Reunions and Oreo Truffles

October 11, 2016


Tomorrow I’m going to a reunion of people I taught with at Lassen School 1978-1988. It’s a pot luck. What to fix? Many of the women are great cooks, as evidenced by pot luck meals while we worked together. I had a new recipe for a Chili Relleno Bake, but it used canned chilies and I’d have to buy the salsa. So I decided to make a dessert, Oreo Truffles. I often make them around Thanksgiving to use as hostess gifts. I made another batch with the granddaughters before the holidays and we wrap them up as gifts for the family.

I look forward to seeing my compadres. We were witnesses to important events in our lives and formed a support group that served as a safety net for those going through a divorce, death in the family, or hard to handle kids.

Recipe for Oreo Truffles (makes about 7 dozen)

Start with 36 Oreo cookies, a 14.3-ounce bag, 8ounces of cream cheese, candy cups and 2 bags of candy melts (both of which are available from Michael’s or Joann’s.)

Line two cookie sheets with waxed paper.

Crush the cookies in a blender and put in a large bowl. Soften the cream cheese and combine them with your hands. (Kids love this part.)

Form balls from the mixture, a bit bigger than a malt ball. Put these on the wax paper.

Put one of the packages of Candy melts in a microwaveable bowl and melt according to the directions on the package.

Plop the balls, one at a time, in the melted chocolate, and use two forks to coat each one. Take it out of the candy and place it back on the waxed paper. When one cookie sheet is done, put it in the refrigerator.

Melt the other package of Candy Melts and do it over for the rest of the balls. Put them in the refrigerator.

Arrange the candy cups in plastic containers, ceramic loaf pans (available on Black Friday sales at Michael’s for $1.00 each) or any other container.

Take out the firmed up truffles and put one in each candy cup.

If you use a loaf pan or other container without a top, wrap it in cellophane (rolls are available at the 99 cent store) and tie it up with a ribbon.

Keep the truffles in the refrigerator (they keep for over a month,) until you give them away, since they have cream cheese and are perishable.

NOTE: The Candy Melts come in many colors but I have found all but the chocolate hard to deal with. They don’t melt as smoothly.



Today is Summer, Tomorrow is Fall

October 4, 2016


Today is Summer, Tomorrow is Fall

Every year in September I remember a poem, September, I had to memorize in fourth grade. I tried to find the author on the Internet, but couldn’t. I think it’s by Vachel Lindsay.


A road like brown ribbon

A sky that is blue

A forest of green

With that sky peeping through.

Asters, deep purple

A grasshopper’s call

Today is Summer

Tomorrow is fall.


As I move this month from my summer home in Munds Park to my winter home in Scottsdale, the change is that sudden. Up in Munds Park I’m enjoying the changing of the seasons: the yellow, red and orange leaves on the trees; the crispness in the morning air; and using the flannel sheets.

I’m reminiscing about the summer: the weddings I attended; the grandkids’ visits; the lively discussions with the book club; the helpful critiquing of the writing group; the lunches and dinners at the country club, Patio in the Pines and The Pinewood; seeing my play “Pet Peeves” performed for Cabaret Nights; much glittering on cards and fabrics, fun with people escaping the heat of the Phoenix summer; pickleball; listening to The Mother Road Trio and other live music; and catching up with my summer friends. And, of course, my summer romance. Alas, it did not survive longer than the summer. (Question to self: Why am I so easy to dump?)

As it gets too chilly for me in Munds Park I look forward to returning to the Valley of the Sun and a winter of lunch and movies with friends, my winter book club, a contract job, more time with my family, and the impending birth of my fourth granddaughter.

East vs. West

September 5, 2016

East vs. West

I went to Pennsylvania over Labor Day Weekend for my niece’s wedding. I hadn’t seen her for almost ten years, when she came out for a week’s visit. It was a joyous occasion and I got to spend time with my brother and sister-in-law and my sister and her new beau, as well as see my nephew Ben, whom I hadn’t seen for at least fifteen years. Why so long? Because I live in the Southwest and they all live in the East.

