavor and moisture.

2. Add the tomatoes, tomato juice, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes (I don’t think red pepper was necessary.). Stir and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. After that time, remove 3 to 4 cups of the sauce to a different bowl to cool down. 

3. Preheat oven to 375˚. 

4. Mix together the ricotta cheese, 2 cups of the grated mozzarella, parmesan, egg, salt, and pepper in a separate bowl. Stir together just a couple of times (do not mix completely).

5. Drain the pasta and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking and cool it down. Pour it into the bowl with the cheese mixture and toss to slightly combine (there should still be large lumps.) Add the cooled meat sauce and toss to combine. 

6. Add half of the coated pasta to a large casserole dish. Spoon half of the remaining sauce over the top, then top with half of the remaining mozzarella cheese. Repeat with another layer of the coated pasta, the sauce, and the mozzarella. (This is where you can freeze or stick in the fridge for up to two days.) Bake for 20 minutes, or until bubbling. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

TIP: Depending on where you live, sometimes Ziti is difficult to find. I mail-ordered mine from Amazon. 

*Thanks to Pat Conroy for the quote




Last week cookbook author Joy the Baker posted a simple one-layer Lemon Crumb Cake recipe she claimed would add a ‘sparkle of sweetness to your week.’ After spending 4 months in warmer climes I’m just back home in Aspen so Simple + sparkle + sweetness struck a culinary chord with me. Baking is difficult in rental kitchens so I didn’t. But my depleted Aspen pantry and fridge yielded almost everything needed for this recipe. I ran to the store for a jar of lemon curd and was in business. Both my and Joy’s recipe are below.


I walked over to the office last Friday morning and this shiny new creature was sitting in the driveway. Whoaaa. What you must understand is The Gant, where I live most of the year, is quietly well-managed, provides first-class service and always, always delivers. It doesn’t do gold, glitzy or razzle-dazzle. While I wouldn’t call its “Brand” cutting edge, it is comfortable, safe and private. During Covid, the staff were all-stars. They meet the moment whatever it may be. That’s why, to commemorate 50 years, these flashy gold chariots are a real surprise. I’m definitely here for it.


It was a splendid San Diego winter for me. I met old friends I didn’t remember lived there and others who made time for me. My townhouse in Solana Beach exceeded expectations. The neighbors were welcoming and helpful. The terrific Pacific, just 100 stair steps down to the beach, was gloriously noisy. One of my last discoveries was a dessert restaurant, Somi Somi, serving a unique Korean dessert called Ah-Boong. It’s a sumptuous waffle cone in a shape of a fish, filled with unique, rich fillings. I got a Taiyaki which is a fish shaped waffle filled with Nutella on top of a ube and Thai soft serve swirl with coconut on top.

My being in San Diego was Emma’s idea. My granddaughter thought I’d like to be nearby during her last semester in college. Even better, Clara, who attends college in Indiana, flew home to California for the holidays. Emma and I orchestrated a birthday weekend for Melissa in February. Realizing those two young women are taking flight, I relished every minute with my family, Emma and her friends. She actually graduated Summa Cum Laude from Point Loma Nazarene University today.


It’s every grandparent’s wish that their grandchildren thrive. I do want that, I do, but couldn’t they thrive closer to home? This summer Clara has an internship in Washington DC. Then, back to Indiana. She’ll be a junior. In July Emma will begin an intensive three-year doctoral program at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

We all know that sinking feeling, don’t we? When I left San Diego to drive to Colorado, it was Stomach-Pit-Knot. One thousand miles later, crossing the state line into Colorado and headed to the mountains, I was winter-grateful but excited to be home again. Driving into Aspen, I spotted a fox standing near the highway on a small hill and a herd of deer grazing in the grassy space at our entrance roundabout. Later in the day, a heron gracefully flew overhead. Despite our recent snowy weather, these Pasque flowers are survivors. Life is going to be fine. May we all live in areas we love where friendships thrive and nature survives.

The thing about Joy, her recipes are written clearly, easy to follow and always work. She’s like Dorie Greenspan in that respect. That’s a comfortable and confident mindset to begin with when you’re baking. Honestly, this Lemon Curd Crumb Cake may be plain vanilla but those swirls of lemon curd provide an ever so scant touch of sweetness. The streusel, of course, is streusel, always such a show-off and making you wish for more.
Although the recipe is below it’s also worth clicking on Joy’s link to learn more about this recipe.

