Archives for January 2013

Got Crabs?

Chesapeake Bay is home to the largest producer of Blue Crabs in the world.  As I head south and embark on the next leg of my outdoor adventure, of course I have to stop and check out the nearest town and have lunch! After all, it’s a long way down to Florida and who knows when I’ll land in a better place? 

Oh!  There’s a sign! “Exit Here Now”

Off the freeway I went and followed the billboard sign, and soon I was scooped into another tiny and quaint little town, where I found Woody’s Crab House on the main drag of North East Maryland.  I parked and headed in.

Did you know that Crabs are monogamous?  Yep, they only mate once in their entire lives. Hmmm, can you imagine? And the females produce several million eggs in their reproductive cycle, but only one in a million grows to adult crab size. 

Of course one never tries to listen in, but after I was seated, I could hear a conversation between a man and a woman behind me.  It went something like this; 

Woman: “All I want is a gun.  That’s all Santa needs to bring me.” 

Man: “But don’t you want him to get you nice jewelry or clothes?

Woman: “No sir, just my own gun that fits me is all I need to make me happy!” 

Man: (laughing) “well you know what you want, that’s for sure”.

Woman:  “next year I’m getting me my buck with my new gun.  You just watch.”


Suddenly there is someone standing at my side.

Introducing Woodys’ greatest waitress, Linda.  Blonde, 40 something, upbeat, spunky, and dead serious about that shotgun.

“Hay, hon, what can I get you?”

“Are you a hunter?” I asked.

“Yes, well actually a bowhunter.  Shot a doe this year, missed a buck with a gun that didn’t fit me.”

Boom.  That started a conversation and a half about our experiences hunting, loving the outdoors, traveling, her family, and on and on. Every time I meet someone like Linda it’s so interesting and inspiring. She and her husband are soon opening a sports shop. They love the outdoors, love to hunt, and they do it all together.  She is an outspoken and straightforward woman who is a fantastic representative of hunting heritage.

As much as I was thinking crabs, Linda recommended I try the Famous Luncheon Special (pick two from shrimp, oysters, founder and scallops) which I did, and indeed, it was fresh and fabulous.  She also suggested their very special Woody’s Bloody Mary (woo-wee that cocktail came with a kick!) which was practically a meal in itself.

By the way, did you know that if a crab loses a limb, they can grow it back?  And their shell doesn’t grow with them, they periodically outgrow their shell and have to “shed it” and grow a new one so they can get bigger.  Wow, the things we learn about our favorite foods….

After an enjoyable meal and conversation with fellow outdoorswoman/waitress Linda, I took a stroll through town.  Cute gift shops, a surf shop, and plenty of historic buildings with stories.  Not sure why I needed to buy crab Christmas ornaments since we won’t have a tree.  Well what the heck, they won’t take up much room…..

Favorite New Jersey Eateries

I could move to the lovely town of Cranford New Jersey, for two reasons alone.  One is, to be near my best friend Lynn of course. The second reason, would be to eat my way up one street and down the other, never cooking a meal at home again.  The Cranford area boasts some of the most outstanding eateries I’ve ever seen–it’s a plethora of ethnic taste sensations.  Here are some of my favorites:


Marino’s     34 North Avenue East, Cranford NJ 07016

We were only there for appetizers, but saw amazing plates of seafood pasta dishes coming out of the kitchen to other tables.  Their New England Clam Chowder and Stuffed Mushrooms (with Crab) were outstanding!


Emmas Brick Oven     101 Union Ave North Cranford NJ 07016

OH my, this brings “Pizza Place” to a whole new level!  Indescribably good traditional oven baked pizza, as well as a list of traditional Italian dishes to make you want to cry.  We had the Margherita Pizza, and a special you won’t find on their online menu; Italian 5 Cheese Rice Balls, that were without a doubt, mama mia heavenly.


