Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘traveling’

Dale’s phone went under this week. We had a lovely ceremony by the recycle bin. Sorry I didn’t get the invites out. That being said, the morning following we were fourth in line at his provider’s store when they opened, to purchase him a new one. For Dale, his phone is an extension of his hand. This, unlike me, who can never find my phone and when I do wish I had left it alone and let it remain lost. One salesperson was manning the oars. He explained there would be a wait. True to his word, it took about a half an hour until we were finally seated across from him at his desk. All good, it’s not like the Queen was coming for lunch. The salesman, David, turned out to also be the owner of the establishment, and a really nice, and extremely helpful human being. He apologized again for the wait. I suggested he needed more faces behind the three empty service desks. He explained he had ads running in the hopes of hiring people, but unlike several years ago when twenty people submitted their resumes a half an hour after he placed an ad, nowadays resumes dribbled in at an alarmingly slow rate, and he couldn’t fill his open positions. At one point, he asked me if I wanted to sign up. Well, I would, but I have a lot of irons on the fire, and am probably not the most reliable candidate for any position at the moment.

After poking about the unresponsive phone for any signs of life, he was thankfully able to revive it long enough to retrieve the information before it went dark for the last time. We thanked it for its service and looked at the options available for a replacement. My Iphone11 was sitting on the desk. Noticing it, David commented I too would be needing an upgrade pretty soon. Please, this was the upgrade. I just purchased for a car payment and change eight months ago. I will have to limp along without the next and best technology for a little while I’m afraid.

Another upgrade I probably need and won’t get anytime soon is my GPS. I know everybody uses their cell phones to navigate but I started with my GPS, and I’m nothing if not loyal. Rick and I ordered our first unit to eliminate what I referred to as his “road rage”, well before it was a fashionable term. The rage was not directed towards inconsiderate drivers on the road, but rather at me sitting in the passengers seat trying to decipher a map. Why is it men hand their spouses a map and expect us to be the tour guide when we have never been where we are going either? Just because I have a printed map in front of my face does not guarantee I have any idea where I am. Maps can be confusing and difficult to follow. The GPS immediately lifted the burden of guiding us places off of me, and transferred it to the lady who lives in the device, who we came to call Eleanor. I don’t know why. Eleanor was such a blessing. Even when she occasionally went off grid, she had all the animus coming her way when we found ourselves going in circles, while I basked in a glow of blissful indifference.

Last Friday I packed up my essentials, got in the car, and programmed Eleanor to guide me to my son’s house in the Bay Area. It’s not that I don’t know where to locate my children without benefit of electronic equipment, but my son has recently moved, and I’ve only been to the new house once since the pandemic reshaped our lives. There’s something so freeing about driving along listening to music. My particular favorites are found on the 70’s classic rock stations. Rolling along with Creedance or Lynyrd Skynyrd makes my soul smile. Thankfully, the freeways though packed with the usual burden of cars, didn’t create any log jams on the way down. My son and his girlfriend share a large home on an equally large lot which they need to accommodate the five children they share together. They are great kids, but whether great or not, five kids between the ages of eleven and twenty means there aren’t a lot of unfilled moments. The house and grounds are set up to keep them occupied, it worked well for me too. I played ping pong, water volley ball, and all variety of board games. We walked, talked, ate, and generally had a great time. By the time I got in the car and pointed it towards home I just put it on auto-pilot and let whoever that guy is in there commiserate with Eleanor to get me to my destination. Whew. When you’ve had a year and a half of boring inactivity, getting all the fun thrown at you in one weekend without a diffuser can be exhausting.

I went into several stores while visiting, and was surprised to find everyone wearing masks again. We’re doing the two steps forward, one step back routine in would seem. The national health group was saying on the news we have a glut of vaccine that is going to go to waste because nobody is signing up to relinquish their arms. Wow. That is sad news to me. That’s like like saying I have a burn, I have salve available to make the pain go away, but I’m not going to use it because I don’t want to be told what to do. I will never understand this mentality, but there you go. One of the things I am working on, because my psyche is always a work in progress, is learning to accept that, yes, others can entertain a different point of view than myself. I know! It just seems wrong doesn’t it? In this case, however, these decisions effect us all. I do not want to go back to Point A again, when we have a way to go forward not backward, but what can you do? Since I am now fully vaccinated, and have lived through the virus, I am trying to live my life in a somewhat normal way and hopeful that at some point this will all be behind us.

