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Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Its a welcome sight, watching the rain slither down the window. Huge leaves litter my yard, the air is crisp, and I am tucked away warm and snug inside. Life is good. My kitchen is set up for cookie baking today. The mixer is resting on the counter surrounded by bags of flour and sugar waiting for me to work my magic. Though I’m not a sweet eater myself, a basic flaw in my DNA, I do enjoy baking for friends and family. As with everything in 2020, distribution of my baked goodies will have to look different this year. I may have to send them reindeer mail.

It has been over a month since my positive Covid test. Other than the Covid Brain symptoms still fogging up my thinking processes, I am virtually symptom free. According to the medical professionals I have spoken with, I am no longer a danger to myself or others. Well, at least, with regard to spreading the virus. Have to admit, I do still feel a bit like Typhoid Mary. If I tell someone I had the bug but have recovered, they seem to study me closely with one eyebrow lifted as if I was either openly oozing bacteria or lying about being on the mend. If I sense hesitation, I don’t take it personally, but rather chock up it up to the person erring on the side of caution. I get that, I really do.

With the vaccine beginning to circulate, there is now a shard of light at the end of the tunnel. It will be a glorious day indeed when we finally step out from beneath this heavy blanket of fear and suffering into the light again. Perhaps we will value our freedom and our loved ones on a far deeper level because of this? I know I will be grateful for small things like sitting at a table in a coffee shop with a friend, planting a kiss on one of my grandchildren’s cheeks, or simply stepping outside with my face fully exposed to the sun. I have promised myself never to take these small blessings for granted again once this pandemic is put to bed.

While we are waging war on Covid-19, Russia has been busy digging around in our lingerie drawers looking for whatever secrets they can root out, our legislators are searching for ways to undermine our democracy, and unemployment and hunger continue to be alarmingly on the rise. Just another day at the office. Tiring of it all yesterday, rather than turning on the news and immersing myself in the insanity, I turned on holiday music and allowed my assaulted psyche a day of R&R. It was lovely. In my years on this planet I don’t remember a more turbulent political climate than the one the United States is currently experiencing.

I kind of look at all this this way, just because your folks are loon toons does not mean you have to be. We are all given personal choice to regulate how we behave. That being said, I choose rational and logical as the paths for my thought processes. It is both amazing and unsettling to see how quickly irrational thinking can grab the reins and steer the team down the wrong path in the woods. One person with power and influence can spread discord quickly, allowing it to permeate others like an out of check cancer.

I’m trying, but not always succeeding, to elevate my thinking, choosing to look at the miracles around me and not just concentrate on the derision. Yesterday, I went to get my blood drawn. It was a fasting test, so I sat in the waiting room stomach growling, craving my overdue dose of morning caffeine. Immediately after surrendering my arm for the expected bloodletting, I drove across the street to the Starbuck’s drive thru and got in line. Pulling up to the window to pay for my order, a cheery employee told me the car in front of me had paid $5.00 towards my order Really? I just loved that and immediately felt my heart smile. I thanked her, and asked to pass it on to the car behind me. Now I don’t know, but I’d like to think, this carried on down the line. What a nice gesture. Whether this act of kindness stopped with me or kept on going, it made me happy and started my day in a positive note which remained with me the rest of the day. Yay. We are the guardians of our moods, and it is within us to guide them in the direction we would like them to go.

Today is a different day all together. So far today I am on a roll in the stupid is as stupid does department. First, I dropped my house phone on the floor and lost the piece connecting it to the power supply. Now neither the phone nor I have left the house since the unfortunate accident, but do you think I can find that little plastic piece? Nooooooo. I have looked everywhere. Perhaps this is a sign from the dinosaur phone gods saying, “Susie, get rid of your stupid land line. Nobody in this century has land lines anymore.” I do, and a piece has now gone missing. Sigh. I keep the land line because in case of an emergency 9-1-1 can track your land line but not your cell phone. Ah well, I’m not going to fight the elements. It will show up in a potted plant, or stuck to the bottom of a chair one of these days, undoubtedly two days after I’ve tossed the phone and bought a new one. Murphy’s Law at work in plain sight.

Immediately following the strange plastic thingy disappearing I was going into my bedroom, a not unfamiliar landscape for me, and slammed my knee hard into the side of my nightstand. Now, this nightstand had not recently been moved by a mysterious intruder here to simply rearrange my furniture. It was in the same spot it has resided for two and a half years and yet I didn’t see it. I don’t suppose I can attribute this to Covid brain as well? The list of blame on the virus is getting long. So, I now have a huge bulbous knot on my knee which not only hurts but looks rather unattractive. Thank God for extra strength Tylenol, manna of the gods.

I shall say goodbye for now. I am off to create deliciousness in my kitchen. Hopefully, I will emerge with tins of yummy cookies and all my digits accounted for.

Happy Thursday to you. Stay safe and pass on a little kindness.

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I believe I might be described as an “A” personality. My friends are always telling me I move like the wind when trying to get something accomplished. I always feel a sense of urgency for some reason, as though I am racing against the clock. Not exactly sure why this is, but I do know it is a feeling I experience often when planning out my day. So much to do, so little time to do it in.

Lately it seems a lot of people are busy. Interesting phenomenon, considering we’re supposed to be sticking around the house watching the grass grow due to the corona virus as well as the putrid air that has prevailed of late here in Northern California due to the fires. What are we doing that creates all this busyness? I know what I’m doing, just curious what the rest of the population is up to. Thankfully, I am rarely bored. I can always find something to do with myself if left with surplus time on my hands. Aside from a myriad of hobbies I enjoy, I get a certain rush from cleaning house (I know, and no I cannot drive to your house and clean yours.), love to cook (most days), and am an avid reader. If all else fails, I can plop myself down on the couch and watch something on Netflix that catches my eye. Sometimes I find it fascinating out of the hundreds of movies I have available to me at my fingertips, I can search for an hour and not seem to find one that makes me want to push watch. Hmmmm.

This week for the first time in weeks today the air is actually less toxic than incapable of sustaining life. Send up the balloons, alert the media!! I believe I can step out my front door and inhale as well as exhale, maybe even take a walk. Stop it. I know. From what I understand, Portland was actually entertaining the worst air quality on the planet a while back. Hard to imagine it that way. Such a beautiful area. I lived for a year in Longview, Washington, a stone’s throw from the Oregon border and about an hours drive to Portland. Often my ex-husband and I shopped in the Portland area. Oregon doesn’t have sales tax, so we always saved a bit at the register while enjoying the gorgeous surroundings in the process.

Though we loved Oregon, Washington state also has much to offer, particularly for the avid outdoors man such as my ex-husband. Verdant forests, prolific waterways perfect for hooking a bass, trout, or crappie, and excellent hunting for those who lean in that direction. I do not. Hunting will never be my bag (if you’ll pardon the pun). An animal lover from my lilac toenails to my unnaturally blonde hair, killing an animal even to cull the herd would be difficult for me to do unless it was mortally injured and in pain. As I’ve said in previous blogs, if I kill ants on my kitchen counter, I send a letter of condolence to the family.

