Wednesday, September 29, 2010


What a Wonderful World...

"What is it about funerals that brings out the tuna casserole in people?” DiDi wondered, gingerly taking her third one this week out of the microwave. She knew the oven mitts were around somewhere but wasn’t up to looking for them. She quickly plopped the steaming casserole dish on the counter and opened the silverware drawer to grab a spoon.


The warm, buttery noodles drenched in heavy cream with tuna, baby peas, Parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of bread crumbs with a hint of nutmeg was just what DiDi needed… comfort food.

Thank God for the kindness of friends and the creamy goodness of tuna casseroles. They had both seen her through the last three days since Calvin Jr. had left to go back to New York. In that time, DiDi had barely been out of bed, and then, only to shuffle into the kitchen for another helping of tuna casserole. Sitting at the kitchen counter, she turned on the TV for company.

“What’s with all these court shows and game shows?” she thought, flipping through the channels. “Where are all my favorite soap operas?” Disappointed, DiDi hurriedly finished up her tuna casserole, putting the spoon in the dishwasher and the half-empty casserole dish into the refrigerator before shuffling back to the bedroom… where she had cable.

Before she could get there, however, Mitzi Martin-Nelson burst through the door with Calvin’s former crime-solving partner, Chris Egan.

“DiDi, why haven’t you returned any of our calls? That isn’t like you. We were all worried sick about you!” squealed Mitzi.

“Not like me? It’s not like me to be a widow, either,” DiDi snapped. “Maybe not returning calls is part of my new normal! And, by the way, how did you two get in here?”

“Spare key in the flower pot,” said Chris. “Calvin told me you guys always kept one there in case of emergency.”

At the mention of Calvin’s name, DiDi burst into tears… with Chris and Mitzi quickly running to throw their arms around her in consolation.

“This is so hard,” she sobbed. “This is so damn hard. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Calvin and I were supposed to grow old together, sitting in the swing on the front porch and watching our grandkids play in the yard. Now, Calvin will never see his grandkids, Mitzi… he’ll never get to see his grandkids. And I’ll never get to see him again!!!"

“DiDi,” said Chris guardedly, “you know Calvin would never want to see you this unhappy. And we knew it, too. So, after three days of not returning phone calls, Mitzi and I decided to stage an inter-friend-tion.”

“Yep,” said Mitzi,” like the song says, that’s what friends are for!

Looking at Mitzi and Chris and seeing the concern and compassion in their eyes, DiDi couldn’t help thinking that while she may have lost the love of her life, she was still fortunate to have love in her life… as evidenced by these two wonderful and loving friends.

“You’ve always been so strong for everybody else,” Mitzi continued, “now let us be strong for you. Like the song says,lean on me!

“We apologize for barging in like this,” said Chris, “but you weren’t answering any of our phone calls we got worried.”

“Not only is your apology accepted, but your inter-friend-tion is most appreciated,” sighed DiDi.

“Great!” said Mitzi. “Then is it okay for us to come back tomorrow? There’s someplace Chris and I would like to take you.”

“Oh, dear,” thought DiDi, “Am I ready for this?”

“Come on, DiDi,” pleaded at the distraught look on DiDi's face Mitzi, “Just this one little favor for your old roommate?”

“Okay,” said DiDi, smiling. She had always been unable to resist any of Mitzi's heartfelt appeals… even if they ended up getting both of them into trouble... which had happened on more than one occasion.

“Terrific,” said Chris, “we’ll pick you up tomorrow around eleven. Let us help you get back into full swing again.”

“Absolutely!” said Mitzi. “That’s what Calvin would want…like the song says, "Before the parade passes by."

“Okay, Mitzi,” said DiDi, laughing, “Enough with the song titles! I get it. And I’ll be ready to go with you two wherever you want me to go.

“Great, then our work is done here,” said Chris. “So, we’ll get out of your way then and leave you to your… uh, is that tuna casserole that I smell?”

“Sure is,” said DiDi, “I have plenty if you’d like some.”

“I don’t want to impose,” said Chris.

“Oh now you don’t want to impose!” chuckled DiDi. “Unless there’s someplace else you have to rush off to, why don’t you two stay awhile and I’ll put on a pot of tea?”

“Why DiDi Bannister-Stoner, I thought you’d never ask! You may not be good at returning phone calls but it’s nice to see you haven’t forgotten all your manners,” teased Mitzi.

“And I see you’re still a smarty-pants!” retorted DiDi.

Climbing into bed that night, DiDi’s spirit felt much lighter. The visit from her old friends, though unexpected, turned out to be just what she needed. And now she was looking forward to tomorrow. Turning out the light, she thought, it was just like the song says, "I'll get by with a little help from my friends...."

Didi’s Favorite Creamy Tuna Casserole

1 large (1-16 oz) can chunk white tuna, drained
1 12 oz pkg. egg noodles
1 pkg frozen peas (or peas & carrots)
3 tbsp. butter
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 small carton heavy cream
¼ teaspoon cracked black pepper
¼ teaspoon kosher salt (to taste)
¾ c grated parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon thyme
¼ teaspoon oregano
1 cup breadcrumbs

Cook noodles according to package instructions, meanwhile preheat oven to 350 degrees.

When noodles are done, drain, leaving about ¼ cup of the water in the pot. Add 2 tbsp. butter 2 and stir till melted. Add frozen vegetables, thyme, oregano and pepper, giving an additional quick stir and letting sit for a minute. Next, fold in tuna so that chunks are evenly distributed and stir in soup and heavy cream. Then, stir in in parmesan cheese, sprinkling in nutmeg and adding salt to taste. Pour mixture into buttered casserole dish. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven and sprinkle bread crumbs over the casserole and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Enjoy! (And let me know what you think!)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


“Calvin would have been moved at the turnout,” mused the newly-widowed DiDi Bannister-Stoner at the huge crowd that had come to pay their last respects for the highly-decorated police detective who would go on to become Monticello’s Chief of Police.

It had been a little over twenty-five years since one of television’s first reality shows – chronicling the lives of some of the more colorful residents of Monticello – had gone off the air. The Edge of Night it was originally called. “The” was later dropped from the title and it became simply Edge of Night.

The first episode aired on CBS on April 2, 1956. Changing networks in 1975 to ABC, the final episode aired on December 28, 1984... paving the way for other reality shows like Cops, 48 Hours Mystery, Celebrity Rehab, Boston Med, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, The Real Housewives franchise, and yes, even The Jersey Shore.

Airing during the daytime, which was usually reserved for soap operas, Edge of Night followed some of Monticello’s highest profile families, like the Whitneys, the Karrs and the Kavanaughs, and the goings-on in the District Attorney’s office, as well as at the local hospital, newspaper and TV & radio stations.

“It’s good to have Cliff and Mitzi move back to Monticello,” thought DiDi. “Especially now that Calvin’s gone and Calvin, Jr. has decided to move to New York permanently after law school. It’ll be good to have old, dear friends around... as long as Cliff doesn’t start bugging me about opening up our criminal law practice again. Nope, I’m much happier using my legal expertise working pro bono with nonprofit organizations.”

DiDi and Calvin’s former police partner, Chris Egan, had become close friends as well, especially after Calvin became Police Chief and Chris left the force to open up her own private detective agency. DiDi was often required to use her services. Even working with some of the most well-respected charity organizations, she had discovered that philanthropy often has ulterior motives.

Chris was the one who’d notified DiDi of Calvin’s fatal heart attack. She’d been monitoring the police scanner and immediately went to the house that she and Calvin had moved to 24 years ago, right after Calvin, Jr. was born. (DiDi had in fact, announced her pregnancy to Calvin on the final episode of Edge of Night.) It was Chris who drove DiDi to the hospital and Chris who held her hand when the doctors gave her the news.

“Yes,” thought DiDi. “There’s nothing like old, dear, friends.”

Although it was under sad circumstances, she was happy to see Mike and Nancy Karr, again. They’d moved to Florida after Mike’s retirement from the District Attorney’s office. Schuyler and Raven Whitney had even flown in from the West Coast to attend Calvin’s funeral. The Whitneys had moved to California not long after Edge of Night was canceled and made a (even bigger) fortune investing in the technology industry. They’d been looking at different real estate properties since their arrival. Rumor had it that they were considering buying back the Whitney Mansion that had once belonged to their Aunt Geraldine and moving into their old Monticello homestead.

“I’ll believe that when I see it!” DiDi quietly chuckled to herself. “Raven and Skye practically invented the term ‘jet-setter;’ hard to imagine them settling down in one place at all, much less, Monticello.”

It had been a long, long day, and now, with the last guests having left the house, it was finally over, and DiDi was left to confront the rest of her life without her beloved Calvin. Not exactly the way she had imagined herself going into mid-life... but like a lot of other women her age – who, either through death, divorce or “permanent” bachelorette status ­– this was the life she was left with. And she was determined to make the best of it. Calvin wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“I’ll figure it all out tomorrow,” she thought, drifting off to sleep. “Tomorrow is soon enough to begin my ‘new normal’.”

* * *

Mariann Aalda ( played DiDi Bannister-Stoner on Edge of Night from 1981 to its final episode on December 28, 1985. While she went on to play Grace Battles on Guiding Light and Lena Hart on Sunset Beach on daytime, she also starred in the primetime series The Royal Family as Elizabeth Royal-Winston and First & 10 as Ellen Parker and has recurred or guest-starred on such shows as Designing Women, Grace Under Fire and The Parkers, among others.

In the last several years she has also turned her talents toward stand-up comedy appearing at Caroline’s Comix and Stand-up NY in New York and Ha-Ha’s and The Hollywood Improv in LA. For the last several years, however, most of her creative energies have been devoted to writing, producing and performing in M.O.I.S.T.! the 90-minute sex-istential comedy-with-music celebration of the vibrancy, vitality and viability of “seasoned” woman she co-wrote/produced/performs with Iona Morris (ex Fiona Griffin, As The World Turns).

This is her first installment of Eye on Monticello, which will be published online, weekly. As a tribute to the devoted Edge of Night fans who have built and maintained an online community, this is Mariann’s labor-of-love to fast-forward some of their favorite characters to present time and find out what they might be up to! Plans also include updates on the actors who played those characters...and what they’re up to.

So stay tuned!

TEASER: When DiDi wakes up she’s going to apply for a job at The Monticello Gazette... what better way to keep an eye on Monticello!”