It’s cold, gray and raining.  Been raining all week.  The beautiful golden leaves are stuck to the driveway and causing a serious fall hazard (no pun intended).  So the best option is to make a huge pot of chili.  Here’s my fool proof method using a slow cooker. Enjoy.

World’s Best Chili – Slow Cooker Version

2 lbs. of your choice – beef stew meat (or venison) and ground chuck
1 pkg Carroll Shelby’s Chili Mix
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 8 oz can of water
1 14 oz can chopped tomatoes (could be fresh, of course)
1 16 oz can red kidney beans
3 T olive oil
1 whole onion, chopped coarsely

Add oil to frying pan, heat. Brown beef in frying pan. Add onions toward the end of the browning process.
When browned, pour the whole lot (scrape the pan!) into your slow cooker.
If you have all day, set crockpot to low.  If you don’t have a whole day, do it on high but know the beef won’t be as tender.
Open the Carroll Shelby bag. Set aside the masa packet for later.
Open the large bag of spices, pour all of it into the pot. Add salt
(white packet) to taste. The small red packet is chili powder. Add
this to your taste. I usually use about 1/2 the packet.
Add the tomato sauce and canned tomatoes. Add 8 oz can of water.
Stir it all up and leave it alone to cook.
1/2 hour before serving, open the can of beans and add to the pot.
Put the contents of the yellow packet into a small bowl, add approximately 1/2 c of water. Whisk together. Pour contents into the pot. Stir and let cook for another 1/2 hour.

Top with cheddar cheese, green onions, sour cream, Fritos, whatever…. Freezes wonderfully.



Looking back, I have mixed feelings about leaving 2016 behind.  On the one hand, I want nothing more than to turn my back on the ugly election cycle and it’s deplorable outcome.(yes, I intentionally use that word)  On the other hand, 2016 saw my daughter, Dana, marry Chad, the love of her life, and it was a burst of love so spectacular, it remains a bright, shining memory in an otherwise dark year.

So, going into 2017, I’ve made a conscious decision to shine my light throughout the coming year.  Not to get all preachy and stuff, but all the world’s religions mention the importance of light.  In Christianity,  Jesus is said to be “the light of the world,” by the apostle John.  In the gospel of Matthew, Christ reminds the disciples, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” He’s basically telling them (and us) to show through our actions that same love, compassion and forgiveness that He did.  Hindus, Jainists, and Sikhs celebrate Diwali, which is a festival of lights signifying the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance and hope over despair.  The Quran refers to Allah as “the Light of the heavens and the earth…”  And, of course, there’s the Menorah,  sacred symbol of Judaism.  Scholars have noted that it branches outwards, just as our demeanor, behavior, personality, and especially good deeds should branch out and influence others to illuminate the world around us.

How will you shine your light this year?  I suggest you start small.  Clean out your closet and donate those pants you’re never going to fit into to the thrift store in your community.  Mine is the Gold Mine Resale Shop run by the Women’s Resource Center here in Petoskey, Michigan.  And while you’re at it, most local libraries would love to have your gently used books, especially best sellers and even DVD’s.  Feeling more ambitious?  Volunteer in your community.  Find a cause that speaks to you and let’s you shine your light.  I’m on the board of the Manna Food Project, and even drive their truck once a week to rescue food from area stores for use in their pantry and the other 37 agencies in northern Michigan.  My daughter, Dana, volunteers at the Trevor Project in Los Angeles.  They provide crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning  (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24.  Really getting interested now?  Attend city council meetings, write letters to the editor about causes you support, contact your elected officials and let them know how you feel about issues.  Go out and shine your light!

I’ll leave you with “This Little Light of Mine.”  Nobody sings it better that the VeggieTales.



I am a history buff, animal lover and a member of a crazy family, so Rinker Buck’s “The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey” was right up my alley. I was reminded of Bill Bryson, while I read this epic tale of the author and his brother hitching up a wagon to a trio of mules and moving west on what remains of the Oregon Trail. Like Bryson, Rinker Buck is a stickler for facts, educating the reader with details such as the geography from Missouri to Oregon, as well as the colorful characters who blazed the trail before them. His research includes quotes from early diarists who rode the trail and fascinating information on what the pioneers experienced. It sure wasn’t the kind of trip depicted on the TV series “Wagon Train” that I remember watching as a little girl in suburban Chicago.

His brother, Nick, with his faithful dog, Olive Oyl, adds most of the humor to the tale. The polar opposite of his brother; Nick is messy, profane, and totally lovable. What struck me most, however, was the author’s relationship with his late father, a larger-than-life character who re-visits him throughout his journey in a series of flashbacks.

The animal lover in me thrilled with the description of mules as the author’s choice of transport over the trail. I came to love Jake, Bute, and Beck and cried when the author parted with them at the end of his trip (spoiler alert: they now live on a beautiful ranch in Idaho).

If you like history, mules, crazy families, epic scenery and fascinating facts…this is the book is for you.





