Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘weather’ Category

videoblocks-woman-putting-hand-on-window-in-front-of-rain-sad-slow-motion_sduwbzxum_thumbnail-full11

Rain is sheeting down my windows, my Christmas trees are twinkling, Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, is curled by my feet, steam is rising from my coffee and all is right with the world. I’m enjoying one of my “near perfect moments”. They happen here and there when the stars align with the moon and the planets and everything, in spite of the strife and hard angles involved in existing on this earth, falls into perfect alignment. For just that moment in time life is totally, undeniably, beautiful.  If I could bottle this precious commodity therapists would be taking down their shingles and looking for another line of work and Boo and I would be languishing on a gloriously warm white sandy beach somewhere drinking Mai Tai’s and watching buffed, tanned young men arrange the lawn furniture.

I know I experience these soul touching snippets of time but wonder if others do.  Perhaps when a parent watches their deaf child react to hearing their voice for the first time, or a tired driver turns a corner on a rural road to find fields of lavender spread out before them, or standing at a window watching the first light snowflakes of the season drift slowly down to earth. Whatever your idea of perfection, I would be interested to know.

More and more of these special moments have been revealing themselves as I begin to come up out of the fog of the last year or two and look towards the future. As I’ve mentioned there is a coring out associated with losing someone dear to you that clears the road for a new and different version of yourself to emerge. Possibilities for what could come to be as time unfolds began to take form.

People ask me so often if I have met anyone, or if I am interested in exploring a new relationship. My best answer to the former “too soon”, and to the latter, “I don’t know”. Right now I am trying to discover who I am. If I don’t know who I am how can someone else hope to get to know me? This got to me wondering what type of person I would want to meet. Over the years I may not have zoned in on exactly what I needed in a partner, but I certainly have crossed off a lot of what I did not need.

Partnering is not for sissies. It is difficult enough just to be you but to be “us” with someone else takes patience, compromise, and perseverance. How do you know what type of person is the best fit for you? Do you choose a person with like interests and tastes? Possibly. However, for all that we humans seem alike, we are all so vastly different.  Watching a ballet troupe perform Swan Lake might move one person to tears while at the same time leave the person next to them longing for a No-Doz. Where our physical construction remains basically the same our emotional makeup is so much more complicated and unique. Often I question whether relationships with two like people work better than those where the pair are polar opposites. In my case someone just like me might either cause sparks to fly or snoring to ensue. I might be less than stimulated to have a partner who agreed with every premise I supported rather than offering me opposing views to mull over and consider.

So, will I have another serious relationship in my life? This remains to reveal itself. Certainly I have had my share of relationships. Being somewhat of a nester, I seem to naturally gravitate to setting two places at the table. I hear opposing views on the subject. Though I have many happily attached friends, I also have single friends who would rather cut off their own foot than immerse themselves in another serious relationship. These friends prefer their own company cherishing the freedom to do what they want when they want to do it.  I have to admit there is a sort of heady feeling to being able to move about unencumbered. However, I do so miss having Rick at home waiting for me with a smile when I arrived at the door or worrying about me if I was running late. I like sharing my day with someone interested in hearing about it, and settling in for a cuddle and a little TV before getting ready for bed.

There are a lot of activities I find more fun with a companion. This does not mean I can’t have fun alone, I most certainly can. However, there is also something special about sharing the experience with someone who I enjoy spending time with. Travel, for example. I prefer to travel with someone, though traveling alone is not alien or frightening to me. Part of my job description in my last job in the Bay Area was being flown about the U.S. orchestrating trade show details for the product our company manufactured.  Usually first on the scene, my job was to secure a hospitality suite where I would set up shop as home base for our executives to do business with and entertain prospective clients and investors. This would include ordering lavish spreads, preparing giveaway bags, and selecting high end wines. Often these rooms were pricey units on secured floors with all the amenities afforded those who can foot the bill. Though there was lots of work involved in promoting these shows, certainly it was not a difficult perk to swallow that I went back after a long day to an exquisite suite and was provided a carte blanche room service agreement. Where some would have been dining on the deck enjoying pate or lobster bisque washed down with a fine pinot noir, I could often be found bouncing on the bed, ordering a cheeseburger and fries with a beer, and stuffing all the little toiletries in my suitcase to add to my collection at home.