It was interesting to watch the two billionaires soar toward the stars recently. They weren’t long flights, but seemed very successful in doing what they were intended to do. Many people were polled and asked if they would be interested in exploring the galaxy, and I was surprised a high percentage of the group interviewed had no interest at all in what is out there. If we don’t start taking better care of this planet, we might not have a choice but to begin looking for another to inhabit. I’m just saying. I did hear this morning that they have learned that cows have an enzyme in their stomachs that will absorb or process plastic. That’s interesting. Plastic is becoming a big problem in our world. As a kid I drank my water out of the tap in the kitchen or stuck my head under the hose nozzle outside. I’m not fully convinced that because it comes in a plastic bottle these days it’s somehow better for you, but, again, I’m open to discussion on that.

I am glad to be back home. The much needed break was so appreciated but it’s always nice to return to my comfy old bed with its valleys and hills contoured to my body, and to see Dale and Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, who though she wouldn’t admit it, misses me when I’m gone.

Anyhow, have a good hump day.

Read Full Post »

Another dry year here in what seems to be, of late, a perpetually sunny California. Don’t misunderstand me, yesterday was a picture perfect day. The guy standing behind me in line at the market had on a tee shirt, cargo shorts, and flip flops. I ran the air in the car on the way home from the store. This would all lean towards bring an ideal weather report was it not January and the state beginning to lean towards drought conditions. If this becomes a pattern, you may find me out under the full moon doing a dance to the rain goddess. I checked, there are a number to choose from. I shall pick the one who calls my name, dust off my tap shoes and give it a go.

Last year was a record fire season. We were evacuated once and thankfully came home to our house still intact, many others weren’t so lucky. You start to wonder as this streak continues how long your luck will hold. If it wasn’t for the ties I have here, relocating would definitely be on the table. Where I would go I’m not sure.

Let’s face it no matter where you live weather can prove undesirable, or at the very least, unpredictable. My best friend and her husband are moving to Texas. Crumbs are tossed out on their end occasionally for me to follow. Not for me. No offense to those of you with a TX at the end of your address. Humidity is not a friend to asthmatics and truth is I just don’t thrive in it. They’ve never lived in a humid area before. Sometimes I worry they might get there, open the car door, and get right back in and turn back around. I lived in humid climates many times during my travels and much prefer dry.

Was I to look north, say Oregon or Washington, both gorgeous places to live, I’d need to add a snow shovel to my tool collection. Shoveling my way to the car or traversing icy roads are not two of my favorite winter pastimes. Then there’s the rain the further north you travel. I’d love to see a full rainy season here which is doable, but Washington gets more than its fair share of precipitation. Wet, wet, and more wet. When my kids were babies we lived in Bellevue, Washington for about six months. Located about ten miles east of Seattle, Bellevue enjoys the same rainy climate as Seattle along with what sometimes felt like an endless string of overcast skies. Days when the sun actually peaked out from behind the clouds, you had to watch to avoid being trampled by people escaping from their homes to engage in their favorite outdoor activities. The Puget Sound would be literally covered with flecks of white as sails were hoisted and boats launched to capture the day.

The east coast often calls my name. I lived in Nova Scotia until nine and then moved to Massachusetts for three years when my children were small. However, brutally cold winters have me putting on my ear muffs to drown out the whispers of the east coast siren song as I’ve already stated above heavy snow is not my dreamscape. Hmmmm. Picky, picky, girl. Perhaps Hawaii would work? I’m very fond of pineapple and adore the ocean. The thought to me of going round and round on the same square footage for the rest of my life doesn’t see to get the juices flowing either.

Oh dear. The south, no. Been there, and done that. Maybe Florida, but I’ve also been there, and in the summer. Enough said. Though I do adore their glorious shorelines hurricanes show up there more often than pimples on a teenagers face and they have cockroaches that fly. Well the midwest, that would be tornado alley. No check. Oh hell.

I could take a quick class in Italian on Babbel and move to Tuscany. The south of France might be a nice place to hang my hat, or beret if that be the case, except my French these days has shifted from rusty to oui, that’s it just oui.

Sigh.

As I’ve mentioned ad nauseum, I’ve moved thirty-nine times. This might indicate a certain wanderlust in my character, or it could be I have a lust for adventure, or it could be I married men who moved as part of their jobs. All three might have been true at one time or another. Another thought might be I have trouble being satisfied where I am. Years of looking at my intentions and motivations have now created, I like to think, a somewhat self aware person Self analysis can be both a blessing and a curse. Where are the glorious old days when I could screw up blissfully without having any idea why, or any need to do better the next time? But, I digress. Here I am, and I am armed with some knowledge about my own motivations, a dangerous place to find myself.

