Sunday, December 22, 2013

Holiday Punch Recipe

This is such a lovely time of year.  Love abounds in all its forms.  A favorite for us is being invited to an annual party where the focal point (for me) is this amazing punch.

They call it "Open House Punch" but in the days of yore, it was known as a "Singapore Sling."   Whatever you call it, here is the recipe.  Enjoy!

1 Fifth of Southern Comfort (Note for neophytes:  this means one whole bottle, not 1/5 of a bottle)
6 oz. frozen orange juice
6 oz. frozen lemonade
6 oz. lemon juice
3 liter bottle of 7 up or Sprite

Mix together and add ice (but not too much!)  Then garnish with colorful things such as orange slices and whole cranberries. 

Serve in a pretty glass punch bowl with some kind of large, decorative ladle.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Cat Whisperer

Written by Guest Blogger Lani Salisbury (age 14)

You may think that cats can't talk, but you are wrong, this cat spoke to me.  It was blistering sun and we were almost to our favorite park in La Grande, Oregon.  When we pulled up, my friend and I jumped out of the car and ran to the playground.

There he sat alone.  I asked my mom if we could keep him.

"No Lani, " she said.  "He's probably someone's cat that likes to play at the park."  It sounded reasonable, so we went on our way to Sun Valley for a week.
We had a terrific time in Sun Valley, but the day we drove home was nasty.  It was snowing really hard and it was icy.  We always stop at the same park on our way back, too.  At this point it was snowing and probably no more than 15 degrees outside.
I asked my mom if the cat were still there in the snow if we could take him home with us.  She said, "Yes.  But no cat would hang in the snow."
This time when we pulled up, I was out of the car before it was even stopped!  I sprinted to the play ground and started searching for the cat.  My mom and I searched through the whole loop of the park.  There was no cat.  My mom headed to the restroom, and I kept looking.  I climbed one of the play structures and started making a meowing sound.  Then ... in the silence of the new fallen snow ... I heard a Meow back!  My heart leaped as I ran, slipping and falling down the stairs, landed on my feet, and ran fast around the corner.  There he was!
After our brief reunion, I looked for my mom to show her.  She was astonished that I had found him!  I told her, "Ok, now let's go.  We're taking him like you said."
She surprised me when she turned around and said, "No, No, No, No, No!  I can't just take a cat out of a park in the middle of Oregon."
"But you promised,"  I kept trying to tell her.  "Besides no cat would be there in the snow a whole week later if he had a home."
She still kept saying no, and I kept arguing until we left.  With no cat.  Just a half an hour up the Blue Mountains my mom started wishing we had taken the cat.  I was mad at her now.  We drove home both wondering about him.
Once we arrived home, I started patrolling La Grand's weather on my phone.  It dropped every day.  Never rising past 10 degrees.  At least it was sunny though.  I told my mom all the temperatures and she was worried about the cat, too.
I just knew that cat was supposed to come home with us.  It was as if he was still "speaking to me."  Somehow we both knew it was meant to be.
My mom and I scouted the weather and made our plan for the next day.  We would make the 6-hour trip back to the park to see if that stray cat who "spoke" to me was still there.
We got up at 4:30 a.m. and left at 5:00 a.m.  The drive was easy but long.  When we got to the park, I ran to the play ground and looked then I meowed and meowed again.  My mom was talking, but I heard a faint noise.  I shushed her and listened.  That same cat came walking out from behind a concrete pile.  I rushed over and grabbed him.
The cat now named Thomas lives in our house and is very smart.  He knows 3 tricks.  He can high five, do jumps, and he can stand on his hind legs!
He can also curl up on the couch.
Note:  This is Lani's story as written.   I simply posted it on my blog.  She is our grand daughter; a good writer; and the very first guest blogger to appear on Skagit Leeks.  I am proud of her and delighted she would share her story with me to publish here.  D.Haase

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

What Parachute?

** I wrote this post based on a story shared by someone very close to my heart.  It is not my story, but it could be yours or someone you know.  These are hard times. **

The iconic job hunter's guide "What Color is Your Parachute?" by Richard Bolles has been used and revised every year since 1975.

But if you're like me, your recent experience as a job seeker was pure free fall.  Just you and a big blue atmosphere, flying with arms spread open, wind racing through your hair, soaring on a wing and a prayer and trying to keep from crash landing.