While living in Longview David and I spent most of our days off exploring the gorgeous Southern Washington area. He was a Texan, born and raised. Well, raised at least. Though actually born in Arkansas, his family migrated to Odessa, Texas where he and grew up hunting, fishing, and riding. I’ve always loved communing with nature, but before moving to Washington I’d had little experience baiting a hook. My parents were inside people, though my stepfather loved to garden. For a man who had little use for most of humanity, when working in his garden his touch was gentle, his knowledge vast, and the result of his cultivation skills often breathtaking. Mother simply was not bred for the outdoors. As I’ve mentioned before most of my mother’s people are of English descent with delicate pale peach skin prone to bursting into flames if exposed to extended sunlight. I must have picked up some olive tones from my dad’s side of the pond because though still light in complexion, I’ve always been able to add a nice coating of bronze over the summer months. These days I stay out of the sun as far as “lying out” to promote a tan. Ignorance was bliss when I was growing up so we slathered on the baby lotion and cooked to a golden brown like a Christmas turkey on the beach. My dermatologist is reaping the rewards of all that sun worshiping today.

While living in Washington, Silver Lake was our favorite place to cast a line. According to my ex, early morning hours were the prime time to catch fish. With that in mind, we were often on the lake before the sun rose above the horizon. I never argued the point, having not one single insight into fish and their personal preferences as to when to be hooked. Often when sitting in the boat on these early mornings we would share tidbits about our lives. These conversations were held on the down low so as not to disturb the fish circling the hooks below. This, also a tip from the David. Odessa, I was to learn, was considered one of the most dangerous towns in the nation. The city held the dubious title of one of ten “murder capitals of Texas”. Whether or not Arkansas was written on his birth certificate David was a Texan from the top of his Stetson hat to the bottom of his Lucchese cowboy boots. Men who hailed from those parts were familiar with taking care of themselves, he told me. As I recall David’s mother once said if they couldn’t find him when a youngster they looked for a ring of boys surrounding a mound of dust and David would be somewhere in the middle either beating the tar out of someone or having the tar beaten out of him. These rough beginnings left a lot of jagged edges to be whittled off when carried into adulthood. Some got whittled down, while others, well, that’s another story.

Silver Lake was within driving distance of Mt. St. Helens. Even though the catastrophic erruption had occurred a decade or more before we arrived in the state the evidence was still clearly visible. Everywhere you looked there were trees strewn across the ground or just jagged stumps. Eerie to see and unimaginable to be involved in. Nature surely can pack a powerful punch as is evidenced in everything we see of late. Certainly for people in California and the Gulf Coast the absolute power it can exert over us has been very evident this year.

While in the area we visited the Vistors Center (hence the name). I got a pair of sculpted bears made out of the ash to take home with me. We hiked all around the area and were left in awe of the magnitude of the damage.

Often while in the state we went out into the woods to explore for a day. David was well versed on living on the land. I remember while living in Arkansas he would bring home huge catfish and skin and filet them as if it was a walk in the park. After watching him on multiple occasions, I asked if I could try it. After about two hours I had whittled a six pound fish down to enough edible meat for Kitty (our resident feline at the time) to make a meal out of.

For me, being a city person, it was fascinating to be around someone so well versed in the ways of the woods and the country. I always felt in an emergency if I was with him I wouldn’t have to worry about surviving.

Lately, when we’re told every week to be prepared to leave our houses at a moment’s notice, I leave a bag packed with important papers and essentials, and keep the cat crate close by to carry Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, should we need to make our exit in a hurry.

You can’t live your life in fear. It will be as it is destined to be, or so I believe. However, you can be prepared and that is what I intend to be. Other than that it is a particularly gorgeous Monday morning, my coffee is hot and sweet, and I am prepared to greet my day. Have a great one!

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Need and want are interesting qualifiers. Since I’m home more than not of late, I find my mind enjoys a little word play now and again. I need air to live, for example. I want to win the lottery (from my lips to your ears). I don’t want an obscene amount of money mind you, just enough to allow me a little latitude when it comes to fulfilling some of the items on my bucket list. Too much money can be both a blessing and a curse. If it brought you undying happiness why is it so many privileged people find themselves unfulfilled and unhappy? Truth is, I have had lots of money and no money in my lifetime and haven’t found that having a well padded bank account contributed to my happiness significantly except for the freedom it provides. When I was young I was never in pursuit of great wealth. I didn’t marry for money any of the four times, and this is well reflected in my present financial state; not on the street, but certainly not on my way to total solvency either. Have I done anything myself to earn large sums of money? Nope. Do I wish I had lots of zeroes behind the numbers in my bank account? At times.  Not because I have my eye on a red Ferrari or there’s a Coach handbag I’ve been admiring. That answer, would be only because I would love to have the freedom to travel, and financial stability allows you room for that. After seeing to my family’s welfare and world peace, of course (thank you Miss Universe), if suddenly independently wealthy most likely I would rarely be home. Rather you would find me sipping ouzo on a lovely patio in Greece, cruising down the Danube, or exploring the Chichen Itza ruins. Ahhhhh, what lovely thoughts on this Covid-19 driven Monday.

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Boo, of course, would have to accompany me. Though she believes she runs this saloon, in truth when it comes to what we do and where we go it is I holding the wallet with the credit cards not she. Perhaps she would ride on the plane with me as my support animal. God knows she qualifies. Knowing Boo she would want to be in First Class. It would be nice to travel first class for a change, rather than in steerage like I usually do. I have only flown first class once, and business class twice. Each time it was a luxury to have both elbow and leg room to spare. The airlines are squeezing you in so tight these days it can actually be hazardous to your health. The only time I flew first class was to Hawaii in 1983. Such a treat. Now, from what understand first class passengers have pods for sleeping and other amenities reserved for the rich and famous, but even back then the perks were obvious from the moment you sat your behind in your comfy, roomy seat. In tourist waving down a flight attendant is like finding a sales clerk in Kmart. I remember once in Kmart after actually locating someone who worked there, I inquired as to where I might find the candles. His response, “In the candle department, I believe.” All that in-store sales training really paid off.

In coach when flying if you need immediate help your heart attack will simply have to wait until your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position and your seat belt is correctly fastened and the guy in the window seat has made it back from the bathroom. In first class if you as much as crook your finger a flight attendant appears like magic at your aisle offering you a refill for your drink, a glistening smile, and another pound bag of nuts. On the flight to Hawaii where I flew first class they actually sliced delicious slabs of perfectly cooked prime rib at the aisle, served with a twice baked potato and fresh asparagus with Hollandaise sauce on a real plate. So far superior to the unidentified meat in a plastic tray you are treated to in coach. Whoa. You pay for the prime rib several times over when you consider the difference in price between coach and first class so perhaps in the end you’d be better served to cook one at home and pack yourself a sandwich.

When this pandemic allows for activities beyond my front door a road trip is planned with a friend to Montana. I have been through, lived in, or visited a good majority of the United States. Montana, is not one of them. I’ve been close by, having driven through Wyoming. Beautiful. I’ve got a friend in the Boise area and have cruised as far north as Priest Lake in Idaho which is close to the Canadian border. I’ve passed through Nebraska, but missed the Dakotas and generally visited most everything south east of Montana at one time or another. If not for the virus holding us captive I think it would be fun to take an extended road trip and cover the spots I’ve not seen yet. For example, I’ve been to Phoenix numerous times, and seen Sedona, but I have yet to take in the majesty of the Grand Canyon nor have I had a glimpse of “The Thing” much advertised on Interstate 10 as a tourist attraction not to be missed.