I grew up in New Jersey. When I drove the rental car from the Pittsburgh airport to the wedding venue, about seventy miles into a more rural setting, my senses overloaded with the overwhelming greenness. Although I live in the pines in the summer, these trees were so thick of green that nothing showed through them. The cornfields are surrounded by contours of green, maybe crops, maybe just grass. The contrast between the starkness of the southwest and these over-green mountains astounded me. I love both. Even the remembered San Francisco Peaks seemed rocky compared with these hills.

My sister and her beau live in New York City. Of course none of the meals we ate compared to their usual cuisine, at least according to him. My sister is more amenable to bland food. We drove out into the countryside and ate at a family-owned place advertised as “lakeside dining.” The restaurant was on a small pond, but my sister delighted in watching the ducks and geese from our table by the window. My sister and I reminisced about childhood days gone by.

Annie in Pa green

I should mention that the Pittsburgh airport was a dream compared with Sky Harbor. The rental car booth was inside the terminal and the cars were across the walkway. Never have it gotten into a rental car easier! I managed to get everything into my new carry-on bag, one of those pieces of luggage that one wheels while it’s upright. So I skipped baggage claim altogether. I also have a GOES pass (similar to TSA precheck but global) so I breezed through the security checkpoints.

The wedding was held in a copse of pine trees. It looked just like Munds Park. We sat on rough-hewn benches. First down the aisle were the eight bridesmaids and groomsmen. Except one of the groomsmen was a young woman, the sister of the groom. She matched the others in her gray suit. Then came the groom with his mother and father on each side of him. My brother and his first wife escorted my niece down the long aisle. She looked like she’d stepped out of the pages of Vogue. Her gold mesh birdcage veil was perfect with her elegant gown. My twenty-eight-year-old nephew held up the train of her dress.

Alexandra during ceremony 3

This is a photo of my brother Joe and his wife Judy under the chuppa with the bride and groom.


This is a photo of my sister Evelyn and her beau Russ.


The hors d’oeurves were delicious, especially the lamb chops. The band was terrific and I got to sit with my brother, sister, and some of my brother’s friends whom I knew from back when.

bride and grrom lifted up

The bride and groom were lifted up in chairs during the Hora, a traditional Jewish dance.

Ali and Joe dance

This is my brother dancing with his daughter, the bride.

Annie, Joe, and Evvy at wedding

The Weissman siblings at the reception.

I drank in as much greenery as I could to store it up for the days in the desert when I miss it. I love the stark beauty of the West, but sometimes I do yearn for the green.


The Zen of Pickleball

August 19, 2016

The word “Zen” comes from a form of Buddhism that emphasizes mediation, self-contemplation and intuition. In a general sense, as applied to subjects like cooking or golf, it means highlighting simplicity and intuition over conventional thinking or fixation on goals. How does this relate to pickleball?

I starting playing pickleball last summer. It’s the only sport or exercise I actually enjoy and look forward to. The Pinewood Country Club’s resurfaced pickleball courts are a pleasure to play on, much easier on the knees and feet than a concrete court.

The investment to play is modest, a racket that looks like a ping pong paddle on steroids ($30-90) and whiffle balls ($10 for six.) I definitely suggest a graphite racket over a wooden racket. The latter is much heavier and hard on my wrists. The type of ball depends on whether it’s an indoor or outdoor court and the court surface. Now we’re using neon yellow-green indoor outdoor balls that seem to give the best bounce on the court. The attire on our courts include leggings, jeans or basketball shorts and golf skirts. In other words, regular clothes. More information is available from the USA Pickleball Association. (

The group that plays at the Pinewood Country Club courts are fun and friendly. People who have never played before are always welcome, though you do need to be a country club member or guest of a member. We are sometimes a raucous group, which adds to the fun.

Pickleball is played on a court one quarter the size of a tennis court. We play doubles, so there are four people on a court at a time. The game is a mix of tennis and ping pong. There are rules, but they’re not hard to master. We switch partners after every game and try to pair a good player with a beginning one to make it fairer.

Although I am not a competitive person, some of the pickleballers are. They are sweet enough to enjoy playing with me even if I miss shots. (I don’t run on the court as I fall about once a month in my regular life. I don’t need to add more incidents.)

What does pickleball do for me? It gives me an hour of thinking of nothing but the game. I get into a meditative state in that the cares and worries of my regular life fade away. I focus on the ball and hitting it, but not on the winning or losing. It’s a time to complement others on good shots, serves and saves. I do laugh when I get a tough shot back over the net, surprising everyone, including me.

