No Life Rehearsals

Live, Love, Laugh–Your Life Depends on It

Has Downton Jumped the Shark?


Photo:  Carnival Films

Photo: Carnival Films

I’m coming to the conclusion that Downton Abbey has either jumped the shark (if you don’t know what that means Google it) or gone Hollywood and I don’t know which one is worse.  You would think that Lord Julian Fellowes (writer, creator and actual peer in the House of Lords) would have a bit more mettle and could resist the urge to go all Dallas on us.  It’s PBS for pete’s sake!  But after watching last week’s episode,  I am baffled, befuddled and profoundly disappointed (yes, a trifecta of words was required here to adequately articulate my feelings in this matter).    I cannot speak to last night’s episode as it remains on the DVR while I sort out my feelings about last week’s episode. [Spoiler alert:  If you are still catching up on Netflix read no further or major plot points of this season and seasons prior will be revealed].

Clearly Lord Fellowes has never had any issues with “killing his darlings” –first, Sybil and then beloved Matthew from last season.  Though I can forgive him Matthew.  Based on my limited research (assuming it’s correct),  Matthew’s exit resulted more from the actor’s desire to get out than by any contrived plot device.  But last Sunday’s episode and what happened to Anna went BEYOND THE PALE, well and truly beyond.

For those of you that saw it, or those of you that aren’t following Downton but are curious what got me all in a dither, Anna (beloved and pure as the driven snow Anna) was brutally assaulted (physically and sexually) downstairs by a visiting servant while everyone else was upstairs listening to an opera singer.   What’s Lord Fellowes going to do next?  Have Mrs. Patmore’s evil twin show up and wreak havoc on the kitchen?   My point is that this “twist” “turn” or whatever you want to call it was utterly and completely unnecessary and felt like a contrived Hollywood plot device.

Is this the first of such grievous offenses?  No, I must admit it is not.  Lord Fellowes tiptoed there before when he had Mr. Bates framed for murdering his estranged wife and then the subsequent convoluted exoneration.  Felt a little too Days of our Lives for me (or for the British contingent, a little too Eastenders), but I let that one go.  But now, Lord Fellowes seems to be drinking the Hollywood kool-aid and can’t seem to get enough.   I know these are harsh words but I hope he takes them in the meaning in which they are intended or to put it bluntly – SHAME ON YOU!

Downton Abbey is not a show that needs crazy plot twists to keep us DDs (Downton Devotees) interested.  I hope I speak for other DDs when I say that we care more about the characters and their daily lives than the overall plot.  I, for one, enjoy, week after week, being immersed in 1920s England and the life of a Lord and his manor.   The first three seasons were pure bliss, and for someone who has never met a period drama on PBS she didn’t like, my needs were fulfilled.   But now, I wonder whether I can go back to Lord Grantham, lady Mary and the absolutely wonderful Dowager Countess of Grantham (played to perfection by the actress Maggie Smith)?

He may have jumped the shark or gone Hollywood but maybe it’s not too late.  Go back to your roots Lord Fellowes.  You have drawn such beautiful and rich characters there is no reason to take any page from the soap opera playbook.  How about it DDs, do you agree?

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The Five Friends You Need in Your Life



As a woman who lost her mom way too young and never having had a sister, my friends provide my support network.  I’ve thought about this support network a lot lately and thought it would make a great blog post. At first I thought it would be about the Mom friends around me and then thought that won’t work because I have a close single friend who’s very important in my life.  Then I changed it to just Women friends but then I realized, at least in my case, one of my closest confidantes is a man (a gay man who truly gets me and all my neuroses!).  So I had to scrap everything and start over.   Now it’s just about Friends period.  Here are the five friends, be it male or female, that you need in your life and conversely, think about whether you fill one or more of these roles in your friend’s lives.

Supportive Sue/Stu – When you’re looking for a shoulder to cry on and your husband just doesn’t get it, this is the friend you need.  This friend’s a great listener, doesn’t judge, reassures you that you’re not going crazy and fully supports your need for a pity party once and awhile and maybe this party needs to include spa treatments…just because.

Partier Pam/Patrick – Need a glass of wine away from the husband and kids on a Tuesday night, this is the friend you call.   Want to see that 80s band that only you like to listen to anymore, this friend will go willingly.   Can you say road trip? Admit it, the road trip friend is ESSENTIAL!

Socialite Samantha/Steve – Every group needs a socialite.   How about supper club next month?  Maybe a game night? Book club? Cookie swap? cyberscooty-let-s-party-1You name it, this friend wants to get a group together and is an endless fount of social ideas. This friend won’t let you hermit and keeps you on track for some much needed socializing with other couples, women friends, and other Moms.

Home Ec Helen/Hank – This is the friend who whips up a refrigerator magnet worthy craft for a dozen kids with nothing more than a paper bag and some glitter.  This friend always brings the best dish to a party and makes you think you too can be a wonder in the kitchen. This friend’s Pinterest boards look like a magazine spread.   Can’t come up with a good idea for your kid’s birthday party, this is the friend to call.     

Workout Wendy/William – Everyone needs a gym buddy or that friend that makes you feel a little guilty for not exercising.   If this friend is super fit, even better.  You may hate this friend (yes, being green with envy occurs even among the best of friends) but let that motivate you!   Want to try running?  The friend will do your first 5K with you. Maybe hot yoga, Zumba or pole dancing is your thing, this friend is game for anything as long as it involves movement and exercise.

True friendship multiplies the good in life and divides its evils. Strive to have friends, for life without friends is like life on a desert island… to find one real friend in a lifetime is good fortune; to keep him is a blessing.  ~Baltasar Gracian



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Searching for The Holy Grail of Donuts: The Mashed Potato Donut


Actual photo of the finished product (pretty awesome right?)

A few weeks ago, I received an email from my brother with a link to a website and a cryptic message “Is this what we’ve been searching for all these years?”  First, I thought it was one of those spam emails with messages designed to get you to click on the link and second, I couldn’t recall that my brother and I were actually searching for anything.  After I confirmed that the link looked legit, I clicked on it and immediately knew that he had found what we’ve been looking for…mashed potato donuts.  The donut of my youth.  The donut that  my brothers and I feasted on when we visited my grandparents on Chestnut Street in Grand Forks, North Dakota.   That fresh hot round cakey yumminess that we placed in a paper bag filled with sugar coating to our hearts and stomachs content.  

My grandmother’s kitchen was exotic to begin with and couldn’t be more wood_cookstove_cooking_lunchdifferent from the seventies yellow appliance and orange counter top kitchen we had at home. The wood burning stove (similar to the one in this picture) churned out delicious food all weekend long when we visited.  My dad, in particular, looked forward to going home to his mother’s cooking.  I know us kids always hoped for donuts on that long six hour drive from Minneapolis.

And now I discover there is a whole bakery in Portland Maine devoted to the mashed potato donut!  A mere 3 hours from my house; can you say “road trip?” Appropriately called The Holy Donut (as it’s the holy grail of donuts in my humble opinion), the website lists 22 flavors including roasted pistachio and bacon and cheddar.  Why anyone would want to make a “savory” donut is beyond me but who am I to question the brilliance of the person who started a business based solely on the mashed potato donut?  She clearly has her head screwed on straight.

Most importantly, the article contained a link to a mashed potato donut recipe and I knew I was in business.  I had this! So, this past Friday, when most of Massachusetts’ schools were cancelled for snow, I hunkered down with the kids and prepped for donut making.  Soon, my kitchen smelled like the Tom Thumb mini-donut concession stand at the Minnesota State Fair.


It smelled good.

Hello, Yankee Candle, are you listening?  You need to bottle that scent. No, no need to thank me.  Seeing that scent on the shelves next Fall will be all the thanks I need.

But, smell is not enough.  The proof is in the pudding (er, donut).  After letting the donut cool for the requisite 1/2 second (because who can wait longer for donuts?), I popped a piece in my mouth.  Donut heaven, childhood memories, and pure food bliss wrapped up in one small bite. The light cakey center and taste was just as I remembered.

IMG_5913Truth be told, my donuts looked prettier than my Grandmother’s ever did.  I don’t think she cared much about their appearance and frankly I don’t either.  That mine turned out practically perfect in appearance was just dumb luck.  Or, some wicked killah baking skills…nah, dumb luck.   My husband and kids had never had a mashed potato donut before and they all said it was the best donut they ever tasted.  Of course, my grandmother’s donuts will always be the best donut I’ve ever tasted, but I’m so happy and grateful that I’m able to continue the tradition for my own kids.  And, to answer my brother’s question, yes, we’ve found what we’ve been searching for.


Mashed Potato Donuts

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons buttermilk powder
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½  teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup well mashed potatoes (just the potatoes no cream or butter and use a potato ricer for best results)
  • Vegetable oil for frying


  1. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, buttermilk powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  2.  In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine eggs and sugar beating until combined and slightly foamy. Add water, melted butter, vanilla and mashed potatoes. Stir until smooth.
  3.  Slowly add flour mixture and stir until just incorporated.
  4. Divide dough and form dough into two balls. Wrap in plastic wrap then flatten into discs. Refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight.
  5. Generously flour a large work surface. Take one of the discs and turn out the dough to coat with flour, sprinkling the surface of the dough with flour to lessen stickiness, if needed. Gently pat the dough to about 1/2 an inch thick. Use a floured 3 inch doughnut cutter to cut out doughnuts and place cut doughnuts and doughnut holes on a floured sheet of parchment paper.
  6. Fill a Dutch oven (I used my dutch oven and it worked great) or large cast iron skillet with 2 inches of oil. Heat oil over medium high heat until 360°F. Drop doughnuts in the oil and fry until a deep golden brown on both sides (about 2 minutes per side). Use chopsticks to turn the doughnuts. Be careful not to crowd the doughnuts in the pan (no more than 2 to 3 doughnuts at a time). Remove doughnuts immediately from the pan using a heat resistant slotted spoon or spatula. Set on paper towel lined baking racks to cool. Once cooled slightly toss in a bag with cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar. Serve immediately.
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