Posted in pets

Furtastic Friday

Meet Luna, a gorgeous Heinz 57 (mix). For those of you that don’t know what that is, it’s a term that’s used for dogs of uncertain ancestry.

Luna was born on Halloween and is hyper, but scared of everything. She loves chasing balls and her sister from another mother (and species) Nia the cat.

She knows lots of tricks. Her trick today? Wishing everyone a furtastic Friday!

From her parents, Charleen Rourke and TJ Farrell, myself, and Luna, have a great day.

If you would like your special pet featured on a future Furtastic Friday post, please contact me.

Posted in health


Photo credit: StuartMiles

Every few months, it happens. Despite having the skills to guide myself through it and to navigate around it, I find myself sucked into the black abyss of torture that our minds tend to inflict on us.

Because I know how to avoid it, it makes it all the more frustrating. I know it’s nonsense, yet I helplessly allow myself to fall into its grasp.

Since I normally have a very positive attitude, when I have a meltdown, it tends to take my family by surprise. As I’ve written before, I usually have my shit together. I help others get their shit together!

Yes, I have cancer. Yes, it’s stage 4. Yes, the past couple of scans have shown a decrease in the size in my lungs and, recently, my bones. But yes, whenever it’s scan time again, my nerves get the better of me.

I almost conquered it this time. I tried various breath techniques, then a yin yoga practice for anxiety, for which I switched out some yin poses with restorative poses, then more breath work and a positive affirmation guided meditation.

And yet, I allowed the doubts to sneak in.

I had travelled an hour for my immunotherapy treatment that day, only to be told it was cancelled. No one had called me and I couldn’t pin anyone down with a definitive answer as to why. I had my oncologist appointment the next day, during which I knew I’d be getting my recent scan results.

Logically, I knew that the immunotherapy was likely cancelled due to my recent colitis attack and that the doctor wanted to make sure I had healed from that. But, my mind insisted on thinking that there was something bad in the scans that triggered the cancellation. I fought it, but in the end, it won, and I was convinced that the cancer had spread.

I know that one day, this will be my reality. That’s what really sucks. The day will come when I’m given that news. It could be at my next scan in 5 or 6 months, or in 5 or 6 years, or 15. But the day will come. Every time I am waiting for my scan results, I come face to face with my own mortality.

This is where yoga and meditation have come to my aid. I can usually push these type of thoughts to the far recesses of my mind. Neither the past nor the future exist, only the here and now. For 362 or 363 days a year, this helps me. The remaining days, I’m thankful for Lorazepam.

For anyone suffering from anxiety, here’s one of my favourite breath techniques, alternate nostril breathing (Anuloma Viloma in Sanskrit). This only takes a few minutes to do and helps to cleanse the mind and balance the right and left sides of our brain.

I was taught to inhale for a count of 4, hold for 8 and exhale for 8 and this is how I still do it. This article mentions holding for a count of 16, which might be a bit difficult for beginners.

In the end, my scans were fine and, as I ultimately knew, the reason for the cancelation was simply my doctor erring on the side of caution, wanting to ensure that the colitis had cleared up.

My deep despair was for nothing, and life goes on.

Photo credit: Ed Gregory

If you have a story that you’d like to share, please contact me.

Posted in food

Chicken Fusilli

Photo credit: Alyson Muse

This recipe for chicken fusilli originally appeared in my cozy murder mystery Feta and the Fat Bastard (Whine & Cheese Cozy Mystery Series, Book 3). Click here to order directly from my publisher, Open Books.

You will need:

2 skinless chicken breasts or 4 deboned skinless chicken thighs

2 cups fusilli pasta

Creamy garlic alfredo type pasta sauce, plus add a ½ teaspoon garlic powder (or make your own- see below) plus 1 teaspoon mustard

1 regular size can of diced tomatoes

1 small can of mushrooms (whole or pieces, whatever you prefer)

1 teaspoon olive oil

Selection of cheeses, grated

Bacon, diced and cooked

Dice chicken. Heat olive oil in pan on medium high, then cook chicken until done. Set aside.

Combine pasta sauce (and garlic powder and mustard), tomatoes and mushrooms.  Simmer on medium high heat for about 20 minutes, giving flavours a chance to marry. Sauce will likely be tasty as is, however, you can also add herbs of your choice for extra flavor.

Cook pasta according to directions.  When ready, drain, serve with sauce and top with cooked chicken. Also good with grated cheese of choice (pop into microwave for about 45 seconds to melt cheese to perfection) and a handful of cooked bacon.

If you just want a creamy garlic sauce, omit adding canned tomatoes. Mushrooms are also optional.