I’ve gotten better, graduating from an “Oh my, are you kidding? beginner” to a regular beginner. Sometimes my team even wins. I have an extra racket for friends who visit, who usually love the game. We play every morning at 7:30, whoever shows up. When the days get cooler, we’ll start at 8:30. Hope you’ll join us.


Single Grand Parenting Can Be Exhausting

August 8, 2016


I have three granddaughters and one on the way. They are the joys of my life. Abby, who is nine, came up for a week in the middle of July. We had such fun going to the movies, crafting, reading, and swimming.

I had both Abby and her sister Savy, age five, come up for four days during the first week of August. Two is so much more than one! They are quite well-behaved. I also had an extra dog, Lilah, whom I was dog sitting. The first day we got up to Munds Park in time to go swimming. Savy insisted on applying her own sunscreen.

Savy and sun block

Since they are both excellent swimmers, it was an easy task to keep an eye on them. I didn’t even have to wear a bathing suit. Good thing, because I put all my suits in one place at the end of last summer and I have no idea where that place is.

Their food choices and mine overlap just a little. I made cheese crisps for dinner with celery and strawberries and cherries on the side.

My dogs usually wake up about 5 or 5:30 in the morning. Lilah had spent the night with Abby and Sparky and Louie were with me and Savy in the queen-sized bed. Alas the dogs did not sleep any later than usual. Abby is allowed to stay behind, but Savy had to accompany me on the morning walks. Abby got up too, concerned about missing out on some fun. The girls were thrilled to meet a ginger cat on our walk. The cat was not afraid of them or the dogs. We played with the cat for a while and then continued on our way.

Tuesday mornings are when my writing group meets. Vie Armour was hosting, and she had a room set up for grandchildren, so the girls were content to watch movies and do puzzles.

They were able to get in a short swim before the siren went off. Savy was super freaked out! I comforted her and she calmed down. We all took showers and then it was off to Joann Anderson’s to make peanut butter and chocolate fudge.


Making fudge with joannThey enjoyed the afternoon, especially petting her three cats. Unfortunately, we forgot to take the fudge down to the valley so I am stuck eating it all.

After making fudge, we headed to Flagstaff to shop. Our first stop was Old Navy where I used coupons and discounts to buy them quite a few outfits. They chose matching dresses, too.


It was raining very hard but we managed to go to their favorite store: The Dollar Store. We spent quite a bit of time there and I spent sixty dollars! Ten of that was my stuff. They were thrilled with the scarfs, headbands, pens, flashlights, Chinese lanterns, cups to put in the freezer to cool drinks, and much more. That night they tried on the ladybug headband, broke out their light sticks and bubbles, and Savy fooled around with her flashlight.

The next morning. I took time to drink my tea and read the newspapers. Mr. Hotstuff joined me on my porch. The girls amused themselves. Abby made flowers on the top of pens using brightly colored duct tape we’d bought the day before at the Dollar Store. Savy colored in a giant portrait of Tatiana, one of the Disney princesses. Abby made a frame from duct tape and put it up on the guest room wall.

We drove down to Cliff Castle Casino and bowled. From 9:30-11:30 on weekday mornings it’s only $1.50 a game and $1.00 for shoe rentals. We played three games. Abby won one game and Mr. Hotstuff won two. We splurged on lunch and milkshakes at Johnny Rockets and then stopped by a farm to get corn.

I managed to trip on my way into the house. I was bleeding on my arm, hand and maybe my knees. I elected to jump in the shower and wash off the dirt and pebbles. Mr. Hotstuff was kind enough to stick around to see if I was hurt enough to go to an Urgent Care Center. I wasn’t.

The rest of the afternoon Abby, Savy, and I vegged out. We’d been going full speed for several days and it was time to rest. We did go to Patio in the Pines for dinner and watched the rain.

On Thursday morning we packed and picked up the cabin. I was hosting my book club at ten. I loaded my car with all of our gear and delivered Abby and Savy to Joan Roff’s house. They love her and enjoy spending time there. I rushed back to set up for the meeting.

