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Popcorn For Pennies

Noticed how expensive and calorie ridden popcorn has become?

As a kid, I remember having a square popcorn popper with a long handle and standing at the stove moving our arm back and forth scraping the electric burner, to keep the popcorn from burning,

Now we have all kinds of flavored popcorn, drowning in butter or fake butter, These boxes, with six bags, usually run from $3.50 to over $5, while a bag of popcorn such as Jolly Time©  – two pounds worth – costs less than $2 and probably makes triple what you would get from the bags-in-the-box popcorn.

Want to get back to basics? Start by putting a small amount in a glass bowl and cover with a plate until you find exactly how much the bowl can hold. Everyone’s microwave is different but for me, three minutes is perfect.


Sprinkle a little salt and then spray with your favorite aerosol butter or oil. Surprisingly, the spray gives it a very buttery taste with the tinest bit of spraying. It’s time to munch.

You can use your imagination to put on whatever you want but you can also do it in a way that spares you the calories. Popcorn is great for fiber and should be a low calorie snack.


Vegetable Casserole

Vegetables were something I had to eat as a child – not something I looked forward to. Evan as an adult I couldn’t find much enthusiasm. I decided to experiment and came up with this dish that I can assume you my mama never made.


3   Carrots – grated

1/2 Fresh broccoli bunch

1   Large onion

1/2 Green pepper

12  Mushrooms (medium)

3   Eggs

1/3 Cup vegetable oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1  Tablespoon dried basil

Use a little of the oil to saute the chopped up onion, green pepper and mushrooms. I always refer to the pepper, onion, mushroom mix as the holy trio.

Next, chop up the brocolli and cook it until soft. While it is cooking, grate the carrots.


Drain the broccoli and put in a large mixing bowl. Add the sauteed holy trio, the carrots, three beaten eggs, salt and pepper, basil, the remainder of the oil and mix. This is what it looked like before going into the oven.Image

Bake in a casserole dish (spray with oil before putting in) at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes.

When finished I couldn’t resist – didn’t even wait for my guests. It was bubbling hot and um, um, good.


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Mickey and the Tired Purple Dragon ©

Joseph lived with his mother, father and his little brother Mickey. Mickey was a pest. Joseph was ten years old and Mickey was five. Every day in the summer when Joseph went out to play his mother told him he had to take Mickey. Not only did Joseph not want Mickey to tag along, but his friends didn’t want Mickey either. And Joseph especially hated it that Mickey dragged along his stuffed purple dragon that was missing two eyes.

Today was no different. Joseph got one foot out the door and his mother yelled, “Take Mickey with you.” Joseph yelled back, “I don’t want to.”

“Do you want me to call your father?”

“Gee mom. Why do I always have to take him?

His mom didn’t answer. Mickey came running out, dragging his purple dragon with him. He was always very happy to tag along after Joseph.

Today Joseph was playing with four of his friends on the block, Pete, Billy, Howard and Marty. Billy said, “Again we have to play with Mickey?” “And why is he dragging that eyeless purple monstrosity with him. Joseph just made a face. Mickey stood up for his dragon, “His eyes aren’t missing. They’re closed. He’s tired.”

Billy said to Joseph, “I have an idea. Let’s play hide and seek. They played for a while and then it was Mickey’s turn. Billy whispered to all the boys, “Let’s go visit Johnny around the block. When Mickey is counting, we’ll just disappear.”

Mickey started counting, “One, two you better hide quickly ‘cause I’m going to find you. Two, three, four, I am going to find all of you no matter how good you hide. Five, six, I’m coming soon. Then real quick, Mickey screamed “Eight, nine ten.”

He uncovered his eyes, turned around and didn’t see anyone. When they had played last week he saw part of Pete’s shirt from his hiding place behind a tree, and heard noises in the bushes where Marty hid. Today, everything was totally quiet—as though he were all alone.

Mickey looked under the porch in the front of the house. Then he looked under the deck in the back of the house. He opened the shed door, even though he was afraid there would be spiders in the shed. He stuck his head in the bushes. Still he found no one.

Mickey decided to look in the neighbor’s yard. When he didn’t see them there he continued going to other neighbors.

In the meanwhile, Joseph and his friends were playing ball a block away. They didn’t give even a thought about Mickey. They played for about two hours and then they all decided they were hungry and should go home. When Joseph got home, his mother asked, “Where is Mickey?”

“Isn’t he home?”


“Are you sure? Of course, I’m sure. He was supposed to be with you.”

“Gee mom, my friends were sick of him and when he was counting to ten for hide and seek, we ran off. I was sure he would just come back in the house.”

