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Posts Tagged ‘autumn’

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.

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finalCurrently I am engaged in fighting an uphill battle with the leaves in my yard. They are one of the downsides to living among the gorgeous trees prolific in our area. In autumn dry leaves blanket the ground, stop up the gutters, litter the roofs and decorate the vehicles if parked outside. Don’t misunderstand me, I enjoy walking along the road hearing them crunch beneath my boots. However, when they gang up on me I pick up my rake and prepare to do battle.

The backyard simply goes to mulch. I got an estimate once on what it would cost to clear it. Several times I caught the man giving me the estimate glancing at me as if to say “You want me to clear all the leaves?”. What? After handing me a quote of nearly $1,000, he suggested it might be better simply to let nature take its course and allow the downed leaves to remain where they fall. For $1,000 I’ll let them stay there and serve them dinner.,

Rick finds it amusing, so he tells it, to watch me outside with my weapons of choice, a rake and blower, cleaning up one huge pile of leaves as more fall all around me.

I am by nature a neat person. I prefer things to be in order and tidy. Working in a chaotic environment, say the kitchen, for me leads to experiments gone bad and take-out bags in my trash can. My grandmother began my habit of cleaning up as I go I think. Her kitchen, though well used, was never a disaster. A place for everything and everything in its place.

Nature does not conform to such rules, instead adhering to its own way of doing things. Thus, no matter how many times I fill up the yard waste bin with nature’s castoffs it will continue to toy with me by sending down a new lot to be picked up.

An upside of living in the high foothills, one of many really, was the sight outside my window yesterday. A six point buck stood majestically beneath my blazing red Chinese maple sniffing at the air. Close by, a doe was helping herself to the last of the purple flowers blooming on my hanging vines. I tried to get a picture of the buck out the front door. Every time I lined up a shot he lowered his ears and moved aggressively in my direction. I ended up with several unclear pictures taken from behind my window and one blurry one as I ducked back in the front door.

Not that I’m chicken really. Well, perhaps it is exactly I am chicken. When we lived in the Bay Area we had deer in our yard every day. Not just one or two, but whole families showed up to pick at the grass or enjoy an occasional apple thrown their way. My stepson was working in the yard one afternoon in close proximity to a buck, several does, and some younger deer still sporting their spots. Pointing out the buck to Rick and I standing on the deck, the animal decided this was enough familiarity. Laying it’s head down it began to run in my stepson’s direction. Throwing the rake, my stepson began a mad dash towards the house. Looking back it made for quite a picture. Reaching the house he vaulted up the steps. Amazingly the animal ran up after him. Rick got the door closed just before we had an uninvited guest for lunch. The animal remained guarding the door for some time before deciding he’d made his point (no pun intended). After that I choose to keep a respectful distance from our animal visitors.

Rick went out in the garage in our last house to retrieve something. Opening the door he startled a large buck helping himself to a snack from the cat food bag. Hard to tell which of them was more scared. Rick nearly beat himself to death trying to retreat. Meanwhile, the deer, in a frenzied effort to escape, slipped on the cement floor and fell. Struggling to right itself, it managed to squeeze between the two cars parked there without harming itself or the paint jobs. He did leave a mess by the cat food leaving me to locate a new storage place for Boo’s food.

When I was living in the Bay Area, Martinez to be exact, my washer and dryer were located in the garage. I went out to put a load in the washer one weekend only to be confronted by a baby possum. For a little creature he was equipped with a large set of teeth, and wasn’t afraid to display them. Deserting my clothes I bolted back inside to alert my husband of the intruder. Grabbing my favorite throw from the back of the couch my hero went into the garage to confront the wee beast. I was instructed to open the garage door so he could shoo the little guy out. The possum apparently hadn’t read the definitive book on how to behave when in someone else home and decided not to cooperate. It ran up a large wrapped vent pipe leading to the ceiling. Possum’s are very near-sighted so when cornered as a defense mechanism it made snarling sounds and barred its spiky teeth. A ladder was employed to reach the critter. Once my husband had him wrapped in the throw the possum began to fight vigorously wriggling and squirming while being carried to the driveway totaling my blanket. Last we saw of him he was hightailing it towards the border a piece of fabric still dangling from one paw.

To digress here before closing, yesterday they were speaking on the news about the new birth control for men. The side effects are being found intolerable by many of the men opting to take the medication.  Women are up in arms on social media declaring they have been enduring birth control side effects for years and men should “man up”. One woman made a comment telling women to lighten up on the guys as who are they going to call when they find a spider in the bathroom. I felt this didn’t serve either sex, but that is just my humble opinion. I have to admit I get Rick immediately if there is a bug in the house, or an unexplained smell, noise, or happening.  Most certainly this is not the only reason I keep him around. However I do appreciate him answering the call to arms when I need him.

Today is at last election day. Hopefully we can enjoy an end to all the mud-slinging and accept the results graciously. Go out and vote. You can’t complain if you don’t participate. Have a great day.

Lemon Chicken Pepper Soup

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 chicken breasts, cubed
salt and pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. scallion, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups chicken broth
2 Tbsp. parsley, chopped
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3/4 cup orange bell pepper, sliced 1/8″ thick and halved
3/4 cup red bell pepper, sliced 1/8″ and halved
1/4 cup frozen peas
1 cup cooked angel hair pasta (drained and cut in half)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

In small skillet heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil over med-high heat. Sprinkle cubed chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to skillet and turn and toss for 3 mins. or until chicken is browned.

In stockpot heat remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, scallions, and garlic. Cook and stir for 6 mins. until onion is translucent.

Add all remaining ingredients through frozen peas including browned chicken. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 30 mins. Remove from heat and add pasta and lemon juice.

Serves 4
 
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final
California is known for earthquakes. Several weeks ago Napa Valley was hit by the largest quake in California in twenty-five years. When one comes and no lives are lost, we who live here breath a sigh of relief. In our soul of souls, however, we know others are lurking in the wings. Perhaps larger, perhaps arriving at at a worse time of day than this one which came in the wee hours of the morning. If another one will come is not the question, rather when? People who live in areas plagued by repeated severe weather patterns either learn to adapt or move I would guess. Citizens of Kansas or Oklahoma, part of an area nicknamed tornado alley, are probably not totally surprised to see a funnel cloud forming on their horizon. Likewise, Californian citizens are not confused when the earth begins to move and shift beneath their feet. Nervous certainly, but not surprised. Even if you’ve already experienced an earthquake you are never really prepared for another one. It’s not so much the unsettling feeling of having your center of gravity rocking and rolling but the not knowing how long it will last or how much damage it will leave in it’s wake. Two minutes can feel like an hour.

Outside the window the sky is red with the smoke from the numerous fires burning around Northern California. My girlfriend in Boise called yesterday to thank us for sending choking smoke up there when the wind shifted in their direction. Boise where she lives, was so impacted with it people not understanding where it originated from thought it was the end of the world.

This lack of moisture is beginning to get to me. Endless weather reports with no precipitation in sight serve to make me edgy. I need my seasons. Like a fallen leaf, I would wither and die in a place where there were no signs in nature announcing the passing of one season into the next. Fall has always been my favorite time of year. Perhaps because I’m a November baby. There’s something comforting to me about the changing colors in the trees, the crunching of leaves under your boots, and the days blending earlier into night. Already I have pulled out the boxes marked “fall” from the garage. Vases and containers previously filled with summer flowers now display autumn colors.

September to me is the gateway to the major holidays of the year. This is both a plus and a minus. With Christmas easing towards me on the calendar comes the added stress of getting my presents purchased and wrapped. Thanksgiving used to signal huge holiday get togethers for our family but with everyone spread out these days we tend to gather in smaller groups closer to home to avoid the horrendous traffic present on holidays. In the past I have driven a straight path from the Washington border to the Bay Area to share turkey with my family, flown two-thirds of the U.S. to join my grandchildren on Christmas morning, and sat in traffic for four hours to travel the usual hour’s road time to trick or trick with my son’s children.

When you blend families there is the added factor of yours and theirs. I consider them ours but nonetheless it adds another layer or two to the pie. Do you go here or there? Where did you go last year? Do you cook or do they? Ach. I can remember holidays past where when the dust settled I could be found sitting in a corner my face splattered with gravy looking at every dish in my house sitting dirty in the sink. It’s always fun though, and well worth the effort.

Our house is much smaller now, so large gatherings would be nearly impossible. Though I don’t miss the larger digs, I do miss the ease of entertaining it provided. With so many available spaces to put up a banquet table or add a game table or two, we always had plenty of room with space to spare. Life is meant to change, and you need to be able to change along with it, so I will not whine about but was but enjoy and be thankful for what is.

Soon I’ll be looking for my copy of To Kill a Mockingbird in my DVR and watching Scout run through the woods in her pickle costume. Old familiar movies always make me feel the holidays are coming.

Sometimes I crave a hot dog. We don’t have them often as they aren’t a favorite of my other half. Hot dogs were the first meal we shared together, actually, as our first date was to a hockey game. I remember because they were $10 a dog and I thought they ought to come with papers for that price. I was the only one in the stands cheering on the Canadian team, a fact Rick reminds me often nearly ended our relationship if not our lives, before it got a chance to begin.

This hot dog chili is a favorite of my grandkids. The baguettes need to be used the day you buy them as I’m sure you know. When in France I was fascinated to see people walking down the streets carrying baguettes half wrapped in paper. Nearly every person seemed to have stopped at the boulangerie on the way home from work. The bread there was unbelievably good. The next day, however, you could use it as a weapon.

Baguette Dogs with Tangy Chili

2 baguettes, cut in half and cored
4 large dinner franks
Yellow mustard
Shredded cheddar cheese
Chopped red onions

Chili

1 1/4 lbs. ground beef
1/4 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup orange bell pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 8 oz. cans tomato sauce
1 can water
1/4 cup tomato catsup
1 Tbsp. yellow mustard
2 Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. cumin

Brown ground beef, peppers, onion, and garlic over med.-high heat until meat is fully cooked. Keep breaking it down with spatula to make meat as fine as possible. Drain on paper towels and return to pan.

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Add remaining ingredients to meat mixture. Mix well. Bring to boil over med.-high heat. Reduce heat and cook for 20 mins. over med.-low heat until mixture has thickened.

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Cut baguettes in half in center and then lengthwise. Scoop out centers. Cook dinner franks covered in boiling water until full heated.

Spread insides of baguettes with yellow mustard and catsup. Place one frank in bottom of each piece. Top with chili, cheese, and red onion.

Serves 4

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