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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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2Spent a great weekend with my son and his two children. They are an energetic bunch I have to say. My son is very sports oriented as are his kids. Active in nearly every organized sport, my grandson was telling me he’d like to be a member of the Olympic skiing team once his body grows into his legs. The entire family participates on the slopes, availing themselves of a time share at Lake Tahoe often during snow season. Where he gets this from I can’t imagine. My perception of enjoying the snow is making a snow angel, then sit in a lovely warm ski lodge enjoying a hot toddy while looking at the view beyond the window.

Hailing from Nova Scotia most might assume me to be an avid skier. Not, not, not. As a child I loved the advent of winter. I was the first one to ask for a carrot to create a snowman, tear down an ice hill on my sled, or pile in line on the toboggan. However, none of the adults in my world skied so though living in the perfect storm climate wise, I was never exposed to it. Not being the most coordinated of human beings, probably this was the wisest course of action. Still I wish I’d pursued it more than once as a young adult. I water ski with the best of them, or did. I played a mean game of volleyball. I’m not bad at tennis, and have always loved to swim. There is a common thread perhaps to all these sports, they are usually participated in in a warm climate.

The last time I went to the mountains to play in the snow I believe I left two of my toes in an icy mound adjacent to the cabin. The toes themselves appear to be still attached to my feet but after finally thawing out have never quite felt the same.

Being small of frame perhaps is the culprit. I get cold quickly and thaw out slowly. Not a happy combination. While living in West Virginia snow was a familiar sight during the winter months, lots of it. Mother Nature was generous in that area with her icy wand and I left many an imprint of my behind on the ice there before relocating back to more tepid sunny California.

In 1993 my ex-husband and I sold our second car before a move from Muscle Shoals, Alabama to St. Albans, West Virginia. Relocating so often with his job back then, having two cars became a liability meaning always traveling separately. One car in the garage posed problems as well. If I needed a vehicle, I had to get up at the crack of dawn and drive my husband across the bridge to work. During summer months this was fine, but a bit chilly when the cold moved into the region. Snow clothes aren’t a fashion statement in frigid areas, rather a matter of survival. When the thermometer sinks well below zero before factoring in wind chill one doesn’t run about in flip flops and cargo shorts unless you were dropped on your head repeatedly as an infant. How Californians approach snow always strikes me as funny. A blizzard may be whipping through the mountain passes with treacherous road conditions and you’ll see some brave soul kneeling at the side of the road pulling chains on their wheels in shorts and a tee-shirt. I salute them. I would remain there until picked up by the coroner’s office for disposal.

Arriving in West Virginia that first year, we moved ourselves first before locating housing. Several weeks later with a rental secured we returned to Alabama to gather our household goods. I remember it well as it was Thanksgiving. The first snow had fallen. Pristine fields with mounded trees reflected in the intermittent glare of the headlights as we drove along winding country roads. Most houses were well lit. Lines of cars telltale signs families were gathering to celebrate the holiday. Not knowing a soul in the area we ate turkey and the works by ourselves, save a waitress and a couple of line cooks, at a Cracker Barrel restaurant along our route. At the time we had an old Ford pickup. The smaller furniture was in the back covered by a tarp, with the larger pieces coming by truck the following week. Bits and pieces poked out here and there like a coconut protruding out the sides of a macaroon. Up front Sushi, our Shih Tzu, slept on my lap and Kitty, our old gray cat, perched in the window keeping a wary eye on the dog. Light snow had begun to fall. Large flakes swirled around outside the window and cold seeped in through the seams of the old truck. Occasionally a bump caused things to shift in the back as well as relocating our spinal cords. Rutted roads accentuated the rough ride caused by the shocks going out on the old beater eliminating much of a chance for a smooth ride. A particularly large divit resulted in us flying through the air unseating the dog and causing our load to shift behind us. Looking back through the window the tarp had pulled up on one side flapping madly in the wind. Pulling over to the side of the road we assessed the damage. A chair belonging to our dining room table seemed to be the only item gone awol. Grabbing a flashlight from the glove compartment we surveyed the area. How beautiful it was standing in the dark with the snow dusting our coats and hair. Stars twinkled overhead and an owl hooted somewhere across the pasture. Currier and Ives couldn’t have painted a lovelier picture.

A cold wind cut through my coat like it was cotton so I urged the search to continue with my teeth beginning to clack together. Out in the field as if waiting for company to arrive our lovely chair sat upright in the snow. Had we added a snowman carrying a serving tray with a towel over his arm it would have made a great holiday card. Trudging through the deep drifts we unearthed it and dragged it back to the truck none the worse for wear. It’s funny now to think of it sitting there waiting for an occupant. I suppose had we left it there a passing rabbit or raccoon might have perched on the red plaid for a moment to check out the view.

As lovely as snow is to look at, I prefer not to live anymore in an area where it comes down copiously. Last year we had four days inside when we got a good winter storm but for the most part we live on the periphery of anything more serious than that. I like it that way.

We have a small local market which produces the best rotisserie chickens I’ve ever tasted. Moist and chubby, I often recycle the remaining chicken into soup. This one was a keeper.

Slow Cooker Cream of Chicken and Broccoli Soup

2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 carrots, sliced
3 ribs celery, sliced
1 onion, chopped
1 bunch of broccoli florets
1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
10 fingerling potatoes, skin on, chunked
2 cups rosisserie chicken (garlic preferably)
10 cups rich chicken broth
2 bay leaves
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. sage
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. celery salt
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 cup cream
1/2 cup 2% milk
1 Tbsp. flour
Cooked rice (I used rice pilaf)

Heat oil in large deep frying pan over med. heat. Add carrots, celery, onion, broccoli, and mushrooms to pan. Cook, stirring frequently, for 8 mins. until vegetables are tender.

IMG_7043

Spray bottom of 6 quart slow cooker. Place sliced potatoes in microwaveable dish. Cook on high for 3 mins. Add potatoes, chicken, and broth to pot. Add vegetables to slow cooker along with bay leaves and seasonings. Cook for 8 hrs. on low.

Whisk together cream, milk and flour. Whisk into soup. Cook for an additional 2 hours on low stirring once.

Serve over cooked rice.

Serves 6

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