Moving can be precipitated by many things. Some people prefer to keep their feet firmly planted on familiar ground. A dear friend of mine has lived ten miles from her family home all her life and is happy to be there. Others I know have fled the area they grew up like a tidal wave was imminent as soon as they were old enough to do so. Some have moved for jobs, a desire to see another part of the world, family relocating. There are a myriad of reasons to grab the moving boxes and begin packing your life up to take it to another location. However, if you are moving as a need to get away from your life, remember not to pack whatever did not work where you were originally in your U-Haul boxes. Unless you do the work to you mend what is broken, it will remain broken on the other end when you unpack it. Susie’s pearls of wisdom on a Friday. It’s not that I have a degree in this stuff, believe me I do not. It is, however, I have done so many things the wrong way up until this juncture, I can speak with some clarity on what doesn’t work.

For example, I have a friend who has been a sober man, as he puts it, for forty-five years. Very active in AA, he speaks frequently to the fact a person cannot just stop drinking and expect their life to be fully repaired. I’m not saying that isn’t the first step in many toward that goal, but that it is not the only step. Picture a vase broken into ten pieces. If you glue together four of the pieces it will still hold some water but undoubtedly leak. With five pieces in place it will hold more water, but not be useful for what it was originally intended, to hold a lovely bouquet of flowers. As you add each piece, the integrity of the vase becomes stronger, until you place the last chard and it becomes whole and viable again. Perhaps not the best analogy, but you get the idea.

This morning I took a long look at why I think I need a change of venue. Well, as I said fire season is looking us in the face again and the rain hasn’t as forthcoming as it was years back. This, makes me nervous. I have taken some steps toward making myself safer. I believe this to be a beginning. Two and a half years ago I was living in a gorgeous forested community with trees all around me and only two roads down to the valley. Changing this scenario, has added to my sense of well being. A generator sits in my shed waiting to be put into use should an imminent power outage occur, which will be helpful in keeping my groceries safe during the summer months. I caught a glimpse of a piece on the news about PG&E coming up with some sort of device on their lines that will make the endless power outages necessary to help keep fires from erupting a thing of the past. The device provides some sort of signal to the individual lines to shut down not the whole system. Do not quote me on this because a glimpse does not provide you with but a gist of the book, but it went in that direction. Wow. That would be a huge plus. Also, I believe the new administration has it’s sights aimed towards climate control. Our penguins are floating on what used to be icebergs so any steps in that direction to my mind would be most welcome.

Perhaps it is the pandemic making me restless? I’m sure many out there find their fingers drumming on the table. Though I love being in my little house in the valley, and my kitty feels she has hit the jackpot having me ever present for endless pets on the head and treat retrieval, I am tiring of the indoors. Longing is beginning to well up inside me for long lunches with friends, a hug from my grandchildren, and a day at the beach which always suits my soul well.

The key here might be to find what satisfies me right where I sit. That being done, if I still want to move I need to remember those I love the most would be in my rear view mirror. Not that they would stop being family, simply they would be further away to access. Like a peach on a tree I get riper as each day passes. Life goes by in an instant and it seems more important as I age to hold tight to the moments that are cherished and special. Certainly I couldn’t leave my beloved mother behind, nor do I want to miss the birthdays yet to come for my children and their children, or those lunches with friends, or walks along California’s glorious sandy beaches. So, problem solved. I’ll stay put for now and make myself happy in the spot where I live. Yay. Problem solved for today. Bandaid applied and moving on……again, for now. Life is always in a state of flux. My grief counselor told me many times in the beginning after Rick died, “life will look very different a year from now”. Words to live by. Look how different it looked a year ago and imagine how different in January 2022.

The moment or moments are really what we have in the end. Enjoy today. Stay safe.

