friend Julianne wants to learn how to tap dance. She's always wanted to and now is as good a time as any. We're not getting any younger.
   She says she's always wanted to be able to do a good soft-shoe routine because it might get her out of a sticky situation. What kind of sticky situation would call for a soft-shoe routine she didn't say and I sure can't think of any, but it might be a good diversion. If she were about to be mugged and she broke into a few tap dancing steps, like a scuff and a shuffle, maybe a ball change followed by a paddle, the mugger might be so taken back that she could execute a clean getaway.
   I'm not sure if she plans on taking lessons or if this is a do-it-yourself project. She checked out a book and a children's video on tap dancing from the library, so maybe she's exploring this before she commits to actual lessons.
   I told Julianne she should watch some old Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly movies. Learn some moves, get some inspiration.
   "Oh, Gene Kelly!" she exclaimed. "He was so cool! Of course, he's dead now."
   Yes, but I'm sure dancing didn't contribute to his demise.
   My mother wanted me to learn tap dancing, but I fancied myself a ballerina. I took years and years of ballet and toe, what they call pointe now. I loved the recitals, the fancy costumes, the grace and elegance of ballet.
   Dancing is so liberating, so much fun. My husband tells me I dance like Elaine on the TV show "Seinfeld," and if you've ever seen her dance, you know that's not a compliment.
   Well, he didn't know me in my dancing prime. I do a lot of dance steps in my Jazzercise classes, and I don't think I'm so bad. Of course, there are no mirrors there so I have no idea what I look like, but I enjoy myself to no end.
   I hope Julianne pursues this lifelong dream. I hope she has fun and she gets lots of good exercise out of it. I hope she never needs to use it in a really sticky situation.
   Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire were pretty cool, very suave, but just remember what Ginger Rogers said about dancing with Fred. She did everything he did, only she did it backwards and in heel. Now there was a dancer.
   You can dance with joy at a different way to fix an old reliable vegetable - green beans. Add a few mushrooms and onions, and this standby takes on new life. I learned this trick from my mother-in-law, and it's become one of my favorite ways to serve green beans.
   Sharon Vail lives in Powell Butte. She still has her toe shoes, and she wonders now how she ever danced in those things. Readers may contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. "Cooking from the heart of Oregon"
   Green Beans with Mushrooms
   10-ounce package frozen cut green beans
   1 or 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
   1/2 cup sliced fresh white mushrooms
   1/4 cup chopped onion (shallots really shine here. Their delicate flavor is delicious.)
   Salt and pepper to taste
   Cook green beans until tender. Drain and set aside. In the same pan, melt butter or margarine. Add mushrooms and onions, and saute until tender. You may have to add more butter as the mushrooms absorb it. Add green beans, salt and pepper to taste, and heat thoroughly.
   Makes about 4 servings.
   Cook's note - Don't wash mushrooms. They're like sponges and will absorb the water. Simply brush off any dirt. That sponge-like quality allows them to absorb the flavor of butter and makes sauteed mushrooms so delicious.
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