Saturday, April 28, 2012


Yes, it is true.
I made a home cooked meal from scratch!
My culinary skills are right up there with my home improvement abilities.  Suffice to say,  I am very well known around the Belden Village restaurant community as a "regular".
While channel surfing, I came upon a Hallmark channel cooking show called Mad Hungry... and boy, was I hungry.
This episode featured bacon as the main ingredient in many delicious recipes.
With apologies to Babe, I just LOVE bacon!!!
I find the aroma alone seductive and irresistible.
The executive food director Lucinda Scala Quinn reported that this recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara could be perfected by any 12 year old and completed in the  time it takes to cook the pasta.

Hmm, my expertise in the kitchen is about par level to that of the average child.
I think I can do this.
And I did!

Here is the recipe:

1 pound spaghetti
1/2 pound bacon, sliced crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces
3 large eggs (room temperature)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (plus extra for serving)
freshly ground black pepper
*optional 2-3 cloves garlic minced  (parsley, wine or cream if you wish)
you can also add olive oil to the bacon while frying

Bring a large pot of (salted) water to a boil and cook spaghetti 9-10 min
Meanwhile, in a large skillet cook the bacon over medium low heat until just crispy.
Drain pasta and add to bacon in pan.
 *although Lucinda skipped the strainer and added pasta directly from boiling water into bacon pan
toss to combine
whisk together the eggs, cheese, and pepper in small bowl.
pour the egg/cheese mix into the pasta and combine thoroughly.  Don't worry, the warm pasta will cook the raw eggs into a sauce.
Serve immediately with extra grated cheese on top.

Serves 6 people

Thursday, April 26, 2012

My artistic endeavor and its consequences                                                                                                                                                                                                      

At 5 pm last night, I decided to paint the clothes line poles in my back yard.
They had faded to an unrecognizable color and I thought that perhaps "midnight black" might be a more environmentally friendly color.
This was an impulsive decision on my part, with absolutely no plan or forethought.
Not the first time I have bull dozed into a project without thinking it through- and probably not the last!  
The Home Depot service rep suggested a "roller brush" to apply the paint with the most efficiency and ease.   It would soon become clear that he was not the final authority on "Painting 101".

Nonetheless, I purchased the complete roller package, paint and clothes lines (in cheerful shades of lime green, cobalt blue and electric purple) and headed home to begin my home improvements.
Below you see just one of the results that I am willing to photograph!
My hair was already speckled with "natural"  golden highlights before I began...add a little black to the mix.
My Uggs are now splattered into retirement.  My shirt and jeans are in the garbage bin and the grass around the poles appears as if a major brush fire swept through the area.

To top it off, it began to rain within hours of the final coat of paint.
Today it continues to pour and the clothes line holes
 are all clogged with sticky goo. 
 I should have purchased an umbrella to shield myself from
the resulting "black rain"!!  
 Next time I will dial 1-800-HELP ME 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

"All who wander are not lost"

My top ten vacation destinations:

Number 1

Walt Disney World Resort  (Orlando, Florida)

"Disneyland...will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world."

Author: Walt Disney

I was well into my twenties when I first entered the Magic Kingdom.  It was the early 1970's and Epcot, Animal Kingdom and MGM (Hollywood) studios were still a dream and a shovel away from existence.

Traveling on my own, I was quite overwhelmed on this my maiden voyage- exploring the world of Disney- where my inner child could once again be set free.

With a silly grin plastered on my face,  I practically glowed with anticipation from the moment I stepped through the gates and saw Cinderella's castle for the first time.  Tears of joy welled up in my eyes as I heard Jiminy Cricket singing, "When you wish upon a star". 
  I was home at last!

Since those early days, I have had the opportunity to return over and over again to the world's most- visited entertainment resort, and one that rightfully boasts:  "we create magic and memories".  
One of the highlights for me was experiencing the wonder of the Main street Electrical Parade.
It featured floats and live performers covered in electronically controlled lights and a synchronized soundtrack.  It began, "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Disneyland proudly presents our spectacular festival pageant of night time magic and imagination in thousands of sparkling lights and electro-synthe-magnetic musical sounds."

The music was infectious and the light show amazing to behold.  I think I held my breath the entire time!  

My brother David, his wife Cheryl, and my sister Beth accompanied me on this trip, and we were dining at the Liberty Tree Tavern.  I will never forget the moment we heard the music and we all jumped out of our seats and rushed to the window.  When we realized the parade route was passing by the restaurant, we ran outside and were immediately rendered speechless.  (that is saying a lot for a "Kucera")  Together we experienced a truly "magical moment"... one that will not soon be forgotten.

"Party of five": My good friends Donna & Larry and Cindy & Harvey are frequent companions on my Disney vacations.  Time and troubles disappear when you enter the land of  Imagination.  Years fade away and yes, there is that nostalgic "inner child" to let out to romp and play!
The men are good sports about appearing in our many photos!

