Friday, December 23, 2011

Laughter, Nerves, and the Christmas Roast Beast

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve.  For me it is one of the most fun days of my year.   On this day, most of my grandchildren come to my house to decorate my tree, eat the Roast Beast, and open presents.  There is chaos, and laughter, and food and fun.   

For the Manly Spouse, it is the most stressful day of the year.  While I am cooking and chatting and laughing, he is watching small children run wild in our home (or so he thinks).  It is a juxtopositon of our different personalities.  I love watching the children decorate our tree.   He is terrified it's going to fall over and that ornaments will break (gasp!). Some years ago we decided to put up the tree, set up the lights, and leave it alone.  The families descend on our home before the meal is prepared.  Decorating the tree gives them something to do while they wait.  We have plenty of ornaments.  Some inherited from my parents, others we have collected over the years.  Some are made of cheap plastic, paper, or felt, others look antique.  If we break a few, the world won't end, and we have plenty more.

Of course there's also lots of food around, crackers and cheese, fruit, veggies and ranch dip, and cookies.  Don't forget the cookies.  

Early in the morning, before the day hardly begins, I prepare the standing rib roast by making a paste of coarse sea salt, coarse ground pepper, garlic (lots of garlic), olive oil, thyme and rosemary.  I don't have any particular measurements to this paste, I just start mixing it up until it feels right, and spread it all over the roast.  This isn't really a blog about the recipe, but if you're interested, I'll post it at the bottom of the page.

First son is supposed to bring the green bean casserole, with fresh beans, real cream, real mushrooms, and sourdough croutons, but he's not really very reliable, so sometimes we just have the old standard.  Some sort of potatoes, and corn, and we're good.    There are pies waiting for dessert.   We seat as many people as will fit in the dining room, one of the two times a year we use that room, eat and get full.  

Then it's time for presents!  Around this time also, Gramma starts to relax.  When Gramma starts to relax, she starts to laugh. We open presents.  We watch the cousins interact.  Gramma laughs some more.  This year we will have two little ones, almost two years old, together for the first time since they were babies.   

Grandpa is already nervous about tomorrow.  I plan to spend most of the day laughing.  

Oh... Here's a copy of my "recipe":

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Poetry Girl

Last week I was glad to receive a Christmas package from my sister. I was expecting it, and I was pretty sure I knew what was in it:  Gourmet Chipotle Pepper Olive Oil and Chocolate flavored Balsamic Vinegar. Ooh! I can't wait to cook roast pork flavored with that stuff.  But this posting, as it turns out, is not about a recipe with fancy oil and vinegar.

Because inside the package was a little book I had forgotten I ever owned.

Back in 1969, a treasured friend gave me this little journal.    From the time I received it, when I was seventeen, until the summer after I turned 21, I filled those pages with poem after poem.  I also wrote down the occasional dream, or errant thought.  Except for about 5 pages, the book is completely full.

I made a frontispiece:

"Poetry is a spontaneous overflow
of powerful feeling... it is emotion
recollected in tranquility."

- William Wordsworth

Some of the poems describe my feelings about growing up, searching for God, and boyfriends... I have read through it several times and there are a couple I really like. One in particular demonstrates the germ of the spiritual journey I was to take several years later.

It's like reaching out
but no one's there
and realizing that
that's good
because it makes me
reach in

As I read through this little book, I am glad that I had the foresight to make some little notes, "to DJ". Or, "to A.W."  However, I'm not a hundred percent sure who some of these poems reference. Who was that boy about whom I wrote,  
  "...I cried to hear you say 
you thought I didn't love you"?

That line is the very last one written in this book.  I was 21 years old and I remember that summer so well, or I thought I did anyway. That was the summer I embarked on the spiritual journey that I would walk for the next 30 years.

I am a little sad that I stopped writing down in my little book.  I know I was writing.  Somewhere in the universe there are thousands of bits of paper with my thoughts, and feelings on them. I wish I had them on a shelf in my room. During a visit to my parents' home around the time I wrote those last words  I destroyed several volumes of journals I kept while I was at college. I felt that my personal musings of that time, while meant only for my own eyes, we're too immature, too juvenile to keep;  I was a little embarrassed when I reread them. So I destroyed them.

If I could send a message back to my 21-year-old self, I would tell her to put those notebooks back on the shelf, waaay in the back. That way, when I came back to go through my parents' belongings 30 years later, after their deaths, I could collect them and put them on my own shelf.  There they could remain for my children and grandchildren to find, after I am gone, when they pick through the detritus of my own life.

My 21-year-old self, while so wise in some ways, as some of her previous poetry indicated, really had no clue, did she?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Black Friday and canned corn

In the spirit of full disclosure, and as you may know, I am employed at a Big Box Super Store. It does not provide me with a great deal of money, but I have a very good Health Insurance plan, and a nice enough discount on purchases that I consider it part of my salary.

I worked 8am to 4:30pm on "Black Friday", and was very busy. But because many of our customers had already been and gone by the time I got to work and we were well staffed, it was not, what we refer to in cashier parlance, "crazy busy". Saturday was the same. I expect it to be thus all the way through to Christmas Eve.

Years ago, back in Ohio, I worked as a receptionist at a small company owned by a couple who seemed elderly to me; I think maybe they were in their sixties. The wife was the office curmudgeon. I remember she used to lament, daily, "Vat's the voild comink to?"

As I watched the T.V coverage of the BF openings all over the country, I felt pretty curmudgeonly myself. Pepper Spray violence, gun play, shouting matches, fist fights, and perhaps the saddest of all, a report of a man who collapsed from a medical condition as shoppers walked by, and in some cases, stepped over him in order to get on with their shopping.

I'm disgusted. I'm appalled. I'm sad, deeply sad. What's the voild comink to. Have we forgotten?

Instead of celebrating the return of light after the shortest day of the year by joyfully giving gifts to each other, are we fighting each other for a five dollar savings off a video game? For Christians, is the meaning of the holiday completely lost in the shuffle for the lowest price?

After I wrote the above words, I stepped away for a little bit. I reviewed the mission statement as expressed on the faceplate of this blog, "As I enter the last trimester of my life, I am working hard at having fun."

Sometimes it's hard work to have fun, but as I spend my holiday workdays ringing up gifts, I try to see the giving spirit in the items in front of me. The guest who just put $300 worth of toys on my conveyor belt, smiles broadly when I ask her if she would like them placed in an opaque "hide it" bag. She is relieved that we have such a thing.

Another explains what the "elf on a shelf" ( story is, shares a giggle with me as I lament that I am so old that that tradition wasn't invented yet when my children were small.