Home-made creamy garlic sauce

1 cup milk

1 cup water

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon mustard

½ teaspoon salt (or more according to your taste)

Few shakes of black pepper (about ¼ teaspoon)

Few shakes of paprika, if you have any (1/4 teaspoon)

Combine all of the above in a saucepan and cook on medium heat. Mix with a whisk every few minutes so that cornstarch is well blended and sauce doesn’t stick to bottom.  Once sauce begins to gently boil, reduce heat. Simmer until sauce thickens. If too thick, add more milk. If not thick enough, mix more cornstarch (1/2 teaspoon) in a glass with some cold water before adding to hot sauce.  Add can of tomatoes and mushrooms as noted above.

Posted in pets

Furtastic Friday

Ripley aka “Ripper”

Meet our new rescue tabby, Ripley.

He’s about 3 and 1/2 months old now and is living up to his name- or rather, many variations of his name. Ripley’s believe it or not, because of the things he can get into, Ripper (let’s just say, all my curtains are tied up high right now), and Ripples, because of the adorable way his stripes are rippled throughout his little body.

Right now, he’s all paws and has a ferocious appetite. He’s loved everything he’s been fed and miraculously knows when it’s time for his smelly wet food.

As many of you know, my two year old kittie, Bart, accidentally escaped and ran away about a month and a half ago. It broke my heart, and still does. After much debate, we moved ahead with another rescue and he’s certainly wormed his way into our hearts.

Sweet Ripley has two personalities: he can be an absolute, hyperactive terror one minute, then suddenly slump over my legs in a dead sleep, transforming into the cutest, gentlest little creature.

From myself, my family, and of course, Ripley, have a furtastic Friday!

If you’d like your pet to be featured on a future Furtastic Friday, please contact me. We need more pets!

Posted in food

German Oven Pancakes

Photo credit: Freerange stock archives

Oh my goodness, this recipe!! Being Hungarian, I wasn’t a pancake fan; I grew up on crepes. But this? Topped with berries, pudding, yogurt, whipped cream, jam, custard, on its own, syrup….I could eat this for days in a row. Ehem, perhaps I have…

This recipe originally appeared in my cozy murder mystery Feta and the Fat Bastard (Whine & Cheese Cozy Mystery Series, Book 3). (click to order directly from my publisher, Open Books)

Cozy Mystery Book Series Recipe: German Oven Pancakes

The consistency is like a custard or almost cheese-like, and the flavour is simple but yet so good.  I hope you enjoy as much as I do.

You will need:

9×13 inch glass baking dish works best

4 large eggs

2 cups milk

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 and 1/3 cups flour

5 tablespoons white granulated sugar

cooking spray or about 1 tablespoon oil

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine all the ingredients and blend well with electric mixer. Spray (or oil) a large casserole dish with cooking spray, then pour batter into dish and bake in oven for about 20-25 minutes until the edges are puffy and a nice golden colour. Remove from oven and dust with powdered sugar, then serve immediately; did I mention that the consistency is like a firm custard?

Slice and serve with a nice fruit topping, maple syrup or a squeeze of lemon. Keeps well in fridge- reheat slices for a minute or less in the microwave.

Enjoy, my friends.

Posted in pets

Furtastic Fridays

Meet Bella, a fluffy tuxedo breed who loves to have her pretty fur brushed. She rolls about, happily purring, while this is being done.

Bella loves to hunt treats out of her “treaty puzzle” every morning, holding her prize between both her paws like a squirrel. In her spare time, she enjoys chasing flying bugs.

She has a favourite toy since the age of 8 weeks old. It’s missing its original feather and has been lovingly sewn back together. Bella will pick that toy out from her basket above all others and if she loses it (which is often), it must be located and then hidden amongst the other toys so that she can hunt for it again.

Bella is sweetly affectionate and loves to knead and purr on her human mamma, then fall asleep splayed out across her chest. She is very much loved and cherished.

From her owner, Kathy St. Denis, myself, and of course, Bella, have a furtastic Friday!

If you have a special pet that you’d like to see featured on a future Furtastic Fridays post, please contact me. We want more pets!

Posted in food, Uncategorized

Mom’s famous Schnitzels

This recipe originally appeared in my cozy murder mystery Swiss Cheese and Sibling Rivalry (Whine & Cheese Cozy Mystery Series, Book 4).

I teased and taunted my readers with this through the whole quadrilogy before finally divulging the recipe in book 4. And now, here it is for free (but you should still buy the book, cuz, you know, it’s funny).