Café Paris     106 Walnut Ave Cranford NJ 07016

This sweet little escape to France is the best place ever for breakfast! They have a full lunch and dinner menu of classic French cuisine favorites as well, but I have to say, their savory buckwheat crepes, called “gallettes” are the all-time best tasting breakfast sensations ever.  And their décor and wall paintings make you feel like you are dining in France.  A romantic and cozy food destination indeed.


Xocolatz Restaurant and Grill 235 Elmer Street Westfield NJ 07090

Sinfully good grub! Lynn had never been here, so we were looking to sample some dishes. Here’s what ordered and give the thumbs up on:

Bananas By the Beach  fried ripe sweet plantains topped with a Chorizo, fresh tomatoes, green onions and Sofrito drizzled with Chipolte mayo and fresh lime.  Outrageously good.

Sweet Potato Pierogi  fresh pasta stuffed with roasted sweet potatoes, onion, sour cream and seasonings, pan seared and served with caramelized onions and sour cream.  Oh the Ukrainian in me salivates.  I’ll be trying these at home!

Calamari Christopher  golden crispy seasoned calamari tossed with lemon garlic basil, shaved parmesan cheese and served with Xocolatz Fra Diablo Sauce.  Yum!

Lime Yucca Fries  all I can say is just forget about french fries for ever more.


Old City Café and Grill 20 North Union Ave  Cranford NJ 07016

This is by far the best Middle Eastern food I’ve ever encountered, and trust me, I’ve encountered a lot of it.  We ordered the Falafel, the Shish Tawook Platter, the Shawarma Platter and Warak Areesh (Grape Leaves).  The all-time best, ever.  Ever.


a/e Avenue East   16 North Union Ave  Cranford NJ 07016

The best Asian dining experience, ever.  This place was downright dangerous for me.  I think we ordered almost every appetizer on the menu, and then dinner.  Our waiter suggested a noodle dish with beef that was a “departure” from the Pad Thai on the menu, and it was the most amazing taste sensation ever.  Wow.  Absolutely wow.

Happy Endings

For some people, if they’ve spent a good deal of time living a somewhat solitary lifestyle, it can be hard to re-enter civilization.  But for others it can be a snap. 

Me?  Snap!

My extended visit in NJ has been amazing, and feels as though my friend and I are back in Junior High.  From trips to NY and parties and shopping, to trips to her office room to organize and clean, all time well spent.  We did so many things.  We didn’t get to do so many things.  So much so, that I delayed leaving a second time. We added in a play (Pride and Prejudice) a trip to the spa (It’s All About Me Salon & Day Spa) and a couple more evenings sipping wine in the family room with her two Dachshunds Ozzie and Sharon, and my 3 babies.  Laughing, dreaming, scheming, making future plans and reminiscing on what we did. 

Perhaps one of our favorite quiet times together was watching our dogs become a pack. Her two long hair Dachshunds and my two long hair Lhasa Apsos outnumbered Buddy 4 to 1 in the “little dog” arena.  My poor German Short Hair gave in to the realization that in NJ, he was just a big little dog in the pack, and would curl up in the tiniest of balls on Ozzie or Sharon’s little dog beds.  We spent hours enjoying their interactions, taking them on walks, and talking about life.

Oh, how I will miss my dear friend Lynn as I continue on my journey.  Oh, how I will chuckle over and over and over as I recall our good times.  Oh, how quickly we will plan our future visits, which there will now be many more of.  And oh, how many good byes can two Minnesota girls hug and cry and express before we finally actually do part?

Ohhhh my.  Many.  It’s that Minnesota good bye thing. You betcha.

But for now, the adventure must continue!  All aboard for due South!

Flinging Arrows

Unbeknownst to me, Lynn told her neighbors that her friend Patty the archer was coming to visit.  Apparently that was all it took for Alex, the 12 year old next door.  He just got his first bow, and couldn’t wait to get some lessons.