Joseph’s mother screamed, “That means he’s been missing for hours. I am going to run to that corner and yell for Mickey. I want you to run towards the other corner and yell for him.”

Joseph and his mom ran up and down the block yelling Mickey’s name. The only sound they heard in answer was each other yelling Mickey’s name. Then his mom ran in the house and called Joseph’s father.

Joseph’s father worked very close to home.

”Ellen, what is happening? You sound panicked.”

When she told him, he answered, “I am going home right away. In the meanwhile, call the police.

Joseph’s father got home just as the police drove into the driveway. Joseph watched as two huge men came out of the car. He had to hold his head way back to look up to their faces. One was a white guy and he wore a name tag on his shirt that read “Ryan O’Donnell.” The other was a very, dark man with a moustache. The name on his pocket read “Keith Brown.”

Officer O’Donnell asked, “Who was the last person to see Mickey?”

Joseph suddenly felt terrible. Mickey was missing and it was his fault. He thought about last night when it was thundering and lightening and Mickey was scared. He had run into Joseph’s bed and said, “Joey, please hug me.” Suddenly Mickey didn’t seem like a pest. He was his cute little brother that he loved.

“What does Mickey look like? What was he wearing?” Joseph had a picture in his mind of his brother. Today he was wearing a red and white striped shirt. The front was tucked in and the back was hanging out.

Joseph’s mom ran to get a picture of Mickey. In the picture he was smiling his crooked grin, and he had one tooth missing on the top and one on the bottom, not directly over each other. His red hair stood up straight and his green eyes looked right at Joseph.

Officer Brown said, “I want you to stay here so we can call you as soon as we hear something and in case he comes home by himself. We are going to call out his description on our car radio so that all of the policemen in the area will be looking for him.

Joseph’s dad had his arm around his mom, Ellen, who was crying in big loud sobs. Then his mom went to sit on the couch and his dad started pacing back and forth. He was speaking softly, asking God for help. “Please, please, return our little Mickey safe and sound.”

Joseph edged out the back door. The policemen had told his mom and dad to stay home, but not him. He was going to see if he could find Mickey.

First he went into their own back yard, and looked in all the places that Mickey hid when they played hide and seek. They he went to the neighbor on the right. He looked under their porch and in their shed. Then he went to the neighbor on the left and looked under their deck and in their pool house. Then he went two doors down on the right. He looked under their porch and then in their shed. They had a lot of lawn chairs and chaise lounges in their shed. Most of them were folded up, but one wasn’t. Mickey was sleeping on the one that wasn’t folded up, curled up and sucking his thumb. His other arm held his worn out eyeless dragon.

Joseph went over to him and shook his shoulder gently.  He suddenly felt his heart open wide and felt Mickey walk right inside. “Wake up Mickey. Everyone is looking for you. Why are you in here?”

“I got tired of looking for you, Joey, and, besides, my dragon was tired so we decided to lie down for a minute. Where were you?”

“Don’t worry about that now, Mickey, Let’s go home.”

Mickey rubbed his eyes and stretched his arms and then stood up. “I’m hungry. It must be time for lunch.”

Joseph took Mickey’s hand and together they hurried home.


Double Delicious Brownies

By Joan Gross

This recipe takes minutes to make and the double delicious brownies are moist, chewy and scrumptious.

1/2 Cup of chocolate chips
1/2 Cup of chopped walnuts
3/4 Teaspoon real vanilla flavoring
1/2 Cup of margerine or butter
1/4 Cup brown sugar
3/4 Cup white sugar
3/4 Cup whole wheat flour
2 Eggs

Melt margerine in the microwave with the chocolate chips – takes about one minute. In another bowl and the dry ingredients. After the margerine/chocolate mixture cools down, add the beaten eggs and vanilla.

Blend the ingredients of both bowls together and pour into baking dish (8″ x 8″ or 9″ x 9″) and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

Your grandchildren (or children) will be delighte.

Double Delicious Brownies


How Do We Take the Measure of a Man

This is a tribute to my brother, Allen Landon, who died of mesothelioma January 2012.

By Joan Gross

When Allen was diagnosed with mesothelioma, he cried. And he cried often. But he never asked, “why me?” Initially he didn’t want to share that news with others, and did not want to discuss it. Focusing on the present, working on a never ending stack of projects, that’s what he was used to. Not being told that the projects in this life would soon end.

Winning people over with his charm, making them laugh, sharing adventures, and giving them advice, whether they wanted it or not, were all part of Allen’s trademark. Hugging his male friends and telling them he loved them, never embarrassed him. His love was too strong and too important for him to minimize it or hide it.

