Catching Up

Sorry for the long silence. My stupid keyboard broke, the little Bluetooth one that I use with my iPad Mini. A few keys still worked properly, but some did not work at all, and some would spit out completely different characters. I went onto some user forums to see if there was a way to fix it, and there was, but it did not work. Rats.

Sure, I could have borrowed Ted’s laptop, or written on our regular computer, but somehow it just never happened. I like writing on my iPad, but I can’t stand the stupid touchpad. When Christmas came around, I thought maybe I would get a new one as a gift. Nope. Then my birthday came around, and while I did NOT receive one, my lovely brother Richard gave me some spending money, to buy what I wanted. Having a birthday right after Christmas, money is a good gift, because a lot of things are on sale. I mentioned that one thing I planned to buy was a new keyboard for my iPad Mini. He said, “Oh, I have one lying around that you can have.” Fabulous! Of course, the problem with that is that you have to be patient and wait for it to arrive. Richard can sometimes be a bit absent minded about such things, so I worried it might take some nagging. It did not. Today’s mail included the keyboard, which I hooked up right away and wrote a ‘Thank You’ email. WHEW, what a relief.

So, what’s been going on with J? Well, baking day, Christmas, my birthday, and New Years came and went. Now it’s almost MLK day. I’ll give you little snippets of each big event.

Baking Day is our favorite holiday. Ted’s whole family gets together and we bake up a storm. No one eats much sugar anymore, but we like to give the treats as gifts to people who DO eat them. Ted made his famous Joan Lundon Rocky Road Fudge Bars, which are indeed yummy. They were gooyier this year than usual, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Maya made her favorite chocolate chip cookies. The trick is to slightly underbake them, so they stay soft.  I made two bar cookies. One was pecan bars, which is a shortbread crust and pecans, sort of like a very nutty, not too sweet, pecan pie. The other was a raspberry streusel bar cookie. I don’t like pecan pie, so I didn’t love that, but people who do, loved it. I loved the raspberry ones. So good. I bought three cute Christmas type ontainers and packed them up with cookies. One went to Stockton with me, to my Great Aunt Flo, who has a serious sweet tooth. One went to my friend Dana, who was on my meals on wheels route until very recently, when she moved into a retirement facility, as she is 93, and living alone was becoming too much for her. The last one went to my darling friend Neva, who also has a sweet tooth. I saw her for dinner, and she gave me a lovely orange handbag, in memory of my dad, as orange was his favorite color.

Christmas was hard. I was very sad about my dad. But there was still a lot of joy to be found. Christmas Eve morning, I was having bad dreams about him being gone, and I finally gave up and got up. Ted was on the early shift at work, so it didn’t disturb him. I went to Safeway at 6am and got most of what I needed for our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners. Then to Starbucks for some breakfast. Then to another grocery store, where apparently, people line up before they open, to get meat or fish for their holiday meals. I’ve been there on Christmas Eve and seen the long line of several hundred people before, but always later in the day. I didn’t know it started so early. The big draw around here for Christmas (or Christmas Eve) is Dungeness Crab, which is what I was after. I waited in the dark in front of the store along with maybe 50 other people unti they opened, and then I waited a bit longer inside, but I got my crab. It was not cheap, but it was delicious that night for dinner. I came home, and started on Mulder’s gift, which was home made peanut butter dog biscuits. He LOVED them.

Christmas Day I talked to my brother and his wife, my sisters, and my step mom. We spent the day at Ted’s parents’ house, and we had a lovely day.

Maya decided this painting looks like Lorde…which it does. Proof that the singer is a vampire?

New Years Eve is my birthday, and being a Sunday this year, Ted had to work the early morning shift at work. His schedule changes a lot, but he always works the early shift on Sundays. Maya and I got up and I walked the dog, then we went to breakfast. We got in an argument about her getting ready instead of making us late, which was not how I wanted to start the day. It wasn’t how she wanted to start the day either. My New Years Resolution is to try to avoid such things by communicating better about what and where we need to do and be, so we don’t have so many misunderstandings.

After that, we got dressed and went into San Francisco. We went to the Legion of Honor museum, to see an exhibit on Klimt and Rodin (hence the pictures, above), which we both really enjoyed. Then Ted was off work, and he came and picked us up…we went to one of my favorite San Francisco restaurants, The Cliff House, for lunch and a gorgeous view of the ocean. It was great.