When I was small, I lived in my maternal grandparents house from just after my first birthday until nearly nine. My mother and I went to live with them when my father died unexpectedly at twenty-five. My grandmother, a lovely and accomplished woman in so many ways, never drove a car. For someone who never took the wheel, she thoroughly enjoyed being in the car when someone else did. Many weekends during my childhood were spent on the back roads of Nova Scotia exploring all the wonderful sights to be seen in that beautiful part of Eastern Canada. Often we took a day trip down the Cabot Trail, a must see if you are in the area or would stop for some fabulous seafood at one of the many restaurants littering the picturesque outer areas of the province. Always I loved those trips. The window would be half open and untethered by seatbelts as we were in those days, my nose would at the top of the glass taking in all the images whizzing by as we drove along.

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My first long road trip was from Nova Scotia to California with my mother and my recently acquired step-father in the summer of my ninth year. Our transportation was a shiny new Buick sedan of which I took up one half of the rear seat. With nothing pressing to get us to Santa Ana and my new “father’s” first day on the job still a month away we stopped often on our route.  In Chicago we began our southwestern trajectory on Route 66. I believe we ate at every Howard Johnson’s along the way. Never heard a complaint from me. They had 28 flavors of ice cream and as a chubby little girl my goal was to sample every flavor. In New Mexico we visited the Carlsbad Caverns. All these years later I can still picture those eerie caves with the beautiful formations. Funny how some experiences imprint themselves on your mind. The painted desert was also on our playlist, as was Las Vegas. Never having seen a desert nor a cactus (Nova Scotia is not known for either) my nine year old brain was like a porous sponge soaking up all these new and fascinating visual experiences.

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Some of us choose to remain close to home on our life’s journey. For me, there has always been the urge to see what lingers just beyond the rise of the hill. As I get older it sometimes feel my world has gotten smaller, but still if given the opportunity to cruise over the crest of the ridge again straddling the back of a Harley, I know I would grab it in a second without hesitation.

Aging is just another crossroad on our journey, one more experience to be embraced. If lucky, we are all going to get a little ripe around the edges and the best way to approach it, for me at least, is to make it yet into another adventure. There is no guarantees at any age how many years a person will continue to inhabit this earth, so with that in mind I feel deeply the importance of living fully each and every day. Make it a good one.

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Waking up in spare bedroom on the farm in Manitoba on the morning of my ninth day there, I realized I had just one more night before my trip came to a close. Looking around the cozy room my mind captured a mental picture to place in my memory book. I would remember the cheerful curtains decorated with cherries, the antique rocking chair in the corner with the colorful afghan Chris had given me as a welcome gift tossed over one arm, the photo gallery of family pictures lining one wall, and the birds singing happily in the boughs of the huge oak tree just beyond the window.

Dressing in capris and a tee instead of my usual work attire, I headed towards the kitchen. As usual the family was gathered there. Eva and Dawn were talking excitedly about our road trip. Bob J. was answering their barrage of questions about where we were going and what we were going to do while I loaded another unbelievable Chris breakfast onto my plate. Lake Winnepeg was to be our destination he was telling the girls. Sounded wonderful. For me any place with a body of water was probably a good place to be.

The girls were excused from the table to go with their mom to get dressed for the day. Bob J. filled in the details on our Lake Winnepeg destination. Specifically we were going to Grand Beach Park. Lake Winnepeg, he went on to say, was one of the largest fresh water lakes in the world. Grand Beach Park, though a bit touristy for his tastes, offered everything to do outdoors from swimming, boating, fishing, hiking to an amusement park. The latter he told me was what had the girls all a twitter when I’d arrived on the scene. Let me insert here when I was a kid I loved amusement parks. No matter how high the roller coaster, how stomach turning the ride, I would be first in line to hop on board. As I crested and rolled over forty this became less of a draw for me. In particular I am not fond of rides that jerk you about like a writhing hose on full water power or flip you upside down like a pancake on a grill. Nope, not for me.

Chris, characteristically, had packed us a huge wicker basket filled with sandwiches, snacks, icy cold bottles of water, lemonade and fruit for us to nosh on during our trip. There were times when I really considered proposing to the woman but didn’t get the feeling she would be inclined to leave Ray to move to California with me. It would be a marriage of convenience, mostly tipping the scale on my side. As much as I enjoy cooking, and I do, it would be lovely to have someone else man the fire from time to time particularly with as practiced a hand as hers.

The weather cooperated offering up a gorgeous day with only enough of a breeze to cool us off paired with a gloriously blue blue sky interrupted only by white fluffy clouds occasionally floating by. The girls amused themselves picking out animals and shapes from the passing clouds while Bob J. kept me entertained with history of the areas we drove through and Manitoba itself. The massive array of books in his library apparently were not just for show because he had an impressive knowledge of what he was speaking to which added another layer to my admiration of the man.

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Often I speak of my “near perfect moments”. That day held many of them. Driving along with the windows down, the girls chattering, Bob J. weaving his stories, and the countryside fully dressed for spring with wildflowers covering every hillside was definitely bordering on the nearly perfect.

We arrived at the beach around noon. What a lovely expanse of sand it was, a long line of grassy dunes marking its border. Bright beach umbrellas protruded out of the sand here and there and just out of reach of the incoming waves a group of children were busy building a sand castle. “Ahhhhhh”, my soul murmured. “Home.” Removing my sandals I dug my toes deep into the warm sand. Bob J. carried the heavy picnic basket and umbrella while I tagged along behind loaded down with towels, buckets and shovels, a bag of sunscreen and changes or clothes for the girls, and my backpack. Walking in the sand will quickly point out what parts of you are out of shape. In this case after walking what felt like five miles there were so many places to point to I couldn’t narrow it down to a particular area of my body. Once the blankets were spread out and lunch consumed the girls wriggled out of their shorts and tops their bathing suits already on underneath. Grabbing buckets and shovels they ran down towards the water to play. Watching the children plop down oblivious to the sand sticking their skin and begin to dig reminded me of the basic joys of being a child. For most children, not all certainly, childhood is a place of infinite possibilities where dragons breathed fire, unicorns pranced in glittering rainbows, and life, so complicated as we get older, was defined by far simpler terms.

Bob J. dozing in and out in his beach chair didn’t offer much by way of conversation. Left to my own devices I reflected on what an interesting and enjoyable time I’d had on the farm. I would miss them all each in their own way. They had welcomed me as though I was family and I had come to consider them as part of mine. Leaving would be bittersweet. Home was beginning to whisper my name, but knowing I most probably never see my Manitoba clan again left me feeling a bit melancholy.

The day passed quickly. Bob J. and I played frisbee after his nap. With a long drive still in front of us we packed up our gear and retraced our steps to the truck. Exhausted from sun and fun, both girls napped in the back seat most of the ride home. For me leaving the ocean behind always left me sad. Though home has always been where I have hung my hat at the time, the coast has always felt the most like a permanent home to me. Growing up in Nova Scotia with the sea at my back yard left an indelible fingerprint on me that has remained throughout my lifetime.

