Happy Birthday, Gregorio!

This evening we gathered in Pasadena to celebrate our son-in-law Gregorio’s birthday. Sarah had ordered all sorts of delicious food for us to eat and we sat in their yard so we could also enjoy the cool temperatures. Liz, Ron, and Rachael were there (Ariel had to work) plus Luna and Nico, of course, along with Luna’s godfather, Casey. It was a relaxed and easy evening filled with laughter, gifts and birthday cake. 

Afterward, Rachael and I tidied the kitchen and then I supervised baths for the babies. That is a treat for me and also is a gift to two tired parents. Ray and I are now on our way home. 

Gregorio, we love you. Here’s to a wonderful upcoming year filled with fun, good health and prosperity!

5-Star Turkey Meatloaf Recipe

I made turkey meatloaf for lunch today, along with mashed potatoes, steamed carrots and a green salad.  This is one of my favorite meals, especially the turkey meatloaf.  I am including the recipe below just in case you’d like to try it. I can promise this is a tried-and-true recipe that will not disappoint.  I have been using this recipe for several years now and it continues to produce a delicious turkey meatloaf with just the right texture and flavor.

If you do try it, be sure and let me know the result.

Happy cooking.

We’ll talk again tomorrow.

Turkey Meatloaf

1 1/2 pound lean ground turkey
1 cup milk or chicken broth
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoon chopped fresh basil or 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon mustard
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 chopped clove garlic
1 egg
3/4 cup ground cracker crumbs
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup red pepper
1/4 cup ketchup

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients except ketchup. Spread mixture in greased 8 x 4 or 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. Spread ketchup over.

Bake uncovered 1 – 1 1/4 hours or until the thermometer reads at least 160 degrees. Let stand 5 minutes. Remove from pan.



Nicki, Max, Aretta and Zelda’s Visit from Texas

Our niece, Nicki, her husband, Max, and their kids, Aretta and Zelda, left today.  We had a lot of fun.  Aretta is four and Zelda is fourteen-months.  On Friday night, we went to Sarah’s house for a barbecue. Saturday, we headed to the Griffith Observatory, Carnie’s on Sunset Boulevard for lunch, a birthday party for a baby friend and then a pizza party at our house. Sunday, we went to the Getty Museum in the morning, had lunch there, then drove to Zuma Beach above Malibu.  We came home and had leftover pizza and a salad. Today, Nicki and Max left early to explore downtown Hollywood and the La Brea Tar Pits.  I just heard from them a few minutes ago and they are sitting in the airport with a delayed flight to Austin.  Still, they are settled and with two kids in tow, that can be good all on its own.  Happy travels to the Leatherwood-Schooler family.  We love you all.

Here are a few photos commemorating our time together.



Today we went with our Texas relatives to the Griffith Observatory.  We arrived before the doors opened so that we could get a jump on any crowds; however, we had not expected the parking lots to already be full, plus people hiking up from down the road where they had parked.  But lucky for us, someone pulled out of their parking place fairly close to the top and we scooted right in.  The busyness of the observatory reflected summer. There were people speaking a dozen different languages and tour buses filled with foreign tourists.  The best part of our time at the observatory was the show they put on entitled “Water is Life.”  We learned about the importance of water on earth and the search on other planets where it might exist.  Fascinating stuff and Luna and Aretta seemed to love it.

After the observatory, we drove down to Carney’s on the Sunset Strip where we had lunch.  Carney’s is an old railroad car that’s been there for many years.  The food is decent as are the prices.  Liz and Ron met us there.  From there we came home, had a nap, then headed to a birthday party for a little one-year-old who is Liz and Ron’s God son.  Afterward, our kids came to our house for a pizza party.

A full but happy day.

Here are the photos from Carney’s.  Photo credit goes to Liz.