New Years Day, I don’t remember what we did much, other than we were together and it was relaxing, and we took down our Christmas decorations. Now it’s MLK weekend. I have to say, I enjoy all of these 3 day weekends. We have another in February, and then no more until Memorial Day at the end of May. That’s OK, we’ll enjoy it. Tomorrow, I believe Maya and I are going to Berkeley, she has some clothes she wants to sell at a consignment/2nd hand store. It should be a nice day.

Chicken with Wine and Shallots

Chicken with Shallots, photo and recipe from the NY Times

I came across this recipe, I think on Facebook, which should be evidence that Facebook is not entirely useless. You can find the recipe (and picture) here. I made this for dinner one night, and it is delicious. I generally read comments on online recipes, and one person in the comments said they added peas at the end. That sounded good to me, so I added a bunch of peas at the end, when you add the cherry tomatoes. Really good. I buy bone-in, skin on thighs, because I think they give flavor to the dish. I cook with the skin, and then remove it when we eat it.

Give it a try.

Chicken with Wine and Shallots

8 bone-in chicken thighs
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 to 15 whole medium shallots, peeled
2 cups white wine
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 sprigs tarragon
2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half.
10 oz frozen peas, optional

Rinse chicken thighs in water, and pat them very dry with paper towels. Sprinkle over them the flour, salt and pepper.

Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot or skillet set over medium-high heat. When the butter foams, cook the chicken, in batches if necessary, until well browned and crisp on all sides. Set aside.

Add the whole shallots to the pot and sauté them in the butter and chicken fat until they begin to soften and caramelize, approximately 10 to 12 minutes. Add the wine to deglaze the pot, stir with a large spoon, then add the mustard and tarragon, then the chicken thighs. Cover the pot, turn the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove the lid, and allow the sauce to reduce and thicken, 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the cherry tomatoes and peas to the pot, stir lightly to combine and serve once the peas are heated through.

Throwback Thursday

Me and Rosemary, back when we decided to strike it rich and pan for gold.

I have a friend and she comes from the high plains
Wise as the hills and fresh as the rains
I have a friend and she taught me daring
Threw back the windows and let the air in

For all she knows
Bless my blue moon rose

I have a friend and we talk about books
She comes around and she drinks while I cook
Took me an atlas to find her town
And to realise that the world was round

For all she knows
Bless my blue moon rose

~ Everything But the Girl

My darling friend Rosemary and me, above, in Old Town Sacramento, probably early 1984.

We met in early 1982, when she returned to our hometown from Santa Barbara where she had travelled to be part of a ballet company there. We were in High School, and her brother and my brother were friends, and that is how we met. We fell in love from day one, and were fast friends.

We were always at each other’s houses, went out whenever we could, worked together when we could. We lived together for a bit after college, when she came to San Francisco to get away from a crappy boyfriend. I can tell her anything. I hope she can tell me anything. She is true and strong and a fierce friend. A mutual friend once described her as ‘a force of nature’. Exactly right.

As with many long term friendships, we have had our times when we don’t talk much. Interests change, we both married well, we both have beautiful children. Then the careers get involved, and there’s not a lot of time. As we’ve gotten a bit older, and our kids don’t need us as much, and careers settle a bit, we’ve come back together. She still lives 3,000 miles away, which I hate. I wish I could see her all of the time, poke back and forth into each other’s houses like characters on a TV show. But the song above is correct. She opened my mind in so many ways, and spending time with her has enriched my life. Bless my Blue Moon Rose, indeed.

I Hate Appliances

Maybe we should have just bought one of these and called it a day?

Specifically, I hate modern appliances.  Why?  Because one tiny thing breaks and it ends up costing a ton of money.  For example, our stove, which we bought a long time ago, only lasted one year (just past the warranty) before some tiny piece of plastic inside the doohickey behind one of the knobs broke, and suddenly you couldn’t turn off one of the burners.  It was always on.  Thankfully it was a back burner, and Maya wasn’t a little child, and we would just turn off the power to the stove when we weren’t using it, but yeah, not good.

The fridge has had myriad issues.  The door compartment, where you put condiments and so on, is cheap plastic and has broken TWICE.  There is nowhere to go buy the new part locally, you have to order it online and wait.  Twice in the last two years, something (two different things, btw) have broken, both of which have the symptom of cold freezer, warm fridge.  Not OK, and not 2x in 2 years.