That night Chris outdid herself. Grilled lobster with drawn butter was the star of the show accompanied by sweet ears of corn, savory garlic bread, and an enormous tossed salad packed with vegetables from her garden. We finished it off with a slice of rhubarb and strawberry pie. The girls browned and exhausted went to bed without a murmur as did Bob J. and I. My plane was leaving just after lunch the following day so it would be time to say my goodbyes. Why is it times you get so much joy from seem to pass in an instant and those you wish would go quickly by drag on like an insurance seminar? Always I will remember that trip as the years tear off the calendar. Some experiences are just rich and this would be one I would count as such.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I actually have an appointment this morning. I know! My appointment book has been as chaste as a novitiate for weeks. Today I am to have allergy testing. I’d be lying if I didn’t insert here that going outside in the big bad world feels a little off putting. My instructions were to wear a mask and maintain social distancing. K. Yesterday I cranked up my car and drove it for a bit both to remind myself driving was part of my routine and to give my car a chance to recharge it’s battery. When I came back I dragged the industrial size bag of potting soil I purchased several months ago around to the front yard and worked in the dirt for a couple of hours. People walked by and stopped to say hello or waved while I was out there and it felt less isolating and more like being part of a community.

While outside beneath the massive trees lining my property (well, mine as long as I deposit a rent check) I was serenaded by the sad song of a mourning dove. Movement on one of the branches overhead drew my eye to where I could see a dove perched on a large nest in the crook of a limb. Mom, or so I called her, I’m not clearly versed on how one goes about telling the difference in doves and wasn’t formally introduced, remained on the nest while her partner flew back and forth to the ground or to other trees gathering whatever he was bringing to the table. Soon I could see three dear little feathery heads pointed towards the sky beaks open so I’m assuming dad had been tasked with providing lunch. A friend called so I stopped for a moment and went in the house to take a break. Telling her of my sweet birds (yes, yes I realize they are of the earth and not actually mine but they are on my property so for now I shall lay claim to them), she said doves were a sign of peace and restoration. Boy, could we use that right now. She went on to suggest I purchase food and a feeder for the birds and then they would remain in my yard and make it their home. What a lovely thought. I do love birds and all creatures. However, after spending $8.99 for eggs yesterday and $12.99 for instant decaf coffee I am hesitant to take on the feeding responsibilities for other living things beyond Boo and myself.  Nonetheless I ordered both food and a feeder before I had time to talk myself out of it. C’est la vie.

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Going back outside to finish my potting I was pleasantly surprised how peaceful it made me to know the little family was settled in above me. Our world is populated with such incredibly beautiful and interesting wildlife. I never stop marveling at the vast selection of creatures provided for us to share space with and enjoy. When I was little my grandfather enrolled me in a course through the Audubon Society. Birds were a particular love for both him and my grandmother and this they shared with me. He and I would sit in his cozy den and study the different species of birds and their habitats. It was always special for me to spend time with the first important man in my life. Sadly we would only have seven years together before he passed away. My grandmother too was a bird fancier. Many of her knick knacks, which were plentiful, were decorated with birds.  When fall arrived I can remember walking behind my grandmother while she carried the red vinyl step stool to one of the huge trees shading our back yard. My job was to carry the net bag of suet which was going to be hung off a limb to feed the birds prolific in the trees where we lived.  Suet, for those of unfamiliar with the term is a mixture of fats and grains. From what I have read, it actually serves to keep the birds warm. In Nova Scotia this would be a plus in any form. Once the bag was suspended we would watch the birds from the dining room window as they circled down to pick pieces of the mixture out from between the holes in the netting. Funny, how some memories just stick like glue to your insides and remain there always.

Birds are interesting little beings with definite personalities, at least the domesticated variety. My friend Carol had a bird named Wilbur. Wilbur was a lovebird by description who shared a cage with his “wife”. I do not remember the female’s name but lovebirds, appropriately named, mate for life. The two were inseparable. Wilbur wiled away his days attending to his lady love while singing happily in his cage. The wife died unexpectedly one day leaving poor Wilbur devastated by her loss. They purchased another mate for him but he never warmed up to his new “wife” with anything near the fervor he had loved the first. The heart wants what the heart wants I guess spans all species.

I too have always considered myself a nester. My ex father-in-law told me once if he gave me a cardboard box and a ball of twine somehow I’d come up with a home. Home has always been a bit of an elusive commodity for me. Truth is I’ve never let a lot of grass grow under my feet. Having counted thirty-nine moves in my life hasn’t left much time for establishing deep roots.  That being said, it has been necessary to create “home” at whatever location I currently found myself in.

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While living in Longview, Washington with my ex husband home at the time was a motel room. Working a construction job at the lumber mill we knew on arrival our stay in the glorious northwest would most likely last under a year. To lease a place to hang our hat would most likely have required a one year commitment, not doable in our case. Also, with our household goods taking up space in a storage unit in the Bay Area we had nothing to furnish it with. So, we opted to stay with other construction types at a local motel catering to nomads such as ourselves. There were two rooms plus a bathroom in each generous sized “suite”. Ours was on the second floor overlooking the pool. Each unit had a sliding glass door leading out to the balcony which gave it more of an apartment vibe. There was a small refrigerator in the room off the bedroom/sitting room which comfortably held a sandwich and a quart of milk before feeling crowded. Since we would be there months rather than days I began to look for options for cooking in place and storing food as going out to dinner or picking something up every night was both expensive and is definitely not the healthiest option.

Having no utensils or cooking implements posed a problem. Someone suggested thrift shops. Up until then I had never stepped foot in one. What wonderful places to forage in. For a five dollar bill you could get a whole bag of mismatched silverware. Who knew such riches existed at the Salvation Army? I asked my husband to construct a makeshift three shelf unit with bricks and planks on an empty wall in our room. I filled the shelves with the mish mash of well loved pots and pans purchased with my bag of silver leaving the remaining shelves for food storage. After speaking to the motel owners about wanting to cook in the room they provided me with two two-burner hot plates to cook on.  This still left me with little room to store fresh items so once again I found myself standing in the motel office asking about refrigerator options. As miracles do, one showed up to help. The owner had an apartment size refrigerator in storage. The next day it was hooked up in our “spare” room. Yay. Before long I was cooking all all burners if you will. We made some great meals in that little room that year. My ex was an excellent cook. Hailing from southern Texas he made some delicious pots of gumbo or etoufee which we shared with neighbors who regularly followed the enticing smell to our door.

All in all it was an interesting experience that I will file in my memory book under “innovation”.

 

 

 

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Last night was one of those stress filled nights where I found myself doing yoga at 2 a.m. in an effort to calm my chattering brain. Lately I invest a lot of energy trying to live in the moment I am currently inhabiting. In spite of my finest efforts, now and again my mind goes rogue bombarding me with what if’s and unsettling scenarios for the future. During these episodes like Michelangelo on steroids, my psyche begins frantically painting scenes of Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, and I sitting on the street corner with a sign reading “Need Help” or me ending up in some sort of group establishment known for its abysmal food cohabited by people wiling away their hours plucking imaginary berries out of the air.  None of this is based on any fact, mind you, but in the wee hours when darkness is upon me my thoughts can play tricks on my intellectual properties allowing doubt and misinformation to cloud all rational thinking processes.