Last year, one of my favorite moments occurred just a few days before Christmas Eve. A gentleman in a suit, brought me a stack of gift cards and, list in hand, told me on much should go on each card. He had apparently put as much thought into the design of the gift cards as another person might have in picking out an individual gift. This person likes the Santa card, that person likes the one with the Snowman. A group of persons on his list got the ones with lights, and yet another group received the cards that can double as toys themselves.

Finally, a mental hug goes out to the almost elderly couple who put twenty dollars worth of canned food on my belt. Ten cans of corn, ten cans of green beans, etc. They too had a list. They grouped all the cans together so I could ring them up efficiently.

I'm here to observe, not here to preach. I observed that this couple did not look particularly prosperous, and I am observing that, depending on your circumstances, ten dollars is not a lot of money. I'm here to tell you now that ten dollars buys a lot of canned food. I know, I bagged it all. And they were having lots of fun!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Hotsy Totsy Redux. A really Saucy sauce.

The Manly Spouse's brother has a neighbor who grew a ton of Serrano peppers last summer. Really. We had a bucketful sitting out in the garage. A five gallon bucketful.

"Should I throw them away?" my spouse asked. "Nooo", said I. I'm sure I can think of something to do with them.

Over the weekend I decided enough of them had finally turned a nice orangey-red to make some really saucy hot sauce. Here's what I did.

I picked through and got all the ones with color in them, about a pound. A nice four or five handfuls anyway.

I washed them and sliced away the yucky bits and threw them into a big pot. Then I smooshed three or four nice fat garlic cloves and threw them in too. I added two cups full of plain white vinegar and about a tablespoon of salt, set the pot to simmering, and left the room.

I have an electric stove, so it takes awhile for stuff to heat up, and I only turned the burner up to about four. In about an hour the peppers felt soft, so I turned off the heat and left the room again.

A couple of hours later, when the peppery mixture was cool, I pulled out my trusty 50-year-old Osterizer, and dumped everything in there and turned it on to the "liquefy" setting for a few minutes.

This brought Manly Spouse into the kitchen for a sniff, and then a taste. We had a brief discussion on whether I should strain it, and decided not to. The seeds give you your heat, and the folks around here who love hot stuff like it really hot. So, really, there was nothing to discuss; we were just being polite.

See the seeds? Zowie!

I funneled it into little jars and put it in the fridge. The little research I did on making hot sauce indicated that some steeping, or aging, is necessary. Like two weeks.

Did you know that some folks, and websites, claim that green chilis are hotter than red ones? I still had about half a bucketful so what the heck!

I started the whole process again.

There were a lot more of these peppers, so I used my mother's old VitaMix. This is only about half of it.

Ta Da!

Whether this turns out hotter that the sauce from the red peppers remains to be two weeks.

By the way, I don't know of you can tell from the photos, but it is pretty thick. I left it that way, but if you try this and you want it thinner, just add more vinegar.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Football Sadness

Sometimes I feel compelled to write about the non-joyful events in our world. Today is one of those times. Today I want to write a few words about the events at Penn State. Events that are casting a pall over what is usually an enjoyable pastime for me, watching College Football.

The scandal at Penn State reminds me of the Lawrence Phillips debacle at the University of Nebraska back in the mid-nineties. Mr. Phillips beat his former girlfriend almost to death, then grabbed her by the hair, and dragged her down the stairs of her dormitory. The young woman, Kate McEwen, who was attending UNL on an athletic scholarship to the women's basketball team, was injured so badly she could no longer participate in her sport.

Back during those days, my voice was one of the many that was raised insisting that Tom Osborne, then head coach at University of Nebraska at Lincoln, resign or be fired from his position. Time has softened some, but not all of my outrage. In addition, the University initially showed a lack of sensitivity when it revoked Ms. McEwen's scholarship. After some public outcry, that decision was reversed, allowing her to continue her education.

Phillips has proved his lack of character, and is now serving a 31 year prison sentence for attacking another girlfriend and driving his car into a group of teenagers. Tom Osborne, who gave Phillips the benefit of doubt and tried to support him by suspending him for a few games, and sending him to counseling, is now the Athletic Director at Nebraska. His job, at the time, was to serve as a surrogate father to his players, as well as Coach, and I now believe his heart was In the right place, even if his judgment was less than sound.

I like to watch College Football. I really like to watch Nebraska Football. Disclaimer: I wasn't always a football fan, but I was converted by the manly spouse, with whom I learned to enjoy watching Nebraska Football so much, that I now watch it happily, sometimes all by myself.

It is a fact that football programs bring in substantial sums of money to Universities. Money that presumably contributes to academic, as well as athletic programs. I find it sad, and infuriatingly discouraging, that this apparently causes some people to think twice before reporting horrific crimes against children, or expelling star football players who commit horrific crimes against women.

Joe Paterno may have been thinking about the consequences to his football program, rather than the consequences to young lives when he showed such poor judgement back in 1999. The sad but appropriate fact is that he will now be remembered for this, overshadowing 45 years of excellence.

Lawrence Phillips may be no more than a blip on the screen these days. He is a footnote, a vague recollection to most of us. Although probably not to Kate McEwen.

Former coach Sandusky will undoubtedly answer to the law, and will be sent away to a place where he can no longer hurt little children. He will live In his private hell and we will forget about him. The young men who were his victims may find it hard to forget. Their mothers and fathers whose trust he betrayed will never forget.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Cultural Icons and the Hazards of Growing Old

It all started yesterday while the Manly Spouse was shampooing the carpet in our front room. The living room of our home, where we spend most of our evenings, watching T.V., talking about our days, playing with our respective mobile devices....we have a mixed marriage: Android/iPhone, Wally World/Tar-Jay, lager/ale...oops, I digress.

I was moving out the clutter: the doggie beds, foot stools, and from under the bookshelf, the old, rather large, photo album I have from my first marriage. Naturally, I became distracted, and opened it up, looking for a favorite picture of my boys playing with their "transformer" cars, and a younger me in the "witchie" hat I have worn every Halloween for the past 30 years, which I still haven't taken back down to the basement after this year's Halloween festivities.

While going through this album, I came across an old picture of my ex-husband posing with a man who was one of his best friends when we first came to Omaha in the mid-eighties. I have a social networking "friendship" with that man, so I snapped a picture of the snapshot with my iPhone, and posted it on his "wall".