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Coloring Inside the Lines – Adult Coloring as Meditation

I’ve always had trouble with any form of meditation.  I once attended a workshop where participants sat in large circle while the facilitator intoned soothing words and encouraged us to drain our minds and count our breaths.  My mind raced and I found myself checking off the lengthy list of things I had to do and becoming hyper aware of the aIMG_5085nnoying music playing softly in the background.  Where did she get that awful CD?

So imagine my surprise when I read an article about the newest fad – adult coloring books. Apparently in addition to providing hours of fun, coloring allows one to focus on the intricate patterns rather than intrusive thoughts and nagging problems.  Additionally, coloring brings back a simpler time.  As I unpackaged my fancy pencils and markers, I couldn’t help but think back to the days when a box of brand new crayons was a big deal.

My favorite book so far is Johanna Basford’s “Enchanted Forest,” which was partially inspired by castles in her native Scotland.  I’m also partial to a book of Parisian Fashion Designs circa 1912. Takes me back to my costume design days in college.

If you haven’t tried it, I’d recommend starting with one image, which you can actually download online and any markers or pencils you might have on hand.  If you get serious, you’ll want to invest in some really high end pencils and markers.  I use Prismacolor Soft Core Pencils as well as Fiskars Gel Markers.  I’ve just recently picked up a set of Staedtler Triplus FiIMG_5086neliner markers, which have a super fine line.  Haven’t done much with them yet, but they’re super for tiny lines and crevices.

Here’s a few links to get you started:




Happy Coloring!

Dear Diary:

August 15th -It’s been a spectacular summer!  So great living here in Northern Michigan, it’s so amazingly beautiful.  Walked the dog down to the lake today through towering pines.  Love it!  The lake just sparkles and it’s so peaceful.

Autumn Leaves

Fall colors of Northern Michigan

October 16th – I am convinced this must be God’s country!  The leaves are incredible, every shade of gold, red and orange.  Went to a real farm and picked up pumpkins and gourds for the front porch.  On the way into the neighborhood we saw a whole herd of deer, just staring at us with those big eyes.  I think I’ll put some corn out for them.  They’re just the most gorgeous creatures!

November 14th – They said tomorrow will be opening day of deer season.  I just can’t imagine why anyone would want to shoot these lovely animals!  I’ve had great success with feeding my little herd of six does.  They come every evening just before dusk and eat the corn I’ve scattered in the yard.  They also are predicting snow next week.  I’m so excited!  Thought of getting a snowblower, but we’re going to go “old school” and shovel ourselves.

November 22nd – Snowed quite a bit overnight.  Everything is blanketed in white.  It looks like a postcard.  We went outside and brushed snow off the steps and walk and together we shoveled the driveway and had a little contest as to who could shovel the most snow (I won)!  This is so beautiful.  I love Michigan!  Also, we are very impressed with the guy who plows the neighborhood.  He came by twice today, which meant we had to shovel the end of the drive again, but we are very grateful that he’s so efficient.  Dog loves playing in the snow too!

Deer eating corn in the yard

Deer eating corn in the yard

November 26th – More snow last night. Just think, we’ll have our first Thanksgiving with a layer of snow on the ground.  So much to be thankful for.  That plow guy is still pretty consistent, twice a day he manages to plow in the foot of the driveway just after we shovel.  Well, at least we’re getting plenty of exercise!  Noticed we’re down to only four deer visiting the yard.  I hope nothing’s happened to the other two.

December 2nd – I can’t believe it, it snowed again last night.  I wonder if the plow guy has a regular schedule?  If we could just figure out when he’s coming through the street, we could shovel the drive after he makes a pass.  And, it seems like every time the newspaper is delivered the plow guy sweeps snow right into the tube holding the paper. You’d think he’d be a little more considerate.

Snowy Cedar

Cedar tree blanketed in snow

December 15th – More snow.  It didn’t stop all day.  Dog is starting to refuse to walk into the woods to poop and is now doing it on the sidewalk.  That snow plow guy seems to know exactly when we just cleared the drive and then dumps a ton of the white stuff back into the drive.  Jerk!

December 22nd – More of white shit fell last night.  Oh, and the damn deer have decided the corn isn’t good enough for them and started chowing down on the cedar trees we paid an arm and leg for!  I called the landscaper and he says everyone up here knows you never feed deer because they’ll just start in on the shrubs.  He says for $400 he’ll come out and put fencing around the rest of the cedars.  I swear he knew this when he planted those ugly cedars!

December 25th – Some Christmas this is going to be.  The kids’ flight from Detroit was canceled and they ended driving through blizzard conditions to get here.  When they asked the airline to reimburse them for the rental, the airline said they’re not responsible for the cancellation due to “an act of God.”  God? God?  What kind of God buries us in ten feet of frozen crap?  And that plow guy, I swear he waits around the corner ’til we’ve shoveled and then comes down the street.  I think he might be a psychopath.