Read Full Post »

nature trees forest fog mist 1280x800 wallpaper_www.wallpapername.com_19

Recently I spent the weekend with a dear friend of mine in the San Jose area. Packing the car it seemed there were an excessive amount of bags for a three day trip. Starting to think I’d have to rent a trailer, I called her jokingly suggesting she add a wing to her house before my arrival to accommodate the load. In my defense we share different tastes, so extra items had been added to my list of usual personal carryalongs. My preference in bread is wheat, she prefers sourdough. Thus, a loaf of wheat bread was tucked in a bag along with various snacks like my Salt and Vinegar Pringles, an absolute necessity for any decent road trip. A couple of honey crisp apples were included for an afternoon pick me up as my pal is not a fan of fruit and I can’t leave home without it. Since she drinks only tea, it became clear a coffee maker would be necessary if I was to provide adequate company. Naturally, if I included the coffee maker I’d need coffee, filters, and creamer. My landlords were peeking through their drapes as I went back and forth from the house to the car most likely wondering if I was moving out. Surely I could have gone three days without my early morning cup of Joe, but as we age the patterns we’ve established during our lives become more firmly etched in our personalities and in my case the word coffee is emblazoned across my forehead.

We all have certain indefinable traits stuck to us like a bug to flypaper. If you asked my family to describe me they might choose any number of adjectives (some I can’t use here), but they might also include neat. Piles of papers stacked around, or layers of unaddressed dust make me twitchy. Most likely this trait was passed down from my mother, and will be one I’ll carry though to the end. Mum is neat to the point of obsessive. When in the hospital for her fractured hip, dementia or no dementia, she still sat in the bed and folded everything she could get her hands on from bed pads to extra paper towels and placed them neatly in her drawers. That need for tidiness surpassed all the misfiring pistons in her memory center because it is part of the core of her being.

Over the past year with only Miss Boo, the Queen of Cats, and I in residence I have probably begun to establish a sort of loose schedule of my own. At around 5:30 you could lay some safe money on finding me seated on my couch with the cat stretched out beside me, cup of decaf in hand, watching David Muir detail what is happening in the world. I usually put a plate in front of me around 6:00 and begin getting ready for bed around 9:00. Not really set in my ways yet but setting the stage for what could be described as that at some juncture further on down the road.

Several of my single friends, both single for many years, tell me they are so set in their ways they cannot imagine anymore having someone else under their roof. I can not only imagine it, but hope the universe chooses to direct my life towards another relationship when the time is ready.  I enjoy sharing my life with someone and waking up in the morning to a loving face over coffee. I just do, but that is me. Each of us plots our own course (to whatever control we have). It has only been a year and a half since Rick passed. For now, I am definitely not ready to share space with anyone new on anything other than a casual basis.

Companions come in many forms. Some people get roommates, others like myself enjoy a furry friend to hang with, and perhaps some people find contentment looking at a tank filled with fish. I do wish our pets had a longer time on earth, but the plan didn’t include that and I don’t know where to find the suggestion box. Earlier a friend called to tell me his old dog had passed away. Feeling his pain, as I have some experience saying goodbye to beloved animals, I did my best to provide something by way of comfort. Love comes with a price no matter who the love is bestowed upon. Another friend told me recently she didn’t want any more animals because losing them is too painful. I feel differently about this. For me they give us so much of themselves and provide such comfort I think as hard as it is to let them go I will always choose to have them near for whatever time I am allotted. My animals have often been with me well into their senior years. I feel blessed for that. Kitty, the oldest of my many felines, was twenty-one when I had to have her put down. Over the years she traveled all across country with my ex-husband and I. Settling herself in the back window of the car she took turns sleeping or sitting watching as the states passed by beyond the glass. When she needed out she let us know with a distinct meow and we would pull over to allow her to do what she needed to do. I always say a little bit of Kitty has been left behind in nearly every state in the U.S. Truly she was a seasoned and excellent traveler and I will always treasure those crazy road trips with her and my Shih Zsu, Sushi, who said goodbye at seventeen. Lifelong companions, my heart likes to think of the two of them walking along together wherever wonderful animals go and I’m always thankful for them gracing my life for the time they were here.Even though in the physical sense people or animals no longer populate our lives, their “beings” and lingering presence always remain close by. This, at least for me, provides much peace.