Imagine my surprise when neighbor Gail and her son Alex showed up in Lynn’s driveway, excited and friendly and right there to greet me the day I arrived.  Unfortunately, with schedules as they were, we couldn’t find time until now to fling some arrows— Lynn was tasked with giving German lessons to Alex as he was falling behind, and he couldn’t have archery lessons until he passed his German test. It’s the night before I’m planning to head out.  There we stood in their huge, well protected and safe backyard, under the floodlight, helping Alex shoot the bow.

I could never turn down an opportunity to help a newbie fling some arrows. He was about the most polite kid I’d ever met.  Smart, serious, and focused.  He said he was looking for a challenge, and archery looked interesting.

Gail, a single mom, is the originator of smart, serious, and focused.  She sure deserves a big kudos and round of applause in her efforts to enrich her kids’ lives.  Here’s a born city woman who has no inkling of what hunting or shooting is, yet still makes sure her boy gets the experience. I’ve got to hand it to her; she could have opted for something far easier.

The downside is that she does have to trust the system, the products, and the “professionals” that prepare the equipment to be used.  The first thing I discovered was that Alex was heavily left eye dominant, left handed, and everything he did was left, but he was shown to shoot right handed.  Just like what had happened to me many years ago when I was first introduced to archery.


Let’s just try it lefty.


Let’s get a little closer to the target.


Squeeze your shoulders together.


Relax your hand.  When you release, let the bow fall forward.

Tip of the nose, corner of the mouth.

Elbow out. Elbow out.


Aim, aim. Let go the string….you hit it! Good job!


We talked about the pros and cons and the possibility that his eye dominance will change in the next few years (but not likely). The good news was that the beginner bow he was given can be shot right or left handed and he’ll not outgrow it for some time.  Decisions will be made as he continues shooting, but Alex consistently improved accuracy and stopped the arm stings, the moment he made the changes I’d advised.  He was excited, appreciative and would have flung arrows under the floodlight all night long. What fun it would be to have a kid like Alex.

Take a kid fishing, camping, shooting, hiking what EVER outdoors.  It will rock their world, and maybe yours too.  Here’s to flinging arrows with Alex in New Jersey.  Can’t wait to do it again!

Turkey Cakes

Another idea for left over Holiday Turkey


Turkey Cakes

3 c of chopped or shredded cooked turkey

1 c prepared stuffing of your choice

1 stalk super thin diced celery

½ t red pepper

2 eggs

Milk (optional)

keep some extra stuffing on hand just in case

Combine all ingredients but milk together to form a consistency like meat loaf.  Add a little more stuffing if too thin or a little splash of milk if too thick.

Separate the mixture and form into 4 – 6  flat patties

Cooking Options:

Place patties on greased foil in toaster oven at 350 for 20 minutes

Pan fry on medium heat with a ¼ inch hunk of butter, flipping once until done

George Forman Grill them for about 5 minutes on medium

Place on greased cookie sheet in a conventional oven at 350 for 20 minutes

While cakes are cooking, make the sauce:

½ c  mayo

2T cranberry sauce

A big squeeze of fresh lemon

S&P to taste

Mix together in a bowl, pour over the turkey cakes when they are done.

Serve your Turkey Cakes glazed with the sauce, with other Thanksgiving leftovers, or as a stand alone meal with your favorite veggies and a rice pilaf.  Enjoy!

Serves 4 – 6

Hob-Nobbin’ in NYC

Just couldn’t get enough of New York City—Lynn and I are off for another day of adventure in the Big Apple.  This time, we are going to A Christmas Carol reading, shopping, and to a Christmas tree decorating party.

So once again, we went to the train station, and did the same routine as our first trip.  At least it wasn’t snowing, but since it’s the weekend, there are more people traveling for last minute Christmas shopping.  Once we arrived to NYC we needed to buy Metro cards to board the subway, but there was a monstrous thick line of people all waiting for a machine to open up.  Seconds before our ride left we were able to get our tickets, and hopped on the subway to Brooklyn–the red line.

