Posts Tagged ‘fall’

Outside my window, the gardeners are bending and standing scooping huge rakes of fall leaves into my compostable bin. A cool breeze is keeping the supply of leaves needing sweeping swirling to the ground, and the days have turned cooler. Hard to believe, just last week we were laboring through the worst heat wave since weather has been reported here in Northern California. I am getting myself and my car packed for my trip down to the Bay Area to watch my son get married. Miss Boo is sitting in the corner tossing ugly looks in my direction from time to time, while I pull things from my closet to fill my suitcase with. Please, save your pity for an abused kitty somewhere. Boo has a house/pet sitter coming for the days I’ll be absent, so by no means is the cat being disregarded. For the price of a car payment, I am providing her company, plentiful treats, food in her dish, water in her bowl, and a companion to snuggle with in the middle of the night. Sometimes I think the cat lives better than I do.

Though this week is slated to be a busy one, life in general seems to have at last slowed down to a manageable pace. For one, my dating life has certainly quieted down. Again, save your pity. I quieted it down. Life was getting confusing. I don’t want or need confusion right at this juncture in my world. I cleared the playing field of all but a single competitor, and went back to square one to regroup and take a break. Perhaps, and that is a perhaps, I am not ready to step into something new quite yet. That being said, I am taking a long hard look at what it is I would like to do. I’ll send up a flare when I have any answers to that dilemma. Actually, I don’t HAVE to do anything exactly at the moment except head down to watch my son share his name with the love of his life. That, I have to say, is more than enough for now. Having my children, though they are far removed from that description these days, settled and happy allows me peace of mind and makes my heart smile every day. In August, my dear little mama moved on as well. All this leaving me standing at the crook in the road of late trying to decide whether to go left or right, or simply sit on a rock under a tree in the warm sun and take in the scenery.

It is smoky outside today. The biggest fire currently in progress in California, is in our back yard. Not literally, thank God, but twenty miles as the crow flies east of here, and that’s not nearly far enough away for me. We’ve been sucking up smoke for several weeks, and it’s only 25% contained. The location is difficult for firefighters to access, prone to steep slopes and valleys, and we are so dry here it can quickly spread with no lack of fuel. The fire fighters have a good battle on their hands. Watching the enormous plume spiraling up into the air leaves me with an admiration for the incredible power of nature.

I think a lot about the power nature wields in our universe. Last week I watched a documentary on the Dust Bowl. There wasn’t enough misery with the heat and the smoke, I thought I’d add a little extra to the pot. I had no idea those people endured that for ten years. Wow. They had dust in their teeth, their food, their homes, and most likely every other accessible orifice. Horrible.

Leaving thoughts of fire and dust bowls behind, while loading my car up with what I felt I needed for my trip, it became obvious to me I know not the first thing about “traveling light”. In my defense, I have learned over the years no matter whether leaving town for one night or a week, you basically have to pack about the same amount of belongings. Also, I was trained by the best. My mother, a self proclaimed “clothes horse”, would devote an entire suitcase to shoes, and another to handbags, when she went on a trip. Another problem lies in as we age, there simply is more equipment to take with because the maintenance of our bodies becomes more labor intensive. Before leaving the house in the morning I have at least forty-five minutes of upkeep required on my person before I can go out the front door. This is not including showering, hair and makeup. Truth is, I could use a team these days to help me get presentable before being allowed to run free in the general public.

My esthetician has me using a three part beauty treatment twice a day which she insists MUST be applied in the correct order. 1, 2, 3. Really it isn’t rocket science. Yet, she has thoughtfully numbered the bottles for me, apparently sensing I, 1) either don’t care about this order in the least, or 2) likely would forget what the order was by the time the words exited her lips. Both answers would have been correct. According to her, you must apply the products in this order lest your skin slide down your face and drift into a puddle at your feet. Let’s see, 1, 2, 3. By George I think I’ve got it. Really?

There has also been a sinus rinse added to my regimen by my allergist, which when the liquid is shot up your nostrils is tantamount to sliding your brain under a rushing waterfall for three minutes. This requires distilled water, a special dispenser, which has to be sanitized, and a saline packet. Sigh.

Next, I have a mask for my dry eyes which is popped in the microwave each morning while listening to the news, then applied for the pre-determined effective time of fifteen minutes. Siri has been kind enough to count this off for me every day until the caffeine has taken effect.

I am wishing my mother was here to witness the joining of these two dear people. Knowing how much she appreciated a good party and how much she loved her grandson, I’m sure she’ll be perched like the Cheshire Cat on one of the massive limbs of the oak tree they are to be married under, not missing a single magical moment.

As I say often in my blogs, life is like a movie with a series of frames. You must capture the most from each frame in order to absorb the story to its fullest.

There have been a lot of goodbyes over the past few years. As with everything when one door shuts, another opens. It will be lovely to be part of a new beginning once again.

Happy Friday! We are being gifted with a lovely preview to fall sort of day as we embark on a day of pre wedding festivities. Enjoy every moment.

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Well here we are heading into August. Summer is beginning to wind down once again, meaning fall isn’t far behind. The onset of the autumn months always get my heart to pumping. Fall is most definitely my favorite time of the year, perhaps due to the fact I was a November baby, or I love the sound of crisp leaves crumbling under my boots, the smell of my first pumpkin candle flickering in the window, or rain on the roof. I don’t know, it’s a cozy, pleasant feeling like slipping into a hot tub after a long day.

