November 27, 2015

Cherry-Pear Jello Dessert

Thanksgiving reminds me of the big family dinners we used to have at my great-grandmother's house. The table was loaded with all kinds of wonderful food, and I would stuff myself until I slid out of my chair and collapsed under the table.

I always liked the Jello dessert my grandmother made. This year, I attempted to reproduce it.

  • 2 cans (15 oz. each) pear halves in juice
  • 1 package (6 oz.) cherry Jello
  • water as needed
  • 5 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • Drain the pears, saving the juice.
  • Next, make the Jello according to package instructions, but with 3/4 the amount of liquid called for. Use the pear juice for the liquid, adding water as necessary to get the right amount. (The recipe calls for 2 cups boiling and 2 cups cold. I used 2 cups boiling and 1 cup cold.)
  • After allowing the Jello to chill in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes (it should still be liquid), put it into the blender with 2 ounces cream cheese, and blend until thoroughly mixed and frothy.
  • Pour the Jello/cream cheese mixture into a shallow dish. Mine was approximately 7 x 10 x 2 inches. The goal is to get a level that will be even with the pear halves.
  • Next, arrange the pear halves, hollow side up, in the dish with the Jello.
  • Put the dish into the refrigerator and allow it to chill until solid, about 2 hours (more if necessary).
  • In a small mixing bowl, combine 3 ounces cream cheese with the sugar and walnuts. Form this mixture into balls and place them in the hollows of the pears. Keep covered in the refrigerator until serving time.
  • Use a spatula to slice the Jello into rectangles around the pears, and serve. (Serves 6.)


The dessert looked cute and tasted great. Hubby said he would be happy to have more.

What I Would Change
  • I bought store brand pears, and found the quality inconsistent. Some were too firm and others too soft. A few were fragments instead of complete halves. Next time, I'll try a premium brand.
  • Any red flavor Jello would be good with this, and orange would probably work, too. Save a few calories by making it with sugar-free Jello.
  • Hazelnuts in place of walnuts would be great.
  • Wouldn't these look great topped with maraschino cherries?
  • Another way to do this would be to use pear pieces instead of halves and stir them evenly into the Jello, then make a larger quantity of the cheese-nut topping and spread it as a top layer.


Culinary nostalgia is tasty.

November 26, 2015

A Time For Hope

All too often, the joys of the holiday season are diluted with sorrow. As another year slowly comes to an end, many of us feel the ache of dreams unfulfilled, the regret of actions not taken. More than ever, we are aware of the relentless progress of time, and we may feel discouraged about our future prospects.

If we have spent much time watching and reading the news, we may feel anxious and fearful. Fear is the enemy of hope. If we allow fear to fill our minds, we lose hope, and with that we lose our sense of meaning in life.

In a special Thanksgiving message John Gottman reminds us that this is a season of hope. He offers a plan that can turn our lives around with a renewed sense of purpose.

Where there is love, there is hope.

November 25, 2015

Unconditional Love

When our oldest cat died, Bob was left alone. He needed a companion, so we went back to the animal rescue center where we had adopted him.

After interviewing a couple of candidates, we settled on Jake. We got permission to take him home on a trial basis, to make sure he and Bob would get along. We expected to have Jake for about a week before making a decision, since cats typically need a period of adjustment before accepting someone new.

With Jake safely protected in his carrier, we introduced the two. Surprisingly, there was absolutely no hissing or growling, no raised fur. Bob perked up when he saw Jake, and exhibited calm interest. Jake looked a bit nervous. After all, he had just been plopped down in another cat's territory.

We let Jake out of the carrier so he and Bob could interact under our supervision. Bob liked Jake right away. It took Jake some time to get used to being in a new house. He spent a lot of time hiding under the couch or trying to crawl into cupboards. He was a little worried about our intentions. But he was never worried about Bob, who had completely accepted him at first sight. We didn't need a week; Bob's affection for Jake made the decision for us by the second day.

Four years later, the two are still best friends. Although they aren't together every minute, they spend most of their time in close proximity. They love to take naps together, and can often be found sitting side by side at the window, soaking up the sun and watching the birds and lizards. They are happy to help each other groom those hard-to-reach ears and necks. Sharing food is never a problem. If they can't get both their heads into the bowl at the same time, one will patiently wait for the other to finish.

Sure, once in a while they have a minor squabble. There is some wrestling, some chasing, a little fur flies, and then they are finished and ready to cuddle up again. Whatever started it is quickly forgiven and forgotten.

What a great life: a safe home, plenty of good food, the occasional catnip party, and -- best of all -- spending every day with your best friend.

November 24, 2015

The Never-Ending Battle

Do you have an unsolved problem with your spouse, one that has left you feeling perpetually resentful, mistreated, or hopeless?

Perhaps your partner does things that are hurtful, unfair, inconsiderate, insulting, annoying, or completely outrageous. It has become impossible to discuss the situation, because he or she immediately gets defensive, refuses to listen, takes a completely illogical approach, or blames you.

If this sounds familiar, you probably have a perpetual problem.

Dr. John Gottman's research tells us that most couples have at least one perpetual problem. To an outsider, some of these problems may seem trivial, or they may appear to have obvious solutions. But in the context of the relationship they cannot be solved because there is a deeper meaning for each person. Perpetual problems represent fundamental differences in personality or values.

Perpetual problems often lead to a stalemate in which both people refuse to budge and may even become more extreme in their positions. Each sees the other as unreasonable, perhaps even malicious or crazy. They distance themselves from each other and the relationship falls apart.

However, this scenario is not the only possibility. Many couples manage to work with their perpetual problems and remain happy in the relationship. They have acknowledged that the problem is not likely to go away, but they can examine it without attacking each other. There doesn't have to be a winner or a loser.

The first step to handling a perpetual problem is to understand its cause. Problems like this usually represent what Gottman calls dreams, the hopes and goals that are part of your core personality and that help make your life meaningful.

For example, money is often a very sensitive issue in relationships. It's not unusual to hear X accuse Y of being a cheapskate, while Y accuses X of being a spendthrift. Money fights have become the main theme of their marriage, and each thinks the other is completely unreasonable. Neither one knows what is really behind the other's position.

What this couple can do is sit down for an honest, non-judgmental conversation in which each one gets a turn to speak sincerely about what this issue means. While one person is speaking, the listener can ask questions in order to get more clarity, always remembering not to argue or criticize. In an emotionally safe environment, they will discover the real meaning behind the money arguments.

Y's father was an alcoholic who couldn't hold down a job. What little money he made was spent on drinking, or on impulsively-purchased luxury items, rather than on food and other necessities. The family lost their home to foreclosure. They had no savings, no insurance. Y's mother worked at menial jobs, and Y dropped out of school in order to help. They never had enough money to deal with emergencies and had to accept help from judgmental relatives. Y vowed never to be in that situation again. For Y, living a frugal life and building up a savings account creates an all-important sense of security. Any unnecessary spending threatens that security.

X grew up in a home where the constant refrain was "We can't afford it." Both parents were reluctant to spend money, and any expenditure beyond the bare necessities required a great deal of analysis and negotiation. They never ate out, and family vacations were low-budget car trips with everyone crowded into a cheap motel room at night. X was ashamed of their old car and second-hand clothes, and felt dejected over not being able to afford activities with classmates. For X, having enough money to spend on life's comforts and pleasures is a sign of success and triumph over hardship.

When X and Y reveal their dreams, they can see that this is an issue that has a deeper meaning for each of them. They can now recognize and respect each other's dream.

X is never going to give up the need to spend money on fun and luxury. Y is never going be comfortable without building a large, secure nest egg. But with understanding and respect they can look for common ground and find ways to experiment with temporary compromises. They may never find the perfect solution, but it is possible that they can gradually make adjustments that allow them to build a new dream together.

November 23, 2015

Are You Lonesome Tonight?

It's hard to tell if this was intended seriously. The idea is that, if your sweetheart is out of town -- or if you are single and lonely -- you can comfort yourself by cuddling up to this pillow in place of the missing man.

Apparently there is a market for this, if only as a gag gift, as there are several competing products listed on the page. One drawback they all seem to share is that they all are left-armed. If you are used to snuggling on the right side, you may be out of luck.

Besides, no matter how it is shaped, a pillow lacks so many important qualities -- body heat, chest hair, and the other half of the torso. On the other hand (heh-heh), it won't snore, and it won't kick you if you do.

I'm not going to buy one of these any time soon. But I did enjoy reading the many satirical reviews.