Two Cousins Meet After a Long Four Years

Luna and her cousin Aretta were born within a week of each other back in 2013.  They have corresponded by mail and email, as well as heard stories about each other, but today was their big meeting.  Aretta’s parents, Nicki and Max, are visiting here from Austin, Texas and Nicki is my first cousin Lee’s daughter.  Lee and I were also born within a week of each other back in 1953.

The pictures tell it all.  We had a family gathering tonight at Gregorio and Sarah’s house. Lots of good food and laughter and a happy connection for these two little girls who soon were acting as though they had seen each other every day of their four-year-old lives.

Family is good.  Love is good.  A wonderful evening.

The College Essay Process: Here We Go Again!

I met with a college essay student today and heard his first attempt at a Common Application essay produced in his high school’s five-day essay prep class.  He had picked Prompt #1 (of 7), which is: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story. Now let me go on record that this is usually one of the prompts I ask my students to avoid. As it turns out, 47% of students who apply to colleges using the Common Application answer this particular prompt.  My logic is that going with a less popular prompt immediately marks you as a bit more adventurous and also gives you a better chance of standing out.  Besides, you really do need something uniquely different so that you can make a real mark with this prompt.  Alas, this boy’s great-grandfather was a significant person in both Iran and Israel and was a huge influence on this boy.  So, okay, let’s assume we can get our teeth into this and move forward.His essay?

His high school counselor called it a strong first attempt.  I would agree with that assessment.  The boy had done a decent job of laying out the story of his great-grandfather and then how the great-grandfather’s life had inspired his own.  Not bad. But here is the secret to strong personal essays: they must pull the reader in, cause them to really care about the characters, and make the reader feel something by the end of those 650 words.  A lump in the throat, a wayward tear, a sniffly nose.  These are indicators that the essay evoked some serious emotion.  And how is that serious emotion evoked? By digging deep for the real memories that caused this boy to feel so connected to his great-grandfather, throwing in sense details (what he saw, heard, smelled, tasted, felt) to bring the scene to life, and demonstrating through concrete examples how great-granddad’s influence is still alive and well in the boy’s life.  That has a chance to bring a tear.

I say to all my students, “If I don’t cry at the end of your essay, then we need to redo the essay.”  That is the litmus test for every powerful (and award-winning essay) that has been produced by my many students.  “Make me cry and we’re good to go,” I say.  And because of some natural proclivity I have to get choked up no matter how many times I’ve heard an essay, this is an amazingly predictable outcome, provided the essay actually is touching.  I do not cry on demand, but give me an open, honest and heartwarming story and you can bet the tears will flow.

So, my student and I have a game plan.  He will go home and think about all the things about his great-grandfather that stood out to him and made him special.  He will think about what he saw, smelled, felt, heard, or tasted that created some connection between him and this wonderful influence in his life. He will remember any stories about great-granddad that my student especially liked and bring them next time to our meeting. From there, we’ll start to build a very specific essay that combines love, affection, and influence with down-to-the-color-of-his-eyes detail.

I think we have something good cooking here.  I’ll look forward to getting more of this information so we can shape this story to produce the most powerful essay possible for this 18-year-old boy.

That’s the fun of coaching the writing of these essays.  I learn a lot about my students and in the process, we become good friends.

And, of course, I look forward to that moment when I’m reading the completed essay and my throat catches from some sweet detail or lesson learned and I feel the sting of tears in my eyes.

That’s when I know we’re done.

That’s a satisfying feeling.

how to write college essay



Evening with Nico and Luna

We have visitors this evening. Our grandkids are here and we are both a little surprised just how tired we both are after an afternoon and evening with little Nico. Luna is easy, you can talk with her about whatever she wants to do. But Mr. Nico at 18 months is pure motion. You look down for one second and he is gone. There is a lot of sprinting after him

Right now he is asleep by my side. But I will not be surprised if  he wakes up early to head downstairs. 

On that note, I will close. Need to get my shuteye so I can keep up with this little dynamo!

 We will talk tomorrow. 

Flash Fiction, Memoir and Essay

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