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Posts Tagged ‘Wyoming’

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Back home and settling in after five days in San Jose. Each time I return to the Bay Area, even after living there off and on for twenty years, I find it harder to pick up the pace. Drivers on Bay Area freeways are fearless. Weaving in and out of lanes and traveling far above the speed limit. If you’re in the fast lane and going over 80 there will be five cars behind you nipping at your rear bumper as if you were standing still. People push and shove in store lines and generally don’t seem very happy to live in such a popular location. When we hit the bottom of the climb up the hill to our little piece of heaven my heart is always glad to find home a less crowded place to be.

My son recently sold his home in Campbell. For those of you familiar with the Silicon Valley area of Northern California, Campbell could best be described as an upper middle class bedroom community. To refine the description you could include it is home to EBAY and other technology based businesses, located in between Los Gatos and San Jose. A nice place to live by most standards, if congested for my taste. Shopping is a plus with Trader Joe’s in the Pruneyard, the high-end Santa Row shopping center within driving distance, and all manner of stores and restaurants close by. My son’s is a nice home, in a nice neighborhood of Campbell certainly, but not a spectacular home. If you asked him I’m sure he’d describe it in much the same manner. The single level home boasts three bedrooms, a small family room, a living room and a recently remodeled kitchen, in addition to two bathrooms. Listed as 1600 sq. ft. and change the pictures showed well tended yards of adequate size front and back with well manicured lawns with landscaping. Two weeks ago it sold in a bidding war between eight interested parties for well over $1,000,000.00. My mother frequently asks me why I won’t move back to the area. Housing would be the first reason I would site. Two bedroom apartments in the same location are renting on the lower end for around $2,700 a month. Never does it cease to amaze me that so many people can afford the ticket to ride.

Truth is even if the inflated prices fit into my budget, I would not choose to drive endlessly in parking lots searching for an open spot, move at a snail’s pace on the freeways at rush hour, and live butt to butt with my neighbor. Not my style. Silicon Valley does up the ante on what your net in your paycheck. I have to give it that. Salaries are high there and work, particularly for the technically gifted, is plentiful.

In my heart of hearts I guess I’m a bit of a country girl. I love the sound of the wind moving through tall grass, and the stark contrast of white clouds against a blue sky. For me less is more, to put it simply. As a kid I wanted to grow up on a farm. Of course I did not. My home base until nine was Halifax, Nova Scotia. Farming was a big part of life in the maritime provinces, but my life only touched it peripherally from time to time when visiting my uncle’s farm in Cape Breton or passing farms on visits about the province.

I have friends who shake their head when I talk of wide open spaces, preferring the quick pulse of the city and all that urban living offers. Don’t misunderstand me, I love to visit the big cities losing myself in the sea of humanity found there from time to time. There are downsides to living where we do. Shopping is limited, but the upside to this is that I spend less because there are fewer places to leave my money behind.

When in my early twenties I took a car trip across the U.S. with my first husband and two young children. Our trip began in Southern California and ended in Lynn, Massachusetts a year later. While driving through Colorado we decided to take a detour north through Wyoming. Looking back I wish I’d insisted on seeing Montana as well. I haven’t made it back that way since, but I still have chapters to write, so I believe I’ll add it to my bucket list. At the time we had friends living in Wyoming. Hearing of our odyssey they had invited us to stay as long as we’d like, which turned out to be several days. How impressive that area of the country is. Mountain ranges spring up out of nowhere, and the glorious rivers and lakes. Endless picture taking opportunities could be found around every bend in the road. Their house, well perhaps house would might have been considered a generous adjective, was a well used vacation trailer converted with the help of a welding torch into several living spaces. To the right of the trailer was a school bus colorfully decorated with flowers and peace signs which we were told was to be our quarters for the night. Free spirits drifting wherever the wind whisked us, I had gotten used to the notion the lady’s room was not always going to be attached to my sleeping quarters. The facilities in this case consisted of a wooden structure to the left of the pasture with the ubiquitous half moon carved over the rustic door signalling a toilet below. My friend instructed me on the intricacies of using the building. Basically sit and do what comes naturally. At the same time she cautioned me to take a flashlight with me at night if the calling came as the small structure occasionally had been called home by a black widow or two and even once had attracted a curious skunk. Interesting a skunk would display curiosity about such a place. Like tends to hang with like I would suppose.