Thanks to Cindy, I was introduced to the Disney Vacation Club (high quality time share properties) and have been privileged  to revisit my "home away from home" many times. (In fact, I maintain a yearly pilgrimage!) 
I also traveled to California to visit the original Disneland and  to Euro Disney outside of Paris. 
 We have stayed at every resort on the properties, but my favorite is, and always will be, The Boardwalk Villa, an Atlantic City-style seaside resort that sits along a festive boardwalk.

Donna, in front of the Boardwalk resort, walking distance from Epcot.  

Saturday, April 14, 2012

"Cheaper by the dozen"

Ask my parents... and they probably would not have agreed with the idiom cheaper by the dozen.  We were maybe not as poor as a church mouse but growing up in a parsonage (a house provided for the attending minister and his family ) did not make us rich, either.

My Dad's first congregation was in Prince George, Virginia.  Jan (Skipper, Skip, John) was their "only child" and he was quite the little prince-
first born son, first grandchild, first get the picture!
They moved  to Steubenville, Ohio in 1949 and I arrived shortly thereafter.  (Judith Ann, Judy Ann, Judi-  second heir to the throne, first daughter, first grand daughter, etc.)

The "perfect" little family.

Then along came a succession of "spare heirs"  that seemed never ending.
The twins arrived in 1952:  David (Buddah, Bude) and Mark!!  Then three more sons:  Daniel, Stephen and Nicholas.

My parents certainly had a biblical theme going.

I finally got my first sister (Lois Ann) in 1959, the year we moved to Lakewood.  At nearly ten years of age and after six brothers, I was over the moon with excitement!
Check out my early Vidal Sassoon haircut!  Wasn't I the trend setter? (Actually it looks a bit more  "bowl on the head" or institutional  in design)  My Dad saved money by also taking on the role of "barber" in our home. I can still see the sad faces of my brothers as they waited their turn, standing in line like sheep to the slaughter!

Laurie Ann (Lauren)  arrived in 1961 and two years later came Beth Ann - who was to be the tenth and final Kucera offspring. That brought us to an even dozen.
This is our beloved Lakewood parsonage.
We spent our wonder years growing up on a busy main street (Madison Avenue) right next door to the church. Filled with pianos and endless "hide and go seek" hiding places, we spent hours playing in the pews, and exploring the balcony and many Sunday school rooms.  What  adventures we had!
Our home was also directly across the street from a park, pool and library! How lucky were we?!
There were officially only 4 bedrooms to divide among the twelve of us, but we improvised and learned to share quite early in life.  Bunk beds and cribs helped make the best of tight quarters and later on, as the boys grew older and more independent,  they took up residence in the basement.
to the left of our home was church

Nic lived under the laundry chute and Jan had his own "playroom" complete with a fireplace.  The "twins" later inherited this room when Jan left for college.  They turned it into quite the Hippie haven.
I still remember them slipping in girl friends through the narrow windows like letters into a mailbox!
They decorated  with peace symbols and other 60's paraphernalia. Visitors to the den of iniquity dipped their hands in paint and the walls were plastered with psychedelic hand imprints.  The music played on relentlessly, the base pounding up through the very ceiling. I remember one song in particular by Iron Butterfly ( In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida)  that clocked in at just under 17 minutes.

I remember my Dad always yelling in vain,  'Tone it down!"

The illegal entrance to the "playroom"... before they put in safety glass windows!

We had an actual picnic table in the kitchen to accommodate our growing numbers, but perhaps the most daunting task was arranging the bathroom schedule.  Only one tub for 12 had its limitations, although in "the good old days" it helped that you usually only bathed once a week, on Saturday night.  If you were last in line, the water was quite "used" and the soggy towels left you more wet than dry.

But despite the minor inconveniences, we always had food on our table and a warm, safe place to sleep.  Our "stay at home" mom kept us in clean, ironed clothes and you never lacked for playmates.
We all lived happily ever after in a beautiful loving home and made special memories that would last a life time.
 Here we are in the 1970's (our hair styles certainly give us away!)
"The Parents" as we affectionately refer to them.
One of the last family group shots taken before my father passed away in 2001.
The ten siblings taken the year my Mom passed away in 2009

Monday, April 9, 2012

"He is risen: He is Risen indeed!!"

Up at the crack of dawn, we gathered together at St. John's Lutheran church for an early morning sunrise service and continental breakfast.
The weather was a bit iffy but at least there was no snow or rain in the forecast!
And we had plenty of sunshine in our hearts.

Danny (brother) and his Sous-chef Blaze (nephew) then began the arduous preparations for what would become our Easter Sunday Feast.
Not quite the traditional holiday cuisine, the menu included beef brisket, Cornish game hens and duck Ala "something or other". More like Passover than Easter!

They expertly sliced, diced and chopped away for hours.  They arranged  beds of vegetables of every size, shape and color in  casseroles  to support the meat dishes.
Danny then created a glorious Slovak speciality called Halushki (bacon, onion, cabbage, noodles, etc)

The sisters brought many delicious side dishes- everything from mashed potatoes to salads and deserts.  I made my infamous deviled eggs... not without their own unique set of challenges!
All in all, it was a beautiful day filled with family and good Christian fellowship

As my father always used to say at the end of every meal, "Let's hear it for the cook!!"

My beautiful Lilly and Easter basket from Lois.
Niece Renee's dog Mia and her rescued Easter bunny could not attend the festivities. But they dressed in the holiday spirit

Danny's signature that he puts on all his special dishes at
the Washington Convention Center.  "D" for Danny-
made from shallots!

Beth and Lois, the "clean up crew"

The guys relaxing after the hard work of consuming such a heavy meal!  (Chris, Colin and Roy)

The cousins: Colin, Trevor, Blaze, Ryan and Jenn

Saturday, April 7, 2012

"Guess who's coming to dinner?!"

I just found out yesterday that I will be hosting our annual Easter celebration!
Not to worry, as my brother "the chef" is coming from Washington, DC.

He is executive Chef at the Convention center and will manage things from a cooking perspective.
All I have to do is CLEAN!!!
My sister Lois promises she will assist with the challenge of  making my house "company worthy".
As they say, "It takes a village..."
Oh, yeah, and you'll never guess what they asked me to bring:  deviled eggs!!
How ironic given my recent fiasco.

I did since purchase "Eggies" ("no more messy peeling, hard boil eggs without shells") and am hoping for more success.
Yes, I will stand post this time.
The menu includes short ribs, Cornish hens and roasted duck.
(What, no honey baked ham?)
Danny tends to favor an exotic, rather gourmet approach to meal planning.
Stay tuned for further developments.

Monday, April 2, 2012

"Jesus Christ Superstar"

Did I ever tell you about the time I met "Jesus" in person?
OK, it was really Ted Neeley, the actor, who portrayed Jesus in the 1971 hit movie Jesus Christ Superstar.

He also stared in multiple stage productions of the Gospel inspired rock opera  for an impressive forty years!
Loyal  fans are referred to as "Ted Heads".

My sisters (Laurie and Beth) and I drove up to Cleveland's Playhouse Square and witnessed a fantastic revival  that certainly left us star struck.  After the show, we congregated outside the stage door and were able to meet and greet the actors.
They were so gracious and appreciative when we told them about our Holy Week tradition of playing old JCS movie soundtracks and videos. I even got a kiss on the cheek from "Judas".  The irony was not lost with that unexpected gesture.  My brother Nic, who also happened to be attending the show, captured the moment on film. You can see my shocked reaction in the photo just after Carl Anderson (Judas) surprised me!

The music and lyrics are Andrew Lloyd Weber and Timothy Rice at their very best.  I have every album, CD, cassette, video and DVD ever made! Suffice to say, if my future nursing home ever puts on a geriatric version, I can play any part from Mary Magdalene to Pontious Pilot.
As tried and true "PK"s" (preacher's kids), that afternoon was certainly one of the highlights of our ecumenical lives.
To say we experienced a true religious moment is no overstatement.
However, my father was less then thrilled with the many musicals that took on biblical themes.
I remember an evening way back in the early 1970's when our family attended the opening of Godspell at the Lakewood Shakespeare Theatre.
This was an early musical by Stephen Schwartz - the future author of  Wicked.
It was a modern day song and dance recreation of parables based on the Gospel of St.Matthew.  I can see now how my poor father, a very conservative Lutheran minister,  might have  interpreted the inappropriate humor (Jesus was dressed as a clown) as an insult and mockery of his beliefs.
At the end of the show, the final curtain call did not find my father participating in the standing ovation.
But my mother and I made up for his lack of enthusiasm!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

"Yes, Virginia, there are no Easter eggs!!"

Peacefully dozing  on my recliner, I was blissfully unaware of the disaster brewing in the kitchen.
I awoke to a series of LOUD popping sounds coming from the next room.  In my confusion from the nap,   I first thought it was a wayward flock of birds that had flown off course into my back window.
But then I smelled a pungent aroma coming from the stove, and there was my "egg-cident" in all its glory.
I had been cooking a pot of hard boiled eggs and they had been boiling away beyond the suggested 8-10 minutes.
Therefore the water, having evaporated, left the poor eggs with only one option... explosion!!
In a pathetic attempt at damage control, I grabbed up the smoldering remains and dumped them unceremoniously into the sink.
Mistake number two: Do NOT leave the drain engaged.
My egg debris and the steady stream of water soon overwhelmed the confines of the sink and while I was out of the room (making an emergent "pit stop"), the overflow proceeded to flood my kitchen floor.  What a mess!
The next time I want decorative eggs, I will go to the Easter early sunrise church  breakfast with a doggy bag in my purse.