Fear truly can rule you if you allow it run unchecked. Reality is sufficiently frightening without giving fear free rein to step up and fabricate things for you to worry about. Feelings and thoughts are just that, feelings and thoughts. They are not tangible entities but rather fluid malleable parts of us we can bring to the forefront or make disappear at whim. You are at the controls, sort of like when parents tell their offspring, “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out”.

Fear is not new to me. Truth is I’ve done a lot of things in my life that have terrified me. Sometimes you have to stare down your fears and kick them to the curb. At one point I actually suffered from anxiety attacks while married to my ex-husband, David. Now to be clear, I am not for a minute suggesting my ex caused these attacks to occur (I’m also not suggesting he didn’t), simply stating they manifested themselves when I was married to the man. They began at the onset of our ten years together. Much of our time was spent traveling across the U.S. working for a large, very well recognized, construction company. Like hermit crabs we transported our home with us setting up camp in each new location as one job closed and a new opportunity presented itself. The first move, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, was to Washington state. More specifically, Longview, Washington. We worked and lived there for eleven months before packing up after accepting the next job offer which was to be in Ashdown, Arkansas. Our household goods at the time were stored in the Bay Area. Not contemplating returning for some time we decided to drive to the San Jose area, spend a week with my family there, load up his truck and my car with the contents of our storage unit and make a beeline for Arkansas. Along for the ride were my Shih Tzu, Sushi and Kitty, my twelve year old gray tabby. At the end of our journey together these two animals had logged enough miles to be honorary long-haul drivers.

We set out on that trip each in our respective vehicles. These were what I call the “lean years” for us. His beater Ford truck was nearly as old as I was and my car at the time was a K car purchased at auction. A comfortable car for driving, the outside no longer matched the well preserved interior as a result of an unfortunate rear ender I’d been involved with prior to leaving for Washington. In an effort to keep the repair costs down, as it wasn’t a new vehicle either by any means, the body shop had actually riveted the hood back together leaving it sporting a somewhat Frankensteinish appearance. I know.  Between the rivets on my hood and my husbands severely overtaxed truck bed the characters in Grapes of Wrath had nothing on us. Both animals rode with me. Sushi generally occupied the shotgun seat with Kitty preferring to ride in the area below the window above the rear seat where she could catch some sun. Cats, unlike their canine counterparts, do not signal when they need to relieve themselves, so it was necessary to have the litter box on board on the floor in the back seat. This, as you might imagine, was not always a delightful addition to my trip.

There were so many scary parts to that trip I hardly know where to begin. At the time I was madly in love and off on a new adventure. “Damn the torpedoes full speed ahead” sort of thing. My car had been having brake problems, something we had decided to address on our arrival in Arkansas. If you are scratching your head at this statement, may I join you? Why on earth we would take a chance on traversing high mountain roads with an old truck loaded to the max with hhg’s and an old car with poor brakes escapes me, but what can I say? Nothing, exactly. Sometimes shaking your head is all you can do.

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We reached the top of the Continental Divide as the sun was getting ready to go down. It was summer, but the temperature was cold enough at that altitude to elicit a shiver when I stepped out of the car.  I had pulled to the side of the road in response to David’s signal he was doing so. After stepping around the side of the truck I realized why. Our second flat tire on the truck was apparent on the right front.  The first one was while going across the Great Salt Flats of Utah, which I will discuss as I continue my journey in upcoming blogs. Perhaps brakes and tires might have been two checks we needed to make on our “Preparing for Trip List” prior to hitting the road. I hear you. I don’t believe it helped that the poor old truck was toting a load on it’s back nearly as tall as it was long, but the why’s of the situation really are a moot point at this writing. Choice A, with no Choice B on the horizon was to change the tire in the darkness with the help of a flashlight which was our only available source of illumination. There were no cell phones back then so if you got in a situation like that in a remote place you either took care of it yourself or stayed until hopefully help showed up. David, always helpful, suggested that aside from holding the flashlight it might be advantageous to keep an eye out for bears or mountain lions. “Really”? Luckily knees knocking together is not a known lure for wild beasts so we got the tire changed before being eaten which was definitely a bonus to my way of thinking.

Once the new tire was in place David lit a cigarette while we discussed going down the other side of the mountain. Since my brakes were not performing at optimum capacity the steep grades could present a bit of a problem should I need to say, stop, at some juncture. Being consumed by a bear was starting to look pretty good to me. The plan, hold your hats here, was that David would go first in the heavy truck. As we wound around the mountain careening through the darkness should my brakes go out I was to ride up onto his bumper and he would bring me to a stop. Valium please.  Make it two. As we crested the mountain in tandem I said a silent prayer we would get to the bottom via the road and slowly stepped on the accelerator.  Several times when we hit substantial grades I was only able to maintain a narrow margin behind the truck’s bumper. Even the dog was sweating. Finally, angels on my shoulder, we miraculously hit level ground with all body parts attached. Life, was they say, is good.

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There was an eclipse that night. We secured a room at a local motel. Interesting place. The owner had taken over an abandoned storage facility and converted it into motel rooms. Probably a great plan in conception but perhaps not so great in execution. The ceilings, for example, were really low. Had David been a couple of inches taller then his six feet he might have had to bend slightly to go from room to room. Also, even without the eclipse the fact there were no windows in our unit made it really dark when we switched off the light. Lying there without the tiniest benefit of illumination in the room I can remember breathing into my diaphragm three or four times in an effort to slow down my still hammering heart before drifting off to sleep. Looking back I have to say, even though my life was chaotic in the best of times it certainly was never boring. I guess that’s a good thing in hindsight.

Somehow I made it through those years. Being afraid and pushing through it probably gave me an edge when dealing with the loss of Rick a year and a half ago and all that has come after it.

Have a great and adventurous weekend!!

 

 

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Read an article this morning warning prescription drug prices are going up again. Really? You mean they haven’t already hit the ceiling? I have basic coverage, gap coverage, and drug coverage which I pay dearly for. With all that you’d think I’d be covered for anything short of a nuclear holocaust. Yet, when I arrive at the prescription counter I get charged if the medication I have been prescribed is not on a tier my plan pays for. When I filled a prescription last year for an asthma inhaler I have been using for some time it had gone up from $47 from my previous refill to $97. When I asked why, the pharmacy assistant shrugged. ?? Que es shrug? What if I didn’t have $97, should I just breathe less? Possibly I could breathe more slowly to conserve oxygen? What do people do who simply cannot pay these prices? Die? This is so wrong to me in a nation of plenty I seriously could break down a cardboard box, write something scathing across it to our lawmakers, crazy glue it to a stick and march in front of the capital building. Why are we as consumers so apathetic? I’m as guilty as the next person. The last topical medication prescribed by my dermatologist came in at a whopping $298.00. Did I say, “no, I will not pay that ridiculous amount”? I did not, because I needed the medication to manage the problem with my skin and there was no generic option available. What the answer to this is I have no clue, but if it is true only 1% of the Americans are holding onto the money in this illustrious country of ours I can’t help but feel many Americans are going to feel the pinch of this increase.