After we finished discussing The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende, I straightened up. A neighbor from the valley was staying at my cabin for the weekend while I went back to Scottsdale. I corralled the three dogs into the car before picking up the girls from Joan’s.

As we started down the mountain, disaster struck. One of the DVD players died so they had to share one. Abby and Savy had been on vacation with their parents for the ten days before I picked them up. So now it was two weeks of being with each other 24/7. There was bickering, crying, horseplay, and laughing all the way home. Of course we had to stop at McDonald’s for lunch and a bathroom break and for gas. I’ll admit I was relieved when the movie we were going to see wasn’t playing at a convenient time. I met my son Nick at Desert Ridge to deliver the girls.

It was a wonderful four days but I was mentally and physically exhausted even though Abby and Savy are very well behaved and able to amuse themselves for long periods of time. If I was married, there would have been another grandparent to share the joy and lavish attention on both girls at one time. But then again, I’m not sure I want to share my granddaughters full time. There’s such a short period in their lives when they’re thrilled to be with Granny Annie. Bu I do hope to have each one up for a week next summer, separately, and a few days of them together.





The Show Must Go On

July 25, 2016


For the past three years I’ve written a one act play for The Pinewood Players’Pet Peeves castCabaret Nights. I like working with this form this because it’s a minimum commitment of time (after the play is written.) Since the plays are read, not memorized, less rehearsals are necessary. The stage is quite small so there isn’t much movement to choreograph. I enjoy directing the play, seeing my words leap off the pages.

This year I wrote “Pet Peeves,” about a couple and their pets’ problems. The cast included Donna Lord, Darvin Bussey, and Rex and Margaret Sprink. They all took the task seriously and put in major time practicing their lines. Donna, who played the cat Petunia, observed cats to be able to mimic their movements. She purchased her own set of cat ears and a tail. I sent for a similar outfit for Darvin, who played Puppy. Rex contributed an old black turtleneck, which I festooned with spots.

We had five or six rehearsals. When I timed the play I was dismayed that it was over seventeen minutes. We practiced to get it down to sixteen minutes. I should have cut more words, but I didn’t think of that.

The dress rehearsal was not good, for my play or several of the others. Some of the actors missed their cues and it went way too long. I didn’t sleep much that night. I should have cut more lines out, but it was too late now.

I had the actors go over their lines right before the first performance, opening night. The play was great! The audience laughed in the right places. Darvin’s improvisations of puppy behavior were terrific. You could feel the chemistry among the actors.

Seeing the play come together is a special feeling for directors. I had the double pleasure of seeing my words come to life, altered by the actors’ interpretations. When I direct my own play, I can control enough so that the point I want to make is put across. I want the actors to use my words, but I’m very open to how those words are said.

And the other plays were successes. All went well for the second performance, closing night.

The Elephant in the Room

July 12, 2016

These days it’s difficult to discuss politics, either with friends, acquaintances or strangers. An offhand comment is bound to offend someone. The polls say we don’t much like either major party candidate, but most of us have strong opinions on one or the other. If I say something derogatory about Trump, someone will defend him to the max and I may never feel the same about that person. And when others hear I’m a Clinton supporter, they may never feel the same about me. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground except the people who intensely dislike both candidates, for wildly different reasons.

Next week the Republican Convention will be underway. I usually watch the primetime speeches of both conventions, just to know what the big wigs think. And who can forget Clint Eastwood talking to an empty chair? I have a friend coming up from Gilbert to watch the Democratic Convention with me. She wants to experience it with someone simpatico.

What about relationships and marriages where the two people do not share political views? Do they argue or avoid talking politics?

I say right on my profile for the POF (Plenty of Fish) dating site that I’m liberal and if you like Rush Limbaugh, don’t contact me. And yet Mr. Hotstuff is a Republican leaning toward Libertarian and we get along. We even touch on politics, but both of us are respectful and fringe our discussions with teasing and laughter.

Maybe humor that isn’t at the candidates’ expense is what’s missing from this presidential election cycle. I know the comedians are having a field day with the major party candidates, but mostly the humor is caustic. It is funny but it won’t bring us together as a country.

Both sides see dire consequences if the other one wins. I have confidence that our republic will survive, no matter which candidate wins. There are enough checks and balances written into the Constitution.