Traveling is high on my list of things I would love to do more of with or without someone to hit the road with. Greece and Italy beckon me all the time, and though I have seen Paris and London there is so much more of Europe I would like to leave a footprint on. A return trip to Nova Scotia is definitely on my “Things I Must Do Before I Can’t” list. No matter how many years spread out between my last visit there, I still yearn to see it again. Home, after all, will always be home no matter where you hang your hat. Also, I am looking forward to meeting my dad’s tribe, many of which I have never met, sometime next year. Deep down below these brown roots I will always be Canadian with a healthy mix of American now thrown in for good measure.

With the new year about to arrive I have begun thinking seriously about how to use 2020. Where do I want to go and what do I want to do? I believe, again referring to my heritage, after living so many years in the U.S. it is time to apply for dual citizenship. With the present atmosphere around citizenship in this country I don’t want to be waving at my family from the back of a truck headed north of the dividing line. I do wish it wasn’t so expensive to get this done. I just paid nearly $1000 to get my Canadian paperwork up-to-date. I’m told this could take upwards of fifteen months due to the high volume of applicants. Whew.

Also my thoughts have turned to reeducating myself perhaps in a different field. You are never too long in the tooth to learn something new. I know I have some snow on the roof but I’m still capable of putting words together in a sentence and having a cogent thought from time to time. Surely I can still be retrained? I think older adults should be given life credit for lasting this long. Hopefully, unless you cruised through your life with your eyes and eyes on mute you have picked up some knowledge along the way. I like to think I have, though there are probably some out there who might argue this point. I have fallen on my face on many occasions but managed to pick myself up and take a lesson from why I tripped in the first place. Having been married four times one might say I was a slow learner, but I prefer to think of myself as optimistic about love. Makes it easier to sleep at night.

So as I ponder my world and what is to come, I am happy to report almost all my holiday shopping is done. I have made an early resolution that next year I will not do this amount of shopping. Instead I will try to pick out something small but meaningful or make something for each of my loved ones. Most of my friends have opted to tuck a check in their Christmas cards to those relatives they give to, but I needed one more year of shopping and wrapping under my belt before I handed over the baton. It was most fun and my tree skirt is happily covered with brightly wrapped gifts. Boo, who believes everything in this house is actually hers only being on loan to me as long as I feed her, works on undermining this effort every day.

Have a great one. Learn a new word, try a new food, say hi to someone who looks like they might not say hi back. Make it count.

644c26d3625d24a0c7c61dbc63a921be

 

 

Read Full Post »

Finally an end to a three day siege in the dark here in Northern California. Sigh. PG&E in it’s infinite wisdom decided the need has arisen to once again to shut down our electrical supply in deference to predicted winds and the parched undergrowth prevalent in our area this time of year. Perhaps if they had actually maintained their lines in a proper manner over the years, or possibly modeled our electrical system after those overseas with the wiring underground, we wouldn’t be forced to do this every time there is such a weather event.

My power went off around 3 am Tuesday morning which is why I woke up at precisely 3:05 with a rather plump white cat draped across my face. Boo is not a fan of anything not written precisely in the script, and weather of any kind other than sunny and warm, seems to set her tail on fire.

Murphy’s law in full force, I decided last weekend to do what I call “big shopping” at the grocery store. Since Rick passed away I tend to shop in smaller increments but felt it was time to stock up. As usual, my timing is right on the money. Money being the optimum word here as I was unable to save 80% of what was in my refrigerator due to the fact every available source for ice was sold out in the area.

All appliances unavailable for use at the house, I ventured out early Tuesday in search of a much needed cup of coffee. After waiting in lines at intersections with lights not working, and hitting all local coffee providers, I found no place open to buy a cup of Joe. A girl has gotta have her caffeine, so I actually merged on the freeway and traveled twenty miles south locating a McDonald’s with lights on and a line circling the building. Pulling in line behind the last car I caught a glimpse of my hair in the rear view mirror. With no hair dryer available it looked a bit like a cotton candy blowout. I pulled on my ball cap in deference to other drivers around me who might have gotten the impression I was getting a head start on Halloween.