Mom’s Famous Schnitzels

1 package of boneless, thin sliced pork cutlets (about 8 pieces of meat, although more is definitely better)

2 eggs, beaten, in a bowl big enough to dip the meat in

1 cup of flour, in a bowl big enough to dip the meat in

1 1/2 to 2 cups of breadcrumbs of your choice, in a bowl big enough to dip the meat in

salt, pepper

1/3 teaspoon of: garlic powder, paprika, dill weed, dried parsley (optional spices- the only necessity is salt and pepper)

1/2 cup or more olive oil or oil of your choice for frying-you might need more

Salt and pepper both sides of each piece of meat then set aside.  To the breadcrumbs, add about 1/3 teaspoon of each spice and mix around to incorporate.

Arrange the bowls in this order: flour, egg, breadcrumbs.

Coat each piece of meat in the order above. Flour both sides, then shake off any excess. Next dip in the egg mixture, coating completely and allowing excess to drip off before putting into the breadcrumb bowl and coating completely. Pat firmly so that the breadcrumbs adhere well.  When done, set aside on a plate until all of the meat has been prepared.  I use a fork in one hand to lift the meat from each bowl and my other hand to coat in the flour and breadcrumbs. Your coating hand will be gross by the time you’re done.

In a frying pan, add enough oil so that it covers the bottom and has enough in it to almost cover a piece of meat.  Heat on medium or just very slightly higher for a few minutes before adding any meat. Once a breadcrumb added to the oil begins to sizzle, the temperature is right.

Fit as many pieces of meat that the pan can accommodate without crowding. Mine fits 4-5 pieces comfortably. Each side will take a few minutes to fry. Once you have a nice, golden or light brown colour, you can flip the meat to the other side and do the same.  When ready, transfer to an oven safe dish lined with paper towel to absorb any oils. Keep the meat in a warmed but not hot oven until all of the meat is cooked.

Delicious served with rice or any type of potato that you like (mashed, baked, fried, potato salad, etc) and a side of Hungarian cucumber salad.

You’re welcome, my friends.

Posted in food

Turmeric Pearl Couscous Tabouleh


For those of you expecting a Furtastic Friday post today….sorry! I need more animals! So, instead, I bring you food.

I was in my 30’s before I first tried Tabouleh. I mean, first of all, I couldn’t pronounce it and then I didn’t know what was in it. It was very green; too green. And, most people couldn’t even tell me what was in it, but swore by it.

I’m not even sure what possessed me to try it. Yes, I’m a finicky eater, though I branch out a little more with each passing year. I think it was some tortilla chips that convinced me to try it at a work potluck. There they were, side by side, and I thought, “Yeah, I can handle that.”

Being picky, it has to be made right. No surprise ingredients like olives, and for heaven’s sake, not made with quinoa! Traditionally, it’s made with bulgur, something else I was not familiar with. I’m Hungarian. We did not have bulgur in our house.

Now if you’re searching frantically through my books for the recipe, stop! It’s not one of my previously published ones. Nope, this is brand new, baby! And since I’m not doing a book 5, I get to share whatever inspires me right away.

The parsley in my garden had a sudden growth spurt, so Tabouleh sprang to mind. I’d never made it yet, but how hard can it be? Searches on line promised me that it could be made with couscous. I rummaged in my pantry and came across some of this wonderful, iron-rich turmeric infused pearl couscous.

Never one to follow a recipe, after gleaning inspiration from a number of different ones, I created my own. I cooked the couscous in a roasted garlic chicken broth, then added what I thought would not only taste good, but still resemble a Tabouleh.

For the batch pictured today, I even ran out and bought some of this weird bulgur stuff and added a bit to the recipe. It was pretty bland on it’s own, even though I cooked it in the same broth as the couscous. Mixed up all together though, delicious and I hope full of healthy goodness.

You be the judge!

Turmeric Pearl Couscous Tabouleh

-1 cup turmeric pearl couscous (I found it at Bulk Barn)

-2 cups chicken broth of choice

-1 big bunch parsley chopped very small

-5-6 sprigs of cilantro (traditional Tabouleh uses mint instead), chopped very small

-5-6 sprigs fresh chives (you get the idea, chopped really small)

-1/2 small onion diced small

-1 diced tomato

-6 cloves of garlic (yes, diced small)

-4 tablespoons olive oil or more, depending on taste

-1/4 cup lemon juice

-salt and pepper to taste

Boil broth then add couscous. Reduce heat to simmer, then turn off once only a bit of liquid remains, allowing couscous to sit another 10 minutes or so. Then cool couscous. You may need to add a bit more broth if it gets sticky.

Meanwhile, chop up all the other ingredients and combine. Add cooled couscous, oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Taste, adjust as needed. Refrigerates well for 3-4 days.

My step-daughter, Abby, added feta to hers, but if you do that, don’t add it to the whole thing because it won’t keep as well.

If you have any recipes you’d love to share, let me know!

Cheers, my friends.