What followed was a series of comments and memories from folks whose names I find only vaguely familiar, but whose memories bring back sharp recollections of a time in my life that was uncomfortable, and sometimes unbearably sad, but for these old friends of his... something else entirely. It made me realize that my ex-husband is something of a cultural icon in this town.

A true multi-media artist, he painted with whatever he had handy. He had a couple of Art Shows here in Omaha back in the day, and made about two dollars. But I liked his work. He always said it was his Legacy to his children, but unfortunately, I do not think any of his children, mine included, own any of it. Once, about ten years ago, the Manly Spouse and I walked into a Gallery in the Old Market, a fashionable, artsy part of town, and there it was. An oil painting. On the wall. With a price tag of several hundred dollars.

Having had no musical training, my ex decided he wanted to become a jazz musician. Not the Dave Brubeck kind of jazz, but the Ornette Coleman "Harmolodics" kind. He taught himself how to play the clarinet and saxophone (with my help), and the drums. These instruments being too traditional for him, he graduated to monkey wrenches, pots and pans, and really any object that might make some sort of percussive sound. He became a professional busker, and in about 1991, actually raised enough money (again, with my help) to make a recording. In a Recording Studio with a real sound engineer.

Cultural Icon? Well, maybe a Counter-cultural icon. Today he is living his dream, I think. I found a web video of him a few years ago, busking on the streets of Portland, OR, where he is now living, making music. His instrument? An old bicycle.

He came to Omaha a couple of years ago when my son's fifth child was born. For several years now, He's been living with Parkinson's Disease, and seems a little frail, although the fire is still in his eyes. My son says he's stronger than he looks, and does Yoga every morning, but sometimes he falls down. He can't play his instruments, or hold a paintbrush any more, because his hands don't work the way they used to. But he can, apparently, still dance.

I hope he comes back to town soon, not just to see his grandchildren, but because there's a whole bunch of people who want to help him relive some very wild days.

While they do that, I'm going to stay at home. I'll be sitting in my freshly shampooed front room, snuggled in with the Manly Spouse, watching T.V., talking about our delightfully hum drum days.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Arts and Crafts

My mother was an Artist. I remember telling her that one time, and I can still clearly see her eyebrows popping up and hear her correcting me, "I am a Craftswoman, not really an Artist.". I disagreed then, and I disagree now.

When she was a young woman, after graduating from college, she took a course in Interior Design, presumably to pass the time while my father finished Law School. I also believe she felt it would assist her in her chosen career, that of making a home for my father.

I was lucky enough to inherit one of her drawings from that time, which I have placed at the top of this post. In her home she had a mirror like the one to the left of the sofa, which is also similar to one that sat in the living room of my childhood home. I love the detail of the little knick knacks on the shelf to the right of the sofa, especially the little elephant.

Before she had been married a year, she gave birth to the first of her five daughters and was very, very busy. I am the youngest of those children, and some of my earliest memories are of sitting under the work table in her "sewing room" playing with Betsy McCall paper dolls while she sewed dresses, with pinafores, for my youngest (five years my senior) sister and I.

She started making a quilt when I was very young. In some future post, I will blog about my father's artistry, starting with the quilting frame he built for her. However, she was not to finish that quilt herself. After several years in a state of incompleteness, some ladies from her church finished it for her. Much later in her life, she started, and finished, four more quilts, so that there was one for each us. I treasure mine. It is a log cabin design, with pieces made from all those little dresses she made for my sisters and me. She must have known I would want the one with the solid red backing, because there is a name tag, with my name on it, covering a presumed flaw somewhere in the middle of it.

Later she learned to knit, sweaters, socks, and a couple of Christmas stockings I still hang on my mantelpiece each Yule. However, when I was in high school, and the only one of her daughters still living at home, she began to do needlework. It became a passion. Crewel, appliqué work, pulled thread work, metal thread. She took courses, and taught courses. In a time long before the Internet, she had a mail-order library of embroidery books. At the time of her death, there were books enough to cover one entire wall of a large upstairs room that she used as her work room. I am lucky enough to own a piece of embroidery that has been my favorite since she first created it in the late 1960s.

As an assignment for a Design course she was taking, she was tasked with creating an exercise in vertical and horizontal lines. She created an embroidery painting of a garden wall with the full moon behind it. The colors are soft and romantic, and when I look at the flowers climbing that garden wall my heart sings with joy.

My mother passed away almost ten years ago, after a long and happy life that included 65 years making a home for my father. I am so grateful that she left behind a body of art work large enough for all five of her daughters to share.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Omaha, NE

Sunday, October 9, 2011

October's Roses

When I was about 20, I wrote song called "Roses in October". I was living in California, and one evening I was out walking my dog, feeling blue about some lover or other, when the scent of roses wafted over me. Being a native of northeastern Ohio, I was first of all amazed at roses blooming in the fall. I was more than six months shy of my 21st birthday, and the smell changed my blue mood to pink in an instant.

Roses in October make the air smell so sweet,
And I was feelin' sad, but now the rose is in the air,
And I don't feel so bad...

Now I'm older, and presumably wiser. I live in Nebraska, land of scorching hot summers, and frigid, snowless winters. Today, October 9th, I have two rose bushes in my front yard with multiple fragrant blooms.

I also have peppers, eggplants, and tomatoes in my back garden. There are numerous purple blossoms on the eggplants. At the big box store where I work, you can buy one eggplant for $1.99; I am giving them away to my neighbor and my mother-in-law, and looking up recipes for Baba Ghanoush. Look at all those eggplants! And I have three more just like it. Yippee!

Today, it is a beautiful October day. Eighty degrees, sunny and not humid. The trees are starting to turn yellow and gold. In my back yard I have an Ash tree that is starting to turn. I am beginning to embrace the fall, as I do around this time every year. Tomorrow, I will harvest the Stevia to the left of the eggplant in the above picture, and spread it out on the dining room table to dry. Poor Manly Spouse, he gets nervous when I start drying herbs. This year I'll leave the Tarragon and Rosemary, because I still have plenty from last year. I'll have to remember to mention that, so he can breathe a little easier.

I am a long way from that 20 year old girl walking her dog in North Hollywood, but the smell of roses still improves my mood. My mother used to harvest rose hips for jam, but I think I'll leave that for another year. There's only so much the Manly Spouse can take.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Habanero Hotsy Totsy!

This time of year the whole house smells like chilies. Each Spring we plant Habaneros and one other variety of very hot chilies. In previous years we have grown Cayenne, Jalapeño, and Serrano. This year it was a small upward reaching chili called, I think, an Aleppo. It's very small, and I decided to plant it because it's usually dried and ground up, which is what The Manly Spouse does each year.

Fast forward to now. Lousy crop of habaneros. Little Aleppos are not ripening in large enough quantities to dry properly. I think maybe we need a real garden, but that's a subject for another post.

Frustrated, I went to the farmers market and bought a few very expensive Ghost Peppers...which are supposed to be even hotter than Habaneros, and saved some seeds for next year. Ever the optimist.

Our first batch of dried peppers consisted of our own meager crop, the three Ghost peppers, and a handful of the tiny little peppers. The Manly Spouse was not overly impressed with the heat factor until he bit down on a Ghost seed. I can't remember his exact words; something along the lines of "wowie zowie!", but more scatological.

My wonderful husband is a native Nebraskan, and a bit more practical than I. Last week he went to a grocery store that caters to a mostly Hispanic population, and bought 6 lbs. of habaneros from the Produce section. Here are some waiting to be prepared for the dehydrator.

On the left is a small batch of dried peppers after they've been ground up in the old Osterizer. In the middle are some Serrano from a neighbor's crop, and on the right are the habaneros.

It takes about 18 hours or so to fully dehydrate 3 or 4 trays of peppers. I have taken to turning the appliance to "off" before I go to bed because the smell of hot peppers actually interrupts my sleep!

Today I did a small side project. Sliced a couple of Habaneros, and green and red Serrano, and made simple pickled peppers by pouring hot vinegar over them in sterilized glass jars.

I don't know if they're truly preserved, so I'll refrigerate 'til Yule as gifts for my two sons. They have a similar philosophy of flavor as The Manly Spouse, the hotter, the better.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Fire of September

When I was seventeen I was lucky enough to play the lead (and only) female role in a production of The Fantasticks, at Western Reserve Academy, an all boys prep school in Hudson, Ohio.

Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones wrote those beautiful songs and my young voice was suited to most of them. One of my favorite songs from that play is called "Try to Remember", and this time of year I find it running through my head most of the time.

I walk through the garden on these cool (almost) fall mornings and sing to myself,

Try to remember the kind of September
When grass was green and grain was yellow

The grass is so green, the tomatoes are bursting, egg plants seem to spring from nowhere

and I start thinking how nice it would be to live back In California, where I wouldn't have to worry about an early frost. With luck, I'll be cooking fresh, home grown veggies for another month.

Once October comes along, with its bursts of yellow and orange and red, I am again in love with Nebraska. Recent conversations with other Nebraskans confirm that the best times to live here are May/June and September/October. The rest of the time it's either too hot or too cold. But that's another blog completely. This time of year, around the autumnal equinox, before the burst of color arrives, I grieve for summer.

The song ends with,

Deep in December, it's nice to remember,
The fire of September, that made us mellow

Tomorrow, when fall begins, I'll still long for June. But October is just around the corner.

Follow, follow, follow, follow...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Cold-Brewed Coffee

First of all, let me say, that I didn't make this up, or even think of it on my own. I first heard about it while chatting with Older Son last week while we were having lunch together. Munching on Crab Rangoon we talked about this and that, and somehow the subject of coffee came up. He told me that he and his wife had been "cold brewing" their coffee. He verbally passed on the recipe, which I transcribed into my mildly intelligent phone, and I determined to try it.

Next day, my daughter-in-law posted pictures of her brews:

She also posted this link:

Thank you Christy Jordan! My son always complained that he loved the smell of brewing coffee, and then was so disappointed by the taste. Christy says coffee "... never tastes as decadent as it smells." Son loves the taste of cold-brew.

I may have mentioned before that I consider most recipes to be suggestions, rather than directions, so... I found a jar and ground some coffee beans. FYI, I don't like milk in my coffee. I am (a little) embarrassed to admit that I prefer that fake powdered coffee "whitener" over actual milk, or even half & half. Sorry. I put a tablespoon of the stuff in the jar, and poured the ground coffee over it, then poured the cold water over it, put the lid on the jar, and went to work. As I was driving to work I thought, "I should blog about this!"

"No, I better wait to see if this works, I'll probably end up writing about my several tries..."

As I write these words, I hear my mother's voice in my head, "Oh ye of little faith!" she says. I concur. Oh me of little faith. Dee-Lish!

Here's the way I make it:

Pour one (large-ish) tablespoon of your favorite powdered coffee "creamer" into a 32 oz. canning jar.
Grind 2 (large) tablespoons of coffee beans on the "coarse" setting. Pour on top of the creamer in the jar.
Fill the jar with cold water (leave a little air space at the top).
Cover and set out on the counter overnight.

I strained it through a paper towel, since I have been using a French Press I have no filters, squeezed in a drip of agave nectar, and yummmmmm.

Lately, fall mornings are getting cool here in Nebraska. I poured a cup, set it I the microwave for 1 minute. Smooth brew.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, September 10, 2011


I have a couple of friends who have their birthdays on September 11. I want to send you happy, loving greetings. It's not particularly an "accomplishment" to complete another revolution around the sun, but in our culture, we have made it an excuse for celebration. And I like that.

I also have my own personal memories of September 11, 2001. I was in far away from the three geographical locations of holy ground, but not so far either.

In those days, I worked at the home office of an independent broker/dealer. We had friends across the street. We had colleagues who lost their lives. I had just switched jobs within the company and had moved to the fifth floor from the fourth floor of our short, squat building. I was down in my old cubicle picking up a few items when I heard about it. "A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center!" someone called out.

My first thought was for the poor pilot of the small Cessna type aircraft I imagined had crashed. That thought lasted until I got back upstairs and saw that a T.V. had been moved out into the main area of the floor. No need to go into my thoughts and revelations in the hours that followed, because I share those thoughts and feelings with most Americans.

My new office space was down the hall from a member of the executive committee of my company. I heard her speak, quietly but firmly, to anyone who would listen, as she strode on her way to meet with our C.E.O., " they are not going to force us to close our doors!". And we didn't. Although I worked in a business that was almost completely dependent on the stock market, we never closed, never sent people home from work unless they wanted to, and I felt proud to be associated with a company that stood strong in the face of that atrocity.

Meantime I felt guilty and strange because I started having dreams about being trapped in tall buildings. So far away from New York, about 1300 miles, and I was having bad dreams? I was safe in my home, in my city, and I felt guilty for being fearful, but I understand now that it was another shared emotion.

Back to birthdays. I hope that anyone reading this, whose birthday, or any other happy anniversary, happens to fall on September 11, has a happy day. I hope you have a day filled with joy, and celebration, and love. I send you my love, and good cheer. Eat your cake and ice cream - take a stand against the bad guys by putting on a little paper hat and blowing on a little paper horn. I love you all.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Risotto Afternoon

As I started writing this, I was standing at my stove stirring rice.

I really like risotto. I mean I *really* like it. I like it well enough with Arborio rice, but here's the thing: I also really like Brown Rice, especially the short grain variety. So I started searching on line for a recipe. In my opinion, however, recipes are mere suggestions. So I adapted and here is what I came up with, or pretty close:

1 quart chicken stock
4 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups uncooked short-grain brown rice
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Bring broth and water to a boil in a medium pot. Cover broth-water mixture and bring back to a simmer.

Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring gently, until toasted and fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of the broth-water mixture and cook, stirring constantly and adjusting heat if needed to maintain a simmer, until liquid is almost absorbed. Repeat process, adding about 1/2 cup of the broth-water mixture each time, until rice is just beginning to get tender, about 25 minutes. When rice is al denté, cook about 5 minutes more

Add cheese, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Add about 1/2 cup more of the broth-water mixture to finished risotto before serving, if you like.

It came out pretty yummy. I discovered in mid-creation, that I was out of the good grated Parmesan, so I used the cheap stuff, you know that comes in the shaker jar with the green label? Next time I'll uses Parmigiano-Reggiano and more garlic.

It'll last me at least a week, since the manly Spouse doesn't eat anything that's not white, or meat.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Blue Crab, Figs, and Earthquakes, Oh My!

I recently embarked on a 1200 mile road trip to visit family on Maryland's Eastern Shore.
Periodically, about once a year, I make this journey, usually to one of my sisters' homes, in one of the M states. The Manly Spouse's attitude is "you go have fun with your sisters"... While my brother-in-law would appreciate the support, Manly Spouse does not particularly like wine. Or blue crab. Or martinis. Or Opera. Or boats. Or hors d'oeuvres. You get it. So off I go, top down on the little convertible, with plenty of sun-screen and audiobooks, for my annual sister-fest.

While there, I did little running, as I left my good running shoes in Omaha... So, I went to a big-box store and purchased a cheap pair. But in spite of the wonderful flat topography, my bunioney feet failed me after the second two-mile run. I went bike riding through charming Oxford, MD, and around the neighborhood, so I wasn't a total slouch.

One particularly yummy adventure was to go crabbing with some young family members (my job was to measure and throw back any females, or males under 5 1/8 inches across. I was also assigned to assist in the cooking preparation. It is a two-person job as the crabs themselves, well, to paraphrase, do not go gently into the steamer.) On another day, we made a visit to the home of a retired school administrator who has an orchard of fig trees and a bunch of chickens. Picking soft, ripe figs off the tree and biting into their warm sweetness is a sublime pleasure.

My sister's 8 year old granddaughter spent a few days, sans parents, and we designed and fabricated a floor cloth for her room. One lovely sunny afternoon we were all on the front porch of the 140 year old home my sister and her husband recently renovated, and the earth moved. Literally. The wind chime sang and clanged...but there was no wind. The grand-niece's eyes got big. I think mine did too. Twenty seconds or so later we all looked at each other and said...."was that an earthquake?"... And not so nonchalantly moved out on to the lawn, far enough away to avoid any falling walls (we hoped), which thankfully, there weren't. All learned earthquake procedures from my years in Southern California flew out of my mind...and really, should you still stand in the door frame of a non earthquake proof building anyway?

Two days before Irene hit, I was motoring across Pennsylvania, and Ohio... (my sister said: "An earthquake and a hurricane in one!"). When I finally crossed over the Mississippi River into the rolling hills of Iowa, I knew I was almost home. When I crossed the Missouri, I called the Manly Spouse. Fifteen minutes later I pulled into my driveway and there he was, garage door up, welcoming me home. Ahhh.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Be Here Now?

I work as a cashier at a big box store.  It's one of those super stores that is a department store on one side and a grocery store on the other.  Most of my colleagues are either very young, or 50-ish (I'm not sure what that says about the employment situation here, but that's a subject for another day).  Consequently, I ring up many purchases of alcohol.  "May I trouble you for your date of birth?" I ask anyone who looks over 35. To anyone middle aged or older, I might ask, "are you sure you're over 21."  It's fun to make a joke, but frequently I get this wistful, wry answer, "I wish I was 21 again...".

Well I don't wish I was 21 again.  

Don't get me wrong.  It was an interesting year.  But I really like who I am right now.

There is a book called "Be Here Now" by Baba Ram Dass, aka Richard Alpert, Ph.D.  It was very big back in the day.  When I was 21 I interpreted it in a sort of twisted Carpe Diem way...  When I had only one year of college to complete, for example, I quit school to live an urban commune.  It seems to me that I could have said "right now, I'm in school and I'm moving to a commune." But that was then, as they say, and this is now.

What I am learning today, and I hope I am continually learning, is that I pretty much like the person I am now, and while I am certainly a version of my 21-year-old self, I am definitely not the same girl I was way back then.

Having said all that, I could do without the aches and pains. I went to the doctor today because of a pain in my foot...turns out I have a Bunion and a Bunionette. The doctor, a young woman with some unrelated foot problems, empathetically recommended a particular shoe store. It won't make the pain go all the way away, but it was a great excuse to buy new shoes.

When my mother was in her last months on the planet, she celebrated her 88th birthday. A dear friend asked her, "if you could be any age you've been, what age would you wish to be?".

Mother asked, "how old am I today?"

"Eighty-eight" was the reply.

"Eighty-eight", my mother answered.

What's the lesson in that? Baba Ram Dass has nothing on my mother... Be Here Now.

Right now, I am a plumpish old girl with bunions (and a bunionette) and two pairs of new shoes.

Right now I am a healthy woman who is running at least 2 1/2 miles, four times a week.

Right now I am an employed person with pretty good insurance.

Right now I am breathing.

Thank You.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Life is but a Dream

Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.

For some reason, as I was running this morning, this little tune sang itself in my head. It struck me that this little poem is a lesson in balance.

When I was in my forties, I decided it was really important to go to graduate school. I said to my sister, " if I do this, I'll be 52 when I graduate". She said "you'll be 52 anyway." The ever supportive Manly Spouse said nothing, just handed me the phone.

I loved being in school, and I am all for setting goals, whatever they may be, at any stage in one's life. I am proud of my accomplishment. Having said that, for me it became the beginning of a period of extreme unbalance in my life.

I worked my patootie off (if you know me at all, you can imagine how difficult Statistics and Quantitative Analysis were!) (thank you, tutors!) and got my MBA. I loved it, but during the following couple of years I forgot to breathe. Even after I graduated, I worked 12 - 14 hour days, and Manly Spouse kept saying, "I want my wife back."

I only sort of listened. In my "spare time" I was painting furniture. While I was scraping, sanding, painting, I started to breathe again. I walked away from the corporate job... I felt a huge weight lift off me. Thanks to a small inheritance the Manly Spouse and I were able to, with severe budget cuts, maintain a comfortable life.

I continued to paint furniture, and every once in awhile I would sell a piece from my virtual shop at at local Craft Fairs. I was still manically working though, and Manly Spouse kept looking at me. He didn't know it, but he was telling me to breathe.

I got the cashiering job at the big box store. It has good insurance. I get to look at babies, talk to four-year-olds, and make pleasant conversation all day long. My basement is full of hand painted furniture and objects, so I can't paint any more....

I go to work, I write, I play in my garden, I get to see my children and most of my grandchildren almost any time I want. I am rowing my boat. Gently down the stream. Merrily. I understand it's a dream. It's a beautiful, love-filled dream. A friend of mine wrote about "my little life in a big world" i am working towards balance in my little life. I am rowing my little boat. I am breathing. Ahhh...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Purslane, thou art Mine Enemy...or Are You?

As I was running through the neighborhood this morning, I reflected on the abundance of Purslane ... well, everywhere.  It looks like the green part of the pretty Moss Rose, or Portulaca (I love to say that word!), but without the pretty flower.  It insinuates itself in every flower, vegetable, and herb bed in my yard, and, as I noticed this morning, in every sidewalk crack in southwest Omaha.

Yesterday, I spent a pleasant half-hour or so helping my daughter-in-law pull a bunch of the stuff out of her herb garden, and as we did this, I came across my old frenemy, the humble Lamb's Quarter.   I was reminded of my first summer in Omaha, in a rented house with a back yard overgrown with Lambs Quarter, and a recipe called Cheesy Chard*.   I picked bunches and bunches of the stuff, and used it in place of the chard. It was really tasty, and I remember my little boys ate it up.

So might there also be a healthy, and yummy, use for this other ubiquitous weed? I googled "purslane recipes" and got 147,000 results. Okay then. According to a blog called Culinary Musings , "purslane is ...a free backyard source of protein, vitamin E, vitamin C, and the best source of Omega 3 fatty acids of any leafy plant.".

I also learned that purslane has an evil twin, Spurge. The aforementioned website has pictures of both, so check it out if you're not sure. I might make some cheesy purslane, or stuff some of the new summer squash with it. Just get it out of my herb garden, dammit!

Speaking of Lamb's Quarters, I googled Lamb's Quarters recipes just for the fun of it, and there are some cool recipes on Phoenix Farms blog: If you're at all interested in cooking with weeds, check that one out too. The Lamb's Quarters recipes are from her post dated May 4, 2010.

If you have been following this blog at all, you may be thinking I would be cooking some up for The Manly Spouse... I'm sorry to say that nothing green passes that man's lips unless, of course, it is breaded and deep fat fried. So no, this will be a solitary pleasure.  I'll be cooking some brown rice today, and pulling weeds for dinner tonight. I'll let you know how it turns out.

* Gramma Sally's version

  • a big bunch of Chard (or other leafy green, Kale, Spinach, Lamb's Quarters). You can use lots, because it wilts down to about 1/4 volume.
  • an onion
  • previously prepared rice (I like short grain brown rice, but use whatever you like)
  • some grated cheddar cheese
  • a 1/2 cup or so of previously cooked chicken (optional)

Sauté the onion till it's translucent, add the chicken and rice, then the greens. Cook it until the greens are wilted nicely in the mixture, then stir in the cheese. Yum!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

An Ordinary Life

As a young woman I became a follower, or "devotee", of a certain spiritual practice. At the time it seemed important to me that I live a life that I deemed "extraordinary". That it was a far reach from my upbringing in the Episcopalian Church helped. I practiced the simplest of spiritual teachings, but lived spiritual life that, well, showed. It seemed important to have as few possessions as possible, and I lived like a happy gypsy. I felt pretty special, but I never felt quite special enough.

What I love about my life today is its ordinary-ness. I no longer feel the need to be just a little different, or to stand out in a crowd. The funny thing about this, is that I may be, in the eyes of some people who love me, a little odd. At least that's what they tell me. I think I'm pretty normal, although, extremely above average. What odd about that?

My life with the Manly Spouse is so quiet and uneventful, miraculously drama-free. We putter around in a house that is too big for the two of us. We live in a clutter of furniture and flotsam collected over our years together and collectively sigh that we have too much stuff. We are attached to some of it, well I guess I should say I am attached to some and he is attached to the rest of it: a 200 year old piano I am unwilling to sell, even though it is unplayable, because it sat in the parlor of my parents' house forever. My husband's raggedy couch that is lumpy and threadbare and has an imprint of his body that ensures that it fits him just right. A dining room set that is too big for the dining room we use twice a year, but those couple of times of year are pretty important around here, so the rest of the year we use it for other things, like drying herbs (that drives the Manly Spouse crazy!)

These little worries are precious to me. They are reflective of the ordinary life we live. Together.

Paradoxically, when was in my 20s and I was trying to be extraordinary, I learned the value of a simple, physical existence. Now that I am older, and presumably wiser, I am able to enjoy the stuff of my life while experiencing a spiritual life that simple, easy, and unencumbered.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mother's Day

Older Son's 35th birthday is tomorrow.  My personal Mother's Day.  We are having lunch.  It seems not enough.  It has never seemed like enough.  

One year, when he was about 8 or 9,  I don't remember what he wanted for his birthday, but I couldn't afford it.   So we took a  walk to Goodrich Dairy and he got a strawberry ice cream cone. Then we went to the Gerald Ford Birthplace and hung out for awhile.  There is a pretty little flower-filled park there, where the house used to stand.  I don't know if the day was memorable for him, but it was for me.  We spent a lovely afternoon together.  I felt guilty for years that he didn't get his .... whatever-it-was-he-wanted.  But now I realize it was one of those special, rare moments a parent gets to spend alone with a child.

Most of the time when my children were young, we didn't have much money.  In Denver, when Older Son was in the First Grade, I worked in an office downtown.  First husband was responsible for getting Prodigal Son, then "the baby" to day care each morning, and Older Son and I would walk the six blocks to the bus stop each morning.  I would drop him off at the one public school in Denver that was offering a before and after day care, then hop back on the bus to my job downtown.  In the afternoon it was the same thing, only backwards.  During those walks we practiced Arithmetic, talked about books we'd read, and sometimes were responsible for keeping the earth turning on its axis, simply from the pace of our feet.  I admit that the latter was usually on bitter cold winter mornings in the dark.

I guess it kind of reminds me of the semi-regular lunch dates we have now...  A time to chat, share stories, catch up.  I get to hear about the various antics of his five children, and he gets to hear about my latest project(s).

Tomorrow we're going to the sandwich place of his choice, and were going to hang out. We're going to enjoy each others company, and laugh.  I might give him a little gift card from the superstore where I work, but the real gift will be the time we spend together. Luckily, we won't have to keep moving to ensure that the earth turns on its axis. Phew!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Running with my Father

I started running late in life... Age 57 to be exact...  Let me back up a little.  To January, 2009.  I looked at my loving husband, the manly spouse, and recognized, again, that there would be no changing him.  He is a smoker, and a true meat-and-potatoes guy.  

My health was actually pretty good, considering the 50 pounds I had gained, and lost and gained again.  My cholesterol was a little higher than wanted it to be, but not too bad, all things considered.  But (there is always a "but", isn't there?) I was afraid of dying before my husband.  It's good to have someone love you as much as he loves me, but there is no way he could get along without me.  That scared me, suddenly.

So I got up off my ridiculously wide behind and joined a gym.   A couple of months later I put some personal trainer hours on the MasterCard and hired a 28 year old former marine named Dave to torture me twice a week.  Having been on every diet known, I thought I was pretty savvy about nutrition, but I learned a bit from Dave, in between torture sessions.  I stopped weighing myself, concentrated on building strength, and the weight started coming off.  

Then I went on a search for an undergarment that would hold "the girls" in place so I could run without hurting myself.  Thanks to the Internet, the Queen of daytime T.V. recommended one that looked like it might actually work.  Seemed like it might in the fitting room... I could breathe, but just barely.  Now, for a test drive... Success!  I was ready to rock...  Thirty seconds later, I was exhausted!

Keep going, Dave said.  I did.  Soon I could trot for a whole minute.  Geez.  I also did not like all the mirrors around the treadmills at the gym.  How am I supposed to envision a lean, young body, when everywhere I turn, I see the old fat girl?  Thankfully, it was March, and the snow was melting.  If I go out early enough, no one will see me.  Walk, run.  Walk, more mail box.  

I decided to channel my father.  I had inherited his copy of "Aerobics", first published in 1966.  It was encouraging to see his notes...  He had struggled, at the beginning, as I was... I knew it, because he had written notes in the margin.  Also, I had to report back to Dave.  The Marine.  He had tattoos.  He laughed at me when I whined.  He made me laugh at myself when I whined.  

By the end of that summer I was running a half mile.  Back to the dreaded treadmill over the winter...  Geez, would I ever get past the 1/2 mile marker?  My father was running three to four miles daily well into his eighties,  I had just turned 58 and I felt stuck.  

Winter passed, I moved back outdoors.  Gradually I felt stronger...  It happened, it seemed, all of a sudden.  The half-mile became a mile, the mile became two, and I found a 3 mile route that didn't have too many hills and... Ta da!  At age 59 I am running (okay, trotting, really)  between 2 and 3 miles four or five days a week, depending on my work schedule.   

I gained 15 lbs over last winter,  probably because my MasterCard could no longer afford Dave, and he moved to another gym, and I hate the treadmill.  Winter walks twice a week just didn't cut it.  My friend in Montana says "get some snow-shoes!" (The manly spouse scoffs.).  Nebraska is not quite as snowy as Montana,  but I did see some spiky things you can strap to your sneakers for running on icy surfaces.  It gets pretty darn cold here, but if you're moving, and your nose is covered, it's not so bad. I'm pretty excited about this coming winter.

I imagine if my father was still here, he would be cheering me on. 

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Time to Take off your Shoes and Splash through the Puddles

When you learn that someone you love has cancer, it seems especially important to take each day one breath at a time. For the person affected, being in denial (just a little bit), makes it loom less.  You make your calls, get your second opinions, schedule your surgery... Most importantly, you repair your vacation plans.

Your gotta do what you gotta do, but you still need to have fun. I read recently that it takes 25 years of employment for the average American to earn the minimum amount of vacations days allotted to most Europeans.  In many other advanced countries, where there are statutory mandated minimum paid vacation days from 20 -29 days per year*, industry continues, commerce goes on, and the world does not come to an end.  This person I love, the one who Is planning her surgery, told me she is taking a month off.  In the over 40 years of her career, she has never taken a whole month off, not even for her honeymoon, which was 3 weeks.

I myself have never, purposefully, taken more than 2 weeks, just for vacation.  I've been unemployed for longer periods of time, but to take a month off, just for a vacation?  In the U.S. it's unheard of.  In my corporate job, I often worked 12 - 14 hour days, in anticipation of some future reward.  The reward never came, and when I returned from my 2 week vacation, I put in my notice. I learned during that vacation, that I was not cut out for that which I had gone deeply into debt to educate myself.  My job cashiering at the big box store?  I like it.  My painted furniture business that brings in about $200 a year?  I love it!

No matter how much you love your job, or your career, you still need vacations...time off to do traveling, fun things, or just nothing.  Don't wait to get cancer to take a month off, if you can.  

So I'm going to rearrange my vacation plans this summer.  I'm not going to try to cram it all in a two-week time frame either.  I haven't figured it out yet, but I'm going to get all my puddle splashing in somehow.

* I got most of this information from an article from

Monday, June 27, 2011

Laughter and Redemption

I enjoyed lunch today with the Prodigal Son.  During our conversation, in between other subjects and some laughter, he gently added, as he has been over the past several months, to my cache of knowledge of his life over the last 15 years.

I refer to him as I do, because I myself have been the recipient of a Fatted Calf.  That story is for another day, but the point is,  I know a little something about redemption.  

In the dictionary the word redeem has several definitions, but most of them begin with the words "to free from...".  Redemption to me is a process.  Freeing one's self from addiction, for example, is a form of redemption.  Freeing one's self from guilt, self hatred, or more generically, from one's past, is a form of redemption.  My personal path of redemption includes my decision to spend as much of my time as possible engaged in laughter.

I have found that the more I laugh, the stronger I get.  I can listen to him refer to some previous questionable activity without being overcome with waves of guilt.  I am filled with joy at his determination, and allow myself not to think about how difficult this must be for him. A woman whom I consider wise once told me that a little denial is okay.  In other words, it's not necessary for me to know all the details to be joyful and proud of the path upon which he is working so hard to stay.

What I love the most about these conversations is the fact of them.  A couple of years ago, Older Son and I had lunch once or twice, and found that we enjoyed each other's company.  So we decided to make it a regular thing.  We've been meeting about once a month since then.  We just chat about whatever, and not surprisingly, I have found that I really like the man that he has become.

Last week, I called my daughter and invited her to breakfast.  It was lovely to share a meal, an hour, simply because we enjoy each other's company.  Talk and laughter.  What could be better?

I like my children.  I like the men and woman they have become.  As we talk, and laugh together,  I am free from concern over whether or not I was a "good mother".  I am filled with joy.  I am redeemed.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Power of Breath

Here's an exercise:  take a breath; watch it go.  Take another breath; watch it go; repeat.  How simple is this?  Do you need a teacher? A book? A building?    I can't answer those questions for you, but if you watch long enough, or often enough you will understand its power.

When I was 21 I learned about the power of breath.  Such a simple thing:  after each exhale, an inhale. Personally, I didn't figure this out all by myself, there was a guru involved.  Yes, there were aspects of eastern philosophy involved.  Yes, in many ways it was a personality driven spiritual path, and oh, by the way,  from age 21 till I was about 24, I lived in a series of communes.

In some ways those few years were the happiest of my life.  Everything I owned fit in the trunk of my little car: some clothes, a guitar, a one-and-a-half-inch thick foam pad I rolled out for a bed, and a pair of Birkenstock sandals.   A nomad, I don't think I lived in one place for more than about three months at a time.  For a few months I stayed, along with about 300 other people, in a large building that had previously been a bottling factory for a major soft drink corporation.  For another little while I was a  "housemother",  cooking a huge vegetarian meal each evening.  I started every afternoon by chopping onions, and by the time I was done with that, the evening's menu would manifest in my brain.  Each morning, after putting out a breakfast spread, and making about 15 sack lunches, I would wake my housemates by walking from bedroom to bedroom playing guitar and  singing "devotional" songs.  But no matter where I laid my head at night, each morning and evening, along with my housemates, my closest friends, I  would sit and breathe for about an hour.

For the next 20 years life occurred.  The 20-ish girl became a mother, a wife.  Her babies became children, then young men. I breathed.

Stuff happened; the marriage became broken.   As a 40-ish woman, I was on my own again...still breathing.

More life happened.  I was learning to love myself again.    After years spent as the only female in an all male household, I surrounded myself with women I admired.   I went back to school and earned my college degree, then a masters degree. All the while, you guessed it, I continued to breathe.

Meanwhile, I met and married the Manly Spouse and his 13-year-old daughter.  Now my lovely daughter is married herself and has two beautiful children.  The handsome Older son has 5 (!), the beautiful Prodigal son has one.  Life has continued to happen.  And I am still in awe of the power that is my breath.  I am still watching, waiting for the gift of the next one.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lessons in Joy

My mother was a teacher in the art of being joyful.  She  understood the importance of having fun.  She taught me how to make s'mores,  sit-upons, and sourdough bread.  Not just in girl scout camp, either.  

     When I was a young girl, maybe 8 or 9 years old, she threw me a birthday party.  We invited every girl in my class and she taught us all how to make dresses using newspaper and stick pins.

     The summer I was 15 or 16 we found an old buffet in a barn.  We spent a day (at least!) antiquing it... Blue.  It was a fun, funky piece of furniture that sat in the hall outside her kitchen for the rest of her life.  Every time I looked at it I remembered how much fun we had painting it.

     Once, when my mother was in her eighties, we went to lunch together.  She ordered soup, and a glass of white wine.  "Don't you want a sandwich?" I asked.
     "Not today," she answered, " I'm having the chocolate cake for dessert!" 
When we left the restaurant, it was raining.  My mother took off her shoes and splashed, laughing,  through the puddles back to the car.

     In September, 2001, after 5 heart attacks in 6 weeks, there was nothing to do but hospice, and she rode home in an ambulance to die.   When she was wheeled out of the ambulance she said, " That was so much fun, looking out the window backwards!"   She laughed and laughed.  

     My mother taught me that Joy is wherever you find it.  She taught me how to make my own joy.  She reminded me how much fun it is to splash in the puddles in my bare feet, and that it's. Okay to eat dessert first!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Having fun and making it work at work.

In keeping with my stated goal of having fun, I approached my supervisor at my big-box retail job about a schedule that makes more sense.  The job is necessary as it provides pretty good health insurance.  It's also fun, and so qualifies as a reasonable way to spend my working hours.  However, the willy-nilly scheduling of eight-hour shifts, on my feet, with two-day-in-a-row weekends a rarity, was wreaking havoc on my ability to, well, stay sane.

I'm an alumna of the 12 hour work day corporate grind.  It wasn't totally horrible as I really liked the work.  But I was pretty obsessed.  One day my manly spouse looked at me and said, "I want my wife back".  So  I walked, started my painted furniture business, and the gradual process of the aforementioned goal began to blossom in my middle-aged heart.

Health care was an issue.  Money was an issue.  Happily the big-box store provided both.  So we now have health insurance, I have a fun job, *and* a little money coming in once every two weeks.  So why was I still tired after a day off? Why was I getting cranky when the prodigal son wanted to plan a lunch date on what he *thought* was my day off, but wasn't ... Because that changed every week.  

This brings me back, in my happy, fun loving, verbose way, to the very first sentence of this blog post.  I now have a regular weekly schedule. Hooray!  It doesn't take effect for two weeks and I'm already having more fun.  Seems to me there's a lesson here... 

Oh, and I have a lunch date with the prodigal son on Monday. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Vegetables and herbs

June!  This year I decided to try planting eggplant from seed.  I didn't think they "took", so naturally I went off to the nursery for some seedlings... And... You guessed it, I now haveagazillion little eggplant seedlings coming up.  guess I'll be making lots of babaganoush this summer!

I just purchased an herb scissors set.  The manly spouse and I went to a nursery to buy mulch and I got trapped in the gift shop...~sigh~.  I learned that my extremely robust chive patch needs to be thinned.  I also learned that the chive flowers are edible (who knew?!). There seems to be some controversy over whether to cut the flowers or not...  See "The Garden Web":

While the maker of my cool new scissors, Secrets du Potager, indicates in their literature that chives " must not be allowed to flower so as to preserve their flavour." Now that I've thinned and headed all the chives I want to try the flowers in salad.  Again I say, ~sigh~