Summer Romances

June 26, 2016

My first summer romance, at age fifteen, was more of a crush. I went to a camp for the arts on Cape Cod and adored the drawing teacher. I thought he was very old. He went to the Chicago Art Institute which meant he was at least twenty! He handled it very well. We talked and he teased me like an older brother. But Ron gave me confidence that I could relate to the opposite sex. He drew a sexy sketch of me which I have hanging in my bedroom in Scottsdale.

The summer after that my parents rented a house on the beach after camp ended. The teenagers would go down to the beach at night and make bonfires. I met a fellow from Connecticut (I lived in New Jersey) and had my first mutual romance. I was a naïve kid so it only entailed kissing, but it sure made me feel good. We wrote and saw each other during the fall but it fizzled with the winter snow.

In the summer of my sophomore year of college, I worked in the Hamptons as a waitress in a twenty-four hour diner. Some of my college friends were there, and all the out-of-town waitresses lived in a mansion, which had seen finer days, across the street from the diner. We were paid $1.25 an hour and pooled our tips which usually gave us another dollar per hour. But we got free room and board so I was able to save quite a bit of money.

This was in the late sixties so there were plenty of bars and music. (The drinking age was eighteen then.) The first half of the summer I fell for a guy named Gordon who was in the Coast Guard. He looked like Troy Donahue and I called G. G. of the C. G. (Gorgeous Gordon of the Coast Guard.) He left midway through the summer for another assignment.

My heart was broken until I met Max one night. He was a Marine stationed at Camp LeJeune, 665 miles from the Hamptons on Long Island. But he would “swoop” down for long weekends to see me. Oh my, how romantic. Sometimes I would get off at midnight and we would sleep on the beach.

I went back to the Hamptons the following summer with my boyfriend Rob, who had just graduated from The University of Rochester, where I was going to be a senior. Although I liked him a lot, the romance didn’t bloom until that summer. The ocean, the sand, the sun, the passion. He proposed towards the end of the summer and I married him the next year.

I was done with summer romances, for a while. When I was in my late thirties, and divorced for five years, I went over to a friend’s house for dinner. Afterwards, she and her husband convinced me to go to a bar where they played Classic Rock. It was a boiling hot summer in Phoenix and didn’t seem like the time for a romance. But as soon as I saw Dan, I fell in love. That had never happened before. He proposed a month later and we married the following spring.

Fast forward to being a single senior. It’s different now. I’m more a “seize the moment” person, make the most of today because maybe I’ll be eating dirt tomorrow. In this column I’ve chronicled my summer flings with Mr. Spiritual Journey and the Train Man. Neither led to anything serious, but they were great summer flings.

It’s been a few years since I’ve felt that passion. But now I’ve met Mr. Hotstuff in Munds Park. Maybe it will only last a week or two, maybe the summer, maybe more. I’ll enjoy it as it is.

P.S. He told me I should change my photo for the paper because it didn’t do me justice. Way to stroke my ego!




June 13, 2016

I’ve just returned from a picture perfect wedding in Sonoma County in California. The bride, Vanessa, is my goddaughter and the daughter of Susan, my best friend from seventh grade. She and her husband John just finished medical school and start their residencies this month. I couldn’t be prouder. Their success at marriage will depend on their communication skills and I observed them working issues through with words.

Since Vanessa and John were a bit busy with medical school, Susan planned the wedding. Susan, a graphic designer, did all the signage, too. She is one talented lady. Her husband served as support staff and our friend Alexis was the collaborator. Vanessa’s sister and brother were the schleppers. I was the one who called and asked, “how are you doing?”

Vanessa's wedding_venue

The wedding and reception took place outside at a vineyard. There were rows and rows of grape vines, mountains, and a lagoon in the distance. The day was clear and just the right temperature. We arrived early to get our makeup professionally done and Vanessa got her hair put up.

Vanessa's bride photo

The bride is Jewish and the groom Lutheran. The ceremony, held under a copse of redwood trees, was nondenominational except they stood under a huppa, the traditional Jewish wedding canopy.

Cocktails and wine flowed freely to accentuate the celebratory atmosphere. We sat at round tables overlooking the vineyard. The food was very tasty, especially the butternut squash ravioli.