Lemon Curd Crumb Cake by Joy the Baker

1 9-inch cake
Serves 8-10


For the Cake:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sour cream, at room temperature
About 1 cup store-bought lemon curd (8–10 ounces jar would be perfect!)

For the Crumble:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup granulated sugar
large pinch of salt
4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
Powdered sugar for topping

1. Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch round  baking pan (or springform pan), line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper and grease the parchment paper as well. Lightly flour the pan and knock any extra flour from the pan.
2. In a small bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, coriander if using, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl with electric hand beaters or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together butter and sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute per egg. Beat in the vanilla extract.
4. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure that everything is mixed in well. Beat in the sour cream on medium speed.
5. Turn the mixer to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Stop the mixer and finish incorporating the batter until well combined. The batter will be thick.
6. To make the oat crumble, in a medium bowl, whisk together flour, oats, sugar, and salt. Add the cold butter chunks and, using your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture. Quickly break the butter down into the mixture until well incorporated. Some butter bits will be the size of small peas and oat flakes.

7. Spread half of the cake batter into the bottom of the prepared pan. An offset spatula is a great tool to spread the batter. Dollop with half of the lemon curd and sprinkle with just under half of the oat crumble. Lightly swirl the batter. Top with the remaining cake batter, spreading to the edges. Dollop with the remaining lemon curd and sprinkle with remaining crumble. Lightly swirl, leaving generous dollops of curd exposed on the top of the cake. They’ll bake to irresistibly jammy.

8. Bake until deeply golden and the sides of the cake are pulling away from the pan. A toothpick inserted in the cake will come out clean or with just a few moist crumbs. This is a long bake cake at 45-55 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway through baking. Remove cake from the oven and allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes before trying to invert the cake.
9. Run a knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the cake from the pan. Place a flat plate over the pan and invert the cake. Peel the parchment round off the cake and gently invert the cake top side up.
10. Serve warm or at room temperature lightly dusted with powdered sugar.



Croissant: “However you choose to pronounce it at home, it is perhaps worth noting that outside of the United States, the closer you can come to saying “kwass-ohn,” the sooner you can expect to be presented with one.” Bill Bryson

Very seldom do I do something ‘on a whim.’ Going out on a limb for any reason is uncomfortable. That’s why I’m still not clear when I decided to go all in to learn a second language. Realizing I already knew many termes de cuisine française, why not pursue French, I decided. If I could cook it, I could speak it. While logic never was in play here, my enthusiasm was the only encouragement I needed. After checking out schools and heeding by advice from friends, I enrolled in a month-long immersion program on the French Riviera at the Institut de Français in Villefranche-sur-Mer. I attended each spring for four years.

Worth the 40-minute drive to downtown San Diego for warm croissants, knots and sourdough bread. (Top Two Photos by Permission, Jen Chen, Izola Bakery)

Besides my months of study in France, at home I took classes, on-line courses and sometimes had tutors. Many Wednesday nights, determined to bingewatch my way to fluency, it was soirée cinéma chez moi. The thing is, dear Reader, I never mastered conversational French. Vocabulary and grammar, tense, mood and voices, I’m very good. Understanding others, always improving. Mixing it up with french speakers around a dinner table. Dommage.

Seedy Multi-grain Sourdough Bread
Classic Croissants from IZOLA packed and ready to drop off to Emma and her Point Loma roommates .

I’ve always been an eager learner, studied and done well. My failing didn’t feel good. I was embarrassed. Still I returned year after year. Realizing that even while struggling, I was absorbing something, I persevered. After four years, combining immersion with other studies, I confidently believed I knew enough to survive safely in France by myself. That was the payoff. It’s when I began spending several months in Paris each winter. More importantly, that’s when I became a self-declared authority on croissants

In my kitchen. Sharing this Seedy Multi-Grain Sourdough with Barney and Jami who shared their Christmas dinner with me
Avocado Toast, breakfast at another good San Diego bakery, Con Pane Rustic Breads & Cafe, located in Liberty Station


While you and I may never bake a batch, I came to San Diego and discovered a croissant that stands tall with the many I tasted in Paris and Europe. Already winning awards and named the 2022 best bakery in US/Canada by Yelp, IZOLA is just 21 months old. Specializing in six different kinds of croissants, five flavors of sourdough breads, amazing Tahitian Vanilla Knots and more, it opened its ‘window’ for business soon after the Covid shutdown.

The I-Bar at the Naval Base in Coronado. This is the bar used for the scene in Top Gun: Maverick when Tom Cruise bought everyone a beer.
Susan Phillips and I are hanging at the I-Bar. Not open. No Tom Cruise.
To help with our disappointment, Steve, Susan’s husband, picked us up and took us to lunch.