Parachutes are ... well ... for someone else.  Someone with techie skills or a young fresh face.  Someone with program management credentials.  At least someone who had a resume that wasn't labeled "eclectic."

My relentless bush-whacking through the wild and treacherous border designed to deter Job Seekers from slipping into the coveted Land of the Employed was by far the most grueling, demeaning, and discouraging experience I've ever endured.  Me.  The one who started young with a lemonade stand and kept right on working at whatever jobs I could finagle, while getting good grades all through school, and even earning a Bachelor's Degree at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Given all that, my continued unemployed state at this point had to be my age (Forty-Something), or possibly the way a couple of my work history gaps were perceived.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thankgiving

Skagit Leeks wishes everyone an enjoyable Thanksgiving with family and friend and wonderful, fat, calorie-laden food.  May the day bring back good memories from the past, and create special ones to be remembered in the future. 

Traditions are important to all of us, especially when they can evolve and become even better.

One tradition at our home is that I overcook the turkey.  That tradition will bite the dust tomorrow.  Tomorrow's turkey will be moist and delicious and the best we've had.  Although Ghandi was pretty tasty back in 2011.  This one, however, will be better, and will be named tomorrow by our special guest.

Savor the day and enjoy.  It is truly a special time to be grateful for private things ... and pie.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hostile Patient

The Hostile Patient mistrusts most members of the medical community.  Is suspicious of all suggested/recommended drug prescriptions and periodic/preventative tests.  Doctors are not always the experts.

The Hostile Patient ignores the pink ribbon marketing campaign that has invaded retail stores across the country every October.  Resists "rounding up" at the grocery check-out to support medical research on
the "featured" condition of the month.  Researches everything relevant to personal health.  Relies primarily on his or her own research, intuition and beliefs.

I am a Hostile Patient.

Many people turn over their medical fate to those folks in white coats.  If a test is ordered, they do it.  However invasive or painful it is doesn't alter their submission to "authority."  If it's time for their annual Exam for Whatever (which usually involves the removal of clothes), they comply.  It almost seems as if people don't realize they have a choice:  they can actually say "No Thank You."

The doctor knows best.  The patient doesn't question the doctor's authority or knowledge.  Sometimes the doctor is right; sometimes not.  It's not random, but it's not a sure bet either.

Old Guys are often "over-treated" for Prostate Cancer, since much research shows they will most likely die of something else first.

But the typical Old Guy trusts his doctor, so he might even allow "markers" to be inserted into his prostate.  And then allow himself to be radiated 5 times a week for 9 weeks.  He does this because the doctor told him he will have a "90% chance of full recovery."  Thus enabling the Old Guy to feel good about his prospects of dying of something else.  Do the doctors remember to mention that "full recovery" might include Depends?

I don't know exactly what a prostate is, but these insertions of things and those doses of radiation sound gruesome and painful.  That's just one example of why passively trusting whatever the doctor recommends simply reinforces the suspicions of the Hostile Patient.  And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Instead, the Hostile Patient researches the condition as if it were a doctoral thesis topic, and then decides what course of action is ultimately taken with his or her body.  After all, the "ownership" of a person's body not only seems obvious to me, but has also enabled Dr. Oz to cash in big-time.

It is true that loved ones may have opinions, but ultimately the Body Owner should have the last word.  In my opinion.  I also believe the Body Owner has the right to choose a particular course of action when/if something happens that is most likely outside the control of the Owner.

Case in point:  it was determined that I have a polyp in a private place.  The doctor who discerned this fact was ready to schedule surgery to remove the polyp, along with 12" of the private place.  Yikes!

As a Hostile Patient, I politely declined the surgery, named the polyp Fred, and the two of us (Fred and I) have been living in harmony for five years.

In fact, we always look forward to celebrating our anniversary of being together every year.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Obamacare: A Success Story

As we all know by now, the GOP failed in their continuous efforts to de-rail the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Obamacare became the law of the land.

The roll-out, however was bungled by the Obama White House and the Democrats, and millions of unsuspecting citizens were caught by surprise.

On October 2, 2013, I got an unexpected letter from Regence, my insurance company, regarding my health insurance plan:  MedAdvantage Preferred Provider Option (PPO) with Prescription Drug Coverage.