Chad and Dana when they thought snow was cool

Chad and Dana when they thought snow was cool

December 27th –  They’re predicting a major snowstorm, up to 12 inches of the crap over the next three days with dangerous wind chills.  Kids thought it was pretty cool until we asked them to take a shift shoveling this shit. Now they’re both complaining about frost bite.  What a couple of wusses!

December 29th – Idiot weatherman was wrong.  We didn’t get 12 inches, we got 24 inches and even the plow guy didn’t show up.  We’ve got to get the kids to the airport in Traverse City tomorrow and we can’t get out of the driveway.  Broke another shovel too.  That makes three we’ve broken this year.  And the damn dog has started peeing in the house.

Thick snow covers the roof

Thick snow covers the roof

January 4th – Had a break in the weather and decided to treat ourselves to a night out.  On the way back a god damn deer ran right in front of us.  $3000 damage to the car.  Those friggin’ beasts should have all been killed last November.

January 20th – The weather turd on Channel 7 says this is an average winter.  He’s got to be a complete moron.  There’s more snow on my roof than the snow base on Mt. Everest!  Saw the landscaper at the hardware store today, while I was buying more snow melt for the sidewalk.  He said if I get too much of that near the grass it’ll kill it and he’ll have to install a new lawn.  I think he’s related to that f*cking plow guy.

February 2nd – Surprise, surprise…that rodent in Punxsutawney saw his stupid shadow and predicted six more weeks of winter.  Oh, and the city says we have to run water continuously or our pipes might freeze.  I hate this place. Florida’s actually looking good.

Septic guys find the broken pump

Septic guys digging up and finding broken pump

February 16th – Woke to an ear-splitting sound and opened the back door and realized it’s the septic alarm.  The septic guy was more than happy to come out and bill us $495 to turn it off and tell us we need a new pump.  He says he’s not sure if the snow and cold had anything to do with it, but he says he’s having a banner year so far with emergency calls.  Asshole!

February 24th – New pump finally installed.  $1250 before labor charges.  How come we have city water but have a septic field?  What kind of screwed place is this?  Now I know why people buy condos.

March 9th – Dog finally going outside again, but a huge icicle snapped off the roof and almost impaled her.  Now she’s under the bed and won’t come out.  Plow guy hit the mailbox yesterday. The running water is driving me insane….like Chinese water torture.

April 1st -There’s still snow in filthy grey piles all over the place.  The lawn looks like hell and that predator landscape guy said we’ve got something called “snow mold.”  I thought it was an April Fool’s joke when he said it’ll only cost about $1500 to re-seed the lawn.  On a postive note, I did spot some crocuses poking through the snow, they’re so pretty.

IMG_3705May 15th – Beautiful day, the new lawn looks better than ever and the cedars are filling out.  Wild turkeys have come every morning.  I’ve bought them special feed and given them all names!  The golf course just opened and we love waving to the foursomes that zip by and tell us how beautiful our house looks.  When they ask us how our winter was, we laugh and tell them it was a awesome and everyone should live in Northern Michigan year round.  Those people that head south in the fall and winter are missing out on all the fun!  I love this place!

October Sky

October Sky

While walking Lizzie the other day I was taken by how beautiful the sky was. We”ve had almost three weeks of cold, dampness, and leaden skies. When the sun finally peeked through for a brief moment I had just enough time to snap this photo before the gloom returned.

Giranimals for Wine Connoisseurs

File this under the “now I’ve seen everything” folder.  While waiting at the meat counter at my local grocery store this afternoon, I saw a wine display with wines labeled as follows:

Chops and Burgers

Salmon and Trout

Chicken and Turkey

Cheese and Crackers

Lobster and Shrimp

I thought it must be produced by some big California winery that also makes box wines and those tiny bottles that they overcharge you for on domestic airlines.  Surprise…it’s produced by Barton and Guestier, a reputable French winery and distributor.  The Wine Enthusiast gives the wines respectable ratings, 86 points for the Chops and Burgers, which is basically a Bordeaux-style red blend and 85 points for the Salmon and Trout, a Bordeaux Blanc.  Although tempted to buy a bottle, just to try it, I resisted.  I actually got a little miffed.  What makes this winery think it has to bottle wine with pictures on the label and suggest pairings?  Remember Giranimals children’s clothing in the 70’s?  The idea was each item of clothing had a tag depicting a cartoon style animal.  Your child could dress himself by matching the animals, thereby causing you less embarrasment when little Suzy or Jonnie turned up at school looking like they’d been dressed by the family dog.  The company went so far as to suggest that by allowing little ones to match the tags you were increasing your child’s self confidence.  I suspect it was created by a mother who wanted a few more minutes to herself in the morning.

Anyway, I digress.  My thoughts also turned to how many countries in the world has B&G targeted this concept to? I’m gonna guess one – the United States.  Do you really think the average Frenchor Italian wine consumer would stoop so low to buy a wine that suggest he doesn’t know what to pair it with?  Yikes.

So, thank you B&G, but no thanks.  I’ll continue to match my food and wine the old fashioned way.  I’ll use my IPad app.