Though the accommodations were perhaps less than posh, the surroundings made up for it by a thousand percent. Fields of tall grass glittered and glinted in the afternoon breeze the sea of green only broken up here and there with patches of yellow and purple wildflowers. Butterflies danced and frolicked between the buds, and huge pods of puffy clouds passed across the brilliant blue sky. Early summer when we arrived, a large area of tilled land towards the back had begun to show the results of early planting, green leaves poking up along the neatly furrowed rows. All in all it was a feast for the eyes. No wonder those among us with a yen for the solitary life set their sails in this direction.

The huge barbecue built by the owner provided most of their meals. A gifted hunter, Miles, our host had venison soaking in milk for dinner and golden ears of fresh corn peeked out of their husks next to red potatoes in the huge ceramic bowl in the kitchen. There was a colorful salad of fresh fruit, and homemade bread to go with our meal. We sat at the picnic table by a small creek zigzagging across the property and drank wine together under the stars when the children were tucked in bed for the night.

The light spilling out of the bus windows caught a snapshot of a passing gray fox carrying a rabbit in its mouth before I turned in for the night. Saying a silent prayer for the small bunny, I shut off the light and slept soundly in the stillness. I never forgot the sounds of the place, with no traffic, voices, or hustle and bustle to drown it out. The tinkling of water rushing over the smooth rocks, a bird whistling to its mate, wind rustling through the boughs of the tall trees. Natures music, I would suppose.

I had 2 cups of leftover Chili Verde Pork loin which I added to this soup. Absolutely delish and meal in itself. If you are using plain pork loin add a small can of diced chiles or use diced tomatoes with green chiles.

 Pork and Beans Soup with Tortilla Crisps

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/2 orange pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups diced cooked pork loin* (chile verde if possible)
8 cups chicken broth
1 14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4-1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (to taste)
1 15 oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/8 cup chopped Cilantro
Shredded Mexican blend cheese
Slice Avocado
Sour Cream
Lime wedges

Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and peppers and cook 6 mins. until vegetables are tender. Add minced garlic and cook 1 min. Add pork and seasonings and cook and stir for 3 mins. Add remaining ingredients through pinto beans. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 mins. Stir in cilantro.

Serve with cheese, crisps, avocado slices, sour cream and lime wedges if desired.

Tortilla Crisps

4 corn tortillas
Olive oil
Salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Baste tortillas on both sides with oil. Using pizza cutter cut tortillas in strips. Place a piece of tin foil on cookie sheet. Spray with cooking spray. Place strips on sheet and sprinkle with salt. Bake for 10 mins. or until lightly browned.

If you are using plain pork loin add a small can of diced chiles or use diced tomatoes with green chiles.

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Photos by Susie Nelson

Photos by Susie Nelson

I have mentioned before it seems to me to be an odd year. Perhaps it’s just in my life. Aside from the weather, which continues to break records, the news itself is disturbing. The world seems a little uneasy on its axis, and I must admit I’m sensing the vibe.

My phone rings more often, and I am pulling out my shrink hat, dusting it off, and offering my invisible chaise for quick sessions at an alarming rate. Why, as I’ve said before, people seem to think I have any kind of handle on how to face the world escapes me. Maybe it’s the universe sending me a message? Possibly I should have leaned towards psychology as a major rather than computer science, I don’t know.

To add to the untidy mix, Friday is blocked out for dental surgery. Ugh. Even though I was a dental assistant, I view dentistry as barbaric. Why after all these years they can’t just knock you out and do it all at once escapes me. Part of the reason I was an abysmal dental assistant stemmed from accepting my first job in a orthodontic office. Most of our patients still had occasional bed wetting incidents. Like the guards in the background at an execution, I was the one delivering the needle.

Over the years I have suffered many an hour sitting in a dental chair. Although blessed with good genes in general, teeth were definitely not on the plus side while listing the pluses and minuses handed down by my ancestors. Teeth were not well thought out, to my mind, when the original plans for human beings were drafted. “Hmmmmmmm, let’s see. Teeth should grind food for the average life span. About thirty years should get er done.” Originally I don’t think it was expected we humans would be the clever industrious little beings we turned out to be. Living to be 100, once a noteworthy phenomenon, is certainly far less unusual of late.

Not being my first rodeo with dental procedures I have stocked the larder with soft foods and the freezer with ice cream. Once I had to live on soft foods for three months. So desperate was I for the taste of meat, my apologize to the vegans out there, I actually ground some cooked meat up in the food processor just to savor the flavor on my tongue. Euwwww. I know. Talk about addiction, but that’s another blog.