Most recently, the touchpad ‘start’ button on the dishwasher went out, meaning I could not turn on the dishwasher.  I do understand that this is a first world problem, but it made me mad,  and also made me wish we had kept our old eyesore of a dishwasher, which had a knob that you turned rather than a stupid touch pad.  Though perhaps that would have died by now as well.  So I looked online to see what the issue might be, discovered it was the control panel, watched a YouTube about how to replace that, got scared because it looked pretty technical, and called a repair guy.  He seemed knowledgeable, and looked online to find the replacement part.  He said the part was maybe $150, and the labor would be about $150, so we said, “oh forget it”, and bought a new, I’m sure equally stupid, dishwasher.  Not exactly how I wanted to spend the money.  I guess I could have just bought a dish rack for the counter and gone all old school, but we’d likely end up buying a new one at SOME POINT, so we may as well bite the proverbial bullet now.  Sigh.

Save the Titans

Near the California/Oregon border, near Crescent City, is Redwood National Park. Within this beautiful park (which I have not personally visited), there is a small grove of giant redwoods, discovered in the 1990s, nicknamed the “Grove of Titans”.  The biggest two are the fourth and fifth largest known coastal redwoods in the world, and they are surely magnificent.

There was a story in today’s paper about the grove, talking about how secret it used to be, but how popular it now is, which is dangerous for the very trees that people are trekking in to see.  Redwood trees have very shallow roots, and are sensitive to people walking on the ground in their area (I never knew this…).  So as more and more visitors are making their way, blazing trails, the trees are becoming stressed, as is the underbrush around them.  It could become fatal to the trees.

There is a solution, however, which is to build elevated walkways and viewing platforms, like they have at Muir Woods.  Some of the underbrush would suffer, but the roots would be saved, and thus, hopefully, the trees.  The problem is that the estimated cost to build such walkways and platforms would be over $1.4 million.  There is a crowdfunding site where you can donate, if you’re so inclined, which has thus far raised about $15,000.

The park has put up signs warning people not to encroach, and there are cameras to capture footage of people trespassing, but I suspect that few people who have hiked all that way to see these mighty trees are willing to be the ones to turn around without getting close.  The truth is, every person who goes to the grove (including, I assume, the photographer who took the pictures above) is causing damage.  The park says the walkways will be built, but it is going to take time.  Probably a lot of time, there is little to no state funding for the project.

Just in time for Giving Tuesday, if you are able and inclined, you can donate towards the construction of walkways and viewing platforms to save these mighty trees, here.

Bad Sunrise Photos

This whole trying to post EVERY DAY in November is tapping my creativity. I think I have an idea for a post, and then I look, and I realize that I already wrote about it, so I have to try to come up with something else.

So, what you get today is bad pictures of the beautiful sunrise this morning. Had I realized it was going to be such a lovely sunrise, I would have gone to Heather Farm for our morning walk, and gotten some great pics.

But I didn’t know. So we took a shorter walk down the trail near our house, which follows the old path of the Southern Pacific railroad. Like so many such paths, that means the view is of people’s back yards. Not beautiful.

But the sunrise itself, it was beautiful. My pictures, as most that I take of sunrises or sunsets, not so much.

Spotlight Saturday

At the Milliner’s

Spotlighting an exhibit that I saw back in September, that was based on the Milliner’s trade, mostly Degas, but not all Degas. The painting above is Renoir, called, ‘At the Milliner’s’. I liked this painting a lot.  Art can be subjective, so I will tell you what I see…I see women, tired at the end of a hard days work.  Work that they may or may not enjoy, work that they can take pleasure in a job well done.  But tired.  There is a certain dignity in that, again, whether or not they have enjoyed their job.


Friday Recap

Pumpkin pie on the beach in Hawaii – My sister’s wise solution to the blues

Thanksgiving is over, and it was a lovely day.  Mulder and I went for a very long walk in the morning, much longer than usual, and we were tired when we got home.  Too bad, because I still had some cooking to do.  Thankfully I had started the day before, or I wouldn’t have gotten it done in time.

We had all of the family favorites, which means there was way too much food and not everyone ate everything, but we all ate what we wanted.  Some at turkey, some didn’t.  Some at potatoes, some didn’t.  Some ate cranberry sauce, some didn’t.  The salad I made with Brussels sprouts, pomegranates, and apples was a hit, I think everyone tried that.  But we all laughed and enjoyed each other, and it was a nice time.  We had some delicious wine, and with dinner, champagne.  We decided to skip the pie this year, since we’re generally too full anyway.   I don’t think anyone missed it.

I’ve only spent one Thanksgiving with my Dad, but this being his first year gone, I missed him horribly.  I’ve spent many Thanksgivings with my Mom, and I missed her horribly.  I missed my grandma horribly.  I guess as you get older, that’s a part of holidays, missing people horribly, and finding a way to enjoy your day nonetheless.  I talked to my stepmom when we got home.  She didn’t have a horrible day, she said it was OK.  I think that’s the best things like this, things she and my Dad did together, are going to be for awhile.  My heart ached for her.  For all of us.

One of my sisters has been feeling pretty blue for awhile, having a hard time with losing Dad, (well, all three of us actually) and decided that she needed something to look forward to.  So a month or so ago, she came home from work and booked a trip for the family to go to Hawaii.  That’s what the picture above is from.  I hope it helps, and she is a bit stronger when they get back.  Sometimes you need a little sunshine.

Today I went to Stockton to see my cousin, who is up visiting from Santa Maria.  We went to Manny’s for avocado burgers for lunch, then went to the hardware store to buy smoke detectors for my Great Aunt’s house.  Do we know how to party, or what?  On the way home, I was talking to another cousin on the phone, and we were laughing about how we all grew up in Stockton, and couldn’t wait to get the heck out.  I don’t know how much you would have to pay me to move back there, but it would be a LOT.

I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving, and that if you are missing loved ones, that the memory of times spent together will help lesson the pain a bit.

Turkey Day

Wishing you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving, with all of your favorite things to eat, with all of your favorite people.

While Mulder and I were out on our walk the other morning, I heard a story about the Turkey Pardon, where the sitting President of the US Pardons the turkeys that are sent to him for his table. Apparently, they used to get eaten, but now they do not. Kinda interesting. If you’re so inclined, here are a couple of things for you to read, some via NPR, some not.

The Strange History of the Turkey Pardon, from 2015

Obama’s Dad Jokes about the Turkey Pardon, from 2016

Here’s the page about turkey pardons.

Here’s the wiki about the custom of presenting a turkey to the President

Here’s the bit about Trump pardoning this year’s Turkeys, if for some reason you want to see that.


The van flies,
rattles across
heavily potholed roads
bringing me closer
to my mother,
but it can’t catch
up to my brain,
which is speeding
past me.
running fast
running past
shadows and
blurred trees
and before
and now
and if I could catch up
to my thoughts,
wrestle them
to the ground,
tame them inside
the cage
of my head,
I could breathe.
I could breathe

Breathe, Blade. Breathe, Rutherford says, rubbing my head, and looking at me with eyes that care. It’s gonna be okay. Just breathe.

Solo is the story of Blade, a young man, just graduating from high school. His mother died when he was a child, and his father is a rock star, trying to regain his glory. His father is also frequently drunk or high, and does stupid, embarrassing things that make Blade vow to never be like his father. His sister, Storm, wants nothing more than to be just like her father, although thankfully, without the drugs and booze.

Blade finds refuge in the person of Chapel, his girlfriend. Due to his father’s behavior, Chapel is forbidden to see Blade, because her father fears that Blade will turn out just like his dad.

Blade is like his father in that he loves music, it defines him and gives shape to his life. The entire book is written in poems like the one quoted, above. He also writes songs, and there are a couple in the book. I was disappointed that the link that the book includes for you to listen to some of Blade’s songs does not work.  However, the Internet helped me out, and I found a video of one of the songs, performed by Randy Preston.

I really enjoyed this quick read, and was captured by the lyricism in the writing. I felt for Blade and his heartbreak, and found myself cheering him on in finding a way to heal.

Meatless Monday

Photo and recipe from Ambitious Kitchen

I was talking to our next door neighbor the other day, and the conversation turned to Thanksgiving. These neighbors are vegetarian, but their family that will be in town visiting are not, so I asked what she is planning to make. She said they would make a turkey for the meat eaters, and she was thinking about a recipe she saw online, for stuffed acorn squash. We have Thanksgiving with Ted’s family, and his mother is vegetarian (really, pescatarian), so I thought perhaps I would look at this recipe and see if it seemed like something she would enjoy. The neighbor sent me the link to the recipe, and I made it for our dinner a few nights later, to test it out. It was delicious. Really good.

Ted’s family holidays are generally an organized pot-luck, where everyone brings something, so no one has to do all of the work. Ted’s mom makes the turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and gravy. We will bring sweet potato pudding, cranberry sauce, and a couple of different vegetables. I am thinking I will make this stuffed acorn squash as one of my vegetables. Ted’s mom can have 1/2 squash, as that is her main course, and the rest of us can have smaller servings. I’m also going to make a Brussels sprouts, apple, and pomegranate salad, and then for Ted’s dad, because he loves it, peas with pearl onions.

Here is the recipe for the delicious Stuffed Acorn Squash. (Link is to the source of the recipe) SO good.

Stuffed Acorn Squash with Cranberry, Pecans, and Quinoa
For the acorn squash:
2 medium acorn squash, cut in half and seeds removed
4 teaspoons virgin melted coconut oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar

For the quinoa:
½ cup uncooked quinoa
1 ¼ cups water
2 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon virgin coconut oil
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup pecan halves

For the goat cheese crema:
2 ounces goat cheese crumbles
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2-3 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.*

Add 1 teaspoon of coconut oil and 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar to each squash half; use your hands to rub into the flesh of the squash, even on the top (but not on the skin). Sprinkle each squash half with a little bit of cinnamon. Place flesh side down on baking sheet and roast in the oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until squash is just fork tender.

While the squash roasts, you can make the quinoa. Add quinoa, water and thyme leaves to a large pot and place over medium high heat. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to low and cook for exactly 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, remove from heat and fluff quinoa with a fork. Next stir in coconut oil, orange juice, honey and turmeric and stir to combine. Fold in dried cranberries and pecans.
Once acorn squash is done roasting, evenly stuff each squash with quinoa. Bake for an additional 10 minutes.

While the squash is baking again, make the goat cheese drizzle: Add goat cheese, honey, apple cider vinegar and water to a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Drizzle evenly over each squash half.

If you want to save time, you can make the squash and quinoa a day ahead of time. Once ready to serve, simply reheat in oven at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until warm and then make goat cheese crema and drizzle on top.

* My Note: I saw something from America’s Test Kitchen, where they said the BEST way to make acorn squash is in the microwave. It comes out tender and creamy. I haven’t decided yet whether I have the nerve to try that or not, I’m not generally a fan of microwaving food.

Lazy Sunday

Redwood Trees

Here’s a picture of a redwood tree in our neighborhood, for Nance, who says they are one of her favorite trees. They are beautiful, though of course these are not the Giant Redwoods that you can see a couple of hours from here. They look a lot like pine trees, but so much prettier.

Today is a lazy-ish day, because I’m plopped down on the sofa writing a blog post. I have my library book nearby, which is due on Wednesday, so I need to get going on that. I’m a little over 1/2 way though, and it’s a pretty quick read, so I think I will make it.

Farmers’ Market booty

After Mulder and I had our walk this morning, I went to the Farmers’ Market for some Thankgiving things. Ted and I went to a different Farmers’ Market yesterday, where we got the acorn squash and pomegranates, but they didn’t have any Brussels sprouts, and I wanted a certain local honey, so I went again this morning. It’s that harvest time of year, when you can buy squash and Brussels sprouts, but you can still get tomatoes (not many though, too cold), blackberries, and strawberries. There were a ton of persimmons, but I didn’t buy any because none of us like persimmons.

My mom loved them, both the type that you eat when they’re crisp, and the type you let get all soft and gross. She used to take a month in November off of work and come to visit Californa. She would spend some time with us, then some time with her friend Kate, then Grandma and Aunt Flo, then come back here before going back to Juneau. One time she bought one of those ones that is supposed to get soft, but it was still hard. She left it at my house so she could eat it when she came back. It got really disgusting and soft, and Ted didn’t know any better, and he threw it away, a day or two before she arrived. She was crestfallen. And unlike the crisp ones, there was nothing to be done for it, because there wasn’t time for a new one to ripen before she left. Though actually, she may have taken one or two home with her, in hopes of them ripening there. That was so many years ago, I don’t remember for sure. Let’s just say that she did, and it worked out beautifully, shall we?