It seems like magic to be following Lynn around, getting on and off trains and subways and buses and suddenly run up a flight of stairs to find you’re right in front of your destination. How does she do this?

Anyway we were rushing to get to the Reading in Brooklyn, a radio version of A Christmas Carol. Lynn was helping the company with admissions, and I guess I was helping Lynn help.  I’d never been to a reading, and was having a hard time understanding why people went to them.  Oddly I did become caught up in it.  The thing is, there are no bad seats. Since no one is actually standing up and acting, there isn’t anything to miss.  So, truthfully you can close your eyes, listen, and be transported into the story.  Especially when it’s read well, like this one was.

It goes without saying, Lynn is connected in the theater world.  When the show was over, we were invited to the after party a couple blocks away.  What fun, hanging with the cast and crew and sponging new experiences and ideas and hearing about their careers and successes.  But unfortunately this party wasn’t part of the days plan, so we made our stay short.

What was on our list was to try to get uptown and search for the only liquor store around that carried the amazing Dimitri wine we had at the Greek restaurant.  Just to be able to say we went to “Gotham”, was a kick in itself, but that trek would be another couple subways up and back, resulting in over an hour of time—about how long we were at the after party. Visions of Batman in Gotham would have to wait for another visit. 

We jumped on the subway instead to Astor place in Manhattan.  There we entered an open air market on Broadway and 4th and shopped for Christmas gifts.  Stepping into that market is like being in Cozumel, with row after row of “STUFF” for sale.  So OF COURSE I had to get a belly dance belt and not one but TWO of those animal hats that have the attached mittens that hang down from the ears. 

I know.  Don’t ask.  Anyway,

Then we got on the subway and went to 42nd street, walked several blocks to the next party where David was waiting for us.  The party was hosted by Lynn and David’s theater friends, Jane and Kevin. The only criteria to this party was you had to hang at least 3 ornaments. What a great “fix” for me.  The next best thing to having a tree.

Now here’s a story.  Jane and Kevin were high school sweethearts, who married years later (they are perhaps late 50s?).  I believe they still are classified as newlyweds. Jane still teaches and cannot leave NYC, and Kevin remains tied to Indiana.  They maintain their separate residences, and take turns spending time together at each, with a little solo time in between.  So far, it works.  Jane, an Italian cooking guru, served up an amazing scratch cooked lasagna dinner. Kevin was a perfect host, and made sure everyone was well taken care of at all times.

I met so many interesting people at this gathering! Kevin’s niece, from Minnesota, and her boyfriend from Amsterdam.  There was Debra Jo Rupp, the “mom” from “That 70’s show” who will be the leading lady in a new play about Doctor Ruth at the Hartford Stage in Connecticut.  Arthur, a hilarious and genuine soul, a professional voice coach for opera singers including actress/singer Audra McDonald.   I met not one but two single women who chose to adopt small children from Central America.  And then, there was Brian, with that CRAZY good Eggnog.  Everyone took me in as part of the group. They were all so curious and welcoming.

Meeting and talking with a plethora of professionals and theater people that all live a completely different lifestyle than I, was like being in a foreign country for the evening. How diverse our culture is. How amazing that not all people need to have a car for every family member and drive 2 blocks for a burger and a bag of chips.  In contrast, how amazing that not all people comprehend or could survive the concrete jungle and commute, rushing around on foot or via public transportation.

The downside to commuting into NYC is there truly is a “pumpkin hour”.  Our magic hour was coming up, and we had to leave the party in order to make the last train at midnight.  No more hob-nobbin’ in Manhattan.  Hugs and good byes and collecting up all of our goodies from the day, Lynn, David and I rushed out the door and dashed to the station to catch our long ride back to Cranford.

Very Simple Molokhia

This hearty healthy soup like dish is one of my Mediterranean favorites!  There are many different ways to prepare Molokhia (Jew’s mallow), and I do like to dabble with the old traditional styles using chicken, beef or especially rabbit, but here is a quick, easy and very tasty version that cuts the preparation time down significantly.