In my early twenties I’ve written about my year on the road. Traveling with my husband and two toddlers we meandered across the country making an untidy run at seeing as many states as we could until our money ran out. Our vehicle of choice was an ungainly yellow station wagon, which served often as “home”, and managed to get us from Southern California to as far east as Lynn, Massachusetts breaking down only twice. The first mechanical issue arose early in the trip. The morning found us waking up in Casper, Wyoming. What a gorgeous piece of American real estate Wyoming is. Each round in the bend looks like a landscape painting suitable for mounting over a cabin hearth. I have heard people go there to lose themselves, and after touring the area I can see how easy that would be to do in that part of the world. For me it’s a bit to cold in the winter, and although I enjoy peace and quiet along with the next guy, I need a little more civilization around me than some parts of the state would provide.

Aside from the fact the car was showing some signs of a problem, I had a tooth ache. On the road this is not a good thing. We hadn’t thought ahead and invited an oral surgeon to share the back seat, so finding one on short notice where we were wouldn’t be a snap of the fingers.

Small towns were strung out along the highway between Casper and Cheyenne like clothes on a line. Many you passed through before realizing you’d entered. Sputtering, the wagon indicated going on without an examination wasn’t going to possible, so we pulled over at the first populated area with a gas station in place. In the 70’s gas stations were full service. Most of them, not all, had repair bays in the back. Fortunately for us this was one of them, as it was the only game in town. The patient was to remain overnight. Asking the location of the nearest motel, and learning there were two, we chose the closest one several miles away. Offered a ride to the lobby, we checked in.

Inquiring at the motel as to dentists in town, the cheerful clerk said there was one, but he was a ways out of town. Not able to stand the throbbing much longer, we called the number given us and thankfully someone answered on the other end. Because I was becoming an emergency, the gruff voice identifying himself as Dr. Wilkins suggested coming right out and gave directions on how to do so. How, with the wagon up in the stirrups, was to be the problem.

Inquiring again with the clerk in the lobby about transportation, she once again came to our rescue. She was off shift shortly, she told us, and lived near the dental office. If we’d like a ride out we could go with her and she would send her son to bring us back. The chances of that happening now are nearly as likely as picking the winning numbers on Power Ball, but I digress. As promised an hour later we were dropped off at the end of a long dirt road at a lone building standing nearly in the middle of nowhere.

We were greeted at the door by a man clearly long past retirement age. The office was limited to one examining room and the lobby, but it was clean and the equipment relatively new. As it turned out my tooth was beyond saving and had to be extracted. Of all the extractions I’ve suffered in my life, this one caused me the least pain. Dr. Will, as he called himself, far nicer than his voice belied, was only willing to accept $10 for his trouble. Shortly we were picked up in an old Ford truck up concealed by a swirl of dust by the clerk’s son. A dinner invitation was offered but I was in no condition to accept. The following day, swollen but better, the wagon was retrieved and thanking them all we made our way down the road.

I assure you for this procedure on Friday, $10 wouldn’t allow you to sit in the lobby and read the out-of-date People magazine waiting for you. Ah well.

This was the best vegetable pasta ever. Love, loved it. I had a lot of veggies on hand, and it was the perfect way to put them to work.

Spring Garden Pasta

1 bunch broccoli
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 slices Coppa ham, sliced thin
3 large mushrooms sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced thin
4 yellow tomatoes (small) sliced 1/4″
2 Roma tomatoes, coarsely diced
1 lb. thin spaghetti
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
5 large basil leaves, sliced in strips
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Cut broccoli into florets. Place in top of double broiler or steamer. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. lemon juice. Cook until fork tender. Season with salt and pepper as desired. Keep warm.

Saute garlic in 1/4 cup olive oil until slightly browned. Add Coppa ham to pan and saute until crisp.

IMG_6355

Add mushrooms an zucchini to pan. Cover and allow to cook over med. heat, checking occasionally and stirring, for 5 mins.

IMG_6356

Bring water to boil for pasta and cook as directed. Reserve 1 ladle of pasta water.

Remove saute pan from heat and add wine. Continue to cook over med. heat until wine is reduced by half. Stir in tomatoes, lemon juice, basil, pepper flakes and cooked broccoli. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

IMG_6360

Drain pasta reserving 1 ladle full of pasta water. Add pasta and water pan and toss.

Serve topped with lots of shredded cheese.

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