To add to this mixed bag of goodies, I am in the process of moving my mother to a board and care. This is the fourth move I’ve done on her behalf in the last eight years. If you add the two I’ve done for myself that brings me to six moves in nearly as many years. Personally I am up to what I believe might be a near record for non military personnel of thirty-nine moves. My mother I’m sure is working on nearly half that. Often I have thought perhaps I am missing the signs the universe seems to be sending my way. Perhaps I should consider opening a packing business. Certainly I have enough experience at this point in the game. Give me a couple of rolls of tape, a month’s accumulation of newspapers, and some boxes and I can pack a twelve room house plus garage in about two hours. Kidding naturally, so please no requests, but I am both fast and nearly breakage free when it comes to getting the job done.

This power situation couldn’t have come at a worse time for me. My daughter and I have been planning a garage sale for this weekend in an effort to get rid of all the excess household items left over from my move, my mother’s move, and their last move presently taking up space on one side of their garage. With people running around trying to find places to charge their phones, get gas, or simply figure out what to do with themselves while sitting in the dark for twelve hours every night, perhaps going to a garage sale isn’t sitting at the top of their to-do list. Fortunately the power was restored to most of the area this morning so perhaps we can still pull this off.

I have been staying at my mother’s assisted living apartment while the lights have been off. As such facilities cater to a large population of elderly people, some requiring oxygen or other medical devices, they have to have an alternative electrical source available should the power go down. Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, was left at home to man the gate. This had me running back and forth between the two living spaces making sure she has fresh water, a good dose of loving, and some kitty treats in her bowl.

Sometimes I wonder when life is ever going to settle down. I’m not asking for a boring flat line existence, but a slow rippling roll would be most welcome. Some days it seems like it’s been spiking and dipping like a roller coaster for years on end. I find my mind drifting to white sandy beaches and clear azure waters as I fall off to sleep these nights.

Sleep is another thing that seems to be evading me. I go to sleep no problem, but can’t seem to maintain a deep sleep once I have dozed off. Often I find myself looking at the ceiling two or three times during the night sometimes giving up completely and getting up and pushing brew on the coffee machine in the wee hours of the morning. My diagnosis of this phenomenon is that my subconscious is ticking off everything going on in my life and telling me there aren’t enough hours in the day to spend any lying down so I’d better get up and get something done.

Someone told me the other day I need to slow down. Really? How do I do that exactly? I do try to find me time to put my feet up and have a relaxing cup of tea, but usually in the middle of that the phone is ringing or something comes up that needs my attention. Perhaps I should put in a panic room and lock myself in it for an hour each day? Panic being the optimum word here

Yesterday I ran back and forth for my kitty, met with the home health nurse and went to the store for my mom, stopped to pick up more moving boxes, met a friend for her birthday lunch, stopped at the store on the way home for something to throw in the microwave, and retrieved my credit card from the pharmacy where I left it earlier in the day. Pulling into the assisted living facilities parking lot around dinner time I found the lot full of hay bales and bustling with activity. A sign attached to a scarecrow read, “Halloween Party in Progress – Parking Lot Full – Please Park Across the Street and Take The Free Shuttle”. Good news my hair was all ready for the parade. Yay. So I parked across the street and asked the very nice shuttle driver if he would mind if I loaded up the back of the van with moving boxes Not only did he oblige, but loaded them both on and off for me. Most probably he got a good look at my hair and felt I needed all the help I could get. I told him I would bear his children. Dropping me off in the parking lot with my load he suggested I go over later and collect my vehicle lest it get towed. Okay. My angels continuing to show up when needed he was kind enough to pick me up at the street corner two hours later trying to figure out how to get across the busy intersection.

Today I am out getting signs for our sale and change for the customers. I have sorted through most of my mom’s things and put them in three boxes, KEEP, DONATE, and GARAGE SALE. Again, I state from my previous blog about caretaking for an older parent, making decisions on their behalf such as this is not an easy undertaking. She has kept every card and letter given her over the years but there is no place to store these nor does she remember she has them anymore really. So, those memories will have to be kept tightly in her heart and find another home as we sift through her life. Sorry Mama.