Yesterday, there was a lot of smoke in the air from the fire burning in the Yosemite area. The giant sequoias have so far escaped injury thanks to the efforts of the fire personnel. I have visited those beautiful trees many times, and my heart would be saddened to see any harm come to them. Fire is so devastating. Often I think of my friends in Paradise, California who lost so much in the Camp Fire in 2018. 85 souls were lost on that day, and so much devastation inflicted on the area. When living in Butte County, I worked in Paradise for nearly four years at the Paradise Post. That building, like most in the town, was burned to the ground. As our temperatures rise, it seems logical the incidence of fires will rise along with it. I try not to worry, because it is such a wasted emotion. All the energy put into worrying could be so much better utilized to do something more constructive and, in the end, isn’t going to change anything set in motion to occur. This is a lesson I remind myself of each and every day.

I had a dinner party of sorts last night. Have to admit my dinner party muscles are a wee bit atrophied. My house, as I’ve mentioned, was not built to accommodate a lot of guests. It’s really at it’s best when housing two people and a cat. The table looked pretty. I lit a candle, though it was hot out, just because. The conversation was interesting. My company sat at the dining room table talking and kibitzing me while I slaved away in the kitchen. I am an old hand at dinner parties. In the past, pulling one together for sixty people wouldn’t have had me even breaking a sweat. My kitchen back then was set up beautifully for entertaining, with lots of counter space and room for appliances and tools. The one I have now, though I love it and my sweet old house, is reminiscent of a galley on a ship, long and lean, and perfect for the minimalist. We ate, we laughed, we share stories, and all the swirling news of climate change, political unrest, gun control, and women’s rights seemed dimmer and farther if only for the moment.

It’s not that I believe we shouldn’t investigate and participate with vigor in the world’s problems, it is rather that sometimes we have to put the heavy subjects in the closet for a while and simply BE. Lately I have found when I do this, I see the clouds more clearly floating by outside my window, the colors more vividly in the butterflies hovering over my plants in the yard, and hear the squirrel chattering for a mate clinging to the side of my tree. All things, as they say, in balance.

When up like I am tonight before anyone is supposed to be, I have been tuning in the CNN special on Patagonia. What a fascinating series it is, for those of you interested in the world around you. Wow. The cinematography is beyond impressive, and I do love the animals and creatures of the sea, my favorite perhaps being the penguins. I would love to travel someday to where these birds are and spend some time among them just once. They are definitely on my bucket list.

On a totally unrelated subject, I got my first paychecks. There were two. Though hardly large enough to be thought impressive, I was impressed. Many years have passed since I collected a paycheck, and it made me feel rather proud. One of my friends pointed out I could be making more slinging burgers at In n Out. Somehow, when processing that idea, the thought of standing at the grill with a bunch of teenagers amassing pimples while regaling them in stories of back in the day when phones were still connected to the wall and computers but a seed in Bill Gate’s brain cells didn’t sound like a plan to me. Although, I have to admit, the all you can eat employee benefits did ring a happy bell in my taste buds

The new job so far, is rewarding. The residents of the assisted living/memory care facility are definitely the icing on the cake. The other day one of them rolled up to my desk and said to me, “Let me ask you something. If you were me, what would you do now?”. This simple question really touched my heart. He was confused, and had no idea where life took him next. I suggested a visit to the library or perhaps taking a walk through the halls. Both seemed like such shallow solutions to the more pressing problem he faced. Life had become small for this gentleman, essentially held within the walls of this facility. It was a stark reminder to me to live every day fully, cherish my time with my children and my friends, and make the best memories and difference possible while time is still available to me. He went off in search of a book to read. I wondered if he found one and opened the pages, would he remember the words written there. Life goes on, new life comes in and old moves out. The circle is complete.

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My life is so upside down at the moment, all I need is to slap some sliced pineapple dotted with a few maraschino cherries on it and call it good. The phone rings incessantly. Dale is a well loved man. It is a tribute to him that so many people care about his well being and wish him well. He is playing a good defensive game, with all of us at the sidelines as his cheerleaders, but eventually, not withstanding a miracle, the cancer will most likely be the victorious opponent. Meanwhile, we support him in any way we can, and try to make each day as memorable as possible to carry us when we no longer have him to create new memories. All in all, a very melancholy, sometime joyous, and totally exhausting rite of passage.

I wonder often, as I have been in this same position twice in three years, why some humans have to suffer before moving on. Why when our time is done here on earth, we couldn’t simply drift out in a poof of glistening, fragrant, smoke evaporating seamlessly into the hereafter. “What is the purpose of the pain?”, I ask before going to bed each night, but as yet I have received no answer.

Today was the first day of fall actually feeling like the season had arrived. The sky is slightly overcast, with gray clouds block the sun at regular intervals suggesting the storm predicted to be on it’s way. According to the weatherman, the expected rainfall is not by way of a blockbuster, providing torrential downpours, but rather a trickle as opposed to a a steady flow. As dry as we are here on the west coast any precipitation at all is a cause for celebration at this point, so we’ll take it. Bring it on I say.

As I’ve said ad nauseam at this point, I live in a very small house. It is a sweet, and seductively cozy house, but was I to describe it, certainly spacious would never be an adjective I’d employ. Built in the 1930’s, there is no garage. I downsized considerably when moving here after selling my house. That being said, even with sluffing off a lot of household possessions, I still had more than I had room for. To avoid paying additional monies out every month for storage, my son-in-law built me a storage shed in the back yard to store my overflow in. Needless to say, I have filled that area up quite nicely. There are two things I really miss in this house when comparing it to my previous. First, as I said, a garage, and I also miss my large capacity side by side refrigerator. Yesterday at Costco I spied one the size of Rhode Island. This monster was equipped with enough room top and bottom to store a whole human should the need arise. Let’s face it, it is getting towards Halloween, and one never knows when such a situation might come up. For a mere $3,100, I could have had that puppy delivered. For a moment, just a blissful moment, I teetered on the brink of contemplating ownership of that bad boy, before gathering my senses and better judgement together and deciding to leave the store without regret. Driving the route towards my house, I kept imagining the glorious abandon of having ample room to store leftovers without having to generate a flow chart and make unfortunate decisions about what container was to be saved, and which ones fate was to be written at the bottom of my kitchen trash bin. When I came home, I rearranged my small freezer for the fourteenth time in two days and reminded myself to find my grateful space and remain in it until I got over it. Still there.

Aside from turning the thermostat from cool to heat, it is also time to switch out my closet from summer clothes to warmer wear. This, I have to say, is a project I detest. “Susie, old girl”, I told myself as I schlepped one plastic bin after another back and forth from the shed to the house, “you have wayyyyyyy too may clothes”. I do love clothes. Can’t lie. I blame my mother for this. If she was standing here and I said that, she wouldn’t even defend the statement. Always, my mother was a fashion plate. Never did I see her disheveled or unkempt. He outfits were coordinated from the tips of her earlobes all the way down to the glistening shine on the nails on her toes. Her hair was styled weekly, and remained in that style until the following week when it was washed and styled again, and cut and colored as needed. My mother’s hair has always been a bit of a “thing” in our family. Literally, it was something to be admired and revered. As if an entity unto itself, we weren’t allowed to touch it or get it wet. Once, at a summer party, my mother accidentally backed into the deep end of my daughter’s pool disappearing under water. When she arose from the dark abyss like Phoenix from the ashes, her “do” was dripping limply in her face. We were all so shocked to see her like that, and yes a bit terrified, nobody moved to help her for a minute until she suggested someone needed to do so. That, shall we say, literally doused that evening’s plans and an emergency appointment had to be secured at the local salon the following day to repair the damage. I see you shaking your heads. Every family has it’s thing that places that seed of dread when mentioned, ours just happens to be my mother’s coiffure. What can I say?

nClothes came in a close second to hair. Mother had work clothes, play clothes, evening clothes, spring clothes, summer clothes, fall clothes, winter clothes, and shoes, oh, the shoes. Once, I counted sixty-five pairs in her closet. That was her all time record as far as I know. They were excellent quality, the lady had taste, and my stepfather I’m sure probably had no idea what the price tag of this stiletto collection actually amounted to. When hats were fashionable, the top of her closet was lined with colorful hat boxes. Inside could be found all manner of head wear, some of the small pillbox variety that perched on top of your head, others larger and covering more cranial space, some had veils, others without, and each was purchased with an outfit hanging somewhere in her closet. When she was gone at work, I would sometimes open the closet door and model some of the lovely creations inside in front of her full length mirror. Later when grown, she told me she knew I was doing this because I never put them back the way she might have, but she thought it was sweet so allowed me to continue. Whew, dodged a bullet there.

Since work is no longer a place I go to every day my work clothes have been donated or handed down to friends, and my closet mainly consists these days of play clothes. I have stacks of jeans, shorts, sweaters, blouses, tee shirts and sweatshirts. It’s rare these days I get dressed up. Where am I going? The Queen hasn’t stopped by for tea in years. People at the market, at least up here in our area, sometimes show up to shop in there pajamas, so a dress code is really not in play around here. It’s not like my social life has been abuzz with activity over the past five years. When Rick and I had the restaurant, I had a whole closet of dresses. We were in the restaurant most nights, so had to look like we were somewhat professional. Those too have disappeared in a bin somewhere with only a few stragglers left in reserve for weddings, funerals, or the occasional big night out.

I remember when I was little I had to get “dressed up” for church. My feet were held in check in the dreaded Mary Janes. Bunnies or ducks adored my ankles on the fold of my crisp white socks, and a hat was sometimes tied under my chin for good measure. Being more of a tomboy than a girlie girl, for me this was tantamount to being tied to a chair and given Chinese water torture. My grandmother never attended church in anything but a dress or a suit. Always there was a hat, usually with a veil pulled over her forehead, to accompany her outfit. A pair of gloves was either in her purse or covering her hands, and over her shoulder, in the winter months at least, was draped her fox stole. I never warmed up to that particular garment, largely because the foxes used to create it were still attached to it. To me it always looked frightening and smelled a little gamey, but to ladies of the time it was quite the deal. Each generation has their nuances, I’m glad that one didn’t slop over on ours down the road.

At any rate, I have managed to switch the closet. Sooooo glad that job is behind me. I took all the extra junk from the shed I didn’t need, and piled it into my car and went to the dump to dispose of it. What a fragrant and messy place that must be to work. All that aroma in one place sort of gets my stomach to turning. I’m not good with strong smells. Even those stores in the mall dedicated to fragrant soaps, perfumes, scented candles, and the like, make me feel like revisiting my lunch. I’ve always known I wouldn’t be the ideal candidate for nursing school or a nursery attendant. I remember when changing my own children’s diapers I had to use one hand, reserving the other one for plugging my nostrils. Ah well, each of us has different things in our makeup to contend with, that is mine.

At least I’m feeling so much lighter for now until, of course, I get new junk to replace that which I threw away. For today, however, I feel light as a feather, at least when it comes to possessions. At this crossroad in my world, I will take the highs when and where I can get therm.

Have a lovely fall day!! Talk soon.

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Halloween items are lining the shelves of late. Yay. I do love this time of year. Being a November 1st baby is probably why I so strongly identify with this particular holiday. I missed being titled a creepy little kid by a mere five hours, some would say there was a bit of overlap. My mother, when talking about my birth, always says I was the biggest kid in the nursery. I’m sure this is an exaggeration on her part, but I have to admit, according to my birth certificate I did weigh in at 9 lbs. 9 oz., a pretty fair size for a newborn. Mother, who likes a good story, says when looking in the nursery at all the “normal” size infants, she could always pick me out of the crowd because my feet were draped over the end of the bassinete, and I was holding up a sign reading “When’s lunch”? Funny woman, my mother. In my defense, my mom gained nearly sixty pounds when pregnant. Before finding out she had an egg in the nest with me, she had a miscarriage. When she found herself expecting again, terrified of losing a second baby as well, she just stayed in and baked, eating what she produced, til I was born. There is so much in that sentence that explains my life thus far, but I’ll save that for my next therapist visit.

I often think I would like to have a baby again. If I did come up in the family way at this age, the talk show circuit would be mine to command. I had my children so very young, both arriving before my twenty-second birthday. I don’t think I fully appreciated the amazing experience I was having at the time I was living through it. Maybe I did, and don’t remember it. That would be in line with about everything else I don’t remember these days like where I put my reading glasses, and what happened to the coffee cup I was drinking out of two hours ago?

Babies are on my mind this gorgeous almost fall morning because the youngest member of our clan, Zeppelin, is about to turn three. Lately, his two favorite words are “no, not”, used in tandem, as an indicator he is an active member of the “almost three” age group. I do love little people. Engaging them allows you to stir up your childhood memories and actually act a bit childlike yourself in the process. Dinosaurs are the name of the game for Mr. Z. He wears them proudly on nearly every item of clothing he owns, small replicas fill his toy bins, and when I visit he tells me about the pterodactyls populating the trees in his back yard. National Geographic has not gotten hold of the news of this resurrection yet, so please keep it under your hat.

I haven’t written in a while because I caught a bug last week that took me down. Because Dale is compromised due to lung cancer, I had to sequester myself in the bedroom until the symptoms abated. After dealing with this bug for three days I dragged myself out of bed and went to urgent care. I wanted to eliminate a second round of Covid. Thankfully, that test came back negative. I did, however, manage to attract another virus going around locally. This one was no walk in the park either. Aside from the upper respiratory irritations it brought to the party, such as a wracking cough and perpetually running nose, every part of my body from my ear lobes to my toenails hurt. These no-see-ums can be really annoying when they take up residence in your body. Exhibiting Covidlike symptoms, I was instructed to wait outside in my car and call the desk to let them know when I had arrived, and not to enter the building. Alerting them I was there, a young woman dressed as if prepared to meet someone recently exposed to chemical warfare arrived shortly and opened the door to escort me in. The nurse had on a face mask, a face shield, a hat attached to hose, foot coverings and gloves, along with numerous other protective gear. I felt a bit like a leper being whisked off to Molokai. After determining Covid was not the villain in the piece, I was sent home to rest and drink plenty of liquids and ride out the storm til it passed. Turns out they didn’t welcome my germy self at home either, so I climbed in my bed with a cup of hot tea and instructions to remain in bed until I was symptom free, and there I have stayed. Thankfully, the cat is less discerning. She truly has been at my side since I got sick. Last night I woke up to find her sleeping around my head with one paw across my face. God bless animals they really are far the superior beings. Sigh.

Getting behind like this means a week to catch up on everything sitting around gathering dust while I was lolling about under the covers. There are bills to be paid, toilets to be cleaned, and so much general doings to be pulled together and gotten done. I feel sometimes lately like a little hamster running about on her wheel pedaling furiously and getting off after a good workout only to find myself much in the same place I was when I got started. Perhaps that is why I was so attractive to the pesky little germs in the first place, I’ve allowed myself to get run down. Self care is really important, especially if you are a caregiver for another person. Usually I am fairly good at making sure I get a few moments off to myself for a pedicure or to do some unnecessary shopping, but lately things have been moving at a fairly fast pace and I haven’t been as good about it. Perhaps this is the universe’s way of saying, “Slow down, Susie girl, and stop to smell the coffee”.

For three weeks now I’ve been waiting for a side table I ordered to arrive. The table it is replacing has been sold and the contents stored in it are now lining my floor in the dining room waiting for their new home. Every time I checked the tracking number it read “Pending – no delivery date scheduled”. Originally, it had moved nicely across the U.S. from the east coast, arriving a week and a half ago in Sparks, Nevada, about an hour and a half from where I live. I called when it was late by several days and was told to wait a couple of more days and call back. I called back in three days when it still didn’t arrive. The status remained Sparks, Nevada, “Pending – no delivery date scheduled”. After waiting on the phone in the loop of the store I ordered it from for about a half an hour, the customer service rep came on the line and, guess what, suggested I wait a couple of days and call back. Sure, I don’t have anything better to do with my life. Soooo, I called back for the third time yesterday and told them I was not going to call back again, and would like a refund. Got notice this morning my shipment was on it’s way. Hopefully, it will actually arrive today. The squeaky wheel. Smile.

I’ve had my windows open all day today with a lovely fall breeze wafting through the house. The last time I was out I was happy to notice the leaves had begun to change color on some of the trees around town and hints of fall are clearly noticeable on the hillsides. Yay. It will be time to watch “To Kill a Mockingbird” for the three thousandth time pretty soon. It is an autumn ritual for me to revisit Scout, and Atticus and Jeb. Truly Harper Lee’s novel and the movie adaptation are among my favorite haunts this time of year.

Hope this finds you well and up and out on this glorious day.

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Let me start by saying I’m not a big fan of Daylight Savings Time. Voters in California voted 60% in favor of not changing the time moving forward, but our legislators neglected to act on it. To be consistent in my goal to do nothing the way others of my kind do, I do all right when we “spring forward”, but my internal clock goes totally haywire when we “fall back”, the exact opposite of what most humans experience. According to an article I read on the subject, a week’s camping trip can do the trick in resetting your circadian rythms and your sleep patterns. Artificial light is the enemy of sleep it seems, and getting away from the TV, computer, phone, etc. allows your body to resume it’s natural rythms once again. This for me would be like water boarding. Couldn’t I just push my reset button and get on with it?

To begin with, since I hit menopause I have had trouble sleeping. As a thought here, shouldn’t that be womanopause? I’m just saying. Often you will find my lights on in the wee hours of the night. Recently, my doctor ordered a sleep study to rule out his suspicions I might be suffering from sleep apnea. I was to be observed overnight to see if I had times when I stopped breathing while asleep. Good news, I did not. Yay. However, I did entertain the technicians with the choreographed dance I performed due my restless leg syndrome. According to their notes, I sometimes moved my legs upwards of thirty times an hour. Whew. Who knew? At that rate I should be able to polish off a pepperoni pizza at seven and have it completely burned off by 10 o’clock. Sigh. Wish it did work that way. Apparently you have to be vertical and actually propelling yourself forward to eliminate those kind of calories. Darn. As much as I dislike organized exercise, this would have been the perfect solution. Lack of sleep can be a problem down the road. It can make you distracted, cause you to gain weight, or even give you a heart attack. Not to mention all that good news we are in the middle of a pandemic that is out of control so lots to keep those eyes wide open in the middle of the night. Whoopee.

There are a lot of side issues to this pandemic besides lack of sleep and anxiety. As I’m sure many people are finding, this pandemic has turned out to be not only devastating for our country and those directly affected by it, but it has also seems to have an additional side effect, the pandemic is fattening. I have noticed my electric bill has has increased substantially since staying home has become more the norm for me than the exception. Secretly, I believe this increase can be attributed directly to the number of times I’ve opened my refrigerator door since the beginning of 2020. Even though I tend to weigh in on the lean side, I have added a pants size since the beginning of the year. My doctor tells me this is a plus. He went on to say people of a certain age should carry a little extra padding in the event of an unexpected illness. Tell that to my drawer full of size 2 jeans no longer pulling up past my knees. Normally I don’t go to food when I am feeling slightly depressed. Under stress, my weight often drops alarmingly. This year, as with many things out of whack, this has not been the case. So, as I have adjusted to waddling around the house in yoga pants, I sit here at my computer watching as my behind spreads out on the chair beneath me. Sigh.

On the plus side, at last fall has arrived. Yesterday, while driving to an appointment, I was awed by the vibrant colors spreading along the hillsides. This time of year sends my energy level soaring.

My favorite fall displays though are still definitely to be found in the eastern part of our nation. When my children were toddlers we lived in Wakefield, Massachusetts. Wakefield was by all accounts a typical New England town replete with numerous church steeples peeking above the tree tops and gorgeous autumn vistas when the thermometer began to lean towards cold. I discovered quickly living on the east coast, the clothing I’d brought with me from the west coast wasn’t going to be adequate to see us through the winter. One thing about living in snow country when you have little ones, dressing them for the weather requires more clothing and much more time. Unlike sending them out in California with a light jacket, wool hat, and mittens, sending them out in the middle of winter in Massachusetts requires a lot more protection. Snow suits were purchased that first cold spell along with heavy jackets for myself and their dad. As we both worked in Boston, this added at least an hour to our morning routine to get everyone “suited up” and organizing the travel from the house to the car before heading out for our day.

The house we lived in was a large two story home, typical for the area. The house faced the lake, which was sort of the hub of the town itself. Though there was a basement and an attic, the builders had not included a garage and no one had thought to add one since. The house was built in the late 1800’s. At the time it was built, there were no cars on the road so a garage wouldn’t have been seen as a necessity unless you were planning to store your wagon in it. Though it may not have been a necessity back in the day, it certainly would have come in handy at the time we were living there. When the first heavy winter storm hit the state, we peered out the window to see the entire yard piled high with huge drifts of freshly fallen snow. Several trees appeared as shrouded figures beneath the mounds, and in the center of our yard our yellow Ford station wagon rose up like a hulking beast with not a spot of yellow paint to be seen beneath the frosty layer covering it. Sigh. The thermometer in the kitchen read frrrrrreezing. When you factored in the wind chill, it felt much colder. Though it would have been nice to crawl back under the warm comforter and curl up we had a commute to tackle and employers counting on us. If everyone in Massachusetts took a snow day off every time the weather turned disagreeable, the state would have quickly sunk into ruin and no one would have had food on the table. Employers expected you to show up snow or no snow, and the car being buried in the stuff offered up no exception.

After several abysmal attempts at getting to the car and into work on time, we came up with a plan. Kirby, my husband, would go out in the front yard with the snow shovel and dig his way to the front door of the station wagon and let himself in. Before turning on the car, we had been told you had to make sure the tailpipe was in the open so that dangerous fumes didn’t build inside the vehicle. Check and double check. Then he would turn the car on and leave it running to warm up. I was tasked with corralling the rug rats, getting them in their snow gear, getting myself ready to travel and getting them secured in their car seats. By the time we reached the babysitter’s house, that is if the snow plow had come down our street so we could, I was ready for a long winter’s nap.

Once the children were secured for the day, we drove together to the train station and boarded our first train of the morning. At the first stop, we changed trains, saying goodbye as each of us headed off in a different direction. I hopped on the Green Line into downtown with Kirby taking the Red towards the pier area where his office building was located. Once at the destination station, I stepped off with the rest of the herd and mooooed my way up the long flight of stairs to street level. On warm days, going up and down was a piece of cake, but on blustery days you held on to the handrail tightly lest you slipped on the icy steps.

My office building was an old brick structure situated on Newbury Street. During the summer the interior was hot, and in the winter cold. Often I wore two or three layers of clothing going to work, leaving a layer or two on even while sitting at my desk. The old radiators made lots of noise about heating the rooms, but didn’t provide much energy to get the job done.

Officially my job title was Assistant Area Director for the American Cancer Society. Durng my three years there, particularly during their fund drives, I would end up taking work home with me when what I had to do ran over the time I had to do it in. This winter day happened to be one such day. There were no computers around, so everything was done on paper. Stop it, I know! All my documents were put into manila folders and filed in banks of file cabinets. So, when I say “I took work home with me”, it was meant that in the most literal sense. Getting off work at 5:00 meant the sun was already tucked in bed. A light snow was falling beyond the window at the front of the building where I pulled on my sweater, my winter coat, my scarf and my wool hat. Next heavy boots were pulled on over woolen socks, my mittens secured and I was ready to step out the front door. I had forgotten my valise that day, so it was necessary to pile the file folders I was taking with me in a stack and carry them along with my lunch bag and my purse to the entrance to the subway. Several times along the slick sidewalk I nearly lost my footing. Standing at the top of the long flight of stairs I reached out with a mittened hand to grab the hand rail and piled in behind the crowd of commuters headed down into the great abyss. At about the second step I lost my footing. People shoving and pushing behind me propelled me forward. With my hands full, I was unable to right myself and as I careened forward the folders flew up in the air and paperwork rained like confetti at a parade over the people on the bottom of the stairs. Flailing at the air, I reached out on my descent and my grasping fingers wrapped around this gentleman’s tie. In a sort of awkward dance he and I lurched forward knocking people down like bowling pins before landing one on top of the other at the bottom of the stairs. His face, at that point, had turned a startling shade of purple from the tightening of his neckware cutting off his air supply. Sorry. Papers were everywhere. Most I found, the others either walked away on the bottom of someone’s boot or floated into a corner to be swept up by custodians.

Gathering up what I could along with my remaining dignity, I thanked the gentleman I had nearly strangled for being nice enough to still take the time to help me after I tried to do him in.

Often after that I saw him going down or coming up. Always he stayed a safe distance from me just in case I was going to try out my aerial act and include him once again.

One thing I do love about living in California is that you can live where there is snow, or you can live where there is not. I choose not. For many years I dealt with snow tires, frozen windshields, slippery sidewalks and frigid temperatures. Getting too old to do that again. So I will enjoy the glorious fall colors available to me in my area and be happy to do so. Rain is in the forecast and I’m looking most forward to seeing drops on the window.

Interesting, not sure that’s the correct word, all that is going on in our country right now. Trying to rise above the noise and find some peace and contentment in this atmosphere stirring around us isn’t always easy. Hmmmm maybe that camping trip is a good idea. Not.

Enjoy your day. Quiet the noise and breathe deeply the crisp fall air.

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Do you ever feel lately like the clowns are running the circus? Sometimes I get up, pour my coffee, turn on the news and push the off button after the first few words of the latest news report have run off the anchor’s teleprompter. Totally exhausting. Never that I can remember have I been so in need of a relaxing vacation. I’m leaning towards tropical but at this point a day trip to Death Valley is holding some appeal.

The majority of the smoke from the latest inferno has finally left the valley and a glorious backdrop of bright blue skies and white puffy clouds is visible from my kitchen window. There is a hint of fall in the air, my Halloween decorations are up (in spite of the fact I keep hearing it has been cancelled), and life is beginning to feel just the slightest bit, shall I dare to say it, NORMAL. Well, not pre-pandemic normal, but at least leaning towards weather normal. I’ll take it.

My birthday is on the horizon. It shows up about this time every year, and I am thankful to be sitting here writing about another full turn on my annual clock. There is always a touch of melancholy that passes over me a few weeks before my big day. Perhaps it’s the gentle mourning of the passage of another year or possibly indulging in a little reflection on what I’ve done with the 365 days since last I celebrated.

The littlest member of our clan, Zeppelin also recently celebrated a birthday, his second. The little guy has no idea how much world he still has laid out in front of him. For Zeppelin it was all about his new desk with interactive buttons, exploring the delightful sound of all the words he has recently discovered coming out of his mouth, and the dozens of balloons his family blew up to help make his day really special. My daughter said after I left he kept pointing at the door and saying “Nana”, that would be me. Loved that. I haven’t been able to get up close and personal with him since the pandemic made itself known so it is nice to know he still understands who I am.

Funny how we humans adapt to our surroundings. There would have been a time not to long ago if someone passed me in the driver’s seat of their car wearing a mask with a skull and crossbones on it, I would have assumed they were either attending a terrorism rally, off to an early Halloween party or had just knocked off a bank. Now it’s just another person dressed to go out for the day. I have probably ten masks in all different colors. People are always stopping me and commenting on them because most of the fabrics are colorful or have critters on them, so I guess they are somewhat more interesting than the plain black or paper models. Had I realized they were going to become such a hot fashion accessory I would have gone into production a few months ago. Truthfully, I could never charge for masks. Somehow that would feel uncomfortable to me. All manner of masks have shown up in the stores, however, so someone is making a profit off of them. There is always someone willing to jump on the band wagon when disaster strikes. No matter what the situation, a tee shirt seems to be generated to mark the occasion. Amazing.

Where there is money to made opportunists will show up for a piece of it. Scams are on the rise. Yesterday I heard there was a new scam involving Amazon. A victim was on the news describing how real the call seemed even down to the fine points like having a number appearing to be genuinely belonging to Amazon. In her case $1,000 was taken from her bank account. I use Amazon all the time, much more so since the bug arrived on the scene. Part of me is annoyed by the site, particularly since the company, so I’m told, doesn’t pay taxes. It aggravates the life out of me when people take, take, take and don’t pay their fair share to the pot. In this tax bracket companies can afford high end accountants well versed in finding the holes in the tax laws custom made to keep them from having to contribute. Conversely, you have a blue collar person working at a minimum wage job scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to pull together enough money to pay what the IRS says is their due. Don’t misunderstand me I’m all about capitalism and the right to do as well as you are capable of doing, but out and out greed is unacceptable to me. Just because you can get away with something does not necessarily make it the right thing to do. At any rate, I continue to go on to Amazon in order to not frequent stores on a regular basis and keep myself as safe as possible. Hypocritical? Most likely. As I say often, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Lately Amazon hasn’t been as reliable as it was in the past. I assume, like everything else, the downswing is due to the pandemic. It is hit or miss when I order a product when or if it will arrive at the front door. Several times of late I have had to generate a refund request for goods never received. When Rick was alive he always said I was his go to girl for any customer service issues. I am all about fairness. Never will I argue a point just to win, but if I feel I am right when it comes to good customer service I am like a dog with a bone. When we owned our restaurant I used to explain often to our wait staff how essential good customer service is to growing a business. Literally, it is the back bone of the restaurant business, or any business really. One dissatisfied customer walking out of the door doesn’t seem like a large loss, but when that customer tells a friend, a co-worker, a relative about their bad experience and they in turn pass it on to their circle that one person can cause a huge ripple effect.

A month and a half ago we invested in a rather expensive pillow for my mom’s wheelchair. From the description, it sounded perfect to keep her backside from getting sores or being uncomfortable after sitting for long periods of time. Because of a series of incidents the pillow didn’t get taken out of the original box until over thirty days after it was received. After being used for several weeks it became apparent it was actually causing sores and irritation rather than reducing the problem and wasn’t equally inflated making it uncomfortable to sit on. After locating a customer service number not listed on the site itself, I got hold of a representative. I explained the situation and, though pleasant, he said I was two weeks past the return window. That being the case, they could not return the money. Hmmmmm. Nicely, I said that would be fine. I went on politely to explain I had invested thousands of dollars with their business and in most cases been satisfied until lately. Since he was unable to return my investment (nearly $500) I would have to console myself by going on their site and posting an honest and detailed review of this product in the hopes of deterring anybody else from being caught in the same situation. The money, in total, was graciously refunded. I suggested they discontinue selling this product as it doesn’t live up to what is described.

We need to learn to have a voice. This does not mean going about bulldozing people down every time we are dissatisfied, but it does mean standing up for what is right. My “voice” is something that has come to me after years of not speaking up, or times I’ve let someone take advantage of me. Now, thankfully, I am able to stand up and fight for what is right. Rick used to say, “she’s little but she’s fierce”. Hah.

Blissfully I am about to slip on my tennis shoes and step outside for an early morning walk. Have a great weekend. Stay safe.

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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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finalOn the best of days our cat, Boo, is bizarre. Some days, like today for example, she’s could be deemed certifiable. Early on I was relaxing with my first cup of piping hot coffee enjoying the Sunday paper. As is her habit the cat was canvasing the living room area in search of stray mice to toss about (the stuffed variety) or a piece of leaf to chase. Without any obvious explanation a small picture frame sitting in an easel on our glass TV stand fell over with a resounding crash. The cat, not named Boo for nothing, shot up in the air as if fired from a catapult. Every hair along her spine was at full attention as she bolted across me at rocket speed knocking the arm holding my coffee cup hard enough to spill the steaming contents all over the front of my new tee-shirt. Thank you, Boo. Thank you very much. Nothing I like better than starting off a morning with second degree burns and ruined clothing. Appreciate it. If she is lying on me, as she is prone to do off and on during the day, and a sneeze captures me, if I can’t stop it she is likely to scratch half-inch lines on my chest in an effort to escape. Even if Rick sneezes next to me, the reaction is the same. We feel she was abused in some way as a kitten or very scared. Truth is I can’t imagine my world without her disrupting it. I wish cats could live to be a hundred but unfortunately that wasn’t in the plan.

When Boo gets frightened I can generally locate her under a bed downstairs her behind pointed in my direction. For some reason when frightened she presents me with that end of her anatomy. I offer no explanation for this occurrence other than the cat is odd, very odd. This is why we clicked when first meeting I would most imagine. Both of us have unusual eyes and quirky personalities. Since the earlier strange situation with the picture frame Boo has been seen stalking the TV stand, tail wagging furiously and the well-known cat curiosity at the fore. At one point I saw her checking out the plug with her nose, a practice I discouraged lest she light up like a cartoon cat zapped by a good jolt of electricity.

Perhaps Boo’s strange behavior can be attributed to the change of seasons. Fall is definitely in the air. Leaves litter the ground and hints of others just beginning to change color are scattered about the hillsides. Summer, however, reluctant to give up center stage, keeps insinuating its hot little hands in the middle of it all. Yesterday it approached 100 degrees and today will be the same. Alternating between shorts and jeans I’m still leaning on the side of autumn. I have taken out my fall decorations in celebration of the changing of the guard. Ghosts peer out my windows and goblins huddle about bowls of candy.

Growing up in Nova Scotia the leaves would have turned dramatically by now, reflected in fiery images in many lakes and ponds scattered about (or aboot in Canadian) the province. Our family home sat at the mouth of the Halifax harbor two blocks from Point Pleasant Park, a place I explored often as a youngster. For a child the park offered so many opportunities to run and play. The frog pond inside the gate was where I sat on a rock to watch the busy insect and amphibian population visible on and just below the murky water. When winter arrived and the temperatures dropped the pond froze over and served as the perfect outdoor skating rink for local kids or a place to try out the new hockey stick Santa had placed under the tree.

Fall made it’s presence known dramatically in the heavily treed acreage. Walking along the paths the crunching pad of dead leaves beneath your boots echoed through the canopy of branches overhead. I loved it there. Funny, I don’t remember worrying about boogeymen, though I’m sure there were some lurking about over the years, nor do I remember feeling scared or alone while inside the park grounds.

Rick, coming from Egypt originally, is more of a sun worshiper. Was he a lizard, I can picture him stretched out on a rock soaking in the desert heat. For him the advent of chilly rainy days and darkened skies is embraced with far less enthusiasm than for me. Was I to draw how I feel this time of year in a picture my toes would be twirling, my lips smiling, and my eyes twinkling. Energizing my spirit the change in seasons heading into winter gets me even busier in the kitchen, eyeing my sewing machine for holiday projects, and beginning to look at store sales and seasonal recipes. This George Eliot quote says it all:

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.

I do think the stores are really getting ahead of themselves this year. Each year they start a little bit earlier. Christmas trees and decorations began showing up in some stores in August. What’s next, bunnies and baskets by Christmas? I like to ease into the holidays. They’re overwhelming enough with all the shopping (I’m not an avid shopper), wrapping, and shipping of gifts to family and friends. To me it’s like being given the whole cheesecake and asked to eat in at one sitting. I enjoy a good cheesecake but prefer to savor each bite and look forward to another piece a day or so later. Well, that made my stomach growl. Going to have to make a cheesecake one of these days.

Comfort food on my mind I decided to make Rick one of his favorites, turkey stuffed pepper soup. Delicious and filling with its mini-grilled cheese. Yum and yum.

Turkey Stuffed Pepper Soup with Mini-Grilled Cheese

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. ground turkey
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 onion, chopped
2 green bell peppers, chopped
5 cups beef stock
1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup cooked rice

Bring olive oil to shimmer in stock pot over med.-high heat. Add turkey and cook, breaking meat into crumbles, until no longer pink. Add garlic and continue cooking 1 min.

Add seasonings, Worcestershire sauce, onion and green peppers. Cook, stirring frequently for 6 mins. Add stock, tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook 30 mins.

Place 1/4 cup of rice in bottom of four soup bowls.Pour 1/4 of soup over top of each scoop.

Grilled Cheese

4 slices French bread, sliced thin
2 Tbsp. butter softened
2 slices sliced cheddar cheese

Butter one side of each slice of bread. Place two slices butter side down in skillet. Top each with slice of cheese. Place remaining slices butter side up on cheese slices. Heat pan over high heat brown on both sides and cook until cheese has melted. Cut into small squares and serve on top of soup.

Serves 4

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In the morning paper, yes I still get real paper paper, there was touching story about a horse named Raphael recently relocated to an animal rescue in our area. The article detailed the 12-year-old quarter horse’s journey from Juarez, Mexico and his life prior to being rescued. There are few things that will move me to anger more quickly than the abuse of any creature, human or otherwise, who is unable to defend themselves. As the story unfolded it said the equine had lived in forced labor most of his life in Juarez under the heavy hand of a master who beat him and cared little, if at all, for the animal’s well-being. Had it not been for a well-meaning tourist intervening after seeing the horse kneeling in the street unable to go on Raphael would have ended his days with that yoke around his neck. The yoke, never removed, had to be extricated in pieces. The leather had insinuated itself in the horse’s skin over years of wear. Makes me cry.

After much red tape, several wonderful vets, and caring volunteers Raphael, purchased for $200 from his owner in Juarez, has finally found a loving home in which to spend his remaining years. According to the article he follows his new caregivers around like a puppy, happy for any attention they can spare or an apple or two. Tortilla chips and other fast food items were his diet staples until coming to the U.S. leaving the animal both unhealthy and underweight.

Sometimes we humans are sorrowful creatures. I have to rekindle the fire I have for our more admirable traits after reading such a thing. However, the random acts of kindness will have the glow going in no time and I’ll be back to singing our praises again.

On the subject of animals, we had an incredible thunder and lightning storm pass through here night before last. Boo, the Queen of Cats, needed a therapy session once it was over. She traveled the area between the bedroom and the living room meowing loudly and requiring much reassurance the world, as she knows it, was not about to end. It rolled over us leaving much debris and piles of leaves strewn in its path. I spent a good part of the morning sweeping leaves, depositing them in the already full bin out front. Living up here in the tall trees nature takes over most of the time making it futile to try to keep everything pristine. Part of the beauty of living here is that it is a natural setting, but if you let it go too long catching up the leaves will always be three steps ahead of you.

I have given some thought to the upcoming holidays. Christmas is to be at our house this year. Not to bring the subject up before we’ve even carved pumpkins. I saw my first Black Friday ad yesterday, which struck fear in my heart. Each year the holidays seem to creep up on me a little bit earlier than the year before. In our family we’ve really limited the spending we do among the adults. Little “I love you’s” serve nicely. Particularly as the younger members of our clan are growing up quickly and asking for gifts of a far more expensive nature then when they were younger. A doll or a box of Lego’s used to be the perfect choice. These days they have moved on to electronic watches and cell phones which require a far deeper reach into pockets than in years before. We’ve learned to collaborate on these pricey items, each of us tossing something in the pot. Works much better than trying to handle it alone, especially with nine photos lining our grandchildren album.

This soup is one of my favorites. I haul it out about this time each year. It is a full meal really, not needing much to accompany it but perhaps a slice of crusty bread.

Hearty Crockpot Pepper Soup

1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
4 small yellow and orange bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
4 cups chicken broth
1 15 1/2 oz.can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 15 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes with garlic and olive oil, with juice
1 6 oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. basil
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. hot paprika
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 small chub of hard Parmesan cheese (optional)
2 bay leaves
1 cup cooked corn kernels
1 pkg. Boil in bag white rice
Croutons (optional)

In large skillet brown meat with onion, garlic, and chopped peppers. Drain.


Spray bottom of 6 quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Add meat.

In large bowl combine all remaining ingredients but rice and croutons. Pour sauce ingredients over meat. Mix well. Cook for 8 hrs. on low. Add corn. Cook for 1 hr.

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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


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.


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.


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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