1 bag frozen Molokhia (I’ve only ever seen this in Halal or Arab Supermarkets)

1 16 oz can crushed tomatoes

5 big cloves garlic

6 chicken bouillon cubes

2 cups water

1 bottle of EVOO on hand

Salt to taste

2 cups cooked rice

  • Thaw the Molokhia.
  • Finely chop the garlic and place in pan with a good splash of EVOO, sautee the garlic.
  • Add the can of tomatoes, and another good splash of EVOO, and allow the mixture to cook down under low heat for about 20 minutes or until the tomatoes become completely mushy and like a sauce.  The tomatoes cook down best if you use plenty of EVOO.
  • In the meantime, place the water in a saucepan, add the bouillon cubes and make your broth.
  • Add the thawed Molokhia to the tomato mixture and mix together.
  • Add the broth, and let the mixture cook at a slow boil for a couple minutes.
  • Scoop cooked rice into 4 bowls and serve over rice. 

Serves 4

Note you can add the broth to make your Molokhia soup like, or use less of it and have it be more as a topping over the rice. It’s up to you, and yummy either way.

Mystic Day

The crazy thing about being out east for me is trying to wrap my mind around where we are in relation to where we are going to be.  Lynn says “hey let’s go up the east coast for some seafood” and I’m thinking ‘What?  That’s a whole separate trip!”

Oh silly me, we are on the east coast.  So, off we go, to Connecticut for the day.

What a lovely drive, once we got through the city.  Actually, despite the fact that I’m an outdoors nut, I can truly appreciate seeing concrete  jungles, up close and from a distance.  The view of New York City as we race down the freeway, reminds me of so many apocalyptic movies I’ve seen, where people are rushing to escape NYC before whatever ‘end of days’ situation is going to occur.  Trying to cross the bridge, trying to get down the road, trying to flee, as I guess we were.  Yes, we were fleeing to a better place, Mystic Connecticut, where the ocean breeze is crisp and the seafood is out of this world. 

It’s a long haul north from Cranford NJ to CT, giving us lots of time to talk.  We came up with solutions for most of the world’s problems, and each other’s.  Then my phone rang.  “Elaine!!!” She got my email and can meet us in Mystic! 

I couldn’t be more excited to see my good friend and former business associate Elaine.  We had some history in the archery industry!  Work is always work, but sometimes you get to make that special connection with others. We certainly did that.  In some ways, Elaine has been an inspiration to me, since she left her long time marketing positioning to become a nurse, making a complete career change in later life.

Details are confirmed on when and where to meet.  S&P Oyster Company on the water, comes highly recommended.  We should get there about 1:00—just in time for lunch! We stop at a rest stop that was closed.  Helped a guy jump his car along the way. The view on the eastern shore is beautiful   Woody and fresh, and somewhat uninhabited. The air seems so clean.  The waterscapes look “novelish” with their sleepy little seaport towns lining the waterside, like something out of a Harlequin Romance or Stephan King book. 

We arrive to Mystic and park several blocks from S&P Oyster Co. so we can walk the scenic streets and shop.  Then we meet up with Elaine. It was like time stood still and it was yesterday!  Isn’t it wonderful how the people you cherish seem to remain the same, timeless, ageless, and just as you always pictured them?  That was Elaine.  Still the same bright, cheery, happy person I knew years before. 

We caught up over fantastic fresh seafood and cocktails, and then walked around historic Mystic CT.  Of course we couldn’t end our visit without taking pictures at Mystic Pizza, and stopping at Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream.  Unfortunately time was short, so we had to part ways, far too early.  Elaine gave us a couple suggestions for dinner, we hugged good by, and parted with a girlfriend pact that the 3 of us would meet again next year to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge together.  I’m in!

The remainder of the day Lynn and I spent touring the rest of Mystic, then heading to Stonington Borough, CT.  We were quickly running out of daylight but now we can see the Christmas lights of this quaint, historic little town.  We had just enough time to stop at the pier before dark, and face the straight line wind and cold to say “we were here!” and then head back to main street to check out the shops and find our dinner destination.