"IMPORTANT NOTICE:  Your Medicare Plan Won't Be Offered in 2014"

WTF?  I felt compelled to venture into the Byzantine mess known as Obamacare and do my own research.  After hearing countless reports that the BIG NASTY OBAMACARE WEBSITE was all cobbled up, I simply typed in and discovered that website worked just fine and was very informative.  Who knew?

I learned much on my own and from friends, including how to get a free consultation from a most knowledgeable agent in my area (Skagit County, WA):  Tammy Masolonis, at (360) 395-8479, or

Since I take prescription drugs, my insurance needs are more complicated than The Husband's, for example, since he takes nothing.  (He lives with me; I rest my case.)  Anyway, I learned the hard way that if you do take prescription drugs, you need to see the Formulary for any insurance company you are considering.  In the Formulary, drugs are listed in Tiers:  1, 2, 3, 4 ... (Tier 1 drugs are cheaper than Tier 4 drugs.)  If the medication you need is not in the Formulary, it gets even more complicated.

The section below is a closer look at what I learned about health insurance for myself in the World of Obamacare.  There is no substitute for first-hand knowledge in the insurance arena.  Trust me.

Cost Categories          2013          2014          Annual Change

Monthly Premium       $241          $137          -$1,248     (this is good)
Medical Deductible      -0-            $125         +$   125     (not so good)
Drug Deductible           -0-            $235         +$   235     (really not good)
My Dr. Visit Co-pay   $ 10           $ 20          +$     40     (est. 4 visits)
Specialist Co-pay        $ 30           $ 45          +$     60     (est. 4 visits)

Subtotal (w/o prescription drugs)                  -$  820     2014 Savings (this is great)

Ok ... so here we go into the Prescription Drug portion of the plan for folks on Medicare.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Wilderness

Two contemporary dramatic creations, "Homeland" the popular TV series and "Silver Linings Playbook" an award-winning movie, have both shined a light on and almost legitimized the mental health issue of Bi-polarism.

"Almost" because having a mental health issue is still a stigma.  Like being abused.  Someone who overcomes alcoholism or drug addiction is strong, a winner.  But someone who is touched by the issue of "mental health" or is trapped in an abusive situation somehow seems like a passive participant.  In our minds, those people don't muster their inner strength and overcome the demon in the same exemplary manner of the ones who are side-lined by alcohol or drugs.

The very words "mental health problems" easily conjure up images of institutions where the crazies were locked up so they would not be a menace to society.  We are more enlightened today, but there is still misinformation on the parts of both the person afflicted with the illness and those who care about the person.

For the last few years, I've been wandering in the Wilderness of having brain chemicals that get out of balance.  It's a frightening experience to find yourself in the clutches of a dark pit of depression and feel almost helpless and unable to climb out on your own.  Friends and family make suggestions:  "Cheer up; you have such a great life.  Volunteer somewhere; give back.  Get a hobby.  Read a book.  Clean out your closet."  But of course it is not that easy.

Then the brain chemicals have the apparent ability to make a u-turn and you feel great.  Filled with strong desires to reach out and communicate with people, and to make the world a better place.  To use your talents to fix things or "correct" perceived misunderstandings, sometimes making quite a public splash on the local scene or on social media sites.  Then having to back-peddle, apologize or otherwise deal with the fall-out of taking personal hits from strangers (or even friends) who feel offended.

It has been my experience that neither extreme is controllable by the person with vacillating emotional states.  And I can say with utter conviction that neither extreme is the place I want to be.

In the last century, medical folks performed lobotomies or shock treatments on incarcerated people with mental illness issues.  Now, doctors treat patients with a whole range of drugs.  Drugs that affect the brain chemistry of the patient.  In some cases, these drugs can be successful.  A genuine life saver.  In other cases, some of the side-effects of these drugs can be as terrifying as the original symptoms in completely different ways.  My personal journey through The Wilderness involved drug therapy.  It was hell.


The purpose of this piece -- the first I've been able to write in almost two years -- is to express enormous appreciation for those individuals, friends, and family members who do not abandon someone who is caught in the grasp of a mental health issue.  Those understanding and accepting people seem to have a special capacity to be patient with and accepting of another person when the person mysteriously drops out or doesn't respond to emails, posts, or invitations.

To those who have understood and cared - whether or not you knew anything at all about what was going on with me - thank you!  And I'm sure I can speak for more people than just myself.

I am back ... I hope.