In 1981, I had been married to my second wife for seven years.  It was after she and I had reconciled after a separation, and she moved in with me at Fox Run Apartments in Little Rock.  One Saturday morning, she and I were still asleep when sirens that seemed too close for comfort awakened us.  I got out of bed, looked out the window from our upstairs apartment, and there was a big yellow fire truck next to the building on the grass under our window.  It was then we smelled smoke.  We quickly got dressed, and she grabbed the Yorkie and her jewelry box and purse, and I grabbed my…well, I do not remember what I grabbed, but it was important.  I opened the door on the upstairs stairwell landing, and saw a firefighter coming out of the apartment immediately across from ours, and he was carrying a large paper grocery sack that was smoking.  I asked him, “where is the fire?”  He replied, “In this sack of fireplace ashes that I found in the linen closet.”  He then told me the woman who lived there was not home when the ashes began to smolder.

That very day, we decided to buy a house in the country.  We made an offer on the second house we looked at, in Cabot, Arkansas, and bought it.  Yes, it had a fireplace, and I carried the ashes outside in a metal dishpan at least two days after the ashes cooled.


About 1985, I was tested and diagnosed with severe allergies, and some not so severe.  Tested for 24 common foods, I was allergic to 23 of them.  I was also found to be allergic to a dozen weeds, trees, and grasses.  Did you know that the hops in beer can make you sick if you have grass and weed allergies?  I asked about chocolate, and the nurse said they do not test for chocolate, because everyone has some allergies to chocolate.  Hmmm….  I was also tested for dog and cat allergies.  On a scale of 1 to 6, I was allergic to dogs at a level four.  The doctor told me to get rid of the Yorkie, to which I replied, “I can’t…he’s family, like a child.”  Yes, he gave me itchy eyes, too, but only when I petted him on the couch beside me and touched my face with my fingers.  One major surprise:  I was allergic to soy, including the soy ink used by newspapers.  I would actually get itching eyes while I was reading the newspaper every day.  Then he asked me if I had any cats, and I told him I broke out in a rash on my neck, along with itchy and watering eyes when I visited a friend (Gloria Stachurski) with a cat in her house.  He told me I had a level 6 allergy to cats, but not Siamese (they have a different type of dander).  After visiting the allergy clinic for several weeks to get my injections adjusted, the allergy nurse showed me how to inject myself at home.  I did this at home for two years twice a week, was retested, and found most of my food allergies were mostly gone or minimal, but the cat allergies were permanent.  By the way, my two highest rated food allergies were corn and pork, but apparently not any more.  How to tell if you are allergic to pork:  you are constantly rotating your ankles to pop them, or you have sore joints within five minutes after eating pork.

In 2003, I was divorced at the time, and bought the last house I ever owned.  I knew the previous owners had a large grey smooth-haired dog, but did not realize they had a cat in the house.  The first night I spent in the house, my eyes and neck began to itch.  I could not get to sleep at all that night, so I stayed with a friend.  The next day, I called the agent who handled the sale, told her my problem, and she said the previous owners also had a cat.

I called around and found that Stanley Steemer treated houses for cat dander.  They cleaned the carpet with three different liquids, found bundles of cat fur in the filter on the refrigerator in the kitchen that the owners had sold to me along with the house, and used an electric rotating broom with wet spray attachment and cleaned about five pounds of cat fur out of the air conditioning ducts in the ceiling.  They told me to remove the drapes (that were also left in the house by the previous owners), toss them in the clothes dryer with an anti-static sheet to remove the dander and hair from the drapes.  That was it.  Paid a bill for $365.00 and was able to sleep in the house the second night.

That is why I cannot be near cats or anywhere they live without asking the property owner to do all these things.  Most property owners will not do this for you.  You are on your own unless you have a nice landlord.



Yes, I’ve lived in two different houses in Arkansas with one of these two problems.  Those stories will have to wait for Part II of this journal another day when I have more time.  Did you know that brown recluse spiders only come out to feed after dark, but you can find scorpions anytime, day or night.  Clue to finding scorpions at night:  they glow green under a black light.  How to find brown recluse spiders:  glue traps behind furniture.

Chocolate Éclair Cake

Chocolate Eclair Cake

Chocolate Eclair Cake

This Chocolate Eclair Cake is so easy to make, beautiful, and so deliciously rich! It is equally good regardless of the type of graham crackers used, but I personally prefer old-fashioned honey graham crackers instead of chocolate graham crackers.

Coconut Triple Cream Sensation


Coconut Triple Cream Sensation

Coconut Triple Cream Sensation

Inspired by Coconut Sour Cream Cake, a recipe my mother clipped from The Arkansas Gazette, Jan. 13, 1977, this Coconut Triple Cream Sensation cake is made with boxed cake mix with custom ingredients, and a can of frosting with added coconut. You wouldn’t know all that unless someone told you, because it tastes completely homemade from scratch.

Surprising in its original white color for use anytime, for Valentine’s Day mix 4-5 drops of red food coloring into the batter, stir 4-5 drops into the frosting, and mix the coconut in a bowl with 3-4 drops of red food coloring before sprinkling over the frosting. Rinse maraschino cherries with water, dry off, then place one on each slice of cake. For St. Patrick’s Day, use green food coloring, and use green maraschino cherries.