Watching him suffer, and overcome with sympathy, I whispered that I wished I could share his pain. He answered, “I wouldn’t want you to.”

Allen was demanding. What few pleasures were left to him had to meet the high standards he set for himself and those around him. When coffee was served, it was often sent back downstairs for 10 seconds more in the microwave, and maybe again for another 5 seconds. He didn’t feel that because he was dying he should lower his standards.

“Where’s the napkin” was an often-heard question.

Allen often rested with his eyes closed. One morning my sister, Marcia, peered closely at him to determine whether or not he was awake, he opened his eyes, stared intently at her and with a straight face questioned, “Do I know you?”

When my husband came in from Israel, I was sitting on the bed with my arm around Allen. I said to Mick, “Did you know that this is my baby brother?” Without a second’s hesitation, Allen quipped, “And of the two of us, I’m the smartest.”

Out-of-town guests were given a tour of Allen’s house, a house he was very proud of; he quickly dressed and joined the parade. When his friend Peter demonstrated Allen’s fire pole entranceway leading from his used-to-be-bedroom to his office below, Allen was not going to be second-class resident in his own domain. He quickly grabbed the pole and readied himself for his “fireman show.” Marcia, worried about him in his weakened condition, grasped at his skeletal body trying to stop him. She couldn’t and he took umbrage with her remonstrating later that she humiliated him.

Because in his weakened condition he fell several times, we all hovered over him and tried not letting him out of our sight. He managed to elude us on several occasions. One morning while Mick sat with Allen, and I was downstairs making toast, Mick yelled that I should come up immediately. After yelling back “What” several times, with exasperation I went to the bottom of the steps, “What are you so excited about?” I asked. “Allen disappeared!”

Allen had gone into the bathroom using the bedroom entranceway and then quickly and silently went out the other door and down the stairs to supervise my toast-making.

Mick was on the opposite side of that experience several days later. At 4am in the morning he was downstairs making coffee when Allen suddenly appeared, an inquiring apparition, wanting to know what there was to eat, while upstairs someone else was waiting for Allen to emerge from the bathroom, at the bedroom door exit.

Speaking was difficult for Allen and he spoke as little as possible. One morning when Mick and I showed up in his bedroom at 6:30am to take over our shift, Rachelle told us to leave the room because I was sneezing and Mick was coughing. Although we didn’t agree with this demand (we both suffer from allergies and were not contagious), we obliged and went back to our bedroom. Fifteen minutes later Allen walked into our bedroom and sat at the edge of the bed. We helped him into bed, covered him, and sat there quietly in the dark not wanting to disturb him. This was the first time we had seen him sleep in days. Allen always knew how to make a statement even if he couldn’t speak.

Being the teacher or being the student – those were comfortable roles for Allen. Someone was in charge –usually him. He arose one morning and decided we needed to exercise. Grab some pillows he demanded. I did. Put on socks. I grabbed some socks from his drawer and tried putting them on him. “Not on me, on you.” “But Allen, I am wearing stockings and shoes.” “Put them on.” I did.

Three of us went downstairs; Allen, Rachelle and me. Allen put the pillow down and demanded that we follow. We lay on the floor and he said, “Rachelle, you watch and when you get the hang of it you do it too.” We lifted the right bended knee straight in the air, moved the leg to the right, back to the middle and down to the floor. We repeated this about ten times and then did the same with the left. Now he decided Rachelle could join us.

His pain medicines made him hallucinate and suddenly he said, “I see dogs with golden batons on their tails.”
“What kind of dogs?”
“Golden baton dogs,” he answered.

We recently learned that Allen had taken salsa lessons. Piano lessons we knew about – he became quite accomplished. Singing lessons were also no secret to us and although Allen, unusually modest, said he could not sing, we thought otherwise. What really impressed me though was when I asked him if he would like to learn some prayers. For a person who did everything his way, who took the word “no” as a challenge rather than a door-closer, admitting that maybe someone else is in charge after all, takes more than a modicum of strength. Allen unhesitatingly said, “Yes.”

With total determination Allen learned the Hebrew words and asked me to write them out for him, repeating them slowly after me. Most days he needed all his effort just to breath and speaking was a luxury he didn’t often indulge in but twice a day we prayed together and sometimes it was he who reminded me.

Several times Allen repeated after me the Jewish death bed confessional and he did it from strength rather than from fear. He knew he was getting ready for his biggest adventure ever – meeting his maker. Though God was never a big part of his life, he embraced the preparation of getting ready to meet Him.

In most people bravado is a clever way of masking fear or shoring up one’s self confidence, but I think Allen used bravado to cover up his bravery. And when Allen met his maker, I am sure he passed the test.

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I am Being Testing by Today’s Technology

Joan Gross:

Is modern technology getting the best of me? This is the question I asked myself the other day when I decided to use the bathroom in Aldi’s. There was no shelf to put my purse although I have to say it was a modern, large bathroom, certainly not reminiscent of the outhouse we had on the side of our farmhouse that we used if the regular bathroom was in use, but there was no shelf for my purse. I put my purse in the sink and after settling myself comfortably to take care of business I realized that I heard water running, then stopping, then running. I jumped up realizing that the automatic faucet was being “turned on” by my purse. As I launched myself off the throne to rescue my wet purse, the toilet flushed itself. Unnerved I was standing there with a dripping purse checking to see if my cell phone survived in its outer purse pocket, and I hadn’t even done what I set out to do.

I started to remember the good old days which probably weren’t really that good. Washing clothes in the winter was a bit like going to Alaska. After the machine jerked the clothing in two different directions, each piece would then be picked up by hand and put through the wringer at the top of the machine. Then, even if the temperature was below freezing, my mom would be outside with her gloves hanging the clothes on the rigid clothesline to dry. Often she brought them back in stiff as a board and able to stand up on their own. I used to get cold just looking at the frozen shirts and underwear.

Modern machinery to us was the tractor my father borrowed to roll over the soil for our garden. Everyone’s lawn mower was the kind you had to put your entire weight behind to get it to move. No one who mowed their own lawn would resemble the skinny weakling in the back of our comic books who was constantly being threatened by Popeye-like beach thugs.

We treasured the old. Our favorite hide-away was the attic with its coffee grinders and old barrels. We were seldom allowed up there which made the attic’s treasures all the more alluring. I always made a dash for the hand-wind-up Victrola that we pumped enthusiastically to hear our parent’s collection of 78 records. My favorite song was The Trolley Song:

“Clang, clang, clang” went the trolley
“Ding, ding, ding” went the bell
“Zing, zing, zing” went my heartstrings
For the moment I saw him I fell

“Chug, chug, chug” went the motor
“Bump, bump, bump” went the brake
“Thump, thump, thump” went my heartstrings
When he smiled, I could feel the car shake”

At the age of six, this was heady stuff convincing me that young women were in danger everywhere they went of turning into a bowl of Jello with a complete loss of mind. A woman could lose her heart to some stranger. Maybe Jack the Ripper. Children, my mother told me, well that came later, and they were delivered by a stork. My younger sister tried to disabuse me of this picturesque vision when I was in seventh grade but I didn’t believe her until I was in ninth grade.

Of course, we were more modern in our living quarters. Our party line would ring twice if someone dialed 4-5231. If the call was for our neighbor it would ring once and we knew not to pick up unless we were bored and wanted to be nosy. We owned a radio that had a spot of honor in our living room that our childish feet were banned from entering. My mom loved to listen to Arthur Godfrey. She often and loudly declared him an anti-Semite and although we weren’t sure what that meant, we knew it was bad and wondered why she lit up and danced around the kitchen when he played his ukulele. But then we didn’t understand any of the grown-up things like my mom whooping and hollering when Truman was elected president.

By the time I reached my teens, my parents had built a modern ranch house across the street and they purchased a black and white TV set. We were allowed to sit on the floor in the living room on certain nights. Ed Sullivan and his “really big show” was Friday night’s entertainment and the place that the Beatles made their American debut. Saturday night my parents, at my mom’s insistence, went out to mingle with other couples and make believe they were like the moneyed and carefree. We would watch Sid Caesar and Imogene Coco long past our bedtime. I especially loved Imogene because when I needed a haircut my father would put a bowl on my head and then my mother would clip off what stuck out. Everyone said that plain-Jane-me, with my bowl haircut, looked just like Imogene. That was as close as I ever got to Hollywood glamour.

I am brought back to reality by my dripping purse and I realize that while I don’t have to put my clothes through the wringer – only my brain from trying to learn social media, programming my cell phone and what to do in case my computer crashes. My almost-six-year-old granddaughter has loaded up my Ipad with free games she can play and Skypes my husband when the rest of her household is sleeping. When she whines and I tell her she sounds like a broken record, she looks at me with bewilderment and asks me what I mean. And I look at her and remember my six-year-old concept of love and hope that when she turns to Jello in 10-11 years, that she will keep her mind and fall for the right guy.