We ended up at the Dog Watch Café, on the water, directly overlooking Dodson Boatyard. What a fun place! The atmosphere was great, the food was delicious, and of course there’s a story behind the establishments name.

Dog Watch, in marine or naval talk, is a period of work duty or a work shift between 1600 and 2000 (4 and 8 pm).  It’s split into two—a first and last dog watch.  Compared to normal watches, each of these dog watches is “curtailed. “Dog Watch” may have come from the idea that someone tasked with one of these ‘half”’ watches was said to be not pulling their weight, ‘dodging the watch’, when standing the ‘dodge watch’. This became shortened to ‘dog watch’. Another folk etymology is that someone sleeping only gets ‘dog sleep’ in this watch.  This watch exists because in order for the crew to rotate through all the watches, one needed to be split in half.  It allowed the sailors to stand different watches instead of always having to stand the mid-watch night after night.  Plus, they could occasionally have dinner at traditional time with the rotation of watches. 

As for me, I just got a big kick out of the branding on their sellables and had a hay day buying souvenirs.  Once Lynn and I picked out our memorabilia take-aways we got into the car and headed back to New Jersey. A Mystic day to remember!

Hooping Hoopla!

One thing for sure, I’m not afraid to try something new.  Especially if it involves being active, having a laugh, learning something useful, or doing anything that includes music.  Well, in my ever present need to find things to do, I did a search in to find out what fun local things might be going on in my best friends area, since I was heading back to Jersey for another week or so of girl time.  Who knew that Sharon Fit Belly Dance and Group Fitness Studio offered hoop dance lessons?  What?  What’s that?  We’ve just got to go check this out!

Picture hula hoops.  Great big fat hula hoops, with lots of colors and shine.  And picture 70s rock, 80’s, 90’s and even the latest sensation; Gangnam Style, playing.  Then picture me and my friend, and a room full of other women, all “shakin’ the booty” with our hoops, trying to follow Sharon’s direction.

Oh, that woman makes it look so easy!

The idea of hoop dance is to rock your hips and keep the hoop circling your body, and by doing so you are gaining rhythm, and loosing weight. Hooping is a great core workout and burns a minimum of 400 calories per hour. What a fun way to burn the butt off.  The bigger the hoop, the easier to keep it up and circling.  There are a number of maneuvers involved in hooping, including waist, hip, leg, arm, and chest hooping, plus hand choreographing to pass the hoop from side to side as part of a whole dance routine. 

It helps to have rhythm, but let me tell you, it’s not a ‘shoe in’ for success.  It’s hard work keeping that hoop up there!

Sharon Fit, the Hooping Guru and our esteemed instructor, was a joy to get to know and learn from.  She brought fun and levity to the class, but at the same time shared useful body mechanics information that will help with hooping and general health long after the class is over.

In our one hour beginner session, I was challenged, humbled, entertained and indeed, hooped out.  But… now I kinda sorta really want one of those hoops.  Gotta have me one.  Nah, maybe another day.  Where would I find a hoop class back home anyway?

Then Sharon says,  “well why not start one?”

The Adventure Continues.

Easy Indie Egg Sandwiches

A nice little twist to the typical egg sandwich, try a little curry in your cluck!

 Easy Indie Egg Sandwiches

 6 eggs

½ c mayo

¼ t Curry powder

¼ t celery seed

1/8 t salt

1/8 Pepper

8 slices Rye or Pumpernickle bread


First hard boil the eggs–place eggs in a pan and cover with water. Bring water to a hard boil then cover the pan and let sit 15 – 20 minutes.  Cool and peel the eggs. Coarsely cut the eggs up into a bowl and set aside.

Combine remaining ingredients, mix well, add eggs and mix together.   Toast the bread, divide mixture onto 4 slices of bread and top.

 Serves 4