Here’s IZOLA’S story. Business and life partners Jenny Chen, a retail merchandiser, and Jeffrey Brown, a well-considered photographer, were caught in Paris just as I was when the borders began closing in March 2020. After returning safely to a lockdown in San Diego, Jeff says he decided to ‘start that bakery that had always lingered in my mind.’

The USS Midway is an historic naval aircraft carrier floating museum located at San Diego’s Navy Pier. She is HUGE, 1,001 feet long, the length of 3 football fields. The Midway is as high as a 20-story building. She was the longest-serving aircraft carrier of the 20th century and named in honor of the important Battle of Midway in June 1942,
I spent most of the day at Navy Pier on this naval aircraft carrier. One of the many planes and heliocopters on the flight deck was a F-14 Tomcat which was the US Navy’s mainstay air superiority fighter from 1974 until 2006.
Nearby on the plaza there’s a statue of Bob Hope with 15 life-sized bronze statues, Each figure represents a serviceman/woman from a different conflict watching Hope’s show. There was also audio. His jokes are as funny now as they were then.

Never mind that Jeff had never baked bread nor realized the complexity of making croissants. Re-purposing his third-floor photography studio located in East Village into a bakery, he and Jen went to work experimenting with croissants and breads that could meet their expectations. On June 10, 2020, piling 12 croissants carefully in a basket, she opened their third-floor window. Using ropes from their personal rock climbing cache she lowered the basket down to eager customers. For the next 8 months, in what became a community event, they sold baked goods out of their window.
“It takes 4 days to create handcrafted croissants,” he explains. “Our team layers butter from Normandy with our croissant dough to finish with 96 individual layers of butter that when proofed, then baked, expand to create a honeycomb texture that is an architectural marvel in and of itself.”

Whether Fish Taco Friday or Taco Tuesday, in San Diego seafood and tacos play in the same sandbox. This is a Classic at Brigantine Seafood & Oyster Bar, a popular hangout just a block from my condo.

I attended “EXPERIENCE HAWK WATCH,” sponsored by the Widlife Research Institute and located at the 5,000-acre Ramona Grasslands Nature Preserve about an hour outside of San Diego. We spotted primarily ferruginous and red tails highlighted by a nesting pair of Bald Eagles nearby. Andrea Burgan of Critter Encounters also brought injured animals who can’t be returned to the wild.

This big guy, a Whimbel, is wintering in Solana Beach. He’s a presence on the beach most days, a solo traveler and seemingly quite content with our food supply here.
Melissa came for a long weekend to celebrate her birthday. I planned to take some three-generational photos. As you can see. didn’t happen! We spent a day at Balboa Park, San Diego’s 1,200-acre historic urban cultural park. Of the 18 museums located in the park, we explored both the Timken and San Diego Museums of Art.
Two photos equal three generations.

It’s been a wonderful winter. Heading home in one month. Missing my Gant family and friends. Mary



On most days I consider aging a privilege, not a predicament. Remember Andrew Rooney who spoke his mind on CBS Sixty Minutes? “It’s paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn’t appeal to anyone,” he said.

Since it’s gotten warmer, early every morning I walk to this landing, just 100 steps from my condo, to feast on the view.

I deal with my aging-a-privilege chromosome month by month. Being especially joyful during the peak moments. Determined to work through the predicaments. Fixing pesky problems if they are fixable and being accepting if they aren’t. Seems to work.

Nixon’s Presidential Library in Yorba Linda

Last week I spent an amazing day, one-on-one, with a friend of 70 years. Growing up together in Manchester, Iowa, Judy and I had seen each other only 3-4 times since high school graduation. She was our class math whiz and stuck with that until her last year in college when she switched to Special Education. A graduate degree and countless years in the classroom later, she became a Resource Specialist for Special Education in the San Diego school system. At times during our day together, we were finishing each other’s sentences. Scary, right? During the Pandemic I joined a monthly Face Time conversation with her and four other school chums. Now, more than 2 years later we’re still going strong.

Judy and I planned to walk on Moonlight State Beach , a beautiful sandy spot in Encinitas, but angry, windy and rainy weather had other ideas. Where’s the beach? Even with hiking boots, the small rocks were wobbly, slippery and wet, reminding us with each careful step we were dealing with a hip (Judy) and a knee (me) that were man-made and not original!