Club Soda Waffles

Club Soda Waffle

Club Soda Waffle

I have a very old Oster Belgian Waffle Maker, which I’ve used occasionally for over 30 years. It has been knocked around a bit, but it still makes very good thick Club Soda Waffles. I love to use Blackburn’s Butter Pecan syrup on them, too!

Mexican Chicken Stew

Mexican Chicken Stew

My Mexican Chicken Stew was created very quickly, and is one of the tastiest stews I’ve ever made. The added can of chopped chiles spice it up a bit, but I’ve never had anyone complain that it was too spicy.

When I first made the original batch about 1994, my second wife, Carol, liked it so much that she asked me to cook enough for fifteen people for a potluck lunch at her elementary school. She also asked for 20 copies of the recipe in case anyone wanted it. Not only did she give away all 20 copies of the recipe, but all the stew was gone. After our divorce, she published my recipe in the school’s 1998 cookbook, a copy of which I still have.

Using the frozen pre-grilled chicken strips method, I found it to taste almost twice as good as the original method using raw chicken breast. This is the best version of my yet!

What do you think of it?

Cabbage Patch Stew

Cabbage Patch Stew

When I first started making this Cabbage Patch Stew in 1974, I used to receive requests to bring this to work for potluck events, usually in 10-quart pots. There was never a drop left when lunch was over. I’ve tried minor recipe adjustments over the decades, but always come back to this original recipe, almost exactly like I found it in the Arkansas Gazette in 1974. The only thing different about it nowadays is my addition of a single sliced carrot (if you’re sensitive to tomato acids) and a dash of Tabasco or Frank’s RedHot Cayenne Pepper Sauce.

This recipe works best in a 5-quart Dutch oven on the stovetop, but can also be made in a Crock-Pot after the meat, onions, and bell peppers are cooked on the stove top.

Cold outside? You won’t find a better stew to warm you up, and it tastes great. I bet you won’t just be happy with one bowl, either.

Tender Minute Steaks

Tender Minute Steaks

Tender Minute Steaks

This was my most viewed recipe in 2014-2015, and it’s not hard to guess why.

You’re probably thinking that I’m a meat lover, and you would be correct! I love comfort food, and my mother used to cook cubed steaks every which way, but mostly with gravy.  She called them minute steaks, because it only took her a “minute.” I loved them.

Originally published here in 2012 as Tender Cubed Steaks, my Tender Minute Steaks are quite different from my mother’s technique.  This is a unique method, with a thin, crunchy outside and a tender center.  The butter sauce added at the last minute makes it really special, too.  It takes less than 20 minutes from start to finish, and is very tender and tasty.

These particular steaks were only 4 ounces each, but I can easily eat a larger portion.

Southwestern Indoor Grilled Chicken

Southwestern Indoor Grilled Chicken

Southwestern Indoor Grilled Chicken

All you need for my Southwestern Indoor Grilled Chicken is my newly revised Southwestern Chicken Rub and Marinade, olive oil, some chicken breasts, and a George Foreman grill.  You couldn’t ask for an entree that’s easier to prepare, and the taste…oh, my!  Add one of my homemade BBQ sauces on the side for dipping if you desire, but it’s not really needed for this spicy dish.


Blue Plate Beef Patties

Blue Plate Beef PattiesGround sirloin was originally used in this old recipe for Blue Plate Beef Patties, but I found that by using lean ground beef it was very similar, and saves a ton of money.  I also modified the original recipe just today by substituting Swanson Beef Gravy (18.3-oz carton) for the original recipe’s Heinz Savory Beef Gravy in a 12-ounce jar, because this substitution allowed more gravy in case you like some on your mashed potatoes like I do.

Today, I used a bed of Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice mix underneath the beef pattie, then covered the whole thing with a little extra gravy.

This recipe beats any beef pattie recipe you’ve ever tried…guaranteed.

Today’s lunch can be seen below.  I actually made two half-pound patties, but it was too much for one meal, so I now have enough meat and gravy for 3 more meals:

Blue Plate Beef Patties (2)

Holiday Cornbread Dressing

Holiday Cornbread Dressing

Holiday Cornbread Dressing

This Crock-Pot Holiday Cornbread Dressing recipe will make your mouth water as the aroma wafts about your house.  It’s easy to mix up, and only takes 3-1/2 to 4 hours cooking time.  You can make it in a regular 4-quart Crock-Pot, but I prefer my new 3-1/2 quart Casserole Crock.  Today will be the 3rd time I’ve made this in the Casserole Crock since November.  I’ve been doing an earlier version of this recipe in a regular Crock-Pot every holiday since 2006.

A major player in this recipe is the sage I used.  I order it from http://myspicesage.com, where I buy most of my herbs and seasonings.  One of my favorite things about this vendor is that if you order $10 or more, you get a free 1-ounce sample of the spice of your choice.  When it comes to sage, I order a large 4-ounce bag because I use a lot of it.

Since this sage is rather coarse, be sure to rub it between your palms before adding it to the other ingredients.  If you love sage in your cornbread dressing, you must try this.


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