Ahhhh, thank you for letting off steam. Wouldn’t want you to see my face emblazoned across the screen on the five o’clock news. Crazed blonde attacks pharmacist with cardboad sign. Film at eleven. 

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Over the weekend I took a little time off from everything and turned my car towards the Bay Area. It was only for a few days R&R at a friend’s house but I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to change the scenery for a bit. Her home perches on the precipice of a lower foothill peak offering up a view of the entire San Jose area. During the day you oversee the valley below packed tightly with office buildings and homes then as night falls it transforms into what appears to be an endless blanket of glistening stars. The property is replete with fruit trees heavily populated with morning doves as well as the most prolific population of hummingbirds I have yet to see. A glorious place to unwind and dust off the cobwebs. She shares her digs with two of the cutest little furry creatures, Mali and Phoebe, both Yorkshire terriers who took to me like honey to a muffin. If it wasn’t for the fact that dogs require so much more attention than cats, I would have to own one of my own. For a small breed they were not the least yippy as I might have suspected. Never heard anything out of them beyond a polite “ruff” when it was time for a treat. Phoebe, the elder and larger of the duo, is seven and a rescue. Mali, a breeder pup, weighs in at a little under three pounds, is three years old and holds to the opinion the house belongs to her as well as all the attention. The two of them kept me really entertained while I was visiting.

As usual my trip was not without mishap. I broke down and got new glasses over the holidays.  I have had to have them replaced twice due to defects in the makeup of the delicate frames. According to the optometrist rimless frames such as these are a nightmare for their profession. Sometimes beautiful fragile things are lovely to look at but difficult to possess. Perhaps someone should have mentioned that before I paid for them rather than after, yes? At any rate, I picked up the third pair last week. While adjusting them the optometrist said “three’s a charm”. Not so fast. Sigh. Before I pull the covers over my head I usually read a few chapters out of whatever book I am in the middle of. My room while visiting was her sewing room furnished with a couch hiding an amazingly comfortable bed already folded out and ready for me to hop into.  Apparently I dozed off glasses in place. Somewhere in the night either I took them off placing them on the carpet or they fell off the bed while I was doing what Rick referred to as my breaching while asleep. I woke up before the sun. The room was pitch dark so I fumbled for the light switch which I couldn’t locate. Swinging my legs over the side and planting my feet firmly on the ground I heard an unpleasant crunch. Damn. Having honed stupid accidents to a fine point I managed to annihilate not one but both lenses while wrenching off one arm. The patient, shall we say, was terminal. Thankfully it was on the day I was leaving so at least I had them while I was there. However, there was the problem of driving home without them. Before my cataract surgery that would have been tantamount to handing Mr. Magoo the keys but thanks to the wonders of laser surgery I can see well, not perfectly, but well without my glasses. Sooooooooo back I went yesterday to order the fourth pair. Note to self, “Never Order Rimless Frames Again”. Done and done.

In spite of the vision issues the drive home was glorious. The route I took snaked around the Sacramento Delta taking me across two drawbridges before I merged back on to Interstate 5. Sometimes I find it so soul soothing driving along on a bright sunny day with no agenda in mind other than getting home whenever the car pulls into the driveway.  Seems like I’m often going full to the floor so I took advantage of the quiet time not pressing down too hard on the accelerator.

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The year has begun in a flurry of activity and this month promises to carry that baton to the finish line. Three trips out of town are written on the calendar. My pet sitter will be able to take a trip of her own once I’m done paying her to watch Miss Boo. I always feel guilty leaving my feline best buddy. When Rick was alive I often went on these side trips solo so he was there to man the fort and provide company for her nibs while I was absent. These days Boo and I are batching it and since she is an abysmal traveling companion, pet sitting it must be for the time being.

In keeping with my vision issues I went to the doctor this morning to get my eyes examined. Been having some night vision problems. Coming from a doctor’s family you’d think I’d be better about personal maintenance, but when it comes to me I seem to have a habit of putting things off. It’s not that this type of appointment generally involves any pain of note but I just hate getting my eyes dilated. I am particularly susceptible to the drops they use and end up having eyes with a yellow tinge to the whites and pupils huge and totally black, an effect which can last for hours. Today was no exception. On the way out they hand you a pair of plastic dark lenses to slip behind your glasses because as well as looking like a cat from the underworld your eye or eyes become highly sensitive to light. Stepping out into the morning sun I groped around for my keys in my purse and once seated in my car gauged if I felt I was safe to pilot it.  This assessment was really kind of a moot point because unless I’d brought a lunch and a couple of bottles of water I was going do just that or sit in the car for twelve hours waiting for my pupils to return to normal.

The moment I stepped in the door the phone rang. It was my mother’s caregiver telling me my mom had a respiratory bug and I needed to take her to the doctor. I just drove half blind from close to where she lives so this was not the best news. So 2020 begins with a bang. I shall get my pedaling shoes out and hop on. Let’s see where the path takes me, well, once I can again see where the path takes me.

 

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Just heard an incredible statistic. Today, one out of three marriages is between couples meeting on a dating site. Thinking about it, I don’t know why I find this incredible. The average adult spends a lot of time on-line. If you are single and looking for the perfect match, such a huge marketplace makes narrowing the search easier. Definitely it narrows the chances of finding someone with the specific traits you are looking for in a life partner.  Was I in a room and the question asked “who here met their mate on a dating site”, my hand would be enthusiastically waving in the air.

Eighteen years ago Rick left me a message on one of the more famous dating websites. Truth be told we are an unlikely match. I believe I was number 221 on his list of suitable matches and he didn’t even show up on mine.  At the time I was working insane hours at a dot.com startup in the Bay Area leaving little time for socializing. Often I would leave work after logging in hours of overtime only to be called back into the office in the wee hours to edit a file or create a new one. Exhausting.

Originally I posted my profile during a winey night spent with a dear friend of mine long single and looking for love. After uncorking our second bottle of chardonnay, we made the decision to get her on a dating site. This is one of those questionable decisions associated with too much alcohol intake often leading to disaster. However, in this case it turned out quite well. For me at least. The first step began by creating the usual inane profiles for ourselves. You know, “I like dogs, walks on the beach, and candlelight dinners”. Then we uploaded a couple of flattering recent pictures, and promptly put the whole thing out of our minds. Recent is highlighted in the last sentence because some people put pictures up taken after they graduated from middle school rather than what they actually look like at the time they post their profile. In the end if you meet the cat, as they say, will be out of the bag unless you have a particularly clever plastic surgeon on the payroll. About two weeks later we found ourselves again together and decided to look up the site and see what the results of our efforts were. Amazing. It was like panning for gold. You dip your pan in water once only to find a huge nugget nestled among the sand and gravel. Wow. Now, all these prospects are certainly not going to be either people you are interested in or necessarily even people seriously looking for a real relationship. Like everything in life you have to sift through the chaff in order to find the wheat.

Even though I was a novice at this type of dating, this was not my first rodeo. Through trial and error I’d hopefully picked up a few pointers along the way about the do’s and don’t of looking for a mate. Heavy emphasis on the hopefully. Dating to my mind is always a mine field. Aside from the benefits of finding a partner among such a wide selection of candidates there is, as always, a darker side to the picture. Predators feed on such a readily available population like sharks circling an area replete with an abundant food source. Discretion and good sense are the words of the day when taking on such an endeavor. Don’t meet anyone alone in a non-public environment. Trust your instincts. If it feels wrong, it probably is. Lastly, someone gave me some great advice once. “It’s not what people say that’s important, it’s what people do.” You can say you’re the C.E.O. of Ebay or that you are not married. This does not make either statement based on any semblance of fact.

At that time I was not looking for a serious relationship. Rather I was hoping to find several different people with whom I could perhaps share an interest like hiking, or someone who enjoyed the theater or visiting art museums. I adjusted my walks on the beach profile (actually my favorite pastime) to include other activities I also sincerely enjoyed. As the months progressed I met an interesting person here and a not so interesting one there but no one who felt like a good match. Though I became acquainted with some really great people no one enticed me to turn around for a second look.

When Rick popped up he was most unexpected. Though in the right age group and appealing according to his photograph, on scratching below the surface his profile indicated that might be where the commonalities came to an end. After he made several knocks at my on-site door I decided to open it a crack and see who was standing on the other side. Our first “date” if you will was just to meet and see if any fires were lit. From the moment he sat down across from me our conversation flowed easily. Still does. Always having a fascination with Egypt I was enthralled with his stories of growing up near Cairo and having access to all the wonders I had only been able to read about.

Soon we became regular companions and eighteen years later we still look forward to seeing one another across the table every morning (even before coffee).

So, if you are contemplating giving on-line dating a try I would. Perhaps you’ll be lucky like we were, perhaps you won’t. However shake the dice. Like playing the Lotto if you don’t buy a ticket you’ll never know if you might have been a winner.

This salad is just sooooo good. If you added chicken it would be a perfect light meal for those warm summer nights.

Vegetable Salad with Sesame Seed Dressing

2 1/2 cups Napa cabbage shredded
6 oz. Mung bean sprouts
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
3 hard boiled eggs cubed
4 radishes thinly sliced
1 avocado, diced
1 cup heirloom cherry tomatoes halved
1/2 English cucumber sliced thin
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds
Salt and pepper

Serves 4-6

Sesame Seed Dressing

2 cloves garlic
2 green onion finely chopped
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
3 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. Sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp. Sriracha
1 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1/2 Tbsp. poppy seeds
1/3 cup EV olive oil
1/4 cup Canola oil
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Whisk together all ingredients. Pour in cruet and shake well. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Toss with salad just before serving.

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Three days at the coast last week turned out to be just what the doctor ordered for Rick and I. “Vacation” has not been written on our calendar for six years. We were more than ready for a break. Reservations for a stay at the beach in Mendocino County were in place, bags packed, and a pet sitter hired. Life, as they say, was good. This was to be our first time staying at the Beachcomber resort in Fort Bragg.  Our room was a well-appointed lower unit towards the southern end of the building offering up a panoramic view of the ocean beyond the sliding glass doors. I would have found it an idyllic location had the staff pitched us a tent and handed us a Coleman lantern. Ideal for me at least.  Rick’s idea of camping is staying at a hotel without room service.

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The first two days were made to order for beach exploring. Temps hung in the low 70’s cooled by a light sea breeze. Spring made itself visible with hillsides decorated in colorful bursts of wildflowers. I spent a good deal of time walking along the sand. Sticking my toes in the frigid water and inhaling the glorious smells one associates with the ocean my mind kept whispering “home”. Still off-season, the beach was nearly deserted save an occasional tourist or local. Nothing like the crowds you might expect to see once Memorial Day is ticked off the calendar.

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On our second day there Rick saw whales. Naturally I missed them. I was inside showering the sand off. Really chapped my hide (missing the whales not the sand). When I came out he told me our neighbors pointed them out to him from the upper deck bar. He had just enough time to catch a glimpse of the pair before they breached and disappeared below the surface. Awwwww, darn, darn, darn.

Not as exciting, I did see a lot of ground squirrels. The comical little rodents shared space with hotel inhabitants. Not inside, no. Inside they might have been less endearing. From the patio, however, their little furry heads could be seen peering up over the hills or running along the paths behind the rooms. Funny little creatures, surprisingly unafraid of humans. Several times while walking one came right up next to me looking for a handout.

IMG_1355Taking a respite from all things household, it was great to have someone cook for me. Dining out Rick encountered his usual pitfalls. If something disastrous is going to happen to a meal it generally will happen to his. Definitely the man has bad dining karma. Typically I will be digging into a delicious entrée while Rick’s is late, they are out of whatever he selected, they brought the wrong item, or it wasn’t cooked as requested.

Our second night there we ate at a well-known seafood restaurant situated on the fishing harbor. I had the fish tacos. Though I wouldn’t you recommend pack a bag and rush right down to Fort Bragg to get some for yourselves, they were quite good. Rick ordered prime rib. Now, I see you shaking your heads. Prime rib in a seafood restaurant? Who am I to say anything? Ordered medium rare, the meat arrived at the table looking like he’d ordered off the side of the menu entitled “Our Road Kill Selections”. That meat had been rode hard and put up wet. When the waiter was alerted, he offered to get Rick a cut showing more pink. Shortly he returned from the kitchen to inform us that was as rare as that piece of beef was going to get. A rib eye was suggested as a replacement. According to Rick the rib eye was actually IMG_1411.JPGworse. He said he wouldn’t have believed this was possible but somehow the chef pulled it off. Fatty and full of gristle the steak was smothered  with gravy and canned mushrooms. The gravy, according to Rick, was put there to hide a poor cut of meat. Ewwwwww. I know. I remained mute just nodding and grimacing where appropriate. Mama didn’t raise no fool.

Our last night, thankfully, we located a wonderful Italian restaurant in Fort Bragg proper. Told there was music in the main dining room we chose to sit in there over being seated in the very lively bar. An eclectic trio was playing Celtic music. The musicians were composed of a flutist, a gentleman on guitar, and a lady easily having celebrated her 80th birthday playing mini-guitar and fiddle. The waitress was friendly as well as full of information about the area succeeding in making a great meal that much better. Cucina Verona is the name of the place should you find yourself visiting Fort Bragg.

Leaving the restaurant the strong wind persisting throughout the day had intensified. But for the fact I’d consumed half a loaf of bread plus dessert I might have taken flight like Dorothy and Toto. On the bright side, pushing my way to the car against the onslaught of air I probably burned off most of the tiramisu I’d finished my meal off with. At the car we literally couldn’t get the passenger door to stay open long enough for me to hop in. I rode to the hotel in the back seat telling Rick if he wanted a nice tip he better stick to the shortest route.

Returning to the hotel room exhausted and stuffed I crawled into bed. Despite the wind whistling outside rattling the doors sleep came easily. Around 1 a.m. I woke up needing to use the facilities. Opening my eyes, total darkness swirled around me. Still half asleep, my mind couldn’t process what was happening. Not one shard of light could be detected anywhere in the room. Pitch dark closed in around me. Feeling my way blindly around the less than familiar surroundings my sleepy mind determined somewhere in the night I had been rendered totally blind. A bit of panic gripped me as I fumbled and moved my hands along the walls. Finally panic began to drive the bus rather than just occupy a seat and I called out for Rick. Rick, so it appeared, was busy fighting his own battle with his C-Pap machine. Somehow the machine had switched off making it difficult for him to breathe. “Turn on the light” I called out. Hearing him switch the nightstand light on and off and the inky blackness remaining in place a light switched on in my fuzzy brain. “The electricity was out”. Duh. No flies on us. Thank God. I had begun to imagine the worst. Those blackout curtains in hotel rooms really work I am here to say. Groping my way to the counter I turned on my cell phone……and then there was light.

Driving home we said goodbye to the ocean as we turned inland. In my mind’s eye I can still see the waves rolling in and hear the gulls calling overhead. My only regret about not winning the lottery or being born with any significant marketable talent is that I do not have the wherewithal to wake up to the sound of the sea every day of my life. Ah well, happy people do not lament what they don’t have but are grateful for what they do so I will leave it there.

I was served this soup (or a version of it) at a luncheon recently. I loved it so I thought I’d see if I could come up with one I might share with you.

(Shchi) Russian Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup

1 lb. stew meat
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 15 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
4 cups beef broth
1/4 cup white sugar
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
8 oz. demi-glace*
2 cups water
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
2 cups of water
1 Tbsp. beef bouillon
1 head cabbage cut in wedges

Heat oil over med-high heat in skillet. Generously salt and pepper meat and brown on all sides. (Note: If you want to do a quick version of the above use leftover pieces of steak or roast in place of stew meat. Reduce initial cooking time to 35 mins. Continue the remaining part of the recipe as indicated.)

When meat is browned put in stockpot. Add all remaining ingredients through cardamom. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer on low heat for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Add 2 cups water and bouillon to pot. Bring to boil. Add cabbage and reduce heat to actively simmer for 30 minutes. Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Serves 8

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Rick and I try to slip out for a “date night” every week or two. Not that we don’t see enough of each other, we do, but date night is more about quality time than quantity. Usually this involves dinner or a movie. Cats not welcome in public venues, this leaves Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, to fend for herself. Boo came by her name honestly due of her innate fear of nearly everything from artichokes to zeppelins. Being alone, looms right at the top of her extensive “things I am afraid of” list. Usually she can be found cowering under our bed when we arrive home from a night out poised for impending disaster. As mentioned in my previous blog we adopted another kitty several years ago to provide some feline companionship, but Boo definitely didn’t want to share the spotlight. After a year we were forced to lick our wounds (literally), and hoist the white flag. Each time the two “ladies” (and I use the term loosely) saw each other the claws were out and the gloves off. In the end we found a loving home for our newest addition returning the cat count in our house to a contented one.

Date night this week was the movies. I haven’t seen a really great film in a while. Unfortunately, after seeing this one that status remains in tact. This was a Star Wars sequel. The only thing I wish I’d brought to improve the viewing was a pillow and a blanket. Rick loves Star Wars and has seen every follow up effort after the original but this one meandered about like a drunk on the freeway dangerously close to falling on its face.

Recently the owners remodeled the theater where the movie was playing. The updates were well received around town so I was curious to see what improvements had been made. Rumor had it (it is a small town so any news is big news) a bar/restaurant had been added serving beer, wine and bar food such as hot pretzels and pizza. Wow cocktails and a movie. Don’t misunderstand me, I enjoy a cocktail now and again. However, drinking before a movie (particularly the stinker we just saw) would result in me slumped over in my chair sucking air by the time the previews were over. As an aside I remember a business when I was living in Washington state who’s sign red “Drugs and Videos”. Turned out it was a pharmacy and a movie rental combined, but the sign led you in other directions.

Going to the movies is far different now then when I was a kid. There were three theaters in the town In So Cal where I went to high school. One was a newer building on spread out over a single level, with the other two massive old-style theaters replete with red velvet curtains, balconies and ornate columned walls. Double features were included in the price of ticket back then. Sandwiched in between films cartoons were played, or in my mother’s era “newsreels”, leaving patrons time for a bathroom run or to pick up another box of Junior Mints at the snack bar.

Both of the older theaters as I said had first floor and balcony seating. Balconies were reserved for overflow seating for particularly popular movies and necking for any movie. Aside from regular theaters, drive-ins were dotted all over the area. Teenagers and families gathered around the speakers on Friday and Saturday nights to enjoy some cardboard pizza from the snack bar or to share a picnic in their car. Children played in the playground until the sun went down and teens steamed up windows in the back rows.

Personally I was forbidden from going on a date to the drive-in. To be honest what I was supposed to do and what I actually did were not always in direct alignment. Drive-ins were cheap entertainment for kids relying on part-time jobs or allowances to pay for a date. At $1.75 a carload if you crammed several kids in the trunk it proved very cost effective entertainment.

Once I got married and had my own children we often piled them in the old yellow station wagon dressed in their Dr. Denton’s and sat through a double feature at the drive-in about five miles from our house. To be honest as a young mother with two toddlers I rarely made it through the second movie but it was a cheap date for us and fun for the little ones. Now I think what drive-ins remain serve mainly to house weekend swap meets but back then they were the place to be.

Rick and I often go to a matinee these days. The last time we were there he commented on the sea of gray heads lined up in the seats in the front of us. I didn’t want to point out they were for the most part in the same generation as us but the thought crossed my mind.

Fads come and fads go. The old makes way for the new. I don’t see many young faces buying a ticket to see a movie nowadays. Perhaps they go to the later viewings? My guess is they are catching their movies on line or on their devices rather than at the theater.

An old dog at heart, I still like the smell of popcorn and the lights dimming before the feature begins to play on the big screen.

This pie is so yummy and quick to pull together. Use store bought pie crust to save time. I do like this recipe for crust if you’re in the mood. I found it in a Taste of Home cookbook years ago and for someone not adept at making crust, this one works for me. Another tip from a great baker I met along the way. Use high quality vanilla when baking. There is a difference.

Triple Berry Pie

Double Crust Pie Shell

2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 Tsp. salt
2/3 cup shortening
1 Tbsp. white vinegar
4-5 Tbsp. milk

Combine flour and salt in small bowl. Cut in shortening until mixture looks like course crumbs. Sprinkle with vinegar. Gradually add milk tossing with a fork until a ball forms. Cover and refrigerate for 30 mins.

Divide pastry in half leaving one ball slightly larger than the other. Roll out the larger of the two to fit 9″-10″ pie plate. Transfer pastry to pie plate. Trim to rim. Brush bottom of shell with 1 Tbsp. water whisked with 1 egg white. Reserve the rest.

Roll out second shell to fit over top of the first. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Filling

2 1/2 cups blueberries, sorted and any stems removed
3/4 cup raspberries
3/4 cups blackberries
3/4 cups white sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 Tbsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1 Tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 egg white
2 tbsp. water

Place berries in large mixing bowl. Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over berries. Using your hands gently turn until well coated. Pour into prepared shell.

Lay top pastry over berry mix. Press and seal edges with bottom shell. Trim as needed. Cut four slits in center to vent. Brush top with remaining egg white/water mixture.

Bake for 50 mins. or until browned and bubbly.

Cook on wire rack.

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