Tuesday I drove to Yorba Linda to revisit the Nixon Presidential Library. I was first there in 2013 but it’s been totally renovated since then. Besides wanting to see this updated version and acknowledging the 50th anniversary of the Paris Peace Accords (January ’73), I needed to deliver my Passport which verified my visiting all 13 libraries managed by the Archives.

I met Juan Ugarte who helped me fill out the necessary paperwork. (That’s him in a suit and me wearing jeans with frayed cuffs. Totally mortified. Sorry, Mom.) The staff seemed happy I celebrated this occasion at their library, looking on as Juan give me my medal. Several guides gave me tours proudly showing off their new “digs” with upgraded more realistic and factual exhibits.

Many presidential libraries have replicas of the Oval Office. I’ve seen them all but never sat behind the desk which Ginny, my guide, suggested I do. Well, okay. This is a replica of the Wilson desk which Nixon used during his presidency.
This art work which sits near the Nixon’s grave site celebrates the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Note the bear, the fox and the blue butterfly sitting on the bear’s back paw.
New tour guide. Suggested a photo with the helicopter four presidents had traveled on was a must do. I appreciated their enthusiasm.

Because it’s tucked in a corner of the library, few visitors walk on the moon with astronaut Buzz Aldrin. I didn’t want to miss my moon walk so found my way to it. Since Aldrin, 93, got married last week, I walked on the moon in his footsteps to honor him and his bride. Way to go, Buzz.

What began in the summer of 1963 at the Hoover Library in West Branch, Iowa, ended in March 2023 in Yorba Linda. I’m very pleased.


WINTER READING: Birds is the updated edition of Rebecca Weiss and Mark Fuller’s outstanding book about Roaring Fork Valley birds. “”Presidential Temples,” which I just finished, is excellent if you’re into presidential libraries!!! Help me here, Readers. I like Geraldine Brooks and have read all her books but I just can’t get into “Horse.” It’s my book club’s choice for March so is a must read. Any thoughts? These are the two cookbooks I’m using this winter. If you’re single, borrow “Cooking for One” from your library. Then buy it.. Slagle is genius at making cooking simple. Check her out.

SHORTCUT CHILI CHICKEN adapted from I Dream of Dinner (so you don’t have to) by Ali Slagle

While I can’t feed the world’s hungry children, I can be more responsible about the food I buy and more efficient in handling it. I recently purchased I Dream of Dinner (so you don’t have to) by the multi-talented Ali Slagle.

Slagle’s book in not a conventional cookbook but may be the book you need to reignite your cooking chops following the drudgery of cooking 3 meals a day during the Pandemic. She can help you put a delicious dish on the table using fewer than eight ingredients in less than 45 minutes. Her recipes are spicier than I usually like but I either adjust the spices or, if I’m feeling daring, adjust my palate.

This widely popular chicken chili, the first recipe I made from this book, is from her Mom. Ali and everyone who knows Ali’s mom love it.

Serves: 4-6


1 Medium Yellow Onion, coarsely chopped
2 pounds of Ground Chicken
1/4-1/2 cup Ketchup
1 24 or 28 ounce can of Tomato Puree
1 12 to 16 ounce jar of medium-hot jarred salsa
2 15-ounce cans of pinto, black or any beans of your choice for chili
2 teaspoons any Hot Sauce (Optional)
2 Tablespoons of ground Cumin (start with 1 TBS)
2 Tablespoons of EVOO
Salt and Pepper to taste


  1. In a large Dutch oven or pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high before adding the coarsely chopped onion, cumin, salt and pepper. Cook for 3-5 minutes until they are softened but not yet browned. Push to one side of pot.
  2. Put in the ground chicken. Season generously with S&P. (Yes, in addition to the S&P you’ve already used.) Cook, without stirring, for 5-8 minutes. Break the chicken into big pieces, stirring in the onions and cook until opaque, 2-5 minutes.
  3. Stir in 1/4-1/2 cup of ketchup. If you are adding hot sauce, do it now. Stir into the mixture until it is mostly absorbed. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat and cook 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened and flavorful. If it gets too thick, add water.
  4. Drain and rinse 2 15-ounce cans of the beans of your choice. Stir in the beans and cook until heated.
  5. Coarsely chop 1/2 cup cilantro leaves and stems and stir in just before serving.
Cornbread makes any meal better.
If someone makes it better, let them! I added 1 cup of crumbled crispy bacon, 1 cup of a grated Mexican cheese assortment, an ample tad of diced green chiles and roasted corn kernels (from a can) that I had left over. Cornbread makes any meal more special. Fleischmann’s get a WOW.