Annie with Vanessa and John

At this wedding I did not feel my single status acutely. There were other single women and we mingled with everyone. The dancing was a group affair. It started with the hora, a traditional Jewish circle dance. Eight strong people lifted the bride and groom in sturdy chairs. People just stayed on the dance floor when the DJ rocked out, no need for a partner.

Weddings make me take stock of my single status. I reflected on my two marriages. The first lasted twelve years and at least ten of them were great. The second lasted fifteen years and at least twelve were great. I have warm memories of both of them and am glad I was married to each man. I don’t see another marriage in my future but I’m glad I was trustful enough to take the plunge twice.

Families and Movies

May 31, 2016


I love the movies. My sister does too. So did my dad. When he was growing up in New York City he went to the movies every Saturday. We moved to the New Jersey suburbs when I was a toddler. When my dad was in his forties he went back to get his masters and doctorate degrees from Columbia in New York City. He would go to the movies before or after classes.

I’m fine to go to movie theaters by myself, but I don’t often do so as many of my friends also love the movies. I usually go once a week during the seven months I live in Scottsdale. I live a mile from the Harkins Camelview and not too far from the Shea 14. These happen to be the places that show independent and foreign films, which I love. I no longer enjoy the action films I once did. And I don’t see depressing films unless shamed into it by Susan, a movie buff friend who insists I can’t miss a masterpiece.

I am dismayed at the lack of variety at the Flagstaff Harkins theatre. The fare is mostly superhero, insipid comedies and children’s movies. Soon after I moved up to Munds Park for the summer months (May through October is you live in a place as hot as Scottsdale,) I joined the Sedona Film Festival. They used to show films a few times a week at the Sedona Harkins but they now have their own theater and show two to four movies a week.

Last week I noticed that The Family Fang was playing, starring Jason Bateman and Nicole Kiddman. I had read the book and laughed out loud. No one I knew was interested in going, so I bought a ticket for myself. I had to return something at the Oak Creek Outlet Mall so I made a stop there. (I love Famous Footwear because they carry shoes that fit my size 12 feet.)

I endured the ten roundabouts to get to the theater. Sedona didn’t want traffic lights so the roundabouts were installed. I knew and hated these things from New Jersey and I don’t like them any better in Arizona.

I went to the Szechuan Chinese restaurant on Coffee Pot and Highway 89A. I love their special sauce fried noodles! Having fortified myself, I drove the few miles to the Mary D. Fisher theater.

The film was not as funny as the book, but it was dramatic in a good way. The Family Fang (fiction by the way,) is so dysfunctional it makes any family seem normal. The parents were performance artists and used the children to pull off their “art.” You learn that the father did not want children but saw their usefulness.

I never doubted that my parents wanted and loved me. I always marvel that I didn’t know about dysfunctional families until I went to college and learned about other people’s experiences and reading about them in books. I always knew my family was eccentric: we played college bowl at the dinner table, my father read us Shakespeare for bedtime stories, and my parents engaged in civil disobedience for the Civil Rights Movement.

And even though I’ve been divorced twice, I don’t think any of my family iterations were dysfunctional.

Sharon came up for the weekend. We wanted to go to the movies but none of the offerings in Flagstaff appealed to either of us. She used her mobile app to find that Love and Friendship, a film highly recommended, was playing at the Harkins in Sedona. (New information! That theater showed a wider selection than the one in Flagstaff.) I had read the rave reviews but they said that it was another variation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Another one?

We started out with plenty of time because we were going to stop at wet Beaver Creek and meditate. Unfortunately, I forgot that the exit is the Maguireville one, not the Sedona one. I was bowled over by the traffic from the I-17 into Sedona. Those roundabouts are annoying on a weekday but traffic crawlers on a big weekend. It took an hour to go the fifteen miles to the theater.

It was well worth the hassle. Kate Beckinsale is one the most manipulative mothers ever invented. The film wasn’t based on Pride and Prejudice. I misread the reviews. The basis is Lady Susan, an epistolary novel by Austen. Although my parents had wished I do something more extraordinary than be a school librarian and principal, they never directed my life. And I sure hope I didn’t do that to my kids.

Most movies (and books) make me feel better about my own situation. Maybe that’s why I love them so much.