While down in the Bay Area I grabbed the opportunity to visit an old friend diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. This was a very personal visit for me because it was Rick’s diagnosis as well, and Ruth, my friend, is a dear and lovely human being. Last I saw her she was a robust healthy lady who avidly pursued a tennis ball every weekend with her tennis club and sang in the community choir. Always Ruth struggled with her weight but I’d been forewarned the disease had reduced her to a much smaller version of herself. In my grief group they stress putting on your game face when visiting someone who is terminally ill. The person you know rests inside the shell but sometimes the disease can redraw your image of them. Certainly in Ruth’s case the bone thin woman who answered the door looked little like the friend I remembered. Sitting with her for several hours I forgot completely about the physical change rather being amazed at her upbeat attitude and the light that shone on her skin and in her beautiful blue eyes. We shared memories and pictures before it was time to go. Hugging her as I was going out the door my body was instantly covered with goosebumps head to toe. Pulling back she felt it too. “Someone is here”, she said softly. The heightened energy sort of hung in the air between us. Perhaps one of our friends already gone ahead had returned to take her hand to guide her to next adventure? Who knows? Certainly not I, but I would like to think it so.

With life coming in and going out I try to be in the present. Embracing this concept is sometimes a struggle for me. Naturally, I believe our minds drift to past mistakes, or wander into the misty unknowns of what is in store for us tomorrow or next week. Since the past will remain unchanged and the future is yet to be written, it would seem the only logical course would be to make the most of the moment you are presently inhabiting.

My thoughts on this gray day in Northern California. Make it a good one.

 

 

Read Full Post »

3
I attended high school in Southern California. During the summer months teens piled in cars and headed towards the border in search of entertainment. Tijuana,  T.J. to those of us who frequented it, was a popular hang out once school let out.

Things were much different then. Parents were far less custodial either due to the fact there were less bad things happening or people were less informed. Surely all the predators and rapists didn’t show up in the last three decades, but somehow we weren’t as afraid and certainly teens not chaperoned in the manner they are today. Honestly had my mother known half of what I was up to at that age her hair would have grayed long before it did.

For example I had a friend who’s older sister had a hard top convertible. What adventures we had the summer her dad bought her that car. There were no seat belts back then, we all rode commando, if you will. I rode in the back usually, as my friend always called “shotgun”. Tucking the roof in the trunk we often headed up to the swimming areas in Mt. Baldy on a hot summer afternoon. There was a stretch of road leading up to the mountains featuring a series of sea serpent like bumps. People with any sense approached this area with caution, but at that age we didn’t fall under that umbrella. Flooring the car we headed into the bumps full throttle. The first few bumps we flew over and maintained control but on the third bump the car landed hard and I found myself airborne, catapulted from my seat in the back into a pile on top of my friend in the front now on the floor. The only thing I remember clearly about that moment was seeing Marie, still in a seated position, floating above the steering wheel. Good Lord, it’s amazing I ever made it past sixteen. Both shaken and stirred we pulled to the side of the road and sat there for a while until Marie regained her composure. Marie had to explain to her dad how the axle got bent and all our allowances went toward its repair. After that we used extreme caution when traversing that area of highway having gained a new respect for the road.

During those summers between tenth grade and graduation we visited San Diego and Tijuana often. The first time I ever entered Mexico and walked into the dusty border town I was impacted by the poverty evident everywhere you rested your eyes. Blocks of cardboard box homes are the first thing visible as you approach the downtown area. Initially I thought this was a dump but was told people were living in these makeshift shelters without benefit of electricity or plumbing. Children, barely out of baby shoes, were hawking Chicklets and other small items to the tourists on street corners to make money to take home to their families. I don’t believe I ever left T.J. without leaving a little money behind to help boost the economy. Usually a bouquet of huge paper flowers, a sombrero or a felt bull came back across the border with me. Our boyfriends drove down to Tijuana to get their cars tuck and rolled at any of the myriad of body shops lining the back city’s back streets. It was cheaper down there to get the job done. More than one story floated around about someone coming back with upholstery stuffed with cow patties, but I never confirmed any of them were true. Adults flocked to the touristy stores to scoop up deals on leather and silver items. While seated at a table enjoying a taco at an outside stand, street vendors would stroll by encouraging tourists to purchase a lovely lace tablecloth or hand crafted bags. The taco was likely to turn on you at some point, I know many times they did for me. Once I ate a piece of watermelon from a corner stand and it revisited me for two days.

The furthest south I ever ventured in Mexico was Ensenada while on a three-day cruise party cruise. Ensenada has a well lived in look to it. Graffiti decorated most of the walls in the area we were docked . A group from the ship went into town in search of a little adventure. Dancing at a local club until it closed we ended up around 4:00 a.m. (I was young then – now that would be when I was getting up not going to bed) in a rather rowdy establishment serving food and drink what appeared to be 24 hours a day. Mostly populated by residents, people spoke in rapid Spanish, though our waitress spoke to us in fairly decent English. Being the only “gringos” in the place when the word came up in the conversations in adjacent booths we assumed they were probably about us.  In due course we were served surprisingly delicious steaming plates piled with beans, rice and various entrees which we washed down with Mexican beer. Revisiting that statement there should be nothing particularly surprising about getting good Mexican food in Mexico. Latkes maybe, tamales not so much. Our dishes remained on the table long after we were done, allowing the copious flies circling them a chance to grab a quick meal. A loud fight broke out towards the back of the room with one drunk participant thrown across the bar. From the looks of things we deduced it was time to say “adios”. God, as they say, watches over drunks and fools so with his help we somehow managed to get back to the ship  before it sailed without being robbed or worse. I think of this because of the recent Olympics in Rio. Rio is a far cry from Tijuana and many more dangers lurk in the dark corners. There’s a movie called “City of God” which really highlights the seriousness of the situation with child gangs in Rio. Might have been better for a couple of them if they’d stayed closer to home. It is easy for me to say this now, I realize, but most probably at their age I would have ventured out myself.

Well, it’s over now. Medals have been won and athletes are scattering around the world returning to their homes victorious or at least satisfied they had been included among such an elite group of competitors.

This soup is just the best. Rick says he could have it every night. I used a leftover pork loin that had been basted with a soy based marinade. I’m sure most pork loins would work equally as well.

Napa Cabbage and Pork Soup

1/2 of a Napa cabbage, chopped
2 onion, quartered
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
3 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. ginger
9 cups chicken broth
1 cup green beans, halved
2 carrots, sliced thin
2 ribs celery, sliced
1 cup thickly sliced mushrooms
1 1/2 cups leftover thinly sliced pork loin
Cooked white rice

Place all ingredients in large stock pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and continue cooking for 1 hour. Serve over rice if desired.

Serves 4

Save

Save

Read Full Post »

1
I saw my first palm tree at the age of nine. Accustomed to the stately pines, colorful maples and rough barked birches indigenous to Nova Scotia I found the top-heavy spindly palms a bit odd indeed when they first came into view out the window of my parents new Buick. The Buick had been purchased prior to my mother’s recent nuptials specifically to carry us across the continent. My new stepfather, to become the first of three, manned the wheel as we made our way from our entrance into the U.S. in Bangor, Maine to our final destination in Santa Ana, California. What an interesting trip it was. At that time Howard Johnson’s (HOJO’s to those who remember it fondly) were strung across the nation like lights across the tree and extremely popular. I believe I ate a different flavor of ice cream while seated on one of their red vinyl stools in every state we visited.

Our trip proceeded at whatever pace we chose, stopping along the way to explore the wondrous caves of both the Meremac Caverns in Missouri and the Carlsbad Caverns in Arizona. I had my picture taken standing on a precipice at the Painted Desert and not long afterwards seated on a gnarly log at the Petrified Forest. Along Highway 10 we followed the signs to see “The Thing” and paid $.75 to view whatever the thing was never being really sure exactly what is was we saw.

I can remember approaching the Las Vegas strip and thinking I’d stepped into the magical world of Oz. Never had I seen such magnificent buildings and fabulous neon light displays. Had Dorothy, Toto and their band of needy travelers been seen dancing down a street paved with yellowed bricks it wouldn’t have surprised me in the least. Leaving the twinkling lights behind us and venturing out on the desert floor I was transfixed by the starkness of it all and the prickly visages of cactus plants some looking as if they were waving their long arms at us as we passed. Cactus was a new variety of plant for me as well, as they don’t grow in Nova Scotia where the temperature hovers far lower than their natural comfort zone.

Crossing the border into California we were stopped by border officials and asked to declare anything we were taking in from Arizona they might need to know about and once cleared began our trip south to Orange County. At that time Orange County was aptly named. The fragrance from the sea of orange trees was intoxicating floating in through my open window. The rural streets seemed as if they were ablaze with orange and the sky was a nearly unnatural shade of brilliant blue. Paradise. Looking back I can see why people migrated to the west coast. Warm breezes, sunny beaches, ah yes, I remember it well. As yet Orange County was not overrun with businesses and people, and smog was yet a term uncoined. Disneyland was up and running, although the Matterhorn was yet to be completed. I found the whole scene around me compelling.