I am off to get started. Wishing you a day filled with illumination.

Read Full Post »

A lot going on in the news of late. Very unsettling way to spend an hour first thing in the morning before consuming your allotted amount of caffeine. Sometimes I just tune it out, opting for something easier on my brain before it gets revved up to its full momentum for the day. I’ve been thinking seriously about exploring meditation or yoga as forms of relaxation. So far these remain in the thinking stage, but at least they are floating around up there with the rest of the things I’m thinking about doing probably tomorrow, maybe the next day, or perhaps this coming weekend.

Usually I am not a procrastinator. Many of the things I was taught as a child were thrown against the wall and ended up sliding back down, but some suggestions actually stuck. One, from my grandmother, was do the thing you least enjoy doing first rather than placing it at the end of the list. That way you get it over with and it doesn’t hang over your head while you’re doing whatever else came before it. I adhere to this in most things. Take bathrooms, for example. I find nothing stimulating in any way about scrubbing the toilet bowl, pulling hair out of the shower drain, or removing soap scum. Do I enjoy a clean bathroom? Certainly. That being said someone has to clean it and low these many years I’ve never noticed any hands going up when I suggested it might be someone other than myself.

At the moment I feel like I’m trying to manipulate an eight man scull with one oar in the water. To begin with, my mother is in a skilled nursing facility recovering from a broken hip. Being an only child, and with my two kids and their families scattered about and busy, this requires a heavy commitment of time on my part. I have groups and appointments that have been moved around and juggled to the point my day planner looks like a five year old scribbled the entries with a kindergarten pencil.

My house, though not large, continues to distribute dust and crumbs at an alarming pace, and though I am taking a stab at keeping up with this progression, sometimes it feels as though I’m losing the race. The thought has occurred to me to hire someone to clean the house, but this thought is generally overridden once I consult my bank account for available funds to make this happen. Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, though a dainty eater insists on removing each kibble from her bowl and chewing it to shreds over the floor creating a pile of large and small debris suitable for keeping a cat shelter going for several months. Yesterday I stepped on a particularly large chunk and spilled coffee all over my pants trying to right myself before I ended up in a bed next to my mother.

Something I have observed when your schedule starts to blink “overload, overload”, is you begin to do really stupid things. Now, I am the first to admit I often do dumb things as a rule of thumb, but I mean really mind numbing idiocy. Yesterday I had to run to the grocery store after being unable to think of one meal I could pull together with yellow mustard and sour cream. Racing though the aisles I piled on whatever looked good, was two for one, and I remembered I was out of and went through the checkstand. It had begun to rain at a fairly heavy pace when I pushed the cart out the front door. Locating my car I pushed the “open trunk” button on my remote and attempted to do just that. Nothing. Fine, now the remote was broken. Again I pushed a button, this time for the car itself. Nothing. Stupid remote, stupid manufacturer, why is it pouring? Finally I looked inside the car to see an In n Out cup sitting in the cup holder. Hmmmm. The last time I’d had an In n Out burger was a year ago. A light blinked in an otherwise dark chamber in my mind allowing a cognizant thought to emerge. “This is not my car.” Got it.

This vein of stupidity has run through my entire week. It’s like a wicked fairy tapped me on the head casting a spell where 40 IQ points were immediately erased from my intelligence quotient, leaving me with the brain capacity of a domestic turkey. This yet another reason you shouldn’t leave me out in the rain. Duh, and more duh. I put my trash out on Thursday which would have been excellent was it not for the fact that was the trash pick up day at my old house. The new house has trash pick up scheduled for Wednesday mornings. I’m sure the gardener will be pleased to note the clippings from last weeks trimmings are still poking nearly to the top of the compost bin. Sorry. Don’t hate me because I’ve been struck stupid. Hopefully, this will pass.

To add to my prefrontal cortex malfunctions, I have a head cold. This means I either need to abstain from visiting my mother or wear a face mask. If you have ever tried to breathe with one of these masks over your nose when your nasal passages are tighter than Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s abs, you would understand why this option is not at the top of my list. That being said, I have opted to rest in place for the day, binge on old movies, and face the mask tomorrow after two or three dosings of Airborne and some rest. Check please.

On another note, I have to say it was wonderful to see the rain. Thankfully summer in the Sierra Nevadas didn’t dole out it’s usual bounty of sweltering days this year. Summer passed on a somewhat milder note keeping devastating fires off the front page as often and making for more tolerable days outside.

With the rain accompanied by the first dusting of snow in the mountains fall is dropping hints it’s just around the corner. There’s something about autumn that stirs my soul more than any other season of the year. The glorious colors bursting forth on the trees, the rich earthy smell after a good downpour, and my three favorite holidays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas lining up on the horizon.

Cooking begins to cross my mind this time of year as well, Delicious meaty stews, comforting soups, and the king of the birds (at least to eat) the turkey. Yum and more yum.

As the calendar rolls over to October I will begin digging in the storage shed for the Halloween decorations tucked away in their orange bin. Since I have enough bins to start a department store I have found color coding preferable to spending an afternoon opening one lid after another trying to determine what lies beneath it. Red and green for Christmas, orange for Halloween, well you get the idea.

Monday has arrived on the scene again. The week before me is jam packed so I am gearing up to prepare for it armed with the industrial pack of Airborne for my cold and a mega sized cup of coffee to get my blood moving. Have a great week. Take a chance or two, hug your kids often, say hello to a stranger, and discover something new about yourself.

Read Full Post »

1

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.

19

39

IMG_1391

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.

4

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

Read Full Post »

1

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.

Read Full Post »

1At last it is warm enough to tackle some of my outdoor projects. Over the winter months my garage tends to become a catchall for everything being far less organized than in the warmer seasons when I can get out there to work. Last weekend “clean garage” was plainly written under Saturday on my calendar. Rising early and with sufficient coffee to start my engine, I headed out the door. Grabbing my broom I brushed cobwebs out of the windows and teased leaves out of corners. Towards the back of the room stand four wall units where everything is stored from dry goods to overflow cooking utensils. Moving one unit to sweep behind it something large and furry scurried past me. Before I could identify it, it ran along the back of the garage disappearing behind a pile of logs. I went inside to tell Rick about the beastie. When I complain about the copious leaves in the yard or the deer eating our flowers Rick shoots me that look as if to say, “what do you expect, we live in the mountains”. Apparently this look covers critters in the garage as well. Yes, I get we live in the forest, thank you.  Nobody loves animals more than I do. However, I would prefer to know what type of animal I am dealing with before choosing to share space with it. There is a vast difference in experience between being in the garage with a squirrel and being in the garage with a skunk, if you get my drift. (No pun intended.)

Gingerly I began poking at the logs stacked in the corner. Newly purchased bags of potting soil were leaning against them. With a sunny weekend in the forecast, plans were in the works to begin digging in my garden. I did not want to be surprised by something unpleasant with teeth. Out of the corner of my eye I caught two beady little eyes staring up at me from behind the stacked wood. To complete the picture beyond one log the tip of a rather slinky tail protruded. As the hair began to come to attention along the base of my neck my mind began to scream, RAT, RAT, RAT. Ewwwww. Can I say it again?  Ewwwww. I’ve dealt with wasps, black widow spiders, and centipedes but never rodents. Well, for the sake of full disclosure I did have a wee gray mouse once.  His visit a brief but memorable one once our old cat honed in on his location. Mouse didn’t come by her name for nothing. Such is the circle of life. Unfortunately our cat du jour, Boo, the Queen of Cats, did not accept Mouse living in her house so we had to find Miss Mouse a new home. Boo, lazy to the very depth of her spoiled old bones, if faced with a rat would probably lie down and take a nap.

The following day after seeing the rat I called the pest control people. Conducting a thorough inspection, the service man said there was no infestation. Thank God. There was evidence of one rat, most likely a teenager. Personally I don’t care whether the rat was five or forty, I want him to find another place to hang his little rat hat. For enough money to pay for a semester at Harvard the man said he would set traps to rid us of the beast.  In addition to a substantial initial outlay a year-long contract was to be included to be paid on a monthly basis.  Hmmmm. Suddenly the rat was looking better than the service man.

I associate rats with being dirty. Not wanting to be considered as such, I prattled on about my attention to cleanliness with the pest control guy. Finally, probably tiring of hearing how my knees were raw from scrubbing the floors 24/7, he told me this rat probably just came in out of the rain and as a bonus discovered the dry goods we store in the garage. Who knew rats liked non-dairy creamer and coffee?

Searching for a less expensive option, I dialed my son’s number. Several years ago he’d had three rats in his garage. When he’d originally discussed this with me I was surprised. I keep a very clean house, but my daughter-in-law is immaculate. Dinner could be served up on her kitchen floor without fear of ingesting a single germ. For her this must have been tantamount to being told someone in the neighborhood had come down with bubonic plague. Duct work had to be torn down and replaced, x-rays taken of walls, and $5,000 later the house was rat-free. Ewwwww, once again.

Another friend of mine had rats in her walls. This can be a serious problem. Fortunately our situation is one rat, one garage. Easy peasey. In my friend’s case pest control set out a series of traps with cheese laced with poison. Rats ate the laced cheese and retreated back into the walls to go wherever rats go when they pass on. Unfortunately retrieval of the bodies was not part of the contract. After a few days and a good dose of hot air blown through the ducts from the furnace the house began to smell. More money then had to be invested to do something about odor abatement. Ach.

We often leave our garage door open during the day. My mother comments on her visits she would worry about critters getting in. In the four years we’ve been here we have only had one “critter” in the garage, a small deer who wandered in to help herself to some cat food. Perhaps we will have to rethink this strategy in the future.

So, we have purchased traps and as barbaric as I find this whole procedure it’s him or me. I am not willing to continue to go in the garage in hip boots and full haz-mat gear for the rest of my tenure in this house.

Probably not the best idea to pair a discussion of rodents with food, but what I am if not a trend setter?

These lamb burgers were our virgin run on the grill for the season. I love ground lamb and it is great for a change up from a traditional burger.

Grilled Lamb Burgers with Tzatziki Sauce

1 1/2 lb. minced lamb
1/2 onion chopped fine
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. crushed mint
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
2 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup Feta cheese
3 Tbsp. olive oil
4 English muffins
Tomatoes and red onion
Spinach leaves

Mix all ingredients together well. Refrigerate for 1 hr. Form into patties.

Spray grill well with cooking spray. Preheat grill to med-high heat. Cook meat patties 3-4 minutes per side. Remove and top with Feta cheese.

At the same time baste each English muffin on cut side with olive oil. Place on grill until browned.

Serve patties on muffins with tomatoes, red onion (grilled are best) and fresh spinach leaves topped with Tzatziki sauce.

Tzatziki Sauce

1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
1 cucumber, finely diced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 lemon juiced
1 Tbsp. dill
3 cloves garlic

Mix together and chill for 1 hr. Serve on top of lamb burgers.

Serves 4

Read Full Post »

1

Today I decided to deep clean the house before the holidays. Rick would tell me it is clean, but I believe the level on which most male animals rate cleanliness is often below the standard we women might use. To him “clean” is there isn’t a pile of trash on the floor with rodent presence and he has fresh underwear in his drawer. For me, this is not adequate for company.

Aside from the dust that settles minutes after I spray it away, Boo, the Queen of Cats, leaves evidence of her presence everywhere she travels. White fur floats through the air, covers furniture, and generally attaches itself to anything and everything. Last week my mother got up from the cat’s chair and the back of her black pants looked as if they needed a shave. Yes, yes, the cat has her own chair. I know. Not one penny did she provide for it, but if it had her name engraved on it it couldn’t be more hers. I’m rolling my own eyes. It’s a nice chair at that. IKEA would be proud to know that one of their own has been put to work in such a fashion. On top of the chair is the queen’s pillow, which if not whisked with the tape roller every day begins to look like Santa’s beard.  When we have to put her chair into use when extra company arrives she circles whoever is seated in it like Indians might a wagon train. In a particularly feisty mood, she might even make a swipe at the occupant before retiring to a corner and fixing them with an icy feline stare. Nice.

I have tried to find a groomer in our area who caters to cats. Seems the words out cats aren’t fond of water and groomers have chosen to stick with canines who for the most part are easier to manage. Where we lived previously was on the route of a wonderful mobile groomer. The truck rolled down the driveway every three months to freshen up the cat and trim her nails. This, I have to say, was never a procedure Boo looked forward to with any enthusiasm. So much so that if the truck turned into the driveway and she wasn’t crated she could be located hiding under the bed precipitating a pursue and capture routine Laurel and Hardy would have been proud of.  For those of you too young to know who they are please find a search bar.

I’ve had a string of animals since I got my first cat when I turned thirteen. While in Home Depot last weekend I ran into a man with a “goldendoodle”. What a gorgeous creature she was and blessed with the sweetest disposition. Goldendoodles are part standard poodle and part golden retriever.  Brought to mind the 80’s at my house and a golden retriever answering to Barnaby. Barnaby was my husband at the time’s dog at heart. That being said, he didn’t listen to anyone in the household but him, and at that not him very often.  The dog was enormous even by retriever standards. From the time we brought him home from the breeder the dog was prone to eating wooden door frames or sticking his head in the trash can distributing the contents everywhere if left unsupervised. Nothing was off limits when unattended including my expensive shoes or newly purchased leather love seat. Realizing as the days passed Barnaby needed some fine tuning when it came to behavior we enrolled him in obedience school at the local junior college. After the best efforts of the staff on hand it was determined he was not going to be an honor student. I believe when the last class concluded and I loaded the rambunctious Barnaby and his “diploma” into the back of the station wagon the staff breathed a collective sigh of relief. It became obvious leaving him in the house wasn’t an option. Once when left to his own devices after a dinner party he consumed an entire coconut cake a guest had kindly brought to share for dessert. Outside being the only obvious solution a huge dog house was purchased with a lovely padded bed for him to lie on. Not the sharpest pencil in the box I can still see him sitting with rain teeming down his face next to the dog house when I came home from work.

I love all animals, but Barnaby and I had issues. Holes, in particular were number one on my list. Our lovely yard was often put to the test when Barnaby found himself with time on his paws while we were at work. Even when I was home he could be seen digging furiously behind the fruit trees by the fence hoping to tunnel beneath it to freedom. Not alone in the yard most days, our more obedient and far lazier Shih Tsu would sit patiently at his side until the tunnel took shape. No matter how many times I filled a hole, another would show up to replace it. Sigh. On returning home on many days I would find the two doggie pals seated on the front step waiting for their evening meal after roaming the neighborhood. Thankfully they were friendly dogs, and the worst thing that ever came from such behavior was fatter bellies because of extra treats handed out by well-meaning neighbors and an occasional request to pick up a deposit one or the other animal left on a neighboring lawn.  Once after consuming an entire box of crayons I got interesting calls from around the block from people finding Technicolor dog droppings in their yards. Hmmmmm. Talk about having an m.o.

When even pouring cement beneath the fence line didn’t work we had to find Barnaby a home. The people who signed up were retired from their jobs and their children grown. They devoted all their time and affection to making the rest of Barnaby’s life full of doggie smiles. I got a Christmas card with a picture of the three of them in Santa hats each year for a while and am happy to know he found a forever home.

In between changing sheets and doing the floors I whipped up this soup. Really good on a chilly night.

Tuscan Sausage Soup

16 oz. bulk Italian sausage, mild
8 slices crisply cooked bacon, cut in fourths
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves minced garlic
32 oz. chicken broth
2 1/2 cups water
4 russet potatoes, thinly sliced
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. black pepper
Salt to taste
1 1/2″ square chub of hard Parmesan cheese
3 cups baby spinach
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Additional Parmesan for garnish

Brown sausage in stock pot. Remove with slotted spoon and drain. Discard fat in pot. Add olive oil to pot over med-low heat. Add onion and cook 6-8 mins. until translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 min.

Add broth, water, potatoes, red pepper flakes, black pepper, Parmesan cheese, bacon and sausage to pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and cook 20 mins. Add spinach to pot an continue cooking 10 mins. Whisk in cream and heat through.

Serve with Parmesan cheese if desired.

Serves 4

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: