This weekend, I found the charm bracelet I had in junior high and high school. I don’t remember who gave me the bracelet or what the first charm was, but I suspect it was a gift from my parents and probably came with the dog charm in the center, representing my childhood dog.

It’s still in the long black box with the pink cover from Peebles Jewel Shop, whose radio commercial always reminded customers: "You can see us from Main Street, you know."

At one end of the bracelet is a round locket-like charm, with the faces of two little boys I used to babysit smiling at me. I hate to do the math, but I’m pretty sure they could have kids in college by now. There’s also a lobster and a dolphin charm I picked up the summer I went to Cape Cod as the family babysitter.

There’s a charm from my church confirmation -- two actually -- and several from places I traveled to with the church youth group -- Mount Snow, Riverside Park and Mountain Park amusement parks, and New York City.

A baby blue disk announces "Sweet 16" and my birth date on it, and another has my zodiac sign. Another disk proclaims "Just because" and is engraved on the back, "you gave so much, Margaret." That charm was presented by North Adams Regional Hospital for volunteering 1,000 hours of service as a candy striper.

There are guitar and tennis racket charms on the silver chain.


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I was never great at either, but they were passions of mine in high school. There’s a blue-and-white pennant emblazoned with "Drury High School" and a basketball representing the year the DHS basketball team traveled to the old Boston Garden for a state championship game. There were about a dozen school buses filled with students and parents that made the trek.

My summer vacations with my parents are also represented by the state of New Hampshire, Mount Washington cog railway and a rowboat given to me by a summer girlfriend, who used to spend hours with me sitting in the middle of the lake in a rowboat talking about everything, and nothing at all.

There are several charms I bought when my high school Spanish club traveled to Spain and Portugal the summer between my junior and senior years. A pair of flamenco dancers rest beside La Giralda in Seville; a windmill (a la Don Quixote) is next to a matador, which is next to the seal of the city of Madrid.

There are some charms I have no idea why I have them any more -- a pine cone with Vermont on it, a Native American teepee, a palm tree and a steam train engine.

I have three from my high school graduation -- a wise owl in a mortarboard, a plain mortarboard and tassel and an open book with the lamp of knowledge resting on it that is engraved "Barb" on the back, a gift from one of my four closest friends in high school.

There are many other charms on the bracelet, including a phone that commemorated my many hours on the phone with my friends and a Volkswagen Beetle that I dreamed of having (the closest I got was a VW station wagon years later).

There is another bracelet in the box with only three charms on it -- the Cinderella castle and a glass-bottomed boat from Silver Springs from my first trip to Walt Disney World, and a disk with "Peggi" on the front and "Daryl and Denise Q.C. 1971" on the back. That charm was a Christmas present from my two roommates at Quiinipiac College during freshman year.

I have no idea why I stopped collecting charms, but they stopped after January 1972. I wish I had kept going.

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When my son is gone for a weekend, I like to make something I know he won’t eat. One of my most recent new recipes is this one someone posted on Facebook. Because it was only me for dinner that night, I split the recipe in half and still had plenty for another meal.

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

Yield: Serves 6 to 8

1 1/2 to 2 pounds lean ground beef or turkey

1 tablespoon oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 small cabbage, chopped

2 cans (14.5 ounces each) diced tomatoes

1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon sea salt

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the ground beef and onion and cook, stirring, until ground beef is no longer pink and onion is tender. Add the garlic and continue cooking for one minute.

Add the chopped cabbage, tomatoes, tomato sauce, pepper and salt. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until cabbage is tender.

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I’ve been on a cookie bar binge lately. Much easier to make than cookies.

Turtle Cookie Bars

Crust:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

Second layer:

1 cup pecan halves or chopped pecans

2/3 cup butter

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup milk chocolate morsels

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine first 3 ingredients in a mixing bowl; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended. Pat mixture firmly into an ungreased 13x9 inch pan.

Arrange pecans over crust.

Combine 2/3 cup butter and 1/2 cup brown sugar in a saucepan; bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring constantly. Cook 3 minutes while stirring. Pour mixture over pecans. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-17 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

Remove from oven; sprinkle with chocolate morsels. Let stand 2-3 minutes or until slightly melted. Gently swirl chocolate with a knife, leaving some morsels whole (do not spread). Let cool on a wire rack at room temperature until chocolate is set.