Arriving at my new step-grandfather’s house, I was shown to the small room I was to occupy until we found suitable housing in the area. Finding a new home was to be my mother and my job as my stepfather was scheduled to start his job as a writer at the local newspaper the following Monday. Each time I stepped out into the summer sunshine I was amazed at the bath of heat pouring over me. Thankfully, one of my newly acquired relatives lived close by and had the good sense to have put in an in-ground pool. This was something not new to me. While in Halifax I spent a good deal of time in the water and at nine was already an accomplished swimmer.

Getting used to my new surroundings was challenging at first. For me it was like going from Sweden to Peru. A lot to learn about my new stable mates for sure. Once we located a house and got situated the rest of the summer lay before us. Disneyland came first after much begging on my part, then Knott’s Berry Farm, and finally the beach. I settled into the warm sand welcoming it like an old friend. The familiar salty smells and sounds of gulls calling overhead reminded me of home.

Our first dinner out we were taken to a Mexican restaurant, whatever that was. Nova Scotia at the time had nothing of the kind to offer, Canadian cooks leaning more naturally towards seafood, soups, stews, chowders, and the like. On the table was a bowl of what looked to be diced tomatoes and some hard salted triangles we were told to use as a sort of scooper for the tomatoes or what they called salsa. Hmmmm. I liked tomatoes. First I tried a chip and it was hard and crunchy but tasty. Next I dipped it in the “salsa” and placed it in my mouth. Once the burning sensation causing my taste buds to do the lambada reached my brain my fingers in self defense immediately wrapped around the sweating glass of ice water the waiter had placed by my plate. Good Lord, I was on fire. People around us were smiling and pointing as my face turned red and I drank and drank in an attempt to put out the blaze on my tongue now traveling down my esophagus. My mother was horrified, assuming I’d been poisoned. Never had I tasted any food that had actually bitten me back.

Many years have passed since then and Mexican food now ranks among my favorite ethnic food. This is a great way to use up leftover white rice if you have enough or you can make a new batch and add it to the mix. I serve this with the crockpot chile verde recipe you can find at crockpot chile verde. They are the perfect pair.

Mexicali Beans and Rice

1 1/2 cups cooked white rice
1 14 1/2 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 oz. can black beans drained and rinsed
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/4-1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (your call for heat)

Cook rice according to pkg. directions (if not using leftovers) and set aside.

In fine strainer drain diced tomatoes reserving liquid. Add water to tomato liquid in measuring cup to equal 1 cup.

In large skillet heat oil over med-high heat. Add onions and cook 6-7 mins. until translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 min. Add black beans, salt, cumin, chili powder, oregano, coriander and red pepper flakes. Cook and stir about 1 min. to incorporate. Add reserved tomato/water mixture. Bring to boil. Cook on low boil for 5-7 mins. until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add tomatoes and rice and continue cooking for 3 mins. until warmed.

Serves 4-6

Read Full Post »

We spent the last couple of days checking out an area about two hours northwest of us as a potential place to relocate. Having never visited the area before, and familiar with it only by emailed or Internet pictures, we had hopes that we’d find something comparable to where we are when we got there, or optimistically, better.

Like most average humans in the world at this time we don’t have minions to manage our money because, truthfully, if someone was working an eight-hour day managing our money they would have about seven hours and fifty-eight minutes left to devote to other activities. We’ve tightened our belts and do less traveling for “fun”, thus haven’t stayed in a motel or hotel in a year or so. Now, during my travels across the U.S. and Canada I’ve stayed in many hotels and motels including upscale accommodations ranging from gorgeous suites with phones and TV’s in the bathrooms and a well stocked bar, right on down the scale to those with the TV’s permanently affixed to the dresser where free ice and hot water are considered to be a strong selling point.

In Decatur, Alabama, my ex and I stayed at one particular motel that springs to mind. Built in the typical one-story strip mall style popular some decades back, it was showing some serious wear. As we were tired and more looking for a place to sleep than a Sandal’s resort, luxury wasn’t high on our priority list. For us, it had several things going for it; one, it was in the same spot we were on the map, and, two, it was cheap. The first tell that this wasn’t going to go well was the key wouldn’t open the lock. (For those of you that are younger, they used to put an actual key on a ring along with a plastic piece indicating the room number, hotel address, and a blurb saying “drop in any mailbox”. This before the advent of the electronic cards.) After much struggling to no avail, back we went to the office which, as I remember, smelled strongly of collard greens, bacon and onions. The owner, looking slightly annoyed at being taken away from the ball game loudly blaring from the unseen TV beyond the curtains, retrieved a cardboard box from under the counter. After rummaging through what appeared to be a hundred keys he apparently located the one he was searching for. Indicating with a crook of one rather dirty index finger for us to follow him, we formed a grumpy single line and trudged back across the dusty lot. At the room he inserted the new key. After some sliding in and out, jiggling back and forth, and a solid shoulder block to the warped wood, the door finally begrudgingly opened allowing the smell of stale cigarettes and God knows what else lingering behind it to escape. Call 911, this, obviously, was a Lysol emergency. I suppose room service is out of the question?

There were so many things that made this room unique that it would take me two blogs and a novel to do it justice. It was cave-dark inside, the better to not see it with, my dear. I turned on a light as I was starting to look startlingly like a mole looking for a field mouse, and the 25 watt bulb cast a light so dim that a large pachyderm would have gone unnoticed in the room. Ugh. The bed was a king size, as advertised, however although the right and left sides both seemed to be at a fairly normal height the trough-like indentation in the middle was situated about 8″ below them. That didn’t bode well for a restful night’s sleep, but I was so tired at that point I didn’t have the energy to complain.

As it was still light outside, I decided to fling open the drapes to allow a bit of it in so I could see to unpack. After tugging at the drapes for a few minutes after closer inspection I determined that the drapes had actually been stapled together with a staple gun. They seriously did not want the occupants to inspect the premises. Opting to just go out to eat and spend as little time there as possible, we found a place to enjoy a delicious dinner of charred freshly grilled prawns and a cold beer and headed back to the Bates Motel later on in the evening.

Feeling my way through the dimly lit bathroom I managed to take a shower in a spray of water so minimal that it would have taken an ant ten minutes to wash off the soap, and put on my pj’s. Looking forward to a little tube, I picked up the remote and settled in next to husband who hit the power button. Nothing. Why was I not surprised? After checking the remote, it was determined that it really was just for show and that this TV had a control knob on it which was broken and would not turn on without it.

Now getting upset, my husband picked up the phone and dialed “O”, and got a voicemail recording. Really? Maybe the game was still on. Back across the parking lot to the office he headed with a full head of steam and the broken knob. The wife of the gentlemen who had manhandled the door said she would send her son over with a new knob in a few minutes. True to her word a knock came shortly, and upon opening the door I found a boy of about ten holding yet another cardboard box containing maybe thirty TV knobs of different sizes and shapes. Handing me the box he informed me that his father said we could probably find one to fit this TV somewhere in the group. With a slight grin indicating, “and good luck with that”, he turned heel and headed back in the other direction.

Turning off the light, and not noticing much difference, we just went to bed. As soon as I rolled over the first time I went careening into the trench in the middle of the bed, thus triggering a chain reaction causing my husband to do the same. With the tip of my nose up his right nostril, I just started laughing. What are you going to do? The rest of the night we slept like conjoined twins unable to free ourselves from one another, waking up feeling as though we’d never gone to sleep.

When we were checking out, the owner, looking quite rested himself, handed us a coupon to be used towards our next stay. Everyone’s a comedienne.

The trip we just took offered up a similar experience which I’ll share in my next blog with my pics. Have a great weekend!

Charred Prawns with Red Pepper Sauce

2 lbs. jumbo prawns, cleaned, deveined, tail on
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh coriander
lime wedges

Pepper Sauce

1 small capsicum pepper
6 cloves garlic, whole and unpeeled
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 Tbsp. freshly chopped parsley
Salt to taste

Combine garlic, cumin, lime juice and coriander in a bowl. Place prawns in marinade and mix well. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or preferably overnight.

For the sauce:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the capsicum pepper into quarters removing seeds and membrane. Place on baking sheet with 6 cloves of unpeeled garlic and drizzle all with olive oil. Cook for 30 mins. or until the skin blisters on the pepper and the garlic is soft but not burnt. Place in a plastic bag until cool. Peel the red pepper and the garlic. Combine both in food processor with mayonnaise and parsley and mix until a smooth consistency. Transfer to a mixing bowl and whisk in lime juice. Add salt according to taste.

Preheat a slightly oiled grill or cast iron skillet until just beginning to smoke. Drain prawns and discard marinade. Grill shrimp in batches for 2 mins. on each side. Do not overcook or prawns will be tough.

Serve with steaming white “sticky” rice, sauce and lime wedges.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: